Category Archives: pets

Death, Marsupials, Swords, and Google

Death is something I’m just not good at.  I don’t mean dying.  I might be very good at that, hell I might be the best at it.  We don’t know yet.  Hopefully not for a while.  But death as in dead bodies.  Or even the idea of something ceasing to exist.  It gives me the willys.  Maybe if I’d taken up hunting or worked in a butcher shop I’d get over it, but for now, ugghhhhhhlehhhhhagagagh.  Yuck.  I’ve even considered becoming a vegetarian because sometimes while eating I start thinking about my food as dead animal flesh and  just about puke in my mouth.  It’s an issue. 

Unfortunately I’ve found that sometimes death is inevitable, and chances are your going to see it.  I’ve managed to avoid it as much as possible.  Besides seeing my poor cat Mocha dead I have very little experience with those who have “ceased to be”.  While working as a maintenance man for an apartment community I dreaded entering an apartment to find a dead resident.  That does happen by the way, all the time.  It happened to some of my coworkers at another property in fact.  Not to me.  Thank god. 

I’ve found that my dogs don’t have the same aversion to death.  Making something that is running away into a chew toy is high on their list of priorities.  A successful grab makes them so happy its hard to be mad at them.  I wish we could get a little more Disney around here and maybe sing some songs with the local rodents but alas, they prefer biting and shaking. 

Late one summer night I let the dogs out and instantly there was crashing in the bushes.  The dogs dove right in, snarling and teeth snapping.  Lilly my black lab popped out with her head held high, holding something gray and wriggling.  Before she ran out into the night I saw a long hairless tail whipping about.  My first thought was, “Oh thank god it wasn’t a cat,”  my second was, “Ugh a possum, gross.” 

I managed to get the other dogs in after some shouting and threatening.  Lilly wasn’t having it though.  She was off playing with her new friend.  I find myself once again in a position where I’m going to embarrass myself by admitting my behavior.  Ah well.  I yelled for her to come back for a minute.  Then I went to the back window of my home, and with the use of a flashlight, tried to locate her in the darkness.  I saw her pawing at a limp pile of fur.  She barked at it a couple of times and then decided it had become too boring to bother with.  In a minute she was at the glass slider, mouth full of course gray hair, thrilled with her adventure.  Again gross.  That’s just what I want, filthy possum hair all over the place.  I sent her straight to her cage. 

I went back to the window with my flashlight. I prayed that it was up and wandering off.  Of course not though, it lay where she’d tossed it.  I could just make out the fuzzy curve of its back and it’s rat like tail.  I watched for a while (don’t ask me why), and then spent some time thinking about the situation.  I couldn’t leave it.  I couldn’t have the gf remove it.  I do have some pride (and she may have picked up a rabbit the month before).  I wasn’t going to call animal control either(the pride thing again).  But I really didn’t want to.  I mean really didn’t.  I mean stomp my feet and throw a fit didn’t want to.  After a few minutes I gave in to the inevitable.

I left the house armed with a shovel, rake, bucket, trash bag, flashlight, and thick leather gloves.  I’d put on jeans, long sleeves, and boots.  I might have had to do the unpleasant chore but I was going in prepared.  If I had owned some type of protective mask I would have put that on too. 

The night was cool and breezy with very little moonlight.  The leaves of the giant maple trees in my back yard sounded like distant waves.  The beam of my flashlight whipped back and forth over grass that hadn’t been mowed in too long.  Suddenly there it was, limp and still and very much dead.  The way the light struck the possum was… well it was creepy ok?  Its white face glowed and its eyes were beady, black, empty.  It’s pink lips curled back in a snarl showing white needle teeth.  I turned around and went back on the deck.  I needed some more time to think.

After a few minutes of motivational self talk and deep breathing exercises I headed out for round two.  The possum lay there, looking like some little hell spawned demon sent to test my manhood.  I was determined to remove this carcass from my property.  That’s what I’d taken to calling it in my head.  A carcass.  I crept up on it from the back, so it wasn’t staring at me, and dropped my trash bag.  Taking my shovel I stretched forward and slowly, slowly I touched it.  And its stupid little hairy side moved slightly.  I yelled something that rhymes with, “FUDGE TREE!,” dropped the shovel and swiftly retreated. 

