Tag Archives: capybara

Daily Drama 65 – The Duckling in the Bathtub

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Daily Drama 65 – The Duckling in the Bathtub

We’re hurtling through the summer at breakneck speed.

With the Funny Farm a tad over capacity I’m grateful to have two summer volunteers.

Before we get to the duckling, Let’s see how Cookie Monster and Brutus are doing!

Cookie Monster: every foot is a different color. Brown, white, black and the fourth one is a hodge-podge.

Remember, they took over the “Floor Suite” of the Dude Ranch in June. Brutus is about 18 months old, and big enough to be “fixed” but little Cookie Monster is still growing. The big plan is for them to eventually live with the dudes, Squirrel and Stevie Ray. We’re more likely to have a successful introduction if the girls are spayed. Stevie Ray and Squirrel were taken care of years ago, but that doesn’t guarantee against rivalry, especially with two girls as attractive as this!

Interior decorators at work.

The boys are unconcerned, but they can’t see into the girl’s area where they are working on some very distinctive decorating schemes. I have had excellent luck with introducing new boars, but this is a different can of worms.

Stevie Ray and Squirrel massacre some wheatgrass. Six year old Stevie Ray has gained 1/4 pound since his abdominal mass was discovered in April. He’s more frisky and is doing great! You just never know, do you?

There is an orphan duckling in my bathtub. Her mother and siblings perished in a hit-and-run accident on the highway. Turkey was being raised with some, well, actual turkeys, and was doing great but came here where she could be with ducks until she is ready to be released. There have been guinea pigs and ducks in this bathtub, maybe a turtle, and even a baby capybara! It doesn’t get much human use.

Miss Turkey takes over Dobby’s old stomping grounds.

I think Turkey’s bill is too narrow and upturned and her legs too long to be a Mallard, but the older she gets, the more mallardy she becomes.

Turkey is sitting on a heated pad in this photo. It is positioned so that she can be on or off while she is near her mirror.

She is very well-behaved. Quiet and dignified, there’s none of that annoying non-stop peep-peep-peep-peep-peep nonsense.

In this photo, she is sitting beside- not on- the heated pad.

She loves her mirror and has lengthy conversations with it. She joins the afternoon garden party in a secure cage and adores the ducks and geese. My wild resident female mallard has been by once and was very interested in Turkey, but she hasn’t returned. She lost two broods of ducklings this spring. It was a horrific year for prey animals locally.

She may or may not be a Mallard, but she’s 100% duck. Duckweed is tiny floating pond plants that wild ducklings eat.

Turkey has her own swimming pool in the shower stall where she can splash and eat the duckweed I collect in the pond next door.

Dobby loves his stinky front yard mud puddle. It has dried up some summers, but this year it has stayed perfectly wet and mucky.

There’s no duckweed in my own pond. the pond scum is thick and brown. Oh, oops, that’s Dobby!

The Ding Dong can’t reach the ding dong.

Dobby still fantasizes about the living room and spends part of every afternoon standing at the front door. I’m glad he doesn’t know about the doorbell.

A great big bucket of grass is a great big distraction.

He wastes so much time at that door that I have to gather his grass in a bucket. His gait is still wobbly and that makes him timid and wary in the front yard. The bucket of grass actually helps him stand still for the k-laser therapy he receives for his broken back. The therapy has helped a lot, but he isn’t 100% cured, and we’re not sure how much more muscle control he’ll regain. Maybe his new therapy pool will help.

One entire refrigerator for Dobby-food.

Meanwhile, his refrigerator empties and refills like clockwork: corn, romaine lettuce, potatoes in the drawers, apples and pears in the door.

The car finally got washed between trips to the grocer and feed stores. Sitting in there, pulled along as soap and brushes removed a year of grime, it occurred to me that getting my car washed was the most luxurious event I could recall enjoying during the past six months. I need a break.

Shadow Rat

In spite of the piggies, the duckling, and volunteer help, Dobby’s injury overshadows everything. I don’t plan trips to Paris or Shanghai, there will be no house-boating craziness for a while. Dobby’s functioning well and seems generally content, but I can’t bring myself to leave him with anyone but The Bartender for now. I hope that will change.

