Category Archives: Animals

Saturday Morning

It’s such a beautiful October morning. It’s 73 now, which is hard to complain about. It’s overcast and the wind is blowing, eddying the leaves across the unkempt parking lot. It’s difficult to not be introspective standing on the landing observing it.

I’m working hard to remember all the things I have to be grateful for. I’ll return to work soon, which is both a blessing and a concern. My current tally for medical bills is 65-70K. It’s better to have the bills than to not have woken up after emergency surgery – there’s no doubt about that! It will wipe me out, of course. This not only reminds me that I wish we all had universal health care, but that any of us, at any time, can be subject to the caprice and whims of our bodies and the universe. I’m foolish because I’ve preached this lesson for years, to people who privately didn’t believe it. Everything is eventual.

My cat Güino is taking his job as a litter-scatterer very seriously, using his large paws to trap a surprising amount of litter. Previously, he stalked around on carpet. Wood vinyl floors start to look like a sandy beach with a nervous cat prowling around exploring. He’s getting old, but I’m considering teaching him to walk on a leash. I know, good luck, right? I have a neighbor who walks his cat on a leash like a dog. Either that or I’m high from all the cannabis wafting around here.

The other picture is a screenshot of some of the wi-fi networks. I have a “Stepbrothers” fan, as well as a fan of… hazy oblivion. “Porn Freak” comes up regularly, too. Noticeably absent is the drug dealer who always finds a place in most apartments. “Find Jesus” popped up twice, perhaps in response to, and as a reminder of, the others. I’m going to have to change mine again. I’ll pick something boring. 🙂

The third picture is of one of the two windowsills I completely redid to not only fix the horrid condition of the previous sills but also to expand and support a wider sill for plants. And now, fortuitously, a prowling cat. The backside of the apartment complex is indeed a wilderness. I’m glad I live on the second floor. You’d have to be crazy to live on the bottom level. I’ll have to be creative in the big front window. Previously, I built a privacy blocker for the bottom of the large front window, which is just a foot off the floor. I flipped it so that Güino can perch there if he wishes. I’ll have to get creative to recruit more birds to the feeder. My neighbor has a monopoly on all of them with the draw of a vast variety of plants and feeders. Güino is accustomed to up-close and personal views of plants, squirrels, and birds. I’m sure my ex-wife is going to get up and miss seeing him at the various vantage points of the old house. The squirrels, however, will probably enjoy the privacy.

The last picture is of Güino perching behind the desk and on the flipped window guard. It’s a contrast having a black and white tuxedo cat in comparison to all the colors here.

Love, X

Güino Returns To Me

Reluctantly, my ex-wife Dawn decided it would be better for Güino the tuxedo cat to come to stay with me in the apartment. We adopted him from the Springdale Shelter when he was very young. When I first moved here, even though he’d never been here, I walked in the door expecting him to run to me. When I lived in Springdale, it was a ritual. He’d run up and I’d scoop him up and hold him like a baby. He’s 13.5 years old now and weighs 9.9 lbs. I already ate tuna for supper so that he could have the juice. It’s a gentlemen’s agreement we’ve shared for his entire life. Dawn gave me about 12 packets of treats, too. Güino trained us to dispense treats constantly.

The picture of me is on the way over to my old house. I hadn’t been there since I left. I put on my cat and fishbowl brooch for good luck. When I went inside, Güino looked at me strangely. It’s true I probably look a lot different. It’s likely he thought I was gone forever. I picked him up and held him like a baby. I didn’t take a picture when I left because I was in tears.

Dawn gave up a lot letting me have the cat. She was concerned people would think poorly of her for letting me take Güino. No one should think that, and not just because I’m the selfish and lucky recipient. If something happens to me, he should go back to her. I’m not being maudlin; surgery refreshed my memory of how easily any of us could go without any warning.

Güino crescendoed his caterwauling as I drove.

It was surreal releasing him into the apartment.

He’s still anxious. If I sit still, he stretches out near me, waiting for another rub. I rolled him with high-quality lint rollers and a fur brush.

If I keep petting him, he might go bald.

We’d be twins.

Thanks, Dawn. I’ll try to keep him safe and loved.

Love, X

Do Birds Have Surnames?

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I recently put up 2 initial birdhouses. Soon, there will be several more.

For the first, I watched as a small bird began tentatively investigating the house I attached to a peculiar neon jungle green ‘tree’ I created.

I named this tiny bird “Shouty,” given its long birdsong, followed by an odd series of clicks. It would be easy to identify by picture – but I don’t want to.

In its first few attempts, Shouty struggled to get the pieces of stems and twigs through the tiny opening of the birdhouse. It reminded me of those videos where the dogs confusedly attempt to get fetched sticks through the opening laterally. Like those labs, the bird eventually learned to turn its head. Since then, I’ve watched it push through stems and twigs that were 8 inches long.

