She’s Not A Bird Dog — She’s A Bird Monitor!

One of my favorite things about spring is filling the bird feeders. I know that it would probably make more sense to fill the bird feeders during winter when the birds are far less likely to have an abundance of food, but for selfish reasons I typically only feed them in the spring.

Spring is when I have time to sit and enjoy watching the birds at the feeder. There are feeders set up along the back of our house so that no matter where I’m sitting, whether it’s in the kitchen nook, the dining room, or at my desk in the great room, I have a view of a bird feeder. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the birds find the feeders even after months of them being empty. It takes less than an hour before the first sparrow visits.

Besides myself enjoying all the activity at the bird feeders, Bell enjoys it just as much. She will sit at the back door staring at the birds flying from feeder to feeder for hours. If it’s warm enough and I put her cushion out on the chair, she will sit there even longer.

One thing about Bell though, she is not a bird dog…she is a bird monitor. She lets me know when there are birds at the feeders, but has never tried to catch them. Just by the position of her ears, she tells me when there are or aren’t birds at the feeder.

If her ears are down, this means there aren’t any visitors. But when her ears go half way up, ahhh, then you know there’s activity.

Ears are getting perky – definitely activity at the bird feeder.

Bell has never chased any of the birds in our yard. In fact she’ll walk by the bird feeder and quite often the birds won’t even leave. She will walk within two feet of them, and they just keep on feeding.

When I fill the feeders, birds are not the only visitors we receive. Unfortunately there is an abundance of squirrels in our neighborhood and the minute those feeders are filled, the squirrels are determined to get their share. To their utter disappointment, however, Bell will have none of that. You see, as much as Bell is a bird monitor, she is even more so of a squirrel evictor.

When her ears perk up as high as her ears perk

and she stands on her hind legs to look out the door

This is when you know a squirrel is nearby. She runs to the sliding door and chases those squirrels out of our yard.

This goes on all day long. I have seen as many as three squirrels at one time in our little plum tree trying to get into the bird feeder, but the minute Bell bounds out the door, they scatter. Bell especially likes it when she traps a squirrel in the tree. She will pace around the tree, run up and down the patio, and try her hardest to climb up the tree trunk for however long it takes that squirrel to get up enough nerve to bolt out of the tree and over into the security of our neighbors fenced-in yard. One morning Hubby and I watched her happily keep a squirrel captive in the tree for 45 minutes before she finally walked far enough away from the tree for the squirrel to make its escape. She certainly slept good that afternoon.

This squirrel escaped to our neighbors roof and sat there growling at Bell for the longest…

Bell definitely has a job! She doesn’t bother the birds, but is sure to chase away those pesky squirrels. The fact that she’s a bird monitor rather than a bird dog is something I am truly – Simply Grateful for!

All clear – Just Bell and the birds!


Year of the Skunk

Every year I add an ornament to our tree. To be fair, I actually add more than one, but at the very least, one new ornament must be added. This ornament can be our traditional family ornament, an ornament that I couldn’t pass up at the store, one that is gifted to us, or an ornament that signifies something that happened during the past year.

Back in October I was just getting back into the swing of blogging, catching up on posts that had been piling up, looking forward to new possibilities, ready to really make an effort to posting regularly again. Then, the unspeakable happened…Bell got skunked!

I know this is not something earth-shattering or life-changing, but here in our house, it was unbelievably horrid. Having a dog get skunked is a common occurance out in the country, but living in a subdivision with more than 1100 houses and very little open area for wildlife, this is not the case. So when Bell was let out at 9 o’clock at night, no one thought twice about it. When Bell came trotting back to the door (actually she was cowering with her tail between her legs, but Grace didn’t pay attention to this–a mistake she will never make again), the door was opened and she bolted in.

Now normally I would think if you noticed something was off when your dog comes back into the house, especially in the “smell” department, you’d immediately send that dog back outside. Not at our house. What did Grace do? Well, in her infinite wisdom she called upstairs to me, who was comfortably nestled in bed preparing to work on a blog post, and told me to call Bell because she thought she smelled funny.

