Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Imaginary Dogs

April 29, 2015

My dogs are away from home at the moment – they are in France with Andrew and Bella.

triangulated dogs
Le chezeau – newly mown grass and three dogs,

dogs with a plan
where they make their doggy plans,

red oak in spring 2
– and enjoy the spring.

Here in Leamington, meanwhile, I knock on busy people’s doors and interrupt their daily lives to ask them to think about politics.  They are remarkably polite (on the whole) considering we catch them when they’ve just got in tired from work; or they’re trying to cook a meal; or get the kids’ homework done.

I still join my dog-walk in the mornings though: wouldn’t be without the lively conversations and the fresh air on the Eagle.  “Where’s your dogs?” they say.
“Oh, I’m walking imaginary dogs,” – I’m bored with truths.  I have to walk imaginary dogs.  This morning we were talking about a bloke we have all met on the canal path at some time or other.  Big bloke. Tattoos. Scary-looking mastiff-type dog, with a blank white face, always held tight on a short chain lead.  They’re OK though – the bloke is friendly and chatty.  He’s worked in ‘security’ (meaning he’s a bouncer) and he’s a medium, and a ghost-hunter.  He does tours of haunted houses for the public, and he can ask ghosts to leave with a quick prayer.  (Sounds a bit like his day job, only gentler.)  He is utterly, utterly sincere.

I find that I might be walking ghost dogs.
“Yesterday,” I tell my friends, “I was actually walking Morgan.”
“But she ran off, ” says Tim.
Morgan the rescue greyhound, was always in search of a bin-related snack, and had to be chased through the back alleys over and over again.  She could rip open a black bag in no time flat – you’d be amazed how many people throw out chicken carcasses still with loads of meat on them!  She went back to it day after day.  It wasn’t a great thing to do – she had to spread the rubbish fairly widely sometimes, to get to the best bits.  And she knew those little back alleys so well – she could scoot round a corner and be gone in a flash.  She was a younger person’s dog, and excellent exercise – I doubt I could sustain the pace these days.

CNV00020– a slightly skulking manner –

Of course, she too grew old, and didn’t sustain the pace either.

06-04-09_Jill_Morganophora_2

So often when we talk about dogs, the conversation veers towards death.  I am grateful to them for that.

Tomorrow I think I’ll walk Patch.

more about the dogs

July 29, 2013

Thank you everyone for your kind advice and thoughts about Shadow’s ‘bowl rage’, especially to Rosey of Rosmarinus, over in Norfolk, the ever-helpful owner of Shadow’s sire.  Rosey uses a diet for her dogs involving bones and raw meat, which I find a little difficult to manage, even though I agree with her about its advantages.  But I had indeed been falling behind on getting bones in for my dogs.

Yum yum - raw meaty bones.  Shall I give them to the dogs or make a delicious soup stock for myself?

Yum yum – raw meaty bones. Shall I give them to the dogs or make a delicious soup stock for myself?

 

The issue of dominance or hierarchy still seemed relevant, as well.  There is one truly useful website (amongst quite a lot of dross) –  which talks about dominance amongst dogs and how we humans interact with it.  We often inadvertently send our dogs mixed messages about their status, and as a dog ages her status may change – but not necessarily.

 

Like all of us, Bella was young once.

Like all of us, Bella was young once.

 

Based on both of these bits of advice, we have started to boost Shadow’s nutrition and we have also decided to pay a little more attention to Bella, to enhance her status in the pack.  We thought we might take care to feed the dogs with our laid-back lad, Bandit, in between the two females, as a kind of buffer zone.

Even as a puppy he was a mild little chap.

Even as a puppy he was a mild little chap.

 

Lo and behold, on that very first morning, even before we had put any of this into practice, the dogs seemed strikingly happier and calmer.  And that has continued today, as we have put these changes in place.

 

Bandit consistently places himself between the two females, but slightly separate from them.  Does Shadow look like a viable challenger for dominance?

Bandit consistently places himself between the two females, but slightly separate from them. Does Shadow look like a viable challenger for dominance?

 

Now, I don’t believe in canine mind-reading or anything like that, but I can’t help wondering what made the difference to them.

Jill thinks she knows who is in charge.

Jill thinks she knows who is in charge.

Here I am in a quandary – it only looks like a stream.  The dogs understand what is going on, while I am just grinning at the camera.  Heigh ho!

 

Trouble amongst the dogs

July 27, 2013

It is just after ten o’clock at night and there is still some light in the sky.  Behind the roiling mixed greys of the storm clouds some pink lingers from the sunset, and a few patches of sky show pale blue.  Down here on the earth there is still enough light to see by, but it is fading quickly to black.  None of this delicacy could possibly be caught by a camera – and even words are barely adequate.

The dogs are out with me – calm and friendly as usual – with no sign of the row they had earlier this evening.

I am worrying about my dogs – the young female has taken to being aggressive with the older female, who just happens to be her mother.  That relationship means nothing to them of course, though it’s very tempting to try to anthropomorphise it.  The growling and general dissent is mainly focused on food, so we have decided to feed them separately, hoping that that will sort things out.  But I think that the food-attacks are just a symptom of some wider competition.  They don’t always live together – but it’s often enough that they need to get on with each other.

very fine dogs - June

The original hierarchy: Bella front right; our calmly submissive boy, Bandit in the middle; Shadow at the back, ears pricked, getting ready to make a bid for power (?)

