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Warning. Poop Story. Pretty Gross.

When the tortoise first came, she had been eating little more than lettuce, yellow squash and occasionally kale. She was only allowed to graze for about an hour a day. In the winter, she ate hay. Here, she is outside all day and I’ve introduced her to bananas, watermelon, clover, fresh garden vegetables and all kinds of fruit. She is allowed to graze all day. Her first poops were small white and liquid. I didn’t think it would be so bad. II could cope with that and a bucket of water.

Two days ago, I found a big, soft turd in front of the gate. I washed it away with some effort and the garden hose. I was stumped to discover it consisted of barely digested grass. I worried that one of the fawns was not properly ruminating and was ill, but everyone seemed fine.

Skip to this afternoon. A massive pile of poop in front of the gate again. I blamed Sophie and she looked at me like I was crazy. I went looking for the shovel and passed Roomba (the tortoise), just as she was ,I swear, smiling and letting go of another Poop. I couldn’t believe anything that big could come from a turtle! Sophie looked up at me waiting for an apology. My apology was indeed, profuse.

We have a new entry on the Gaskin poop scale.

Before I had time to remove it, Jamie came over with two of her Chihuahua mixes. Luna is a known shiteater (Like a sin eater, but worse breath). She prefers goose, but will settle for deer poop now that the geese are locked up. You can guess what happened next.

She thought he had hit the jackpot and dove into the pile. I didn’t know whether to laugh or gag, but Jamie shrieked as she ran for the nearest shovel. Not to be deterred, Bad Breath Betty, headed for the one on the other side of the yard where Roomba was digging in the fresh dirt. Jamie is not as fast as her dog.
But, in the end, Luna had to settle for sifting through the grass for deer poop with her teeth, like a lowbush blueberry picker with a shuttle as the rest of us giggled under our breath.

Then it hit me. If a 30 pound turtle can poop like a Labrador Retriever now, what is it going to be like when it is 75 to 100 pounds?

It also hit me….I’m babysitting Luna tomorrow. I wonder if tortoises poop every day…..

One more time for the masses

Cat’s have filthy mouths. Besides their foul language, their filthy mouths are filled with bacteria that is FATAL to small animals, ie…birds, squirrels, rodents BUNNIES. If a cat even breathes on one of these small animals (Even if the bunny IS bigger than the cat, trust me on this one), the animal will die of sepsis within 24 hours. TWENTY FOUR HOURS OR LESS.
ALWAYS!

Do not tell me that it is a small wound or that the cat only used it’s claws. DO not bring me a bunny that half the skin is ripped off or a leg has been chewed and say that you are sure it wasn’t in the cat’s mouth. DO not bring me a bunny or anything but a child over 4 years old that a cat has dragged in for 24 hours. Not 10, not 18. 24. Got that 24 hours.

You have no idea how many people have insisted that it’s been 24 hours and drive out her only to open the box and it’s a dead bird, or bunny, or squirrel or toad. Yes, it did look perfectly healthy an hour ago, but it’s not now. (Once someone had the balls to ask for gas money reimbursement because the bird was dead. I laughed. I laughed a lot)

TWENTY FOUR HOURS. Believe me, I have tried every antibiotic, short of a 24 hour IV drip, and nothing works. Cat bite = Death.

What do you do then when Fluffy brings you a present? Three things. 1. You can either give it back to the cat (hopefully you avoid a disposal process, unless your cat is a puker) 2. You can put the animal in a box in a quiet place and not open it for 24 hours. If it makes you feel better, you can put some water and food in with it. 3. If the animal is badly injured, put it down, either manually or back to solution 1.

NOW. On the off chance that Fluffy had no teeth or didn’t like the taste of fresh meat on the paw or was just using the animal for batting practice and you open the box after 24 hours and the bunny, squirrel, toad, mouse, bird or toddler is still alive and looking at you, THEN you can call me. It can probably be released back outside or in the case of an injury, I can see what I can do.

But if you call me? Daylight hours only. I’m getting pretty damn crabby in my old age.

Laws are laws

I got a pretty frantic call this morning. A woman was at the vets. She had a full grown bobcat in a carrier in the back of her car. The DNR was on it’s way.

