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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs - Care and Respect

Hen House Wild Neighbors 2. The Angry Jay

Wild Jays never fly over the house to the backyard’s Hen House pen for a snack of lay pellets, but a few small birds do, even when Lucy and the gang are there.

On the front porch bird feeders, only one Scrub Jay watches and waits for us, but him or her (we can’t tell which) keeps his distance. He doesn’t come in for the peanuts if I wait outside on the porch, but he will snatch peanuts off the porch railing when Don has turned away to fill the hanging feeders.

Years ago two generations of Scrub Jays frequented the feeders, and some took peanuts from our hand, but only if we rested our hand on the fence rail. One Jay would come down from the aspen trees for peanuts, even if I sat down beneath the porch roof to watch. One day I pushed the relationship too far.

While I sat on the porch chair, the Scrub Jay took several peanuts and hid them in the yard. When only one peanut was left on the rail, I got up, took the peanut, and set it on the table beside my chair. When the Scrub returned I showed him the peanut. He hesitated, squawked, flew in, picked up the peanut, and flew back to the railing. Then with a squawk he threw down the peanut and flew off.

The message was quite clear. “Okay,” I hollered. “You win. Peanuts go on the rail.” A few moments later he came back, picked it up and hid it in the front yard. Ever since then his rules for the peanut game have remained firmly in place.

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How the Hen House Turns-Wild Neighbors 1.

(Also in Los Alamos Daily Post April 22, 2014)
On the other side of the yard from the Hen House—on the west side—sits the covered front porch. It is enclosed by a wooden fence topped with a two-by-four railing. On that railing and on the various shaped blocks that decorate the fencing, go unsalted peanuts in the shell, for the jays.

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Scooter--Dogs Dealing with Loss

Young DeeDee & Scooter
It's taken several weeks, but Scooter is settling into a new routine without her life-long sibling companion.
Now on The Los Alamos Daily Post
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The Puzzle of Animal Consciousness

Why can't Bobbi goose accept the fact that I'm going to be in her pen every day? I'm I'm just filling her feed and water dishes. Why all the honking? The Hen House continues its blog here at the Ladaily post.
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DeeDee--An Impossible Dilemma

DeeDee Feb.26, 2014

DeeDee was an exceptional dog--intelligent and loving, with integrity to be admired. She was taught not to bark, so she did not complain, though it became obvious that she was in a great deal of pain near the end of her life. A brief article in the Daily Post takes a look at the dilemma many dog owners face. I'll be writing about her life in blogs to come. DeeDee--An Impossible Dilemma

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Butch, Coxswain of the Mahan-A WWII Memoir

Coxswains Bill and Butch 2-2-45
Published today in the Los Alamos Daily Post--The story of the cocker spaniel Butch and the crew of the World War II destroyer Mahan, sunk in the Pacific on Dec. 7, 1944 in Ormoc Bay, Philippines.
Butch's story
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The Power of Story--A Whole New Mind Set

Bobbi, Lucy and Ms. Khaki

It sinks in gradually--the power of your daughters' stories, as they approach and cross society's invisible line at 50. Suddenly you realize they see you as an elder citizen, one who needs to consider what to do with all the scrapbooks, the geese and ducks that will probably outlive you, the closets that have accumulated too much forgotten Stuff.

And the dogs are failing. Scooter still enjoys patrolling the yard while the birds are out, but DeeDee can barely manage the back stairs. She still enjoys her biscuit and licking the pan after dinner, so she isn't ready to quit yet. Neither are we, but we have faced that fact that we will not live forever. time to downsize.

Okay, says I, get moving. Research the options for Life Care (link to CCRC guidelines), update the will to include goose care, and Throw Out Stuff You Haven't Used in Twenty Years. Thirty? Forty already?

What fun--the cleaning-out-closets bit. I found some great stuff to give the granddaughters, had lovely moments of discovery with daughter Shawne pouring over old news clippings she didn’t know existed. One day I found Treasure True. I tried on all the shoes in one closet and discovered most of them still fit.
Out went the ones too tight on my big toe. I focused on why I hadn’t worn this sweatshirt of that pair of pants, and came to the conclusion they were not the old friends I thought they were. They had shrunk or something. They were clothes I didn’t much care for, had never worn, ad would not fit into the closets of potential life care retirement homes.

What a relief this new mind set is. We’ve given ourselves five years to make the transition to a less-frantic older age, and I can with glee look forward to the next closet. How much useful stuff will I find to give away to people who might really use it? Then there’s the satisfaction of showing off my garbageing talents to a long-patient husband, hoping for fifty years that I would one day be able to shut my bedroom closet door. It’s so beautiful. He “ooed” and “awed” for at least ten seconds at the cleanly neat look of it.

