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June - July/2006
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Until recently, the swift fox was thought to have disappeared from Canada forever - the victim of habitat loss on the prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Today, the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s efforts to protect tens of thousands of acres of native grassland are providing new hope for the return of these unique creatures. But the swift fox is still on the endangered list and its population remains tiny and vulnerable. You can help to ensure the future of the swift fox and provide hope for all our native plants and animals by becoming an NCC Protector today. Protectors commit to protecting nature every day by making a monthly donation directly through their bank account or credit card. Please join today and receive an exclusive Protectors canvas tote bag.
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SWIFT FOX: PHOTO BY KAROL DABBS, COURTESY OF COCHRANE ECOLOGICAL RESERVE
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In This Issue
– these beautifully colored amphibians are very toxic
8 16 24 29
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– I spotted a small trail of blood in the snow
Annie’s Legacy – I grieved as if I had lost a child The Other Side of the Door
flashed before my eyes – my whole life
– stories from a veterinarian’s clinic – the Calgary Zoo – A.I.W.C.
11 13 15 18 21 23 26 27 30
Taking Down the Fences Youth Said It
– bear pause
Janet B. Armstrong Surrounded by nature in her Bearspaw studio, Janet creates vibrant acrylic/oil paintings. She studied at A.C.A. and in Burlington, Ont. in painting, drawing & sculpture. When not teaching, Janet is painting another animal or nature scene on just about any surface a client requests. She also paints at The Purple Door Studio and displays work in the RubertoOstberg Gallery. A very supportive husband, Trekker, two sons, Connor & Kalon and one daughter, Tatum, make this all possible. firstname.lastname@example.org www.ruberto-ostberg.com/jan/jan.htm (403) 239-2639 (h) 289-3388 (studio)
Spaces and Species
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It is a real pleasure for me to be able to introduce to you and to welcome Dr Richard Weger as our resident veterinary columnist. I know you will enjoy Richard’s inventive and unique writing style and will enjoy learning about the eclectic mix of varied and exotic species he is visited with on a daily basis in his practice. Turn to page 11 and learn about Max, the eraser eating ferret. Someone whom I’ve gotten to know and learned to respect greatly over the past couple of months, in describing our editorial policy said, “You may read stories about seals in creaturesall, but you probably won’t read stories on the seal hunt.” A part of what I tell all aspiring contributors is, “When considering your submission to creaturesall the thing one needs to remember is that we are first and foremost, a storytelling venue. Any points to be driven home or any causes to be championed need to be done through storytelling. That same story can do more to further your goal than can exhortation, pleading, guilt or accusation.” That, in as concise a manner as possible, lays out what we are all about. So, thank you. Thank you to those of you who have shared your stories or shared your art. And thank you to those of you who have shared in your support, through kind words and gifts, thereby assuring creaturesall will be here for many years to come. You will note, as did I, that the issue you’re holding highlights a wonderful oil painting of a Harlequin Tree Frog by Janet Armstrong on the front cover, while our back cover is dedicated to a Families Matter sponsored “Dad & Me” event.
This confluence of images bracketing the pages of creaturesall, set me to thinking of a time when my daughter was only six years old and I took it upon myself to take her frog hunting. What better introduction to the fauna surrounding our rural acreage than to share some special “me time” with her pop? So, gathering together a couple of pails, a Woolco purchased butterfly net, some “gum boots” for her, and an old pair of runners for her good ol’ dad, we set off for the swamp. The day was hot, without a breath of wind, as we pulled up and prepared to wade into the mosquito infested slough; just a kid and her dad spending quality time together. I vividly remember the scent of grain dust, road dust and rancid slough water mixing in my nostrils, all brought to a simmering boil amid the intense summer heat and incessant, dental-drill “buzzzzzz” of mosquitoes. The water was but eight inches deep, short of that required to pour over the top of her gum boots, but deep enough to fill my runners with that fetid ooze that can only be found lining the bottom of a stale and rank swamp on a hot August day. Still, braving that and the mosquitoes was a small price to pay to be allowed to share in a defining moment in my daughter’s developing love of nature. Not a word had passed between us, for not a word needed to be said. The silent, self-congratulatory martyr and all-round “Dad of the Year” candidate I thought myself to be was quickly brought back to reality when she stopped, looked up at me with her six year old eyes and spoke for the first time, “This might be fun for you, but it’s sure not fun for me.”
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I look forward to picking up your creaturesall magazine... I just wish it was published more often. In issue 04, Taking Down the Fences - I was so happy for that little owl being able to fly again. The staff and volunteers at the AIWC should be praised for their generous and caring work.
First, may I say how absolutely delighted I am to read your wonderful magazine dedicated to all the fabulous creatures with whom we humans have the privilege to share the planet. Comma, tabby cat extraordinaire and Dash, saved crunchies and requested that they be changed to Canadian currency to help with your work! I have promoted your magazine to friends and at my displays, and people have commented on the high quality of each issue. I have also suggested to people/businesses to consider advertising in your magazine. With warmest regards,
We want to thank you once again for your interest and the wonderful magazine that you have created! I have distributed several copies and have heard high praise for the magazine and its unique approach to the animals that we love. There will be a few more hunting for the next issue. John has brought copies in to small cafes like Kaffa and they absolutely love it. We would also like to send a small donation as our way of saying thanks to you and as a practical encouragement to keep doing what you do. We have high hopes that your magazine will continue to flourish!!!
Cindy and John Homer
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I love reading your magazine and was very interested to learn about the work of the Nature Conservancy. It's very encouraging to know that there are agencies such as AIWC and CPAWS who are bringing attention and care to wildlife in danger. Keep up the good work.
You have hit upon a great idea with your column by the Calgary Horticulture Society. For all of us amateur gardeners, the information is timely. I love the plants, I love the bugs and I love the birds!!! I can't wait for each new issue. Happy Spring,
I must admit that I was, and am, very impressed with the quality of your magazine and with the content. I particularly enjoy the fact that the articles are short, making them good bedtime reading, and concern a very diverse subject matter, albeit all creature related. I am not particularly an animal person and cannot relate to the (to my mind) excessive devotion and adoration some of your writers express, but I do respect their feelings and enjoy reading of their experiences. I have learned a great deal from some articles and some bring back memories of my youth.
Calgary l Airdrie Strathmore Okotoks l High River Cochrane l Canmore
ature at this bizarre looking cre I was fortunate to see 2004. that I Tortuguero in February ing wildlife encounters Mawamba Lodge in ome of the most reward l of the raising these sta Rica are with severa s groundskeepers, was have experienced in Co Paulo, one of the lodge’ a has ning before o the jungle. One eve , amphibians. Costa Ric the smallest creatures frogs to be released int st lked passed with frogs making up mo to follow him. We wa species of amphibians, dinner, Paulo asked me over 175 ntry and stopped of developing tadpoles eastern region of the cou several glass tanks full t number. In the North of tha the broad area of He turned over one of rests of Tortuguero, an tropical lowland rainfo at a large tropical plant. is the . Green was n and a udy Leaf Frog sleeping amps, dense vegetatio leaves to show me a Ga canals, freshwater sw river ideal with the leaf. turtle. But it is also an g blending in perfectly beach for the green sea the only color of the fro nesting habitat for frogs.
Ga ud y Le af Frog
is the be found in this region One species that can udy Leaf Frog. also called the Ga Red-Eyed Tree Frog, and plants ir adult lives in the trees Although they spend the ndent on water for young are depe of the tropical jungle, the their development.
dy, blue colors; deep green bo With all their bright d blood red nge fingers and toes an stripes on its sides, ora t them. But it would be easy to spo eyes, you would think pearing leafy ytime camouflage, ap they have excellent da s and knees leaf. The colored elbow green stuck to a green
are tucked closely along the sides of the body with hands and feet underneath and eyes closed completely removing any sight of color except green.
If the green camouflage fails to was back in Costa Rica and headed up conceal them from predators, they to Tor tuguero once again to surprise would-be attackers with a photograph this Am azon-like region sudden burst of bright colors, star tling and its protected inhabita nts. Maybe their enemy for a moment and to see the Gaudy-Leaf Fro g again. allowing them to One evening after enjoying dinn er escape to safety. with a German couple and with Po iso n Da rt Fro g Rich, Paulo picked a travel mate, at our lodge, Samoa one up and set it Lodge, Rich asked what everyone was on his opened doing for the evening. My response to hand to show the the group was, “I am going to look for growing crowd. frogs to photograph”. Now all the bright We said our good nights and colors appear ed headed off on different paths from the on the frog as open-air rest aurant; the German it slowly moved its couple to their bungalow and Rich and way across Paulo’s I to sear ch for frogs. We started hand. The Red- across a woo den bridge crossing over a Eyed Tree Frogs shallow slow moving creek. I leaned are very agile crea- over the railing, and shone my tures, able to leap flashlight along the edge of the creek away quickly when and the nearby grass. I wasn’t sure it proves neces- what species of frog we might find but sary. Otherwise that did not matter to me. We continthey are very mel- ued over the bridge following the low individuals. well-groomed trai l that was lined with They tend to walk short trop ical hibiscus plants dotted and climb rather with red, pink, and peach flowers. than hop. Each Panning the flashlight from side to side hand and foot have on the gro und, I checked closely along sticky suction pads the edge look ing for frogs or any other at the end of the creature that may be out that evening. toes allowing them The path led us to an intersection to stick and climb where a right turn would take us to on the vegetation. our cabin. As I turned the corner, my I thanked Paulo for flashlight rays caught a large object on showing me and the edge of the path. I shone the light allowing me to directly on the object, illuminating a take some pictures big brown frog. It was sitting of the Gaudy Leaf motionless. I didn’t know what type of Frog, one frog I frog it was at the time as I had not may not have seen seen this species on any other trip I without his help. had been on in Costa Rica. Not having If a per son my professiona l camera with me, just knows a little a good poin t and shoot camera (one about frogs, their that I call my “just in case” camera), I behaviors and ran back to the room abo ut 10 meters habitats, and the from the sighting. Rich stayed close to per son searches the frog, shining the flashlight on the hard enough, they amphibian to track it if it should will be rewarded. attempt a get away before I got back. Just a couple of Quickly I returned and took a few months ago in nice shots. Afterwards, I checked my February 2006, I amphibian field guide to learn that this
was the Smoky Jungle Frog, the 2nd largest amphibian in Costa Rica, which can grow up to 18 cms (8 inches). These cannibalistic amphibians eat other smaller frogs, insects, scorpions and even small snakes. It is more challenging to find frogs in the jungle because many species like the Red-Eyed Tree Frogs and Smoky Jungle Frogs are nocturnal and are well camouflaged in the dense foliage of the tropical rainforests during the daytime.
Smoky Jungle Frog
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One species that does not behave like other frogs is the Poison Dart Frogs also called the Blue Jeans Frogs or Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs. This particular species is active during the day (Diurnal). Growing to no more than 5 cms (2 inches), these colorful tiny frogs really stand out in the rainforest dotting the tropical greenery. However, these beautifully colored amphibians are very toxic because of the poisonous alkaloids found in the skin. The Blue Jeans Frog has no need for their body colors to blend into their surroundings for protection. Instead, they advertise their toxicity with bright colors alarming predators to imminent danger. Many poison dart frog species have developed striking colors; yellow, red, blue, purple – the colors of poison recognized in the animal world. The Native Indians of Central America used to dip the tips of their hunting arrows or blowgun darts in the poison to instantaneously paralyze monkeys and birds, hence their name, Poison Dart Frogs. Rich and I had a free afternoon so we decided to take a walk into the lush rainforest next to our resort. Shortly into our hike, Rich noticed and alerted me to something moving just in front of me in the grass covered trail. He wasn’t positive what it was. I stopped in my tracks, cautious as to what I may step on, knowing about the deadly snakes that live in this country but also not wanting to hurt any other animal. I focused my eyes on the area in front of my feet. A tiny creature shuffled through the brown and green foliage catching my eye. I crouched down to get a closer look. Out hopped a tiny brightly colored Blue Jeans Frog onto a fallen leaf. “Oh Wow, it’s a Blue Jeans Frog,” I informed Rich. A bright red head and body with dark blue legs, enabled us to follow this miniature frog as he hopped about the large blades of grass and fallen leaves. We took a few steps further spotting more and more of these colorful amphibians. Tiny red dots popped out from under the thick green ground cover. The smallest of creatures found in tropical rainforests have provided me with the best wildlife encounters, my most memorable experiences and many extraordinary photographs. So on your next hike, wherever that may be, keep your eyes open for the little creatures, the frogs. ca
Cyril Brass is a Wildlife and Sports Photographer living in Calgary. email@example.com 403-999-1908
stories from a veterinarian’s clinic
Dr. Richard Weger, B.Sc., DVM
nce I h a d opened my eyes I realized that my first official day in my new home with my foster humans had arrived! With unbelievable ease I pushed my cage door open and slinked my way over to the adjacent wall mirror. What a handsome ferret I was! No living creature could resist the lure of my pink nose, beady red eyes, and luxurious fur coat. It was entirely understandable why some humans might want to transform me into a flashy garment! Taking advantage of my newly found freedom, I decided that I would do a full reconnaissance of my surroundings. In the distance I spotted an alluring object near a free standing object the humans called a “couch”. It was small and pink (much like my very own nose!) and I could hear the soothing siren song of this “eraser” thing calling to me. With ferrety vigor I gobbled this rubbery treasure down. Yummy tummy! I could not believe my taste buds, this stuff was good! Suddenly, an unholy gurgle sprang from my stomach. Ouch! My gut was in tremendous turmoil! No possible bodily contortion could relieve my sufferings. It all was becoming clear to me now… the “couch” w a s angry with me for stealing its prize. T h e gurgle in my tummy
became more insidious and the great purging began. This gastrointestinal agony was only intensified by my human foster mother screaming, “Oh my gosh Max, what’s wrong?” With supernatural speed she picked me up and squished me in her pocket, like some rather ordinary, down-on-his-luck-hamster. Flash forwarding many air deprived moments later, I found myself staring into the somewhat kindly face of a human my foster mother called “Dr.Weger”. He smiled at me and rubbed my head just the way I like it. “Hello, little guy, what’s going on with you?” he said. Rudely, my foster mom took it upon herself to answer for me. “Max was vomiting on my new carpet!” “It’s not uncommon for ferrets to eat things that they find on the floor. I recommend that we take an X-ray to see if he has swallowed anything unusual,” he replied. My fate was now left in the hands of this “doctor” fellow. What followed was a circus of lights and flashes which finally culminated into this “Xray” thingy. Using my super ferret hearing I listened intently to a discussion between Dr. Weger and my foster mom. “Unfortunately,” he said, “it’s as I suspected, there is a foreign object lodged in Max’s small intestine. Surgery is our only option.” Surgery! Oh No! What could that mean? Could surgery be a good thing? Could it mean treats and food? Then, without warning, a plastic cup was placed over my face and a strange smell exuded. This smell was unlike any food that I had encountered and I began to slowly fall asleep. Alien abduction! It was the only explanation! I tried to fight the gas but my will power became weak and all became black. Losing all track of time, I woke up in a bundle of
blankets trapped in a clear plastic container. Peering up, I gazed upon a smiling Dr. Weger staring down at me. “You’ll be fine now little one, just rest.” he said. It was then that I noticed that my stomach didn’t hurt anymore! Maybe Dr. Weger had a cure for that poison the “couch” had slipped me. Shuffling off the towels I decided to have a look at my stomach…my hair was gone! My beautiful hair! In its place, a chorus line of expertly tied knots! Thoughts of tummy toupees ran through my head as I succumbed to the lingering effect of the gas and passed out. Several uneventful days later I was discharged from the “barber shop of horrors” to my loving home. Finally I was back where I belonged! As I contemplated the events of the past week, leaning against my cage door, I found that it came open. Feeling mildly claustrophobic I decided to go for a small walk. I carefully avoided the “couch” and came upon an object I have heard the human’s call a “bed”. Sniffing around the floor I found a small red spongy object. My eyes greedily inhaled this new culinary vision. Now that I was feeling better, I was ready for a delicious treat!...ca
Dr. Richard Weger is a graduate of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. He has committed the majority of his continuing education to the development of his skills in the field of exotic veterinary medicine. He is currently owned by his Senegal parrot, Tiko and his cat, Mendel. Exotic Veterinary Care and Referral Service • Calgary North Veterinary Hospital (403)277-0135
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getting a grip
any people say they don’t like snakes; I fortunately am not one of them. I think snakes are very, interesting creatures. Let me share with you why. Here at the Calgary Zoo we have a number of different species of snakes, but I want to tell you about one of them, an African Rock Python named Pebbles. This beautiful snake lives in the African Savannah Building and the number of times I have heard people say, “Look at that snake... yuk”, is absolutely amazing. Poor Pebbles, I’m happy she doesn’t realize what people are saying about her. Pebbles, was born in captivity sometime in September 2001 and has been at the Calgary Zoo since December 7, 2002. When she first arrived at the Zoo she was approximately seven feet long (213.4cm.) and weighed nine pounds (4.1kg). Since that time she has grown into a beautiful snake that now measures fourteen feet in length (426.7cm.) and weighs in at an enormous one hundred fifty-five pounds (70.3kg.)and is now so heavy and large that it takes four keepers to handle her safely. When she first arrived at the Calgary Zoo, Zookeeper Garth Irvine used to go into her habitat, sit on a rock and hold Pebbles in his lap He would talk to her while he stroked her body, she loved it. You see snakes are ectothermic, which means they get their body heat from outside sources. They are unable to keep themselves warm, so lying in a keepers lap was naturally warm and a comfortable spot for Pebbles.
Before anyone says Yuk!, let me tell you that a snake is not wet and slimy. It is dry, smooth and cool to the touch and the scales merge into a very beautiful pattern. Snakes are usually gentle unless they are hungry, provoked, startled or attacked. Pebbles, is still not a full grown snake and although her growing speed has slowed down, she will eventually reach a massive eighteen feet in length. During her faster growing period she was being fed two chickens a week. Since her growing spurt has slowed down she now gets one chicken a week, always on a Sunday. Although the chickens are dead when they are given to Pebbles, she still wraps them in her coils and squeezes them, as she would in the wild to kill her prey. She then eats the chicken whole, head first. The acids in a snake’s stomach will dissolve feathers, bones, beak, feet, claws, hide or hooves of any animal it eats. African Rock Pythons in the wild are known to eat both small and large antelope. Snakes have a specially designed jaw that unhinges so the mouth can open wide enough to eat the prey whole, head first. The size of the prey animal is what determines when the snake will need its next meal and sometimes a snake will go for over one year without a
photo courtesy: Garn Morris
meal while it is digesting a large animal. While a snake is growing, it frequently has to change its skin. When this happens, its eyes cloud over and go a milky colour and the snake stops eating. The moult usually starts around the mouth as the snake frees its head first, then, twists out of its skin by rubbing itself on the rocks, sand or branches that are around. The process takes one to five hours with the skin coming off inside out much like a sock that has been pulled off quickly. When the moult is complete the colours of the snake look much brighter. Pebbles recently shed her skin and the colour of her new skin is beautiful with a lovely rainbow sheen. Often one can see the old shed skin hanging in the habitat on a branch or on rocks. However, if the skin is in one piece, it is taken out of the habitat and preserved to be used for educational purposes. In the summer of 2005 a young boy, eight years of age was killed and eaten by an African Rock Python in Africa. These accidents happen, but are rare. Pebbles, our Rock Python loves the water and almost every morning she can be seen in the water in her habitat, then she will slide up to her favourite rock, coil her body round and go to sleep. Of course she doesn’t need to hunt for food or keep watch for the predatory animal, man. Snakes have been killed by man for generations, either because of beliefs and superstitions or so that the skins could be used to make ladies handbags and shoes. These items are now a banned product and are confiscated by Canadian Customs should anyone try to bring them into the country. Besides... a snake’s skin looks much better on Pebbles than it would on someone’s feet! ca
specializing in acrylic wildlife paintings
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. the very best in care for you and your pets.
Debra Howe is an Animal Health Technologist with several years experience in clinical pet care. She is a graduate of both the Animal Health Technology and Fish & Wildlife Programs.
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TAKING DOWN THE FENCES
t begins with a chase. She zig zags, in 12-20 foot horizontal leaps, maintaining a speed of 55km/hour, with him at her heels. They collide and she aggressively rebuffs him and flees. Determined, he perseveres. After a few hostile encounters, they cooperate momentarily to get the job done. A delayed ovulator, her eggs are released and fertilization occurs. The now newly pregnant female doe,
hide alone and wait for the doe, as they depend entirely on mother’s milk during their first weeks. This strategy may seem quite non-maternal, but hares are devoted mothers! They separate from their offspring to prevent their scent from attracting predators. Unfailingly, they return at dawn and dusk to nurse their offspring, reuniting using vocalizations and scent. Occasionally a baby hare is flushed from hiding, but unless it is injured, or in the mouth of a cat or
on the sides of their head and large ears for detecting danger. Hares freeze when predators that locate prey by looking for movement are nearby. Always alert, hares have escape routes that lead from open feeding sites back to an area of cover. If caught, hares emit a startling high-pitch scream in hope the predator retreats. White-tailed prairie hares benefit native grasslands around Calgary by dispersing seeds of
snubs any further advances. The buck leaves in search of another chase or perhaps a kicking and biting match with a competing male! Hares are synchronous breeders – the timing of an individual’s breeding cycle is the same throughout the population of hares. One night, such courting antics are taking place all over Calgary’s green spaces, and maybe even in your own backyard! Does fatten up on new shoots, and native grasses. Litters of three to six young white-tailed prairie hares, commonly known as jackrabbits, are due in six weeks. Hares do not build nests or burrows. Unlike true rabbits, born hairless and with eyes closed, young hares are precocial – born fully furred, with eyes open, and ready to hop! At 100 grams, these newborns are surprisingly independent. They
dog, it should be left alone. If in a vulnerable location, it can be moved to a protected spot within a 150-metre radius. Young hares should never be fed anything other than hare milk as they cannot tolerate anything else and quickly succumb to diarrhea and dehydration. Hare milk is enriched with necessary antibodies. From their mother, young hares acquire beneficial gut for digesting cellulose as they transition to eating vegetation. In 5-6 weeks, young hares are nearly fully independent. A prey species, hares are specialized to avoid predation. They moult twice annually to maintain their camouflage and are a tawny grey-brown in summer and white in winter. Powerful back legs help them burst to top speeds of 75km/hour and change direction without slowing down. They have eyes
native plants. They first reproduce in the spring following their birth. Prolific reproducers, each female has 3-4 litters per year, providing ample food for young coyotes, foxes, hawks, owls and golden eagles. Well adapted to city life, they may, when native food sources are particularly scarce, turn to eating garden plants. For dismayed gardeners, the best solution is to erect 2-foot high fences. Though hares are capable of jumping that high if being chased, they rarely do so otherwise. A hare’s life is a typically short, 1 to 2 years in the wild, full of excitement and blasts of adrenaline as they race to outrun predators and speeding cars. They are high strung and easily stressed, as being too laid back could land them as dinner. They live knowing they sit on the fine line between life and death. ca
Helen E. Willy
“Our story begins on a sunny winter’s morning of 2004.”
was making my usual rounds on our acreage to refill feeders with a bucket of seed for the birds and some peanuts for the squirrels. The suet feeders still seemed fine. I stopped and silently chuckled as I looked up at the glorious nest one of our squirrels had made high in a Spruce tree. When the squirrels started gathering supplies for their Winter nests in the Fall I had assisted them by cutting up old yarn and leaving it on the porch along with some cotton balls. Any supplies of the like that I left for them were gone within a half hour. As I was looking up at its nest I noticed the red, brown, and gray yarn intertwined with a variety of natural materials. I didn’t see the cotton balls but imagined that they were likely inside the nest making a warm and cozy little mattress. One always knows when it is time to help the squirrels out with nesting material as they start attacking the lounge chair cushions and helping themselves to sponge overnight. We learned that the first year we lived here and now try to remember to take our cushions in every night whether it is nest-building time or not. Again, this year, I forgot one night and now have a little hole with some sponge missing on one of the cushions. The red squirrels in our yard have spread out nicely and have all secured their own territories near a bird feeder. As we have six bird feeders around the house, they have fanned out, constructed their own homes and developed their individual routines. One squirrel, for instance, dries his mushrooms on the fence post pile, while another one does the same on the boughs of the Spruce tree that he lives in. They each have their own series of tunnels, tree holes, and other hiding places. Occasionally we see them chasing each other and we assume they are playing, interested in each other romantically, or one has breached the territorial boundaries of the other. On this particular morning everything seemed normal until I spotted a small trail of blood in the snow. It was easy to follow and ended up right under one of the bird feeders on the West side of the house. Along with obvious signs of a struggle in the snow I found a section of a squirrel’s tail, which I determined to be about half. My heart sank. Which predator had nabbed one of “my” squirrels? It seemed as though he had almost made it home to this big tree but just hadn’t run quite fast enough. I went back to the house with
my “show and tell tail” to show my husband. We watched regularly for him for the remainder of the day but, alas, the usual squirrel that frequented that bird feeder was nowhere to be seen. The next morning greeted us with a squirrel back on the feeder. We both grabbed our binoculars to have a closer look. Was it the survivor or was it another squirrel
photo courtesy: Bo Semchyshyn
who had taken over the territory? It was the survivor and he was eating happily minus half of his tail! We named him “Shorty” and watched him with interest as the Winter progressed. He didn’t seem to have any trouble negotiating his treetops and other usual routine but we did wonder whether he had a cold back, not being able to curl his tail all the way up to his neck. (Yes, I did consider knitting him a sweater, but he would likely just have unraveled it for nesting material!) During the course of the next year he gradually grew a new length of tail. The new and second half, however, grew back black, not the reddish brown colour of the rest of him. There is a little kink where the black begins. Shorty maintains his regular routine in his same territory. He gets four peanuts every morning at the side garage door stoop and if I am late getting out there, he is usually waiting on the fence post right outside the door. He comes up on the deck to see if there is anything of interest for him there and sometimes sits on the barbecue in the sunshine to check out the world and soak in some rays. This morning he was wrestling with an acrylic pile cushion I had put out on the bench, trying to pull some of the pile out. I decided he can have it if he wants. I wouldn’t have left it out there otherwise. It is now nearly the end of March and Spring is in the air. He has made it through another Winter. Or perhaps, she has made it through another Winter? We’re not sure. Regardless, whether Shorty is a Mom or a Dad, I’m sure the offspring will be clever, feisty and adventurous. ca
he T grade one students were studying the question, Can people hey first went to the Calgary Zoo to and bears live together?. T see the bear cubs that were sent there last fall. At the zoo they learned about the bears we have in Alberta. Once back in class, they spent time on the internet finding information on the needs of bears. A conservation officer, photographer, hunter and camper came he to explain their points of view of people and bears together. T students then wrote a paragraph giving their point of view. he T students were so excited about bears and their safety, they decided to raise money by selling Bears Snacks (Bears cookies and he candy). T work displayed here was randomly chosen from 74
grade one students at Foundations for the Future Charter Academy.
YOUTH SAID IT
grade 1 students of Foundations for the Future Charter Academy
creaturesall encourages input from young people and will enthusiastically consider for publication any written works dealing with all things fur, feathers, fins, skins and scales. Persons 18 years of age and under should send their submission (plus a 50
word biography) and attach to an email, with “Youth Said It”, in the subject line. Address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The author should also attach a head and shoulders photo of themselves as a 300 dpi tif or jpg.
403-652-1633 112 Center Street SE High River, AB T1V 1P6
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SPACES and SPECIES
the salamander scoop — a species of special concern
Kimberly Pearson, M.Sc., P.Biol
lberta’s ponds and lakes are fascinating ecosystems that are often and easily overlooked. Take the time to peer into one and get to know some of the creatures that make it their home. One such fascinating, but not well-known, creature is the long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum). Long-toed salamanders are unassuming, rarely encountered amphibians that inhabit the forests and ponds of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and foothills. A number of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) properties within the Alberta and British Columbia Regions protect their terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Long-toed salamanders are beautiful little creatures. Adults are dark brown in colour with a striking, yellow-orange band from head to tail, light speckling on their sides and legs, and big, dark eyes. Salamander larvae look similar to frog tadpoles, but have slimmer bodies and a set of gills on their heads that look like a pair of feathery antennae. The adult longtoed salamanders spend most of their time hidden on the forest floor and migrate to lakes and ponds for breeding sometime in the spring. Unfortunately, our roadways will often intersect their migration paths between land and water habitats. These salamanders are only 16 cm long, so drivers don’t realize when
they hit one and the salamanders’ slow speed prevents them from avoiding vehicles. A few efforts have taken place in Alberta when caring volunteers lifted migrating salamanders across busy roadways – that’s a huge help to the little salamanders! Longtoed salam a n ders
attach their eggs in clusters to vegetation or rocks within ponds. The eggs develop quickly into larvae, which, like frog tadpoles, develop within the waterbodies for a number of weeks until they metamorphose into their terrestrial form. Metamorphosis is an amazing process – during my research on long-toed salamanders, I’ve watched their eggs develop into mini-salamanders, all within just a few months. Can you imagine spending three winters beneath the ice of a frozen lake? Long-toed salamander larvae that reside in Alberta’s high, cold, mountain lakes often do just that! It takes them
longer to develop than their counterparts residing in warmer, valleybottom ponds because the mountain lakes are colder and thus less productive. In other words, there’s not a lot to eat, so growing is a slow process. Another challenge to long-toed salamanders in many of Alberta’s alpine lakes is avoiding fish predation. Trout make a quick meal out of salamander larvae, often wiping out entire populations in a relatively short amount of time. Amphibians have seen their numbers decline around the world and are invaluable indicators of environmental change. The long-toed salamander is recommended as a “Species of Special Concern” in Alberta because its populations are isolated and the species is vulnerable to habitat destruction and alteration associated with industrial, recreational and transportation development. The species is currently designated as “Sensitive” in Alberta, meaning that the species is not at risk but attention should be given to factors impacting its long-term survival, such as protecting habitat. The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s securement work helps to conserve amphibian habitats throughout Alberta. During our annual property monitoring, NCC Stewardship staff conduct surveys to monitor amphibians, including long-toed salamanders, in these valuable aquatic environments. ca
If you would like to learn more about amphibians and the NCC, or would like to volunteer to conduct amphibian surveys, please contact: email@example.com or call: 1-877-262-1253.
Photo courtesy K. Pea rson
THE WILD FILE
the swift fox
amping near Manyberries, you make a shivering midnight trip to use the “facilities” when you hear a rustle in the bush to your left. Your breath catches and you swing your flashlight toward the noise. For just an instant you catch a glimpse of a housecat-sized, rusty-grey animal with a black-tipped tail before it vanishes to resume the hunt you interrupted. You’ve just been fortunate enough to see a swift fox, once extinct in Canada. This diminutive species is making a remarkable recovery, but is still an endangered species. The swift fox, Vulpes velox, is a member of the canid family and is related to wolves, coyotes, and man’s best friend, the domestic dog. Nicknamed “The Prairie Phantom,” its top running speed of 60 km per hour mean few of us will have the pleasure of seeing one for too long. It is mainly nocturnal, another reason spotting one is rare. That being said, you may be lucky enough to spot one
of the elusive creatures sunning itself on a warm winter day. The swift fox dines on gophers, mice, birds, eggs, amphibians, reptiles, carrion, as well as insects such as grasshoppers. Their speed enables them to treat themselves to the occasional jackrabbit as well. The range of their diet has certainly played a part in their successful reintroduction to Canada. The swift fox’s historic range stretched from Canada to eastern Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado to Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Often living in mated pairs, although not necessarily for life, the swift fox raise their pups in sparsely vegetated mixedgrass prairie. They modify badger dens, or dig their own, often located on the sides of hills near water. They use multiple dens, having some single burrow dens used for protection, and more complex, maze-like dens with multiple tunnels and entrances, that are used for birthing. Males assist in hunting for their pups and both parents will act as decoys if a predator gets too close to a den with pups. Breeding occurs in the chilly months from January to March with pups being born from mid-April to mid-May. Litters usually contain four to five pups. Their eyes and ears open at about two weeks and by two months they look fully adult and leave the den by late summer or early autumn. The average lifespan of the swift fox is eight to ten years in the wild and up to 13 in captivity. The fox’s main predators are coyotes, hawks, eagles, but primarily, you guessed it, humans. Although the swift fox was once abundant on the Canadian prairies – 117,025 were killed between 1853 and 1877 – the last one was sighted near Manyberries in 1938. The reasons behind this extinction are not clear but
there are several strong possibilities. The rapid spread of farms across the Canadian prairies denied the swift fox suitable habitat, they were caught in traps intended for more valuable furbearing animals and were poisoned in poisoning campaigns aimed at coyotes, wolves and ground squirrels. However, because the swift fox managed to retain a foothold in the central United States where the same factors existed it is thought that the severe winters and droughts of Canada’s prairies also played a significant role. But there is a cautiously happy ending to this seemingly tragic story. Reintroduction occurred between 1983 and 1997 in Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. About 900 foxes, either captive-bred or captured in the U.S., were released during this period. Initially mortality was high, however census’ taken in 1996-1997 and then again in 2000-2001 indicate that the ratio of wild-born to captive-born or relocated foxes has steadily increased; in 1996-1997 81% of captured foxes were wild-born and in 2000-2001 99% of foxes were wild-born. They are also increasing in abundance and in range. The research concludes that further releases are not necessary, at this time, to increase the swift fox population to a healthy number. However, to ensure that the swift fox is successful in re-establishing itself in western Canada it is necessary to continue monitoring the population. Education will prove the key as swift fox territory is mostly in unprotected areas and it is thus essential that ranchers and farmers continue to be key partners in the protection of the swift fox. So the next time you are out walking in the Southeastern corner of Alberta around dusk or dawn, keep your eyes peeled, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the tenacious swift fox. ca
“Not to hurt our humble brethren [the animals] is our first duty to them, but… we have a higher mission — to be of service to them whenever they require it.”
St. Francis of Assisi
e had assembled for a heritage livestock meeting in a member’s home during an uncommonly snowy April in 2004. To the other farmers, the rejected twin lamb wandering the house was little more than a distraction whose bottle-feeding meant extra work at an already hectic time. To me, she was a soul in search of her destiny. Jacob Horned Sheep are one of the world’s oldest breeds of domesticated livestock, but as a new member of Rare Breeds Canada, I had never seen one until that day. I felt an intuitive connection with the spotted lamb, and offered to give her a home. We named her Anastasia, meaning spring and rebirth. Her irrepressible spirit filled the quiet hours left vacant by the death of our aged Border Collie two months earlier. I was soon answering to a new name of my own: “Ma-a-a-a-a!” The preparation of a bottle every two and a half hours, the removal of droppings, and a wild dash for the mop and pail each time her puddles migrated across our kitchen floor, were duties offset by sublime moments when Annie slept and dreamed in my arms, or frolicked in our fenced yard with our hen Cassandra. We weren’t actively looking for a dog, but a week after Annie arrived we learned of a Border Collie-cross with fear issues who needed a calm environment where he would not be left alone. We brought Annie with us to the pre-adoption interview to temperament test for a low-prey-drive. Ten month old Salem proved to be as gentle as we had hoped.
At his new home, he was at first wary of Annie’s attempts to play, but Salem eventually found the self-confidence to join her in a game of tag — an uplifting breakthrough for him, and valuable exercise for our spunky wee lamb. On Mother’s Day, we packed Annie and Salem into our van and drove to see my family in Edmonton. Our nephew was thrilled to hold and feed Annie and tried to teach her how to play soccer. My mother recounted stories of blissful summers on her uncle’s farm, feeding bottle lambs and calves. When my dad first held Annie, his eyes glistened with the wonder of such an ancient creature. I can neither knit nor spin, so we had never considered raising sheep, but the longer we lived with Annie the more we pondered her breeding potential. We dared to imagine springs filled with lamb-demonium and harvests of high-demand fleeces for hand-spinners. Before we could act on the idea, Annie became suddenly and gravely ill. Heritage breeds are known for their vigour, but Annie’s robust appetite produced a potentially fatal compromise of her digestive tract. Enterotoxaemia, or “overeating disease”, is caused by Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium common in all soils. Usually, these bacteria live innocuously in the lower digestive tract. When a lamb overeats, as many bottle babies and single lambs do, undigested starches and sugars can reach the lower tract and trigger rapid bacterial growth, which releases gaseous toxins.
