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Tag: animals

On the Path

I got an early start this morning when Sissy (the 15 lb min pin) decided enough was enough – sleep that is. So we were on the trail by 7 this morning. The Rivanna River Trail, that is. Just one part of my path here in C’ville.

We left Athens last fall, me after 27 total years there and Tommy after an whole lifetime.  The newness of C’ville is not wearing off or wearing thin still today.  Back some time ago I checked out in an effort to meet people here.  That led me to a walking group on Monday nights. The first night I showed up, at the Charlottesville Running Company, Marty says, “We’re doing 3 miles tonight; can you do it?”

I blithely replied, “Sure, I can do that.” Well, it was the hottest and muggiest day in C’ville so far this summer.  And… walking downtown C’ville off the mall is hilly.  I did make it but it was really rough!

The next week I took the 2 little dogs.  A couple of weeks later we walked down at Riverview park and the path has gone from there. We meet Marty for the Monday night walk and this week did the Thursday morning walk.  Weekends I head for the park and do over 3 miles there as well. So next week I’ll be up to 9 miles a week. Wow.

I’ve always said I don’t like to sweat and that is a very true statement.  The good news is that it is cooler and less muggy here than Georgia so it’s not as bad as it would be down south.  I used to remodel houses for exercise as I’ve never been a believer in exercising for exercising’s sake. Time moves on and now I can’t physically work on houses.  There’s still a lot I can’t do because of continuing physical problems, but by golly, I can walk!

Riverview Park is a nice little park that leads into the Rivanna River Trail which runs around C’ville.  Almost 2 miles are paved leading out of the park and all of it lies along the river.  There are spots where you can go down to the river’s edge so the doggies can drink. (They are then required to pull me back up to the trail, such good sled dogs!) There are spots where you don’t realize the river is there.

The path winds along in back backyards of homes and businesses. There’s a back hum of traffic, sometimes near and sometimes very distant.  Between the birds (recently including a flock of geese),  cicadas and the regular deep croak of a bullfrog. it’s never a quiet place.  Sometimes the rushing water can drown out everything else – oh, heavenly!

The sights are so varied! Sometimes you are in wilderness and then you come face to face with hulks of panel trucks parked in the back of an auto repair shop. Walking under the 250 bridge has become a soothing comfort for me – dampening the noise from above.  Sitting in the car on top was scary before since you can feel the bridge move.  Underneath, though, that is all a distant memory.

Everybody says hi as they pass and occasionally we stop to greet other dog visitors.  Mostly we stand to the side while I hold my dogs tightly and the passing pooches react or sometimes don’t react to the presence of my pair. This morning some sort of hound started hallooing immediately on spotting us.  He was still giving voice long after we went by.

The folks can be interesting to watch. Today I spotted a guy again who happened to end up in one of my pictures.  He talks on the phone his whole walk, making business calls and sweating.  Huh?  Another morning I passed a fellow who was creepily scurrying along with some sort of satchel.  Reminded me of that innocuous serial killer who’s always “such a nice, quiet fellow”.  Also seen and heard today was a real runner – no flat-footed jogger, was he.  (and really skinny, too; either obsessive or a competitor).

On my path in C’ville, just enjoying the variety and monotony of walking with my dogs.

View today’s photos below or  at

Guys and Beasties

What is it with guys and those living creatures we gals aren’t fond of? Perhaps my view on this is restricted by the circles I now live in, but I think it has wider implications.

I was fortunate that my son wasn’t too interested in the bugs and beasts, so I escaped the type of episode my brother subjected my mother to when he was about 12. He had developed an interest in biology, of which we all, of course, were very supportive. Finally, little Bro was developing some type of academic leanings. Our support, however, led us into new territory when Bro arrived home with a dog carcass he had obtained from the local vet. His autopsy efforts kept all of us out of the basement for days! Well, at least he didn’t bring home bugs or snakes.

It’s not that I am particularly afraid or repulsed by bugs and snakes. I’m not like my daughter-in-law who freaks at the sight of a spider or wasp. I consider myself pretty grownup about such things. Being a military wife and later a single parent for years has instilled in me a streak of self-reliance and practicability that many men and women may lack.

I mean, after all those gigantic flying cockroaches and lizard-infested rooms on Okinawa, Japan, how could I be too squeamish?   Well, I’m not, but, guys, you do astound me sometimes!>

For example, we have three entomologists at our karate school. Not one, three!. One showed up at my Christmas party 2 years ago with chocolate chirp cookies.   The chirp means the crunch in those tasty treats was crickets, not nuts.   The cookies were better than your usual run of chocolate chip though that was probably due to a good recipe and not the inclusion of the crickets.   What was funny that night were the numbers of folks (men) who refused to even try them! There were leftovers.