Dobby’s book has been making fantastic progress, in spite of him! Sonya and I are well into the final edits and our plan to have books available later this month is on target! I will send out postcards announcing its release, so gimme your address if you want one!

Daily Drama 64 – Am I smarter than a goldfish?

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Daily Drama 64 – Am I smarter than a goldfish?

In nice weather, I open the door next to my desk so that it feels like I am working outside. I had a couple raccoons approach one night, but I sent them scurrying. More worrisome is that I could step away from my desk, forget about the open door, and take Dobby to the front yard. I can only imagine the capybara glee when he finds the inviting open door into his old territory! He was banished from my bedroom/office over seven years ago. Double the glee when he finds MY pristine White Rabbit Rug! He has destroyed his, but he’s not touching mine!

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Cookie Monster and Brutus below, Stevie Ray and Squirrel above

Queen Brutus and Cookie Monster are two young guinea pigs who came to live with us recently. We are waiting for Cookie to grow up a bit so that they can be spayed at the same time. After their recuperation they will move upstairs with the dudes.

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“The bowl is empty!”

The second photo was taken after “The Great Escape.” See those orange clamps on the side of their cage? Even in this photo Queen B has been messing around with the ground covers, checking for breaches. They didn’t get far when they made their break. The girls had a little picnic way in back there by the baskets full of hay.

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The engaging plastic ball is a parrot toy stuffed with hay.

They were “free-range” before they came here, and are surprisingly tidy. They use the big hay box with the pigloo for a litter box, and have a well-used smaller litter box in their cage. I lock them in their cage at night, especially since their Big Adventure. It’s easy to shuffle them in with a big salad.

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No guinea pig photo is complete without beans!

The girls like vegetables but frown on strawberries, mango, and kiwi. Queen B is a year older than little Cookie and steals her food, but Cookie is quickly learning that I always have something for her if she waits until Brutus runs off with her prize!

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Stevie Ray will be 7 years old this fall.

Stevie Ray was losing weight and has an abdominal mass, but the trip to the vet must have scared him into getting his act back together. He’s friskier and seems to be putting weight back on. This is a guy who likes his strawberries, carrots, and tomatoes. Check out the fur under his chin! Guess he’s due for a shampoo.

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Squirrel, Maniac of the Year, in pole position at the food dish

Squirrel has been here almost a year. Not five years old, as advertised, maybe three. He’s a speed demon, very excitable. Clean cage? Popcorning. A lettuce leaf? Standing up oh-so-tall. Cleaning girls’ cage below? Zoomies going on above. I’ll never know why this amazing pig was considered un-adoptable. He’s a hoot!

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No, not a goldfish, it’s a Misgurnus anguillicaudatus, Dojo loach.

I have been trying to dip a goldfish out of Dr. Pepper’s turtle tank for two years, and now it’s enormous. It isn’t “gold;” it’s black and fast and smarter than me. Now there’s a smaller one in there, also black and fast and smarter than me. It’s not worth draining the tank to get them out. They have eluded the turtle for a couple years, too. I put them in as fry several years ago, for mosquito abatement, but with the three of them in there, nothing lives long.

Remind me to tell you the Dojo story some other time.

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Climbing rose, Rosa ‘Cécile Brünner’

This climbing rose has the most precious little rosebuds you can possibly imagine, thumbnail sized. You have to have a teeny tiny bud vase if you want to bring them inside. It’s easier to bring in a spray of flowers.

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Sluggo

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest! Bring flowers in, Sluggo will crawl over to your dinner plate from the bouquet! Seriously, slugs invite themselves into the house all the time. I guess they do, I rarely find the slugs, but see slime trails all the time.

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Norman splashes in Dobby’s clean hot tub. It won’t be clean after Dobby gets in there.

Same roses, hiding the gang valve and four hoses on the wall. It broke (don’t ask) and one of the hoses was frozen into it, the live feed into the aviary, of course. That particular hose is threaded through 50′ of protective tubing. I needed another project like a hole in the head.

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The hens are making headway at killing the brand new grass.

Winter rains kill Dobby’s grass in the back yard. After Mother’s Day, the weather is perfect for reseeding it. Every week I broadcast seed and water. The hens love to pick out the seedlings and the ducks dig holes if there are any puddles bigger than your big toe. Still, it’s looking good this year and should be in great shape when the September rain storms massacre every single blade. It’s a testimony to my optimism and sheer stupidity. Anything for Dobby, though. The boy needs pasture.

