Category Archives: nature

So, last week in Hawaii…

My brother got married on a beautiful beach in Maui. What a terrible place to have to take a vacation. Or completely the opposite! I made friends with the locals while I was there. The feathered ones…

During the ceremony rehearsal, this egret hung out near by. And by that, I mean he followed us around the whole time from a foot or two away. I actually got chastised by my mom for “missing some good shots” as I was completely distracted by him.

He liked eating lizards. I liked not watching.

This little guy was fortunate enough not to become one of his tasty snacks.

I also spent a lot of time watching the birds around the resort who spent 90% of their time looking for a meal. They were bold enough to land on tables while people were eating. Lots of people shooed them away, but I was “that guy” and encouraged them. They were way too cute!

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Tiny Aerialists

While going about my business this week, I flicked what I thought was one of the giant flesh-eating horse flies off of my head. Instead, I watched as a dragonfly did a swan dive off of me and landed on its back in the dirt. With any non-threatening bug or beetle, my reaction would be, “oh no! I’ve got to help!”, but with a dragonfly, that feeling goes so much deeper.

My kinship with dragonflies go back many many years. Instead of writing it out here, I am sharing a blog post from my other blog. I’m mainly doing this because there are photos and even a video on the post and they add to the story. Please take a moment to read the post here.

After that encounter, I started to interact more with dragonflies. I’ve noticed how willing they are to hang around and it thrills me to pieces. So potentially killing one that sought me out crushed me. I gingerly picked it up and, wanting to make sure it was ok, placed it on my shirt.

It stayed there for about half an hour while I carefully scooped the corral and got dinner ready for my other lovely friends. When I finally had a moment to focus, I turned my full attention on it. I did my sing-song request that I do to my cats when I want to hold them and I swear (and yes, I’m sure it was something completely unrelated but I’m the one living on this cloud), it lifted its two front legs and pushed them in and out way that was similar to a “pick me up” gesture. I put out a finger and the dragonfly climbed on. We stayed that way for a few minutes until it was ready to go. From there it flew up to the top of the barn door where I could keep an eye out. Eventually, while lost in my duties, it flew away.

I wish I had the words to encompass how the experience made me feel or to truly explain why I feel like I am so connected to these tiny creatures. Since moving to Mass, I’ve noticed more dragonflies and have had many small interactions with them, but having that dragonfly hold onto me like that was out of this world.

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Filed under behavior, dragonflies, nature, winslow farm

If not sadness, then what?

I finished watering my garden the other day and went about coiling up the hose. I glanced down and saw a leaf that resembled a fetus or newborn animal. Closer inspection revealed that unfortunately it was a new born bird who’d fallen from its nest. Directly above it was a hole in the side of our house that I’d seen a bird fly into a few days earlier. Devastated, I abandoned my project to attend to the bird. I picked up the tiny body, about two inches long, and placed it on a trowel so that I could look at it up close. Its perfectly formed little body had a tiny little beak and tiny wings that were beginning to sprout the downy feathers that would have covered its entire body during the upcoming weeks. It looked so peaceful, eyes closed, at rest. I was so sad for this little creature. I was just as sad for those it left behind.

I’d noticed one of the parents a few days before flying into the hole. I remember thinking that it was a great place for a nest. It was protected from the elements like the crazy wind that’s been wreaking havoc on our trees. It was hidden away from predators, as the cats in the neighborhood had no chance of getting near it. The mother had sat on her nest, laid an egg and tended to it with her mate close by, waiting to introduce it to the world. The egg hatched, revealing the tiny life.

Then

with the blink of an eye,

it was gone.

What did this mother bird do when she realized her baby had fallen out of her carefully thought out nest? Did she made a sound? Was it quiet? Loud? Drawn out? Did she sit next to her tiny baby? When did she finally accept defeat?

I often think about how animals experience emotion, more specifically how they mourn. We’re told not to attribute human emotions to animals; that they don’t “feel” like we do. Tell that to the dog that risked rush hour traffic to save its friend and dragged it by the collar through the on-coming cars. Or to the cat who tried to bring its mate back to life while people tried in vain to pull him off, viciously attacking their efforts. Or what about the mother in March of the Penguins who cried hysterically over her lost egg and went as far as to try, unsuccessfully, to steal another mother’s egg. Her wailing still haunts me. There are hundreds of examples that have been caught on film by both amateurs and professionals of animals experiencing loss. If not sadness, what are these animals feeling?

I have trouble watching these “mourning” clips that go viral, the Discovery Channel moments that tug at the heartstrings or make me flat out sob. I get sad when I see roadkill, thinking about how lonely the animal must have been during their last moments and who they left behind. These are the thoughts that fill the crevices and jump out at me when I’m feeling my most desolate. I know that animals are not people. That they do not have our cognitive thoughts or our opposable thumbs. But they certainly “feel”. Although anger is different than sadness, it’s still an emotion and to make my point I’m throwing it in here. I often observe my own cats in the throws of jealousy as they brood watching one of the others receives pets and attention. They might not be able to think, “I feel jealous”, but they’re experiencing something and they prove it by smacking the other cat as he saunters by them.

