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More Red Bat! Now, With Shmoos!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I don't know about you, but I think the world needs more red bat videos. To that end, I have three one-minute shots of delight. Movies 4 and 5 depict the second feeding session for the little juvenile red bat found helpless on her back on a sandy playground in Reno, Ohio. The feeding session in the first two videos was from the morning after she was found. She'd had a nice big feeding the evening before, and had presumably rested all night in her towel-padded Critter Keeper.

So the next morning it was wonderful to see how much more lively and capable she was. I had to cut the wasp grubs up the evening before; this time she handles an older pupa with alacrity. It did my heart so much good to see her gain strength.

We chopped the videos up into one-minute segments because Instagram will take only one-minute videos. Liam, again, is videographer.

One of the coolest things about bats, I think, is the way they seem to get that you're trying to help them. They struggle a bit, but shove a nice juicy grub in their mouth and they're all over it, thank you thank you! I will eat that! You won't get any argument from me! This is delicious! More, please!

I suspect that if I'd had to keep this bat longer; i.e. if it were mid-winter and not safe to release her for several months, she'd be the kind who'd probably sit on top of my glove, accepting food from the forceps, needing no restraint at all. I love it when they get to that point. 

But this little bat is on the fast track to release. All I wanted to do was build her up so she could fly again, and send her on her way, for it is the height of red bat migration now and she has a long way to go. I hope that wherever she ends up, it's not ruined by that pill Irma.

This next one, Red Bat Movie 6, is my favorite feeding video. It was taken the next evening, the evening of her release. As you can see I had quite a time restraining her--she was fast and strong and she wanted out! And you may need to watch it a couple of times. In trying to catch her I scared her, of course, and she HIDES HER EYES twice. Once she ducks her head into my glove and the second time she covers her eyes with her sweet little wings. Ohhhh. I can hardly stand it. 

If you can watch this last video, and still say you "hate bats," well, I'm afraid I'm giving up on you. 
Leave a comment that starts with "EEEEEW" on my Facebook page and poof! I will make it disappear. It's one of my few magic tricks. 

Because under that incredibly soft plush red fur, frosted silver, is an old soul with hopes and dreams and terror, too, in her wee breastie. All she wants is to fly up to the moon again, sometime soon. And in my next post, she will get her wish.

LOVE HER. Love her fiercely, tenderly, as I do. If you're here and watching, that's the way to go--toward the light. If you want to pass it on, show that last video to somebody who "hates bats." 

P.S. Dark, rainy morning here, September 14. Birches turning gold, heading into fall fast. Talking on the phone, looking out the studio window. At 7:58 AM, the female bobcat who's taken James' place zoops out from behind the spruce, picks up a chipmunk like you'd pick up a dropped wallet--casually, easily--and melts back into the woods with her breakfast without even putting the birds up off the feeder. It. Was. Awesome. We've gone from nine omnipresent and gluttonous gray squirrels to None. 
No. Squirrels. That's a natural balance I can get behind. And waay better than James ever achieved. :D 

Come to think of it, I haven't seen Notch the naughty bunny--a regular each morning at the feeders-- for a week. Damn. That's what I get for falling in love with a Shmoo.**

RIP Notch. In heaven, Julie's lettuce, geraniums and lobelias are planted right in the ground. You won't even have to climb up into the planters.

**Shmoos were the creation of Al Capp, the brilliant cartoonist/creator of Li'l Abner. My DOD, who loved sly social satire, used to read Li'l Abner aloud to us at the breakfast table. This Wiki link will tell you more than you need to know about Shmoos. 

Little Bat, Lost

Monday, September 11, 2017

Friday, September 1, was an awful day. I'd pushed through August 30 and 31 thinking, oh, this isn't so bad, I'm relieved, actually. I've got work to do. I got up that day and gathered up all the trappings of a dog's life: the two nice clean beds,  the funky bed, the food, the treats...couldn't touch the collars and leashes yet, so I left them in the drawers. I wanted to get all the obvious stuff, the countertop and living room and studio stuff, out of my sight. I buried my nose in the funky bed a couple times and carried it out to put with the trash. I mean, you don't save a giant dirty dog bed just so you can smell it...or do you? No. You don't. Stop it. Stop crying. Put it in the can.