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“Actually, I prefer the mud.”

Dobby stops to indulge in a mud treatment on the way to the front yard every day. It gives the chickens time to scoot past me into the storage area where the baby grass is even more lush and tender. A couple good scratch-and-pecks and they have ripped up an area the size of a bathmat by the time Dobby finishes up at the spa.

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Dobby and Jello wait for the front door to open.

Sometimes, Dobby invites a hen to the front yard. This was little more than a week ago, and old Jello looked as perky as ever. A couple days later she suddenly departed for the big dustbath in the sky. This was her 7th spring, and her cohorts preceded her long ago. Hens are both tough and fragile as I have learned in my 30+ years of chicken wrangling.

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Practicing to be an alligator.

The mudhole in the front yard has the perfect amount of water, muck, and weedy buffet. Today I watched Dobby grazing and asked him “Go swimming?” He perked right up and we walked over to the mudhole and he scrambled right in! He used to swim in his big pool on command, but he’s not using it any more (even though his diving video has gone viral). We’re not sure he can get out of his swimming pool, though it’s unlikely he can make it up the straw bale stairs that are no longer there.

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“All I wanted to do was clean my face off on your pants. Why did you run away?”

He still has trouble walking and going up and down steps, but his weight loss seems to have bottomed out at 110 lbs and he’s back up to 116 lbs. He’s eating like a horse. Literally. The grass in the front yard is, well, it’s BIG. You can see some of the coarse blades in the foreground of the faux-alligator photo. He grazes and I cut him a bucket full and haul it around to the back for him. Prince Dobalob’s trusty servant.

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Bored with svelte, and going for the porky look next.

This toolbox holds his milk meds and supplements, all color coded for morning, noon, and bedtime so they don’t conflict with each other. The actual milk powder is in a separate container, and the yogurt is in the refrigerator. Some of the pills have to be ground up with a little mortar and pestle. The Fluid Action HA is the newest concoction to be added. Dobby started receiving K-Laser treatments at about the same time as we added the Fluid Action HA, or “Castrol” as we so fondly refer to it. One of those two treatments could be the reason why he seems to be improving.

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Where’s the milk?

Dobby’s book is in final editing and moves next to formatting for publishing! So we are very close to our due date of Late July or August.” I hope we don’t “April the Giraffe” it! When the book is available I will be pretty obnoxious about letting everyone know. Dobby’s smug fans who request postcard announcements can ignore my blithering. I will need your snail mail address. That’s what the form below is for.

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That’s all for now! Once Dobby’s book is launched, I’ll be back to my irregular but more frequent blogging.

Daily Drama 62

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Daily Drama 62

I am tempted to proclaim April as Veterinary Care Month. Last year we had the disastrous fractured incisor incident, and I’m not at all certain that Dobby didn’t fracture his vertebrae at the same time. It took me quite a while to recognize his stumbling swagger as a constant, increasingly frequent miss-steps. We have had him on pain meds, calcium supplements, and UV lamps since December (six months) with no perceptible improvement. In fact, his stumbling is even more pronounced, and he walks like his old Farm Manager, with her sciatica. With that information and consulting with three veterinarians, he has been on gabapentin for a week. Yesterday, I upped his dose, and this morning his swagger is more controlled, back legs not buckling so often. He has good days and bad, so it will be a while before we have his dosage adjusted properly.

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I am a professional Landscape Architect. 

Deck repairs are delayed until I am certain we don’t need ramps. Killers during freezing weather, ramps are slick as snot when it rains, too, so they aren’t a great idea in this climate. Meanwhile, an attractive assortment of anti-skid devices still decorate the deck surfaces with the most traffic. They are incredibly effective and I am thinking of submitting this theme to Sunset Magazine for their consideration.

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“I put my foot over the readout because I am embarrassed about my weight.”

I had also lowered Dobby’s bed but the chambermaid has complained that the new surface is extremely uncomfortable on her knees as she crawls in daily to straighten the blankets. Out of deference to her advanced age, I ordered a thin memory foam mattress topper. The bed is still very low, but she is no longer complaining, and Dobby probably likes it, too.

