Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Black-Billed Magpies, Dark-Eyed Juncos, and Woodpeckers in Colorado

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

It was a lovely Easter weekend. I spent hours watching the children search for eggs on the large property of a family member, but I also had the opportunity to watch the spring birds hovering around her porch, seeking snacks and singing songs. 

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I'll never forget the first time I saw a magpie. It was at Carter Lake in Colorado. There was a family of them, and the father was feeding one of the children, practically sticking his entire head inside the youngster's mouth. I was fascinated. When my granddaughter, Layla, saw the Black-Billed Magpie fly overhead on Easter she was ecstatic. I knew I would have to wait, patiently, for the bird to return so I could take a photograph for Layla, and the bird not only returned, but posed for the photograph! 

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

This handsome fella has a beautiful tail, but it's so long it's difficult to see. It reminded me of the Scissor-Tail Flycatchers I used to try so hard to photograph in Texas (they are a bit shy). Flycatcher's have tails so long that the have to land on thin branches or wires. The older the bird, the longer the tail. They are called the Birds of Paradise of Texas. I would say the same of our Magpies! 

Dark-Eyed Junco in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

There were many beautiful birds hopping around the porch on Easter and they were surprisingly comfortable with the large flock of children running around! There was about a dozen Dark-Eyed Juncos fluttering around the porch. They were slate-colored and quite lovely. 

Dark-Eyed Junco in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

In Oregon there are Dark-Eyed Juncos with black heads and brown bodies, but in Colorado we have the slate-colored Dark-Eyed Juncos. Both are in the sparrow family. They have white outer tail feathers that are very attractive when they're in flight. 

Dark-Eyed Junco cracking a seed in its beak. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Juncos like forest areas, and we were in a forested area on Easter. The Dark-Eyed Junco also builds its nest on or near the ground, which explains why the photos show them on piles of pine needles. They are also friendly with many other bird species. The Juncos were hopping about with the woodpecker moving freely through their flock--I saw none of the aggression that is so prevelant in some bird species like Cardinals and Hummingbirds. 

This lovely creature was photographed in Drake, Colorado on Easter. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I live in Greeley, Colorado, in a highly-populated area near busy streets and noisy shopping centers, so I am always surprised by the large number of beautiful creatures that I see every day. There is at least two woodpeckers living in the trees near my home, and I can hear them every time I step outside, tap, tap, tapping on the trees. To me, a country girl trapped in a city home, the sound is not at all irritating. It is like music to my soul.

Woodpecker in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I had the opportunity to photograph a woodpecker up-close over the Easter weekend while visiting family in Drake, Colorado. There was two of them hopping around trees near the porch where I was sitting. One appeared to be looking for food, while the other was busy drillling a hole in a tree.  

Woodpecker in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The exact identity of this beauty still alludes me. I thought I was photographing a red-headed woodpecker, but the red, as you can see, is only in a band across the back of its head, which could mean it is a White-Headed Woodpecker. These birds also hang out in the forest, but nest in holes in dead trees. The tapping of a woodpecker does not have one meaning. It sometimes means the bird is creating a home in a hollow tree, but it is also the way the male and female communicate with each other during mating season, and their communication style when incubating their eggs, a task they take on equally. 

The view from Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

There was a snowstorm just a few days earlier, so it was a cool morning and everyone was bundled up in coats and hats for the Easter Egg hunts, but the birds didn't seem to mind the cold. They are ready for spring! 


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mute Swans in Greeley, Colorado

I believe we have a pair of Mute Swans at the Bittersweet Park lake in Greeley, Colorado. I've been walking the trail around the park six times a week for over two years now and this is the first time I've seen them. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

I walk the trail at the park near my home five to six times a week. It is rather exciting--the park is filled, daily, with hundreds of Canadian Geese; squirrels; hawks; red-winged blackbirds perched on the cattails; children walking home from school; walkers; runners; parents pushing baby strollers; children on the playground and neighbors of all ages playing basketball. 



A small gathering of Canadian Geese at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Hawk watching my chihuahua from a tree at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I wrote about this park before--it is one of the most beautiful neighborhood parks I've had the pleasure of visiting. Besides the many neighbors who use the park and the never-ending sound of laughing, giggling children, there is a surprising amount of wildlife in the park and great views of the sunrise and sunset. 

