Today.

Amy close-up

Today, I made a tag for Amy’s collar. It has other phone numbers on it. Not mine. Not Jim’s.

Today, little Amy becomes Ruby. They are both fine names. The latter has great implications. It is a name a new family has picked for her. It means today is a great day.

Today a puppy gets to go home. It means another day of change for her, and I’m sure some confusion. But she’ll handle it. I know she will. I have picked THIS home for her and it’s right. It’s wonderful. She’ll have a doggy brother. She’ll have two humans to adore her. She’ll have everything she needs and wants. She’ll have the best life.

Today my heart aches just a bit. So does Jim’s. It’s quite impossible not to get attached. They live in our home. They sleep with us. They play with us. They come here out of need. They leave here with our love.

And yes, today is a great day. Though our hearts pull a bit at goodbye, we are thrilled for what is ahead for this little girl who is so brave and so deserving. No more question marks. No more uncertaintly. No more puppy mill life for you, sweet Amy. Go be the best Ruby you can be!

Today we turn back into the house and look immediately into two new sets of hopeful eyes. My heart swells filling in the tiny cracks that were there just a moment ago.

I think I’ll call you Peanut and Olivia. For now.

Peanut and Olivia

 

 

It’s Possible I’m Just Plain Crazy.

As I kid I was known as “horse crazy.” My parents swear that my first word was not mama or dada, it was horse.

Then, as I grew physically, my crazy factor also grew to encompass all animals. There really wasn’t a critter that couldn’t tug at my heartstrings and make me want to give it a hug and a happy home. This infatuation earned me the broader title of “animal crazy.”

I have to say I worked diligently to deserve that title. Once, when I was about eight, I sat for hours on end babysitting a mole who had been washed out of his burrow in heavy rains. I would not abandon my vigil despite repeated assurances from my parents that the pesky…um…adorable animal was fine, and that he would soon move along to build a new home. I remained there until darkness and parental insistence required me to head reluctantly inside for the evening.

The next morning I rushed out to check on my patient and found that he had indeed made a miraculous recovery overnight because he was nowhere to be found. And trust me, I looked.

In decades-later hindsight, I believe Mr. Mole may have actually been quite dead (What? You knew that right away?). Yes, I may have sat for HOURS watching over a deceased mole. I can just imagine my parents not having the nerve to break the news to me for it most assuredly would have resulted in tears and the need for a burial. With flowers.

Much as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were able to slip in and out of the house undetected, the Mole Fairy was able to come whisk the body away without young eyes bearing witness. Bravo, Mom and Dad.

As I have matured (though the eight-year-old caring for a dead mole is still alive and well in my soul), my tendency toward crazy has not slacked off even one tiny bit. In fact, now that I’m adult-ish and free of parental “my-house-my-rules” constraints, my craziness has flourished with a farm full of animals and a house quite literally full of dogs. And so I wear my Crazy Dog Lady, Crazy Pig Lady, Crazy Donkey Lady, Crazy Horse Lady, and Crazy Chicken Lady sashes simultaneously and with great pride.

But…It actually doesn’t stop there.

You see, I might (do) believe that maybe (absolutely) plants and various inanimate objects have feelings. There’s actually a name for this “disorder” that pops up in Google: Animistic Thinking. It’s defined as a mode of thought in which inanimate objects are imagined to have life and mental processes. Take the words “are imagined to” out of that sentence and BINGO. You’ve nailed it.

Let’s be honest here…I still have my teddy bear from childhood and though he is stored away on a closet shelf, I still see to it that he is always comfortable and has other stuffed animals to keep him company.

I have a hard time breaking it to my faithful old cars when I am trading them in for a newer model. I also pretty much refuse to have houseplants because I did not inherit my father’s green thumb and I’m terrified I will cause them pain and suffering.

Yup. This is my brand of crazy.

So this brings us forward to a point about a month ago when, on my drive home to the farm, I passed by what had once been a wooded parcel of land to see that it had been completely bulldozed…you know, in the name of progress. Hundreds of trees were shoved around in cluttered piles like a giant game of Pick-Up Sticks (Yes, kids used to be entertained by repeatedly picking sticks out of a pile only to re-jumble them and start over. No batteries or power cord required.).

It was heartbreaking to see these once sturdy trees, still sporting their vibrant spring leaves, uprooted, discarded, and left to die. I had to speed by as quickly as possible as I was certain I could hear them screaming. Or maybe I was the one screaming. Hard to say.