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Dobby and I both have funny hats.

The back yard is a mud hole, but tufts of grass did survive the winter. Now I am looking at Dobby’s huge but useless swimming pool as potential pasture area. Even if he was able to climb up the straw bale steps to dive in, I am not at all certain that he could scramble up the interior steps to exit. Swimming Pool #6, the most expensive pool by far, may be obsolete. I’ve set up another wading pool, larger than his hot tub, which is the puny baby-sized unit. He hasn’t been in the bigger wading pool, and I’m not at all sure he can step up into it. He reaches in and molests the toys that are floating in it, but that’s all. (You can see the blue pool at the far left in the feature photo.)

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Upstairs, downstairs

In other veterinary news, the newer of my two muscovy hens, Beverly, took a beating at the Spring Mating Festival. The vet removed a hardened mass from the site of the damage, and with 6 stitches on her head, she has been unhappily detained up in the infirmary. From there, it’s easier to grab her twice daily in order to toss the penicillin tablets down her throat, and the stitches have had time to heal in a somewhat clean environment. She’s out of there, now, but the drakes are relentless, so she has been spending her days in the back yard with Princess Blur. Without whom, no Daily Drama is complete. Blur still prefers to be carried everywhere. It keeps her foot feathers clean.

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“I’m ready to be carried to the back yard.”

While Princess and Dobby are grazing (Blur’s the only hen with Front Yard privileges), I’ll tell you about Snow White the dove, and the rest. Snowy’s still not flying, so she’s back on antibiotics. Spitfire the Budgie is through with her round. I found Stevie Ray the Guinea pig in distress about six weeks ago, and again late Wednesday night. He was fine the next day, but no younger. At 6-1/2 years, every veterinary visit is approached with caution. At the risk of the inevitable “Yes, he’s old!” diagnosis I took him in for an exam. We’re treating him for invisible mites, just in case, and his buddy Squirrel also gets treated. However, Stevie Ray has some sort of abdominal mass, a tumor, and that explains the weight loss and general malaise, so it’s a good time to pamper him. I had sequestered him at one end of their cage, and now that I have partially opened it again, both pigs have moved into his tiny apartment and are enjoying the new setup. Seriously, they are both holed up in that little area every time I peek in at them. Maybe I should decorate it with palm trees and gold draperies.

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Harness malfunction: that strap is supposed to be between his legs, under his chest.

Dobby has trouble on stairs, so to discourage him, I have been setting out buckets at the bottom tread. That means that when I forget to place the buckets, he interprets that as a signal to immediately go up. Oy vey. It’s painful to watch him come down, but he’s very slow and deliberate. In spite of that, his left heel has a little booboo from hitting the riser on the way down. He tends to scuff the top of his back feet, on the knuckles, on the way up.

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“I would like to return to the back yard through the living room, please.”

The wild mallard ducklings are having a tough time this year. I see ten, then two, then one, then a lone mama, all in the space of a couple days. I have watched two hens have their broods decimated like that. Last year there were dozens, including the half dozen who sat outside this very door with their mama until I finally let them walk through the house to the back yard. Who needs to travel to Memphis to see the Peabody Hotel parade?

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Grover, on the left; some headless zombie cat on the right, maybe Kitty Hawk

The cats are still miffed that the newest hens prefer their favorite spot at night, instead of roosting like authentic chickens. I optimistically set up a similar space for the hens, but the cats moved in. Whatever. They are barely earning their keep. I had one rat tunnel under the fence until it found a rusty hole in the security flooring in the dove cage. I noticed the activity in time and wired on a hardware cloth patch. I now have a greater appreciation for vets who have to suture up a live being from the outside. It’s not as easy as sewing, where you can generally approach from both sides. Then there was the cute baby rat, a fancy black variety our neighborhood is famous for, found asleep on Dobby’s little Harry Potter bed (it’s under the stairs). Oops, not asleep, but not quite dead. I left Little Black Rat in a bucket overnight, under a bench, to expire in peace, but mostly so it wouldn’t crawl under the deck to become a week-long stink-bomb. He was quite dead in his bucket morgue this morning, but disappeared while I did a few more chores. That means a crow managed to spot Little Black Rat Corpse, get it out, and it’s half eaten “up there” somewhere, waiting to drop down onto something . . . or someone.