It was like that. Awful. Fighting with  myself the whole way, I drove to town with cans of expensive dog food and a 30 pound bag of Fromm's kibble that I'd recently opened. The cans rolled around in the back of the car, thrashing like a thing alive, and I fought back tears as the frugal child of Depression-era parents rounded the curves, determinedly taking all that good food back to the stores. I prayed that the customer service person at Giant Eagle would be the nice woman with frosted hair, and she was. She didn't bat an eye, understanding instantly why a person would up and buy $64 worth of canned dog food the same week her dog died. Crazy, hopeful heart, swimming up De Nile, hedging against reality. He can't be dying. Look. I have all this food.

 This kind and lovely woman looked me in the eyes and told me a story about her two elderly pugs that both went blind and developed diabetes, requiring special food and two shots each per day. She had to leave work at 9 AM, rush home, shoot them both up and feed them, then rush back, all on her brief break. Same thing at dinnertime. Two and a half years of this, before she finally hit the wall and admitted to herself that it wasn't fair to the dogs or her; that it was nothing but a holding pattern against the inevitable.  And she had them both put down on the same day. Good Lord. Crass as it sounds, she made me feel, I don't know...lucky... that Chet had been holding his own, more or less, until he wasn't. And that it was all so clear. We bonded. Dogs, man. They can lift you so high, but they can, through no fault of their own, rip your heart out, too. You can substitute "People" and "Love" in that sentence. "Life," while you're at it.

I went to my favorite pet store (the kind that has only shelter animals for adoption) and got sad faces and hugs from lovely Christy and Ethan. They took back the enormous bag of Fromm's, even though it had been opened. I felt humbled and grateful and appreciated in this small town. I felt embraced, figuratively and literally. I could buy people food with the money they gave me, and I did. It felt right. I was grateful. I seriously didn't know how much longer I could keep throwing fistfuls of money at poor Bacon, trying to keep him among the living. It had been a hard year and a half.

Prompted by the kindness I'd been shown, I was losing it again. At that moment, Shila texted to ask where I was, whether I was in town. (She's a little witchy, that way, and others). 

Yes, I'm in a parking lot in Marietta, crying, why do you ask?

Come to my office, and I'll give you a session, she wrote.

 I think that's about the only thing I'd have said yes to at that moment--cranio-sacral and polarity therapy from my best friend. Yes. Oh, yes.

So I drove out to Wellness Unlimited in Reno, Ohio, and lay on the table while Shila worked her magic on me, settling my nervous system, letting me cry and fall asleep three different times from the sheer comfort of healing touch and pure kindness, saving me yet again. After the session, Shila said, "Let's go out and gather some acorns for Jemima. The jays have been going crazy in the oaks out back." So we walked out to look for acorns on the ground. We couldn't find any. What were there were still small and very green, and hanging on the branches. Shila walked over to a second tree and I followed her. 

I will say here that I wasn't exactly sure why Shila wanted to gather acorns for Jemima, she who eats so well on chicken and rice and sweet corn and pecans. But I knew enough to follow her out into the back lot behind her office.

Under the second tree, we were distracted by an enormous orange and yellow wasp darting back and forth just above the ground. "Ooh look, a cicada killer! What's it got?"

The wasp was making repeated sallies at something very odd looking, lying on the ground. 
"Oh my God!" we said in unison. "It's a red bat!!"

The bat was in defensive posture, wings spread, but when we knelt beside it it brought its wings in and covered its eyes.  My heart got a brand new crack in it. I mean, look at that little creature, legs spread wide, covering its eyes, so afraid, so helpless.

Oh, sweetie. How did you get yourself in this pickle, here on the ground?

I can't tell you. I just want to cover my eyes and forget about it. I want you to go away. But the big wasp is scaring me so.