While it is interesting to know the bird’s name, it’s not necessary. The birds don’t know their human-conferred names. “Pecker,” or “Swoopy,” and “DragonBrid” are more entertaining forms of naming, anyway.

Merlin, Audobon, and others provide incredibly accurate apps to help those interested to identify the birds they see. Song Sleith (and others) allow you to identify the birds around you using their songs.

My point is that while I am fascinated by the names of birds, they don’t add to my enjoyment of watching them. At times, trivia related to specific birds entertains me but is secondary to watching them jump, swoop, and navigate their environments.

In short, I’m a bird moron and I like it that way.

P.S. My backyard project will never be finished. It already looks different. The tree-patterned hanging light I bought from Amazon turned out to be one of the prettiest things I’ve accidentally come across.

Like Butter, Squirrel Edition

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As ordained in the rituals of life, I passed part of the early spring doing futile battle with the encroaching squirrels. Most of them trespass into this area and my yard without even obtaining tourist visas, as all the trees here are quite young. The bird feeders are stationed up front, where we can stare out the windows, amused by our offended cat firing himself at the glass like an artillery shell as he notes invaders there. I’m waiting to see what our cat Güino will do if and when he breaks through the glass and finds himself face to face with a tree rodent. My guess is that he’ll shriek and hurl himself back inside the safety of the house.

As the hummingbirds and wild birds diminished, I removed the feeders. Given the jungle-like state of the properties behind me, I can feed and enjoy the wild birds as they amass along the dense brush there. One day it occurred to me that I might tempt the squirrels on their own turf. I started by dumping cereal, popcorn, bread, and any other food item I thought the squirrels might enjoy.

When I bought this house, the builders foolishly tried to avoid clearing the trees along the property line. I insisted and they begrudgingly removed them, leaving one wide stump jutting from the fence line. That stump serves as an accessible table for the wildlife. The cardinals and finches sometimes swarm from the brush by the dozens. It always delights me. Instead of using a feeder, I sometimes scatter an entire bag of bird seed in the area.

In the 3 years, I’ve lived here, I’ve used the narrow sliver of the backyard by the fenceline to throw any food that could potentially be eaten. Whether for the birds, squirrels, or Sasquatch, the consumer wasn’t my concern. We have a couple of cats of undetermined ownership who visit us and say “Hello,” too.

One larger squirrel, one mistrustful of even his own bushy tail, began jumping down in huge leaps to observe me as I hurled food at the fence. I put out a mess of popcorn and an entire stick of butter as an offering of peace. After a few minutes, I peered through the slats in the kitchen door and noted that the reluctant squirrel had propped the entire stick of butter at an angle – and was busy chewing it with gusto. I could almost hear him smack his lips. The squirrel’s name is now Splat Albert due to the fact of his size and in the event of a fall, it’s going to be a quick demonstration in mass and gravity as he plummets to the ground. While I can’t testify that Splat Albert single-handedly consumed the entire stick of butter, I believe he did.

Over the next few weeks, I began to leave more sticks of butter, followed by entire jars of nuts. The place on the stump seemed to be our DMZ. I learned that Splat loves grapes, watermelon pieces, broccoli and a huge variety of other foods. I think I found an equal opportunity eater.

It seems that Splat Albert has forgotten our previous Feeder Wars. One possibility is that the butter has clogged his tiny arteries already. Another is that he is enjoying his adventure as he does the “Before vs. After” conversion in reverse; instead of becoming sleeker and healthy, he has surrendered himself to the diet I’ve prescribed. If he continues to eat entire jars of nuts and butter at this rate, I may need to climb up the tree and place him on the upper perches where his nest resides.

For now, Splat Albert is once again happy, as I poured another jar of nuts for him today, followed by a stick of butter. If I open the door, he’ll excitedly chirp at me to come no closer.

There are those who will say, “You can’t feed squirrels THAT!” To be clear, I’m not feeding them anything, nor setting the table for them as they choose their own menu. I’ll admit I’ve had many laughs, watching the squirrels (and Splat in particular) slowly grow in girth. I’ve put away my pink Daisy BB gun, the one previously used to frighten the squirrels as they slithered up and down my bird feeders. Splat fails to see the butter as a weapon. Perhaps he knows that a domestic food supply and absence of a road will lengthen his lifespan considerably, even if he becomes too fat to enjoy it. Regardless, I’m letting Splat choose his own diet, one free of BBs.

The picture is of one of Splat’s neighborhood encroachers, a squirrel which squeals in terror if Splat jumps from the trees above. It’s a “Before” picture.

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This is one of our feline visitors. You’ll note that Splat made a hasty exit from the stump. He’s hiding in the top of the bush, although it’s impossible to see him perched there, watching the cat.