I knew better than to call Bell, but upon hearing the word “upstairs” Bell ran as fast as she could through the kitchen, the dining room, the great room, up the stairs, through the hallway, and into my room. Bell is a very athletic dog, so bounding from the door right onto my bed was no problem.

Anyone who has had a pet skunked can attest to the fact that the smell that accompanies this wonderful act is awful. The smell is not like the smell you’re used to when you smell a skunk off in the distance when sitting on your porch enjoying the coming night. Not even close. The smell is far more concentrated, like multiplied by 100.

Well, Bell jumped right onto my bed and proceeded to roll on her back in submission, which spread skunk oil all over my bedding. Needless to say, I was not happy. I screamed for Grace and we got Bell back out of the house. Of course this was not before she ran from room to room, trying to avoid being put outside, laying down on the carpet in each room she had to go through, until I finally had to pick her up, hold her tight against me, and throw her outside.

Now, skunk smell is not one of those odors that you can just wash away. No, this smell has to wear out and for some reason is not necessarily just where the oil might have touched. The smell gets into the woodwork, every piece of material/clothing (including in shut closets), leather (including furniture, shoes, coats, and accessories), wall paper, and furniture (including wood). Yep, that stench gets into every nook and cranny in your house.

The first couple of days we were lucky enough to have some fairly mild weather so we had every window and door open trying to air out the house. Every piece of clothing had to be washed (my clothes from that night were thrown out), all bedding had to be cleaned, and all drapes and valances had to be taken down, washed and hung to dry.  I didn’t dare put anything in the dryer because all of our appliances for some reason seemed to ooze of skunk smell, so my clothes line did double time.

My bedding, like the clothes I had on the night Bell was skunked, was a lost cause. After two weeks of airing it out, washing it countless times, and spraying it with every type of air freshener/odor eliminater I could find, we tossed it. And I eventually had to buy a plastic mattress cover, one of those made to put on mattresses with bed bugs, to contain the smell that would not go away. As for the new mattress pad I had just bought a week prior to this happening, well that too had to be tossed.

Airing out the house helped a bit, but the smell in the carpets, walls, and furniture seemed to intensify. For the next two weeks I washed walls, floors, carpets, furniture, and tried my best to get our house back in order. The smell slowly dissipated, but it wasn’t until mid-November that I can honestly say you could walk through our house without the faint smell of skunk lingering about.

The smell on Bell however is a different matter. She has had more baths in the past six weeks than her entire four years of life. She’s been washed in tomato juice, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, peroxide, mouthwash, watered down bleach, and even the professional skunk removing shampoos sold at pet stores. Still, the smell prevails. It’s certainly not what it was, and some days, she actually smells okay, but the moment she gets the least bit damp from rain or even walking through the frost on the grass, the smell comes back.

Bell is an indoor dog. We have no option of keeping her outside. So when she comes back in the house smelling worse because of rain or snow, the smell lingers. Blankets need washing and furniture needs wiping down. It’s as if I have a full time job of trying to keep down the skunk smell in our house.

Everything was in upheaval for more than a month, setting everything back. But, it has now been nearly a month and half since this happened and things are beginning to get back to as normal as normal can be around here. I’ve almost finished decorating the house for Christmas, I’ve started my Christmas shopping, I’ve finally gotten back into trying new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the holidays.

Black Friday, Grace and I went out for our annual day after Thanksgiving shopping trip. While we were out, we bought our annual family ornament, but when I came across this little ornament at Joann’s, I knew I had to buy it.

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As much as I would love to forget our whole “SKUNK INCIDENT,” that is just not going to happen, so why not have a little fun with it. Everyone who comes into our house this holiday season will have to bear with me and endure a regaling of Bell getting skunked, Grace letting her into the house and sending her up to my room, and the process of trying to get the smell out.

I can say without hesitation that this has been the worst experience of owning a dog to date, but at least we can laugh about it now, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

What’s Up Bells?

