#17~ comes the spring
The gray brings out the vivid greens and purples and yellows and pinks of the spring. A respite, a bit of a breath before full steam ahead into summer, the day has chilled my toes and given cause for a wee four-legged to wedge himself in the chair here and curl tightly against my leg for warmth.
I am 40 miles from home, (40 million, it seems) spending a week away to care for a dear friend’s beloveds in the way I care for my own. Embraced by a verdant sea of grasses, waist high and dotted with wildflowers, I am in charge of furred, feathered and hoofed beings that absolutely delight me at every turn. Beyond the feeding, grooming, mucking, playing, hen herding and egg collecting, I have a lot of time to work on my print book project and learn how to further shamelessly self promote All The Little Graces. But at any pause I am just a step away from acres of fresh springtime for walking in––or a step away from the animals with their magical ability to ground one whose spirit has been floating about a foot above her body for about 3 weeks now. (That would be me) They are bringing the great relief in the necessity of Being Present. There’s much-needed dog energy here in the form of a small sable bundle of flash and laughter, delivering a daily quotient of silliness in the big dog-ness he carries around in his pint sized body. Tido Bat Ears, King of Mirth and Mayhem. He also stays close, for warmth in the night, but I also see he has his eye on me, he is being certain in his closeness that I am watched over, that I am safe. I will most certainly miss his happy, constant presence when I leave to go home.
There’s also the ever cheery, kind and funny black lab, Millie, a bow-legged, gimpy old gal who has learned to live well with her infirmities. I hear her when she sits, or goes down for a nap, anywhere in this house – BLAM – because she just can’t easily get down more gracefully than that. In the afternoon when I am walking back from the horse’s barn, she throws herself down onto the grass and rolls over onto her back in her imitation of a great big 4 legged pill bug, curled with both hind paws almost touching her ears and a big smile on her saggy, graying face. She stays motionless like that until I’ve had my fill of rubbing her belly and then somehow miraculously, despite knobby hocks and owie hips, goes sproinging off into her version of the zoomies.
The horse, really more of a saintly gentleman in the skin of an equine, talks. Constantly. I’ve always told Paul, when watching films that have horses in them, that they DON’T do that! They don’t stand around and whiffle and whinny all of the time for no reason! I’ve been around horses my whole life. I know these things. But – here, Kokino whiffles and whinnies (while nodding his head) and wiggles his lips nonchalantly, like Mr. Ed – really – whenever I am near. He talks constantly.
And finally, there are the 7 chicken ladies, delightful bug scrubbers who cluck and chant their way through the outskirts of my day. They gift me with at least a few eggs each morning – one chicken lady even hightails it out of the pen after her breakfast as fast as her scrawny chicken legs can carry her to reach the hay/nest that is in the carport, always just in time to deliver a beautiful egg that the wee bat eared dog will sometimes gathers up himself, I’m told, very carefully, and deliver to the house! And on occasion, when I am well lost in the manuscript, I hear the announcement of a special delivery –– one of the ladies will break into song, an aria with an astonishing crescendo that foretells the laying of an egg.
A few nights ago I lost a hen. I counted the girls as usual as I closed them in safety for the night – 1,2,3,4,5,6 … 6 … where’s #7? Panic. I thought of those creatures of the night, the owls and coyote and raccoon who just love chicken tenders. It took me awhile, but I finally did find #7 sweetly hunkered down in the warmth of the horse’s hay, on the other side of the property. She was resting there, caught up in the veil of dreams the dusk draws down upon chickens. She let me pick her up, and carry her back to the henhouse, a substantial, feathery-soft ball of air that put her little head on my shoulder and sang to me, a soft murmuring and humming, the whole way. I am in LOVE with chicken ladies!
As I’ve been sitting in front of the computer much of my time here, at some point I must make myself step away – eat – drink – and walk. Before this misty gray descended, the days were hot, and I found the dusky twilight to be a magical time to walk the few miles down a narrow country lane that could as easily be in the West of England as in the foothills of N. California. At the last hill, after twisting and curving up and down, the narrow lane straightens out and heads to the valley below and on it’s crest, I am literally standing on the last foothill … I can see the Sacramento Valley, in it’s great flatness, beginning to stretch below.
