Backyard Murders

There.  I now have your attention.  Here is an eyewitness account from the scene of the crimes….

Sometime this Spring, a female hawk built a nest high atop our backyard pine tree. Being the good momma that she is, her daily priority is to provide food and shelter for her babies.  From her perch in the family’s home and sometimes from neighboring rooftops, she scours the area for their next meal.  One evening, we were dining on the deck when Mama Hawk (nicknamed Toni Hawk) suddenly and swiftly flew past us towards a family of bunnies munching on grass in our side yard.  One bunny leapt into the window well of the home next door, but we believe that an unlucky sibling became supper for the Hawk family.  Our leisurely meal turned into a murder mystery.

I remember a few of the science lessons I learned from my long ago school days.  For example, I can recall the concept of the Food Chain, defined as “a hierarchical series of organisms each dependent on the next as a source of food.”  Simply put, this definition explains whom eats whom in the wild.  I can also retrieve from the recesses of my memory the concept of Natural Order, defined by Merriam-Webster as “the orderly system comprising the physical universe and functioning according to natural as distinguished from human or supernatural laws.”

At this current point in my life, I am somewhat hypersensitive to death and the sometimes untimeliness of it.  I fully understand the concepts of the Food Chain and Natural Order and their relation to the wild.  I know why Mama Hawk is hunting and killing in OUR BACKYARD.  She is providing food for her children.  I bet she also fiercely protects them from harm, and tries to teach them about life, which most likely includes flying lessons.

As a mother, I attempted to do the same with my only offspring.  I fed him, attempted to protect him from harm and served as his teacher.  He was supposed to develop his own wings, leave the nest and fly off into adulthood, a career, marriage, family, and fulfillment of his dreams.  Our life was supposed to follow the Natural Order of Humans, where Rule #1 is: Parents don’t bury their children.  Children bury their ELDERLY parents.  There really is no such thing as the “Natural Order of Humans.” We just like to believe that life will follow some logical and “normal” order.  It. Does. Not.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I see a cardinal on a regular basis.  I fully understand the spiritual meaning of his presence and frequent visits.  I also believe that Mama Hawk did not take up residence in our backyard as coincidence, as you know I do not believe in coincidence, accidents, chance or luck.  I think she is here to demonstrate and remind me that Natural Order only applies to nature and its wildlife. She is here to help me understand the Unnatural Order that is a purely human experience.

Dog Gone

It has been nearly a month since we said our goodbyes to our beloved yellow Labrador Retriever.  We rescued her in May of 2006, just two months after we put down our Rottweiler, Fritz.  I was ready to be done with pets at that time, but with the passing of my spouse in 2001 and now the dog, my family kept getting smaller and smaller, leaving just me and my then eight-year old son.  Also, the boy had never known life without a dog, as Fritz was our “first-born.”  We adopted Biloxi Blue just shy of her second birthday.  (We got her from a Lab rescue in Indiana.  I recently learned that in all of the years that Jan and her friends operated the rescue, they were able to find homes for over 700 Labs.)  Upon bringing our new dog home, my son had trouble remembering her name, so I shortened it to Lexi and then later tagged on “Lou.” So, Biloxi Blue, which to me sounded like the name of a race horse, became Lexi Lou.

Miss Lexi provided us with companionship and unconditional love for just under eleven years.  She was sweet, affectionate and hugely loyal-a word in the Lab world that can be synonymous with shadow or stalker.  Wherever I was, that was where Lexi had to be.  She followed me from room to room as I performed chores, sat outside the shower while I bathed, and insisted on joining me for “other” bathroom duties as well. She was exhausted on Mondays from all of the “shadowing” that went on over the weekend.

Her passing has been exceptionally difficult not only because her daily presence is missed and my daily routine has drastically changed, but also because she is my last dog.  I will blow out 57 candles on my cake in August.  I do not want to take on another 10-13 year commitment to a pet.  Mr. Joan and I are semi-empty nesters, and want to enjoy the freedom to pick up and go at will.   I will always cherish the love and affection provided by all six of the dogs I have shared a portion of my life with-Kessie, Shosha, Misha, Natasha, Fritz and Lexi.  And while I am fairly certain that there will be a “grand-dog” in my future, my days as Dog Momma have come to an end.  I would like to think that I have been a good Mom to my four-legged family members.  My own mother used to joke that in her next life, she wanted to come back as one of my dogs!

There is so much I already miss about having a dog in my life.  I miss your sloppy kisses.  I miss your insistence on being a lap dog, though the smallest dog I owned weighed 40 pounds, but most were 60-110 pounds.  I miss our daily walks, which provided us both with exercise, but also enabled me to meet tons of neighbors over the years.  I miss the back and forth of a great game of fetch.  I miss the way you hung your head out the car window, the wind blowing back your ears.  I miss the smile on your face.  Yes, dogs do smile.