For one of North America's larger bats, it was so, so tiny. What looks like its junk here--the pink protrusion--is actually the base of its tail, which extends down into the well-furred tail membrane. Examining these photos, I can see (in retrospect) that it's a female, probably a juvenile. The other hint to that is the heavy frosting of her fur. Males are more uniformly red. I was way too excited to do a proper evaluation of this little bat's junk. I was programmed to receive, and get this bat into Zick's Hotel, Spa and Hostel for whatever she might need. And she'd be able to check out whenever she was ready.

Shila ran to fetch a towel and lidded plastic shoebox from her office while I fought off the urge to pick it up with my bare hands (never! even after two rabies shot series). It was a cool, rainy afternoon and the poor craithur was cool to the touch, nearly torpid. I couldn't divine what on earth it was doing lying on the ground. Red bats occasionally roost on the ground in leaf litter, but this one had nowhere to hide. I didn't know what the cicada killer had in mind by circling around and darting at the bat, but I knew it was nothing good. Could the wasp have stung it, hoping to paralyze it and carve it up for food, the way they do cicadas? What an awful thought!  And: Not on my watch! Begone, wasp!

Using the towel, we gently folded the bat up and put it in the Tupperware with the lid on tight. It'd be fine for the ride home. I started thinking about what I had at home to feed it. I'd had to throw out all three bins of homegrown mealworms when they became infested with mites, what a bummer! Teeming with lovely tiny worms, and a moving gray mat of mites. Nope. Not in my basement. Out they'd gone.

I couldn't think of a better food for a compromised bat than wasp larvae. I've resorted to robbing paper wasp nests many times in the past when I've been suddenly caught with a creature needing live food. I can't even remember now how I hit on it, but paper wasp larvae are the bomb, and easily obtainable, if you have the guts. I remember now that I might have gone into the combs I knocked out of my greenhouse out of curiosity, just to see the larvae and pupae in different stages, and then it occurred to me that the baby box turtles I was raising might appreciate them, and I was off, feeding wasp grubs to animals.

Having done this more than a few times, I have noticed, while harvesting wasp grubs, that in the past four years or so there is a situation with parasitic larvae in the combs. Pictured below are three healthy wasp grubs--the three big fat ones. Also in the picture are three parasitized wasp grubs--the small round shriveled ones with black heads. And there are five predatory larvae in with them (the thinner ones with tiny brown heads).  I suspected these to be the larvae of another wasp or perhaps a fly, because structurally they are similar, if a lot slimmer and more mobile. Sharp eyes of entomologist Sam Jaffe spotted lepidopteran characteristics (the prolegs are a dead giveaway!) He suggested Chalcoela iphitalis, the Sooty-winged Chalcoela moth, as the parasite.

This is a healthy paper wasp nest--you can see eggs and grubs in the cells. Also, the cells with silken roofs are not perforated. There are healthy maturing wasp pupae in the roofed cells.

This me holding the healthy nest next to one that is badly parasitized. It's dirty and full of silk layers, and all the caps that should have pupae beneath them are perforated in many places. They've been chewed through, and there are predatory larvae in the cells that should hold healthy paper wasp pupae. Ut-oh.

A possible culprit is here in Jim McCormac's excellent blogpost about a moth that bedevils paper wasps. Many thanks to awesome entomologist Ted MacRae for helping me try to figure out what these larvae might be.  And to  similarly awesome Sam Jaffe for pointing me to Sooty-winged Chalcoela. And to Ohio's pride, all around naturalist Jim McCormac for writing it up. If I'd been smart I'd have let some mature to see what they pupated into. But I had a hungry bat!! 

Inquiry fell behind the need to feed this beastlet. Between the three nests I knocked down (all I could find), I got enough larvae, both paper wasp and parasite, to feed the bat for four sessions.

And now, the bat. Movie 1 is her first feeding. Oh, she's so slow and cold and sad. But she gets a little more gusto with each juicy grub I give her.

She's perking up!

I fear I frightened her a bit with my chuckles and snorts. Look how much more lively she is after only three larvae!

