Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you're having a great summer.

As you may have noticed, I misspelled the word "chipmunks" in the title. I did that on purpose. My orange tabby, Spanky, calls them "chipmuks." It doesn't matter to me what he calls them, and I don't think Spanky's much of a speller anyway. I just know that he and I both like the little critters.

Before I moved into my current house, I rented one on an old estate. I loved that place! It had quirky features to it, and the sort of character that new houses just don't have. The whole south-facing side of the house had huge windows, with these big wide sills that seemed to have no purpose whatsoever other than to provide my cats with a comfortable spot for bird-watching.

There was a side door on the house that led nowhere, other than the vast expanse of the estate itself. It's not like you'd use that door to take out the garbage, or go to your car - those things were on the opposite side of the house. That side door also had a brick walk that led nowhere. The bricks had been there so long that many of them had sunk into the ground, causing the entire walk to look warped. It all added to the charm of the place.

To the right of the side door was a long row of old overgrown yew shrubs that ran the length of the house and hid who-knows-how-many woodland creatures. To the left side of the door was a bed of ivy that had not only climbed the outside wall of the house, but was well up onto the roof, too. A few feet away stood an old box elder tree which was home to numerous birds and squirrels. It was all very enchanting.

There was a proper all-weather door on that side of the house, but no screen door. When I realized the entertainment possibilities for the cats, I had an old-style screen door installed, the kind that's more screen than door. The cats would gather around it and watch the critters outside come and go. Eventually, I took to putting out sunflower seeds and ears of corn to attract even more critters.

It was the chipmunks who made that brick walk a daily feature of their routines. Squirrels, mice, and the occasional bird would stop by, but the chipmunks really took over. No one was more enthused about that than Spanky. He loved their quick movements, and the way their tails twitched. He could sit, mesmerized, for hours! Chipmuks were by far his favorite animals.

When I moved to the house I'm in now, it took me a while to notice that there weren't any chipmunks. At all. This puzzles me because there's a wooded property adjacent to my own, with a field of tall grass between us. Maybe the chipmunks don't feel the need to wander past their woods, I don't know. I just know that there are none on my property.

I gave some thought to putting out something tempting to attract the little rodents, but quickly nixed the idea because I don't want to attract raccoons, as well. One of my first nights in this house, I heard a noise, looked out the front window and saw a large raccoon sitting on top of one of my garbage cans, trying to get the lid off the other. Don't get me wrong - I like raccoons. I just don't want to encourage them to hang around.

So Spanky and I are both a little depressed about the lack of chipmuks. I really miss having them around. I love how cheerful and carefree they are, and they're cute as buttons besides. If I could figure out a way to have a whole family of them living on the property, I would.

It's hard trying to explain their absence to Spanky, who doesn't understand why they want to stay in the woods when they could come over and "play" with him. I've tried to distract him by pointing out visiting rabbits and squirrels, but he's just not interested. I can't blame him; it's not the same at all.

I don't have a happy ending for this story, just some cautionary advice to enjoy what you have while you have it. I spent four years smiling over those chipmunks. Hell, I spent time staring at them through the screen door, too! I'd hunker down on the floor, surrounded by cats, and grin over their antics. It's surprising, now, how large a presence they were in our lives: there's definitely a quiet place where chipmuks used to be. Dang it!

That's all for now, folks. I hope you're able to take a few minutes out of your day and enjoy your four-legged neighbors. They can be such fun to watch! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Case of the Injured Goose

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope your summer is being a good one.

Well, if you've got a Canada goose in trouble, who ya gonna call? That's right, the Critter Lady, which is what Nancy from the Healing Barn did the other night. I was just settling in for an evening of mediocre t.v. when I heard someone leaving a voicemail. I picked up and Nancy told me that her sister and step-mother had come across an injured goose during their walk near a local pond (not McKinnon's Pond).

The women had been able to get pretty close to the goose, they just didn't know what to do with it once they caught it. They called Nancy, and Nancy called me. I said, "Of course I'll help," and hopped into the car without bothering to change out of my sweats. I found Nancy's family easily enough, and they pointed to a goose who was off in a patch of grass eating, not too far away.

Apparently, fishing line had almost cut his foot off, and indeed, when I glanced in his direction, I could see the foot dangling by a shred of skin. It was a sad and gruesome sight. Sighing, I asked which one of the assembled women wanted to try to catch the goose. Nancy hadn't arrived yet, so her sister volunteered. I don't know why I bothered asking though, because it's always me that ends up doing the work!

In all fairness, it should be noted that the sister was perfectly willing (and no doubt able) to make the attempt. I usually end up doing the work because I'm the most experienced, and the most confident. In this instance, I asked for a volunteer because in my view, this was their rescue, and I didn't want it to seem like I was taking over. I see now, though, that someone needs to be in charge of things, if the mission is to be accomplished, and being a Scorpio, I'm pretty good at being in charge.