She saw the cat get hit on the road and it was unconscious. She stuffed it in her dogs carrier that she happened to have in the back of her car. She rushed it to a vet.

The vet agreed to come out to the car, but by now the cat was fully conscious and mad. It was spitting and growling, but the woman opened the cage anyway. The cat scratched her and drew blood.

The vet called the DNR.

The woman was frantic and angry that the DNR officer said they would have to put the cat down to have it tested for rabies since it drew blood. The woman was furious and wanted me to do something.

There is nothing I can do. Both the DNR and I are bound by laws. The law states that all wild animal wounds require the animal in question to be put down, the head removed and sent to Lansing, where it will be opened and a black light shined on the brain. If it fluoresces, the rabies virus is present. In Northern Michigan, it rarely fluoresces. The DNR knows that. I know that. Still, it is the law.

She said she would just open the door and let the cat out. (A bad idea in town). She said she’d take it back to where she found it, but that might lead to even more trouble and possible charges being brought against her. Not only that, but she would have to go through the rabies anti toxin injections. (Not as painful as they used to be, but very expensive.)

There really wasn’t going to be any way out of this for the cat. Hopefully, it was not a female with kits.

There is a lesson here. Wild animals are just that. They will fight back, no matter how cute or helpless they may seem at the moment. Always, always, always use precautions. Anticipate that the animal will bite or scratch you. In the case of an adult animal, call the DNR or a wildlife rehabber BEFORE you try to move it.

It’s sad, that this animal will have to be euthanized. It’s not the first time that I have had to deal with this. It won’t be the last.

Maybe though, if people use a little more caution, there will be less of it.

Sponge Bob No Pants

nce we are on a trailer park theme. I have another one.

Several years ago, I got a call about a baby raccoon (I had not yet set my primary rules). I was going into town anyway, so I agreed to pick it up at one of our larger, nicer trailer communities in town.

This was before GPS ( necessity to locate a single trailer among hundreds) and the little lanes and streets were poorly marked. Frankly, as far as I am concerned, there are about 10 models of trailers that you se, over and over again and pretty soon they all look alike.

After about 40 minutes of driving through the maze, I found a lovely little doublewide with the proper address. It really didn’t look like the kind of place I expected raccoons.

I rang the bell next to a pretty spring wreath.
An elderly woman in an old fashioned housedress came to the door. I couldn’t hear a word she said over the yapping of at least a dozen chihuahuas. They milled around her feet, all vying for an opportunity to tear into the stranger, who was obviously there to murder their owner.

“Oh dear, come in. Come in.”

“No thank you”, I said as I wedged my foot against the storm door to keep the angry horde from reaching my ankles. It didn’t work.

Chihuahuas pored out the gap in the door and started either raising their leg against shoes or chewing on my pantleg. (Thankfully, I was wearing sturdy jeans).

“Oh, they won’t hurt you.” she said, “they just love people, I’ll go get the darling baby”.

I tried shaking two of the overgrown rats off my leg, but others took their place. I was turning blue from holding my breath against the smell. Dozens of “piddle Pads” were scattered across the floor. The dogs apparently had bad aim.

She handed me a paper grocery bag. I peeked in and there was a 3 or 4 week old raccoon in the bottom. It looked at me as though imploring “Dear God in heaven. GET ME OUT OF HERE”

I declined a cup of coffee, shook the last of the yappers off my pantleg and left. Quickly….making absolutely sure that I has not carried any of the little buggers accidently to the car.

This was not the strange part.

I stuffed the raccoon inside my jacket to keep him warm and calm and managed to find my way back out of the labyrinth to the main gate. It was five o clock. You cannot turn out of any side street onto the main ones during rush hour in Traverse City.

As I am sitting on the corner, waiting for my slim to none chance for escape. There was a knock on my window. Someone was trying to open the car door, but they had automatic locks when the engine was engaged. (For this, I will be eternally grateful)

There, standing outside my passenger side door was a man with a shirt, socks, shoes, but no pants. Baggy briefs were the only thing between him and the brisk breeze. He started shouting as he knocked on the glass.

