Category Archives: Dogs & Other Animals

Bluebirds vs. Sparrows!

My husband made this bluebird nest box in the spring and mounted it on a pole that is easily visible from our kitchen window. We had a pair of bluebirds move in within a couple weeks. We took joy in watching them fly in and out, first bringing grasses to build a nest. Later they laid eggs and raised a clutch. We saw them spend a lot of time flying around, going in and out, carrying insects and other delicacies, presumably for their young chicks. This went on for a few weeks.

Recently, we experienced just how cruel nature can be. House sparrows and wrens started hazing the bluebirds. It was rather traumatic watching the bluebirds come under attack after watching them raise a family.

I did some on-line research and discovered that this is quite a common occurrence. House sparrows and wrens frequently chase off bluebirds. They will even break the eggs, or kill chicks, and sometimes kill adult bluebirds, so they can take over the nest. They are even known to build their nest right on top of the bluebird bodies.

House sparrows are an invasive species. That means not native to the United States. Hence, they are not protected by the Migratory Bird Act. Wrens are native and so are protected. I immediately employed some of the deterrents that I read about to help our bluebird friends. I found instructions for something called a “sparrow spooker” and constructed and installed one right away. This consists of the metal strips hung from a strip of wood or twine. It can be seen in the photo above.

The sparrow spooker seemed to confuse the sparrows for a bit. I did see them or the wrens enter the house a few times afterwards, but other times they shied away. I was back the next day ready to continue battle with the avian invaders after doing further research. Apparently, if you install monofilament fishing line vertically along either side of the entrance to the nest box, sparrows, and hopefully wrens, do not like it. The sparrows and wrens cannot see the line and when they bump into it, it confuses and upsets them. Hopefully, enough so that it will keep them away. I did see a wren bump into the line and sit in a branch nearby tilting his head and staring at the offending area. Bluebirds, being insectivores, are thought to have better eye sight and can avoid the fishing line. That installation is also visible in the photo above.

Bird activity in general is less at the nest box today. I haven’t seen the bluebirds since yesterday, and the number of sparrow and wrens sightings is less too. I am hopeful that the clutch of bluebird babies grew up and fledged before the interlopers showed up. We did not find any baby bluebird bodies in the nest, nor did we find any on the ground in the surrounding area. My research says that bluebird babies fledge in 17-21 days. We had been watching the box for some time so it is possible that the young left to live out their lives elsewhere.

There is one last thing to try at some point in the future. My delving into sparrow habits unearthed the fact that they are territorial. They will not allow other house sparrows in the immediate area of their nest. It’s not the bluebirds per se that the sparrows take issue with. They just want the nesting site. I read that if you install two of the “bluebird houses” within 10 feet of each other, the sparrows will use one and bluebirds can nest in the other. The resident sparrows will not allow other sparrows to use it, leaving it open for the bluebirds.

This experience gave us pause to think. We put up a birdhouse, but who are we to say it is a bluebird house? The sparrows and wrens do not see it that way. And although it was upsetting when “our” bluebirds were driven off, it was nature at work. Should we be allowed to specify who lives in a birdhouse just because it is our whim? Tough choices.

And following, is a photo of one of our flowerbeds that was recently enlarged. Just so there is something positive to report today. I planted gladioli in it, so it should be bright and cheery soon!

Baxter says…”Have you heard? Don’t walk dogs on hot pavement!”

There are some things to know before taking your dog for a walk in hot weather. You think about what you need for a walk and what conditions you will encounter. Don’t forget to consider the same for your dog.

Don’t walk your dog on hot pavement, or even sidewalks when it is really hot. The rule of thumb is to put your hand on the surface. If it is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog. Dogs can get burned, get red and sore footpads, blister, and endure suffering. Yes, dogs have thick pads, but they are still sensitive tissue that can be damaged. Check the internet. There are pictures.

This doesn’t mean you have to forego walking altogether. Move your walks to early morning or later in the evening. Do still check the pavement temperature when it’s really steamy out. Are there any grassy places you can walk? Since it is not a solid surface and it’s not black, grass doesn’t absorb heat as well as pavement.