Tonight Grace and I decided to pull out a carrot and see how they were doing.  No sooner did we have it out of the ground and Bell grabbed it and ran.

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Settling into the grass, she proceeded to chew it up, savoring every morsel.

We might not have been able to sample this particular carrot, but if the smell was any indication, it was definitely a good one.

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The carrots are still a little small.  A few more weeks and we should be able to harvest, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Perfect Planter

There are some things that touch you a certain way and for some unknown reason bring happiness when you really need it.

A few days ago a very special friend brought me a new planter that she picked up for me. The moment I opened it, I knew immediately where it was going and what I wanted to plant in it. I could hardly wait to fill it with compost, buy some plants, and place it on the patio to enjoy.

Day 1: Assembly

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Day 2: Filling with compost

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Day 3: Plant

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Bell approves!

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Today was the perfect day to finish this project. I needed something that would bring a ray of sunshine to my day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Peter Piper’s Peck of Pickles

Well, it’s not exactly a peck, but I did pick our first pickle from the garden today! Yea!

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It never ceases to amaze me how different a home-grown pickle tastes than a store-bought one. Grace and I fought over who was going to eat it. In the end we split it. Thankfully we are the only two in the house that like them.

As you can see though, there are going to be many, many more pickles in the coming days. What is even better is that only one side of the a-frame is actually filling up. I’m hoping that the delay in the other side will yield us pickles late into the summer.

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The trouble now is going to be restraining myself from eating all the pickles raw. I purposely planted pickles so that I could can them, but they are so GOOD, it is hard to consider tainting that wholesome goodness with vinegar.

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Bell checking out the pickles.

It’s good to know that I can always order a bushel from a local farmer just a few miles up the road, so I think we’ll eat our fill while we can, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Pupsicle Fun

Summer has truly hit Michigan.  It was 94 today according to hubby’s car and although not humid as it typically is, it was certainly a bit uncomfortable in the sun.  At least the clothes on the clothes line dried quickly — almost instantaneously.

After a tough day of cleaning and organizing my canning area in the kitchen, hanging laundry in the hot sun, and watering my garden since the weatherman got it wrong again when they predicted rain all day, Bell and I sat on the patio for a sweet treat.

Mama always shares with me.

Mama always shares with me.

I'm not spoiled -- I'm loved.

I’m not spoiled — I’m loved.

You know, grape is my favorite.

You know, grape is my favorite.

This really hits the spot.

This really hits the spot.

Really?  The rest is for me.  You're too good to me!

Really? The rest is for me. You’re too good to me!

Even though my garden didn’t get the rain I was hoping for, it was a great day to hang laundry, hide out in the house in the air conditioning while preparing for the upcoming canning frenzy, and taking a moment to share a popsicle with Bell, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

You Dirty Dog

Cats are the ultimate narcissists. You can tell this because of all the time they spend on personal grooming. Dogs aren’t like this. A dog’s idea of personal grooming is to roll on a dead fish. ~ James Gorman

Why is it that dogs love to roll in the grass? What is so special about that one perfect spot?

Oblivious to the reality of the situation, Bell found that spot this afternoon — much to my dismay. What she found so utterly irresistible, I found absolutely putrid. Time for a bath!

Come on Mom, I don't smell that bad!

Come on Mom, I don’t smell that bad!

This was not on my agenda for today.

This was not on my agenda for today.

Is this really necessary?

Is this really necessary?

This towel is just not my color.

This towel is just not my color.

No, I am not going to look at you.

No, I am not going to look at you.

Say goodbye to all that water.

Say goodbye to all that water.

I can't do a thing with my hair.

I can’t do a thing with my hair.

I swear, I'm going to jump if you don't let me down right now!

I swear, I’m going to jump if you don’t let me down right now!

Frisky Puppy!  I got your slipper Mama!

Frisky Puppy! I got your slipper Mama!

Let me out.  Let me out.  I know I can find that spot again.

Let me out. Let me out. I know I can find that spot again.