“Lemmme innnnn! I wanta go to towwwwwwnnnnn. Gimmie a ride. I wanta go to towwwwwwnnn.”

I’d never really head such proficient shout-whining.

As I’m praying for a break in the traffic or the car behind me to move so I could back up and make my escape. (The driver, who was laughing his ass of at the time, was enjoying the show too much to move) Suddenly another man ran up to the car. Thankfully he had pants, but nothing else. (Did they SHARE clothes? Was this his day for the pants?)

This wild haired “gentleman” shouted, “Bobby, Bobby! I tol ya and I tol ya.Ya can’t keep getting in peoples cars. Now go back inna house.”

As they stood there arguing, I no longer cared if there was a break in traffic or not. I pulled directly out into the traffic to the sound of screeching brakes and honking horns. I returned their one fingered salutes with a sheepish wave and went directly home.

The woman was right. The coon was adorable. We named him Sponge Bob No Pants.

Primary rule Number 2 was written. I don’t pick up animals at trailer parks.

Trailer Traps

I broke two of my primary rules today. 1. I do not go to pick up animals at peoples homes. 2. If I do get suckered into it, I DO NOT go to a trailer park.

I got three calls from a man yesterday about a duck. When we finally got done playing phone tag and talked, he told me it was a female baby duck. I asked how he could tell it was female? He said it was “One of them ducks that the boys are green. She isn’t green.”

Ok, flags raised and waved.

It is the first week of May. IF (and there are not yet) there were baby ducks, they certainly would not have feathers. AND.. a juvenile mallard (the green ones) does not have it’s colors or tail curl till it’s first molt at about 4 months old. I explained this to him.

He said. “What makes you think you know so much about ducks?’

I was silent and bit my lip for a moment before responding. “You called me because I rehabilitate wild life. If I rehabilitate wildlife for 30 years, I believe I know more about ducks than you.”

He said. “my wife found the duck in the park and it was really skinny and not doing well, but now it was eating a doing good.” He said he read on the internet that they need other ducks to do good and he couldn’t keep it in the trailer.

Dear God.

I told him that what he had was a “Tractor Supply duck”. People buy them when they are cute and little and when they discover how damn messy ducks are they take them out a dump them. I deal with them every year. They seldom survive being Dumped. I told him he could bring me the duck and it could join my others. ( a number of them “Tractor Supply Ducks”)

“I can’t”

What?

“I can’t. I don’t drive. I’m a stay at home dad. My wife drives the car. (Images of ankle monitors flashed through my mind). I asked if he could meet me in town (I often meet people on Thursdays between errands) “No, I can’t leave the kids”

Against my better judgement. I said I’d pick it up at three. He gave me the address. IT WAS A TRAILER PARK. Near Chums Corners.

I had to use GPS to find the place and even Siri got confused. The road was a solid pothole, but I got there just after three.

Eww…Broken bicycles and vacuum cleaners littered the driveway and yard. A pile of garbage and no less that 4 empty Budweiser boxes were tossed by the door. I pulled my sleeve over my knuckles so I wouldn’t have to make skin contact as I knocked on the grubby door.

A skinny, shirtless, teenage boy in pajama bottoms and a phone clutched in his hand answered. Marijuana smoke rolled out and blinded me for an instant. I noted that his afro was flat on one side, like I had woken him up. No sign of a “Stay at home dad”.

I said I was there for the duck.

“She ain’t here”

What?!!!

“My sista got her. She go ta pick up the kids at da bus. She be right back”

I was boiling at this point. Who the hell takes a duck to go to the bus stop? But I managed to hold it back. I sat in the car, in the driveway for 20 minutes before going back and kicking the door with the toe of my shoe.

Half-hair came back, clearly irritated that he was interrupted again. I asked about his sister.

“I don’t know where she be. Maybe she go to McDonalds.”

That was it. I left. I had wasted almost an hour and still had to drive all the way back. On my way, I called the “House husbands” phone and told him that I came to get the duck, but now he could shove it up his ass, flappy feet and all.

It won’t change anything, but I felt better.

