Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Critters for Company

A girlfriend once introduced me to the family frog. Fred, whose shocking size nears the circumference of a lunch plate, has refused to leave her property and has taken up residence in the chemical waters of the backyard pool. For his health and safety, Fred has been encouraged to leave many times. He has been carried down the long drive way to the ditch, dropped gently over the fence, and practically bussed to another state. However, Fred has always returned. My friend struck a truce with this frog and now he claims the pool at night while the kids enjoy the pool during the day.

Seemingly, we all have our special creatures—the ones that adopt us, that is. Last year, we enjoyed Portia, the little yard rabbit. Once timid, she became bolder with age and maturity. I would see her closer to the back deck and had direct evidence that she visited our house bunny for a while. This year, I have yet to see her. One of her kin was in the front yard this week though. We spotted her during an early morning attempt to soothe my son’s croupy cough with the pre-dawn air.

We still have Charlie, a grey cat that escorts neighborhood children to and from the bus stop most days of the week. He will also join my family for walks with the dog—at a safe distance, of course. Periodically, I will open my front door and there is Charlie sitting and waiting. “You have this house confused with yours,” I tell him, but two hours later, a peek out the windows shows that Charlie insists that, at least temporarily, he plans to nap here.

This week, we had a newer visitor. Cheetah is one of those swirled inky kitties that one sees on Meowmix commercials. Having been inspired by Charlie, as he has socialized many of the neighborhood cats, she too will escort the children of her feeder’s family to and from the bus stop, even in the rain. Coming home from my son’s school Monday, Cheetah scampered across the street to greet us, rolled around between my feet for a while, and entertained my son. (He would love a cat of his own, but I tell him no and that I have enough mouths to feed.)

Years ago, my mother had squirrels—a love-hate relationship, really, as they would yell at her about having been kicked out of the attic by the painter she hired. She had all kinds of amusing antics to report about them, including the time that a squirrel was so angry with her that he buried a stick (end pointing up) in the yard. And among the other pesky visitors we’ve had have been rats. My first husband was so upset about Ned, who moved into our first home and took up residence in the backside of our gas stove, that I was left to set the trap and kill the little beast. The day I succeeded was both triumphant and awful.  Years later in another home, we had a rat that used to horde my dog’s food. One day, I opened the door to the garage and there he was, sportily jaunting from the dog food bowl to his hole in the wall with a large chunk of kibble in his mouth. He stopped, paused, practically waved hello, and then continued without panic on his happy trot across the floor. I tried, but never could trap him.

I know of a wild burro and horse who happily adopted the humans that lived next door to them.  I have heard stories about deer and moose who have insisted on visiting across fences like old friends.  Really, these visitors are some of the best to have—so long as they poop outside and don’t chew holes in your walls.

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