Life one bite at a time…….

Category: Dogs

Mantis on my Mind

Today the southwest Ohio heat storm broke a bit. Able to walk through the yard without becoming wringing wet (at any time of the day) for the first time in days, it was a cool but humid morning. Offered time to get a few tasks done before the uptick in both heat and humidity.

First task is to take the devil dogs for their morning jog. It was a good run. Since bringing a fully charged water pistol to the task, I am seeing a little less attitude when meeting other canines in the ‘hood. Today was a good dog day from another aspect as Joy did her first mock pull. She has been wearing a pull harness on our daily walks for over a week, with the ultimate goal of pulling a dog cart. She has gotten so used to it if I am not quick enough to suit up for our walk, she is nudging the harness and giving me meaningful looks. “Hurry up Mom”. So today, I built a mock pull jig that could be clipped to her harness. Fancy words for a piece of pine with eye screws. We walked the block and she did GREAT!

Time now to address yard and garden issues.  I don’t water much.  New plantings and transplants, yes, but when the beds are starting to dry up and crack, time to water.  Time to set sprinklers and timers, and hope for a cooling down.  Just get the shrubs and perennials through to dormancy.

On my first walk through the western terrace, I started to see them.  MANTIS!  Without much effort on my part, I counted 8 good sized mantids in about a 6 foot square area.  Ranging in size from 2.5 inches to easily 4.  Two  four inchers hanging almost nose to nose within 6 inches of each other.  I waited to see the action, but with usual mantis timing, hardly a twitch. And I must say these two were certainly not interested in me.  Sex or lunch? Don’t know but when I checked back about 30 minutes later, both had gone missing.  Hmmmmm.  The others, still in roughly the same attitudes as I had last seen them, some dressed in the radiant emerald green of a fresh molt and others the standard camouflage of golden amber and green.

My next coup of the day was to break out the mantis cam kit I bought on the internet.  Since I am still trying to diagnose why my good camera has thrown up its hands (thus no standard pictures, sorry!), this was a good opportunity to try the new technology.  (

Included in the kit is a mantis vise, which allows you to gently restrain the animal in question, while the micro chip and the cam are affixed.  It’s just snug enough that a small range in body sizes can be accommodated.  You may have a bit of a struggle at first, but once you have handled the first one or two you kinda get the hang of it.

Once in the vise, you must work quickly.  You do not want to stress out the mantid especially as it will take some time for the glue to dry after affixing the chip and the cam.  The glue is a special concoction developed by NASA for use with aliens, so is very gentle and nontoxic.

Glue the cam first.  It’s a bit heavier than the chip so will need a little extra curing time.  I placed mine right behind the neck joint so a literal mantis eye view can be obtained.  Then I placed the chip right behind it.  I sped up the gluing process by gently squeezing the tube of glue to create a bubble at the applicator point and allowing it to set just a bit before placing on the device and placing on the mantid. I was able to glue up and release four mantids in about a half an hour.

The theory is that in going through the next molt cycle, both devices will be sloughed off, but are completely biodegradable.

I found the mantis cam software was easily installed on my mac mini and getting the various devices identified and cued up took very little time at all.  These were very thoughtful software developers to say the least.  And what wonderful pictures started rolling in, in addition to being able to track movements through my garden beds via the chips.  AMAZING!!!!!!

Oh, how wonderful if I could just…….. Okay,  everything was true down to the mantis cam kit. No mantids (real or imagined or any other creatures) were harmed in the ripping of this yarn.  Just a little flight of fancy on my part.


PS – Since posting have gotten the camera back on line ……. (Yes Virginia, these are ALL DIFFERENT!)

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Devil Dog

Back in the day was a most excellent bakery in our neck of the woods. Sue’s.  It was the hangout of choice for retired steel workers and the 50+ crowd for a great cup of coffee and a righteous pastry. And Sue was always there slinging pastries, sharing stories and hugs.

It was happy day when as a family we would venture over for a morning pastry, usually on the way to church.  My achilles heal was something I had never seen before:  the chocolate cake bar.  A pastry roughly six inches long, three inches on a side, topped with a some sort of white buttercream frosting/filling and on top of that a marvelous milk chocolate ganache oozing over all.  Oh my, good thing we only went by occasionally.

