This is the first of at least five days in a row of animal photos, so I hope you come back.
At this point I may as well just confess that I like taking pictures of animals and plants, especially my own. Like you haven’t guessed. So expect this sort of thing to show up more frequently. Questions and comments always welcome.
The dogs didn’t understand this tug toy at first. It took considerable coaching to get them to grasp that they should be on opposite ends. [April 1]
Maggie, at left, had some of her fur shaved off for recent surgery to remove a 1.5-pound fatty tumor. She weighs 95 pounds to Abbey’s 55, so sometimes the blonde gets dragged across the floor. [April 1]
This poor little squirrel is one of the reasons I keep water and food on the balcony. It has mites, so quite a bit of its fur is missing. [March 31]
Guess who likes watching the squirrels? Abbey has to be reminded not to charge at them. [March 21] Sometimes she gets tired of waiting for them to return. [March 13]
Another big squirrel fan is Daryl, who sometimes stalks them, then settles into pounce position. Today is his 2nd birthday. [April 3]
Black on black.
Generally speaking, black animals are difficult to photograph, often smearing into dark blobs. I thought this dual challenge came out OK.
The context: cat Daryl already was lying on the bed with me (that’s my jean-clad knee at the bottom) when Maggie, the faithful Lab assistant, came to check in. I invited her up onto the bed to hang out while I worked and after brief hesitation, up she hopped. She often does lie on the bed, but never before with Daryl. He looked back over his shoulder at her then laid his head back down, unperturbed.
Yes, they are touching. No, they are not anywhere near the same size – he weighs about 11 pounds to her 97. Perspective is a tricky beast.
Periodically I’ll post a photo of one or more of the household animals for no particular reason. This is one of my favorites, taken June 29.
Daryl and Abbey were born just two weeks apart, on April 3 and April 17, 2014.
Their arrivals here were quite different. After we lost our Brittany and cat, both 11, our deeply mellow black Lab had gone from being the baby of the animals to the only. This would not do.
My husband thought he might like another Lab, yellow this time, or perhaps a golden retriever. We found a happy bouncy girl who was half of each and brought her home at age 10 weeks. She quickly established her digging fervor and her goatlike tendency to perch atop furniture, even after she reached her adult weight of 50 pounds. And after initial suspicion, dear Maggie mothered the newcomer, wrestled with her, set her straight when need arose.
I loved our two dogs, but I missed cat energy. In poking about area rescue websites, I saw a lovely longhaired female but also a lot of photos and desperate pleas about a beautiful black male. He had spent the first 10 months of his life outdoors while his littermates were inside. A woman provided food but not much shelter from mid-Michigan winter, and in February the devoted Chris Morris persuaded her to hand him over.
His life was much improved but took an unexpected turn when a trip to the vet revealed he was FIV+, the first time Chris had ever had a cat test positive. Potential adopters were skittering away. I asked some questions, did some research, and decided he’d be a fine addition, so he joined us a few weeks short of his 1st birthday.
The acclimation period was long. Sometimes noisy. Our older dog had lived with a cat before and after a few deep sniffs took the attitude of, “Oh. One of those. Evs.” The dumb blonde reacted like, “IS THAT A GIANT SQUIRREL? IN THE HOUSE?” And the cat, who had to adapt to not only two huge roommates but this whole “inside with run of the entire house” thing, did a lot of hiding behind furniture and leaping up to the high spots we cleared for him.
All this to say, for them to nestle together watching birds fly in and out of the birdbath was a sweet sight indeed.
Got comments, questions, or stories and photos of your own? Please share them below.
I work at home. But I don’t work alone.
Above is the mellow Lab assistant, Maggie, curled up on the loveseat in about the smallest circle her 85ish pounds can make. Above her is our high-spirited puppy, Abbey, whose parents are a black Lab and a fox-colored golden retriever. (Apparently the whole “fox” thing is controversial in the dog world. We don’t care.)
