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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Butterflies: Flying Flowers

One of the joys of gardening is seeing who comes to visit. In addition to planting for pretty, I also plant for pollinators--specifically butterflies. I have about a dozen butterfly bushes in my flower beds, and there is a reason for these plants to be so named. Each year, more species of butterflies fly, flutter and flit around my flowers. Keeping my camera at hand, I try to capture their images.

In today's post, I'll show just the visitors who have come by so far this year--and that I've been able to photograph. I'm sure there are some I missed. And there's still lots of summer left, and lots of time for new species to arrive. I have yet to see a Great Spangled Fritillary, which is a very pretty butterfly, but I think I love it because of it's name. You can see a photo of one of these creatures in last year's butterfly post.

I'll start with the LBBs: little brown butterflies. At first glance, they look the same; but with a closer inspection, you start to see the subtle differences.

With the help of books and website, I can usually identify the various species that visit. But I'll be the first to admit I'm no expert; in the pictures below, you'll see question marks when I'm making an educated guess.

Little Wood Satyr

Northern Broken Dash?

Male and female Sachem?


Fiery Skipper

Fiery Skipper

Horace's Duskywing

Least Skipper

Silver Spotted Skipper: ventral view

Silver Spotted Skipper: dorsal view

Eastern Comma

Then there are the swallowtails, named for their distinctive long tails.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail

Funny thing about eastern tiger swallowtails: not only do males and females look different, but the females also come in both yellow and black versions.

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, dark form

Other visitors to my garden include these beauties:

American Lady

Cabbage butterfly

Common checkered skipper?

Red Admiral

Orange sulfur

One of my favorites--and the butterfly that is so easily recognized--is the Monarch. Bright orange and black--and incredibly photogenic--these beauties love to pose for my camera.


One of the butterfly identification websites I use is Gardens with Wings. I completely understand the reason for the name. With so many colors, butterflies look like flowers that have taken wing. Like this:


And this:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cover Up

I've shared my home with dogs nearly all my life.  I understand them. They make sense to me, I understand their motivations. They are readable, approachable.

Cats, on the other hand...well, after living with Athena and Dawn for two years, I've come to the conclusion that I will never understand them.

Because, simply put: Cats. Are. Weird.

Case in point: Athena

We feed the two kitties on a buffet in our kitchen. Because the site is just out of reach of dog noses, it ensures that there will be no territorial disputes between canines and felines over whose food is whose. And to protect the surface of said buffet from the bits and pieces of cat food that tend to fling outside the bowls, I put washable placemats underneath. (Who knew cats could be such sloppy eaters?)

Now Miss Athena has a very specific routine when she eats.

After she chows down on her Kitteh Noms, Athena finds a nearby spot to wash herself, while waiting for Dawn to finish. A more efficient eater than her sister, Athena always is done with her meal first. When Dawn walks away--thus giving the All Clear signal--Athena moves in for Bowl Inspection and Cleaning. This is all Normal Cat Behavior. I get it; it makes sense.

And then. (I'm not making this up.) Athena neatly folds the placemats over the empty bowls.

Take a look at the pictures below:

Athena grabs the placemat with her claws

And gently folds one side over the bowl.

Sometimes she'll fold the other side.

The end result

At first Athena wasn't incredibly neat or accurate.

This lovely creation was an interpretation involving the table runner.

And it's not just food that Athena covers. We used to gate the dogs in the dining room when we left the house, and of course provided them with water. Not wanting to ruin our nice hardwood floors, we put the water bowl on a placemat or towel. If we left the bowl there after letting the dogs out, Athena would perform her ritual on that as well.

Athena covering the water bowl.

And lest any reader think this is a one-time event, I present to you the following:

Bowl Inspection and Cleaning

First one side.

Sometimes the other side.

Neatly covered.

I suppose one could say Athena is "burying" the food. But it's so neat. And consistent. And doesn't account for covering a water bowl she doesn't even use. And it's an utterly pointless activity.

Like I said. Cats are weird. But I think that's one of the reasons they're so much fun to have around. And one of the reasons we love them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tucker the Terrier, Temporarily Tethered

Poor Tucker.

He hurt his paw this past weekend. Nothing major, really. And not that much of a surprise, either. That boy takes off like a bat out of Hades when he's in the yard and released from his leash. Or when he sees a little critter that needs to be chased. (Hint: ALL little critters need to be chased.) Tucker goes zooming through the yard, oblivious to any obstacle and barreling through bushes, all intent and intensity.  SO, it's not wonder that he hurts himself often. At least once a week, I'll be petting him and discover a new scab.