I passed by the trees daily as I drove back and forth to work. After a few days with trunks splintered and roots exposed, the leaves on the trees withered and died. It soon became a field filled with endless bonfire potential…with the exception of one determined tree.

There, in the middle of all of that soon-to-be firewood, one tree, despite its very horizontal predicament, was still in full bloom. This one tree was desperately hanging on to life. A soft green oasis in a branch-filled sea of despair.

And that darn tree was haunting me.

Every time I drove within a mile of the tree I came to know as Twiggy, I could hear her calling to me. “Nancy…save me! Naaaaaancy! Can you see me? Help me!”

And so, as any logical person trying to save a tree on the side of the highway would do, I posted a question on Facebook.

“How do I save a tree that has been bulldozed and have it transplanted to my front yard?”

Here’s the cool part, I apparently have a lot of similarly crazy friends! Because I got answers. I got offers for help. I found that other people were almost as disturbed by this tree’s bleak destiny as I was.

So this past Sunday, bolstered by the support of my kindred, tree-hugging friends, I decided to pull off the highway to visit my tree, offer it some reassuring words, and see if there truly was any way to save it.

Yes, I really did.

As I picked my way through the mud and “fallen soldiers,” I realized my tree was no little sapling. In fact, my tree fell into the category of “darn big.” (That is a technical forestry term. Trust me.) And then I saw the nail in Twiggy’s coffin–a shattered, splintered trunk.

Even if somehow I had raised the funds to hire a fancy tree relocation service, Twiggy was only hanging on by a toothpick. I walked over to pat the doomed tree and offer a few words of comfort. It was then, as I was standing there by the busy highway, talking to the dying tree (What?), that I saw them. Scattered in the mud around the base of the tree’s trunk were teensy seedlings. A quick comparison of leaves told me that these lime-colored minions were actually Twiggy’s offspring.

Hooray! I might not be able to spare the mighty tree from certain death, but I could certainly rescue a couple of her tiny babies.

Carefully I dug around the base of two of the treeletes, extracting their roots and a good little chunk of soil to protect them. Then I speed-limit-raced to get them home because “…but officer, I have to rush home, I have babies in the car that need to get into potting soil right away or they will surely die…” not only wouldn’t get me out of a speeding ticket, but just might land me in a padded cell.

I am proud to report that I did get the baby trees safely home. They are now carefully potted and residing on my front porch where I tend to them multiple times a day and move them in and out of the shade to allow them just the right amount of sunlight. Whatever that amount is. I’m totally winging it here.

So now I have a new title. I’m the Crazy Tree Lady. And don’t think for a second that my don’t-have-Dad’s-green-thumb phobia hasn’t surfaced to poke at me as I care for my two leafy charges. This is a weighty responsibility, but I’m going to do my best.

Dammit, these little trees WILL live. They WILL grow tall and strong. One fine day they WILL  have sturdy branches like their mommy did. And, someday, my dogs WILL pee on their trunks.

It’s the least I can do in memory of dear Twiggy.

(Yeah. I know. Crazy.)

Asking for Directions

first look 3

Eggatha Christie is not well.

No, not Agatha. With all due respect, Agatha Christie is several steps beyond “not well.” I believe she passed away in 1976.

Her somewhat namesake, Eggatha, however, is quite alive, but struggling. She has an injured leg and in the chicken world, that’s a very bad thing.

While chickens generally seem all innocuous and flock-devoted, let one of them get a tiny bit sick or suffer the tiniest of injuries and the whole dang flock will turn against them. I guess it’s that weakest link thing. Who knows.

All I do know is that just about five weeks ago, Eggatha did not raise her wing and say “here” during roll call as I was tucking everyone into the safety of our coop for the night. Our chickens get to free-range around our yard and barn during the day, and that covers a good bit of territory, so chicken hide-n-seek can be a challenging game. Chickens can be pretty good at the hide part of the game.

Eggatha’s truancy was  more than a bit concerning. My chickens come when called pretty well, actually really well. (DOGS…you might want to take note here. The CHICKENS come when they are called. They don’t pretend they can’t hear me to enjoy five more minutes of bird chasing.) Finally, as I continued to call for Eggatha, I did get a little clucking response from the direction of the barn.

There I found my ginger-colored girl S L O W L Y making her way toward me. I immediately feared that something had attacked her–the undeniable risk of allowing hens their freedom. Upon quick examination, I could find no visible injury, but her right leg was basically useless.

I carried her carefully to the coop and tucked her in with her chicken family for the night. I was sure they would rally around her, pull the literal or metaphorical thorn from her foot, and help her return to her normal sassy, strutting self by morning.

