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Posts Tagged ‘fauna’

coyotes in snow

We sat differently at breakfast this morning in this new old house, this Connecticut experiment, this place in the woods.

Our muscles still ached just a bit from yesterday’s load of furniture moved in and pushed around, aided by generous friends as the snow came down in earnest. Now to reap the fruit of our labors.

We perched on a new bench stationed on the side of the table that allows us to peer out over our backyard and into the woods from the rectangle off the kitchen that has now become The Breakfast Room.

The trees are winter-resplendent in their uncomplaining bearing up of two inches of snow, a mere sprinkling for New Englanders but remarkable enough to draw grateful eyes to the beauty of it all. You can see through the woods this time of year, an unveiling of fauna that must have our animals on their toes, or should. I remarked that if any animals moved about in those woods this morning, we’d spot them easily against the white upturning on the other valleyside of our fair-weather stream.

No cameras were at hand, but if this ain’t the spittin’ image.

It was an observation, not an expectation.

Yet not a minute later something moved. I grabbed the nearby binoculars and spotted a nice-sized coyote making his way slowly, right to left across the woods just beyond our rock wall, unaware of our admiration. No, two! No, three coyotes shuffling along from somewhere to somewhere, wild and beautiful!

They looked like German Shepherds, and were about that size. If one didn’t know better, you might even hear ‘Wolves!’ ring out in our amazement. But we do know better.

These were the coyotes who made short work of poor Morris the Deer, cleaning up his body to leave a med-school laboratory’s worth of pristine skeleton, then days later leaving no trace even of bone, just scattered fur here and there as mute testimony to Morris’ majestic life and inglorious death.

It’s amazing to me that from the inside warmth of this house, we become spectators of a wildness that moves the soul on a winter’s morning, hinting at other and deeper wildnesses that haunt this neighborhood, this state, this planet.

Who would have thought it when we said our tearful goodbyes to that other old house out in Indiana and came to this old house in New England’s generous woods?

Coyotes in the snow.

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When I first met Rhea, I was lying on indoor-outdoor carpet under a table at the Lucky Dog Retreat, trying to coax the scared little girl and her puppy sister Asa to have something—anything!—to do with me.

Thing were not going well.

Robin, the proprietor of Lucky Dog Retreat, accompanies Indianapolis’ animal control officers into what are gingerly described as ‘bad situations’ in an effort to keep some of our city’s hapless animals from being destroyed. A dark look came across Robin’s face as I asked her about Rhea’s and Asa’s origins. ‘There were too many human beings and too many dogs in that apartment’, she responded, clearly not wanting to go any deeper into her description. Rhea and Asa, alone among a tribe of dogs, were to be saved. Their fear of this big stranger lying on the floor suddenly sounded entirely reasonable, at least as far as Puppy Logic goes.

Rhea was improbable from the start, one of just two survivors out of ‘too many dogs’.

Rhea’s tough beginnings—she was clearly not treated well in her first, chaotic home—haunt her still.

My fiancée was half a country away. I described Rhea on the phone, the scared little monster with wan hope of a future. It was impossible to make Rhea sound like the Ideal Dog. Nothing about this waif’s life has ever come close to ideal. Karen was not absolutely opposed to adding a dog with a past to our collection of two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the new life we would soon share. If we went through with this, Rhea would join a sister who had been the runt of her own boiling, brown tribe back in Costa Rica and a blind and badly abused brother Ridgeback from northern Indiana. Yet Karen’s assent could not be described as enthusiastic.

I was to marry an adventurous bride amid a pack of rejected dogs.

After a few more visits to Lucky Dog, Rhea came home. Improbably. We would live to regret our decision. And then, eventually, to celebrate it. And her.

 

 

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Springtime in Indianapolis is like a resurrection.

Few cities I’ve known color their winters as gray as does our Indy. It’s one of the many things that make Indianapolis easy to underestimate.

Then comes the Spring.

The birds, on this resplendent Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, are busily nesting. Our feeders are busy, but so are the numerous bird houses scattered around our property. House finches are checking out the real estate, as are sparrows and chickadees. They move with the purpose of buyers in a sellers’ market. There are only so many bird houses to go around, you know. You snooze, you lose.

I admit, I’m a deeply sentimental man when it comes to places. An irrational nostalgia runs deep with regard to every place I’ve lived and a handful more where I’ve been.

Take Northern Wisconsin, for example.

My mother was born and raised there, my father pitched to Hank Aaron there, a whole youth worth of summer vacations made Lake Superior and the family who lived on its edges the destination of a long but never questioned drive from Pennsylvania.

When we Baers managed to gather there last Fall for the first time in many years, it was a coming home, a return to who we are, an understated migration to the stream of our origins.

I bought a bird house in Hayward. A knotty-pine Northwoods cabin of a bird house, a bit tacky if you’re from—let me pick a place—Virginia, but an icon of home if you have felt the Big Lakes’s breezes on your face.