If you’re going farther than around the block, take water along for both of you. Keep an eye on your buddy, if he shows signs of overheating, stop and rest, then head back home. If he’s in real distress, sprinkle him with some of your water to help him cool off. If the distress is severe by the time you’re back home, you may want to call your vet.

Be conscientious. Dogs can die from heat stroke. It happens every year.

This should go without saying, but don’t ever leave your dog in a closed car in the warm summer weather either. The temperature rises quickly in a closed vehicle, even with the windows cracked. Even if I think I can run into the store and be back in 5 minutes, I don’t do it. You just never know if there will be a long line or something unforeseen will happen. I take my dog home and go back if I need to. My dog’s life is not worth anything I want in the store! Neither is yours’s.

In Search of the Perfect Quesadilla

I love quesadillas. I see them as a variation on the grilled cheese sandwich and the possibilities are endless. I will share with you my basic recipe, but changes are allowed and to be encouraged.

Quesadillas, Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 flour tortillas
  • as many thin slices of white cheddar cheese as it takes to cover the surface of half of each tortilla
  • 3 oz. of mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 or 3 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • avocado oil to coat pan, about 2 teaspoons
  1. Lay the tortillas out side by side. Fold them in half and make a crease, so you can open them and see where the middle of each tortilla is. Cover half of each tortilla with the slices of cheese. If it doesn’t reach the edge of the tortilla in some spots, it’s ok, it will fill as it melts.
  2. Melt butter in non-stick pan on medium heat. Swirl to coat the surface of the pan. Place the sliced mushrooms in a single layer in the butter. Cook until the mushrooms are a nice golden brown. Use a fork to turn each mushroom over when it has the golden brown color. Cook on the second side until it also has the golden brown color. The mushrooms will be soft all the way through with a slightly crispy exterior. Use the fork to distribute the mushrooms evenly between the two tortillas.
  3. Return the same pan to the burner. Add more butter or oil if needed. Put the spinach in the pan and cook until it is nicely wilted. Distribute the spinach even over top of the mushrooms and cheese layers. Fold the tortillas in half. You now have two taco shaped, semi-circles.
  4. Add the avocado oil to the same pan. Using the same pan throughout, gives additional flavor to the final product. Wait for the oil to heat. It will swirl easily around the pan when it is hot enough. This makes for a crispier tortilla than adding it to the pan before the oil is hot. I have also found that using avocado oil, vs. other oils, gives me a more nicely browned, crisp result.
  5. Add both tortillas to the pan. Cover the pan and occasionally drain off any moisture that condenses on the lid to keep it from dripping onto the quesadillas and making them soggy. I drain the moisture several times while they are cooking. Keep checking to make sure that they are browning. If they start to burn, turn the heat down from medium by one notch. After several minutes, when the bottom of the quesadillas are nicely browned, flip them over and repeat on the other side. The second side cooks more quickly since everything is already warm.
  6. Remove the finished quesadillas to a cutting board or plate and allow to cool slightly for a minute or two, so the cheese can set. Cut into wedges and serve. Fresh guacamole makes an excellent condiment for these, although they are great on their own.

I call for mushrooms and spinach in this version because it is my favorite. You can also use:

  • sliced onions
  • red or green peppers
  • corn
  • avocado
  • olives
  • or many other veg,etables
  • Pre-cooked meat or seafood

You can also substitute any cheese that suits you for the cheddar. Havarti is particularly good. I do avoid smoked cheese in these because they don’t melt well for me.

I served these the other day when a friend came over for lunch. They were a hit and very convenient. I cooked and assembled the quesadillas to the point where they were ready to go in the pan to brown the tortillas, so I could focus on the visit. I also served a side of beans and rice with them. That recipe will be forth coming in a future post.

Before eating, we took a quick tour of plants in the yard and then sat around to enjoy the patio gardens and good conversation after the meal. This was a rare treat. This was the first time we have had anyone over, with the rare exception of an occasional family member, in 18 months. Not since the pandemic began have we had company. It was a delight! We felt daring and crazy to have someone here and none of us were masked. (We all have our vaccines, including our guest). We look forward to more such craziness as the summer progresses!

Follow My Facebook Page to Keep Up to Date on This Busy Time!