When it comes to loss, perhaps animals are better off not having to experience it exactly like humans do. I certainly wouldn’t wish my sadness on them. But the concept that people project their emotions on animals and that they have none of their own? I’m just not on board with that theory.

I carefully placed the tiny bird in my garden while I dug a hole. I laid it to rest and covered the mound of earth with my birdbath that the parents might visit. And although it probably won’t effect their grief, if they’re even experiencing any, at least it will help ease mine.

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Filed under mourning, nature, photography

A Rare Day Off!

With random vacations occurring for college students and new babies in people’s lives, I’ve had the pleasure of a little down time over the last month. Today has been one of those days. The pet sitting business is kind of odd in the sense that I am technically on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So while I might have a week filled with Monday through Friday midday walks, lots of people go away on the weekends, so most Saturdays and Sundays have something going on. I’ve found that I might have one weekend a month completely free of work. And I try to be as flexible as I possibly can, so when someone contacts me on a Thursday announcing last minute weekend plans and a request for pet care, I’ll be there, even if it’s on that one weekend that I finally had free. But any excuse to hang out with my little buddies works for me.

I love animals for so many different reasons. And I love any animal that crosses my path. Were someone to record my walks, they would find them filled with greetings and conversations. I say hello (or shout across the street) to dogs and cats. I learn dogs’ names when their owners shout at them to stop barking and then call them by it when I see them (this drives one guy CRAZY when I do it. Oh well! His beautiful golden retriever is dog aggressive and when I say his name, he relaxes.) I chatter with the birds in the trees. I comment on the amount of nuts stuffed in a squirrel’s mouth and ask her about them. And don’t get me started on chipmunks. I am fully obsessed with chipmunks! Were a buffalo to meander by, I’d be right there with a wave asking him how his day was going.

Like many people, I also enjoy admiring trees and plants on my walks and visits. I wanted to end this post with a discovery I probably never would have seen had the storm not raged as hard as it did. On one of my drives to the dogs this weekend, amidst the whipping wind and rain, I witnessed a giant tree ripping out of the sidewalk. Its trunk was drooping with the weight and devastation of its new reality. By the time I returned home, it was a defeated arc. Its branches touched the pavement, feeling it with its long green fingers, for the first and last time. I felt my heart breaking as I passed through its arch of doom and gloom.

The next day was sunny and bright and all that was left was a lonely stump jutting out of the sidewalk attached to a broken piece of concrete. The rest of its trunk and lush leaves had been carted away.

Yesterday, I passed the stump. Glancing at it, I gasped, “It has a heart!” I returned home to grab my camera and went back, excited to see if I was correct. Sure enough, right in the middle of the remaining trunk was a beautiful heart. Although I am guessing that the hole is indicative of a problem, it is certainly a unique symbol for the tree to possess. It stood proud and tall for all this time, quietly carving out its treasure year after year. Although I am sad that a frantic storm exposed it, I feel just a little bit changed for having been lucky enough to share its secret.

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Filed under dogs, nature, pet sitting, photography

Sunny Days!

Finally! A beautiful day! We went to the same beach as last time and explored the other side this time. Lots of swimming and wrestling and running around ensued. I even snuck along one of the nikons on this trip.

“It’s my favorite place to be!!!” Chance always sits down in the water and it looks funny every time. This photo fails to capture exactly how silly and cute he looks, but at least it gives you an idea of how happy he is.

Done for the moment, he propels himself out of the water.

Ginger is much daintier and likes to dip just her legs and belly in. Here they are investigating the scene:

Time for a brief ruff and tumble:

Walking in their pack of two, the best buds trundle on down the beach.

Time to go home. “Don’t mind us! We’ll take the wet way!”

Can’t wait till next time with these fantastic beauties.

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Filed under dogs, nature, pet sitting, photography

Dancing in the Rain

Yesterday I took two of my furry friends, Ginger and Chance, to the beach in the rain. I know it sounds kind of odd but they needed to run around and I hoped that the rain would make people think twice about venturing there.

When the parks and beaches are full, I stay far, far away. I’m not the type who goes to a beach or a dog park and stands around chatting with the other owners and caretakers waxing poetic on the dogs. Most of these conversations are filled with unwanted advice, usually given by other caretakers, or those fishing for compliments about their precious cargo. Unfortunately, parks and other public places have become infested with hired walkers who bring six dogs and spend the time missing half of what the dogs are doing and not picking up after them and yet still try to prove how spectacular they are at their job by telling you something you already know and oblivious owners who don’t understand when their dog is playing and when it’s being aggressive. I’ve personally gotten in the middle of fights between dogs to break them up while the clueless owner stands by slack-jawed.

The concept behind these places is wonderful. It frees the dogs from the leashes and lets them release the wild that’s built up inside them. They can meet new friends and romp around with their housemates. Dog heaven! But spending the entire time avoiding these people is exhausting! No thanks. I’ll take a dismal day free of the rif-raf any time.

When we arrived there were two other sets of people and dogs and with that much space on the beach, I was able to walk around admiring the rushing water while only talking to the dogs, happy as clams, making giant footsteps in the wet sand.

Today, however, we are staying in:

I’m not THAT crazy about rain!

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