 A parting glance at Bittersweet Park in the evening. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The park also has a heart-wrenching memorial to Weld County Veterans that is absolutely beautiful. I believe it is important to honor our heroes. In addition to the Veteran's Memorial there is also a memorial to officers who died in the line of duty in Weld County. 

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Veteran's Memorial at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

And, as I stated at the beginning (apologies for the digression, but I felt I had to set the scene) as a recent added attraction we now have two Mute Swans, and what appears to be two baby cygnets. 

Mute Swans (feel free to correct my identification) at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. 
All photos by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I was surprised when I first saw them. I've never seen them at the park before, and as you can imagine I use the park often, walking the trails nearly every day. My neighbors told me they've never seen the swans. But I was walking the park with my granddaughter a few weeks ago and there they were!

The evening I first saw the swans it was near dusk, which is why some of the photos have a colored tint to the water and on the birds, but they are always just gorgeous. Such graceful creatures.  

Okay, this is not a swan, but she's mentioned in my story. My chihuahua puppy, Emma adores children and attracts a lot of attention when we take her for walks, but she is surprisingly well-behaved for a puppy. Even though she can't do much damage at only four pounds, she is always walked on a leash. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The evening we first saw the swans my granddaughter had my chihuahua puppy, Emma, and Emma was attracting more attention than the swans, running up to strangers, rolling onto her back, begging for belly rubs. My granddaughter tried to tell me there were swans in the lake, but I was busy trying to retrieve the dog who was literally rolling around the shoulders of a runner who stopped to pick her up and say hello.

Mute Swans at Bittersweet Park Lake, Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

"Grandma, did you hear me?" Layla asked. "Yes, I told her. You said he's sending a text." Where on earth that came from I have no idea. The man standing before me finally managed to unhinge Emma, who was climbing all over his shoulders like a chihuahua coat collar, and hand her back to me, then he pointed at the lake and laughed as he told me Layla had actually said there were swans nearby. 

"They arrived a few weeks ago," he said. "Everyone in the neighborhood is talking about them." He pointed at the water. I followed my granddaughter down to the water's edge and sure enough, there was two large Mute Swans and two babies following behind. 

Mute Swans at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Swans are a somewhat rare sighting in Northern Colorado. I tried to do some research and found a news article stating that a black swan was spotted in 2008 near Loveland, and swans have also been seen in Boulder and Longmont, but they're generally found in lakes and ponds at hotels where they were purchased for display. I've asked many people about the swans, including quite a few lifelong residents of Greeley, and they said they could not remember ever seeing swans in Greeley, and never at Bittersweet Park. 

Mute Swans at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Mute Swans are large birds, considered among the largest waterfowl, slightly smaller than the popular Trumpeter Swans. I think they are lovely. They have a wingspread of up to 7.9 feet. The males weigh around 26 pounds and the females weigh 20 pounds. Males are identied from females by a knob on their bills. Mute Swans are also a protected species in most states, but for some strange reason, they are considered an invasive species in Michigan!

Bottoms up! Two swans fishing in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Fossils of swans have been found in four states in the U.S.--California, Arizona, Idaho and Oregon--and their ancestry is believed to be at least 6000 years old. Mute Swans are also thought to be most closely related to Black Swans of Australia.

I believe these may be their babies based on the curve of their long necks. Photo taken at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado by Darla Sue Dollman.

Baby Mute Swans are called Cygnets, and they are a gray color until they reach maturity at around a year old. It is shocking to watch their speed of travel--the babies can cross the lake in a matter of minutes. Surprisingly, they reach mature size at around three months old, but retain their gray feathers until they are closer to a year.

Mute Swans lay four to ten eggs and it's possible these swans are carrying more on their back, but I walk this park nearly every day and have only seen two.

The back of a parent swan is flat like a boat. Their wings rise up like doors on hinges and the babies climb onto their backs, then the adult lowers its wing, protecting the babies from rain, hail, cold, and the view of predators so they can sleep.

Hawk at Bittersweet Park picking at a bird wing. I don't think it killed the bird, which appears to be considerably larger than the hawk. It most likely scavenged the remains after dogs attacked the bird. Photo taken in Greeley, Colorado by Darla Sue Dollman. 

