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.

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.

Wildlife are Not Cats or Dogs

Today can be summed up with “Wild animals are not cats and dogs”

Cats and dogs are fairly predictable. Most of the time you pet them and they are happy, you feed them cat and dog food, when they are sick or hurt, you take them to the vet.

People see the pet possum or the house raccoon or even the deer with a party hat watching tv on the internet and they forget that these are wild animals. In the 30 seconds or few minutes of the video, it seems as though they are really not much different than dogs and cats. They love you as their masters and they appreciate your help.

It doesn’t always work that way.

Wild animals, even most very young wild animals are exactly that. Wild. They fear humans. The don’t like anything that doesn’t fit in with their world and mostly, that is humans.
The day started with the woman picking up the young bobcat after it was hit by a car. Instead of calling a rehabber or the DNR immediately for advice, she put the unconscious cat in a dog crate and took it to a vet.

First of all, very few vets treat wild life. Most won’t even allow them in their clinics. All understand that a scared wild animal is dangerous and will lash out. The cat was awake when it got there and scratched the woman who picked it up.
To make a long story short, the vet called the DNR and by Michigan law, the cat had to be put down and tested for rabies. No way around it. Once it breaks the skin, the animal is doomed. People pick them up anyway.

This is one of the biggest reasons I do not allow people to touch the animals in my care. Yet still, they will walk in and the first thing they do is stick their fingers into the cages. My eyes are rolling right now.

Next, came 5 baby possums. Two severely injured with limbs or tails “Degloved”. (that means, the skin is torn away leaving nothing but raw muscle and nerves. It is extremely painful and takes a long time and lots of treatment to heal. I put the healthy ones in a cage and the other two in a darkened basket to be dispatched when they left.

The wife demanded to know how I was going to treat it. Then showed me photos on her phone of a kitten she rescued from a fire. One ear was burned off and a foreleg degloved. It has a large, raw burned patch on it’s side. The photos were gruesome. Then she showed the after photos of this cat, now mostly blind and said it took over 40 vet visits and surgery to save it.

All I could think of is “why?. Was the pain and suffering that kitten went through really worth the outcome? Animals don’t cling to life like we do. They don’t experience angst about death. They do experience pain….but….since this was a domestic animal, the vets could treat it. They could relieve much of it’s pain. It could take comfort t in the touch of human hands.
If this wasn’t bad enough, about 9:45 tonight a woman called and wanted me to come get an adult raccoon that had been hit by a car. She said it was trying to get up but couldn’t. She stated that it got nasty when she tried to move it out of the road. She wanted me to do something. NOW.

I tried gently explaining that there really wasn’t a lot I could do for a coon in that state (trying to handle an injured adult coon is a lot like juggling chainsaws. It aint gonna work for long) I told her that there aren’t any vets who would even look at the coon, let alone treat it and I am not a vet, there is only so much I can do with my limited resources. I told her that the best thing for the coon was to either put it down or simply leave it alone to expire in relative peace.

She would have none of it. She cried and whined. She demanded that I come help the coon. She got really upset when I told her no. I value my fingers. I have scars running up and down my arms from raccoons, and am not in the market for more. I was not going to drive 30 miles to Mancelona and pick up the coon.

She hung up on me with a few choice words including “Heartless, lazy and bitch”.
What she didn’t know is that I felt bad when I put the phone back in the charger. I felt bad for her. I felt bad for the coon. I hate feeling so helpless. But I can guarantee that if I HAD gone to rescue that coon and it was still clinging to life when I got there, it would not have been happy to see me. It’s fear of me would have far outweighed any comfort I could give it unless it involved a quick end to this life.

Not 15 minutes later, a young girl arrived with a fledgling robin. She said it was acting funny and it’s mother threw it out of the nest. When I looked at it, I could tell that it was ready to leave the nest anyway. but it’s head was shaking, it was staggering and the mouth was partially open with it’s tongue forward and raised. All are classic signs of poisoning. Someone treats their lawn or garden or sprays for mosquitos and the mother bird either ingests the bugs or worms and dies or feeds it to her babies and they die.

