Fireworks are fun – but they do frighten pets…


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How much sofa would a ground-hog hog….

….if a ground-hog could hog sofas!

Of course, I now know that groundhogs can indeed hog sofas!

Today, my post will be uncharacteristically personal.

As in, ‘sofa personal’.

It didn’t start out this way.

It was an excellent, cool summer morning so I decided to do some sewing.

Nothing serious, mind you.  I just really, really like buying fabric at fabric stores.

Every now and then, I have to sew something or my hubby begins to question what I intend to do with ‘all that fabric’?!?!?

My husband honestly seems unable to understand that owning these beautiful reams of luxurious fabric, taking them out every now and then, touching them and thinking of all the potential things I could make from them is way more satisfying than actually getting the scissors and sewing machine out and ruining a perfectly good piece of fabric…  I suspect that he is too much an engineer and not enough of a Buddhist to really get it!

To keep him happy, I actually have to attempt to sew something – then, his compassion for my disappointment over the ruined project means I can go and buy some more fabric.

So, it being such a nice day and my yard being so shaded and inviting, I decided to sew my new nightie (if things work out – which is a real toss-up, since I will absolutely not use a pattern somebody else made up) in the back yard.

I was using the picnic table to lay out the fabric, with my dog and rabbit by my side, the squirrels frolicking in the trees up above us, the chipmunk swearing at us loudly from his hiding place inside the barbecue – you know, the idyllic suburban paradise!

This wonderful scene was only marred by the occasional rude words floating on the gentle breeze – once it became clear that nobody could possibly cut fabric in a straight line with those scissors…

Then, my dog Yoshi starts barking.

He’s barking into the corner of the yard where the rhubarb is – and won’t stop.

I know he is no fan of rhubarb and becomes very disgusted if he finds a piece of it in a cake – or anything else he was planning to ingest, but he doesn’t usually vocalize his disapproval.  At least, not by barking at the plant itself…

After a while of gentle ministrations to please stop that infernal racket, I began to wonder.  A chipmunk or a squirrel can easily make it over – as well as through – the fence there.

So, what the Shakespeare is Yoshi barking at so consistently?  It’s not his nature to do something so diligently…

After another while, I decided to go investigate what was the matter.

The subject of his ranting/barking turned out to be a young female woodchuck.

Aka a groundhog.

Super cute!

About 3/4 the size of a full grown one.

Now, this was Yoshi’s first close encounter with a woodchuck.

All he did was corner it and bark at it very, very loudly.  Like, headache-loudly.

But, I remember how my previous dog dealt with woodchucks…

My previous dog had been a stray – and from all the evidence, we presume he lived for quite some time by hunting woodchucks.  He could catch anything – squirrels, chipmunks – and hand them to me, unharmed (a bit shaken, but after a while, the local ones got used to it and would not even bother to run from him…they’d just wait for him to catch them and have me put them it a tree – they learned fast this was perfectly safe).  But if he saw a woodchuck, he turned into a hunter extraordinaire.

I used to take him with me to the office (back when I was the boss – so I could make the rule that all employees’ dogs were allowed in the office).  And, once, from a lunchtime walk, despite my best efforts, he brought back a woodchuck and killed it in the office.

For 3 years afterwards, weird things were happening in the office…

When the dog would walk by a desk, a perfectly stable stack of papers would topple over and fall on him.

When he would walk by a waste-paper basket, it would topple and fall on him – with no visible force pushing on it!

Even the coffee cups would sometimes spontaneously fall off desks at him!

My employees were convinced that the dead woodchuck was haunting the dog!!!

So, remembering all that, I really did not want to let that encounter between my current dog and the woodchuck continue:  after all, a haunted office is annoying, but if it got around that our house was haunted by a woodchuck, it might affect its market value…

So, you will hopefully understand my desire to interrupt this cross-species communication – to make sure all sides come away from it unharmed.

To make a long story somewhat less long, I dragged Yoshi away from the corner of the yard where the woodchuck was, all the way to the middle.  Then, as the door was open, I let go of him and ordered him to get back home.

How was I to know that, being terrified into absence of reasoning, the silly groundhog would think that the opened back door to my house was the ideal place to go through to hide?

Sure, we’ve had squirrels and chipmunks make it in.  Once, we even had a bossy blue jay – who thought I was too slow bringing the food out – fly into the house and get disoriented.

But a woodchuck?

Them rodents is big!

Even not fully grown, a groundhog is bigger than our rabbit, Hip Hop!

Let me tell you, I will not forget the next 3 hours easily.

Our kitchen is decrepit.  We are planning to renovate it – sooner, rather than later.  That is why one of the lower cupboards – the nasty corner one – has its doors off.

Well, it would appear that groundhogs seem to think that corner kitchen cabinets make for very good hiding places.

She was not entirely incorrect!

When I ordered Yoshi to go home, I must admit that I was surprised at just how readily he complied!  Until, that is, I followed him, found him uncharacteristically standing helplessly in front of the (currently) door-less corner cupboard – with the cupboard chattering away at him!

In contralto-chipmunk-chatter!

Let me just say that I was grateful that I had never learned to understand groundhog-speak the way I understand squirrel and crow speak, or I would have been embarrassed at the language George (the young lady groundhog in my cupboard) was using!