 Sadly, many people bring dogs to this park without leashes (I am all for dog-walking and enjoy seeing the many dogs at the park, but unleashed dogs kill the wildlife) and I have found feathers near the water's edge. I've also seen hawks that appeared to be cleaning up after a kill. I took a walk around the park this afternoon and couldn't see the swans, but the cattail patch has grown huge over the past few years. I have prayed for their safety and the safety of their young ones, hoping they are resting safely and peacefully in the cattails.

Mute Swans in their nest at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Mute Swans build their nest at the water's edge and these swans are too close to the walking trail for my comfort, but they are large birds and hopefully will be safe.

Mute Swan at Bittersweet Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I am a little concerned about this bird. I've seen it with its leg raised in the air a few times now and will call the wildlife rehabilitation center in a nearby county to see if they can check it out and make sure it wasn't injured by other animals. If you go back to the photo showing the two swans fishing you can see that one of them appears to be holding one leg at an odd angle behind it when it is upside down in the water. That's what happens when people walk their dogs without leashes!

Mute Swan at sunset. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The swans are beautiful and I hope that local residents respect their great beauty and help protect them. They mate for life and return to the same nest every year, even though they migrate, so they will be a lovely addition to this gorgeous neighborhood park in Northern Colorado. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Emma, the Universal Healer

Emma is a universal healer. Her name means "Universal Healer." Look closely--see her smile? She's saying, "You love me! You know you love me!"
 Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Meet Emma. Emma was adopted while I was grieving. In my family, everyone has worked with animals during some--or many--times in their lives. We have so many people in my family who are trained to work with animals that I've lost count. 
The expert advice comes in handy, but I have experience, as well. 
Through the years I've had various jobs working at dude ranches, race tracks, shelters, pet stores, and other places that taught me the good and bad sides of the "business" of animals. 

Emma loves to snuggle. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

When I was trying to recover from the sudden loss of my elderly fur friends I volunteered to work at the local Humane Society, taking photos and writing descriptions of the animals because I wanted to do my part to help the animals find homes. Emma came in while I was introducing myself and my first thought when I saw her was, "She's too small." 

I didn't want to think or say that I was afraid she wouldn't make it, but it was clear she'd been on her own for too long. She was just a baby. She had all of her baby teeth, didn't know how to hunt or defend herself, and weighed a little over three pounds. She still doesn't have fur growing on her belly.

But she was smiling. Just like my chihuahua, Chewy, who died months ago from heart disease, Emma smiles all the time, even when she's sleeping.  

Chewy, who has now joined his fur pack over the Rainbow Bridge to wait for me, is shown cuddling with Elvis. When I brought Elvis home she immediately sensed that Chewy had health issues. She would follow him around and snuggle up near him, then slowly place her paw on his shoulder as if to comfort him. She cried for weeks when Chewy died, pacing the house, searching for him. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

I wasn't looking for a dog. Although I'd just lost all but one of my "pack" in a little over a year, I was still grieving painfully, but when I looked at her tag it said her name was Foo Foo. I knew it wasn't Foo Foo. Her name is Emma. I knew it the moment I saw her, and when I looked it up I knew her name with absolute certainty because Emma means Universal Healer. I also knew that some day, Emma would be with me. 

Peek-a-boo! Emma with my granddaughter. Emma adores children. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

When I received the call informing me that she was strong enough for adoption and two couples had already tried to take her home and returned her, I knew she was the dog for me. She has felt loss and abandonment. Confusion and fear. She needs a family, and a forever home, and I am in the position to offer her that and everything else she will need, including love, patience, and compassion.

So, this is Emma.

Emma is...elegant.

Emma in her holiday dress. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

When it comes to party dresses, Emma rocks it! She has two sweaters and a pale green snuggie that looks like a robe, but she loves her red dress.

Emma is...a haunted chihuahua.

Emma's favorite toy is a stuffed chihuahua named "Chewy" after my blessed little creature I discussed above who died just a few months ago. 

Emma with her Chewy toy. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

When she sees her Chewy she leaps on him, grabs him by the ears, shakes him back and forth and growls fiercely as if she is playing with another dog. She also snuggles with her Chewy toys, sleeps with them, plays with them, and appears to be trying to convince them to chase her. 

