Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Rains Are Here! The Rains Are Here!

Desert Nature Fact No. 1:  The summer rainy season is defined by 3 consecutive days of a dew point 55 degrees or over. In 2008, the lazy weather service decided the monsoon season would officially be June 15 to September 30, but us old timers still reckon the rainy season the old way. Yesterday we hit the magic number for the first time, so we knew it was coming. The toads are out. The winds had shifted and the storms were starting to form south of the border; they just weren't strong enough to make it up here. Yesterday, there was some rain in southeastern Arizona. "Maybe next week," everyone said.

Then at 3:35 this morning, I was awakened by the sound of rain hitting my windows. Yes, rain, and a goodly amount. And lots of brilliant, flashing lightning racing across the sky. There was thunder, too, although I have to say I didn't notice it. My informal weather station (a plastic tub in the yard, on a flat surface, away from the eaves of the house) registered almost 1/4-inch (on the Mossy Nest Pointer Finger Immersion Test).

Cuddle Monster, who was sleeping with me, woke up, and I carefully watched to see if he would have any reaction to the lightning and thunder. None. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I've never had to deal with a dog afraid of loud noises, although Camille was a little scared. Not excessively afraid, just a little nervous. She'd hide in the closet or under the bed until the noisemaker was over. But there's a big difference between dealing with a nervous 12-lb cat and a scared 85-lb dog, and I'm glad to not have to try to figure out how to do that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Rains Are Coming! The Rains Are Coming!

Despite Blogger being a pill and insisting on posting these photos sideways, I had to share because this little guy is a harbinger of good things--rain! He's a Couch's spadefoot toad, and he emerges when the summer rains arrive. It's not the moisture that draws him; they sense the thunder and vibrations from storms, and that's what wakes him up. Cool nature! Slightly toxic skin secretions, but not as dangerous as the Colorado River toad, which is 8 inches of nasty toad poison that can kill a dog that mouths it. Mr. Big nosed this guy, and Cuddle Monster completely ignored it, but my heart was racing a few minutes until I realized what kind of toad it was. Big clue--this guy is only a couple of inches long, and not warty, but at 9:30 p.m., in the dark, he looked much bigger and scarier at first. Really, he did. Okay, maybe I was overreacting a little, but this is only the second toad I've ever seen in my backyard. And given the dog emergencies that have happened recently, my nerves are a little on edge. Have a little consideration for my poor nerves, a la Mrs. Bennett, please?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's Raining Sams!

Today the dogs and I (together with their Clumber buddy, Bertram) went to the university for our walk. The first thing we saw as we pulled onto campus was a couple walking 4 Samoyeds!  We found them later on near a parking deck by the basketball stadium. Here are the other 4--1 male, 1 female, and two of her daughters. My boys were standing next to me.

Then I stopped at the donut shop for a blueberry muffin, and as I pulled out out of the drive through, in my rearview mirror I saw the SUV behind me had--another sam! This is one we've met before, so naturally I slammed on the brakes when I was out of the lane and ran back to talk to him and his owner. Apparently his treat is a strawberry jelly donut.  Shhhh! Don't tell the boys!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Call Him Pigeon Slayer

I have a severe pigeon problem. Ms. Green, my neighbor down the street, feeds them, and they used to roost in the storage area in my car port. They became entrenched in there, and made a huge mess, so several years ago, I had someone come and clean that space out and install mesh to keep them out of the area.

None of the four cats that have lived here are bird killers. Well, Miss Camille was, but she kept her kill skills to small birds. The dogs--well, that's another story. Mr. Big is an expert bird killer, and one time, while on a walk and harnessed on a 6-ft lead, quietly snapped his head up and snatched a bird right out of the air as it flew overhead and in front of us. Dead on the spot. He's killed mockingbirds, morning doves, even a Cooper's hawk. Yes, a hawk. Most of them he's eaten. Not the hawk.

Yesterday, at the ripe old age of 11.5 years, when most dogs are lounging around, not moving much because their creaky old joints are sore (and his no doubt were, as he had a grand time running around the dog park yesterday, including chasing a Young Turk dog faster than I've ever seen him run--ever), and at 104 degrees Farenheit, lying so still you're not even sure they're alive--well, yesterday, he killed a pigeon. Didn't eat it.

This morning he kiled a second pigeon.

You can teach an old dog new tricks.

I am hoping word gets out on the Pigeon Telegraph Line to leave this house alone. I have strings of discarded CDs tucked up under my eaves to try and prevent them from roosting on the inch-wide ledge up there, and they still do. They ignore the CDs and scooch in there, and then leave a mess all over my front yard and walkway. We love birds here in the Nest, but we hate pigeons. 

Now, is this the face of a pigeon serial killer?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

What Happens When a Crazy Golden Goes to Class

Golden Boy and I attended our first obedience class last night. He was a maniac. He has lovely house manners, but apparently his previous homes never took him out anywhere, and he's so excited by everyone and everything, he's like a kid whacked out on ice cream and spun sugar and chocolate bars and cookies and you get the picture. Or a country bumpkin in the big city for the first time, which in reality he is, having formerly lived in a what is described as a historic ghost town with a population of just over 2100. Look--a human--must jump up on them!  Look--a dog--must jump up on them! Look--a tree--must jump up on it! Look--another human! And another! And another! Dog! Human! Dog! Must pull my human's arms really hard so that by the end of the hour-long class and 45 minutes of socializing afterwards (turns out I know 4 people in this class) she is nearly crippled. Seriously, there was a huge knot in my left hip by the time I got home.

The good news: he did nearly every command we covered perfectly except for down, which we will work on this weekend. The bad news: the class is outside in our local park, and the distractions were intense, and apparently worse than normal. Every ten minutes a group of runners ran right past the area we were in, literally within feet of us (apparently the local running club does this once or twice a year, and we happened to have our first class that same night). The conformation class was right next to us in the same field, but they weren't too distracting. Grandfathers were just walking their grandchildren up to see the pretty doggies. Never mind that one German shepherd was refused attendance because he was so uncontrollable and another dog was allowed to attend only if muzzled and sitting 75 ft. away from everyone else. Geez, Gramps, use your noggin. Something bad could happen if grandkid started screaming or startled one of the dogs by running into her from behind or poking him, and can you see we're actually in a class right now and not some doggy petting zoo here specifically for your pleasure? There was a huge group of twenty-somethings wearing rainbow-colored feather headdresses and toting the largest water pistols I've ever seen engaged in a battle to the wettest running all over and around us. The dogs were all freaking out; even the instructor got distracted and admitted it (and, she pointed out, if she was distracted, imagine how the dogs must be reacting, so she's clearly not holding the general canine commotion against anyone).

There was a gorgeous, very well-behaved Golden in the conformation class, and I murmured in CD's ear that he's going to be like that when he grows up, right? Please?!

There were about 15 or more dogs in class, which is quite large, so next week they are separating out the puppies from the adults, each with their own instructor. So CD's buddies Bertram, Ziva, Scorch, and Sammie will all be in kindergarten, and he'll be with the big dogs. That's good--none of my friends will see me fall flat on my face when the country bumpkin gets distracted by a soccer ball or a squirrel or a leaf.