delithopia

Notes from the Waxhaws

Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Night visitors

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This Spring, I created a walking path that wends through the trees and brush on my one-acre lot…leading towards the woods. One day, I happened upon an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina), who was laboriously scuttling across the path.

turtle1

This turtle is a ‘land turtle’, and can live to be over 100 years old…so he may be around here longer than me…if he doesn’t succumb to his most dangerous predator…the automobile. I carefully picked him up to get a better look.

boxturtle

 

His plastron (the bottom part of a turtle’s shell), is hinged…allowing the turtle to completely enclose itself for protection, after pulling in its head and legs. The conservation status of the Eastern Box Turtle is threatened and vulnerable…so this one is free to roam my trail whenever he likes.

Seeing this turtle set me to thinking what other wildlife might be in the area.  So…I bought a trail cam and attached it to one of the trees along the path. It has a motion sensor, and can take pictures when it’s dark outside, using a night vision flash. After it was in place for about a week, I removed the SIM memory card and plugged it into my computer to see if I caught anything. My first victim was a small White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)…a doe to be exact.

deer

 

This morning, I again retrieved the SIM card to see if I bagged anything else during the week. While I was looking at the pictures…this next one startled me. A rather sinister-looking creature was evidently lurking about in the wee hours of the morning. I’m not sure what the range of the fabled Kentucky Hellhound is…but I’m hoping it hasn’t expanded into these parts.

hound

 

Borderland

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It was a cool Sunday morning…following on the heels of a very sunny and warm Saturday. Not many more of these before the hot, humid air takes over. Last night, I was surprised. Sitting in the living room…in the dark…with the windows open wide…I noticed a brief flash of light outside down near the road. Too early, I thought…fireflies are my sure sign of Summer. But, this is April…surely they’re not yet out and about. As I stared into the blackness…I saw another…and yet another. Flickering on and then off…silently teleporting to a new location before repeating their cold, luminous signals to each other…gliding among the trees and shrubs. I can’t remember them appearing so early in the year…usually late May or early June. Lights peeping out of the darkness…maybe a sign of some sort?

This morning, I grabbed my walking stick and set out down the road for a walk. My destination was the creek that crosses the road about a half-mile from my house. It was still early, and the sun was slanting through the trees, highlighting dogwoods and red buds in full bloom. Birds were singing everywhere…all seemed to be right with the world on this beautiful Spring morning. My spirits were lifted.

When I arrived at the creek, the water was slowly meandering through its channel. I stopped for a while, peering into the woods along the creek, perhaps hoping to see some wildlife. I then crossed over to the other side of the road to look upstream. When I looked down, I saw something that momentarily took my breath away. Five or six feet below me… was a large white dog laying in the creek bed, its head partially submerged in the running water. There was a large blackish bruise on its hindquarters. Perhaps having been hit by a car on the highway, she had wandered off…dazed… into the woods? There was no collar with identification…nothing to link her to the outside world. I wondered what her life had been like…

When Belle, my Pomeranian, died several weeks ago, the animal hospital sent a little sympathy card that spoke of a Rainbow Bridge…a mythical place where deceased pets finally meet up with their loving owners, when they, too, pass on. It’s a nice thought…and it brings a smile to your face when you need it the most.

As I trudged the half-mile back to the house this morning…the wind suddenly taken out of me…I wondered, is there a Rainbow Bridge in store for this poor, nameless soul that ended up alone in the woods? I find myself these days in a borderland, half-way between civilization and the wild…just a mile of dirt-gravel road separating the two…a tiny remnant of what once covered this entire continent. And whether it’s pondering the one or two week life span of a firefly…or the lonely demise of a dog in the woods…or the strange nocturnal song of an owl…I’m grateful…just for being here in the first place…being a witness to something I don’t yet quite understand.

Written by Jim

April 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Loving what is

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In her book, Loving What Is, Byron Katie writes:

If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, “Meow.” Wanting reality to be different than it is is hopeless. You can spend the rest of your life trying to teach a cat to bark.

I’ve been ‘arguing’ with reality the past few days.

Last Thursday night at seven o’clock (coincidentally, my birthday), I received a call from the animal hospital where Belle, my 13-year old Pomeranian, was being cared for after suddenly becoming ill the day before…the vet thinking it might be a heart problem. I had visited earlier in the day, holding her in my lap for about an hour…having the feeling that this wasn’t going to turn out well. I left her to rest, hoping that she would feel better in the morning.

