Tag Archives: pet

Daily Drama 71 – Another Brown Hen

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Daily Drama 71 – Another Brown Hen

Miss Emmy Lou, like Conchita, has to go UP.

Chickens come in many colors: white, yellow, brown, black, and all sorts of speckled and blotchy mixed colors. Mine are brown. All kinds of brown, subtle markings, slight variation in comb shape. Well, there is also the puny white/orange/black speckled Princess Blur, the banty Mille Fleur. Due to her diminutive size, she could be brown and I could still spot her a mile away. Emmy Lou Harris, the new hen, is brown. Of course she is.

Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire.

The arrival of Emmy Lou means that Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire, is no longer the new hen. She has been here since October 2017 and has totally integrated with the flock. Norman the goose has accepted her as a full-fledged member and he’s as protective of her as he is of the rest of them.

Princess Blur, the Puddle-jumper.

Princess Blur, on the other hand, has yet to admit that she is a chicken. The cats are terrified of her and she chases mallards in the yard. Dobby tolerates her, and she successfully lobbies for extra garden time. Are all Mille Fleur hens kooky?

Front to back: Emmy Lou, (beyond fence) Eartha, Frieda, Windy, Adelita, Samantha, Conchita. All brown.

New hens are sequestered (in the bully pen) from the flock until they accept each other. I had Emmy Lou only a week when I discovered bossy Conchita (yes, the one who broke her leg . . ) in the separate pen, and Emmy Lou happily exploring the larger yard with the other hens. Other than a few scurries and quick departures, Emmy Lou was getting along nicely. Since then I have found her back in the bully pen, taking a break, but she’s generally well accepted.

Emmy Lou hasn’t been to the garden yet, though. She is able to explore the aviary in peace when the others are out in the yard. It also means she hasn’t met Dobby, though he visited the hens in the aviary this morning. Emmy Lou kept her distance.

Samantha, the Greeter.

Here’s Dobby helping me put the poultry away after the garden party. (FAIL)

Dobby: the obstacle.

By the way, this is what the back yard “grass” looks like after our wet winters. It looks like dirt.

 

This is why Dobby goes to the front yard to graze, especially in winter and spring. There is even new grass coming up on the path between the aviary and the gate to the front yard.

“Really? Oy vey, the humiliation.”

I re-seed with a pasture grass mix in late spring and this year the germination has been fantastic. The yard has almost complete coverage already. Unlike your lawn, which is probably a mix of perennial rye and Kentucky bluegrass, pasture grass is food grass. It has some perennial rye, but it mostly has timothy grass, orchard grass, and tall fescue. It would get tall and shaggy if Norman and Cubicle (the geese) weren’t such good mowers. They are much more efficient than Dobby.

Rose: ‘Queen Elizabeth.”

Phoenix the pigeon moved out to the aviary in Spring. He discovered my female pigeon, Cor-ten, and they keep laying eggs. Phoenix is very helpful, taking turns on the nest, and he seems very content. That is, until I remove the eggs. Every egg that hatches means one less rescue I can take in, so spring is all about finding nests and taking away eggs. I’m happy to let the resident wild mallards raise the neighborhood ducklings.

Phoenix

Speaking of wild things, here’s Conchita and Dobby. You might be able to see the three crows on the roof. They have been making quite a racket, because “Three” is a baby who begs constantly. They are teaching him that my yard has the best treats.

Dobby and Conchita

Unlike lovely Emmy Lou, Brutus the guinea pig is not quietly joining the herd. She can’t get along with sweet Squirrel, my funny boar. She and Cookie Monster share half the pen.

Brutus and Cookie Monster.

Squirrel is a very entertaining guinea pig, and a gentleman, too. A sow’s dream come true. He always got along with Stevie Ray and was crushed when he died. Brutus and Cookie Monster were intended to become his new herd.

Sir Squirrel

Cookie Monster adores Squirrel, and so she visits him frequently. I can’t leave her with him all the time, because Brutus is bossy when she returns. I’m afraid that eventually Brutus would reject Cookie Monster if she spent too much time “next door.” So she commutes back and forth and everyone is happy, at least some of the time.