If, like the squirrels, this groundhog had not kept telling the dog off, he would have treated her like a squirrel and there would not have been a problem.  But, sounding just like a dog squeaky toy, she insisted on bitching at him – which kept his interest up!

So, I did the only thing I could:  I boarded my dog with my neighbour and, piece by piece, emptied my corner cupboard.  Once there was clearance, I used the broom (I do know woodchucks will bite and scratch when cornered) to move the rest of the dishes out of the cupboard.

George did not like that – and told me so, loudly and continuously!

Once all the dishes were out, I managed to wedge the broom between the woodchuck and the corner – and gently pull her forward.

She bolted!

And, to my dismay, ran right past the wide-opened back door and into the dining room!

It seemed that George had too fresh memories of Yoshi in the back yard to go there….

No problem.

I opened the front door and began to locate the exact hiding place George found in the dining room.  It was not difficult – she hid in the bottom shelf of the bookcase, behind some books and a board-game (which she pushed a bit forward, giving herself away).

I must admit, I felt very sorry for her – pushing all the items off the shelf, she gave me her best ‘Puss-in-boots’ look.  It was at that moment that I thought we should adopt her – after all, with our oldest in University, we could fit in one more!!!

And little Goergie was sooooooo cute!!!

Then, I regained control over myself.  Note to all readers:  it would appear that woodchucks/groundhogs, even young ones, appear to be rather skilled at hypnosis!

To make a long story somewhat less painful:  from the dining room, Georgie ran to the living room – which was the plan! I had put bins and boxes to guide her run through the living room, all the way to the front door and out!

Except that…

…Georgie decided to run on the wrong side of the ‘path’ I had made for her.

Instead of running out the front door, she made for the living room.

There, she hid behind the love-seat. (For non-North-Americans:  a love-seat is a short, two-person-sitting-down sofa.)

I pulled the love-seat out and, using the broom, coaxed her out from behind it.

So, she ran behind the long sofa.

There, Hip Hop, our rabbit, was guarding his territory – fiercely!  He forced her out!!!

At this point, I had learned an important thing about woodchucks:  they can learn military tactics – on the go!!!  Georgie, for example, abandoned the looser tactic of ‘hiding’ for the militarily superior tactic of constantly changing position in order to keep your enemy confused!

Indeed, she took the ‘keep on the move’ tactic to an extreme…I had to fetch the dog from the neighbour a few times, just to find her!!!

Then, I realized there was a pattern!

Hip Hop, the rabbit, would not let her go behind the sofas any more – he considers this his sovereign area (in Slavic languages – ‘rabbit’ is a diminutive (or endearment of), literally meaning ‘little king’ – and it fits!!!).  So, poor George was reduced to hiding herself under the sofas – areas Hip Hop scoffs at.

But, of course, this was the key!

With Yoshi safely away, I arranged ‘stuff’ around the front and one side of the sofa.  Hip Hop patrolled the back.  On the remaining side, I set up a thick, bite-proof blanket/comforter.  Then, I began to move the sofa and broom under the sofa, until the blanket on  my side of the sofa began to wiggle!!!

Georgie was caught!

Yes, I made sure that she was far from the bits of the blanket I touched and that she was well tangled.  Then, I carried her out my front door and released her!!!

At first, she sat up and stared at me incredulously.

Then, she started running towards the vacant field at the end of our street, without a single look back.  As far as I can tell…

Yes, my house is now woodchuck-free:  but Yoshi still does not believe it!!!  He keeps looking for George…

The next time I see Yoshi ‘run’ in his sleep, I’ll know whom he’s dreaming of!!!


Giving medicine to a cat

This is Bo-Bo:

His full name is ‘Snowball’ – but he usually responds to the diminutive ‘Bo-Bo’.

This past weekend, my neighbours (and friends) went away for a 4-day trip.  As I am the local animal-lover, they asked me to look after their cats (Snowball is one of 3 felines in that family).  At the last moment, Snowball (he is a little dominant…) got into a fight with another cat in the neighbourhood and the vet said he must get 2 antibiotic pills a day… could I handle the challenge of giving Bo-Bo his medicine?

I agreed to give it a try – my friends deserved a break!

Snowball was happy to see me when I came in and fed him – the first time.  Then he got annoyed that I would not let him out (he was to stay indoors while recuperating).  When I gave him his medicine – he got really, really mad at me.

The next medicine time, he was ready!

There was no way he would allow me, an outsider, to come in, hold him down in a chair and shove a pill down his throat!  His family may be away, and he may not be feeling his best and I may have taken him by surprise the first time… but – no more!  He would fight against this indignity!

Bo-Bo put up a mighty battle…

I did learn some things:

  1. Cats can – and do – growl.
  2. If you do NOT allow the cat to ‘have the last word’, the ‘next time’ will much easier.

Yes, I am glad to report that now, Bo-Bo is all well and healthy – and he does NOT growl at me any more.  Not even when I put him into the ‘medicine chair’, make him wait till I get the pill, sit beside him, open his mouth and pop the pill in!

Quite a change of attitudes!

And I did not do anything other than outlast his ‘bitching’ and ‘have the last word’.

One could say, I suppose, that I have learned how to ‘out-bitch a cat’!