Heirloom Peony

You may have noticed that I haven’t published many blog posts in the past couple of weeks. Time has been getting away from me. There is so much to do in the summer months that before I know it, it is time to cook dinner, hang out with my husband, and then off to sleep.

We have switched our hikes from the afternoon to the mornings. As it has gotten warmer (today excepted, rain and temperatures in the 50’s as June approaches!), it has been too warm for the dogs, and me!, to walk in the afternoons. Getting our walks in early has been good for several reasons. Besides it being cooler, it also helps the dogs burn off excess energy early in the day, so they are better behaved for the rest of it. Another plus is, there are less other walkers out and about when we go earlier. This is handy when you are trying to socially distance from people. It is also helpful when walking a reactive dog. There are less encounters that end with Zekie snarling and lunging at passersby which makes the whole adventure more peaceful.

And last but not least, walking in the morning has given us an opportunity to see birds and wildlife that we haven’t seen later in the day. Recently, we have sited a pair of scarlet tanagers, some orioles, some unspecified warblers, and heard birdsong that we hadn’t noticed before. I remember going birdwatching for ornithology class in college. We always left at 7:15 a.m. because that’s when you saw the most birds. Many birds are early risers. Silly birds!

We tend to get up earlier these days too. Claire the sheltie starts barking at first light and attempts at continued sleep become futile. It’s actually the cats’ fault. They know that as soon as one of us comes downstairs, they will get their breakfasts. So, when dawn breaks, the cats start tearing around the downstairs, chasing each other and wreaking havoc. This makes the dogs start barking, which was the cats’ plan all along. Once the barking starts, Claire continues until someone comes downstairs and puts her and the other dogs outside. Then all the dogs decide they are up and want their breakfasts too. No point in trying to sleep after all that.

Clematis

Once every member of the household, including humans, have had breakfast and a hike, it is at least mid-morning. That means it is now time for watering plants which takes up to an hour and a half. One of us does that and the other does some weeding, fertilizing, planting, or other plant maintenance. This takes us up to lunch time.

After lunch time, there may be errands to run. Going to the store for groceries, seeds, bedding plants and such. If there are no errands, we spend the afternoons on various projects such as moving or planting flowers, shrubs, greenery, or small trees. There is always something that needs weeding, and more gardening or mowing to be done.

Before I know what has happened, it is time for making and eating supper. We watch a bit of television and do some reading or crossword puzzles until bedtime. The days fly by so quickly that I wonder where they went and how I ever had time to work a 9 to 5 (or 6:30 to 3:00!) job. Occasionally, I miss that professional work life, but mostly having the freedom to do what I want without it, is great!

All these activities explain why I have been remiss in posting regular updates on the blog. In the end they will provide more subject matter for posts when I start taking photos of all those plants growing and blooming and share them here. If you want another way to keep up with what is going on here at Sanctuary Acres, you can also “Like” the page Sanctuary Acres | Facebook or follow us on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sanctuary_acres/ . It is easier for me to take a moment to post a photo or two during the day than to write a blog post, so you will find more updates there. The blog posts also publish to my Facebook page so if you follow it, you will be sure not to miss any!

Thanks for reading!

Roses and clematis currently blooming.

Another Installment from the Problem Child

Zekie with the frisbee

If you follow my blog, you know that Zekie is my problem child. Salvation Life is not easy with a no mistake dog. And his crate looks like it was built by the people at Fort Knox. Close. He has an Impact High Anxiety Dog Crate built by a wonderful company in Idaho. You can read about the crate and when we first got it, at the link above.

It was the only crate I could find that is guaranteed from dog damage as it is made from aircraft quality aluminum. The manufacturer will replace it, or parts of it, if the dog damages it. Why am I bringing this up now? You guessed it. Zekie has managed to start chewing through the metal plate that covers the main latch.

Tooth damage above and below the latch cover

He is not in danger of chewing his way out yet, but it’s only a matter of time. I decided to act now, before it became an emergency. I contacted the manufacturer and they are indeed honoring the warranty. They are sending me a replacement cover along with the special drill bit that is needed to change it out.