Cookie Monster and Squirrel

I though April was wild, but after 17 years here, I have deer in the front yard. Coyotes have been pooping in Dobby’s front yard, and I have even seen cottontail rabbits next door. Dobby had a cottontail out here several years ago, and he loved that bunny. I hope he has another one visiting this summer.

Dobby’s Deer

I put up a mason bee house in March and was stunned to see how popular it is! Look at how many of the condos have sold!

Mason bees pack mud into the hole after eggs are laid.

The squirrels have been crazy this year. They’re always nutty (sorry, couldn’t resist), but this year’s squirrel games are wild!

Stacy’s Funny Farm Gift Shop, in Real Time.

This is a subtle reminder to visit the Gift Shop. Briana and I are making lots of jewelry, and I will post a bunch of new stuff when the finished items overflow our “finished” basket.

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Daily Drama 70 – Vintage Bird

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Old Jorge is gone. Poor old guy. Have you ever had a pet where every morning he looked back at you, it was a miracle he was still alive? His arthritis was so bad I finally lined the bottom of his cage with a “mattress” so when he fell off his perch he wouldn’t get hurt. I bought him a little bird heater and he spent most of his final days huddled up to it, and I found a little corner platform perch so he didn’t have to worry about falling down. He had his own food and water at the bottom of the cage, and seemed happier to eat down there than up at the regular water and food dish above. At bedtime, he took forever to decide where to sleep: which one of his favorite places would it be? By his heater? Near the doves, at the top of the cage? Early years, he liked his swing. But this past year, I would say goodnight and wait by the light switch for him to decide. He’d slowly clamber up and down ladders and finally settle in, usually up by the doves. I would wait patiently, watching in case he took a tumble, and then I would turn off the light and go to bed myself. Now I just call “goodnight” to the birds, and go to bed. Sadly.

When Jorge was walking well enough to enjoy “floor time.” He never flew around much.

Jorge (pronounced Hor-hay) arrived here in 2006. My petsitter had rescued him around 2002. She heard him shrieking every day which is how she found him, a few doors down, in a cage in the carport, hardly a safe situation. The owner wanted to get rid of him, “How about $50?” Judy couldn’t afford him, and I couldn’t take him in, because at the time I had a cockatiel who was feather picking, and we didn’t think a screamer would be any help to my guy. Judy eventually bought him and cared for him four years. Until she developed ovarian cancer, when she asked me to take her birds. Jorge had never tamed down but we never blamed him for that, and respected his wariness. We suspected he spent time in an unpleasant situation, maybe worse than the carport. My feather-picker had passed and my remaining cockatiel, a rescue named Butterfree, proved to be a worthy companion for Jorge until he, too, passed.

Vincent doesn’t seem overly lonely, with the doves next door. He will surely miss the reciprocal grooming with Jorge.

Jorge was devastated by this loss. He wasn’t friendly to people, but he had bonded to beautiful Butterfree. I decided to look for an old male to become a companion to Jorge, and found Vincent. Vincent was a friendly older bird needing a new situation and he immediately bonded to Jorge. The two old males ate together, explored together, and groomed each other until Jorge passed last week.

Two old birds, out for a stroll.

When Vincent arrived, Jorge had a large cage outfitted with climbing ladders, swings, and toys. I thought they were about the same age, and they might have been, but Jorge seemed to age, while Vincent seems to be the same age he was when he arrived here 12 years ago. That’s not possible of course, but Jorge became a crotchety, stiff old man and fell off a perch one day.

Vincent doesn’t have to fight for “swing time” any more.

The second time he fell off his perch, I realized I was dealing with a much older bird who would need a safer environment. The tall cage was no longer suitable.

That’s a long fall if you lose your grip on a top perch.

By now I had a motley collection of birds: the two cockatiels, Spike the budgie, and two handicapped doves, The Pirate and her mother Snow White. Dobby was starting to eat the pink cloth “cage diapers” I put at the bottom of the cages to catch miscellaneous bird debris: he discovered he could get at the forbidden bird food by tearing open the fabric. The cages are in his area, after all.

