It is way past time that we introduced our animal friends. They are such an important part of our lives and we love to share them with folks. During the time I have been sharing bits of our life, we have had some comings and goings in the animal department. Earlier, in “The Caregiver”, I talked about the passing of Zedd, the beautiful cat. June brought the arrival of a puppy, who is growing rapidly and chewing up less of our lives now. We also have the chickens, a 6 pound calico whirlwind named Princess Poppy, and our beloved Golden Retriever Libby.
Zedd was here before the others so we will start with him. We don’t judge him for his name, it was the one he came with. One night, a few months after our old indoor cat had passed away, H.H., 2nd daughter and I went out to H.H.’s family ranch for an anniversary party for his aunt and uncle. H.H.’s cousin had been living in the city and had just returned home to help on (and eventually take over so his parents could retire) the ranch. He brought with him a two-year-old cat that he had found and rescued. He couldn’t keep him at the ranch because of the allergies of family members and we couldn’t blame him, look at all that gorgeous hair (sneeze, sneeze, cough, cough). Apparently, H.H.’s family has had us pegged for suckers for quite a while because they knew exactly who to hit up and what to say. “He’s very cuddly, loves to watch TV with you, was declawed and neutered when he found him, he’s perfect for your family…” Yep, we brought him home and he lived with us for 8 years. He indeed was very cuddly, loved to be petted, and needed to be brushed and detangled often. He was fantastic and we loved him. He was massive! His optimum weight was 13 pounds.
About 3 years in to his time with us, he started doing his duty on beds. That didn’t stop and a trip to the vet assured us he was healthy so we put him outside to live. We brought him in twice a day for meals. We fixed up a dog house with a door cover and an electric dog house heater for him in the winter. He did fantastic! At first, I was worried that he wouldn’t fare well or be able to defend himself without his front claws. One day, I came around the house just in time to watch him leap straight up out of a garden where he had been hiding and catch and kill a bird with a snap of his jaws. I didn’t worry about him any longer. He fought with his back claws and he always seemed to fare well in a fight, until that last night before I found him bloody and barely breathing in his house. In his defense though, the tracks the attacking animal left in the snow and the mud were impressively huge. I don’t think it was a tame animal that got our Zedd. Our trusty vet cleaned him up, patched him up, and gave him an antibiotic but he died a few days later despite our best efforts. He was unique.
Next on the scene is our 4-year-old Golden Retriever, Lady Liberty “Libby”. She was born on the Fourth of July but “Yankee Doodle” was already taken. The toy in her mouth actually belongs to the puppy. She is always bringing it to us for a game of fetch. When we refuse to throw it for her by telling her it isn’t hers and to go get her own toy, she drops it and goes to get her own. Just a test to see if we are paying attention and to let that young pup know who is the big dog around here.
Libby loves her many jobs and is very good at all of them. Her job when bird hunting is to scout slightly ahead of the hunter, flush whatever is hiding in there, point it, and when the hunter shoots, she goes to retrieve the bird and bring it back to the hunter. She knows what to do and she enjoys herself very much. She is also a fantastic swimmer and will retrieve over and over again, all the while swimming, never getting her nose wet.
Her year-round job is taking care of her family. Just like Walt Disney’s Peter Pan, we have our own Nana. She gives comfort to the ill or injured, is a constant companion for all work, loves to stand just behind you where you can trip on her when we are in our small kitchen, and sleeps as close to her people as she can get. Her favorite of her humans is H.H. but she loves the rest of us too. She smiles all the time unless she is clearly upset, like when I mow the lawn and put her toys in the garage then forget to get them out again.
Libby doesn’t jump very often, that is good because she hardly ever jumps up on folks but bad because she doesn’t load into vehicles unless she is VERY excited about the trip or can walk into the vehicle. So usually we resort to lifting 80 pounds into whatever we want her to load into. How embarrassing!
Leash training hasn’t been much of a priority due to our locale but she knows enough to get along very well on the trips that she takes with us. Her most recent adventure was a trip to Tennessee to pick up the puppy. By the end of the trip, she remembered all her city manners and was really glad to get home again. We passed Nashville on our trip out so we stopped for a couple of hours on our way back which happened to be during CMA Music Festival. It was amazing what attention Libby and the puppy stole from Luke Bryan as he performed on stage in the middle of the street! Our Libby is a beautiful star and yet she is still so humble about all the fame.
There are always chickens. We don’t keep roosters, it is easier just to have hens. Right now there are 24. A few weeks ago, one of our Polish hens somehow got herself caught on the roost and in her fight to free herself she broke her leg and sadly we had to put her out of her misery. Now there are 2 Polish left. Most of the chickens we have right now are 2 years old with the exception of the Polish who are 4.
We always order our chicks from a hatchery instead of hatching our own. A lot of research goes into the breeds that we pick. They must be a breed that is fairly docile or beautiful or good layers. A breed that meets more than one of those criteria, is one we will get again. It is a lot of fun to learn about different breeds and their colors and habits.
Right now, we have Americanas, Wellsummers, Black Austrolorps, and 2 Polish. We have always had Americanas, mostly because their blue-green eggs are so much fun. They are pretty sassy and will usually peck at me when I reach in their nest for eggs, so I usually don’t unless I’m wearing my gloves. The Welsummers are sweethearts. They lay regularly, cluck gently at me when I gather their eggs and have a beautiful arrow pattern on the their backs. The Black Austrolorps we got for the first time 2 years ago. I must admit they have been a disappointment and I don’t think we will get them again. When they have their feathers, they are beautiful but they usually run around almost naked like the one in the top of the picture with no tail feathers, The only thing that the Polish have going for them is that they are beautiful. They are fiesty, can’t hardly see under that tophat so they strike first and ask questions later , and they’re hit or miss on the eggs. They are beautiful though, so they will make a return appearance.
Together, our flock keep us and many others in eggs and work pretty hard to keep our garden soil in tip-top shape. They must certainly be counted among our animal friends.
This is Poppy! We never know where we will find her or what she will come up with next. She plays inside jack-o-lanterns and climbs the walls to knock off pictures. Every morning she makes a wild run through the house to shake things up a bit. She is a year old, fully grown and weighs in at 6 pounds. In every way, she is the exact opposite of Zedd. Poppy likes to play instead of cuddle. She will terrorize until she wears herself out and then find a comfy corner, chair or basket to curl up in to sleep it off. She really loves evenings when the dogs come in. Sometimes she has them both chasing her round and round the house. We enjoy her energy but sometimes we wonder if we will survive it.
The latest edition to our animal family is Lord Donatello John aka Donnie. He is the reason for our trip to Tennessee and a good part of the reason Libby got her girlish figure back this summer. Donnie is a Golden Retriever/Spaniel cross known as a Dakota Sport Retriever. This combination is also a comfort animal and that is his purpose. In three years when he is finished with A LOT of training, he will be a psychiatric service dog for our youngest daughter. He is smart and sassy and loves playing with Libby and Poppy and in the water. He really likes to sit in laps but like the puppy he is, he doesn’t like to lay down until he crashes there.
There you have them! These are the beloved critters in our life! We really enjoy them and hope you have enjoyed meeting them.