I like to believe that we are reunited with our dogs when we cross over, just like we reunite with our family members who have gone before us.  So, until we meet again, I will miss you.

Gone to the Dogs

We share our home with an ever-shedding yellow Labrador Retriever. There isn’t a corner or crevice in our home that doesn’t contain small, blondish/white hairs. They are EVERYWHERE! In an attempt to take back some of the house, I basically banished her from the beds. A few weeks ago, I decided to take back the sofa as well. (One of her favorite places to curl up with her head nestled on the throw pillows.) The photo below shows where I found her the other day. Obviously, we now know who rules our house-her Highness, Queen Lexi!

Rooftop Guest

As we pulled into our driveway a few weeks ago, I spotted an unfamiliar object on the roof. A hawk was perched on the vent, just checking things out. I am uncertain what prey it might have been patiently stalking, however, I enjoyed observing and photographing our visitor. I understand that hawks have incredible patience, hence the saying, “watched like a hawk.” Our bird of prey remained in command of his post for quite some time. I hope it was time well spent. I could use a lesson or two in patience from this feathered friend!


Stalked by Sleeping Beauty


I have written a few posts about our lovable Lab, Lexi. We adopted her nearly three years ago from a rescue. She is my first venture into the world of retrievers. (Previous canine companions have included a beagle-poodle mix, a couple of Chow Chow’s and a Rottweiler.) I have been introduced to a few common Labrador attributes, such as their incessant urge to hunt, chronic ear goo and an inability to be separated from their top dog (me) for even a nano-second. It is this last trait which has forced me to label our dog, The Stalker. If I am home, simply going through the motions of the day, she literally follows me from room-to-room. If I head to the basement gym for a workout, she tags along, often standing over me kissing my face as I crunch my abs. If I need a moment for bathroom duties, she feels compelled to follow. Her latest stunt is to jump on me while I talk on the phone. (I am pretty sure she learned this technique from Junior, who still, at the age of eleven, is in desperate need of my attention as soon as I have a telephone receiver in hand.) I have been forced to shut the door and hide from Miss Lexi Lou in an effort to speak on the phone or flush in private.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love our Looney Lab, but some days between Junior’s constant supervision with homework and Lexi’s silent stalking, a girl tends to go a little crazy. Calgon take me away!

A Dog’s Life

I have always said that in my next life, I want to come back as one of MY dogs.  Any dog that is fortunate enough to be adopted by our family is guaranteed a life full of premium doggy kibble, peanut butter treats, oodles of chew toys, daily constitutionals, siestas on the sofa, warm, soapy baths complete with pedicures,  silly nicknames, tons of kisses and cuddles, and lots of love.

Our current canine family member, Lexi, has experienced nearly three years of the above mentioned lifestyle.  (Below, you can see her tucked in for the night.) If she could talk, I think that she would tell you that she likes it here.


The Pack Mule

My son has a new bath-time ritual. Instead of putting his dirty laundry in the hamper himself, he hires our dog, Lexi, to do it for him. He gets undressed and then piles his clothes on her back. She does not try to shake off the unfamiliar items. She either stands still or walks slowly to wherever I am. She looks at me with this face, which says, ” There is something on my back. PLEASE get it off, now!” Our Lab, the pack mule. Two animals for the price of one.dsc002803

The Scent of a Woman

I take my dog, Lexi, for daily walks. We both look forward to these excursions. I am able to enjoy the great outdoors, and if the the sun is shining, receive a complimentary dose of Vitamin D. Lexi is able to burn off some excess energy, and take in all of the wonderful “deposits” left by other creatures, domestic and wild. I also use our daily constitutional as an opportunity to socialize Lexi.

We adopted our lovable Lab from a rescue nearly three years ago. I do not believe that Lexi had been abused by her previous owner, but she does have her “issues”.  She is afraid of loud noises, such as motorcycles and large trucks. She tries to chase after anything that has a need for speed-joggers, cyclists, or skate-boarders. She likes some humans, not others. Ditto for canines. (There is no predicting who is a friend and who is a foe.) I think that her insecurities are fear-based, the result of a lack of proper socialization as a youngster. I use our daily cardio workout as a way to familiarize Lexi with the outside world, and to enable her to conquer her demons.