I long ago learned that it isn’t the number of animals that creates the work, it is how many cages you have to clean. Note the torn pink “cage diaper” leaking bird debris onto the floor. Yep, Dobby.

My volunteer, Jillian, and I put together two new cages and we transferred everyone over. I divided Jorge and Vincent’s cage into two “flats” and Spike moved downstairs. (That’s where Spitfire lives, now that little Spike has passed.)  I made a fleece covered mattress for the bottom of the cockatiel cage and arranged ladders to accommodate Jorge. The handicapped doves had a new matching cage, also with a mattress. Everyone was surprisingly blasé about their new homes. It helped that the location and neighbors were the same.

The old switcheroo. The new black cage is all “birded up” and ready to move into the location of that white cage.

After years of mis-matched hand-me-down cages, it is nice to have new ones that I can customize. The ladders in the cockatiel cage allowed Jorge to climb to every perch, toy, food and water dish. The new cages are larger and easier to clean. The fleece at the bottom of the cages results in “bird laundry” to add to my rabbit and capybara laundry, but that’s why I have an industrial oversized washer.

The Pirate checks out the new cage. The last time I let them all out together was not a success, but flock dynamics change over time. Maybe it’s time to try again, but the doves can be shockingly aggressive. The budgies are even worse bullies. For the moment, everyone seems happy with separate “out” times.

Here’s a gratuitous photo of Dobby, checking out the new cages the following day. He notices everything. Poor Dobby, with no “cage diapers” to destroy, he soon learned to get directly into the bags of bird food stored below.

“What happened? Too many changes! Where’s my alternative food supply?”

The left cage is customized for the two handicapped doves: One can’t walk, the other can’t fly. If you can’t walk, you can’t perch, so The Pirate has a hammock at the top. She can fly up to it. The ramps are for the walker, Snow White. I lift her up onto a perch every night at bedtime, and in the morning she hops down onto the mattress below. Flying down is a lot easier than flying up.

One advantage to the new cages didn’t become clear until months later: it reinforced the flocking behavior of all the birds. Jorge and Vincent started to roost high on the left side, as near as possible to the two snoozing doves. They ate together, too, and eating my lunch in the kitchen was a signal for them to join me. Birds are funny that way.

Ramps, ladders, and hammocks everywhere.

About a year ago, Jorge began to spend more time on the floor of his cage, so I added a lower food dish (with supplements added) and crock of water.  On signal, when I brought fresh water, he would amble down the nearest ladder and take two sips. “Thank you!” Then came the wall-mounted cage heater and platform. He had been blind in his right eye for about the past six months and he took longer and longer to decide where to sleep. The seasons changed from winter to spring, yet Jorge chose to spend more and more time by his heater. His passing was unexpected, I honestly thought he might live on forever. I will spend the rest of my days wondering how old he really was.

 

Daily Drama 69 – April Goes Wild

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Daily Drama 69 – April Goes Wild

Even without Dobby and the rescues, it would be wild and crazy here, especially in April. The songbirds are singing, the hummingbirds have migrated from the feeders to the flowers blooming in the yard, and I listen for peeps that might mean an imperiled duckling.

There are at least a couple hundred geese in this flock. They are probably Snow Geese on their way up to Mount Vernon.

Distant honking caused me to look up at the kitchen skylight in time to see a flock of geese flying back north. I have seen a few “V’s” fly by, but this is an entire flock.

Click on the photo if you can’t see the three deer. Our World Famous Mailboxes are stage left, out of frame.

Half an hour later, my neighbor knocked on the door. (WOW! I have forgotten what 9 months pregnant looks like!) She saw three deer walk out of my yard, and knowing how wild it can be here, wanted to make certain they weren’t escapees of mine! (Note to self: invite her over, let her boys feed the guinea pigs, give her a tour and a dozen eggs.) The deer were down at the end of the street, and I’m sure we have all seen better deer photos than this, but after 18 years here, I am stunned at the idea of deer wandering through. Over the fences. Eating Dobby’s grass and maybe even his bamboo!