This past Saturday morning, when I called the dogs onto the deck after their morning speed constitutional in the yard, I noticed Tucker chittering. I'm sure there's a scientific name for the behavior; it's when a dog makes fast little chattery noises with his or her mouth. Usually it's a behavior that I see in Lilah--and it's nearly always done when she's in Dr. Lilah mode and inspecting an injury or problem with one of the boys.  I've never seen Tucker do it. So he's standing there looking sorrowful and chittering and I knew something was wrong.

A bee sting? Wouldn't be out of the question, since Mr. Inquisitive sticks his nose in everybody's business.

Ate something bad? Also a possibility, since he's an Eat First and Ask Questions Later kind of dude.

Then he looked at his back left leg, started chittering harder...and I noticed the blood.

Ah. That would be the problem.

So we all trooped indoors where I sat Tucker down to examine the injury. A puncture wound. Really, it was almost nothing. About the size of a pencil eraser. But it looked kind of deep. And it gaped a bit. Poor baby.

By 10:30 AM we were on our way to the vet. Tucker is such a good boy, he let the tech shave his foot and wash the wound with nary a peep. Though after she left, he hid under the chair. When the vet came it, Tucker allowed himself to be coaxed out with a few treats.

The vet put some antibiotic cream on his paw and closed the wound with a single surgical staple. Then, she bandaged it so Tucker wouldn't lick and worry at it.

And then she gave us a Cone. Because Tucker just had to get at his foot.

Thus began our weekend.

At first Tucker was quite depressed about The Cone. As every dog who has ever had to wear one, Tucker discovered that it isn't so easy to walk through doorways or up or down stairs. And don't even try to crawl under a table. And the humans in the house had to be reminded not to walk in front of a dog wearing a Cone; all you need is to get shoved in the back of the legs with the sharp circle edge just once and you won't want to repeat the experience.

Tucker when he first came home. Bandaged paw. Sad face.

Lilah gave Tucker a complete inspection, and then tried to lick his ears. That's Dr. Lilah's treatment for anything that ails her furry family. Jasper, on the other, paw...was terrified of Tucker's Cone. Jasper squished himself next to me, and as far from Tucker as he could get. One would think that Jasper was just being a Silly Scared Princess. But I completely understood where the poor Moose was coming from: the last time he had to wear a cone, he was in excruciating pain and had to stay in the hospital for a few days. (You can read about his trials in two posts: Spoiler Alert: Jasper is Okay and Patient Jasper.) I bet the sound and smell of The Cone brought it all back. Poor Jasper.

However, by the end of the weekend, Jasper was able to stand next to Tucker, and even Touch the Cone with His Nose. Very Brave Jasper.

Brave Jasper.

As for Tucker, he adapted to The Cone amazingly fast. The first time I took him outside, I let him off his leash in the backyard, thinking the combination of cone and bandage would slow him down.

That was a mistake.  The boy charged around the yard at near-warp speed, catching bits of shredded plant in his cone.

Cone can't stop a terrier.

Tucker takes a break. Notice the plant bits caught on the right side of the cone.

After that, Tucker was only allowed outside while leashed. Even then, by Saturday evening, as we attempted to relax in the family room, Tucker had figured out how to pick up a Ball--as encumbered as he was. And then he learned how to throw it at me, over the rim of The Cone. And even used The Cone to help catch The Ball or scoop it up. And no matter how insistent he was (and he really was Insistent), I wasn't going to throw the ball down the hall as usual for him. I want him to heal. Instead, I gently rolled it a few feet or tossed it for him to catch without running. That wasn't really satisfying to Tucker the Terrier. But it was all I was offering.

Got to Play Ball!

Using his paw to push The Ball under The Cone.

A new technique: rolling The Ball down The Cone.

By the end of the day, Tucker had the Cone thing completely figured out. In fact, he had it down so well that he managed to get his snout around it and in a few short moments had unraveled a good chunk of the bandage.

Back to square one, I had to put more topical antibiotics on the wound and re-wrap it.

And fit Tucker with an even larger cone. One that we had used for Jasper when he outsmarted his smaller cone.

Now the only time The Cone comes off is for dinner, but afterwards, it has to go back on. Tucker is already so used to the routine that I can just hold out The Cone and he'll put his head in. Grudgingly, but I don't even have to ask him. Tucker has just accepted that This is the Way Things Are.  That's such a dog thing. To just accept what he's been dealt and learn to deal with it. Wish I could do that half as well.

So, while it may seem really sad that Tucker has a been injured and has to wear a cone, he's really okay with it. Particularly since he seems to be getting more treats and a lot more pets and snuggles as he plays on everyone's sympathy.

In the morning, Tucker relaxes on his--our--bed.

He'll get better soon, I'm sure. The Cone will come off. And Tucker will continue to run around the yard and get hurt now and again--just like certain other terrier we all knew and loved: Rosie. And that very terrier-ness, that intensity, that ability to figure out a puzzle because you Really Want Something, that playfulness and that acceptance of What Is, will continue to define our Tucker.