So I was back inside, at the window with the flash light.  It was still laying there.  My nightmare had become… well, a worse nightmare I guess.  It seemed that I was faced with a new and much worse situation.  That of killing this creature myself.  I considered letting the dogs out to finish it off, but realized that was a horrible idea for so many reasons.  Images of me beating this thing to death with a shovel were bringing me damn close to tears.  It seems that my home is short on killing tools.  I don’t have any guns (except for the tons of guns I keep in case someone breaks in, you hear that you robbers?) and there really isn’t any other way to make a good clean kill.  For a moment I considered bloodying my replica sword but the image of skewering a possum on my blade was so ridiculous and weird.  I turned to a much more modern weapon.  Google.

I looked up “my dog got a possum” and was greeted with tons of stories.  Evidently this is part of being a dog owner.  I read all sorts of tales.  In fact I got so caught up in them that I managed to chill out a bit.  And I was learning.  Possums excrete a foul-smelling substance when attacked.  Well that explained why Lilly was licking her chops and looking ill.  I made a mental note to let her out and get her a drink as soon as possible.  Possums have too low a body temperature to harbor rabies.  Also good to know.  Things were looking up.  Then I saw it, a fact most everyone knows but which had slipped my mind in all the excitement.  Possums play dead.  They’re not just good actors either.  They actually go into a little coma.  Their hearts barely beat and they hardly breath.  “Oh please,” I thought, “please make the possum be faking.”

I got up and went to the window.  My flashlight found the trash bag, and unbelievably there was no possum next to it.  I quickly scanned the rest of the yard.  My tools and a couple tufts of hair were the only evidence that anything out of the ordinary had taken place.  I said a quick “thank you” to the man upstairs and went to bed feeling down right cheery.

That possum doesn’t know how close it was to getting beat, crushed, stabbed or impaled by medieval weaponry.  Instead modern technology, in the form of the worlds foremost search engine, saved it’s life.  Not to mention my poor sensitive mind, I don’t know how I would have come back from that.  Thanks google!  It was too close though.  I’m terrified that the time is coming where I might be faced with having to put an animal down myself.  I’ve had nightmares about it.  I read a short story that addressed that topic, I believe by Stephen King, and it was horrible!  I’m getting a gun. (Besides my hundreds of robber shooting guns which are always loaded and close at hand.)

P.S. I know I’m a big baby, I told you I was no good at death.  I keep this blog anonymous for a reason.  It keeps me honest.  If I wanted to make myself look cool and tough I could, but where’s the fun in that?


Bird Conservation: Now with Betrayal, Wrath and Forgiveness.

If your going to know me at all one thing you must be made aware of is my love for animals.  My whole life I’ve had pets, and without a doubt some of my best friends have been of the K9 variety.  I was lucky enough to have parents that allowed my sister and I to embrace our passion for animals.  At various times we had dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, a real pig, horses, fish, tadpoles, a newt, and we rescued orphaned lambs multiple times.  I learned so much from my experiences with those creatures.  I remember each and every one and my heart aches to think of those that have passed, including the ones I will tell you about here.

The idea started due to a very interesting neighbor we had.  I remember him as a rugged, hippy, outdoorsman but I can’t be sure that’s accurate.  I was very young.  I can tell you for sure that he had a possum in a live trap at one point and that creepy looking thing made me pretty nervous when it started hissing.  I can also tell you that he had a dog  and I remember it playing with me in the snow a few times.  And I can tell you that he hatched and raised pheasants which he released into the wild in an effort to  increase the population of the birds.  There was a chicken wire pen built behind his home and I would often wander over to stare.  Over the months the pheasants would grow and begin trying to fly within their enclosure.  Eventually he would open the gate and shoo them into the field, thereby making the pen available to the next batch of birds.  It was all pretty fascinating to a kid.

A few years and a move later my mother came in to the living room with an unusual carton of eggs.  We were thrilled to hear that we were going to be raising our own batch of pheasants.  The eggs were placed in a white styrofoam incubator.  The incubator had a clear plastic window on top which allowed us to peer down inside.  The whole setup was wonderfully exciting.  We made sure that everything was just right for our unborn chicks.  Unfortunately after setting up there’s not much to do for almost a month.  Which in kid time is equivalent to forever.  But we kept at it, turning the eggs, keeping the temperature and humidity right.  In the basement we built a small pen with a feeder in the middle and straw on the floor.  We were as ready as we could be. 

