Category Archives: Cats Dogs Plants Animals

Ophy the star

Yes, I know, I already posted this on my Facebook page, AND I forwarded the email to a bunch of different people, BUT I still have to brag here on my blog about my famous cat.  Ophy, aka Ophelia, has been named this week’s Pet of the Week by the Humane Society of the United States.  Ophy and I have tried for this honor before, unsuccessfully, but this time we (I mean she, of course…) made it within two weeks of our (I mean her) entry submission.  Here’s the link for any who are interested:  Pet of the Week.

Of course, I’m sure that the HSUS does this Pet of the Week honor to help boost donations to their very worthy cause, so hopefully Ophy will be able to drum up a few dollars for them.  (Which reminds me, it’s time for me to make our yearly donation to the HSUS.)

And just a note on our submission being accepted this time around…I’m feeling fairly clever, because after studying the Pets of the Week emails for a couple of years, I figured out that submissions that have some relevance to the work done by the HSUS are the ones that get accepted.  So, since Ophy and I care about cats being kept indoors, and since I often find myself counseling new cat owners (or cat owners who are less patient than I) about “destructive behaviors” like carpet scratching, I figured that including those two items in Ophy’s profile would help our chances.  Seems that it did, too!

Now I just have to figure out a way to get Pippa featured, since Ophy’s fame is causing a bit of a rift between them.   This could be tougher, since what Pippa cares about is food, especially her twice daily Fancy Feast treat laden with her anti-thyroid meds, and Pippa’s main bad habit is that she can be a bit of a cranky pants (to everyone but me, of course).   I’m not sure those traits are all that appealing, or that any fame and celebrity can be based upon crankiness and fondness of food.  Not in the cat world, at least (unless you’re Morris, and I think that’s been done). 

Meanwhile, let’s raise a glass of catnip to Ophy, star for a week!

There’s a mole in the bucket…

There’s a mole in the bucket, dear Jim, dear Jim,

There’s a mole in the bucket, dear Jim, a mole.

With what shall I get rid of it, dear Abby, dear Abby,

With what shall I get rid of it, dear Abby, with what?

In our basement, there is a hole in the cement floor.  In that hole in the cement floor, there is a deep plastic kitty litter bucket in which the sump pump once lived.  In that deep plastic kitty litter bucket, there are lots of little holes poked through so that water can drain out.  And so we dump the water from our dehumidifier down through the hole, the plastic bucket, and the tiny holes.

Two minutes after Jim left for work this morning, I went merrily down to the basement to empty that very full dehumidifier.  And, whistling a happy little tune to myself, while thinking of whole wheat toast with strawberry jam and a steaming cup of tea, I started pouring the water down into the bucket.

“Hmmmmm,” I thought, “That water in the bottom of the bucket looks pretty murky.  Hmmmmm.”  So I looked a little more carefully.  And screamed, like a girl, then jumped  a couple of feet into the air, as I realized that there was a mole in the bottom of the bucket in severe danger of drowning in the sudden deluge of water.  Luckily for the mole, my girly panic subsided quickly enough that I stopped pouring the water in, and the couple of inches of water that were in there quickly drained out, leaving only a very wet and very scared star-nosed mole.

What does an animal-loving girl do after finding a mole trapped in her basement, just after her big strong husband has left for work?  First she thinks about providing an escape route for the mole – one which does NOT involve human-mole contact – and ultimately decides on the admittedly ridiculous solution of putting a yardstick down into the bucket for this digging, not climbing, animal.  Then she dials 1-800-CALL-DAD and asks the master for advice.  Unfortunately, Dad’s advice was wholly practical (“take the bucket out of the hole and dump the mole outside”) and not easily accomplished by a wimp.  He was right, of course.  But I wasn’t willing to do that – yet. 

So the mole sat in the bucket with the yardstick all day while I was at work, and when I came home it had clearly tried (and failed) to climb that slim slippery piece of wood, since the yardstick had moved significantly.  Time for Plan B: I went to our wood pile and found a log that would be long enough, and carefully inserted this log into the bucket without harming the mole.  Guess what?  Plan B didn’t work, either. 