On the first evening of my walking, and just as I began to think of Djuna, missing his generous presence by my side, I heard a rustle in the grasses to my right. And out popped this …
From nowhere apparent this little Border Collie materializes every evening, a minute or two into my walk. She joins me for almost an hour as I meander, huff up hills, take pictures … a silent but joyous echo of Djuna in her enjoyment of reading the days ‘news’ along the way, chasing butterflies, running back to me to touch my hand as if telling me that I must stay present, I must be happy, I must never forget the important things… and before I head up the last short hill to the house, she disappears.
I thank all of these beautiful beings for helping me to touch the earth again.
But back to Spring – THAT time of year. The baby animal time of year, filled with leaping kids and lambs, and calves and piglets playing like puppies… and of course, there are the puppies and kitties. The far too many that are born each spring because many of us Humans – even many of the more responsible sort, some of whom are my friends – demand the right to a sort of ignorance in refusing to pay attention to the stats, and the realities, around feral or unsterilized animals.
Why are there still balls on your dog?
Why is your sweet gal in heat?
Oh, it’s natural, they say. Oh, we want her to enjoy giving birth and having babies before we get her spayed. Oh, we want our children to witness the miracle of birth! Oh, he won’t hunt if he’s neutered.
Well, yes … but Oh. What about the babies? The litters that you won’t be able to find homes for that will either go feral and hungry and become someone’s nuisance; or will be kept by an uncaring person who doesn’t bother to keep them safe and they’ll end up running wild, on the road to be struck and killed by a vehicle, or in a field chasing Farmer Martha’s livestock, to be killed by shotgun blast; or, they’ll end up at a shelter hoping for a home with a family that really might care what becomes of them, or at a pound, facing the gas chamber on death row with all of the other unwanted ones. All of the shelters are heartbreakingly full as it is.
Here are some recent stats, gleaned from various online sources. (HSUS, RSPCA, various shelters and rescue groups) If you still have an ‘entire’ male or unspayed female dog or cat, please do me the great favor of reading this and then go and do the right thing yourself. If your animal companions have been sterilized, you can edify your community, your neighbors, family members, etc., and save the local shelters from having to waste their energy on something we ALL should already know and practice.
One pair of breeding cats can be the source of at least two litters of kittens in one year. That translates to exponentially growing numbers of offspring that, in just four years, can add up to around twelve thousand cats! TWELVE THOUSAND cats! Say the original two parents lived nine years – the numbers of their offspring through the generations could soar to around eleven million! All because of just two un-sterilized cats that someone left to their own natural devices! Those figures don’t take into account that one tomcat can impregnate several females in any one day during the season! That kind of math hurts my head.
One fertile dog can produce two litters of puppies a year and then, if left to nature, her descendents and their descendants will number in the sixty-seven thousands, in just six years.
Also good to know –– the fact that a spayed female will be far less likely to develop uterine or breast cancer. And that a sterilized male will be far less likely to roam and fight, leaving him less vulnerable to abscesses and other infections and disease. (and the cats will still be great hunters – our big lovey eunich, Moggie, is busy collecting up at least 3 gophers per day and will meditate on the compost bins until he comes up with his daily bellyful of mice. And Mr. Annie is capable of murderous deeds I won’t even go into here.
So, where will the babies of the spring end up? Many that survive will end up with otherwise great people who say Oh, it’s natural … Oh, we want our children to witness the miracle of birth! And the awful cycles will continue on and on and animals WILL suffer.
Welcome to springtime, to the return of Light, to rebirth, life and kitties and puppies and other growing things … to the birth of new ideas and new dreams. There is always the dark there to antagonize the light … but there are these things that we can do, so easily really, to help the light and dark come to better balance, move us forward and make that darkness less opaque. Go for a walk… laugh… hold a chicken… tickle a pillbug’s belly… write, sing, dance, garden, love, laugh… and spay or neuter your companion animal. Please.