Rule one and two are going to be posted near every phone from now on.

I DON”T come pick up animals at people’s homes.

I won’t go to trailer parks.

Don’t ask me. Nope. Not again. Never.

At least not today.

Red Squirrel ?

At best, squirrels are shifty characters. They lie with impunity and cheat at cards. When things don’t exactly go their way, they are prone to fits of uncontrollable swearing of a level I have yet to achieve on my best day. Mostly, I try to compromise with the ones I raise and release in the back yard. I will continue to feed them outrageously expensive “Fruit and Nut Mix” and they won’t steal my car of smoke weed behind the porch.
When baby squirrels come in, they usually aren’t fully furred. It can be a bit tricky telling grays from blacks or fox squirrels. These are good size squirrels and you treat them all pretty much the same. Red squirrels are usually easy to identify because they are smaller and the first fur they grow is a little brown stripe down the center of their nose.

It’s important to know who you are dealing with as early as possible. Reds have different dietary requirements from the others. Your average black or gray does well on kitten or puppy milk with a little cream tossed in for fat. Their first foods after their eyes open are “Teddy Grahams”, bananas, apples. and shelled nuts. They are pretty happy with whatever is tossed their way (especially the “Teddy Grahams” Even after release, I can usually coheres them into submission by holding the “Teddy Grahams” hostage.

Red squirrels however, need extra protein . Noooo, they can’t be happy with bugs and grubs like flying squirrels. They want MEAT! If a red squirrel can’t get to Kentucky Fried, he’s gonna go KILL something. Usually, that means hatchling birds, or if no one has made an appearance yet, they will eat the eggs. I once made the mistake of putting a baby red squirrel in the basket with a newly hatched blue bird and when I went to feed them 20 minutes later…the bird was gone. Num. Num.

While your average black or gray squirrel is generally a pretty laid back though seedy character, a red squirrel is Napoleon on acid. Other squirrels build their nests outside. They like hollow trees, maybe an occasional abandoned shed wall. Not red squirrels.
That noise in the attic? That’s a red squirrel chewing your insulation and electrical wires to make his bed. Bar-b-q grill smoking like crazy when you light it up? That’s just 10 pounds of leaves, half a garden hose and that cashmere sock you though you lost. If your car won’t start, check the air filter. It may just be stuffed with acorns and sunflower seeds. Oh, and that funny smell in your $89,000 motor home? That’s the red squirrel who made his home in the ceiling and died of old age….last winter.

Red squirrels are the bad boys of the bushy tailed set. When you see a black or gray squirrel being chased across the yard by a screaming streak of red fur, they aren’t playing. That little terror wants to CASTRATE that poor sucker and he is running for all he’s worth. (No, I don’t know what the red does with the testicles. I don’t even want to know.)
So you can understand why I want to know what I am dealing with here. I like to keep them separate, mostly so the males stay intact and I can release the red squirrel far, far away from my attic. Like I said. It’s usually pretty easy.
Until this week.

A woman called and said she had a baby squirrel that her dog brought in. It seemed fine so she wondered if I would take it.
“What color is it?” I asked.

“Gray. Really pretty gray.”

“Ok, bring it out”

She arrived, box in hand (every animal comes to me with a box and a towel. Do you know how may odd towels I have?) I dug through the towels to find a tiny little squirrel with its eyes still fused shut. It was indeed, a lovely shade of silver gray with a white tummy and a tail that promises to be absolutely luxurious. I breathed a sigh of relief and opened the cage to tuck her in with the other babies.
That’s when I noticed the nose. There was a dark brown stripe right down the center. Hmmm. She was a bit small for a gray, but the color was all wrong for a red. I just kind of shrugged and added her to the pile. I have encountered genetic dwarf animals before, so who knows?
She has been doing well. Her white tummy has grown round and fat and she eats well. I did notice that she has unusually long fingers for a gray. A gray squirrel uses its paws to hold nuts and adorably wash its face. A red squirrel on the other hand, uses those long fingers to pick locks ad flip you off when you run out of the really good sunflower seeds. Hmmmmm….
It was all going well. Or so I thought.
I take the squirrels upstairs with me at night, so they are closer for their night feedings. After the last feeding before bed, I put them in a smaller, more portable cage to carry them up. The black squirrels finished their milk and immediately on a “milk drunk”, snuggled under the blankets (actually a washrag) in the bottom of the portable cage. Then I went to feed the tiny one. She wasn’t happy with just one dropper of milk and as I was filling it for the second round, I noticed that her eyes were trying to open.