This is one of my favorite memories of being a kid.  I was looking down at the eggs one day, through the little window, when something shot across my field of vision.  I yelped and hopped back, and then, pulling myself together, leaned forward once again for a better look.  There was a small yellow and black chick in there, running around on top of the eggs.  After a moments thought I decided to take it to its new home.  I slowly opened the top, reaching down and gently wrapping my fingers around the tiny ball of bones and fluff.  The incubator was in my parents room on the second floor and the pen was in the basement.  I went down the flights of stairs as carefully as I could, carrying the chick out in front of me.  As soon as I had it safely in its new home I turned on the heat lamp and tore back upstairs.  Sure enough two more chicks were running around in the incubator and I saw beaks poking through the shells of many other eggs.  I didn’t feel confident taking two at a time so I grabbed one and ran for it.  By the time it was deposited and I was back upstairs I was breathing hard, but there was no time to rest.  One after another the newly hatched pheasants were transported.  Eventually there was just a couple of chicks left stuck halfway out of their eggs.  I wasn’t supposed to help them, but I did.  I couldn’t bear to watch them struggle.  After those guys made it to the pen I stared at the remaining eggs for a while.  They didn’t seem to be doing anything and eventually I left.  At first I would check back frequently, and then not so frequently.  They never did hatch.  I guess they were duds.  I wasn’t too choked up about it, I had a whole pen full of chicks to stare at. 

Over the next few weeks the chicks grew rapidly.  It wasnt long before signs of feathers popped up on their little bodies.  We got to work on their flight pen, where they would grow to adulthood.  This was just a tall chicken wire pen out near the barn, big enough for them to spread out and move around as they grew.  The day of the transfer came quickly and the whole family was excited to get our pheasants into their final residence.  We’d worked hard on building it and it was perfect for their needs. 

We carted the birds out and sat watching them for a bit.  Things weren’t going as smoothly as we would have liked.  Instead of exploring their new situation they were just freaking out and throwing themselves at the fence.  They didn’t seem to understand that there was a barrier there.  It wasn’t hurting them and we weren’t too worried.  We figured it would take them a while to settle in.  What we didn’t figure on was our dogs. 

We were the owners of two wonderful dogs.  An older Cocker Spaniel (Mr. Snugs), and a young Golden Retriever (Alexander Casapalus Gold: Alex).  Unfortunately these are bird dogs.  I don’t know how to put it except to say that when they were let outside they went nuts.  I watched my two sweet dogs turn into blood-thirsty monsters in an instant.  They came charging up to the pen, jaws slavering.  I saw a pheasant stick its head through the fence only to have my beloved, gentle Alex bite it and pull it off.  We were all screaming.  The dogs had no interest in listening to us.  We tried to get in their way but they just ran around us.  When we’d go after one the other would race in.  Instead of staying in the center of the pen, out of the reach of the dogs, the frightened birds threw themselves against the fence in an effort to escape.  My mother realized it was hopeless and screamed at my sister and I to get inside, where our fragile little minds wouldn’t be maimed by the sight of our chicks being ripped to pieces. 

Some time later my parents stumbled in.  They had managed to get the dogs in the kennel finally.  My mother explained to me that it was in the dogs nature to do what they did, and that they weren’t bad.  She told me the birds that died had died so quickly that there was no pain.  Moms are great for that kind of stuff; making the most horrible experiences tolerable.  I had not forgiven my dogs though and I planned to teach them a lesson.

 I went out to the barn in a rage.  I came out with a horse crop and stomped towards the kennel.  I didn’t care if they were bird dogs, they would learn to listen when I said “stop”.  They had the nerve to leap about and wag their tails as I approached.  I slapped the crop against the gate as hard as I could and they jumped back, realizing that I wasn’t here for games.  I opened the gate and entered, closing it behind me.  I slapped the crop on the wooden floor. “You killed them!”, I screamed. “Why would you do that! Your bad dogs! I hate you both!”  I raised my weapon.  They wagged their tails timidly.  I looked at Alex and he grinned his gorgeous Golden grin.  There was no evil there.  I dropped to my knees and hugged him tight against me, crying into his soft coat, shamed by what I had almost done. 

We managed to release nine pheasants into the wild.  They didn’t want to leave and I spent the day chasing them off the property.  It was good to see them go.  They turned out to be nasty, dirty things.  We decided we weren’t bird people.  It was a great learning experience though.  Besides witnessing the life cycle of the pheasant I now knew that dogs were not people, and in fact what separated us from animals was our ability to deny our basic urges and control our behavior.  I was able to come to terms with the idea that an animal can not be evil.  Only humans, with our ability to decifer right from wrong, can achieve that.