Tucker, with his cone, picking up signals from one of the Mars Rovers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Keepin' Cool

For nearly two weeks, temperatures here in New Jersey have hovered in the 90s. In some cases, they got quite close to 100. That's without the heat index. And we haven't even mentioned the high humidity.

That's a beastly heat when you're human. But when you have to walk around all day wearing a fur coat, it has got to be downright unbearable.

We're lucky enough to have a pool in our backyard, and that helps the people cool off. But none of my dogs like to swim...and 2/3 of them don't even like getting their feet wet. (The boys have an issue with water.) So Lilah, Jasper and Tucker have to find other ways to keep cool.

Made in the Shade
With her glossy black fur, Lilah probably feels the heat the most. Which is probably why she's the first to seek out cool, dark and shady spots in our yard.

The first place to try is under a tree.  And we have plenty of them. Often, I'll find Lilah under the large split-trunk maple by our shade garden. This is one of the reasons I cannot grow pretty flowers under the tree. Unless they are in pots, they will get smushed. And trampled, too, as the dogs chase critters up the trunk.

Lilah relaxes in the shade of our large maple.

Lilah has also discovered that dirt itself is cool. And mud is even cooler. Don't be fooled by Lilah's sweet and delicate demeanor; she is quite happy to lay in the wet mud. Who cares about being ladylike when it's hot out?

Lilah in a mud patch. For years we tried to grow grass in this spot--and only succeeded this year by laying sod. That's okay; Lilah will find mud elsewhere.

Jasper isn't as quick to find shade. For him, I think, comfort is the most important requirement for where to rest--and by comfort he means soft and cushy.

Jasper would prefer a comfortable spot in the shade. With cushions is Best.

The ultimate in shady relaxation for Jasper: a cushy bed with a canopy. Not sure about the fact that it swings, but it sure is Comfortable.

Not quite as comfortable is Jasper's Outside Bed. The other dogs sometimes use it, but it is Jasper's. However, it only works when the deck is in the shade, which only happens in the very late afternoon and evenings. Even though the bed is raised off the deck (and thus cooler), in the heat of the day, it's still too hot, and the poor dog has to go somewhere else for less comfortable, but cooler accommodations.

Jasper relaxing in his Outdoor Bed.

In the late afternoon, when the sun goes behind the trees, the dogs will often gather on the deck. They all have their Special Spots: Jasper on his Outside Bed, Lilah on the bench, and Tucker next to the bench.

Jasper, Lilah and Tucker on the deck in their Spots. Notice the ever-present Ball by Tucker.

When he gets really hot, Jasper will look for Lilah; he knows that she will find the coolest place in the yard.

Lilah resting; Jasper standing guard.

Chillin' on the Patio...and the Garden
The shade garden itself, along with the patio, offer plenty of opportunities to locate a few cool areas.

Under the large trees:

Jasper demonstrates again why flowers have to stay in pots around the maple.

On the patio:

Lilah and Jasper relax. Tucker, as always, is on the move. He rarely sits still.

The patio wall:

Lilah is one cool cat, hanging out on the wall.

Tucked between two bushes:

Lilah dug out a little bed between two lilacs.

Deep within the evergreens:

Lilah often seeks the cool under pine boughs.

Creatively Cool
Tucker is often too busy to notice it's hot. Particularly when he's Playing Ball. Every now and then, he'll find a cool spot to rest. Sometimes because I refuse to Throw The Ball until he takes a break

Tucker giving The Ball a rest.

There are other creative ways to find shade or to cool down. While Lilah heads directly for the trees or the dirt, Tucker tends to come up with more interesting solutions.

Like under a table at a picnic.

Tucker finds a cave during our 3rd annual family reunion.

And if you're thirsty, who needs an official water bowl? A bird bath will do for Jasper and Tucker. Lilah, however, prefers a water bowl or pitcher. She's a bit of a traditionalist.

A quick sip at the

Of course if you're really thirsty, a Giant Water Bowl is okay, too. As we've seen in previous posts, Jasper and Tucker don't like to get their feet Wet. They'll drink from the dog pool, but will only put their paws in when lots of Treats are involved.

The Big Water Bowl

But Lilah loves to play in her pool, and takes a dip now and again, walking in the pool with her nose in the water and blowing bubbles.

Lilah Fish, blowing bubbles.

Water dripping from her muzzle, Lilah prances through her pool.  Now that's how you cool off.

While the dogs love to be outside, we're quite mindful of the heat, and when it gets too toasty, the hot dogs spend more time in our air-conditioned home. Smart Lilah, who usually is the last one to come inside on any other day, will ask to be let in when Mother Nature has turned up the oven to Broil.

She knows how to chill.