Again….Hmmmmm.

Halfway through the second dropper of milk, her right eye popped open. Normally it would be hazy blue and unable to focus for the first few days. I actually love it when the babies can finally focus and look at me with astonishment that I am NOT a mother squirrel. Not this chick. She narrowed that one eye and gave me the once over. It was like she was estimating my weight, speed and strength. Then it happened.
I swear to God. It glowed red. A chill ran down my spine and crept back up my neck. She winked at me. No kidding. She freeking winked at me! Then the red left that beady little eye and I tucked her back into bed with the others. They’re females. They should be safe…unless she is hungry.
This is scary people. My world and sense of peace with it is on a precipice. If I can’t tell a red squirrel from a gray or black, what sense could there be in the universe? I could be creating monsters here. They could be evolving and disguising themselves in a plot to take over the world. I mean really, if Trump was elected president of the United States, well then, just ANYTHING is possible.

I hope you all sleep well tonight. I know I won’t. I have to get up at four to feed that little devil in a fur suit. Wish me luck.

Walt Disney Doesn’t Live Here

I hate dealing with “Animal Rescue people” (As in dog and cat). One called me at 7 this morning and started out with “I’m sorry I called so early”. I get this a lot and I always want to say “Then WHY ARE YOU CALLING THIS EARLY bitch?” But I didn’t.

Anyway, she has a Canada goose with a broken wing. I patiently explained that I probably couldn’t help it as a wing on a migratory bird would have to be surgically set in order to hold up to the immense stress of migration and I’m not a vet. So then at 7 in the morning, she demanded a list of vets who would do this. I told her to get the phone book, I don’t keep a list of vets by my bed.

She hung up.

So at 8:30 she calls back. “Oh! Did I wake you AGAIN?” she said sarcastically. Now, I really don’t feel the need to have to explain that the night before this, I had one and one half hours of sleep or that my husband had surgery yesterday. People sleep when they can and if you sleep till noon, that’s YOUR business.

She proceeded to tell me that Dr. Peck agreed to do the surgery and could I take the bird after that. Sure I said, but recovery of a wild bird of that size would take time and proper space. (I was actually calculating in my head, how many chickens, ducks or turkeys I would have to shuffle to have a large cage or pen open) “Oh, I can bring you a dog crate” I again explained that a wild bird CANNOT be held in a dog crate for the month or so it will take for the bird to heal.

Then she dropped the bomb. “How will you pay for the surgery, you must be a non profit. How does Dr. Peck discount for non profits?”

WTF? No, I MUST not be a non profit and Dr Peck is one of the most expensive vets in town and I have not found him to be particularly generous. I told her that I don’t expect vets to work for free. She said she only had funds to pay for dogs. But if it was going to be a couple of hundred dollars, she’d have to pay for it. I wished her luck.

Now, here is why I really hate dog and cat rescues. They cannot see the difference between domestic dogs and cats and wildlife. I finally get it. In their world, every dog and cat should be saved, no matter what. And after that dog or cat is saved it goes to a wonderfully home where people sign contracts that say they will lovingly treat the animal exactly the way the rescue wants for the rest of its life, no matter how much it costs. Everyone lives happily ever after.

That’s not how it is with wildlife. These animals don’t lick your hand and gaze gratefully into your eyes as you care for them in their tiny cage. They don’t go off to loving homes to live a long and happy life, forgetting the pain of recovery.

Wildlife, doesn’t appreciate you. They don’t think you are trying to help them. They basically hate you and think you are trying to kill them and you are the reason for their present suffering and captivity. They act accordingly. They bite, they scratch they fight back and given the opportunity they may EAT the dog or cat that lives with you. They don’t go to loving homes. They go back into the wild where life is hard and they are either prey or predator. Their lives are a short glorious burst of adventure, fear, blood and guts. If they are lucky, they get to breed and raise young in a world where EVERYONE is trying to eat your children and then they chase those children away when they are old enough to compete with their parents for what food is available.