She did not want to hear this. She wanted me to DO something. Couldn’t I pump it’s stomach or give it something to counteract the poison? No. It’s a bird. All I could do is put it in a dark basket, so it would be calm as see what happens. I’ll know by morning.

I am not going to hold it as it dies to comfort it. It would bring it no comfort. It is not a beloved cat or dog. It is a wild bird, never touched before by human hands. It does not want to be in those hands now.

It is frustrating. Most of the time I can bring them no comfort other than trying to relieve pain or ending that pain forever. They are not cats and dogs. They are forever wild.

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”


“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”


“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.

Snow Day

It has been snowing for months. This winter started the first of November and has not let up for a moment. It is February now, February 13. There has not been school for over a week and I can hear the mothers crying.

Snow or not. I got shit to do. I put on wool socks, fleece leggings, two sweaters, snow pants and my big, big coat (Michigan people will understand what a big, big coat is). I crammed my feet into my boots, found my ski gloves (which have never seen a ski slope and never will) and pulled on a hat with ear flaps.
I have to pee.
Ok, try again. This time I made it outside.
Not only is the snow over my boots, but well over my knees. I started out just shoveling the steps and deck. Then someone stopped to tell me that one of my peacocks was sitting in the road around the corner. I knew I couldn’t get any of the gates between our house and Levi’s, (a short cut) so I walked around the block by the road. I was amazed and dismayed by the amount of pure ice under the snow on the snow. It was like they used a Zamboni instead of a plow. It’s a good thing I had all the padding on my fanny, but I was almost helpless as a turtle on its back, when it came time to get back up.
As I rounded the corner, I could see something spotted white in the road. It was my youngest partial pied, peacock. There she was, just sitting in the road. I went to pick her up. She flew to a nearby fence. The snow is hip deep there. Just as I got to her again, she flew towards our back yard. I assumed she would beat me home.
I repeated my earlier performance on the ice as I waddled home. She wasn’t there.
I don’t know where the hell she landed. Not only that but her mother (also white) and one of her brothers is missing. Now, I understand how I could not see a white peacock in the snow, but a technicolored one?
So the dogs (Sophie had a playdate ) and I walked out back to look for them. The dogs thought this a wonderful opportunity to knock me down in the snow….repeatedly.
Damn, the wild duck who can’t fly is back by the far fence, bogged down in the deep snow. I chase. I miss. I chase again. I miss again. (Now you have to picture this in over the knee, snow motion and two unruly dogs) She gets into the goose pen at the far corner of the fence line. Ok. I can corner her there. One problem. The gate is closed and a foot higher than I can climb over. Knee deep snow, remember? Not only is the snow holding the gate, but it is frozen to the ground and post.
I need to cut the straps on the fence so I can lift it straight up. No knife. That’s ok, I can take a shortcut to the shed through the garden. It would have worked, but the gate at the other end is also buried in snow…..annnnnd, no knife.

Ok. Back up, go around the yard, making a new trail (knock it off dogs!) find a shovel and dig out the shed door to get a knife.

Nope. All that was there was a dull machete.