This summer our pool party featured deviled eggs with bug parts.   I did not ask what bugs.   I did not need to know that piece of information. They were quite tasty with a little added crunch. The party hostess reached the buffet as I was taking the last one. She exclaimed, “Oh, they’re all gone. Too bad.” Her face fell when I offered her half of mine. She accepted and slunk off to the side.

Yep, the plate was clean. The past years had instituted a dare system with both entomologists harking their wares. No one dared not to try those eggs!

Now I find these guys are swapping recipes. I’m not sure whether to fear or anticipate the next party.

Now, if that isn’t bad enough, there is my husband. I won’t tell you about his phobia. His fear of one specific member of the insect world simply doesn’t compute when you discover his interest in snakes and other creepy crawly things. He loves snakes and turtles and all sorts of other living things. And what does he do? As if he were my young son, as if he were still a boy, he brings them home.

First, snakes. He had one when we married. I believe it was a king snake. That aquarium went into my teenage son’s room. Eventually my son let it lose. Nowadays, my husband is constantly reporting to me what snake he’s found, how he moved it off the road, you know, like pygmy rattlers and copperheads. I was relieved when he didn’t bring them home.

But now, our neighboring entomologist has requested a rattler. He said to bring it home for him! Boys will be boys, I guess.

My hunter husband is always relaying bits of data to me about the animal kingdom. I know an incredible amount about deer, bears and other denizens of the forest. Last night we even watched a national geographic special on snakes. He is forever turning to the discover channel to watch informative, yet boring, programs on fierce, poisonous or weird things.

I must admit, though, that a baby box turtle turned out to be an episode to cherish. He found one the other morning during his jog and, of course, brought it home. It wasn’t the first turtle he had walked in with, for he seems to have a particular fondness for them. He announced he was going to keep it. I took the 4 inch beastie from him all the while wondering did we still have an aquarium?

A moment later he changed his mind and said he would let it go instead. Feeling fonder of the critter at that point, I was letting it roam around my hands. It wasn’t as shy or scared as the ones I’ve handled before.

I looked down to see my dog, Micky, the basset/golden retriever mix (yeah, I know that’s weird). Micky was very interested in my little friend. She has a wonderfully large heart and loves everything and everybody and was interested in either gaining a new friend or eating it. I leaned over to let Micky sniff the turtle. She really didn’t know what to make of it. Then the dangedest thing happened. That little 4 inch turtle bit Micky’s nose!

Micky’s offense was noticeable. She withdrew. Our delight in our turtle friend’s self-assertion has not faded even today, a week later.

Ah, yes, memories to cherish. So what if it’s the grownup and not the kid who furnishes them? Yep, boys will be boys–and they will be men, too.

Doggie Adaptations

In all of the adaptations we’ve had to make here in our country home, the most subtle one has affected our dogs. It’s subtle because its full import has taken this entire year to become obvious.

We have three dogs-city dogs, of course. The most citified is the little one, a six-pound toy with long hair. When we gained her from my son in late 1999, she wasn’t fond of investigating the back yard and her coat dictated frequent grooming. The other 2 dogs are actually hunting breeds, one, a beagle mix and the other, a golden retriever-basset hound mix (yes, I know that’s weird).

Once we moved out to the back of nowhere, the silence was wonderfully deafening at first. The dogs were quieter—there was less to bark at. No passing folks on foot, little motor traffic, no other dogs close by, no visitors to the door. I was thrilled but as time has gone on, they have adjusted and now find barking to be a great activity. Let one of us slam a door in the house or let the wind blow and all three dogs jump up ready to fend off intruders!

Other long dormant traits have made themselves known in the months since our move. One of the most shocking was what I call “the murder.” I had actually planned on writing a column about the incident without mentioning until the end that the perpetrator was a female dog, but along came the discovery of a body in the area and the subsequent arrest of a female suspect. Oh, well.

The tale involves an early morning altercation in the yard just after I let the dogs out. The noise was at first raucous and then I heard the high pitched shriek of what I thought might be one the hawks that dive bomb our yard rabbits. I looked outside and saw the big dog, the basset mix, hovering over something. Now you have to understand, Micky has the smallest brain and the largest heart of any dog either of us have ever owned. She hasn’t a mean bone in her body—she just wants to be loved

Well, my sweet, lovably dumb animal had a rabbit. It wasn’t dead so I removed it out of the pen in hopes it would hop away. It died.

I went back inside and immediately heard another outcry. Looking out again, I saw nothing. Later we found dead rabbit number 2, now sporting only 3 legs. I was astonished and slightly appalled.

My reaction was that of the usual response on TV to discovering one’s neighbor has been arrested: “She just couldn’t have done it, Mr. Reporter; she’s seemed to be such a nice person.” Micky has continued on being her sweet self and has never repeated her crime.