Emma snuggling with her Chewy. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Then there are times when she holds her Chewy tight to her cheek as if they are having secret conversations. I suppose it's possible that Chewy has returned to teach her all those sneaky chihuahua habits that made him so endearing because she loves her Chewy! 

Emma is...a cat. 

I used to tell my children that they could be anything they wanted, and it appears as though Emma also follows my advice. She chases the ring of light from a flashlight when you shine it on the floor. She even runs in circles chasing that flashlight until she trips over her little paws and rolls around on the ground. I'm careful not to spin her around too much--she would run in circles until she puked, she is that nutty. She leaps from one piece of furniture to another. She runs up and down the stairs like the cats and is not the least bit afraid of the dark, chasing my two black sister cats around the basement as if she, too, could see better in the night! 

Emma on the prowl. Emma is fiercesome. She will attack anything, including shadows! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Emma also does that strange thing cats do, chasing shadows to try and freak out their owners and make them believe there's something in the room! Emma chases the shadow from my braid when I bend over to pick her up and the light is above my head. She chases the shadows of the cats when the lights shine in the window and the cats walk across the room. 

And when it's time for bed, Emma curls up into a ball, just like a cat (but burrowed beneath the comforter in typical chihuahua fashion). 

Emma is...a sand kicker! That's right--she's the beach bully from the Charles Atlas ads! 

No, really! When she's feeling playful, fiesty, protecting her food dish from the dogs, responding to the sound of a doorbell on television, or if I tell her to go to bed and she wants to play with the cats instead, she turns into Charles Atlas, the body building celebrity from the 1940s--she puffs up her chest, holds her chin high, and kicks out her back feet as if she's the humiliated "Mac on the beach" getting even with the bully by kicking sand in his face. "I may be small, but you will respect me" she seems to say as she hops from side to side, tossing imaginary grains of sand behind her. 

Emma may be one of the smaller creatures in the house (the African Dwarf Frog and hermit crabs haver her beat in that category) but she holds her own. She is creative in her defense. One of the cats loves to tease her by sliding her paw near Emma's food dish. The cat doesn't want the food, she just likes to tease Emma. A few days ago, Emma responded by dragging all of her stuffed animals to fhe food dish and stuffing them one by one on top of her food. She could no longer reach her food, and her toys were covered with kibble, but when she was done she was so proud of her accomplishment that she turned her back on the cat (who you can see in the background to the left) and kicked imaginary sand in her face! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 


I was on the phone yesterday, removed something from my purse and dropped my purse on the floor. In a matter of minutes she had pawed through my wallet and shredded two checks and a deposit slip I was supposed to take to the bank along with $40 in bills. I picked her up and put her on the bed and told her she was naughty and, yep, you guessed it--she turned her back on me and kicked her hind legs at me as if she was kicking sand in my face! It's oddly intimidating! Let's put it this way--I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley! 

Pixie crept around Emma's kennel and actually stole two of Emma's Chewy toys. (Emma has four Chewy toys).  Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Sometimes Pixie Dust will try to steal the Chewy toy and Emma kicks imaginary sand in her face. Elvis, Pixie's sister, will wait until Emma is snuggled deep beneath the comforter sleeping soundly then carefully slide her paw beneath the comforter and poke Emma to wake her up. Emma jumps up--which isn't easy to do when you're beneath a layer of down comforters--shoves her way out from beneath the comforters, chases Elvis off the bed then turns around and kicks imaginary sand in her face. Elvis licks her paw, pretending not to notice. She looks at the ceiling, at the floor, at her sister. When Emma is satisfied that Elvis is sufficiently covered in imaginary sand she will go back to bed...and Elvis will jump back up onto the bed, creep over to the lump beneath the comforter, slide her paw...

Emma's kitty companions. Elvis is on the left and her sister, Pixie Dust, is on the right. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

 The Chewy toy originally belonged to Elvis, who cuddled with the toy after Chewy died to help her cope with the grieving process (true story) and oddly, Emma leaves Chewy alone if Elvis is cuddling with the Chewy toy. The animal politics in this house are mind-boggling 

Emma is...confusing!