Walt Disney doesn’t live here. This is NOT a Disney movie! Rehabilitators can’t be soft. We can’t fall in love with every animal and want to keep it safe for the rest of its life. We don’t get to cuddle and coddle these animals. We have to constantly make really difficult and hard choices whether to save one badly injured animal or use the funds and resources to save a dozen healthy ones that just need a little help and will go on to live normal lives in the wild. We have to decide, every time, whether saving an animal is the right thing for the animal or if we are doing it for our OWN selves.

And always….we have to remember that this animal does not belong to us. They belong to the Wild and the Wild always wins.

They just don’t get it and probably never will. They can’t see the world as a wild animal does. Somehow I and a few other rare people do. We can take away the emotion, and see wildlife for what it is. We feel the raw energy. We run with the predators. We live in that moment when all that exists is the sunshine or the rain. That moment, that single moment is all that there is. No heaven, no hell, only NOW. You are or you aren’t. That’s it.

You can’t explain that to cat and dog people. Hell, I don’t think you can explain it to anyone. You get it….or you don’t.

I do my best with these animals. That’s all I can do. Just please remember this. I do what is best FOR the animal, not me. Remember that when you judge me cruel or uncaring or rude.

Freedom

A raven came in last week with a bad wing. Other than punching a talon through my little finger, he was amazingly gentle and calm. Ravens are sentient and have facial recognition and it was erie how he looked directly at me while I tended him. I put him in the fawn pen and by the time the snow started, there were three peacocks and a duck wanting to join him. I let them in and they all got along fine.

For a couple of days, I made him fried eggs and chicken, then when the sun was out, I opened the top door so he would have fresh air and not get to warm. I didn’t think he could get out of it. We ran to town and when I came back, no raven. I found him high up in the trees at the back of the yard, on the other side of the fence. He was quite content and eating buds, so I tossed some eggs and chicken over the fence each day. Since it is such a tangle of downed trees and brush, he moved about quite well, climbing through the trees.

Yesterday, I went outside and heard the rattle call of a raven, I looked up and there he was watching me. Today, as I cleaned the garden, I could see him working his way close to the fence. Sure enough, I heard the rattle call. I talked to him and went back to work after tossing a few more eggs. Later I was working in a diffrent area and sure enough, he appeared in a nearby tree. That was when I realised, that he makes the call for me and not Jimmy.

Before he escaped,I had intended to see if Wings of Wonder wanted him for an educational bird. I knew his wing would never heal and he’d spend the rest of his life in captivity. It wasn’t something I felt good about, but sometimes they bond with humans and do well.

He obviously, has chosen diffrently. He chose his fate and frankly, I would rather see him live free, even if he can’t fly. Evidently he is finding his way without the wing. He knows I’ll feed him and is fairly safe from preditors. His life may not be as long as it would in captivity, but he is free and sometimes, that is everything.

It’s amazing what we will risk for freedom. I know, I would choose the same. Don’t keep me safe and contained, let me face the consequences of my choices. I would rather live one day in the sun than a year in a cage.

Coming Home

Tonight, as I was sitting on the couch thinking of stuff I should be doing, a cat quietly climbed into my lap. Now, a cat on your lap is certainly not an occasion in this house, after all, we have four, but this was a special moment. Momcat was abandoned in our neighborhood about 6 years ago. She lived in the wild, under or in and shelter she could find. Twice a year, she had a littler of kittens. Few survived. I did what I could for her by putting out food and insulating an area of the porch for her. Gradually, she came to trust me enough to sit with her and occasionally touch her. You could always feel her ribs through her rough, grimy fur.

One summer, she showed up on the porch with two healthy kittens and one sickly one who was half their size. I fed them and talked to them and when I came back outside from a phone call, she had left the sickly kitten behind. I didn’t see her or the other kittens for weeks. I cared for the kitten and she became my beloved Bedbug.