Not the boot print, silly! The deer hoof print. This is on a narrow Dobby-trail in the front yard.

Sure enough, deer hoof prints all over the yard. There are other prints, too, out at the street by the garbage cans. Who was this?

Guess now, and I’ll let you know who I think stood around here in the mud.

We have coyotes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, songbirds, hawks, owls, herons, and six kinds of woodpeckers. And ducks. Mallards are common, but I have had a Wood Duck drop by in the winter. A Bald Eagle swooped through here a month ago. No Mountain Beavers yet, but I keep hoping. I think it’s too flat and wet here.

There were two aqua eggs in the nest when I checked. The duck nest is the brown swirl of junk, lower middle of photo.

This is a mallard nest by my front door. I watched her drop from the sky and scuttle into this nest. It looks the same whether or not she is in it, her camouflage is so perfect. She abandoned this nest, leaving two pretty blue eggs. She’s been hanging in my back yard for maybe 12 years now, before Dobby came. She’s brought her brood into the house, taking the front-door to kitchen route that Dobby craves when he begs by that door. Everyone knows that route exists, like the Northwest Passage, but only Mrs. Mallard has had the privilege of using it. No wonder Dobby is jealous!

Proud Mrs. Mallard with six ducklings

This year, I can see her next door with her precious brood. You can count six in this photo. There used to be seven, and I chased “seven” back to her more than once when I found the little explorer in my creek. Alas, nature does not reward the babes who stray. No ducklings survived here last year, and neighbors later told me that Bald Eagles got them all. The angst can destroy you. Take a deep breath and do what you can, let the rest go. Yesterday she had only two ducklings. I’m afraid to look today.

Mr. Mallard is never far away.

I put out cracked corn: proper poultry food gets sour and moldy the moment it touches ground. Wild bird seed attracts “undesirables” and it is available in my back yard for “Ducks In The Know.” The food I put out is mostly for the momma ducks, anyway. The babies just mess around. They ate their proper baby duck food already. It’s called “duckweed.”

Western Redback Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)? Can anyone confirm this?

I suppose they eat other stuff, too. Connor was here today and carefully moved some wood in the front yard. Sure enough, there was a salamander under it. In this neighborhood, life lurks in out-of-the-way corners, and you might as well anticipate it. Inches away, the Creature From the Black Lagoon watches us.

Pacific Mudback Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris pacifica)

Dobby has a mucky wallow in the front yard. Sometimes it’s a little pond, sometimes it’s a mud hole. It depends upon the groundwater, which, in turn, depends upon the rainfall. It suddenly dried up today. He was so disappointed!

“Come here!”

Instead of rolling in the mud, he traipsed through it and then led me back to the Duckling Viewing Area. He used to sit back there and gaze at the pond, but he has been too busy to do that lately.

Really?

Well, how about that! Mr. Opossum is at the Duckling Viewing Area. Harumph! Move along, dude! He skedaddled to the Opossum Highway on top of the fence, and headed toward the back yard. Terrific. All my hens and ducks are out, but Norman the Goose will watch out for them. I know this guy, anyway, and all he ever catches is eggs, empty cat food cans, and occasionally he massacres a discarded corn cob overnight.

Route 66 at Stacy’s Funny Farm

Dobby and I checked on the ducks and still saw six ducklings. This momma Mallard now has two drakes watching over her and her brood. Whatever it takes, I don’t judge.

To tell you the truth, Mr. Opossum is too slow to catch a duckling. (Note woodpecker holes on the tree trunk.)

Mr. Opossum wasn’t easily deterred, and I saw him in the back yard a while later. He’s perched on Opossum Highway, but outside the aviary. There’s a bushy evergreen growing through the fence and it creates a nice little observation platform. I wonder how often he perches there, watching my flock. He’s going to be sad when he discovers a nasty wad of chickenwire jammed in there.