The occasion for the moment? Watching the mail carrier from his truck a block-plus away, walking the opposite side of the street, past us, down a block and a half, then crossing the street and getting EVER CLOSER, until he’s finally AT OUR HOUSE. MOM! He’s AT OUR HOUSE!
Never mind that the same thing happens six days a week. It remains of great fascination. And while Matt The Mailman likes dogs, he does not like being jumped on, and the dumb white one does precisely that, so she has to stay inside. Plus it’s about 10 degrees right now just off the Saginaw Bay, so it’s not like she can spend very long outdoors anyway, certainly not long enough to watch his whole loop.
Maggie is no less excited about the mail, and when she is outside she wags her whole hind end, sometimes barking deeply in appreciation. Matt has learned that despite how frightening she looks to some people, the only danger is in being licked to death.
At 7 1/2, she is becoming selective about how she spends her energy. When she became the only animal in the house a few months ago, we thought a puppy might perk her up, both emotionally and physically. She did indeed lose weight, and although she never has had a litter of her own, her mothering instincts proved solid.
Here’s something else that happens pretty much every day.
Abbey has entropion, which means her eyelids turn in and the lashes irritate her eyes, causing a steady tearlike drainage. (It’s better some days than others, but if she doesn’t grow out of it in the next few months she’ll have surgery.)
Being an 8-month-old puppy, she also gnaws a lot. So Abbey chews on Maggie’s front leg while Maggie licks Abbey’s eyes and face clean.
Other notes from the photos: Yes, that is a kennel under a table covered by a cloth. Maggie has not been crated for years, but Abbey is still prone to adopt and chew on inappropriate objects, so she is kenneled while we sleep.
And the Eggo box in the top photo? Abbey was given that. I keep a stash, especially handy when some uninterrupted project time is needed. Because boxes are the BEST. THING. EVER. (Mom, are you done with that?)
The Lab assistant
Growing up, I often wanted a dog. I’m not sure why, other than we didn’t have one and, well, didn’t all kids want dogs? I don’t recall the reason given for not having one, but I’m sure a) it was BS and b) it did me no lasting damage.
I remember being around dogs. There was Lucy, my grandmother’s beagle mix. There was Ringo, my grandfather’s beagle, who was the subject of a very bad poem that ended with “poor dead Ringo.” There was my friend’s arthritic Chihuahua that screamed shrilly every time it took a wrong step at the end of the driveway.
At my house, no such luck. We had a chameleon and later a turtle. These are both about the lamest pets imaginable.
Sometime as a young adult I got the idea that I preferred cats, and as a newlywed I acquired two of them. When we bought a house, my Brittany-loving husband got one of those, and I became convinced that I didn’t like dogs. They had to be let in and out all the time and Lord, were they needy. And hyper? Don’t get me started.
Then my son announced that he wanted a black Lab. We protested that we didn’t need a loveseat-sized animal whose care surely would fall to us, but eventually we relented and I learned two things: My son really could and would take care of his dog. And I could and would love her.
Turns out, it’s not dogs I dislike. IT’S BRITTANIES. We are on our second one and I try to calm her by greeting and petting her most days, but I don’t think her temperament and mine ever will meld that well.
The Lab, on the other hand, is the picture of contentment. She is the ultimate companion animal, happy to hang alongside as I attend to … whatever. Outside this is unfortunate sometimes, as I have swung a trowel in my hand into her head more than once; she seems not to notice.
More often, she is encamped next to me on the couch. Sometimes her head slops onto the laptop and she has to be nudged aside; sometimes my foot falls asleep beneath her and has to be dislodged. Sometimes, though, the head or the foot stays right where it is.
Maybe I’ve become a companion animal, too.
There are depressing parts of winter. Sure, those include negative temps and soul-crushing darkness. But there’s also the gray ick of exhaust and people sludge that taints the snow after a while.
So even though I had to be out in it at 6:15ish this morning, I was delighted to see that for once the meteorologists were right, and we had a fresh 3 inches or so of snow. I was the first one to defile some of the roads, and it was a hoot.
When it got lighter, I took what photos I could from my windows and porch, with the help of the ever-faithful Lab assistant.