I went back upstairs and contemplated what to do.  Should I get some worms from the compost pile to sustain the mole until Jim got home at 8:30?  That idea was quickly dismissed as, well, silly and overreactive.  So I took a deep breath and went back down to pull the bucket out of the hole in the floor.  Only the bucket is fully settled and imbedded in that hole, and wasn’t about to budge.

Time to come up with Plan C.  To help my thinking, I called my trusty dad again, and asked if he had any ideas, which he didn’t.  So I ran my crazy idea by him:  what if I took the empty 32 ounce Chobani yogurt container from the recycle bin, lowered that plastic tub into the deep bucket using fireplace tongs, tipped the Chobani tub on its side, waited for the mole to climb in, then gently flipped the tub upright and lifted it out of the sump pump bucket into another waiting bucket, using the tongs again…and then carried the mole-filled bucket outside?  Dad was skeptical, but supportive, and I promised to call him if the plan worked.

And it DID!!!  It was a great feeling carrying that bucket outdoors, and tipping it over so that the frantic, terrified, screaming mole could run out and start digging his way back into the ground.  I’m sure the mole was psyched to be out of his plastic prison, but I kinda think I was a little bit happier than he was.  The wimpy animal lover triumphed!  Hooray!!!

P.S.  Mission accomplished while wearing a really cute skirt and ruby red ballet flats.  How’s that for girl power?

Pitter pat

It’s raining on our tarp garden.  It’s very soothing, the sound of the rain bouncing off of that brown tarp, but it’s also reminded me that the tarp garden exists – something which I had forgotten.

Three years ago we ripped the vinyl siding off of our house, repaired and replaced the clapboards underneath, and painted the clapboards a cheery yellow.  The house looks great – huge improvement – but we never figured out what to do with the old vinyl siding, so we stacked it in a pile just behind the house and covered it with a brown tarp.  We weighed the tarp down with large brown plastic plant pots filled with dirt and kind of forgot about it.  Last time my brother visited he commented on the lovely field grass and clover we grow in those pots, and sometimes I hear the rain on the tarp, but otherwise it’s become part of the scenery.

And it will probably stay part of the scenery.  Jim tried once to recycle some of the siding at the local transfer station, but the transfer station booth attendant yelled at him that it wasn’t recyclable.  “So what can I do with it?” Jim asked him.  “Have the guy who did your siding get rid of it,” said the attendant.  “I’m the guy,” said Jim, which earned him some respect but no disposal options other than the suggestion to cut the siding into small pieces and put it in trash bags.  Which Jim tried, but soon discovered that cutting siding into pieces chews up your hands and takes forever.

Maybe someday we’ll get a dumpster and put the siding in there, along with some other home project detritus (the crappy cardboard bathroom and bedroom doors that are moldering in the shed come to mind), but dumpsters are so darn expensive these days – at least $500, more if you go overweight.  And first we need to do a few things like replace the leaky hot water heater and fix the crumbling bathroom floor.  After a year or so without major home projects, things are starting to catch up with us again.

Meanwhile, though, I’ll daydream a little today about how our yard would look with the line of hostas extended through the area where the tarp garden currently sits.  Someday, right?

The Birdfeeder Mystery – Solved

I haven’t been able to figure out two things this winter:  why the birds aren’t using the birdfeeder that they loved the most last winter, and why I found blood smeared all over another birdfeeder two weeks ago.

The birdfeeder that the birds loved last year, and the year before, and the year before that, is hung from an iron bracket that is screwed into one of the cornerboards of our house.  This feeder is in a very sheltered spot above our tiny four foot by five foot deck.  The deck is bordered on two sides by house walls – one wall is the kitchen sliding glass door (great for the cats to view the birdfeeding action), and the other wall is the non-windowed living room wall.  Not only have the birds loved this feeder, but the squirrels have loved to climb down the roof above, hang from the gutter, and jump onto the feeder.  And the feeder is sheltered by trees, too; there is a lovely old large apple tree just a few feet away that makes for a nice staging area for birds to wait their turn.  And there is also a large maple tree just three feet away from the deck’s edge which also provides cover.  A second feeder, also usually quite popular, hangs from a shepherd’s crook post stuck in the ground just by the maple tree’s trunk.