I got the machete, retraced my trail (Damnit dogs!), cut the straps, got the duck and continued to walk the fence line looking for peacocks. No dice. No peacocks.
So I make it back to the shed with the duck under my arm (Did I mention that both dogs are having a great time knocking me down in the snow?) Put the machete away, the door won’t close, so I stuff the duck in my coat and shovel and chip till it does. The duck shits.
At least it’s warm
As we are trudging back to the house, Sophie decides to impress her boyfriend and chases the geese. The geese fly. One goose flies over the fence. Son of a bitch.
I put the duck away. Feed the duck. Count peacocks…yup, still three shy. Go through the house to get out the front door (another gate that won’t open till June). Where is the goose?
Oh, of course, he is about 50 foot into the neighbor’s yard; in snow so deep I can only see his head and neck. I almost get to him and the other neighbor across the street fires up the tractor / snow blower. Goose flies into the road. I get to the road (am I having a heart attack or is it just the duck shit burning my skin….must be the duck shit) By now the goose is down the street, halfway to the church.
So it’s back in the house to get a stick for herding the goose (the net is frozen to the rabbit pen) and start off down the road. The lovely guy on the snow blower, turns the shoot in my direction. Thanks bud; it will help cool down the duck shit.
Finally, I manage to get in front of the damn goose and turn him back. We are making good progress; the snowbanks are keeping him in the road. Just as we get to our mailbox, idiot guy blows snow at the goose. Goose tries to fly. I tackle him in midair. (The goose, not the guy)
Flipping off the snow blower guy, we head back through the house with goose struggling in my arms. We almost made it. Dogs came in while I was chasing the goose and were lying in wait.
Surprise attack! Goose beats the snot out of me and I drop him. Goose shits in kitchen. I slip in goose shit. Finally cornered goose in the bathroom and returned him to the group outside (who all this time have been cheering for snow blower guy).Now I have duck shit all down the front of my sweater and Goose shit all over the butt of my pants.
Screw the peacocks. I shovel a narrow path through the deck and give up.
That’s my snow day.
And they wonder why I drink.

Don’t flush the Hamster Please

I have never been particularly fond of hamsters. Oh granted, they are cute and not much trouble to keep, but I just have a few problems with the little rodents.

For starters, they seem to have a tendency to bite the hand that feeds them or cleans their cage, and there’s the food thing. They stuff everything in their cheeks, get it all covered with hamster spit and then tuck it away in their beds. That’s just icky. On top of that, there is the fact that their testicles are well, absolutely huge. I just can’t find myself becoming attached to any animal whose balls are bigger than its brain. (Men excluded, I guess)

Every once in a while I find myself getting stuck with a hamster. When we lived in navy housing, someone was moving overseas and talked me into taking their three-year-old hamster, “Sweetums”. I figured what the heck, it’s old, how much longer can it live? It turns out,a lot longer than you would think!

I soon discovered that there was NOTHING sweet about “Sweetums”. The rotten little creature would make a dive for your hand every time you reached in its cage and try to sink its well-honed fangs into your finger. More often than not, he succeeded. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but he continuously peed in his food dish, requiring someone to reach in there and change it.

I began to suspect that his owners requested the overseas duty assignment, just to get away from him.

He simply was not a pleasant animal. Every morning, I would go to his cage to cheerfully greet him and he would open one eye and glare at me. We took to calling him “Mr. Personality”. Mr. Personality lived in the laundry room on the back of the dryer, for about a year, before old age was merciful to all of us and we found him face down in his food dish one morning. I tried to muster up a tear, but my heart just wasn’t into it. Later when Levi got up, I told him of Mr. P’s demise and he managed to look sorrowful for about the time it took to discover the toy in the new box of cereal.

About half way through his Super Frosted Sugar Bombs (or whatever overly sweetened cereal he was obsessed with that week), he announced that he thought Mr. P should have a burial at sea. We had visited the whaling museum the week before and they had shown a short movie about life aboard a whaling ship. A whale had killed one of the seamen and the captain sewed him in a canvas shroud and committed him to the depths of the ocean.

I’m not sure why Levi thought that this was appropriate for a hamster, but I learned early on in mother hood, that sometimes, you just don’t want to know. I gave a weak, “Um, sure” and sank back into my coffee. I had a million things to do and I’d just have to deal with the expired hamster later.

My husband’s ship was somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean and I was involved in planing the children’s Christmas party for the families in a few weeks. Several other Navy wives came over to finish up the decorations for the hall and of course, they brought their children along. There is one thing you can count on in military housing…wall to wall children. At that moment there were several bouncing off my walls.

We told them to do something quiet while we worked. When they complied, I should have worried. A quiet child is a child up to mischief. The peaceful interval was short lived and I sent them all outside to play. As I returned to the Christmas project in the other room, I noticed that Mr. P’s cage was sitting on the floor of the laundry room and felt a guilty pang for not taking care of his remains yet.