So I had everyone (Nancy had joined us at this point) range around the goose in a semi-circle, being careful not to move too quickly. I didn't want him so scared that he'd fly away. But I needn't have worried: he didn't seem to know that he was supposed to be afraid of us. I managed to get within a few feet of the goose, and every now and then, he'd look up at me with a sort of calm curiosity.

As I inched closer, I'd quietly reassure him that he was a Very Good Goose indeed. When I was close enough to grab him, I asked Nancy's sister for the blanket she was going to throw over him, she handed it to me, and I tossed it over him. He let out a squawk, put up what seemed like a perfunctory amount of fight, and then was still.

His head was covered by the blanket, which had been intentional: I've heard that geese can be very aggressive fighters, and I didn't want to be wounded in the line of duty! The women lifted up the back of the blanket, though, and took a good look at the foot. It was hanging by a thread, and it was dead and useless. It would have to be removed.

I knew that Nancy was accustomed to doing gross things with horses (cleaning pus-filled wounds in hooves comes to mind), so I figured she'd have no problem manning the scissors. "I have a pair between the front seats of my car," I told her. Which is exactly where she looked.

It's funny, how you mean something one way, and a person hears it another. What I meant to say - and probably should have said - was, "The scissors are in that box between my front seats. Just lift the lid." What Nancy heard was, "Somewhere between my two front seats is a pair of scissors that you'll have to look all over for." Funny, huh?! So I corrected myself, she found the scissors, and with one snip, the foot was off.

As I write this, the foot is in a Zip-Loc bag in my fridge. I brought it home so that I could take pictures of it - to go with the pictures of the one-footed goose that I took that night. You never know when you'll need the gory evidence! Boyfriend John (now Fiance John) has agreed to give the foot a respectful burial out back in his pet cemetary this weekend.

In any case, we stood for some time debating what to do with the goose. As I held him, he voiced his opinion about the proceedings the same way my ducks do: he pooped all over. Unfortunately, my right leg was in the line of fire! By the time I headed home, I had goose poop trailing all the way down the back of my right leg! Well, me and my sweats are washable, so what do I care?!

We made a couple of phone calls to various wildlife rehab services, but they're always too busy to answer their phones, and this night was no exception. There was some discussion about who would take the goose home for the night (and feed and water him, and deal with loads of goose poop), before taking him to a vet the next day, but we couldn't really settle ourselves to any one thing.

It was turning into the sort of hassle that no one needed, and even Officer Jeff wasn't answering his phone! I couldn't blame him: as I listened to the incessant ringing on the line, I glanced at the clock in my car and saw that it was 9:15 p.m. It was time to put this situation to bed.

It was Nancy who finally suggested that we simply release the goose. And why not? The worst was over, and apart from a dose of antibiotics, there was little anyone could do for him at that point. There seemed little reason to hang on to him. Besides, wild birds get notoriously stressed out when forced to deal with humans. Nancy's suggestion made sense.

We set the critter carrier down near the pond (after being pooped on, I transferred the goose from the blanket to my carrier), opened the door, and watched him get all tangled up and turned around, attempting to get out. He gave up trying fairly quickly and just plopped down where he was, half in and half out of the carrier. I walked up, then, took hold of him and gently pulled him out. I turned him right-way-round, let go, and watched him hobble off. He stood at water's edge considering the pond for a moment, then hopped in and swam away. Our work was done. I put the now-stinky-with-goose-poop carrier in my car and headed home.

It should be noted that this was not my first experience with fishing line injuries. I've seen this sort of thing before with the wild ducks at McKinnon's Pond. There was also an instance a few years back with one of my domestics, who had gotten caught on some line, dragged it back to her nest, and ended up tied to a branch, unable to move. Thank God I knew about her nest and was able to free her before she lost a foot to the line, or her life to an animal. It was a lucky break. Not all critters get so lucky.

I've been collecting fishing tackle for some time, now. Not at garage sales or stores, but at the pond. Every time I find more junk, I bring it home and put it in a bag, and put that bag with all the other bags on a shelf in my office. If you scroll around on this page, you'll see a picture of not only the one-footed goose, but also a pile of fishing lures, fish hooks, fishing line - any or all of which can do permanent damange to anything it comes in contact with, whether it's a wild animal, your pet, or your child. It doesn't take much to change a life for the worse forever.

I don't know whether or not it goes without saying that we shoud all be teaching our children to be very careful with their fishing gear, and that we should all be setting a good example as adults. I see far more grown men fishing at McKinnon's Pond than children, so I'm going to go out on a limb and accuse those careless slackers of making everyone look bad. Let's change that! Let's all be mindful that we're the stewards of this planet and that God (whichever one you pray to) is watching all of us, seeing what we're doing with His planet and His creatures. So far, we've not done a great job taking care of things.

That's all for now, folks. I'm going to close with a quote by Margaret Mead that I really like: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Right on, Margaret!
Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!