I do not fault the company. I am happy with their product. Zekie is just a nut. He doesn’t have any fangs left and a number of his molars are cracked off from his regular attempts to escape from the crate. And, he is only a 34 pound dog. Heaven forbid, if he weighed 100 pounds! Yes, I have tried to treat him in many ways for this. All to no avail. (You can search the blog and read about some of these attempts.)

The thing that seems to distract Zekie the most when he is confined to the crate, is a Kong toy with peanut butter smeared inside and baby carrots or dog biscuits stuck into the peanut butter. The peanut butter glues the carrot or treat to the surface so he has to work harder to get them out.

If someone tells you that smart dogs are easier, don’t believe them. Zekie can hold a fine sit-stay or down-stay. He follows a wait command and directional commands. He also has a good comprehension of the English language and will often respond to complete sentences. That comprehension also enables him to think of ways to escape or get into to things that he’s not supposed to. Zekie is very good at following commands, you just have to give him commands all the time so he doesn’t think up his own mischief. And then there are times when he thinks he knows better than us. He will always be a work in progress.

Gotta love a Zekie Bear!

A Dog Rescuer’s Point of View on Puppy Mills

Image from Facebook

You may get a puppy from a puppy mill and it turns out fine, so you think what’s the big deal.

Your thought process says, “My puppy is healthy and all is well”. That’s great but where did that puppy come from? I’m betting the parents are not well. They are are probably living in squalid conditions and receiving little to no veterinary care. You’ve seen the photos. I’ll spare you those here. But, look at the offenses documented above.

Why wouldn’t the kennel owners provide veterinary care to the dogs? Because the dogs are seen as a product and spending money cuts into the profit margin. The dogs are a commodity and it is cheaper to get another one than put money into the adult dogs that live there. Ditto for any puppies that cannot be sold for a profit. Compassion and emotional well-being are not a factor that is considered.

Your puppy mill dog may be perfectly healthy and be a fine companion. But by buying from this source you are promoting the system and allowing it to go on. Each puppy sold provides more money for these people to continue with what they do.

Some people buy their puppy directly from the puppy mill farm. They see the conditions the dogs live in and pay for that puppy and take it home to get it out of poor circumstances. This is a double-edged sword. You save the puppy you went to meet, but you feed the system. It continues with the parents left behind and new generations of puppies born into suffering. I would not condemn anyone for choosing to buy the puppy and save it after you have fallen in love with it. I don’t know what the right answer is. But you should have the full knowledge of what you are doing before you make the decision.

I am the President of a local breed rescue for Northeast Ohio. I have seen some of the dogs who make it out of the puppy mills. We rarely get puppies from any source. When it comes to puppy mill farms, we get the breeders and the dogs that didn’t work out as expected. The dogs who didn’t produce enough puppies or they have health problems that the owners don’t want to deal with. They come to us generally in poor physical condition and they have not been socialized.

These dogs are afraid of people and life in general. They are afraid of going outside. They are afraid of coming inside. They are afraid of stairs, petting, and direct eye contact. Our rescue had one who would only eat in the dark, after the rest of the household had gone to bed. These are the dogs that usually stay in rescue for a year or more. They go to homes where people are willing to live with their issues. Sometimes, they stay with their foster families forever, because we don’t want to subject them to the trauma of going through it all again. Also, it is not easy to find the special families who are willing to work with these dogs. If they do get adopted, there is the possibility of them being returned.

The average dog owner wants a dog that they can do things with, like go to the dog park, take a leisurely walk around the block, and snuggle on the couch. Many of these puppy mill survivors will take many months or years of work before they get to this point. Some will never make it.

There are those puppy mill survivors who are able to integrate into a normal life with a bit of retraining and lots of love. If you become the owner of such a dog, the rewards are great. Knowing you have turned life around for a dog like this is a feeling like no other.

Some rescues and shelters frown on buying purebred dogs from reputable breeders. They think the only answer is adoption from a rescue or shelter. And I agree, adopting from rescues and shelters is indeed a wonderful thing! I recommend people looking for dogs, check into adoption first. There are many wonderful dogs awaiting their forever homes. Many of them have no issues whatsoever and are there through no fault of their own. Purebred and mixed breed dogs who would fit into many homes seamlessly.

