Everyone loves my little dog, Hattie, and she loves everyone. Well, everyone except the squirrels. To rid our yard of squirrels is her mission, and she takes her mission very, very seriously. Dogs need a job. My sister’s Corgi, Penny, has the job of herding chickens. My neighbor’s dog, Leo, has the job of guarding. Hattie’s job is to make me happy…and to keep the squirrels at bay.
Squirrel patrol works like this: The squirrels gather at the bird feeder and below. One squirrel shakes the seed down. The others call all their friends over for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Hattie watches. When she spots the crowd, she takes off. Heaven help her if she should ever actually catch a squirrel, although once, she came very close. It surprised both of us.
My little dog, Hattie, is a rescue dog. She rescued me from aloneness, which is very different from loneliness. She came to the “Hokey Pokey Clinic, where-I-turned-myself-around” six years ago, and she saved me. The theory is that dogs look like their owners. If that is true, I am so fortunate to look like Hattie…happy. She has done her job well. Actually, she does both of them well.
I live in the tiniest house on my block of four homes. Next door to me, on the north side, is the biggest house, with a family of nine kids, and a double lot for a yard. I love the view of the next door open yard. It is very often full of children playing some type of ball. When it is too dark to see them, I can still hear the kids’ play-talk and laughter when my windows are open.
This family has a huge play structure in the lower end of their grassy field. The kids are growing, and usually, only the youngest little boys play on the structure, which is complete with swings, slide, a climbing platform, and monkey bars.
One morning quite recently, I was out early walking my little Hattie-dog. She is very alert, and notices every movement around. Usually, she wants to chase birds or bunnies, but most often her target is a squirrel. As we approached the yard next door, Hattie began straining, in her very well-trained way, at the leash, and I looked to the right.
Playing Follow-the-Leader, across the top of the monkey bars on the play structure, were two squirrels. Hattie and I stopped and watched. It was a living cartoon. The squirrels leaped from bar to bar, balanced on the side rails, and ran across the platform. I would not have been surprised if they had gone down the slide and leaped onto the swings for a little back-and-forth, but they didn’t.
It’s delightful to find wonder in the mundane. Not much is really mundane for me, though, because each second of my life is a joy and a gift. It is also a learning experience. Now I know why Jungle Gym is such a perfect name for a play structure.
Among my autumn decorations were two orange pumpkins and a green pumpkin-looking squash. One of the pumpkins, I parked in a front flower bed, and the other two, I parked on a bench in my front yard. It was a very artful and festive arrangement. The squirrels thought so, too.
I began to see teeth marks in the surface of one of the pumpkins. Then deeper scrapes. Then a hole. Autumn wore on. Halloween passed. Thanksgiving came and went. I began to gather up the pots of dead mums, split wood bushel baskets, and other bits of fall décor in order to make room for Snowy the Polar Bear, a red sled, and my Christmas outdoor greenery and lights. Still, I left the green squash and the one orange pumpkin on the front bench.
One day in very, very early December, I looked out my front window to see a squirrel’s derriere complete with bushy tail, poking up from an enormous hole in the pumpkin! I laughed out loud and took a picture. Well, why not? Squirrels gotta eat, too.
My sister had given me a concrete pillar, which I put in the back for birdseed. Of course, the squirrels would clean it off before any birds could get to it. I moved all remaining squash to the top of the pillar, and gave the squirrels full permission to chow down. As if they needed my okay.
All that remains now, are a couple of hunks of pumpkin, some stray seeds, and a lone stem. Glad I could be of some assistance. It may be a long, cold winter.