No I am not going to chew my sticks.  I'm quite happy sitting here sulking.

No I am not going to chew my sticks. I’m quite happy sitting here sulking.

Don't think that covering me up and making me all toasty warm is going to make up for this.

Don’t think that covering me up and making me all toasty warm is going to make up for this.

Ok, so maybe I do still love you.  Just let me sleep for awhile and then we can talk.

Ok, so maybe I do still love you. Just let me sleep for a while and then we can talk.

For Bell I’m not sure that the five minutes of bliss she experienced rolling in cat poop was worth the consequences, but we now have a fresh, clean smelling puppy, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Summer Beginnings

Today was the first “summer-like” day of 2014 here in Michigan.  The bugs were buzzing, the birds were singing,  the flowers blooming, and the sun was shining.  A perfect day to be outside enjoying the gifts of nature.

A ladybug checking out my laundry hanging on the line.

A ladybug checking out my laundry hanging on the line.

Hanging laundry on the line, spreading fresh mulch in the flower beds, cleaning out the gardens — and way too much sun.  I always forget the sunscreen on the first summery day of the year — one of these days I’ll remember, just not today

Mr. Robin watching as I worked.

Mr. Robin watching as I worked.

It was amazing how many birds were hanging around and chirping.  It was borderline “loud.”  The game of chase that the wood sparrows played, the red-tailed hawks soaring high above my head, and the blue jays squawking in the trees, and the chimney swifts darting about kept me company all day long.

The first open blossom on the plum tree.  Looks like I'm canning plums this summer!

The first open blossom on the plum tree. Looks like I’m canning plums this summer!

There are a ton of flowers itching to bloom.  I bet by tomorrow there will be lots more blooming.

There are a ton of flowers itching to bloom. I bet by tomorrow there will be lots more blooming.

The bloom I took a picture of opened up early afternoon and I had to stand on a ladder to get it.  It was the only one open on the whole tree.  By the end of the day the tree had at least 50 blooms wide open.

The bulbs around the plum tree continue to grow and although they are few, their scent fills the back patio with sweetness.

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The lawn needs cutting, but because of the terrible storms we had last night, it was too drenched to try.  My husband is not going to be happy because the dandelions are getting ready to seed.  I think it looks pretty, even if it does mean we’ll have yellow in our lawn all summer.  Some weeds are just too pretty to be without.

Maybe tomorrow this dandelion will have a puff for a neighbor -- then I can make a wish!

Maybe tomorrow this dandelion will have a puff for a neighbor — then I can make a wish!

The lilacs are still not blooming, but one particular bumblebee keeps visiting — waiting for those tiny flowers to open up for him to suck out the sweet nectar.  I tried really hard to get him to turn around for a picture, but he was not very cooperative.  I sort of felt like he was mooning me.

It was a great day to add fresh mulch to the flower beds and clean out a few small garden spots.  If the weather holds, tomorrow I’ll tackle the big garden so it will be ready for planting mid-month.  For now, I am happy that the plum tree has flowers so we’ll have plums for fresh plum pie, plum pie filling, and plums in syrup, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Jingle Bells, I Love You Too Much!

You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, “My God, you’re RIGHT. I NEVER would’ve thought of that!’ – Dave Barry

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Jingle Bells

It isn’t healthy how much I love my dog. She is with me every moment I am home. And when I have to go out, I worry about her. So much in fact that I am hesitating even planning a family vacation because I worry how it will affect her. These feelings are so close to how I felt about my children when they were babies and to some extent still now, I feel guilty. In fact, since my kids are getting older and less dependent on me, Bell has eased herself right into the would-be empty nest spots that they used to occupy.

Nearly two and a half years ago I decided I wanted a dog. Up until then my husband pretty much forbade me from getting one. I tend to get over attached to animals — okay, let’s face it, I am a sentimental slob and love them to a point well beyond what would be considered “healthy.” Every time we have had any sort of pet, I become so close to them, that when they leave this world, I am a basket case for weeks.

