Step Right Up

We live in a nice, middle-class neighborhood.  Unlike many, we actually know and like our neighbors, including the ones who live in the trees, bushes and inside homes.   So that I stay friends with the human kind of neighbors, I want to share a little about a one animal in particular.

There is this cat named “Carnie” who lives with a couple down the street.  I don’t know about you, but until I met Carnie, I never heard of a cat let alone seen a cat that goes for walks everyday.  No leash, no kidding.  Her owners take their dogs for walks and she just follows.  It is the funniest thing to watch.  Without fail, through rain and dew damped grass, she follows the dogs.  Carnie got her name about eight years ago when she just showed up in the neighborhood.  She is white with various colored spots and got the name “Carnie” from the neighbors across the street who likened her to a carnival worker, a “carnie” because she traveled around and was quite colorful.  Carnie soon became pregnant and for the first time, warmed up to the neighbors across the street enough to come in from the cold rain one winter to deliver kittens in their family room.   Carnie wasn’t much for taking care of the kittens as she was destined to return to her carnival life of moving around.  The kittens eventually all got adopted out and the neighbors moved…without Carnie.  It was then that another neighbor took in Carnie.  They gave her a collar so not to be mistaken for one of the feral cats around and strangely enough, she blended in to this family with two  very large, very seemingly frightening dogs.

Like clockwork , everyday Carnie follows her owner and the dogs for a walk…not once, not twice, but four times a day.  She stays about 20 paw steps behind and never looses sight of the dogs or their master.  Every one-in-a-while Carnie ventures back down two houses down to her original “home.”  She lays on the driveway and will approach those who might be walking by.  She is a little bit odd, eccentric, but colorful and friendly, I think Jeni and Brandon gave her the perfect name…Carnie.

Cardinal Rules

We have a bird feeder out back and specifically put black sunflower seeds in it to attract cardinals.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved cardinals.  Maybe it’s because when I was young, we had cardinals that would brave the snow and cold to eat off the bird feeder we had around the house.  I’m also drawn to their beautiful color.  As I grew up, I learned that cardinals don’t always have such majestic color.  The males eventually turn bright red, but the young males and females have more muted color.   In fact, there is much more to cardnals than meets the eye.  There are different types (clades)  of cardinals as seen by “buntings” on their feathers.

On more than one occasion, somehow cardinals end up in our screened in patio area out back.  Perhaps they are drawn to the swimming pool as they may see it as one giant bird bath.  Or, they are curious and somehow find their way in.  Whatever the case, I’m fascinated on how they get out. 

They screech and chirp wildly as they try incessantly to get out of the screen enclosure.  That draws attention of their fellow cardinals on the outside.  Ok, the last four times this has happened that I’ve really paid attention too, it’s always the males or young cardinals getting stuck.  To the rescue comes what seems like a flock of female cardinals to save the day. 

Here is where the “cardinal rules” come in to play and what we can learn from them.

Rule #1…Stay calm.  Ok, for birds that means to chill on a plant branch.  It’s as if the female cardinal says “ok idiot, listen up.  Relax and we’ll think of how to get you out of there.”

Rule #2…Watch out.  Look out for dogs, cats and well intentioned humans.  Dogs and cats are more annoying than anything.  Humans really want to help, but don’t understand how fragile we are.  When it comes down to it, you have to get yourself out of the mess you’ve made but guidance from a pro can help.  Just remember, everyone has an opinion on the best way out.

Rule #3…Pay attention.  Listen to what the experts are trying to say.  In the case of the cardinals, usually three or four are helping.  One sits atop two of the corners of the screened enclosure, another on the ground in the middle of the outside of the screen, and one that flies around giving instructions.  It really is quite fascinating. 

Rule #4…If you get flustered, remember Rule #1.  More often than not, the cardinal stuck inside will calm down and almost make it out and for whatever reason starts back to flying aimlessly around the enclosure bouncing into the screen and getting worn out.  This may happen three or four times before the cardinal starts to process what the others are chirping. 

Rule #5…Use your instinct.  At the edge of the open screen door, one of the cardinals will come and just sit there….like knowing exactly where NOT to go.  The cardinal chirps and chirps in what seems like irritation as if to say, “Hello, hey stupid, the door is over here.”   Then, It is almost like the enclosed bird says “dahhh, the opening is there…watch out….hop to the floor and hop then fly out of the patio.”  As they fly out, the others fly to either scold, congratulate, or check for problems in cardinal language. 

