Friday, April 20, 2012

Lo, the Wandering Anatidae!

Our dog, Jive, passed on about a month ago. I'm sorry if I forgot to tell you. I thought I'd told everyone, but I was talking with Sonya yesterday and said in passing, “Now that the dog's dead...” and she shrieked, “WHAT?” So, yeah, he's gone. He was almost fourteen years old, and he'd been ill for about a year, and he went downhill fast the last few months. One day he lay down and couldn't get back up, and we knew it was time. Our thanks and appreciation to the good people at Fair Isle Animal Clinic who helped him, and us, through that tough day.
In the weeks since Jive's passing Rick and I have been adjusting to life without the dog. There is silence in the house. I am not awakened by that cool nose on my arm. Rick does not start his day by feeding the dog. I do not end my day by letting him out that one last time and waiting for him to come in so I can go to bed. I find myself looking out at the yard and thinking, well, maybe we can eat the chives this year. The chives were usually Jive's first stop after he went out the door. He anointed them with his precious bodily fluids before moving on to trample the columbines and forget-me-nots. Rick suggests maybe waiting until next year before eating the chives. He might have a point. They did thrive with all that nitrogen. Last year Rick built a little fountain/rockery outside our front door, and we've been meaning to put in a flower bed next to it. Last week I put in some annuals – snapdragons, nicotiana, impatiens. After I'd finished planting this little area, I thought I'd better lay down a little slug bait because I didn't know if these precious little starts would attract slugs. The package says it is “worry free” and safe for animals and people, but it also says in the fine print to wash your hands thoroughly if you touch it, and I figure if it's meant to kill anything at all, how safe and worry free could it be? But I wanted my plants to survive, so I sprinkled it around. So there I was sitting in my folding chair on the kitchen porch one sunny morning, thinking how great it is to be alive, listening to the birds singing, watching the trees swaying in the gentle breeze, and then I looked over to our driveway, and there was a pair of mallards, male and female, waddling toward the house. They were heading for the new flower bed. Oh, no, I thought. The slug bait. I beat it through the house and out the front door. They were already in the bed, busily pecking up bits of slug bait. “Shoo!” I cried, waving my arms in the air. “Don't eat the slug bait!” They looked up in amazement and slowly waddled out of the flower bed, went about a foot and a half, then stopped and turned around and looked at me. I looked at them. We looked at each other. After staring for a few minutes they decided I wasn't much of a threat and started waddling back into the flower bed. I shooed them off again. They stared at me again for a while, and then decided to forage elsewhere, and started waddling away up the hill. They've come back, of course, and we can't be out there 24/7, so I notice that the slug bait is mostly gone and that two of my snapdragons have been broken off at soil level by little webbed feet. Mr. & Mrs. Mallard are still waddling around the neighborhood, so apparently the slug bait was safe enough. I won't be putting any more slug bait out, though. I've heard that ducks eat slugs, anyway. My lesson in this? Maybe I am not directly responsible for the welfare of any animals any more, but I'm part of a world where I need to be mindful of living creatures who may wander into my life. It never occurred to me that some ducks might stroll in, but they did. How about that. Now you must excuse me. It's time to put peanuts out for the squirrels.

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