Truly, I'd been so sad that finding this little waif and seeing her come back to life was almost too much for me to take. It was too sweet. I had to laugh in delight.

I just want to say that when Shila and I get together, stuff like this happens. She suggests we walk out into a light rain under some oak trees to look for acorns??? and we find no acorns. No, we stumble upon this magic little animal my favorite bat of all favorite bats who might have died had we not been right there, at that spot, at that moment.

The little voice is strong in Shila, and it's strong in me, and when we get together, it fairly shouts. And we listen. We listen hard.

The Enchanted Garden

Friday, September 8, 2017

This is a post I wrote in August, before a lot of other stuff happened. I stuffed it away and saved it for a time when I wouldn't feel like writing. Which turns out to be now. I keep checking: still got nothing.

I took the enchanted basil forest down in early August. 
Best basil I've ever grown. I had little to do with it. It was the rain that made the leaves big and tender. Wow, what beautiful basil. And for once I harvested it in the height of its growth, not in October when most of the leaves have fallen off and the rest are yellowing. Beautiful!!

After the cutting. The plants are still there, and may well send up just that much growth again before frost. Yikes!

All that basil reduced down to this many leaves, which Liam helped me strip off the stems.
And all these leaves, with some pine nuts and parmesan and a lot of olive oil, made 13 jars of delicious pesto. Just finished my dinner, 3 cheese ravioli drenched in fresh pesto. Mmmmm! Good thing I ran today, and am going to rake the yard again.

Amazingly, the manure-fed rhubarb is still going pretty strong, and I've made some bitchin' cobblers lately. Oh I love that stuff sooo  much. Just looking at this photo makes me feel thankful.
I so vastly prefer shopping in my garden to shopping in the produce aisle. I love summer cooking. It's so easy and fast, with all this organic produce flowing into the kitchen.

Speaking of happy, here's the first big crop of golden raspberries we've had. Yes, that's young asparagus curling around, from the seeds I planted in the greenhouse two springs ago. It'll probably be five more years before I can harvest any, but that's OK. I'm waiting anyway.

My dear friend Connie Toops has given me a couple of batches of raspberry plants from her amazing mountainside garden in North Carolina over the last five years or so. Cutting all the trees that were shading them, liberal applications of cow manure, and a rainy summer were apparently what they required to really take off, spread and give us enough to carry some in from the garden. I.E. enough so that they aren't all gut-picked right there in the patch. Ahhhh!! sooo good.

Best of all, there have were still some on the plants for Phoebe. It's been lovely for Phoebe to have a little time here rolling around with me in August's glorious bounty.  She had a beautiful two weeks with Chet Baker. She went back to school August 26, and, goodbye kisses given and received, he very quickly got on with the business of leaving this world. Bless his little soul. A gentleman to the end. As I think about it, it was best that way, a perfect visit, with him feeling pretty good, even able to go on hikes, and Phoebe able to remember him that way. I brought him to her arms when she woke up each morning. 

Sweet puppy kisses and golden raspberries. Life was good for Phoebs. Right next to them, the last naked lady finishes her bloom.

They're softly fragrant and so divine with that ethereal cerulean-violet on their petal ends. Ahhhh. 

Once again, there's South Africa to credit for this wonderful plant, Lycoris squamigera, often called the Surprise Lily for the way its broad strappy leaves come up in spring, wither away by June, and then boom! there are multiple tall spikes of fabulous pink "naked ladies," i.e. without any leaves, popping up as a surprise in August! I'm thrilled that these transplants from an old home site down Dean's Fork have taken hold in my heirloom garden, right in front of the peony I harvested there. Home again. The naked ladies don't bloom in the woods. I should get serious, take a shovel and dig some more of them next spring. 

Buddleia is adding its sweet perfume to the powerful scent of tuberose come evening.