But later that evening, the vet called to say she wasn’t doing very well…her heart was racing…and she was gasping for breath. I jumped into the car and drove into town. In the darkness, I knocked on the side door of the animal hospital, and was let in. Belle was lying on an exam table…huffing oxygen from a tube held in front of her little nose. The vet spelled out the options for me…none of them really good…most requiring more suffering on Belle’s part. I tearfully gave the word, and within a few seconds…as I softly stroked her head and back…she was gone.

Born in Arkansas…Belle came into our lives when we lived in Florida on the Gulf. She moved with us back to California…walked the cliffs at Santa Cruz…saw the desert as we passed through Arizona on the way back to Florida…and then on to the Carolinas. Her journey is over now. She was a sweet and gentle spirit. I miss her…and the house is very quiet now without her.

We experience grief when we’re separated from something that we’re attached to. Over the past few years, I’ve continued to learn that arguing with reality doesn’t do any good whatsoever. But…it doesn’t make it any easier. And, it still raises a lot of questions in my mind…questions that I’m not sure have any satisfying answers…at least not in this life. I’m trying to love what is…because that’s all we’re really given.

Written by Jim

March 2, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Coming to life

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I awoke this morning to a gray…post-apocalyptic looking world. When I came home yesterday evening, the heavy rains had stopped, but I noticed the creek that crosses my road was roaring through its bed with full force…the highest I’ve ever seen it. The amount and intensity of flowing water took me quite aback, since the McAteer branch of Cane Creek, as it is named on the local topographic map,  is usually just a pokey little waterway a few inches deep. But the fact that it lies within a channel about five feet deep and ten feet wide, cutting to and fro through the woods, is evidence that it occasionally comes to life.

Closer to my house there is a nameless little creek that usually only trickles along…past the huge sentinel boulder. But after yesterday’s deluge, even this tiny rivulet was overflowing its banks and cascading through the woods over rocks…forming little white-water falls along its path.

It rained again most of today, but when the last line of grumpy thunderstorms had passed through, I grabbed my walking stick and took a walk. As I approached the tiny creek, I could hear the water shooting under the road through a culvert…coursing through its moss-covered banks…single-mindedly searching its way downhill towards Cane Creek…the Catawba…the sea.

Whenever I cross it from now on, I’ll never look at this mighty mite the same way …even after it returns to its diminutive, unassuming nature. It needed a name. Tinker Creek, I thought. Yes…that would be good. Named after a favorite book…and after a favorite little Pomeranian.

Written by Jim

January 11, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Yay!

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pet of the week

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October 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Wild

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I was jolted awake…out of complacency… this mild morning as I set out to return my old car battery (which had died earlier in the week) to Walmart for recycling. Driving slowly down the road that I live on, I spied two Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) standing in the middle of the road up ahead. As I approached, they both reluctantly took flight and then perched above on nearby branches. I then spotted something to my left  in the ditch alongside the road…something that the vultures had been investigating. The warm and humid morning air was filled with the scent of death, and I found myself instinctively pinching my nose shut between thumb and forefinger. I stopped and looked out the open window at the somewhat bloated carcass of a rather large coyote (Canis latrans), on its back…its lips drawn back…revealing a set of fearsome-looking canine fangs that were, even in death, set in a ferocious snarl.

It’s uncertain how this particular coyote met its fate last night…perhaps, hit by a car travelling much too fast down this gravel-dirt road. I’ve often heard coyotes during the night…their baleful howling suddenly filling the still, night air. This dead coyote is the first one that I’ve seen, though, in almost four years of living in this tiny pocket of wildness that I call home. I often go walking down that same stretch of road, and it now gives me pause thinking there are still wild beasts of this nature roaming the woods that surround my house.

Written by Jim

June 2, 2013 at 10:55 am

You say tomato

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mater

Passing by the kennel this morning, I noticed that ‘Mater’ is pet of the week. It got me wondering. Drawing upon the two years of Latin that I took while going to a Catholic high school many moons ago…I knew it meant Mother. But now that I consider myself a Southerner, I also know that it could possibly refer to a tomato…as in, ‘Mater sandwich…a staple of Southern cuisine. The third possibility is a character from the animated movie Cars named…Mater…who happens to be a He…that is…a male International Harvester tow-truck…

I just don’t know. I’ll have to ask next time I drop Belle off for a stay. I’ll also have to ask something I’ve been wondering a long time. Who the heck is Taylor?

Written by Jim

February 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm