Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The Menagerie
If there is such a thing as parallel Universes and life after death, when I die I want to return as one of our pets. The hounds, spoiled to their rotten cores, sleep on memory foam beds when they choose not to crowd us from our own. Car rides usually include a stop for ice cream – for them. Their grocery bill is larger than our own and they see a doctor more frequently than any of us. The Philosopher complains they are better fed than him. And he’s right.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been bringing home strays and orphans. As a child, it wasn’t easy. My mother had a nose for anything out of place in her home and usually found whatever critter I’d smuggled into my bedroom. The end result was usually the humane society. It followed suit that as soon as I found myself free from her rules, I’d begin building my own private menagerie. In addition to pulling dogs from their death row quarters at the pound, over the years we’ve rehabilitated baby birds, rabbits, turtles and even squirrels.

My children have followed in their mother’s footsteps, though my son prefers bringing home slithery things and my daughter has perfected the sad, pleading-eyed pet shop beg. Our basement has hosted tanks full of all sorts of critters who are brought back to health then returned to their natural habitats, including the hungry duck my son rescued from a storm drain last summer. When my daughter’s guinea pig failed to land a dismount from his own personal jungle gym, he was rushed to the vet, x-rayed and put in an itty-bitty traction device. And our bearded dragon is about to move into a condominium fit for reptile royalty.

Lately, things have been quiet in our little animal kingdom. Turtle Town has no new inhabitants. The basement rehab tanks are empty. Even the dim-witted robins, who insist on building a much too small nest on our front windowsill every year, then squawk in disgruntled screeches when their naked little offspring fall from it, have moved to more suitable dwellings. Though I’m sure our acreage is bustling with the new life spring brings, thus far none have needed our assistance. That is a very good thing. Wild animals fare better without human intervention.

Sunday, I mounted The Beast and headed toward the pasture for an afternoon of mowing. The Beast is the Hummer of lawnmowers; a churning, grinding machine able to pulverize a grassy field at 10mph. It is the perfect solution for people like me, who have lost the will to do manual labor. I compensate for the fact it is about as delicate as a bulldozer in the rainforest by making sure its cutting deck is well above rabbit nest level and paying careful attention when I’m in areas that may harbor critters.

I’d nearly finished when the rain started. I decided to call it a day – after just one more sweep. I rounded the corner of the pasture, got ready for the straightaway and, suddenly, up from the grass burst a female mallard duck. She hobbled off a ways, looking sick and broken. Having no idea ducks play possum to distract predators from their nests, I burst into tears, apologizing to her while rushing to her aid. She made an immediate, miraculous recovery and flew off. Then I saw her nest. Inside were 11, oval white eggs, warm to the touch and still in tact.

We spent the rest of the afternoon scouring the internet, trying to determine if she’d return to her nest and what to do if she didn’t. We found no Disney movie endings. Incubating, hatching and raising the ducklings wouldn’t pose a problem, but they need momma duck to teach them predator avoidance. Being nearly the last remaining oasis of acreage in our corner of suburbia, our wooded area is crawling with predators and our pond serves as their feeding ground. In short, our potential ducklings were doomed, and my conscience heavy with guilt. We returned to the nest, constructed tall walls of cut grass around its edges and camoflaged it with branches and weeds, hoping momma duck would return.

And she did. With any luck at all, we’ll soon witness her escorting her ducklings to the pond.
Rhonda Ruminated at 3:10 PM | Permalink |

16 Ruminations:

  • At 6:09 PM, Blogger St Jude

    You can rely on mums to stay put.

  • At 7:26 PM, Blogger Mia

    YEAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!! I love happy endings!

    Give your pooches smooches for me.

  • At 8:20 AM, Blogger Nikki

    I love your dogs! Especially the shepard (brown). I have had a soft spot for them ever since we had a shepard when I was a kid.

    We named him FANG. The biggest baby on earth. He would give you hugs if you were sad. I really miss him

    Rhonda, you have a heart of gold. In comparison, everyone else's is tarnishe pewter.

  • At 8:55 AM, Blogger Rhonda

    St. Jude: I am just relieved she did.

    Mia: Pooches smooches. Too cute!