The next morning, what I found instead was dear Eggatha cringing in the corner of the coop pen while some of the other chickens, Cluck Norris, Henelope Cruz, and Donna Chicken a la King, were darting in and pecking at her. So much for feathered family values.

I rushed to the hen’s defense sending her traitorous feathered friends scurrying away in a flurry of flaps and squawks. After checking her over and finding that she was no worse for the wear physically, I moved a distressed Eggatha into one of our large dog crates with comfy bedding, and food and water in easy reach. But what to do next? Do they make tiny chicken crutches?

EggathaSo here’s the deal. It’s a chicken. I probably paid two bucks for her as a hatchling. She does not cuddle on the couch with me. She does not hop in the car with tail feathers wagging in anticipation of a grand adventure. She scratches around the yard, poops an astonishing amount, eats non-stop, and gives us eggs (bonus prize…the pet that feeds you breakfast and helps you make cakes!).

If this were a working farm, incapacitated Eggatha might truly become the pet that feeds us, if you know what I mean. And while I’m not a vegetarian, I would NEVER, NEVER…well, you know.

My next course of action was to call one of my trusted veterinarians who, I discovered, holds a master’s degree in  poultry science.

And so I whisked my two dollar hen off to the veterinary hospital where she then sat in a hospital cage adjacent to a variety of dogs, cats, and one young pig, awaiting her turn to be examined by the specialist.

Did you know that chickens have a ligament in their leg that can slip out of place and render that leg pretty much useless? I did not know that either, but I sure do now.

So Eggatha got some x-rays (you could see a soon-to-be-layed egg on the films…hysterical for some reason), had an exam, had a little acupuncture, got a fancy bandage on the upper part of her leg just above that backwards knee. Then she was discharged with strict instructions for rest and daily supplements to hopefully help her ligament get back in line and back to work.

Basically, my hen was on bed rest for 30 days.

The bandage helped support her weakened leg and she did start walking better almost immediately.  I grew hopeful that we would soon return Ms. Christie to the coop, to her normal do-as-you-please life of leisure.

After 30 days and some change had passed, we removed the bandage to see if Eggatha’s leg was once again a working drumstick.

But as she took a first tentative step, my heart fell. Her leg had not healed, and, in fact, without the bandage offering support, her limp was very pronounced.

So what now?

At the same time I was pondering Eggatha’s future, I read an article written by a friend. As fate would have it, this was the last article he would write…a small anecdote capping off a lifetime of articles, columns, books, screenplays, and several books that went on to become movies.

The author, Jay Cronley, was a Tulsa treasure. Long known for his humorous, to-the-point writing style, his recent contributions to a local pet magazine were quick, fun reads detailing the author’s life with and love for his dogs. Just days after he turned in this article, he quite suddenly and unexpectedly left this world.

When the new magazine came out, I flipped to the back column with a bit of a lump in my throat. It’s still so hard to believe Jay is gone. The article, a story about one of Jay’s beloved springer spaniels and the lengths he went to in an effort to save the dog from crippling hip dysplasia, was yet another colorfully told gem of a read.

And then I got to the last paragraph. Did Jay write this just for me? It is perhaps my favorite paragraph he has ever written. It was–and is–the best thing I could have read…the best gift Jay could have left for me and certainly for Eggatha.

“If you’re a real dog person, if the dog is a member of your family, you don’t ask how far it is to the hospital where they might save your pooch, or how much; you simply ask directions.”

Ok. Yeah, he was writing about a beloved dog. The cuddle-on-the-couch variety of animal companion. But who is to say where the line is drawn?

I raised Eggatha from a chick just days out of the shell. I have watched over her, fed and watered her. I have sat watching beautiful sunsets with her perched on my knee. I have tucked her in safely at night. Is she any less deserving of special care than our aging dog Virgil? Our blind mare GoGo?

In truth, it is up to each person to draw “the line,” to decide what is possible and what is best for the animals in their care. A chicken farmer would not likely have a special condo set up in his garage for one handicapped hen. Or maybe he would. It’s all in how each individual looks at things.

For me, well, Eggatha is not in pain and she does not seem to be unhappy. She eats, she still scratches around, she still poops an astonishing amount, she still gifts us with a daily egg, and her chicken mafia family has visitation through the fence. She seems content with that.

I think I’ll look for a smaller, chicken coop and yard that can sit alongside the main coop. It will serve as a private condo where Eggatha can live on safely for as long as she likes.

Was there ever any question? Really, I just needed directions to the nearest farm store. (Thanks Jay!)