Abby, the dog who moved into our house and hearts July 5, the last time I wrote*, has gone through a transformation and blossomed into a confident stalker of rats and squirrels. Being a retriever breed, she is sometimes patient in her watching and waiting, moving slowly, one paw at a time, other times, she is quick on the draw, as she was the day a confused rat ran right up to her. In the seven years we did not have a dog we became accustom to wildlife, always present just beyond the yard, becoming more comfortable hanging out closer to the house. Our yard, a small oasis in, and extension of, the surrounding woods, became part of this wildlife haven we live in, a chunk of woods backed by acres of timber land, a rather vast undeveloped area in a county becoming more and more developed.
The upside of increased wildlife closer to home has been chipmunks on the porch, eating sunflower seeds out of my hand, deer wandering through (no major damage, just a few nibbles, I notice they prefer native plants when available, and we have lots available!) and feeling the closer presence, and odor, of smaller mammals such as skunks, raccoons, etc. The downside of no domestic pets has been rats getting into poultry houses and nesting under the house, (a problem creating a lot of work for Mike a few years ago), and even squirrels getting too bold and often destructive of feeders, etc.
Abby, after letting the squirrels know free food under the bird feeders came at a price….vigilance on their part, readily pointed out to us a new rat nest under the house, once more Mike had to tear out insulation, replacing it and covering it this time with plywood.
I was concerned how a domestic dog would impact the increased wildlife visitations. But Abby seems to know who the problem critters are and who to just give a little notice to. After a few curious chases of chipmunks, she actually watched (albeit through the screen door) as one sat on the porch and ate huckleberries last week. Even the squirrels require less attention now that they know she is on to their shenanigans. A deer, just beyond the meditation building, did not draw her attention, she likely did not see it, but she has a very keen sense of smell. Ignoring such a visitor may be wisdom on her part, there are limits to what a miniature poodle should consider stalking! Being a small dog, her own safety, and failing eyesight, means she is not out at night, she does not even like being out in the evening light unless she is with us. In her absence, a raccoon took advantage of an open coop door and made a meal of our beloved rooster Studdily. The hens and we are grieving.
Perhaps there is a balance, Abby living in harmony with some of the wild ones, letting others know they now share space with her. As the fall migrations of young raccoons and skunks, forced out of their parents territories, bring more of them into her territory, we will see just how wise she is!
She has made herself at home, considering the first 9 years of her life, coming from a backyard puppy mill, if she got outside at all, she was limited to a residential, more urban yard. At first she did not want to walk our forested trail, now she will follow a scent into brush over her head (something our short-legged Corgi wouldn’t do!)
It has been a pleasure and honor to watch an animal ‘come into her own’ and discover who she is. (Now if she would learn to behave in public around other dogs! That is another Abby story!)
* A personal update for those who have asked: Yep, it’s been a long time since I wrote, what sort of blogger goes two months without a peep? A stressed one! A summer of light-headed dizziness and head pain has limited computer time and sent me searching for answers. Tried cranial sacral therapy, saw doctors and physical therapists….not the way to spend a beautiful sunny summer! Wrapping up mom’s house, cleaning it out, getting it ready to sell, and our weekly lunch visits with mom, also has kept me busy. Allergic reactions to Abby at first added to the stress, but a better diet changed her body chemistry and my body got the message…..she is here to stay! We have adjusted, some days better than others.