We continued to work and the children continued to run in an out of the house getting snacks, tattling on siblings and using the bathroom. It wasn’t long before one child passed by on his way outside and called over his shoulder, “toilet won’t flush!” Since there were two bathrooms, I simply shut the door and added it to the long list of things I’d do later.

Every one finally left and “later” had arrived. The first job I tackled was disposition of the hamster body. I looked in his cage, but he wasn’t there. I searched all through the litter, thinking there may have been some miraculous resurrection, but there was no hamster, dead or alive. I tracked Levi down and asked him if he knew what happened to Mr. P. As he went spinning by on the merry-go-round, he said that they already had the funeral and Mr. P was buried. I was impressed by his maturity in taking care of such an event. That must have been why the children were so quiet earlier. Great, I could go make dinner!

About half way through preparing dinner of spaghetti and salad, I remembered the bathroom situation. I grabbed the plunger and headed for the downstairs jon. The kids were right, it didn’t flush. I plunged and flushed again. The water rose to the edge of the bowl and slowly receded. I plunged again. Same situation. I really hated to do it, but I was going to have to call “public works”.

The Navy base had several hundred housing units and the maintenance department was called “public works”. We used to joke about the inappropriateness of this title, as they often seemed to do as little work as possible. I always felt rather badly about the jokes, as I knew these men had a lot to put up with in their line of work. Just imagine all the things that could go wrong with several hundred housing units filled with wives and children who’s husbands were not around to do even the simplest tasks….like plunging a toilet. I usually tried to give these long suffering workers a break as I figured they had literally “Seen it all”.

Not quite.

I called to schedule a work request and they gave me a loose estimate of “some time tomorrow, maybe the next day, definitely before next week”. I was lucky, it was the former.

The middle-aged gentleman in gray coveralls showed up around three. He stubbed out the hot ash of his cigar and balanced it on the outside windowsill. I explained that the toilet refused to flush and that I was sure he would need a plumbers snake. He let out a long “oh-what-I-put-up-with-sigh” and got his tools from the truck. He began a long litany of what he felt were standard toilet clog questions about what possibly might have been flushed that shouldn’t have been. I assured him that I was very careful about things like that and left him to his work.

There was a lot of puffing and grunting and some questionable language drifting out from the bathroom. I did my best to ignore it. I offered coffee or soda, which he politely declined. He emerged for more tools and explained that he would have to take the toilet stool up so he could better access the pipe. There was more puffing and grunting and the language got a bit worse. Suddenly there was absolute silence. I looked up from my paperwork and saw him standing in the doorway.

“Lady” he said, “Are you missing a hamster?”

I put on my most innocent of faces. “A hamster? Why no. We don’t even own a hamster” (Well, we didn’t, ANYMOORE)

He held up a dripping wet wool sock, which I immediately recognized as the half of the hand knit pair of Christmas socks we had purchased on a recent trip to Maine. “Well, I’d thought I’d seen everything I possibly could in a toilet.” He said shaking his head, “But I’ve never, ever, fished out a hamster in a sock”

Just then, Levi came bounding into the house and announced, loud and clear, “Hey! That’s my hamster! He’s supposed to be in the ocean by now.”

It’s a good thing that child was still moving because if I could have gotten my hands on him right then, I’d have beaten him with a dead hamster in a sock.

The jig was up. The truth was out. All I could do is hang my head and say “I’m soooo, soooo, sorry. I didn’t know. As God is my witness, I did not know the hamster was in the toilet.”

Somehow, that wonderful patient man cracked the slightest of smiles. “I gotta ask lady, why the sock?’

I explained the whaling museum, the movie and the need for a shroud in burials at sea, as my new hero replaced the toilet back on the pipe. He wiped up the floor with one of my hand towels, washed his hands and gathered up his tools.