May I detour for a moment in a technical direction?

The standard sources map out how important is the size of the hole in a bird house for the various species of backyard birds that lift our spirits and put our souls at ease in this Indianapolis space we call home. A chickadee family, you may be interested to learn, requires 1/8″ more of entrance clearance than does a wren.

My Northwoods knotty-pine bird house is made for wrens.

So it is that in these last few days a small drama has ensued just outside the windows which demarcate the human space from the delightfully kinetic animal space of our home.

A pair of chickadees has spied a log cabin that they would love to call home.

—Justin, it’s beautiful, honestly. But the doorway seems just a little small.

—Oh, Allison, I’m sure we can fit through. Look, just peer inside. OMG, it’s gorgeous in there. Can you imagine the kids?

—I know, Honey Man, I completely agree. I’m just not sure we can fit through that … um … that hole.

—Sure we can, Ally Baby, just watch. Ooh … Ouch … Oh my, this is a little tight. Here, let me peck at the edges of the hole for a while. I’m sure I can find us a sixteenth of an inch here. These things are not etched in stone, you know.

—Oh, Honey, you’re the sweetest. Knock yourself out. I’ll stand up here on the roof and watch.

—Ally, I think I can squeeze in. Ooh … ouch … HONEY, I’M IN … !!! Oh, Baby, it’s spacious in here. You wouldn’t believe it.

—But, Justin, when I’m with child? I mean, with eggs? Will I fit?

—Ally, Baby, we’ll get a gym membership. I’m sure it will work.

—OK, J-Dawgy, I really want to believe you. I’ll just sit out here on the wire for a while and peer longingly at our future home … I mean … what I hope will be our future home. You just keep pecking at that doorway. Do you think these feathers make me look fat?

This is as far as our drama has gone.

This afternoon has been a little quiet around the Old Log Cabin Bird House. Maybe a dream has died and our chickadee couple has found a little condo down the street. Or perhaps decisions have merely been postponed for another day.

Or maybe a pair of wrens is out looking …

You gotta’ move fast in a sellers’ market.

 

 

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poor blind Sammy in the rear view mirror

I did not expect to think of Sammy today.

Poor Blind Sammy, our rescued Rhodesian Ridgeback with his sick eyes surgically removed, left us before this year’s Spring sun had found its way to warming his long wheaten body. We were an ocean away. The stricken dogsitter’s voice reported through the phone that Sammy had gone out to lie down in his favorite place along the fence and fallen asleep. Inexplicably, he never awoke.

Tender friends had seen to his cremation before we could get home. (more…)

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My two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and one Labrador Retriever are no pushovers.

Even other varieties of highly regarded Canidae food have left them looking up at me over lightly rearranged bowls of food with that ‘Why have you turned against us again?’ look. (more…)

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Eight months have now stumbled past since Sammy came to be a provisional part of our family, then a probable member of our family, and finally a non-adjectivized fixture on the leather couch in the ‘Red Room’, where family and friends occasionally assemble themselves among the recumbent canines to watch football games and re-runs of 24.

The Samsters has become a remarkably self-confident creature. He is possessed of that well-honed indifference to norms that characterizes self-assured creatures on both sides of the human-nonhuman perforation that helps reassure those of us who read blogs and, for that matter, read anything that we still cling to our position at the top of the biological heap. (more…)

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With the size and appearance of a slimmed-down Reader’s Digest, the less famous Bird Watcher’s Digest is a chirpy little optimist of a magazine not so very different from, say, a black-capped chickadee.

Short and moderate-sized articles cover specific species, how-to/techniques, choosing the right birding equipment, and joy-of-birding anecdotes.

Advertisements abound but do not overwhelm. Some are quite helpful.

BWD is a perky standard for birders both casual and serious.

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I returned last evening from London to find Sammy racing up and down the basement steps beside Rosie, eager to greet his returning master. ‘Racing’ in this context begs some qualifiers. Perhaps ‘moving briskly’ is more to the point.

No longer plagued by the fear of falling down stairs, he moves up and down them with resolution rather than fear. (more…)

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At times like this, the idea of wandering down to the kitchen for a midnight snack of olives becomes a very bad idea indeed.

Sammy’s eyes, you see, are in there. Tupperware never served a nobler purpose. (more…)

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When we agreed to foster Sammy, we were making a Faustian bargain with our own inclination toward loving dogs. We knew deep inside, though the unspoken pact required that the agreement never be mentioned in conversation, that we could never ‘give him back’. It was a clandestine adoption, an under-the-table bargain by which Sammy would instantly become a member of the family while we politely lied to ourselves that any such thing was happening. It was a rescue disguised as a holding pattern. He would be ours, but under the fiction that he was not. From time to time, the language of ‘returning him’ surfaced in a hypothetical way, though we both knew that there was not a them out there to whose company Sammy could be restored if things didn’t work out.

It was a most amenable fiction. It was the whitest of lies. (more…)

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