I'm really pleased with this combo, more thought out than most of mine, on the corner of the old garage. I'm breaking the rules by planting 4'  tuberoses in front of shorter things, but they're there to smell! No stepping over other plants to get to them. This is a hedon's garden, after all.
And the tuberoses are almost as tall as I am this year. I don't even have to lean over to bury my nose in them. I made a sweet little bundle this spring selling off most of my tuberose bulbs at two gardening talks I gave here in Ohio. I had too darn many to plant, and no place to put them. Sold a bunch of Achimenes rhizomes, too, which took a little more salesmanship. The tuberoses were snapped up immediately. They were beautiful--enormous bulb clusters, manure-fed, and I sold them for $4 apiece. I hope to rebuild my stocks and offer them in coming years. What I sold was about a decade's worth of propagation. Man, I love being able to produce something people really want and sell it in person (as opposed to online). No postage, no hassle, just grab, gimme some cash, and go. 

I've put in a bed of annuals--Salvia farinosa "Victoria," Angelonia and zinnias--behind the tuberoses. I tried to keep it all purple, pink and white. Succeeded. Sometimes it works out.

Chet Baker's Last Run

Thursday, August 31, 2017

For the past week, I've had a song running through my head, Carol Burnett's farewell.

I'm so glad we've had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say "So long."

Over and over. I hear her voice and see her tugging her earlobe. I wondered why. Now I know. I honestly think it was Ida, a great Carol Burnett fan, gently bringing me up to speed, singing in my ear. 

The trouble with Chet started a year and a half ago. It's a litany of ailments that started with a systemic tick medication I wish I'd never heard of, and wish I'd never given to him.  After only a few months, Chet got an ear infection, resulting in profound and permanent deafness in February 2016. While poking around with that, Dr. Lutz found Chet's thyroid was no longer working, and he had a heart murmur, too. Dominoes kept falling. In September 2016 he got a bad skin infection that was linked to allergies. He'd be on antibiotics for the rest of his life. The drug management of his maladies swelled until he was taking six medications, twice daily, and I rather swiftly lost my strong, vital, funny little running buddy to the dull, nagging drone of his ills. For his part, Chet's world contracted down to pill treats, meals, and slower and shorter runs that became lopes that became walks. I never saw a better 10-year-old dog--unfazed by 7 mile runs--until I saw him no more. 

I didn't write much about it because it made me so sad, and I didn't want to make you sad, but I have to say it's been hard to stand by, throwing pills at him from the sidelines, as my dearest friend faded. Keeping my blog and his Facebook page going was like being a press secretary to a beloved but ailing head of state.  How is Fidel today? Well, Fidel enjoyed his morning coffee...I'd scratch around and find something sweet or funny to share and then a long time would go by before I found another thing worth sharing. The writing was on the wall, and I had to read it every day for a year and a half. But that didn't mean I wanted you to have to read it, too.

It turns out that, even as I share some of my life here, and make people feel they know everything about me, I'm an iceberg. There's this huge lurking part of me that I won't allow to roll over and pop out of the depths. This thing with Chet has run me down, pushed my iceberg over, and it feels out of balance now.  I'm upended, the rotty icy part from deep down dripping in the unaccustomed light.

Doing wildlife rehabiltation for so long has given me a familiarity with the signs of suffering, and an intolerance for allowing it. I've played jury, judge and executioner far more times than I ever wished to. Who'd have thought that the child who wept over every black molly that went belly up in her 5-gallon fishtank would end up seeing so many creatures out of this world? Cue Carol Burnett. She's been singing in my ear for a week now.

He had a good two weeks in and out of Phoebe's arms. He was loved and cuddled and coddled. He gave her so many good kisses. On  Monday, August 21st, we took our Eclipse Night walk together.  I had a feeling it would be his last walk, but I didn't say anything about it. And the day she left for college,  the following Sunday, he started down a much steeper hill. By Monday afternoon he was breathing hard. Lasix, prescribed on another office visit Tuesday, had no effect. I heard the rasp in his breath Wednesday morning around 4 AM. And I knew when I looked into his eyes that Chet Baker's good long run had come to an end.  He was apologetic but firm. He wanted out. I wanted to let him out. I was not going to be the one to drag it out, to exhaust every possibility and spare no expense.  There may have been options for prolonging his life, but I had no interest in pursuing them, because the outcome would be the same, and the interim would hold only more suffering for him. I listened to Chet, and he spoke to my head, and my heart heard him too. I was grateful to know beyond doubt that it was his time. It's the doubt that will ruin you and bring you to your knees. I have watched too many friends walk this terrible line with their pets. No one is comfortable in this role, having to make the final judgement on a beloved one's time with us.