That’s better than stepping on a full-grown one, though. Years ago, I stepped onto a LIVE rat, at the bottom of the stairs, right next to Dobby’s Harry Potter bed. It was a big one, running by at dusk, and his timing was not good. I stepped right onto him, and, as you yourself would probably do, I shrieked and jumped back. Unfortunately, I didn’t step on him very hard, so he jogged, and when I returned to earth, I landed right on top of him again, this time with gusto. I knew from the sound and sensation beneath my boot that he was a goner. I went directly indoors, not looking back. I don’t remember if I threw out the boots, but I sure don’t recall cleaning them. I’m pretty fearless, but I asked The Bartender to wait a couple hours “to be sure” and then remove it. Please. He’s such a good sport.

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What the squished rat probably looked like: Fat Bonnie

Fat Bonnie still takes over Dobby’s area each evening. She isn’t usually this relaxed, but maybe after three years, she is finally feeling secure indoors. She is the most timid rabbit I’ve ever had. Timid or maybe just dumb. She is capable of a couple tricks, though, and turns a circle for a dried blueberry. She stands up for a rabbit cookie, too. She almost allows me to pet her. At least she’s relatively well behaved, though I prefer a dynamic but naughty pet to a shy one that snubs me. And that’s generally what we have here at the Funny Farm. Bad animals.

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Hoping for a summer 2017 launch!

When I’m not sewing up holes in Dobby’s blankets at midnight, I have been writing. Sonya and I have been producing all sorts of goodies that might indicate that we are nearing the finish line. It won’t be long, now!

 

 

Daily Drama 61

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Daily Drama 61

Editing Dobby’s book has kept me so busy writing that I am neglecting the blog posts. Today, the Funny Farm is sad that my handicapped hen, Lula, has decided to fly up to the big roost in the sky. She came here five years ago, became lame at about 2-1/2 years, and stopped walking altogether two years ago. Daily meloxicam uprighted her, and she hobbled around, avoiding the other hens for a year. I finally moved her to the infirmary about a year ago, leaving the door open so she could come and go on her own.

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Princess Blur and Lula outside Dobby’s kitchen door. A lot of good stuff leaks out that door.

Last September, a tiny opinionated hen came to live with us. Blur’s sister had died and she couldn’t stop talking about it. Once here, she quickly became PRINCESS Blur, but she did quiet down. The size of a pigeon, she fights the cats, the other hens are afraid of her, and even Dobby is baffled. She has never laid an egg. Princess adored big Lula, though. They spent their days together, and when Lula’s lameness progressed, Princess Blur moved into the infirmary with her. In hindsight, they spent this last month beak-to-beak, neither one venturing into the horrific weather. I should have known Lula was not well. It will be interesting to hear what Princess Blur has to say about her.

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Princess whispers into Lula’s ear. They were inseparable.

The east coast is not alone when it comes to weird winter weather. We have had cold and snow and many Mallards. Many freeloading mallards. My resident pair are somewhat erratic, so Mrs. Mallard must have a nest, but she isn’t sitting yet. Sitting ducks hold their necks differently, as if they have spent too much time in one position. Their voice also changes, and their message is different. We aren’t there yet, but she has a nest, and it is nearby. I think they even spent the night on the swimming pool. I have never seen that before in the ten years since they have been here.

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Mallards on my roof. What must the neighbors think?

Dobby is making fair progress toward a recovery. He was feeling pretty good when he made these brown footprints. He was leaving the kitchen. Is that better or worse than if he had been coming in? There’s so much medicine in his milk now, that we ought to come up with a better word than “milk” which no longer describes it.

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Brown footprints: the Dobby version of yellow snow. 

Of course, we had a wind storm, too. A big birch branch crashed right through the wire roof of the aviary. It was a missed opportunity for the raccoons because my good neighbor fixed it that day.

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Timber!

The afternoon Garden Party has been damp. On good days it’s moist. Horrible days it is like living under a waterfall. I’m the one who wanted to live in a wetland, though. It’s groundwater, and it oozes up wherever it wants to. The asphalt out front has giraffe patterned cracks all over it. The cracks spit bubbles and ooze, eventually creating a flow down the street past the ambitious city public works drainage project that failed to take into account the source of the water. MY PROPERTY.