On a Friday evening, Annie developed bloating of her left (rumen) side that grew to football proportions, and her front legs filled with fluid. All livestock vets had closed for the weekend and were responding only to equine emergencies. Without access to the right antibiotics and painkillers, we struggled with a mixture of liquid antacids and mineral oil to contain the toxic gasses, nursing our colicky lamb through two perilous days of pain and fever until our vet could treat her. After several hours of IV fluids, antibiotics and pain medication, Annie came home with an array of prescriptions and a new feeding regimen. At first her feet were too sore to play. By the time she was able to romp again, she seemed to have out-grown her light-hearted lambhood. The slightest change in her diet caused her front legs to swell and we knew our action had to be swift. She bloated twice again before she was a year old. Ethically, we could not breed her. Trained to walk on a lead, Annie became an enthusiastic ambassador for heritage livestock conservation. She appeared on Heritage Day in August 2004 and 2005 at Calgary’s Heritage Park as part of Rare Breeds Canada’s display. Basking in attention from hundreds of delighted visitors, with line-ups of children waiting to meet her, Annie prompted important discussions about the need to conserve heritage livestock genetics for future generations. When Annie was seven months old, a Jacob breeder offered us a ram of the same age. Potter had been injured as a lamb, suffering permanent damage to his cervical spine that affected the coordination of his hind legs. His owners loved his
lofty lilac-spotted fleece, but they didn’t have room to house him separately from other rams to prevent further injury. Creatures with special needs were not new to us, so we took him. Annie was indignant about sharing us with Potter, but he plodded dutifully behind her for several days until she deemed him worthy. After a few weeks, we noticed a marked improvement in Potter’s coordination. Annie’s “sheep therapy” had restored Potter’s physical potential for an auspicious breeding future, and in the process had rekindled his self-worth. He was especially pleased the day he learned to use his formidable horns to define a radius that kept Annie from his hay. They enjoyed a heart-warming year together. Annie’s intelligence was our biggest worry. On a devastating day in December 2005, Annie breached a fence and gorged on the mixed grain in a duck feeder. Despite our best efforts, bacterial toxins overwhelmed her vulnerable system. That evening, the lamb who had immeasurably blessed our lives passed away in my arms. I grieved as if I had lost a child. Alone for the second time in his life, Potter grieved too, calling endlessly for his pasture mate. I sat with him every day after chores, talking with him and rubbing his face. Gentle when facing us, he became increasingly aggressive when our backs were turned. We were faced with a difficult choice: we could re-home Potter, or prepare for a small flock. Potter’s needs prevailed. After upgrading our fencing, we honoured Annie’s memory with the purchase of two unrelated bred Jacob ewes from Potter’s previous owner. Naomi and Pebbles arrived in February 2006 and were due to lamb in late April.
On Easter Sunday evening, missing Annie far more than usual and indulging in a few wistful tears about what might have been, I felt the need for some “sheep therapy” of my own. I wandered down to the barn, surprised to find both ewes indoors during such mild weather. I quickly realized Naomi was in the last stages of labour, pawing a nest in the shavings and breathing hard. I ran to the house to get my husband and son, and the lambing kit I had assembled but wouldn’t need. Together we witnessed the unassisted, uncomplicated births of precious ewe and ram twin lambs, born an hour and a half apart. Two thousand years of Jacob evolution had brought us to this moment in time. Naomi cleaned each babe in turn, and nursed within 20 minutes of their delivery. Although these weren’t Annie’s lambs, they did symbolize a rebirth of her endearing spirit. The poignant journey of Annie’s life embraced extremes of joy and heartbreak, but also brought new opportunities for our personal and spiritual growth. Throughout our time with her, she confirmed two long-held beliefs: every creature has a value and purpose, and everything happens for a reason. Annie fulfilled her destiny, not through a new generation of lambs or by producing prized fleeces, but by transforming the lives of an abandoned dog and a desolate ram. In the higher mission of raising awareness for heritage livestock conservation, she raised hundreds of eyebrows in awe and delight. Her legacy lives in the hearts of all who were touched by her. Her spirit endures in two lambs who leap and bound in rambunctious testament to their heritage. ca
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A Dog’s Life
The Autobiography of a Stray
by Ann M. Martin Scholastic Press, New York 182 pp., ISBN 0-439-71559-8 Hard cover.
Squirrel and Bone spent the first days of their life curled up beside their Mother on a burlap bag in an old wheelbarrow. They shared a cozy, dry shed with mice and cats on the Merrion's property. But they were not pets — they were strays. Life went along happily for awhile as the pups watched and learned. Then one day, Mother did not return. With no alternative in sight, the pups set out to see the world. Adventures followed and Squirrel soon found herself alone. This is her life’s story, told in her own words, and it shares with us her sense of loss and abandonment as she makes friends, survives misadventure and ultimately makes
the reader feel privileged they have been asked along for the ride. Any paragraph which begins, “When a truck whizzed by me, I jumped back, yelping. But Bone looked as though he were getting ready to run—to bolt across the road and hope for the best.” can not remain unfinished for long. Anyone who owns a dog or simply remembers the now gone time from their youth when owning a dog was a right of passage, will enjoy Martin’s heart rending and hopeful tale of the adventures of a ragamuffin stray dog. The story is simply written and would be an excellent read-aloud book to share with children five to ten years of age. And for those who enjoy a less complicated story as an interlude to an otherwise busy life, A Dog’s Life, The Autobiography of a Stray, will fill the bill nicely. Read to one’s self or shared with a young person the story of Squirrel the stray will prove to be time well spent. Ann Martin is an award winning author of several other books, who lives in upstate New York and, besides writing books, also works with an animal rescue organization there. ca
BOOST A YOUNG READER
Become a volunteer tutor to help a struggling reader in Grade 1 or 2. Two hours a week during the school day and you will make a difference, for the rest of a child’s life. Training provided. Phone 777.8254 or visit www.calgaryreads.com
Enbridge Tanya & Brad Zumwalt
THE GARDENING BUG
what’s the buzz
hat’s all that Buzz about??
It has happened to all of us….we are just settling down to a nice barbeque in the garden when the bees and wasps show up. We thrash around, cover our drinks or just pick everything up and move into the house to avoid these party crashers. There has to be a better way. There is. A little bit of information can go a long way to avoiding harassment from these critters. To begin with we should know that there are various types of bees, wasps, hornets and yellow-jackets, in scientific terms known as Hymenoptera. They don’t usually bother people and go about their business of nest building, eating and food gathering. They eat tremendous amounts of insects from our gardens continuously and in the process of collecting nectar they are very important pollinators. Can you imagine how our gardens and world would look without crops and flowers!! They don’t plan to sting you unless you are bothering their nests or step on them. Honey bees can only sting one time and end up leaving their stinger in you, so it kills them. Bumble bees can sting several times, and yes, they hurt. Only the Queens overwinter and start out in the spring
to find a nice nesting site. They forage and nest build and establish a colony around them of workers to maintain the nest. The number of bees and wasps in a nest varies a lot by the type they are, so you should always be vigilant. If you want to move a nest, spring is the time to do it while the numbers of occupants are at their lowest.