I ventured off to college, where ramen noodles and pots of coffee were de rigeur.  But on occasion, came the care packages.  Personal goods, newspaper clippings, Home Pride Wheat Bread (unavailable where I schooled) and Sue’s chocolate cake bars.  Although starting to get stale by the time I received them, those cake bars were metered out like they were gold.  They had to last a long time, and sometimes I just didn’t have the fortitude to let them.  Oh my, oh my, oh my.

After marrying and a couple of moves later, found myself in southwest Ohio. Finally finding another place making a similar delectable treat, and this time a name, a real name.  One that wasn’t as much of a mouthful as the treat itself.  Devil Dogs.

It’s 2013 and I have another devil dog.  Gorgeous to look at but has the potential to be painfully bad for you, just like all that chocolate.  Andante, Dante for short.  My Joy was already such an allegro I needed an andante to slow her down.

ImageHe was roughly seven months old when I brought him home.  He had been in the shelter a week when I saw him.  Starved, frightened, sick.  Part golden lab, part American Staffordshire terrier, part something small, spaniel maybe. Part soulful baby.  Part kangaroo.  His only interest was food.  Due I am sure to his entire skeleton being identifiable beneath his golden coat.  Literally starving.

He and Joy hit it off from the moment they met.  Playful abandon, two pups finding each other on the whim of rescue adoption.  They are like siblings from different litters, brother from another mother.  Six months later they still have not stopped playing.  She taught him about toys and hiding under the bed.  He always has to know where she is and will search until he finds her.

His need for food became a useful tool, but not before some basic learning.  He had never been in a house before.  I taught him to climb stairs, about doors and doorways.  Because his food drive was so large, in a week he had learned his name, to sit, to come.  Anything for another morsel.

Just so everyone could have a time out for the first night, I set Dante up in my guest bathroom.  Linoleum tile, plenty of space.  He would be warm and secure and Joy would know she was still my baby.   My first lesson came the next morning.  There had been no noise during the night, all is calm, all is bright.  Then I opened the door, one of my freshly hung solid poplar doors with new trim.  Inside was the aftermath of a whirling dervish.  Drywall, trim, door all succumbed.  He had peed in the floor but that was to be expected.  Never inside before, remember?  Interestingly enough, despite the shrapnel from his evening’s activities not a scratch on him.  No blood, no wounds, nothing.  I don’t know how he did it.

So my next attempt was to try kenneling.  After he damaged and broke out of three different kennels I stopped trying, the third one an all metal contraption he pushed out of and broke the welds.  All forty pounds of him.  Again not a scratch, not an ounce of blood.  He’s starting to sound like James Bond.

Quarantined in the garage? Trim pulled off the garage door, door knob mauled, a hey day on top of my rag top convertible, puncturing the same.

So I talked with a dog behavioralist and the folks at the shelter.  Trying to analyze his behavior, this frenzied drive to not be contained, it seems he was one of those puppies abandoned. First chained up, relegated to the backyard, not really a family pet, and then for good, maybe a foreclosure, maybe not, but left for good.  He figured out how to get away and if it worked the first time………

Of his other talents, he’s a jumper and a climber.  A veritable canine MacGyver, escaping most situations. He can jump from a standing position to my eye level.  The first non traditional command I taught him was he would not be touched until he sat at my feet, otherwise I would be treated to his wild pogo dancing.  He picked it up pretty quickly too, but it doesn’t mean the kangaroo has left the building.  When he and Joy went to the kennel while I vacationed, he repeatedly climbed the wall of his enclosure, on his way to where?

Recently, he has taken to heart the new attitude of deconstruction found in high end restaurants, except with my pillows.  Cases, pillows, shams ripped to bits.  The first time was funny, after that not so much.  A newly redecorated bedroom on the ropes.

By now if you are not asking yourself why do I still have this dog, you I gotta wonder about.  I started several times to take him back.  Couldn’t. It was his eyes.  Deep, deep chocolate redolent of those devil dogs of days gone by.  The first time I have ever seen a dog speak love with his eyes.  And he wants so badly to please.  He looks at you all wiggle and jump and those eyes speak. Please don’t leave me, I’ll be good, I’m really trying.