She is not the only troublemaker in the house. All of the animals tease her, including Big Baby Dog, and Emma holds her own. Baby, however, also treats Emma like a baby! He's so careful around her that he refuses to walk when she's nearby because he's afraid of stepping on her and she moves so quickly he can't see her. 

Baby's not sure what to think of Emma! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I think the cats find her amusing. She's only 1/4 their size, but she chases them through the house, up and down the stairs, leaps on their backs, chews on their ears, and they do nothing to stop her. I tell them not to encourage her, but who listens in this nutty house! 

Baby is a different story. Baby is an innocent in this situation. He recently had a surgery to remove a strange fatty tumor that developed right in the center of his armpit preventing him from walking. Now he exercises, but it wears him out as he's still recovering. 

When I first brought Emma home Baby just stared at her. He couldn't figure out if she was a dog or a fruit bat! Emma loves him, though. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Baby is a happy fella, though, and loves to wag his wide, thick tail, and when he wags that tail Emma latches on with those teeth and flops up and down. Sometimes he growls at her, sometimes he snaps at her, but most of the time he ignores her. 
Baby had a tumor beneath his armpit and could not walk for months. He literally hopped on three paws and gained weight because he couldn't do anything. He is recovering well with the love and support of little Emma. She keeps him busy, but she also loves to snuggle up to his big belly. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I suspect this situation will change as soon as she loses those baby teeth! When she doesn't get the attention she wants she will leap onto his side and pounce on his belly, just as she does on the cats. That doesn't work, either. A four pound dog leaping on top of a 100 pound belly is like a fly landing on a horse. 

Emma is...confused!

If she hears someone whistle on television she comes running, but she doesn't understand the word "come." She understands "go to bed," and will do so obediently, but when I tell her to "come" she runs in circles around the house. The whistling situation would seem to be helpful, but I don't know how to whistle! 
                                                                                       
Emma responding to someone whistling on television. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Emma is...addicted to television.

It's true. She will sit at the end of the bed and watch an entire movie with me. I have to be careful, though. If there are children in the movie and the children are upset or cry, Emma cries, too. If someone is fighting, she jumps up and kicks sand at them. 

I once wrote a post about rescuing animals, how we never know what they've been through. Emma intrigues me. I can't imagine what her previous life was like--why would she spend so much time watching television? She was only three months old when I brought her home. 

Emma waiting for a holiday visit from the grandchildren. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Emma is...madly in love with children!

The day I brought Emma to her forever home we stopped took to visit my grandchildren. As soon as Emma saw my granddaughter walk out of the house she went so crazy I thought she would dig a hole right through the passenger window. When my grandchildren are at my home, I do not exist. She follows them everywhere, and when they leave, she cries for hours. She literally walks around the house searching for them, crying. It's heartbreaking. 


Emma is...loved. 

With all of my heart. 



Friday, December 15, 2017

A Year of Loss and Grieving

Buddy and his sister, Holly, cuddling. They were always wrapped up beside each other. 


I don't know how to explain it. I can't. 

It's been a year of loss. But why it happened this way I'll never know. 

It started with a divorce. Niblet, my ex-husband's 19-year-old cat started pacing the house, howling. He wouldn't eat or sleep, he just kept...searching. Animals don't understand divorce and I've learned that cats have a unique way of grieving, which I will write about at a later time. 

My nephew and his wife died in a horrible accident. I was his nanny while I was in college. They died before I could meet his lovely young wife. 

My 15 year old chocolate lab, Buddy, was poisoned by the neighbors who parked in front of my driveway, barking at my granddaughter and I, taunting us as Buddy died in my granddaughter's arms. He was my service dog. He was gentle, goofy, fun. He never barked. It was an act of cruelty beyond comprehension and it was made clear to me that it was all done because I told my neighbor I would not hire him to mow my lawn. (When we moved my boxes out of the house we found my lawnmower in pieces with the gas tank filled up with water.)

Silly old Bud. He was the leader of the pack. So playful and funny, but always protective and he never left my side--until that one night when I left my home.

Yes, I do believe cruelty to animals should be a felony offense. 

A week later, my Flemish Giant rabbit, Katie, was dead in her hutch, paralyzed, with antifreeze all over her paws (I don't keep any chemicals anywhere near my animals). She was so deeply loved and adored by everyone. 