I have lost some close family members and a few close friends, but losing a pet is different. It is like losing a piece of yourself. This isn’t to discount losing family or friends, because that is also nearly unbearable, but for some reason I cannot accept a pets death as readily as I have been able to accept people’s. I hope that doesn’t sound harsh.

Death is never fair and I am never ready for it, regardless if a person has been ill or has lived a long life, but maybe because when a person dies, a piece of them is carried on in the people whose lives they’ve touched, it is somehow cushioned. My grandmother died nearly 15 years ago and I still think of her if not every day, pretty close. There are so many things I learned from her that I use in my daily life and traditions she instilled in me that it is as if she is still here. I suppose as long as I remember her and the gifts she left me, she will never truly be gone.

When our pet rabbit, Pepper died four years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever get over it. We found him after someone set him “free” at a state park. He was a domestic rabbit and would not have made it through the night in the wild. For seven years he was a part of our family. Not to the extent that Bell is now (I tend to think dogs are more loving than rabbits, at least in our case), but a loving addition none the less. Even though he died peacefully and I knew he had lived longer than most rabbits his breed, the loss was palpable. It left a hole in my heart that mere memories cannot heal. To this day I mourn his loss.

I’m not sure if it was the loss of Pepper or that the kids were finally old enough to join me in “ganging up” on my husband, but one night when he got home from work, we were waiting for him. He walked into the great room and found us sitting on the couch. He knew something was up. He cautiously sat on the opposite couch and I told him, “We want a dog.”

No begging, no justification, no preliminary conversation to cushion the blow, just “We want a dog!” He sat there a moment staring at us. I assume he was weighing his options. Before he could come up with a million reasons not to, I flipped open my laptop and continued. I told him I had found an 8 week old border collie/Australian shepherd puppy that needed rescuing. I turned the monitor toward him with Bell’s picture full screen. He looked at her and I could see him physically soften.

I’d done my homework. One thing my husband could not stand was a dumb dog. I think all dogs are great in their own way, but for my husband, a dog had to be smart. This breed was rated number 1. How much better could it get?

Without argument, my husband stood up, walked out of the room, saying over his shoulder, “If that’s what you want.” Done! He might have thought I would follow him to fortify my case for a dog, but I didn’t. I let it go. I didn’t say another word about it. I’d won. He didn’t say no and that’s all I was looking for.

The next morning after he left for work, the kids and I got in the car, drove 30 miles to where Bell was and brought her home. When my husband came home from work, I set Bell in the middle of the back hallway floor, right where he would come in. The kids and I hid around the corner and waited. The door opened and in a funny, baby-talk voice that I hadn’t heard since the kids were babies my husband said, “Well hello there! Aren’t you a cutie.” He was hooked.  Since that day, Jingle Bells has been our baby-dog. My husband refers to her as our “love child” and “the daughter that loves me.” My daughter loves him, but she is a teenager, so it’s only natural that there be a little friction from time to time.

Being a stay-at-home mom, I spend the most time with Bell. I feed her, bathe her, walk her, play with her, and twice a week when hubby is working, she sleeps with me. The other nights she sleeps with my daughter, Gracie. She is spoiled rotten and that’s the way I like it. I look at rescuing her as justification for making her life as happy, fulfilling, and easy as possible. She gives us unconditional love beyond anything I could have imagined, so the least I can do is let her sleep on the couch all day, walk her every morning, play with her, feed her healthy food, and love her with every ounce of my being. See — just like a kid, except my kid’s days of sleeping on the couch all day are numbered, they aren’t much into exercise, playing has nearly been outgrown, and healthy food does not always win over the junk food they try to sneak. Still, there’s the love.

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I can’t imagine what I’m going to do when something happens to Bell. Just typing that statement my eyes have filled with tears, there is a lump in my throat, and it is taking everything inside me to hold back the tears welling up in my eyes. So today, I am going to love Bell as much as I can, sneak doggie kisses as often as she’ll give them, and do my best to give her the “dog’s life” that she deserves, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.