And I also know what would eventually happen to him.  He would be taken home because of his cuteness, his Marley-good looks.  And then the trail of destruction and anxiety and lack of house brokenness would begin and how long would he last?  A week, two? Then back to the shelter.  How many cycles of that before a dog becomes unadoptable?  He is so sweet and so sensitive, how could that possibly help him?

He’s smart and a puppy still, recently crossing the year mark (I think).  His sweetness, his goodness with Joy, the wiggle-rama whenever I come home.  The warm little body snuggled up in the cold of the night.  What’s stuff compared to that?  And, believe it or not, he is getting better.  Small teacup poodle strides, but getting better.

He’s my modern day devil dog.  Without the calories.Image



For  my friend Shirley.

Moment of Joy

My brother called her ‘Joy Unspeakable’ after an old Baptist hymn, learned when we were growing up. And she is Joy Unspeakable, no words, just the embodiment of all that is Joy.

Unfortunately, my brother never met her. He talked about her constantly as if he had. He wanted desperately to play ball with her; but in his fragile state her athletic 45 pounds would have turned him into a bowling pin. Now, he sees her all the time. Sometimes I think she actually sees him.

Joy was a rescue. I went to the shelter to check out another dog.  An older dog, good with cats.   But then again, not so much.  We all learned something that day. So I strolled through the maniacal din of unhappy dogs, about 25 of them, all desperate to tell me,  someone, anyone  their sad tale.    In the very last run, sat a dog, silent.  Yellow colored, short haired, beautiful cleopatra-esque markings on her face.  Looking very expectant.  At me.  Hey you, get it, I AM NOT BARKING.

I have since learned she wills everything with her eyes.

Her name was Dafney.   This dog was NOT a Dafney.  Built like a linebacker, sloping shoulders, enormous chest, almost no waist.  All muscle.  Built to run like her boxer forebears.  Wow, I had no idea what I was getting into.

Having been head feline in a multiple cat household for over 20 years, my life was about to be turned into constant canine chaos.  She does not move at walk speed. Her moves are all high speed, kangaroo like as she hops two or three stairs at a time.  When excited and wanting to play, she morphs into a Tasmanian devil.

When I brought her home, I could not call her Dafney.  I was bowled over by her joy in life,  her exuberance, her sense of adventure.  Having lived without joy, hope, or expectations for months, I was astonished to see what it looked like. A meteor of positive energy constantly questing for what’s next. I wanted that.  I wanted that back.

So, she was Joy, incarnate.  And I hoped that by naming her Joy, she would bring me some.

So, first like many new dog owners, we went to dog training.  Boy, is she smart.  Most commands, she learned the first time.  After that, I was on my own. She was more interested in what the other instructor was doing or managing her neighbors.  She became especially fond of the rottweiler princess next to us.   Glad they never tangled.  We passed the class, but more importantly, our bonding process began.

I brought her home a year ago in March.   There were valleys, many of them.  Some mine, some hers.   I was almost ready to return her to the shelter when fortuitously a cousin gave me the book, The Inside of A Dog.  It taught me as much about myself as it did about her.  To make her successful I had to look inward; I had to find some inner calm so my presence would communicate calm to her.  Unbelievably hard at this stage of my life.  But I had lassoed her into my life, not the other way around.  It was up to me to manage some control of myself, so she could better control herself.  I learned about ‘mean face’.  A few simple changes to the look on my face can drastically change her.  Devastated by a single well placed frown.

I’ve also learned that being a rescue is a matter of opinion.  Should Joy be able to speak, I am sure she would indicate she had pointed out the merely obvious to me.  I needed her.  I needed to be rescued.  I needed 45 pounds of loving, torpedo-like muscle to pull me by the leash back away from the edge.  We’re still moving, and she hasn’t let go.  Held by a thread, looking like a leash.

To those not making the cut, she must be addressed by her formal name, Princess Joy Wiggles.  And wiggle she does, like a worm boring its way into my deadened heart muscle.  So inextricably bound, to try and remove her would leave me terminally compromised.  She is the Cerberus to my soul, my heart. She is my Joy.