But this year both feeders have seen very little action.  I thought perhaps it was because I first mixed safflower seeds and black oil sunflower seeds, but we’re back to just black oil sunflower seeds, and still not much activity.  Maybe it was because we bought a new feeder for the spot over the deck?  Same style as the old one, but new?  Maybe it smells like people and thus repels the birds?  I haven’t lost a lot of sleep over this mystery, but I have been wondering.

And then today I was talking on the phone to my dad while standing in the kitchen and watching the birds at the feeders; today there were actually quite a few birds enjoying a post-snowstorm meal.  A peaceful, lovely scene: fresh snow, lots of pretty little songbirds eating, and even a couple of squirrels chowing down.  Then – Zoom!  Whish!  Bam!  – a Cooper’s Hawk brazenly flew in just inches from our sliding glass door and tried to pick off a goldfinch that was at the feeder over the deck.  I think the goldfinch escaped, and the other birds and the squirrels dissipated in panic.  The Cooper’s Hawk settled down on a branch of the maple tree, looking hungry and smug, until I scared it away by going up to the sliding glass door; it flew across our neighbor’s yard and settled into a large tree with a commanding view of our feeders.

Mystery solved.  If I were a bird, I wouldn’t eat at our feeders, either.  And now I think I have a pretty good idea of where all that blood came from on the one feeder.  Yikes.  A bit gruesome, but I have to admit that it was pretty spectacular to see that hawk in action.

I’d love to hear if anyone has any good ideas of how to feed the songbirds while repelling the hawk from the area of the feeders.  Or perhaps we’ll have to just give up and stop putting seed into those feeders…

Winston the therapy dog

Today was the first visit from Winston the therapy dog at the library.  He did a great job, and two very happy families got to hang out with this gorgeous and sweet pooch.  Winston is a golden doodle, and he’s very tall and very soft and (despite the golden) pitch black.  He’s one of the coolest looking dogs I’ve ever met, and he is very, very well behaved.

In case you’re not familiar with the use of therapy dogs in libraries, the idea is to provide children with a non-judgemental listener to whom the children can read aloud.  Dogs don’t speak English, and they certainly don’t read, so they don’t know if their child reader friend has just mis-read a line from the book.  All the dog knows is that he or she is happy to hang out with his or her young literary fans.  And the kids who read to a therapy dog come out smiling and happy and with renewed reading confidence.

It’s a terrific program, and I’m so glad that Julie, Winston’s owner and handler, came to me with the proposal of doing a program at the library.  And I’m really looking forward to the remaining four “Paws and Read” sessions that are scheduled for this summer.

Hope for world peace

I’ve been meaning to post this photo for a while now, because it gives me some hope for the world.  If Ophy and Pippa, two cats who tolerate but don’t love each other, can curl up and relax side by side on a small footstool, perhaps there’s hope for the rest of us.  Although this is the one and only time that I’ve ever seen Oph and Pip get so friendly with each other…  (Click on image to enlarge.)


Belated Patriot’s Day

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I’m a wee bit stressed at work right now, what with catching up from being sick and visiting the school to promote summer reading and doing all those last minute summer reading preparation things.  So I’m giving my poor brain a rest from work issues when writing on my blog until things settle down a bit.  With that in mind, here’s a photo from this year’s Patriot’s Day parade on April 20.  Last year I posted a photo that Dad titled “Bad Horse,” of a Concord Independent Battery horse getting frisky and a bit out of control coming down Main Street.  This year’s horse photo is of one of the CIB horses freaking out back at the start of the parade at the beginning of Lowell Road.  Dad and I were in a prime spot to see the action (on the steps of the Christian Science church) and snapped some good photos.  It was a cold morning, and the other CIB horses looked calm, cool, and collected.  This horse was lathered in sweat, steaming with its own heat, and clearly undone by the crowds of people on either side of it.  After a few tense minutes of trying to calm the horse (including getting idiotic curious bystanders to back off  and give it space), the CIB men decided to loop this horse and its wagon around Monument Square and back to the Armory.  We didn’t see the horse in the parade again that day.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)


For Jean

Last Christmas Jean gave us the coolest thing ever:  a squirrel feeder.  Ophy and Pippa and I had tons of fun watching the squirrels hang upside down and gnaw on the concentrated corn cobs.  Jim didn’t love the feeder as much as we did, mainly because all kinds of petrified corn scum accumulated on the deck underneath the feeder.