Now—don’t ask me about the file cabinets and book shelves. Enough is never enough. I feel I must sit out while the small ducks take their morning bath. Hawks can probably spot an ageing dog. And these gorgeous blue sky mornings are not to be missed.

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A Wedding To Be Thankful For

The happy couple

Repeated from November 27, 2012
One more quote from "1001 Funniest Things Ever Said."
(Hamilton Books) From Eddie Cantor : "A wedding is a funeral where you smell your own flowers." Well, not quite.

In this season of holidays, I remember our New Years Eve wedding. I really enjoyed it, in spite of everything that happened, which, luckily, struck me funny at the time. It was a great garden party Ma and Pa and Auntie Flo threw, even though (Number 1) the latter beloved aunt got all upset because I wanted to be married, not in church, but in my parent's house, just like Ma did (because their father was ill at the time.)

Number 2: When the green velvet dresses arrived, my bridesmaid Ingrid split a seam (the dress's seam) getting into it. Third: A raisin (or something) got stuck in my front tooth as I was about to descend the stairs into the living room to meet my bridegroom. (Luckily, bridesmaid Sally discovered it and plucked it out before I hit the stairs.) Fourth: When it came time to read Corinthians about love, I could see that the minister's secretary had simply printed the reference numbers on his notes, so we lost that part of the ceremony. You'd think he'd know that by--oh well. Fifth: We had written our own vows, a hugely rebellious thing to do in the fifties, so I could hear our mothers holding their breath until that was over. Sixth: My cousin forgot to bring colored film, so all our wedding photos are candids in black and white. The 16 mm movie, I think, was in color, but it has turned to sharp plastic shards by now. And Seventh: The wedding cake seemed to be made of cardboard, so we couldn't find a way to slice a bite to feed each other. Some nice relative probably cleaned up the mess.

All that made for a very relaxed garden party. I had a ball seeing college friends out of context. Even the uncles didn't get into a fight. And Don, my groom, was in such a state of shock, he survived the ordeal. all he had wanted to do was to give me a ring, but then the dishes started arriving. He'd given me nose drops before our first date, so I knew this was the man for me. He's still in a state of shock, as we write haiku for our 55th college reunion, but I know he'll survive because he knows I think he'll be the handsomest old guy there. Our glorious 50th wedding anniversary on Tortola is long past.

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A Review by Don Neeper-- The Spirit Level

The greater the disparity in income, the more dysfunction a society has in multiple characteristics, including infant mortality, social mobility, literacy, AIDS, homicide rate, degenerative diseases, teenage births, trust, and status of women.
See the complete Blog 18 by Donald Neeper at
his web site.
The Spirit Level

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A Review of Grasshopper Dreaming by Jeffrey A. Lockwood

There have been no grasshoppers in our yard since First Turkey did them all in 35 years ago. Maybe that's why this title caught my attention. Then its thoughtful consideration of our lives and their meaning caught my soul. <
Grasshopper Dreaming: Reflections on Killing and Loving>
by Jeffrey A. Lockwood, Boston, Skinner House Books, 2002.

It’s a rare book, only 138 pages long, that becomes a treasure. I marked thirty-five of those pages because they contained quotable quotes.

Jeffrey Lockwood begins by taking us deep into the Wyoming prairie to watch grasshoppers doing nothing, just being, most of their time. Perhaps we should be called “human doings,” not “human beings,” he suggests. Then he leads us seamlessly into observations about complexity and “...what science cannot fathom, nature still manages to exploit.” Before we realize it, he has led us full circle to ask, “What is a grasshopper good for?’ and concludes with the timeless answer: “...we value our children...because of who they are,” not what they do.

As we learn the details of Lockwood’s work as an etymologist, defending farmland against hordes of grasshoppers, he illustrates his dilemma of what it means to kill. “Taking life, like giving life, can be a sacred act.” Sometimes an essential act, if we are to live.

We watch as Lockwood teaches his children about his job killing grasshoppers, while capturing and releasing insects he finds in his house. In either case, he feels that his obligation is to “...mitigate their potential pain.”

The author notes our need to control as we confront nature’s “absolute indifference” to our existence, encourages us to “...contribute to moving human society through this phase of self-destruction”, and ends with a treasure chest of quotable quotes about the complementary nature of science (how we came to be) and religion (why we came to be).

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