It came to the point that I could no longer watch her have kittens and know that they would die or grow up to decimate the songbirds and baby bunnies. She needed to be spayed. We caught her in a live trap and soon realized that she was already pregnant again. I kept her in a large cage and tamed the kittens when they were born. Each went to a loving home and it was time to deal with Momcat….She was not happy and as soon as she could, she escaped into the wild again.

This time it was different though. She knew the house was safe and warm. Last winter, she would come in through the doggy door to eat and sleep and occasionally get a good scratch or pet. As soon as it warmed up, she moved back outside.

Winter came early this year and with the first snow, Momcat was in the house. But it was different. She started venturing past the laundry room and We would see her sitting in the living room staring at us. Then she started to play..with anything and everything. She horded the cat toys in places only known to her and would bring them out to play when she wanted. She was remembering what it was like to be a house cat, a pet, in a safe and warm environment.

That brings us to tonight. Tired from Kung Fu and a day of Christmas decorating, I was sitting on the couch. Momcat was on the arm of the loveseat staring at me. I raised my hand and wiggled my fingers in invitation and to my surprise, she came to the couch. I scratched and petted as she purred. Her fur is thick and you can feel no ribs. Slowly, she climbed into my lap and snuggled into the blanket, purring even louder. Occasionally, she would look up into my eyes as if she were saying “you’re mine”. I told her she was mine and I was hers and that she would never be cold or hungry again, but I think she already knew that. She is home. She is finally home.

I have the feeling that there will be four cats in my bed tonight instead of three. We’ll be warm and that’s the way we like it.

The Terribleness of Zen

Had one of those terrible-beautiful Zen moments today. Most people associate Zen with sitting peacefully, staring at the back of their eyelids. Zen is supposed to make you feel at ease, let you face the world with a slight smile and a gentle heart. It’s not. It’s work to get the mind to that empty state. When it’s clear of the everyday clutter, the realities of life and death and rebirth slide into place. To be “One” with the universe can be beautiful…it can be terrible, but always, always, worth it.

I cleaned the tank where I normally keep the tadpoles I am raising for the goldfish pond. The wild cats and the blue heron have taken most of my frogs and I miss hearing them on summer nights. All winter I have been feeding these future frogs so they will be big enough to put in the pond without the fish eating them.

During all the grebe, blue bill, merganser and other downed duck crisis of the past month, I took to dumping the minnows I’d buy for them in the tank with the tadpoles, so I wouldn’t be trudging to the bait store every day. The ducks are gone and so are the minnows, but the tank was a mess. It was cloudy and green and I couldn’t even see my tiny tadpoles. I managed to drain most of it with a siphon, but the last 6 inches wouldn’t work. I used the carpet cleaner hose to finish as I added more clean water and stirred up the sediments to be sucked out. I was worried about the tadpoles, so I put a small net over the end of the hose. After the water was fairly clear, I started to clean up the mess.

First, I realized that there was more algae than ever, because of the fish excrement, second, I noticed that all the baby snails that had been cleaning up the algae were gone, because the fish ate them. Then I washed out the little net and to my horror I discovered two dead tadpoles stuck in the seam.

Suddenly I saw the sacredness of even the smallest life. I saw how interconnected every thing in that tank was. The snails ate the algae, the fish ate the snails, the birds ate the fish and in the middle of it all were these tiny little creatures that would one day be frogs and sing in my pond. I upset that balance. I interfered and life forms suffered needlessly. I was overcome with sadness and gratitude that nature is the great complicated circle of life and I am part of it. For a moment I could look at the remaining tadpoles in the tank and feel the spring that will come and release the sleeping creatures and plants imprisoned beneath the snow and ice. Closing my eyes, I could smell the softened mud as the turtles and frogs and yes, the tiny tadpoles crawl and wiggle forth towards the light. I could hear the birds sing for joy as they returned to their summer homes. Yes, I could even hear the frogs as they chorused in the goldfish pond.

Even in the grip of this long and brutal winter, I know that spring will come in it’s own time. The earth will bring forth in abundance once more. I just hope it will forgive me for the life of two tiny tadpoles, so carelessly lost.