At any rate, one morning I snapped some great photos of my favorite squirrel (the one with the poofy ear tufts) feasting on the corn, with the intention that I’d post the photo here for Jean’s amusement.  And then I forgot to post the photo.  Better late than never, though, so here it is (click on image to enlarge):



When Jim and I bought our house, Dad and I dug up all kinds of plants from the family homestead (which at that point had been promised to a developer, but had not yet been sold): lilacs, peonies, creeping myrtle, pachysandra, roses, forsythia, daylilies, crocus, and iris. Jim’s and my house came with a small, but completely blank, yard.  The people who owned it before us had gotten rid of all the poison ivy (thank goodness), but hadn’t added any plantings. 

The plants from the house I grew up in, most of which originally came from my two grandmothers, settled in nicely in our yard.  Five years later, the lilacs are getting tall, the rose bush is bursting out with new growth, and the iris are having their best year ever.  These iris didn’t come from a grandmother like the other plants – they came with the house when Mom and Dad bought it.  At that house, they lived out by the street, and suffered a lot from salt and sand; at our house they have a place of honor far away from the street, and they are incredibly happy.

So here’s a photo of the iris in full bloom, mostly for the benefit of Jean, Dan, and Dad (click on image to enlarge):


Wild animals

Obviously, from the lack of entries this week, I’ve been a bit busy at work.  (That’s the understatement of the year…)  In fact, I’ve been so busy at work that I don’t want to write about anything to do with books or librarianship or storytimes or anything else today; the girl needs a break.

So I thought I’d share with you the two wild animals who have visited our neighborhood in the last week:

Last weekend, for a period of three days, a momma snapping turtle moved in, living part of the time under the hedge that divides our property from our neighbor’s, and the other part of the time digging an enormous hole in our neighbor’s lawn. Adrienne and her three little kids were fascinated – took tons of photos, kept the snapper from wandering into the street, and anxiously watched to see if any eggs were laid.  Last time I talked to Adrienne, no eggs had been laid (for which I’m grateful!), but there’s always the chance.  And now momma snapper appears to have moved on, for which I’m also grateful.

And then on Thursday night, Jim and I were walking back from the local convenience store (cashed in our scratch ticket that won a whole TWO DOLLARS – and, of course, bought two more lottery tickets with our winnings; desperate times call for desperate measures), and we saw an animal start to dart across the street just down from us, its profile highlighted in the headlights of an oncoming car.

“Oh, no!” I cried, “It’s a cat!”

“No, it’s not a cat,” said Jim, “it’s a…” 

“It’s a skunk!  It’s a skunk!” I cried.

“That’s no skunk,” said Jim, the voice of reason, “That’s a fox.”

And it was – a beautiful fox that ducked back into our other neighbor’s yard, its tail unmistakeable in the headlights.

The thing that’s odd about these two animals is that we live in a neighborhood that is very clearly marked “Thickly Settled” on the sign just before our house.  The houses are tight together, and there isn’t much open space.  And our neigbor’s yard is a bit of a walk from the nearest marshy area; a long commute for a slow and steady turtle.  I can only imagine that the fox might be feasting on garbage left outside, or an outdoor cat or two.  I can’t imagine that the fox much likes it here.  And I’m guessing the dinosaur-esque snapper turtle didn’t think much one way or another as she wandered into our neighbor’s yard. 

It seems like just yesterday that I saw my first coyote in our backyard.  This was back when I worked at Massachusetts Audubon, and the naturalists were very skeptical that I had actually seen a coyote; I had to describe it in great detail before they’d believe me.  At that time, twenty-one years ago, I lived with my parents in an almost rural area that backed up to a large tract of wooded conservation land.  And now, in 2009, I’ve seen a fox in my thickly settled neighborhood.  I feel sorry for the wild animals that are trying to make do as their open land gets gobbled up by new houses and the exploding human population.  Where will we all be twenty years from now?