As summer days progress and fall begins, dry conditions, the amount of food available and evening temperatures can cause these creatures to turn aggressive. The many types of bees that you see all seem to have the cute “furry” body. Not all of them live in groups. Leaf-cutter bees and Orchard bees live alone and create burrows for their young. They line and fill the burrows with pollen and the round bits of leaves that you see missing, or use mud. They are very entertaining to watch so keep your eyes open. Hornets usually nest underground or in very well hidden above ground
nests. Hornets are black and white. Yellow-jackets also nest underground and above ground they make papery nests. They are easily spotted yellow and black, or sometimes yellow and brown. Wasps are also yellow and black but are more slender and streamlined with three curvy segments. There are also solitary wasps that are much smaller than the social wasps. They make burrows in sandy soil or hollow stems with alive and paralyzed insects to feed the egg once it has hatched. They can be black, black with white or black with yellow, and yes, they do sting. If you have small children, nosy pets or allergies to bee and wasp venom it would be a good idea to guard against nesting in your garden. Prevent the Queen from establishing a nest in the spring by covering up her hole, getting a bee “catcher” or making one yourself from a 2 litre pop bottle or by using a spray available at gardening centers. Try not to spray everything since, as we saw above, many of these creatures do not harass people and are very helpful in the garden. A good way to keep these critters off your picnic is to set them out their fruit or sugar-water picnic in a far corner of your garden. Once they have found it, they will leave you alone. Alternatively, plant some bright flowers in a sunny spot away from your house to keep them in the back sections of your garden. Another technique is to light some incense or citronella to keep them away. Do not thrash around as this will just agitate them. Do not dress up like a flower wearing bright yellow, orange or red or they will think you are a flower. Take the time to see what they are and the wonderful work they are doing for you. ca
The tale I will tell and I’ll tell it well regards a ferocious beast that both lurks and skulks and pouts and sulks ‘til allowed its horrific feast
I heard it last night as I shivered in fright ‘twas just outside my bedroom door I heard it tearing pictured nostrils flaring I tried not to picture the gore I tried to get up but I heard it sup on its meal of whatever it was though I wanted to see I didn’t want to be a part of whatever it does
the other side of the door
as I thought on that and had an inner chat my whole life flashed before my eyes of school and tests of being the best never losing sight of the prize was I teacher’s pet perhaps so... but yet I couldn’t help but think my time on earth was too short I heard the beast snort to give up now would be a crime putting others first has been my life’s curse I mustn’t succumb to the beast now more than ever I must be clever I’ll not be a part of its feast
I’m brave as you know at least mostly so but this was a whole other thing so I lay in my room foreseeing the doom the impending sunrise would bring
I was so sleepy I became weepy I was in deep and dire straits but you would be too for brother... no zoo holds such a beast within its gates I heard it ripping I heard flesh stripping the dark masked none of the ruin ‘twas 2 parts polecat 5 parts sewer rat and a final 7 parts bruin
my feet on the floor I crept to the door and quietly pulled it wide not blood and bones not groans and moans just papers were all that I spied
the beast was asleep amid the trash heap obviously finished his part laying there now I couldn’t see how he’d struck such fear in my heart
I thought I should call ‘cause just down the hall I know I heard my dad snoring I decided to not lest my calling out got confused with the beastly roaring
I humbly relate ‘twas my homework he ate deny it... alas I cannot sadly dear teacher that beastly creature was none other than my dog Spot
far better thought I ‘twas I who should die and spare the lives of my folks they’d remember me that he didn’t flee and stands strong before he croaks
THE FINAL WORD
in from my own front porch
rrrrr . . . yip, yip, yip, grrrrr . . . yip . . .
Who, or what, was this white, two-pound, fluff ball on my carpet and why was it “talking” to me? And how the heck did he end up in my living room? Sure, he was adorable, and cute beyond words, but he was also dangerous – to my heart. What was I thinking – letting my friend convince me it was time for another puppy? Puppy – I refused to name him because that implied commitment – was already wriggling his furry self into my wellguarded heart. This curly mop was not only opening longforgotten doors to my soul, but was flinging open windows, leaving me vulnerable in the breeze. Suddenly it began to make sense to me, why love had continued to elude me in the years since my divorce. I thought I had invited love into my life but now this furball – barely bigger than the lint on my socks – was showing me I hadn’t really invited it into my life, or my house, after all. In fact, I was still living in the porch myself! Yes, all cuteness aside, puppy had to go. In our first hour together, he had already made me laugh more, and feel more, than I had in a long time. And I began to remember what it felt like to love someone – or something this much. And it scared the hell out of me. Why, the last time I’d felt like this was... 17 years ago? Can that be right? Yes – 17 years ago – when I was 24 and had just lost my first dog, Spotty. The awful, raw pain of the loss came rushing back and I remembered why I had sealed up the house and moved to the porch in the first place. Who in their right mind
would open themselves up to that kind of pain again? Yes, puppy had to be returned to my well-meaning, but misguided, friend. Tomorrow. And now it’s bedtime. I carry puppy upstairs – he’s still too little to navigate the steps. I put him in his puppy kennel, but leave the door open, just in case he wants to explore. And I shut off the lights, but leave a night light on, just in case he gets scared. It is, after all, his first “sleepover”. And I crawl into bed, but sleep with one arm hanging over the side, just in case he needs to sniff my hand to reassure himself he’s not alone. He really is a good puppy. Yup, it’s final. He can’t stay. Fast forward two years. He stayed. But then you already knew that, didn’t you. I named him Mercury Benz (Merc, for short). And I don’t know how he did it, but that first night Merc found a place in my heart and moved in - permanently – as though there had never been any doubt in his mind as to what the outcome would be. Since arriving on the scene, this social convener in a fur coat, has introduced me to individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. And, ironically enough, has caught the eye of a single neighbor of mine and his little boy who live four blocks down the street. Merc has not only succeeded in opening the doors and windows of my heart, but he has also wagged his tail in invitation to others he deems deserving of getting past the front porch. Am I scared? Yes. Will my heart get broken again? Probably. Do I have any regrets? Absolutely none. This white, wriggling, curly-mopped, fluffy piece of lint, now weighing 12 pounds, has healed my heart and restored my belief in possibilities. Who knew it would take a dog to call me in from my own front porch! ca
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