We humans can learn some things by using the cardinal rules.  When you find yourself in a predicament, remember to Stay Calm, Watch Out, Pay Attention, If you get flustered remember to Stay Calm, and finally, Use your instinct.  This is why cardinals rule and perhaps why I truly love them.

A Cool Cardinal Fact…In the 1800s Cardinals were much-sought-after cage birds highly valued for their color and song. Thousands were trapped in the south in the winter and sent to northern markets, and thousands more were sent to Europe. This trade ceased, fortunately, with the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.  (Cool Cardinal Fact  from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)





Dog Daze of Summer

Friends for Life

Bubba and Penny

My husband and I take our dogs Bubba and Penny to the dog park a couple times a week.  And, without fail the dogs just seem to have this “sixth sense” about when we are taking them.  Perhaps it is the tennis shoes or the words “dog park” that give it away.  Whatever it is, they work themselves into a frenzy.  The front door opens and there is a beeline to the car.  Up and in they go, tails wagging, excited barking as if to say “we’re going to the dog park, we’re going to the dog park.”

Once we arrive to the dog park, it becomes an automatic reunion.  Off go the leashes and they are free to run, run away.  They recognize old buddies and welcome the butt sniffs of new friends. Surprisingly, humans and their dogs get along.  When you look out across the dog park, it is like being in a different world…the world of dogs and we are the outsiders.  Dogs RULE the park!

Every trip to the dog park has moments that just fill my heart with joy.  There, represented is every type of person you could imagine…the young, the old, the fat, the skinny, the polished, the unkept, the subdued, the nervous, the aggressive, the excited.  Oh wait, sounds like the dogs.  Yes, I’ve come to think that people do look and act like their dogs in many cases.

Squirrel, did someone say “SQUIRREL?”  Ball, did someone say “BALL?”  Oh, and don’t forget the water.  What is it about the lake?  They won’t go near the pool at home, but lake…they are so there.  And why is it that after the water, it’s let’s go roll around in the sand pit?

The term “dog days of summer” comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, the Dog Star, and its close proximity to the sun was responsible for the hot weather two months out of the year.  Living in Florida, we experience the Dog DAZE of six months of summer.   But that to is coming to an end with fall weather right around the corner.  The dog park changes too.  The dogs are more frisky and their owners stick around a little more since it’s not so hot.

Both of our dogs are loving, faithful companions.  Mutts actually.  One from the pound and one from a homeless camp.  They are not famous dogs like Benji, Lassie or Astro from the Jetsons, but they certainly have the family paparazzi following them around and taking pictures all the time.   Speaking of dog celebrities, our family was trying to think of some good movies with dogs…here are our favorites.  Benji (of course), Homeward Bound, Lady & The Tramp, Beethoven, 101 Dalmatians, Snow Dogs, Cats & Dogs.

Something I found interesting and perhaps not too surprising is that Americans spend more than $50 billion on their pets.  That’s a lot of Snausages!  One look around PetSmart and I know why.  There is everything one would expect to see in a pet store, but then after looking again, there is stuff I never knew existed…doggie diapers and tablets to keep
your dogs from eating their own poop.  Really?  Truth be told, our Bubba needs something to keep from thinking the cat poop is a Tootsie Roll just made for him.  I did ask my vet about that and when he said his dog does the same thing I figured it was nature’s way of helping to clean the litter box.

If you don’t have a dog, borrow a friends’ or just show up and take a look around.  I would recommend Fleet Peeple’s park in Winter Park.  You won’t be disappointed.  What can we learn from dogs?

  • Tolerance.  Unconditional acceptance.  Color, gender, size, breed…don’t judge.  For us humans, take it a step further…race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.  You get the drill.
  • Greet others with a sense of decency and curiosity. I know, I know…the butt sniffing thing is not a decent way to greet other humans.  A handshake and a smile is appropriate though.  And please, no fishy handshakes.
  • Exercise.  Whether it’s running, swimming, jumping around.  Just do it!
  • Enjoy the car ride.  Like dogs being thankful it’s not a trip to the vet. (or for us, the doctor)
  • Don’tbe intimidated by the size or stature of others.  Small dogs think they run the show and big dogs often think they are lap dogs.

And I will leave you with two of my favorite quotes as they relate to dogs and life…

“Be tuff, the dog days of summer can be wuff” and “If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”