Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Three Amigos

The 3 Amigos title final version 3.29.16

I have my best friend, Cheryl, who is a kind, generous, witty, and otherwise wonderful human being. But I also have a trio of animal best friends, two dogs, and a cat. And this woman’s furry best friends are best friends.

Like millions of households, mine is a multi-pet home. It’s pretty much always been that way since my childhood, with my sister and me enjoying the benefits—and responsibilities—of pet ownership. Dogs dominated our lives, with at least one, and very frequently two, pups bringing fun and happiness at all times. We also had parakeets, turtles, and fish. And, for a brief time, Tabatha, a very irascible silver tabby named for the daughter of Samantha and Darrin on “Bewitched.”  Tabatha was not happy to be a house pet, often escaping from our home, and being prone to attacking bare legs during middle-of-the-night ambushes. She ended up becoming a mouse-killer at our godparent’s dairy farm, much happier–even if to the regret of the pesty barn rodents. And that was the end of my cat-owning experience…

…until September of 2013, when, at the urging of my then boss, who ran an animal rescue, a young cat entered my life. He’d come into the rescue after being discovered on the porch of one of the groomers, Kim, and her husband. The furry tyke had been enjoying the food set out for the couple’s outdoor cat. Kim quickly realized that the kitty was a stray and brought him in for an exam, shots, and neutering. After a thorough going-over by the vet, the youngster ended up in the rescue, and given the moniker “Donald.” Every time I happened to enter the cat room, Donald would mew and reach out for me. Jaime, the rescue placement director, decided that I needed to adopt him. After a short period of her friendly pestering, I gave in. At home, I made arrangements to introduce him to my two dogs, setting up a giant dog crate for the newly re-named “Donal” to use during the transition. I bought an appropriately sized airline dog crate to transport Donal home.

When I arrived home, the dogs greeted me with their usual “wow-we-thought-you’d-never-return!” doggish enthusiasm: Melanie barking, Tank shoving a toy into my hands while trying to stop himself from jumping up. But as soon as they saw the crate, they immediately switched their attentions from me to the mysterious new object. Donal was silent as I set his crate on the foyer floor. The dogs’ heads went down, shoving close to the crate. Noses were twitching, taking in a strange new scent. Through the air holes in the crate’s side, I could see Donal squishing his body as far as possible from the canine examiners. Then, he settled and gave out a small mew. Melanie woofed, Tank’s head canted from one side to the other.

Once the dogs had settled, I picked the crate up and walked up the steps. Putting the dogs into the kitchen behind a baby gate, I let Donal out of his portable crate and into the giant wire dog crate. The dogs were anxious to see this new addition more clearly and up close; I barely had moved the baby gate when they were rushing over to the wire crate. It was a fascinating sight to see these three animals assessing each other, the dogs trying to decide what Donal was and why he was here, the cat trying to decide whether Melanie and Tank were friendly.

Melanie and Tank quickly welcomed the new arrival into their company. Donal has turned out to be a real “dog cat,” a feline who enjoys the company of his canine companions. He is so much a dog cat that he likes rough-housing with Melanie, frequently starting the action by swatting playfully at her, then racing away. Donal and Tank don’t engage in play-battles, but they like to nap side-by-side and at night, always sleep by me.

It’s a fine thing to have three best furry friends, but even better knowing that they are best buds with each other. Melanie, Tank, and Donal….the Three Amigos.

The Three Amigos final version 3.29.16

The 2016 Garden: the Plan to Defeat the Procyon Pests

Winter is normally spent contemplating and planning for the next spring’s plantings, but this winter, I had to do an extra measure of planning. Last summer’s garden was seriously damaged by masked varmints: raccoons found the luscious ripening tomatoes, ravaging every plant, from the Black Krims to the sweet cherries, chomping the fruit and ripping down the stems. (The raccoons also did a bit of damage to the renovated breezeway, making a few small tears in the new, lightweight screen. Apparently, though, the fruits of the garden were much more attractive to the mischief-makers than was the food-free porch.)

I’d dealt with squirrels and successfully kept out rabbits in the past, but this was the first time I’d had to contend with the clever Procyon pests. After consulting with other gardeners, as well as my best friend—who lives in the country and deals with raccoons almost every night—I learned that I would need to do more research in order to find out how I might be able to keep the raccoons out of my 2016 garden.

The raccoon is an example of just how perfectly able animals are at adapting to almost any human-altered environment. When considering the “enemy,” what first comes to mind might be their forepaws, which are almost human-like in their ability to grasp and manipulate everything they grab. The raccoon’s sense of touch is its most important: not only are the front paws extremely sensitive, nearly two-thirds of the sensory area of the brain is dedicated to interpretation of tactile sensations. The raccoon “hand” only lacks an opposable thumb, which gives humans the advantage in that regard. The raccoon’s brain is also very adept, with excellent problem-solving and memorization skills.

My having opposable thumbs, however, did not give me an advantage last summer against the clever nocturnal garden invaders; I did not get to enjoy more than a very few of the fruits of my tomato-gardening labor.

Building a raccoon-proof wall—no guarantee there—around the vegetable garden is not practical. If I want to plant tomatoes and other succulent vegetables this spring, I would need to come up with something more practical, reasonable, and affordable. Winter investigations proved that for many, the first choice of defense was electric fencing, using a high-voltage, low-amp charger to deliver intermittent pulses to keep out the pests. For several reasons, this was not a solution that appealed to me.

Fortunately, I discovered that there are simpler, less expensive alternatives. These range from battery-operated sprinklers, to solar-powered “predator control” lights, to the simplest of all, a portable radio, set to a talk radio station. (Which leads me to wonder whether a station dedicated to “discussion” of the current Presidential candidate debates would not only drive animal pests away, but perhaps kill the plants.)

Spring 2016 has just arrived and while I haven’t yet decided on all of my vegetable plantings for this year, I feel much more confident about my choices, knowing that I have a number of good possible solutions for my raccoon rivals….provided they aren’t politicians.