On his way out the door, he retrieved his cigar from the sill and clamped it in his teeth. He turned to me and winked. “Lady, I’m just glad you don’t have a dog”.

Sneaky Snakes

Well, it looks like the greenhouse will have a winter resident, if I can keep it warm enough. I got in a snake today. A really nice Army recruiter drove him all the way from Gaylord. He’d (the snake, not the soldier) had been living in the basement of the place where they rent. The landlord put down sticky traps for mice. The snake got stuck.
This amazing young man not only drove him here, but he also spent hours with cotton swabs and vegetable oil getting him free from the trap. Realizing that he couldn’t just toss him outside this late in the year and believing that as a wild animal (reptile?) he should be returned to the wild. I have no idea how many people he called before someone pointed him in my direction, but I’m sure it was a lot.
The snake is now lazing in a warm bath in a temporary cage in my studio. I’ll build him his own terrarium habitat tomorrow (just like the turtle, just like the toad). That will give him a more natural space, albeit with a hot rock and all you can eat buffet.
The reason I hope to put him in the greenhouse is not just to preserve space space in my studio…..Jimmy hates snakes. Early in our marriage I was unaware of that fact.
Levi was about 7 when I bought him a ribbon snake at the pet store. (Think garter snake, but semi aquatic). He lived in a terrarium in his room, but was an amazing escape artist. I can not tell you the hours I spent on my hands and knees searching for that snake. We had purchased him while Jimmy was on a 6 month deployment. He never said a word when he cam home and met said snake.
He had been home for several weeks when I went upstairs one afternoon and saw that the cage was sans snake. I looked about for awhile and discovered that somehow the snake had slithered up the curtain (honest I had NO idea that they could do that) and was sunning himself in the open window.
I calmly went to snatch him up, but there was a tiny gap in the screen. The snake quickly slipped through it and was making a second story escape attempt. I managed to grab just the end of his tail. Now I faced a problem. With most of the snake hanging out the window and no way to pull him backwards through the gap against the lay of his scales, I couldn’t get him back in. If I tried to remove the screen one handed, it could squish the snake.
So I did what anyone would do.
I called downstairs to my husband who was watching television, and told him to get a towel from the bathroom and then stand outside under Levi’s window. Now you have to understand, we’d only been married about 8 years and most of that time was spent with him on deployments. He still TRUSTED me.
When he got under the window, I told him to hold the towel open and catch. I still remember his trusting, though somewhat confused face looking up at his beloved wife. I let go of the tail.
What happened next was a juggling act of such frenzy as to be worthy of Barnum and Baily’s big red tent. I didn’t see the end as I was closing the window, but I thought I heard screams. I calmly came downstairs, collected the towel with the snake bundled (rather tightly) in the towel and returned him to his terrarium.
By the time I found my husband again, he was sitting in the chair, drink in hand and staring blankly at the wall. A shiver rippled through his body as I asked him what was wrong.
“I thought I was going to die” he said.” All I could see was that anaconda lunging for my throat and ripping it out. As God is my witness, there was murder in its eyes. It had its teeth bared!”
“It’ a 10 inch ribbon snake”, I replied. “They don’t have teeth and your son carries it around in his pocket”
He shuddered again and got up to pour another drink. “Anaconda, I say. Anaconda!” He left the room.
Later, as I was putting Levi to bed, I noticed copious amounts of duct tape wrapped around the terrarium and a brick weighing down the lid. I have no idea where he found a brick in Navy housing, but the snake stayed put till it died (Likely of obesity) a few years later. We never replaced him. The terrarium went on to hold a succession of toads, lizards and frogs, but never another snake.
Even after all these 30 odd years, the man still wants to know every detail of why I want him got bring me a towel. Trust is a funny thing. I guess it’s kinda conditional around here.

Old Man Turtle

Sometimes happiness is found in the simple fact that the wood turtle likes his food.

Earlier this summer, one of my favorite DNR officers Mike, brought me a large wood turtle that had been run over by a car. He had pulled over to help it cross the road and some young girl on her phone ran over it before he could reach it.