Just recently I discovered one of the reasons for the barking. I caught sight of a domesticated animal taunting our animals—my closest neighbor’s Maine coon cat. He was haughtily pacing in front of the pen. He must have been laughing at the foolishness of the idiot dogs barking away. He also sprayed my porch that week just under my living room windows. Whew! I like cats, but he better look out; I own a killer basset hound I could turn loose.

Our latest dog escapade has kept us amused and bemused for weeks now. The former owner of this house kept Labradors who have left us with man-sized holes. Our dogs, however, have never been diggers before now, so we have watched with great interest the sudden excavations taking place in our back yard.

Both the beagle and basset have dedicated much time and effort to tracking down whatever they thought was underneath the ground. We figured there was probably a mole or they were just bored and getting dumber. We’ve had to endure dirty noses, dirt clods between doggie toes and all the accompanying ick and litter involved. The beagle (smart alpha dog named Dusty) has been insisting on staying outside in all sorts of weather and she does like her creature comforts due to her arthritis.

Finally, she showed up at the door with a prize. We’ve had her bring in pecans and bury them and bones in the sofa or chair. This time she was waiting patiently to “bury” that which she would not eat—a mole! A very dead, cold, frozen mole. We relieved her of her prize immediately. The vet’s office tells me dogs and cats refuse to eat moles, that they aren’t considered palatable. Is that a relief? Danged if I know.

Hopefully, that is the end of the digging for this year. Hopefully, the crime level will remain low. Now, I just gotta figure out what to do about the little one, the princess, who has decided that the call of the wild (backyard) is the ultimate thrill and who keeps returning to the warmth and comfort of house and (our) bed, dragging smelly dirt and straw.

Oh, yes, we’re all adapting quite nicely to our country home. Does that mean I can revert to a simpler rusticity and quit housecleaning?

Boy, I hope so!

Our Natural Country Neighbors

The past 18 months have been a time for learning for me between my work with the newspaper, the planning commission, no full time job and living in the country. All of a sudden I’ve had enough revelations about living and life to write many columns!

First, I have to return to my recurrent theme-living in the country. Spring has sprung and the birds and bees (and all sorts of other beasties) have returned.

What I have realized recently is the inevitability of nature. I’m still fighting the weeds, honeysuckle, privet and poison ivy out in the yard. I am taming some of it but my last bout of poison ivy on my face and subsequent emergency use of oral steroids once again has definitely affected my approach to the yard. At this rate, I’ll spend the next 40 years just trying to beat back the unwanted growth! So much for my idea of 2 acres of decorative garden.

The difference between city life and country life that truly has surprised me and upset some of my long-standing assumptions. For instance, one can get rid of mice and insects inside of a home.

Well, the mud daubers really enjoy our attic space and the outside eaves and crevices. They are too many to conquer. Removing the ceiling to the front porch only revealed the dozens of nests that I couldn’t see before. Maybe by being able to see them, we can keep the numbers down. Yeah, right.

We’ve also gained some new flying pests on the back porch. Don’t know what they are. They look kind of like wasps and they gather around a particular knot in the ceiling wood but don’t seem to be building a nest. Wasp and hornet spray didn’t seem to diminish their numbers or drive them away.

I don’t even want to discuss the swarming termites inside the house.

The carpenter bees have literally been driving me crazy. (Dumb me thought they were bumble bees and wasn’t worrying about them.) The incessant drone from these creatures was getting on my nerves but the killing didn’t start until I found holes in my front porch furniture. They haven’t all gone away but at least the noise level has diminished.

We’ve got many mice. My beagle dog is a good ratter-she’s quick to let me know when she’s spotted one. One that we caught inside got loose and hid under the cedar wardrobe. My husband’s effort to remove it put it within reach of the basset/golden retriever who had a blast playing with it – inside the house of course.

My husband’s making a study of mouse trap improvement at this point. A truly macabre occupation I must say.

Occasionally even the birds can become somewhat of an irritation. Between the whippoorwill and the bobwhite it just plain gets noisy around here!!! I can’t believe how loud they are. But it is nice to hear birdsong even if closing the window to hear the TV is sometimes necessary!

Another inevitable face of nature was the bird nest on the side porch. We tore down the old next when we moved in last winter. It was rebuilt.

We tore it down again. It was rebuilt. We tore it down again. Not only was it rebuilt this spring but this weekend my husband discovered several sets of eyes peering down at him. We initially counted 4 babies crowded into a tiny nest, but realized the next day there were actually 5 piled into the space. I took pictures of the totally immobile birdies and commented that they looked full grown. They didn’t flinch through all the picture taking and our discussion. We literally got within a foot or so of them.

Today when he returned from an errand, my husband approached the porch to check on them and they all flew away.

I can’t decide whether to leave the nest this year or not. We just keep making work for the mama bird when all she’s trying to do is give us some more birdsong out here. I won’t quit trying to protect that which is mine: nibbling rodents and dive bombing stingers just have to be controlled. Otherwise, I guess, we had just better relax and learn to live with our country neighbors!