Our training is slowly beginning to pay off. We both have made lots of friends as we continue to pound the pavement, day after day. Lexi is especially fond of two male dogs who live in our neighborhood. A few times a week, we head in the direction of this particular home. Lexi begins whining in anticipation of visiting with the boys, and possibly sneaking in a good butt-sniffing session. Often, the yard is devoid of the dogs. (Our walk time must not coincide with their potty break.) Lexi is disappointed, yet she never fails to let them know that she stopped by. Like clockwork, she faithfully squats in the yard and leaves them a little “liquid present.” I hope they appreciate the gift.

Hair, Hair Everywhere

It’s that time of the year again.  No, not Lent, St. Patty’s Day, Spring or Easter.  It is shedding time at our house.  We have a yellow Lab. She sloughs off hair 24/7.  During the warm months of the year, I have her shaved, but for the remaining three-to-four months, I let her keep her warm, insulating coat. I have not shaved her since November, and the hair is EVERYWHERE-on the furniture, the floors, the window treatments,the beds, our clothes. The air duct vents are on the floor in our house, so when the furnace is running, it enables the hair to fly through the air and land in places I will probably never find until we empty out the house for a move.

I do have to say that she is such a pretty girl with her soft, cream-colored outerwear, and she so prefers her au-naturale state.  I swear that when I pick her up from the groomer after a good shearing, she actually pouts.  I don’t blame her. I would be miffed too if someone made me an appointment at a salon and I came out looking like Sinead O’Connor.

A shout out to all you brunettes and redheads out there.  If you are thinking about changing up your look a bit, stop by my house for a visit.  We’ll sit on the sofa, drink a cup of Joe and catch up.  By the time you leave, you’ll be a blond!

Good Dog

My late husband had been a longtime admirer of the canine breed, the Rottweiler.  He loved big dogs and especially liked the strong, stout physique of this particular breed.  We discussed getting a new puppy, but I had my doubts about bringing home a Rottie.  (I had seen news reports of Rottweilers attacking children and adults.) I do believe, though, that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.

Late in the summer of 1995, we brought Fritz home.  (I got to pick the name, which was in honor of his German heritage and my mom’s half-brother, a true animal lover.)  For the next ten plus years, life would not be the same. The thing about big dogs is that they don’t stay little very long.  Fritz quickly grew into a 110-pound, slobbering, eating machine. He was quite destructive around the house, and he liked to play rough. When his rowdy play began to include “humping,” he was sent off to the vet’s office for the old “snip, snip.”

He was just nine months old when he started vomiting frequently.  A veterinary specialist diagnosed him with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  The treatment of choice was a change in diet and a drug called, Prednisone.  We now had a Rottweiler on steroids!

He was the center of our universe, our only “child” until our human offspring was born in 1998.  The day after our son came home from the hospital, Fritz bit my mom. Her injuries were not severe, but she did require a trip to the ER and her hands had to remain bandaged for days.  We were responsible for this scary behavior from our pet.  He had become the “alpha” and we were his faithful servants.  One cannot raise a huge, powerful breed like a Rottweiler as some kind of doll or toy.  The owner must be in control-always.  Instead of putting him down, which we did contemplate, we signed him up him for obedience school.  Our lessons were private, and we worked one-on-one with him for weeks, as we re-introduced ourselves as the boss.  He never bit anyone again-ever.

Fritz literally went from puppy-hood to elder statesman in a matter of about three years. Once his destructive, rebellious toddler and teen years had ended, he morphed into a lazy lump. He rarely greeted any of us at the door when we returned home.  He would just swing his head over the side of the couch and acknowledge that you had finally remembered where you lived.  He loved EVERYONE. He never barked when someone came to the door.  His stub would just wag, and he would beg to be petted.  He was oblivious to other dogs, especially those little yippy ones with the small man complex, who would shriek at him and even nip at his legs. He loved to go on walks, but we had a difference of opinion about the pace of these outings.  He preferred to stop and smell the roses, or the grass or some other dog’s rear end. I was out to break a sweat and get the old heart rate up.  He always won.

Over the years, I grew to love that gentle giant like no other dog before. (I will write more about past dogs I have loved another time.) When my husband was alive, Fritz was truly his dog.  They were as tight as a human and a canine can be.  It was Fritz who was bedside with my husband when he passed away.  In the days leading up to my husband’s death, I had spoken with our veterinarian about Fritz possibly having a flare-up of his IBS.  Sure enough, within hours of my husband’s last breath, I heard the familiar churning of Fritz’s stomach.  I had to increase his Prednisone dosage to help him cope with his grief.

My son and I had Fritz to ourselves for five years.  Our bond only deepened during that time.  I am thinking about Fritz today, because this week is the third anniversary of his death.  His ashes have remained on a shelf in a small white box provided by the pet cemetery.  I have thought about sprinkling them over my husband’s grave or releasing them into the wind at a park nearby, but I have done none of the above.  I have kept him at home, close to us.