I’ve been reading around online.  The problem could be that Shadow is growing up (now 18 months old) and is trying to re-structure the hierarchy, especially as Bella is getting a bit more elderly.  Maybe the fact that Bella has been spayed about a year ago, while Shadow is intact, could be giving Shadow the edge.  Anyhow, all is fine except when they are fed their dinner – and Shadow rushes fiercely at Bella, behaving as if she thinks Bella needs to be driven off.  All the advice says that we should let them sort it out – and perhaps Shadow will end up as the dominant dog.  Bella is very tough, though, and I suspect she will put up a battle. This might not be pretty – or fun for anyone.

Small Murders

July 21, 2013

I don’t often feel murderous .  Sometimes people annoy me so much I’d like to kick them, but on the whole just saying so defuses the rage.  Bystanders and even my own nearest and dearest don’t get this:  ‘Ooh, she needs a good slap!’  I might say.  And then, miraculously, she doesn’t need one any more, just because I said it.  The trick works better if you say it out loud, but I have found that this doesn’t go down well at all with the public at large, so I just keep it inside my own head.  A very few, trusted companions, are allowed to share these thoughts.

All this is really to explain that I am keen on the non-violent life.  I try to avoid harming our fellow creatures, even ants and spiders; I buy meat and eggs fairly sparsely and only from free-range sources.   It’s not due to any religious conviction about the sacredness of life, or anything like that, just a feeling that we are sharing the earth and should try to do the minimum of harm to our co-habitants.

There are two categories of creature for whom I make an exception, and I go after them with bloodthirsty ruthlessness.  For years it was only one, but this year I added a second, and I have to say that I have been particularly successful with it.  That’s why I am posting this: it’s a brag post, really.

One day (years ago now) I was chatting happily to my mother-in-law, when she suddenly clapped her hands together in mid-air and snapped in satisfaction:  ‘Dratted things’.

Does either of these ladies look even slightly murderous to you?

Does either of these ladies look even slightly murderous to you?

This gentle pious relative had just killed a harmless-looking tiny brown moth, and I was amazed.

clothes moth

It seemed a bit random to  me: why a clothes moth, when she was so kind and generous in other ways?    But I had no idea they could be so destructive – until many years later there was a plague of the things – little holes all over my lovely cardigans and T-shirts.  Drawers full of hand-spun wool and raw wool were completely shredded; those bags of nearly-finished knitting had to go out. My kindly mother-in-law was long dead by then, but the memory of her passionate attack gave me permission to go after clothes moths.

They'll even eat carpets.

They’ll even eat carpets.

Luckily, shopping trends have swung full circle and now you can buy mothballs once again.  I tuck them into my drawers, and into my drawers, and they deter moths.  But I still clap my hands at passing small brown moths, and curse in the time-honoured manner.

This is a tiger moth - do not try to kill it.  It is innocent and on the whole too large for random hand-clapping.

This is a tiger moth – do not try to kill it. It is innocent and on the whole too large for random hand-clapping.

 

As anyone who watches American cop dramas knows, one murder leads to another.  A couple of years ago my lovely yellow lily failed to flower.  Somebody must have told me about lily beetles, but that was as far as it went.  The following year I saw that the leaves were being badly eaten – bloody lily beetles again!  This time I researched them.  Lily beetles are beautiful creatures, and very hard to spot.  You don’t really want to kill it once you find it.

Lily beetle: shining like a jewel from the Arabian Nights

Lily beetle: shining like a jewel from the Arabian Nights

 

The advice to gardeners is to crush it.  I found this really difficult- well they were really difficult to find, to begin with and then there’s the emotional difficulty of killing something so gorgeous.  My lilies were destroyed again that year.

2013, and in a new house.  It was now three years since I had seen my lilies, and I could hardly remember what they looked like.  It rose boldly from the pot and made lovely long leaves – then holes started to appear: lily beetle again!  This time, however, I knew to look for the larvae. They hatch from tiny eggs layed underneath the leaves – the beetle itself can hide in the ground and so make itself undetectable.  The larvae are truly disgusting – soft squishy little horrors.  I could only touch them with a tissue, and then squeeze.  You can tell when you’ve squished one properly, all right.

They get bigger and bigger as they pile up their own faeces around themselves.

They get bigger and bigger as they pile up their own faeces around themselves.

And so, every day, I went and checked my plant.  It had become a challenge to keep squishing.  I started to put coffee grounds on the earth as well – maybe that helped somewhat.  But I still hated having to squash the beetles themselves – I had to invoke the death-dealing spirit of my mother-in-law.  She wouldn’t have tolerated them for a moment.  Then there were a few days with nothing to squish.  Then one or two more larvae.  And then nothing at all .  The damage to the leaves had halted close to the buds – which went on to swell and bloom.

They turn out to look like this.

They turn out to look like this.

This picture isn’t of my actual lily – it’s just to give you an idea.  But mine is very similar.  Then in the same pot there came a bonus, for a completely forgotten hosta started to put its little green noses above the earth – very late in the season, but willing to have a go.  It seems that lily beetles like to feast on hostas as well.

the pleasure of the unexpected

a gentle  miracle

 

 


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