And I think there is also a place for the reputable breeder as well. The good breeders go to great lengths to plan their litters. They take great care to make sure their dogs are healthy and receive prenatal care and general veterinary care. They may do genetic testing if it would be beneficial. They breed for maximum health and to maintain breed standards. These dogs and puppies are housed in good and safe places, often the breeder’s own home. The resulting puppies have been handled and are used to people. The mother dogs only produce a few litters, so their bodies do not wear out. And when the puppies are gone, the adult dogs are still a part of the breeder’s family life. These puppies may cost a little bit more, but it is an investment in the health and quality of the dogs. And reputable breeders take their puppies or dogs back if they do not work out or the buyer cannot keep the dog at any time down the road. They will take the dog back until they can re-home it, or they may decide to keep it.

Sometimes our rescue will even refer people to a reputable breeder. We may not have an available dog that is right for every situation. If we are not sure our rescued dogs are good with small children, we may refer them on to someone who has puppies. The children and puppies can grow up together. If someone wants a dog for a specific activity like agility or herding, we may refer them to a breeder who specializes in dogs who were breed for this. When the dog is a good fit for the home, things tend to work out.

If you plan to make a canine addition to your home, think about how you expect your life with a dog to look. Do you want a companion? A working partner? A running buddy? Pick a dog that is likely to fulfill the plans you have. Be willing to put in the work.

And above all, consider where they come from. By making an informed choice, you have the ability not only to set yourself up for success, but to play a part in ending puppy mills and the suffering that takes place. YOU can make a difference!

My Favorite Super Hero Is…(and a few other heroes I have gained along the way)

Aquaman (from Bing free clipart)

Who is your favorite super hero? Mine has always been Aquaman, even before the days of Jason Momoa. And he certainly confirms it!

As a child, I liked Aquaman because he always saved the world with his ability to communicate with the underwater animals. Whenever there was a crisis, he used his under water sonar to call for help and the sea creatures always came to save the day. Aquaman would have been no one on his own. He relied on his animal friends. This was something I could relate to.

I also have always been drawn to undersea life. It fascinates me. Growing up, I made sure to watch Jacques Cousteau, Marlin Perkins and Jim on Wild Kingdom, and any other underwater shows I could find. Even Bedknobs and Broomsticks was intriguing with the bed floating through the underwater encounter. There is a whole plethora of organisms living their in the murky deep, and I wanted to know what they looked liked and how they lived.

I suppose it wasn’t that big of a stretch then, that my college major was Biology and my favorite part of my water treatment career was looking at organisms under the microscope lens and doing stream studies. You never knew what you were going to see there either.

My fascination with animals and iconic figures did not stop there. My favorite Saturday morning cartoon was Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. I never wanted to be Jane, the female character. I wanted to be Tarzan himself who swing from vines and talked to the animals and called on them in times of need.

The focus of my life has always centered around animals. There has only ever been a few years of my life in college when I did not have a dog. I was between dogs after the loss of my beagle-mix Captain Sizzle, until I got another dog as soon as I could rent an apartment in college that would allow pets. (That was when I got my first Shetland Sheepdog and the rest, as they say, is history).

My younger years were spent watching cartoon characters and television personalities who worked with animals, because I didn’t know any people who did this in real life. As I grew up and my world became wider, my heroes changed. I discovered that there were real people that I had been unaware of, who were making animals their life’s work.

My first role model, who I saw as a regular person who had a life with attainable goals was Jack Hanna. As a Kent State University graduate, I moved to Columbus, Ohio for my first summer out of school in many years. I was newly graduated and didn’t have a job yet, so I bought myself a membership to the Columbus Zoo. It was only three miles from my townhouse, so I went to the zoo several times each week. Some days I would pick an animal exhibit and sit there watching the same animals for an hour. I noticed that on the days I wore a khaki colored cargo shirt that the animals in some of the exhibits would follow me along the fence line. I later figured out that shirt was similar to what the zoo keepers wore and the animals were hoping I was there to feed them!

That summer was 1985. It was when I first heard of Jack Hanna who was Curator of the Columbus Zoo. That was before he went on to have his own television program. He had made some guest appearances on The David Letterman Show and others. I saw him walking around the zoo a few times. I was so impressed with the fact that he had taken a love of all animals and made it into a career. A career with the intent to educate about animals and improve their chances for survival. He is still one of my heroes.