Katie with her friend, Layla Lou.

She had been to the vet for her checkup the day before. The vet was angry. She knew something was wrong in my neighborhood and said so in her sympathy card, but you cannot force the police to respond when they choose to look the other way.  

Such a loving creature. Katie, you are beautiful. 

My family and friends arrived in the middle of the night, packed their trucks and moved me out of my new home. I had only been in the home three months. I didn't even have time to unpack because I was still painting and redoing the floors. According to a speech made by the local sheriff, crime has increased in this county 90% over the past two years. It would have been nice to have that information before I moved to that neighborhood.

Holly, Buddy's sister, was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Chewy, my chihuahua, was fine. Then we moved again and everyone became sick. Chewy suddenly developed a previously undiagnosed heart murmur, which turned into previously undiagnosed heart disease. 

Niblet was lighter than he was as a kitten. He was dying. We raced through a hailstorm to get him to the vet and ease his pain. Lightning hit a tree and started a fire. A tornado touched down nearby, but we made it to the vet and my granddaughter and I held him in our arms as he died. 

Niblet was handsome, playful, and huge! He loved his humans. The vet never did figure out why he died in spite of all the tests. He just stopped eating. 

Mama dog, who belonged to my grandchildren, was acting strange after they moved, too. She seemed traumatized. She was also chasing the cats. I had a dream that if she stayed in that house she would die. I asked permission to adopt her since I didn't have a cat any longer. I found a new house and moved. I left the movers with a family member and returned home to pick up Mama dog. There had been a horrible thunderstorm and the animals were already wound up from the moving. 

\
I tried, Mama dog. I heard you. I really did try.

When I walked through the door I felt as if I had entered a war zone. I couldn't find one of our living animals, but Samson, my daughter's giant cat, was dead. Samson was featured in a post about the "mystery drawer." I tried to take care of him before my daughter saw him. 

We will always love and miss you, Samson.

My son-in-law found Mama dog. I never had the chance to say goodbye to her. He returned and we buried Samson's remains together.  

Then I had a dream. My granddaughter was spending the night, and as she cuddled in my arms we fell asleep watching a funny movie...and I had a dream. I had a dream of a woman on a hospital bed with tape on her eyes. There was a wheelchair beside the bed. I was walking through the room trying to comfort the family. I woke up screaming.   

It seemed like only days later when Chewy died. It was painful and traumatic. I gave him Rieki every night, but could not relieve his pain. 
Chewy was a fighter. He wanted to live. He was also so loving and kind. He could sense when another animal was sick just by smelling their bodies. 

Two weeks later, my younger sister died. As I walked through the hospital room trying to comfort her family I realized I was living my dream. She had tape on her eyes. Her husband was in a wheelchair beside her bed. I cannot explain. The words are in a knot in my throat. 

Two weeks after that, Holly died in my home. She collapsed in my granddaughter's arms. I pulled her onto my lap and she died there. I held her in my arms. 

The vet warned me it would happen that quickly, without warning. She was tired. She had lost her pack. She felt alone. I think she just gave up when Chewy died. She loved him so much. She loved them all. She needed them, and she knew how much they needed her. 

My favorite picture. I love your gray haired face my Holly. So beautiful. Love you forever. 

Some day I will write about my blessed little creatures and say goodbye, one by one. I will write about animals and grieving--I have learned so much about animals and grieving. 

But not now. It's too painful. Too much. 

I still dream about them, though. Nice dreams. I see them together, running through fields, running through the New Mexico desert, chasing each other. I see Chewy smiling in his sleep. I see the dogs following Katie around the backyard, sniffing her, wondering how a rabbit could possibly be so big, then sleeping by her side. I see them all in my dreams sleeping side by side. 

I will revisit them when it's time, but I've been writing this blog since 2007 and it's time to continue on with my stories of the mountains and the birds, the insects, the buffalo, antelope, deer, elk, and everyone else who crosses my path. 

All of my love Christina, Erik, Holly, Buddy, Holly, Niblet, Chewy, Katie, Mama dog and Samson. I cannot say goodbye. I won't do it. Until we meet again I will see you in my dreams.  


Buddy, Holly and Chewy soaking up the Texas sunshine.