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Bird seed anyone? We’re eating it under a table because we don’t like soup.

Dobby IS improving, though he had a setback last week. He slipped on the deck when temperatures rose enough to turn the organics and rain into a coating of Deck Slime. There are now anti-skid rugs everywhere, and a bunch of cheap burlap bags as filler between the gaps. The hardware store guys roll their eyes when I tell them the bags have to be from Brazilian coffee, not African or Central American. Then they obligingly dig through the stack, commenting on the origins, and noticing the different bags for the first time.

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It’s the same bed, but different. For once I didn’t freak out about the change.

We lowered Dobby’s bed, so that the step up isn’t as steep. It used to have a standard box spring, but we switched it out for a “bunky board” which is a shallower mattress support. Now he can step out onto a big wide dog bed, and it’s a lot easier for him.

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Mine, all mine!

He’s feeling strong enough again to go to the front yard to graze . . . on non-existent winter grass. Prey animals are wary and they won’t leave a safe territory unless they have to. When Dobby is not feeling strong, he stays in the kitchen, playing pinochle and drinking mint juleps. Today he ignored the squealing little girls playing next door and went out to graze, so I know he is feeling pretty good.

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If you don’t let me in, I’ll bite the door. Again.

Dobby thinks he should be able to go in through the front door. In eight years, I don’t think I have ever let him in through that door. For eight years he has been begging.

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You’re late with my corn.

Oh, Dobby. He’s not very patient. His “offerings” have been top form, though. In an effort to offset his usual high-starch bad diet, I have been supplementing his vegetables with a bucket of cut bamboo foliage, in addition to what he grazes on his own. The fabulous local grocer, who supplies Dobby’s corn and romaine at a very reasonable markup, has been ordering us dandelion greens, too. The very same greens that I can pick for free from the garden this summer, are now a gourmet Dobby-treat in winter. I dole them out one-at-a-time to make certain Dobby appreciates them.

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Little Spitfire is helping me edit Dobby’s book. If my desk was cleared off (or if someone lit a bonfire to it) I could set up her playpen. She would love that. For now she is happy with the cubby holes and a paper clip. She’s a fightin’-bitin’ female, but my farmer’s hands are like leather, so the joke’s on her! She’ll settle down after a while.

Capy-painting

This is the working cover for Dobby’s book. We’ve been trying out some jacket copy on his fans, and hope to have a finished rough draft completed in a couple days. (Unless I remember to prepare my taxes.) It will undergo various levels of scrutiny, head off to a publisher, and Bob’s Your Uncle! That’s the plan, and I will keep you posted. It will be ready for summer reading, or bust!

 

Daily Drama 60

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Daily Drama 60

I suddenly realized I had better write before I totally lose my sense of humor! The disasters are checking in with regularity and when I find time to sit down, you can hear the sigh in the next county.

First, a shout-out to our local grocer. With The Bartender scooting around the house, foot in a post-surgery cast, I am now the Number One Shopper. When I pull into any cashier line with a gigantic box of romaine, a case of organic baby oatmeal, and a bottle of vodka, they simply ask “Animal food or people food first?” They know we buy scads of vegetables on the Funny Farm account. No one asks why we have been ordering baby cereal by the case for EIGHT YEARS, or who eats so much sub-par winter corn on the cob. They know all about Dobby, and ask how he’s doing.

Not so hot, by the looks of it. He has had trouble walking for a couple months, now. I have arthritis and his gait looks like I feel, he struggles more on my bad days, rallies a bit on my good days. His bloodwork was inconclusive, but we may be looking at Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), which compares to osteoporosis. Or maybe he has lymphoma. WE DON’T KNOW. But his original vet is available again, that’s how we got the blood draw without knocking him out. I have an ambulatory x-ray machine coming in tomorrow, and if Dobby cooperates by standing still, we’ll get an inside-out look at his bones. He’s got cabin fever after all of this nasty weather, and he sits comfortably under his new UV lights in the kitchen. Prey animals are more nervous when they are unhealthy, so he is hesitant to go to the front yard which is chock full of jaguars and anacondas. The ground has been frozen for a few weeks, so I’m wary of frostbite, much more deadly than predators.