The shell was very badly damages with part of it completely broken free and a great deal of blood. He was a large for a wood turtle and I estimated that he must be around 35 to 40 years old. That’s really old for a wood turtle. Though there is a strong population in Michigan, you don’t often see wood turtles as they are rather reclusive and fast movers for their kind.

In addition to the injuries this poor old man had endured, he was missing all his front toes and claws. This wasn’t a recent event as they had healed to well rounded and callused stubs. It probably did not help him get traction on the pavement either. This turtle had definitely seen better days.

Usually, a turtle that badly damaged does not have a good prognosis and I send them straight to the freezer where they go into a permanent hibernation. (One must be careful what package they take out of the freezer when looking for a snack around here). There was something about this old boy though, that touched me. Maybe it was his calm demeanor, the way he met my eyes or the fact that he did not try to bite me.I told Mike I’d do my best.

To try and repair the shell, I needed to go to town to get some “Cassis Saver” from the automotive store. Though intended for auto bodies, it has proved to be an excellent medium for repairing turtle shells, especially those that spend time immersed in water. It’s even black, so isn’t obvious or doesn’t stand out to predators. When they naturally shed their outer scutes (think scales), the coating generally sloughs off with them.

I used some medical tape to stabilize the broken shell and put the turtle in the refrigerator to chill while I was gone. This slows the turtle down and not only keeps him calm, but allows me to work on him without a great deal of movement. (Again, assume there might not be what you are looking for in the Tupperware box)

When I got home, I cleaned the wounds and packed them with antibiotic powder. I used food grade plastic wrap over the gaps and sealed them with a light application of Cassis Saver. Then it was back in the fridge to chill and dry the first coat. Hours later, I applied more Chassis Saver and layered pieces of teabag for strength. Then back in the fridge.

Later that night, I heard my husband rummaging in the refrigerator.

“The fridge smells funny”. he said

“It’s chassis Saver” I replied.

“Why does the fridge smell like Chassis Saver”

“Because the turtle is in the fridge”

“Why does the turtle smell like Chasses Saver?”

“Because I’m fixing his shell”

“So why is the turtle in the refrigerator?”

“So he goes to sleep and doesn’t get his head stuck to the Chasses Saver while it dries.”