Those were my footprints out by the street.

Dobby is back inside the aviary, sitting in another lovely mudhole. So perfect.

Jaunty stripes courtesy of Fergus the Fig Tree

Next, Dobby went into the hot tub to get clean, with a fan club cheering him on. It’s also slightly possible that they were waiting for him to get out so they could get in.

Shamrock, Cubicle, Emilio, and Carmen Miranda

If you don’t get all the way in, and don’t scrub or use soap, bath results can vary.

Nice job, Dobalob.

Oh well, I guess he wasn’t through testing all of the Funny Farm mud holes. This one offers tender new raspberry sprouts. When he eats them, I don’t get raspberries later in the summer. That’s why I carefully fenced them off.

Nice fencing, Farm Manager.

Wait! What about the hot tub? Don’t you want to go back in before you go into the kitchen? Please don’t shake! Dobby? At least it’s only mud this time. That’s how bad he is: I’m relieved that he’s only covered in mud. If you have to ask what’s worse, then you haven’t read his book! You can also follow him on his secret Facebook profile.

There’s a capybara underneath the patina.

 

Daily Drama 67 – Between Disasters

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Daily Drama 67 – Between Disasters

No, I haven’t been slacking off, and I’m not out of material to write about, either. It’s just that I can only find time to write when I’m between disasters, and today qualifies. Right now the only problem is the dead microwave oven. I’m re-discovering the joy of steaming and I will soon perfect re-heating leftovers in the new toaster oven. At $50, it was a bargain compared with replacing the built-in microwave. This is the third microwave I’ve had perish here over seventeen years.

And then there is the IRS audit. We’re all paranoid when it comes to fat envelopes coming from the IRS, aren’t we? Our Tax Compliance Officer reassures me that we are not being audited due to any action, lack of action, or violation. When I submitted our initial application, I used the fabulous new 1023EZ form instead of the old 1023 long form. She said that, unfortunately, there has been “public outcry” regarding the EZ form, and that it isn’t thought to be thorough enough. The IRS is now evaluating a random sample of the organizations who used the EZ form to determine whether the form should be amended. Lucky us. I am honored to have been selected to verify the validity of the EZ form, and hope future users of the abbreviated form will appreciate the week I spent helping them out.

The clogged “so-called drain” is at about the center of this photo, above the bright flare. Typical Pacific NW basement.

Time to get the drainline reamed out again. It’s cheaper to snake out the drain every six months than replace the 50′ of pipe between this basement drain and the outlet by the driveway. There is a discontinuity in the seventy year old sectional concrete pipe, caused by groundwater rearranging the substrate and allowing the sections to relocate. Underneath the basement floor and driveway. Don’t worry, everything stored down there is waterproof or up on little planks. It’s important stuff: all my spare cages, equipment, and supplies. The water has to rise another three inches to begin flooding the downstairs, but don’t worry, everything down there is waterproof or up on little planks, too. And anyway, it has been fixed now, and should make it through the season.

What would I do without Briana? All this stuff would still be neatly stored on shelves, not doing any good for anyone. My mother, Georgia Dee, would be so excited to see what we are doing with her inventory!

In stark contrast to recent disasters, our Jewelry Manufacturing Centre is up and running! New board member Briana Bell has dedicated herself to creating some exciting new items for Georgia Dee’s Gift Shop. We are specializing in earrings this year, by popular demand. You will start seeing new inventory . . . soon! Watch this space!

Stevie Ray, already looking a bit rough, and Squirrel. Stevie Ray was so good lookin’ he didn’t have to have a personality at all. He was cool, you know?

Little old Stevie Ray left the Dude Ranch in mid-October. He had been diagnosed with an abdominal mass in April. At seven years old, surgery was not an option. He rallied and had quite a few good months before he decided to check out and that was that. I miss his silly antics and his good looks, and so does Squirrel, his cage-mate.

Brutus (named before her gender was known, but I don’t judge) and Cookie Monster, beyond, with her four-different-colored feet.