    Nikki: The German Shepherd's name is Tackle. He isn't a rescue, but he is my heart and soul dog. I simply can't function without a shepherd by my side. At some point, he'll get his very own essay. Like Fang, he's a great, big baby - and has me wrapped around his paw.

  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite

    I knew I liked you Rhonda, saver of ducklings and all creatures great and small. As a child, my house always had a menagerie of pets and rescued wildlife, including bunnies, baby oppossums, birds, cats, dogs... Good luck with the eggs.

  • At 11:29 AM, Blogger Kathy

    I just love animals, so I can relate to this completely. We had a lot of interesting pets growing up. Unfortunately we were never very good at keeping them going for long, except for our dog, pepper, a white (heehee) min. poodle.

    I am quite jealous as I am dying for a bearded dragon. I have neither the money or space for a 55 or 75 gallon habitat.

    Keep us informed of how the ducks are!

  • At 11:37 AM, Blogger frankengirl

    Yay for the happy ending – you had me worried there! Gorgeous dogs (and lucky ones). It’s lovely that your whole family is involved.

  • At 3:37 PM, Blogger Attila The Mom

    If they sleep in your bed, where in the world do you and SO sleep? Those ain't no lap dogs. ;-)


    Fabulous post as always...

  • At 3:49 PM, Blogger Rhonda

    If they sleep in your bed, where in the world do you and SO sleep? Those ain't no lap dogs. ;-)

    Fortunately, the other half and I are both crate trained.

  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger Rhonda

    Ruth: you grew up in my fantasy childhood. What a lucky kid you were!

    Kathy: The beardy is more fun than I imagined (he belongs to my son, though somehow has ended up in my office). You do have to get used to the sound of crickets inside the house though, as he eats about 1,000 of the little buggers per week.

    Frankengirl: I had me worried too!

  • At 10:15 PM, Blogger clew

    D'AWWWWWE!!! :)

  • At 11:42 AM, Blogger BloggingMone

    Second attempt to comment. In case the first one decides to show up, feel free to trash it! So one again: I think that is a great story! And I love your dogs. I used to have one, too. They are all great babies, I suppose. My dog knew exactly he wasn't supposed to sleep on our bed. So every evening he trottet into his dog bed ( a red wooden house with a window and his name at the entrance) and waited until he was convinced we were fast asleep. He would the heave himself into the bed, utterly convinced that we wouldn't notice...
    I have put a link to your blog on mine. Hope that's OK for you?

  • At 11:57 AM, Blogger Patty

    To cool I love the duck tale... Thats great. We tend to rehab creatures here in our jungle....

  • At 1:50 PM, Blogger Rhonda

    Boggingmone: Your dog's house sounds like a palace, but I am not surprised he preferred your bed. The question is: did you let him stay once he'd heaved himself up there? If so, he had you perfectly trained, just as ours have us trained. I'm honored for the link. Thank you :)

    Hi Patty: Welcome to my ramblings. I hope you stick around!

  • At 5:45 PM, Blogger Charlie

    Martha and I have been ruminating about your beasts:

    1. Does your wardrobe consist of nothing but hairshirts, even though they weren't hairshirts when you purchased them?

    2. How many Frisbees and tennis balls have the beasts killed?

    3. As the weather warms up, so does the slobber factor. Do people often go "Yewww!" when they meet you?

  • At 6:11 PM, Blogger Rhonda

    1. Does your wardrobe consist of nothing but hairshirts, even though they weren't hairshirts when you purchased them?

    The lint brush is my friend. Do you know there are people who actually knit dog-hair sweaters - and people who pay money for them?

    Once though, a woman standing in line behind me at the bank tapped me on the shoulder and whispered politely in my ear: "excuse me, but the back of your shirt is covered in dog hair . . . " I was so embarassed.

    2. How many Frisbees and tennis balls have the beasts killed?

    Not as many as the number of hair-brushes, plastic cups and bowls they have gnawed on.

    3. As the weather warms up, so does the slobber factor. Do people often go "Yewww!" when they meet you?

    Hehe. They aren't big slobberers, but one of The Philosopher's patients tells a story about seeing him for the first time like this: " . . . and I said 'Oh great, my new psychiatrist is covered in dog hair!" I do try to inspect him before he leaves for work in the morning.