You’d think he’d know by now. He ended up with potato chips. (Good thing, by the next morning even the butter tasted like Chasses Saver.)
After several coats and another night of drying, I let the turtle slowly warm up. As he came awake, he started to move about, but I still had little hope. I offered every food I could, but he would eat nothing. I feared his digestive system had been damaged by the car. Each day I put him in a pan of water for a soak. About the fifth day I picked him up and there was the biggest “turtle turd” I had ever seen floating in the water. I guess the digestive tract worked. Still, he refused to eat. I offered bananas, apples, tomatoes, Lettuce and night crawlers …everything I knew to be their favorites. I even went to the pet store and paid an outrageous amount on some tortoise food that only seemed to attract fruit flies by the billion.
The next day, I gave up. He had been nearly two weeks without eating. I fought my way through the cloud of fruit flies and removed him from the container he was in and walked him outside. I figured he might as well enjoy the sunshine and herb garden with the time he had left. It was surrounded by a small fence to contain a young duck with a broken wing while he healed, so it seemed the perfect place. I knew he couldn’t dig his way out with no claws, but just in case I painted a fluorescent heart on his back with nail polish to may him more visible.
It was a brilliant, sunny day and he simply sat in the sun for a long while. Later I went out and he was again sitting in his pan of water. Holy cow.! Another gigantic turtle turd! I dropped some banana and mango near the pan. He climbed out and started eating ravenously. “Oh my gosh” I thought, “the poor old boy wasn’t eating because he was constipated!”
Even though I put out fresh food daily, he preferred to eat grass and most of my basil, romaine and parsley. I imagine he supplemented this with slugs and earthworms when he could find them. The duck’s wing healed and was released and the old turtle seemed to enjoy the peace of the herb garden.
Now I faced a dilemma. Summer was drawing to a close and I had to figure out what to do with him next. Land turtles spend years building an internal map of their territory. For a wood turtle, this can encompass about 2 to 3 square miles. This territory usually includes a stream for soaking and hunting and a larger body of water to breed and hibernate in. They dig deep down into the mud to spend the long winter. He faced two problems. One, he had no map of his territory. Two, how could he dig down into the mud with no claws? I debated releasing him and letting nature take its course, but he’s an old man and a gentleman at that. Most wood turtles I have experienced have been a bit on the nasty side and would rather bite you as look at you. This old man is gentle and inquisitive and responds when I approach him. Perhaps he was someone’s peat at one time. Maybe he was in some sort of concrete enclosure and that’s how he lost his claws. Maybe he suffered frostbite. I don’t know. I DO know that this old man deserves to live what life he has left with dignity and comfort.
He will winter with me. If the greenhouse were finished, I’d let him sleep the winter in there, but it’s not, so I did the next best thing. I built him a tropical paradise. It’s about three feet by four and takes up the entire window shelf in my studio. It has plants from the herb garden and some succulents which he promptly dug up and rearranged, it has rich loam and clean sand with a light for basking. His food dish sits next to his bathing pan, so he can empty and refill with ease. He seems to like it, but again refused to eat. I started to worry. I got out the fruit fly bait again. He ignored it, though the cat seems to enjoy watching the cloud of fruit flies swarming over it. Then I found a dry pelleted food for tortoises that smells like Fruit Loops. I thought I’d give it a try.
I dropped some colorful nuggets in the dish tonight and he climbed out of his water pan. He nudged one with his nose. Within the space of 5 minutes, every piece was gone. He even freshened his breath with a bit of parsley. He is content. I am content.
It seems that in a time where nothing seems to be going right, in a time of grief and sorrow, at the most frantic period of the year preparing for winter…all it takes is a silly old turtle eating what looks like Fruit Loops.
It’s good. It’s all good. Everything in its own time. We are both survivors.

Animal Lessons. Living in the moment.

I have to keep reminding myself that “time” does not exist for animals. “expectation” does not exist for animals. “Disappointment” does not exist in their world and they have no concept of “Failure”.

These are all our burdens to carry If we could let them go, I think we would reach enlightenment. In fact, if you really run it down to the basics, they are all ego driven. We apply them to ourselves, they have no existence beyond our own mind.

To an animal “Time” is the now. They don’t think that they will do something in five minutes. They don’t look at the sky and say “wow, it’s only 8 o’clock and it’s getting dark, Well, crap” They see the evening coming on and they get up and go play or look for a quiet spot to bed down. Then they sleep till they wake up. No alarm clocks, no deadlines. Time is now. Now is all that matters.

That brings us to “expectations”. Because there is no “time”, there is no expectations of the passage of time, the limits of time or the thought that there will be more time. Since they have no concept of years or days or hours, they have no expectation of a lifespan. They don’t sit and think that I should have 2 more years or 5 more years or 30 more years. They don’t expect puberty to hit ant a certain age and then plan for it. It simply comes when it does and the experience it fully without any ideas of how “It should be” They go to sleep at night and if they wake in the morning, they just go about their business totally present in that moment.

When they wake up, they don’t look up and say “Damn, it’s raining. I was expecting a sunny day. I want a sunny day. I’m sooo disappointed” They simply acknowledge the rain and have the best day they can in the rain. If they have wet fur, well, they have wet fur. Shit happens. They don’t expect to always be dry, so it is no disappointment. “No clover in this field? Well, let’s just look over there. Hey, there are apples. BONUS! Apples are really good”

The animal wasn’t disappointed, because it didn’t get what it wanted. It was happy for what it had AT THAT MOMENT. If it didn’t, it wasn’t thinking it failed. If a hawk sees a bunny on the ground, dives for that bunny and misses that bunny, it doesn’t kick stones or cry and feel like it failed. There is no failure. You get the bunny or you don’t. It straightens it’s feathers and takes back to the sky to look for another. It’s not thinking “I’m running out of time” It thinks “I’m hungry, There’s lots more bunnies in the field. The mother squirrel, who looses her entire litter to the crows, does not feel she failed, she does not mourn and grieve. She either cleans out the nest and starts over or moves to a new one. The next male squirrel she sees, it’s simply “Hey baby. Want to have some fun?” You have to have expectations, a sense of time, disappointment , to feel like you failed.