Waiting in the wings are Brutus and Cookie Monster. They were thoughtfully referred to me by Stevie Ray’s veterinarian as potential future companions for crazy Squirrel. They were recently spayed and are in the process of being slowly introduced to Squirrel, after occupying a nearby-but-separate space. Rushing the process rarely works and these spoiled girls are first class prima donnas. Fingers crossed!

Oh, Conchita!

Conchita had her final veterinary checkup (Apparently Dobby had issued instructions regarding how to register a complaint.) and moved out to the infirmary as a first step toward reintroducing her to the flock. Now that Samantha has joined the flock, Conchita has advanced to step two: navigating the Bully Pen (a separate enclosure within the larger aviary). Her broken leg has healed but she’s got an uneven gait. Mostly, she’s got to re-negotiate her position in the flock. Pecking order is no joke.

Samantha at the green bowl, Eartha, Windy, and Frieda this side of the fence, then the little white hussy, Ping, and her useless but devoted boyfriend, Boxcar.

So, who is Samantha? Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire, is an older hen whose companions are no longer with her. Lately, a bobcat had been spending his afternoons staring at her through the secure fence that surrounds her coop. She was lonely and so now she’s here. Introducing a new hen can be challenging, but the flock has been very cooperative. She started out in the Bully Pen. Norman the Goose magnanimously accepted her without controversy. It wasn’t long before Eartha befriended her and joined her in the Bully Pen.

Ping in the distance, then sweet Eartha, and Samantha. Adelita is outside the fence.

It wasn’t long before Samantha was accepted by all and she is enjoying her new friends and her new home.

For cryin’ out loud, Windy! That’s pathetic!

The hens molt (get new feathers) this time of year. It isn’t always graceful. Most will lose and re-feather gradually. You’ll see the feathers around the yard, but otherwise it’s no big deal. Once in a while, a hen will have a very rough molt, like Windy. She’s uncomfortable, and she’s going to kill me when she discovers I posted this unflattering photo. The new feathers emerge through the skin encased in a waxy substance (How else would you push a feather through skin without mussing it?) that she’ll pick off as she fluffs up the feathers. The intact new feather shafts look like little toothpicks on her neck.

Turkey and a few friends. They have figured out that my flock comes out for a catered garden party every afternoon.

Remember Turkey the duckling who grew up in my bathtub and was released? Here she is! She’s the female with a mostly orange bill, more slender than the others. I’m serious: she’s in that crowd somewhere.

Not Cinderella’s coach.

Lord Dobbington, as he was referred to recently, always steals the show. The weather turned cold, so I jokingly got out his old halloween pumpkin costume. He seemed glad to see it again, so I found this rubber ducky rain slicker on sale, free shipping. He would wear hats and clothes when he was a baby, but refused during his haughty teen years. Now it seems he has discovered the practical side to jackets. Hats, not so much.

Rubber ducky raincoat on capybara.

Dobby is kind of a goofball, possibly a spoiled one. Grazing time is short, and pickin’s are slim, so he often has Uber deliver a bucket of bamboo to the kitchen. “Someone” has knocked over this bucket and spread out the bamboo for inspection. “Someone” is also demonstrating that his milk bowl is empty.

Foot-in-bowl disease is rampant at the Funny Farm.

October’s most time-consuming effort was the publishing of Dobby’s book. Rewards were autographed and shipped out to the Kickstarter backers (Thanks, again, everyone!)

“I could eat that!”

Prince Dobalob’s book is available online as a print-on-demand paperback, so any “not available” baloney you may see on Amazon is simply not true. If you have trouble buying your copy, please contact me here and I’ll try to figure out what’s up. I’m also collecting links to international sources, so let me know if you find it abroad, especially in Asia. The eBook will be available as an ePub edition soon, and I’ll update this post with a link here when it’s up and running. Sorry, no Kindle version: it doesn’t like graphics and it loads up sorta goofy. We haven’t given up on Kindle, but don’t hold your breath.

Gotta get this published before I am interrupted by any more baby pigeons coming in! It’s always something!

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!