Saturday, May 4, 2013

Squirrels and Pugs and Cockatiel Hugs


I'm up in my studio/office, putting the finishing touches on the flowers that will embellish a crocheted clutch I made this week, when downstairs in the kitchen, I hear a scrabbling noise against the screen in the sliding glass door that goes out to the deck. It's a soft little scratching and bumping sound, and  I know immediately, Bernadette is back! I lay aside my needle, thread, and beads, and head down to the kitchen.  There she is, staring in at me with her deep, inquisitive brown eyes; her tiny paws curled against her chest. 

Bernadette is a beautiful, spunky red squirrel that visits my deck every day.  Why do I call her Bernadette? I really can't say.  That was the name that popped into my head for her and no other name I tried seemed to fit.

Bernadette helps herself to food at the bird feeder that hangs in the lilac bush next to the deck, and she has even found a way to scale the brick next to the window wall adjoining the door, make a stretch and a flying leap, and get to the clear, acrylic bird feeder I have attached with suction cups to the window.  One day, she fit her whole body inside the little feeder, and just sat and stuffed herself!

But when the food is gone, Bernadette always comes to the door to get my attention and let me know!  She makes noises against the screen or window until I come over.  She then stares at me with her bright, soulful eyes (think Puss in the Shrek movies), and very clearly communicates to me that she would really like it if I would put out something more for her to eat.  When I don't have time to run out and refill the feeders, I will just put some black oil sunflower seeds in a little dish and set it outside the door, where she is patiently waiting.  She scampers up to the bowl and digs in. 

Sometimes, even when there is food available, Bernadette will just come over to the window wall, stand with her paws on the glass, and peer in.  She does this most often when I am sitting at the table eating breakfast or lunch.  It's as if she wonders whether the food I'm eating might be better than what's available on the bird feeder.  I go over and talk to her a bit.  She seems to like to just stand there and listen.

On Tuesday, the workmen arrived and removed our deck.  We'd had it for 20 years, and it was rotting.  We had to replace it.  Unfortunately, this meant there was no way for Bernadette to get up to the sliding glass door and window wall for our chats.  Since we are dealing with drainage issues, it will probably be another week before the new deck is built.  I miss my daily visits with my lively companion.

Bernadette is still visiting the bird feeder and I am trying to be extra vigilant about keeping it filled. One benefit of having the deck out of the way is that I can now enjoy watching the many birds that feed on the ground from the seed that Bernadette spills as she gobbles away.  We have a pair of mallard ducks that have built their nest in our yard and they love to come and chow down on Bernadette's leftovers.  They usually waddle over twice a day for a meal.

Papa and Mama Duck

Bernadette feeding the ducks.
Many people would say I am crazy to attribute communication skills to a squirrel, but I don't see how anyone who watches her could fail to be convinced.  She clearly wants contact, knows how to get my attention, and knows how to let me know what she wants.

Coincidentally, over the past week and a half I was reading Animal Wise by Virginia Morell, a book about the latest science and findings regarding animal cognition.  What an absolutely fascinating book!

There was nothing about squirrels, but she covered ants to whales, and many species in between.  There is no question that we are finally beginning to recognize that animals have complex cognitive skills and emotions.  The more I learn about the animal mind, the more I think I really need to become a vegetarian -- I have more and more difficulty eating meat.

The information related in Animal Wise was very interesting, but it didn't surprise me.  My own relationship with animals has long convinced that they are intelligent, emotional, and spiritual beings.  I raised a cow bird, Nan, when I was in junior high.  My brothers found her when she was a baby.  She was on the ground and had been abandoned.  I cared for her and raised her.  She would sit on my lap while I read or watched TV.  When she was hungry, she would go stand in front of the refrigerator and "yell" to be fed.  She liked to take a shower in my hands in the laundry tub. She would even go outside with me and not fly away -- until one day my brother ran from the yard with her on his shoulder.

I currently have two pugs, adopted through Pug Rescue Network.  Yue Ying (the black one) is seven and Logan (the fawn one) is twelve.

Yue Ying

Logan

They spend most of the day with me and constantly demonstrate that they understand how to make me understand how they are feeling and what they need.  It is also easy to tell when they are feeling joyful or when they are upset about something or sad.  Their eyes, faces, and body language are very expressive.

My cockatiel, Gnocchi, is also a very intelligent little guy.  Not only can he whistle, "If I Only Had a Brain" and the "Andy Griffith Theme Song", but he can imitate various household sounds, like the tea kettle, the cupboard doors opening, the microwave and oven timer, etc.  He is so sweet.  If I tell him I love him, he will  bend his head down so that I will stop and give him a kiss.  He also likes to cuddle against my cheek while I talk softly to him.
Gnocchi, my cockatiel
My life is so much richer because of my animal companions, both wild and domesticated.  They are my unique and wonderful friends.

REMINDER: Mother's Day is only one week away.  I'm still running my "20% off everything" sale.  Free card and gift wrap is included.  Use coupon code:  LOVEMOM in either my Etsy or Art Fire shops.  If you want your gift delivered by Mother's Day (within the continental US), order by Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

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