It wasn't a surprise. I'd had all kinds of warning. So I went into Deal With It mode, which keeps no room for drama, breast beating or hair tearing. I made Chet as comfortable as I could, and Bill and I picked a place and dug a sweet little grave in the front flower bed, just a couple of feet from the stoop where he baked his brisket on spring mornings. There, we wouldn't have to dig into turf, or mow around it. There, I could plant whatever I wanted in his honor. I set aside some daffodil bulbs we'd dug up to replant when we were done. 

 Liam got up and got the news and held his dear dog for a long time. He'd been so worried about him Tuesday night, but we hoped Lasix every 8 hours would perform a miracle.  He didn't believe my words that it was time until Chet told him it was so. I hated to see that sweet boy facing this, but I've tried, and I know now I can't make everything OK for my kids, not even close. All I can do is tell them the truth, always. 

 When Dr. Lutz's office opened at 8, I called, and they agreed to take us at 9:15. A blessing. I made Chet a breakfast of ham, eggs and cheese, but he couldn't take it. Just a little water. All right then, off we go. It was the longest half-hour ride into town I've ever experienced, except for when I was in labor with Phoebe.

Taken from the back seat. Bill drove. We kept our hands on him the whole time. 
Dr. Lutz gazed at him and said there are a lot of wonderful dogs, but there will never be another Chet, and she's right. Another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one comes again. We all wept and I wrapped myself around him and shared his last breaths, nose to nose, so he'd know I was there. His ears smelled like honey, his feet smelled like Fritos, and the harsh rasping slowed and stopped, and I realized that over the last three days it had become the soundtrack of my sorrow. In the unaccustomed silence, I wondered aloud. "Just like that. So fast. And he's gone. Who'd have thought?"

And yet most of us reading this have done this odd thing, or are looking at a time when we will. Only time will tell whether I'll ever have the strength to do it again. From where I sit, I don't think so. Finding another Chet just doesn't seem possible, even if it seemed right to me. I think my heart has had all it can take for a good long while. That dog was there for me for twelve and a half years. He tried to hang in there, knowing how much I needed him, but his time came and too soon. I'm sailing alone without him now. I'll be OK, Bacon.  If I could just freeze-frame him at 9, and keep him that way forever, with his vast vocabulary of words and mutual understanding, with his training having come to full fruition, with  his hearing and eyesight and all his organs and wisdom and humor and strength intact, I'd sign a deal with the Devil. Give me the pen. Show me where to sign.

Midwest Birding Symposium, 2013. Photo by Jenny Bowman

I'd already signed a pact when I bought him, sight unseen; in utero no less! from my wonderful friend Jane Streett in the winter of 2004. And that pact was to love him without reserve or condition. It was not a performance-based love, not a jealous love, nor a possessive one. I remember wondering, when he was a young pup, when he'd turn to me and realize that my heart was his, and his mine. And I remember when it happened, when I saw him light up upon seeing me, when he started refusing to go anywhere unless I was along. And that was when I got the handle "Mether" and our love took off. 
12 1/2 years, and it never failed us, not once. We never fought, never went to bed mad. There was no no subterfuge, no duplicity. There was only love, the pure kind of love a baby has for its mother. Is it any wonder we love our dogs back so hopelessly, so slavishly, so openly, so fearlessly? 

February 2005. Small enough for a tubesock coat. Be still my heart.

I was searching for images to illustrate this. Yes, I could go back in the archives and sort through tens of thousands of Baker photos and find just the ones. But I don't have the time or the heart to do that. So I'll take you on Chet Baker's last run, only ten days before he left us. August 20, 2017, the day before the solar eclipse. 