The other real life hero of my adult life is Jane Goodall. What an amazing woman. She has loved animals for her entire life too. As everyone knows, she started her career studying chimpanzees in Africa. She has taken it so much farther. She has published multiple books and documentaries on saving our planet and the plants and animals that inhabit it. She even has foundations to promote these causes. And at her current age of 87, is still doing all she can to inspire hope and let us know that we can make a difference. She has taken a break because of Covid, but until then was still touring and speaking many days each year.

You can see a theme throughout the list of all my heroes, both fictional and real. They are defenders of animals and people. They know they were put on this world to make it a better place. Although my presence is small, I want to join them and follow in their footsteps to make a difference.

You have the ability to do the same. Won’t you join me in making a difference?

A Disjointed Morning

Zekie assisting momma during her on-line college class.

Today is one of those days. My activities are varied and unrelated. Do you have those days too? There is no flow and they don’t make any sense.

View of our burning bushes over the dog yard fence.

First off, remember how I said Mother Nature was confused? Mother Nature Is Confused Well, was she ever! I woke up to three inches of snow this morning. On April twenty first. In Ohio.

Azalea blanketed in snow.

We were more fortunate than others. I saw on my Facebook feed this morning that some of my friends who live closer to Lake Erie had seven inches of snow. Ours’ is mostly melted now that it is mid-afternoon. So far, our plants don’t seem to have sustained a lot of damage. We will be better able to tell when things have thawed out again tomorrow.

View out the back door this morning.

So, more about my morning. Since I didn’t want to go outside, I thought it would be a fine day to our our dog rescue’s taxes, so I did. I worked on the filing and figures for a bit the previous days. Non-profit taxes are due on May 15th, so don’t worry, I wasn’t late. And non-profits don’t actually pay taxes, at least for smaller groups. There may be a filing fee on a sliding scale, but mostly the filing is to make sure you are legitimate.

After that was out of the way, I moved on to baking. We were out of sweets, except for ice cream, which is nearly always in the freezer and it is too cold to eat that today. I baked cranberry-orange scones with maple icing. They turned out to be very tasty. I will provide that recipe another day. I also baked lime-ginger cookies made with spelt flour because hubby is on a low-gluten kick. The cookies taste good, but they are very flat and dark in color because of the spelt flour. Not the best thing I have ever made but they serve the purpose.

Refer back to the first photo in this post. This is how Zekie decided that I should attend a portion of my college course on The Science of Well-Being this morning. It’s ok, the lectures are pre-recorded so no one knew. Apparently, I was paying too much attention to the computer for too long to suit Zekie. I get a kick out of this dog. He is so interactive. After I petted him on my lap for a while, he got down and went back to sleep. A few other dogs nosed me for pets throughout the class too, but none are as insistent as Zekie. This is the major benefit of working from home. There are dogs.

And that is how I passed my morning. Once again, life is good.

Shelby and Zekie are Great!

Sheltie

Shelby working on growing fur.

It’s been two and a half months since Shelby and Zekie were attacked by two loose dogs while we were out hiking. They are doing great!

Shelby is working on growing back the fur on her leg that had to be shaved to examine her wounds. Other than that she is back to normal. She doesn’t even appear to have any behavioral problems.

Sheltie
Shelby the therapy dog.

I was concerned that it would affect her trust and make her behave differently which would be a big deal since she is a certified therapy dog, even though the program has been on hiatus due to Covid. I am happy to report that Shelby is doing just fine.

Happy dog
Zekie

Zekie is also doing great. He didn’t have much in the way of wounds and no changes to his behavior. He is the same nut case he has always been.

Dog returning

Actually, Zekie’s behavior is slightly improved lately because he continues to have a job. He chases geese off of our neighbor’s pond as needed. She calls on the phone to request his services. He is quite proud of himself, as he should be. My husband has seen Zekie work and he says it looks like Zekie does the work to please me, rather than because it brings him joy. That’s ok. The focus is good for him and the joy comes when he runs back to me and into my arms.

So, even though we suffered some trying times immediately after the attack, there have been no long term effects. We are all happy and healthy!