draft saved 6 days ago

Okay, this is my point. I started this blog post almost a week ago. I would have time to write if there wasn’t so darned much going on around here. There certainly is no lack of material. Since that sorry draft, I have cleaned up the flooded downstairs. Then my prodigal son and his newly arrived girlfriend moved down there. That frees up his sister’s room for her visit in two days. The Bartender has graduated to cast number two in the series and can drive himself around, but still has to butt-sit his way down stairs. The yard is no longer frozen, well, the swimming pool is still totally frozen over. Not even a little thawed edge showing yet. It’s off-limits to capybaras right now anyway.

The veterinarian with the ambulatory x-ray apparatus came and went and I was so busy I didn’t take even one photo! All the busy paid off and The Prince was pleased with his visitors and held very still for his pictures. Unfortunately, they showed an L7 fracture. That’s basically a broken back. Very common with MBD, so we were spot on with the treatment. Unfortunately, there was a recall of Calcionate Syrup, the preferred treatment, so we are literally limping along with Calcium carbonate powder. Dobby is in good spirits, but occasionally spars with his corn, clicking at it when the Metacam doesn’t quite cover the pain. He’s terrifically spoiled, now, after all those cold-night slumber parties, and fresh-picked buckets of bamboo.

So why does Dobby have MBD? Actually, his radiographs don’t seem to indicate it, but the fracture is telling. That wouldn’t happen if his bones were strong. To promote strong bones, his diet needs to be high in calcium- higher than his phosphorus intake. His starchy diet isn’t very good, but it is difficult to provide fresh greens in winter. Horses can get by on hay in winter, but dry hay doesn’t supply vitamin C, which capybaras seem to need in copious quantities. He seems to know this and craves the fresh bamboo foliage slowly taking over my front yard.

He eats his lettuce but turns his nose up at the fancy kale the Guinea pigs snarf down. I tried growing kale at snout level, fenced it off, pretended it was very special, but he still won’t touch it. Collards, are you kidding? Everything he likes is bad for him. I recently discovered fresh dandelion greens at our grocery store, and he’ll deign to eat alfalfa if it’s the fancy Guinea Pig hay in a pretty little bag. He won’t touch the big bale out in the barn.

Back to the calcium, well, it’s is poorly absorbed without Vitamin D. Vitamin D comes from sunshine and everything you have heard about Seattle is true. It’s dark and gloomy all winter. At the winter solstice, the sun rises around 7am and sets around 4pm. That’s well shy of the equatorial day he would enjoy in South America. The only other way to get Vitamin D is in milk, as a supplement. That’s why they supplement milk with Vitamin D, so that our kids can absorb all that calcium in their milk. It’s also why Seattle vegans are encouraged to take a Vitamin D supplement. You can’t get D from vegetables and grain. And that’s why Dobby has tanning bed lights hanging over his bed in the kitchen. I’m tempted to lay under there with him myself.

I’m sick but I’m pretty . . .

So what else? This has been a bitterly cold winter and I have lost 3 doves. Two were treated, responded, but no, didn’t make it. The third didn’t give any warning. The flock and the cats are happy the freezing is gone for now, and resigned to the constant drizzle. The wild mallards have become a problem, so there are no garden party treats when there are more than six mallards lurking. There have been as many as 38 looking for handouts. I’m hoping Norman, my Flock Manager, will learn to drive off the mallards to earn his treats, but that might be asking too much.

I need to write up my Shanghai experiences. It was a fabulous trip, blasting many preconceptions. I came home with answers to questions I didn’t know I had. When you don’t know what you are getting into, every moment is a surprise. Questions pop into your head hours and days after your brain finally processes what your eyes have scanned. I look at my photos in detail and exclaim, “What the heck is THAT?” Much too late for a close-up shot or in-person examination.

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Baby Dobby

Dobby has a birthday coming up, his eighth! Born on Valentine’s Day in 2009, these eight years have brought me a lot of joy. I’m glad I didn’t know how tricky these guys are to raise up. I have been very lucky, and even with this devastating new development, I continue to marvel at my good fortune. I’m not sure what we will be doing to celebrate, but please join Dobby at his facebook alias page next month and we’ll make something good happen!