At this point, when taking Chet for a lope, I was picking my weather and my routes. It had to be a cool day--this one started in the upper 50's. I didn't want a lot of steep uphill climbs. There had to be water for him all along the way. Duck Creek Road, on this sparkling August morning, it would be.

We had to stop and pick up a Little Soldier on the way. 

I carried him across, singing the song. My song.

Chet knows to wait in the car until Mether's done wriggling around in the middle of the road with her camera and the turkle. He's in the Chetspot, front pawdypads on the console, where Mether can kiss his cheek and throw her arm around him for the curves. Sometimes he'd put his left paw on my shoulder, leaning into me as we went around a curve. That was my favorite thing he did in the car.

Duck Creek Road was still misty, just like we like it. And there was clean water in the ditch from last night's thunderstorm. Perfect. 

This beautiful blackish horse was very interested in Chet, and he was happy to touch noses and exchange breath with me, too. 

Horses in the morning always do me good. The days when Chet would duck under the fence and try to nip a soft nose are long, long gone. He was one crazy-ass puppy.

I missed my palominos and the grullo--Buckeye, Daisy and Jesse--but these worked just fine.

I'd say I shot an unusual number of Bacon photos, but I didn't. I always shot an unusual number of Bacon photos.

We scuttled from shade spot to shade spot.

Chet was always a dog who looked up. As a puppy, he'd run after low-flying turkey vultures, jumping up to try to meet them. I'm thinking of all the posts I've done...Chet Baker, Birdwatcher...oh, I could go back and link to them, but I won't. It's hard enough to stay in the present.

In the last year of his life, any time I tried to stop take a photo of Chet going on ahead--his default mode when he could hear--he'd stop and turn right around to come back to me. He refused to walk ahead of me, because he couldn't see me then, and who knew when I'd take off to identify a butterfly? He wasn't about to lose me now, this late in the game. Plus, he always got kisses when he doubled back. So doubling back was a win for him. I could no longer take my distant inkblot photos that had become sort of a signature of this blog, but who cares? Things change. 

Here I come. You aren't going to get away from me this time.
We got to the Whipple Fish and Game Club, and found a shady bank where we could look over the pond. There was an osprey there, piping from a dead snag, perched above four wood ducks and a green heron. We settled in for some birdwatching and a nice long rest.

I love this picture of my little gentleman. Love the peaceful, careless way he's sitting, love his expression. 

Don't you think it's time to go home, Mether? It's past brunchtime. 

We took it slowly on the way home, with water stops and stretchouts in deep shade. 

While I waited for Chet, I found Small-flowered Leafcup!

Polemonium canadensis was one of the rare plants I looked for when I worked for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. I wasn't able to come up with its name when I found it, but I knew it was something worth knowing. A quick message to The Buckeye Botanist fixed that!

 I do love The Information Age. So much.

When we got back home I took a photo of Chet, waiting for me to give him his brunch. I was happy that, at 12 1/2,  he'd made the four-mile trip with me, but I remember saying as we came inside, "I think I've just taken my last run with Chet. From here on out, it's going to be shorter hikes. I'll take my big lens and take it slowly, pick my days and quit trying to run with him. All I do is keep doubling back to wait for him now."


 I'm so glad we've had this time together. 

The next night was Eclipse Night, and he walked almost two miles with me and Phoebe, to go get some more peaches. 

 Such a beautiful sight, that little white cow-face coming up over the hill.

Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say "So long."

 This zinnia got good and trampled during the dig, but I've been nursing it, and it's coming back. Tiger swallowtail thinks so, anyway.

 He always loved to shuffle through this bed, looking for chiptymunks.

And another matchless little soul takes wing. 

He hears each soft word
Sees the rabbit and squirrel
Runs like black ink and
Stays like a good dog
in our hearts forever. 

Chet Baker, Boston Terrier

December 12, 2004-August 30, 2017
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