So where is the ramble going?

Last spring a doe got hit by a car. The fawn was nearby crying, not in grief, but because it was hungry. Some compassionate people picked him up and brought him to me. We hit it off from the start. I had milk. He liked milk. He REALLY liked milk and I seemed to have an endless supply of milk where he was concerned. All he had to do was call out and the milk was there. This was cool. I also had a dry pen filled with dry, sweet shavings. I scooped his poop. “Wow! No poop to accidently lay in, even cooler.” He was happy in his little pen with his friend. He was happy when the door opened and he got out to play. When his fawn friend dies, he didn’t grieve. He simply sniffed her to see why she didn’t get up to play and went off to play with the dog. EVERY DAY WAS A GOOD DAY. He was never scared. He was never hungry. He was never alone.

Then the time came to lower the fences. A doe with triplets had been coming near the house. I assume she was one I raised some time ago as he didn’t seem afraid to be near. I lowered the gates and for a few days, my beautiful fawn, with his tiny nubs of horns, stuck close to the house. He had a whole new world to explore, new things to eat, new things to see. He started staying out all night, I imagine with the triplets. He was having a great time, Though I imagine he was keeping his bottles of milk a secret from the other deer. Life was great.

Then two night ago I heard him calling franticly for me about 3:30 in the morning. I ran down and called him and he came running and jumped the fence and ran into the house. He was bleeding badly and limping. I put pressure bandages on and he calmed down. He even drank some warm bottle . He lay down in one of his favorite spots and I sat with him for a few hours. He seemed calm and comfortable, so I went to grab a few hours sleep and warm up. The next morning. The bleeding had slowed to minimal and he was walking stiffly from one favorite spot to another. I made a dry place for him to sleep and dosed him up with some cannabis honey as it the only pain relief I could give him. I called several vets looking for help or something to ease his pain, but each refused. (the same vets who expect me to take every animal they want to dump one me) I had to leave him for an appointment and knew I’d have to make the decision whether to put him down or not when I got home.

When I got home, he was resting comfortably in the sun so I left him. Later that evening, he came to the pen he had as a baby and went in to lie down. Still he seemed not to be in distress. I was beginning to feel hopeful.

This morning he was dead. He died In a familiar place, safe from predators. He didn’t lay there thinking, “It’s not my time to dy. I should have years to live” He had no concept of time he should or didn’t have. He didn’t feel regret for things he didn’t get to do, there was no expectations of what he SHOULD do” Because he had no expectations, there was no disappointment in what was happening. He never thought “I should have ran faster, not crossed the road in front of that car, I’m a failure at being a deer”. He simply was at that moment in that moment. He knew if he lay on his right side, it didn’t hurt, He knew he wasn’t in the rain. he knew he was in a safe place.

Then…he simply wasn’t. He let go. He wasn’t expecting heaven. He wasn’t fearing hell. He simply returned to the spirit of the deer and not the embodiment. I imagine the moment of death of an animal as a long breath. As they exhale, they leave the physical body behind. The next time they inhale, it is the breath of a new life. A life that will be lived totally, one. moment. at. a. Time.

I am the one with the grief and longing. I am the one with the disappointment because I expected him to grow up and live a long life nd it did not meet my expectations. I feel the failure for not keeping him safer, not teaching him more about the dangers of cars. (as if I could) I am the one , not able to accept the total, timeless. completely in the moment way of living.

I have a lot to learn about enlightenment, but I have some good teachers and they all have 4 legs or wings.