Neighborhood Barnyard Critters

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The Barnyard Critters

It will be a year ago this next month that my chicken, Matilda magically appeared in my life.

It was late night, while I was walking the park, when this funny little red head popped out from behind a tall pine tree and called to me as if she had been waiting for me and only me.

It did seem like fate that evening… the way she followed me down the road, sure… now that she had made herself known to me, that I must realize immediately that we were kindred spirits. And I must admit, no matter how I pretended to protest to my friends walking with me that evening, how we already had too many pets how I didn’t need a chicken in my heart, I already considered her mine.

And so… when I said begrudgingly, “Come along, Matilda”  she seemed to smile at me and say, “See? You did know my name! I knew you were my bosom friend.”

And now, I have Frida. She, like Matilda, was also left abandoned late night at the park and as I saw her dark red shape huddled down by a tall oak, I realized that unlike my Matilda, she was just a baby… unsure of herself and the world…. and that she had resigned herself to her fate: the dark of the night and the idea that she may not survive the moment.

Once again, I was with a friend who even said to me, “You are not going to bring that chicken home.” But I could not leave her to fend for herself, and as I stepped up quietly on her, making soothing whispers, my hands gently reaching down to enclose her, she cried small coos that reminded me of the sad sound of the mourning doves that some times nested in my tree outside my bedroom window… as if she longed to go home… where ever that had been… and couldn’t understand how the people she believed had loved her… had left her there… all alone.

“Don’t cry, Frida,” I said quietly and then I held her tightly to my chest and watched as she laid her head in the crook of my arm, her bright yellow legs stretched out like spindly twigs beneath her, the only part of her body which betrayed her fear at being handled by a stranger.

Shocked from her experience, it took her nearly a month to come close to us and almost two before she would eat from our hands yet now, she sits bravely each day, on top of the small table on the porch, eating grain from a tin, and acting as if she is queen of the yard.

And then there was Rupert.

Unfettered by feathers and claws, a fat, hairy little hoofed black and white pig, who was brought to us in a cat carrier, dropped at our house by someone who believed that a pig was “way too much work.” His tiny little tail the only thing we could see swishing through the holes in the side of the cage as he hid his face from us, unwilling to come out of the carrier. My son and I understood his fear and so… we quietly popped the top of the cage, lifted the lid, and watched the wee small man climb over the edge and head to the mound of chicken feed on the dirt, while our pet squirrel, Jax, now five years past being “Star of the Yard,” watched in horror from the roof top as if to say, “Two chickens and now a pig? Are you out of your mind? Isn’t a squirrel enough for you?”

Rupert, entitled from day one, threw his weight around daily. He destroyed gnomes, stepped on top of our German Shepherd, Emma, as though she didn’t even exist, and pushed his way closer to me and what he believed was my endless handful of  “manna.”

And really… I can understand why people choose not to have critters when I am surrounded by so many needy animals.

They are noisy and messy.

They must be fed and cleaned on schedule.

And of course, like any pet, you take the risk of falling in love, becoming attached, and losing them, heartbroken, to a hundred different maladies.

But really… is this any different from anyone or anything we love in life?

When I picked up Matilda that night in the park, brought home Frida, gave Jax her first peanut, accepted Rupert into the yard, I had no idea the gift that I would be given in return.

The stories I am able to tell, the people that share in the joy of my barnyard world, and the community that has been delivered to my front yard gate due to this motley crew of critters.

Every day, when I sit and write, I hear out my office window a steady stream of foot traffic coming to my yard to see my pets:

I know that Kay’s sister is about to retire from teaching, is an author like me, and that Kay loves to keep turtles.

I know the toddlers, Faye and Mia, believe my yard to be magical and almost always wear their princess gowns when coming to visit.

I know that Bruce and Bridget, the widowers, met in French class, wed in their 70’s (after long successful marriages to other people) and found solace and joy and love in each other.

I’ve learned that Richard works late but still rushes down the street in his work suit so that he can bring his boys to see Rupert before my pig goes to bed. And I know that his son Max’s autism finds peace in the quiet petting of my animals.

And even as I write this, I stop to meet Eric and Bekah, a young married couple who live over in the Ranchos and had heard about our yard, word of mouth, questing out on their bikes across the busy street, to find this “mythical” farm yard and were actually just leaving when a young boy named Logan, not more than four, ran up to my fence with his brother, mother, and father, following close behind, to let me know they had just gone to the pet store to buy mice for their snake, but had stopped by to check on my pig. Logan racing back as they left, to give me a flower saying, “You can put it on your computer so when you write, you think of me.”

It would be a fault that I could not bear to carry, if I did not acknowledge how my “cup runneth over” by what some would consider a burden, a nuisance, a hindrance.

The joy I find in these shared moments of togetherness are worth the work and the risk.

How fortunate am I to have a life filled with children and neighbors who find a moment of connection and happiness on a random corner of Anywhere, U.S.A.

There is a comfort in knowing that I will watch these children grow over time, as they first walk past my house on their way to elementary school and then soon… maybe even becoming my own students when they are teens, and one day… when I will be gone as we all soon will… may still stop at my front yard gate with their own children, point to a particular corner of the yard and say, “When I was little this garden was a magical place.” And though I will not be there to stand witness to the moment, I find solace in knowing that I will become a thread in the stories they tell.

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Saturday July 13th through Saturday July 27th: Ms Wood will be on SUMMER VACATION!

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Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!

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D.D. Wood

Barnyard “Foul”: Dealing with Rupert a Purely Evil Pig wrapped in Cuteness

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This is Rupert.

Rupert is my new pet.

A mini-pot belly pig given to us by a couple who realized they had made a seriously poor impulse purchase.

They had a backyard entirely of cement.

A front yard with no fence.

Both had full-time jobs and so leaving the little three-month old piggy man in the house all day while they were gone was a recipe for disaster.

Rupert is (and this is an understatement) a handful.

But… we were willing to take him from his owners. We had a houseful of pets and I had been hoping to get a pig or a pygmy goat to be friends with my chicken Matilda, for quite awhile and so… within the first week of taking Rupert… I believed I had made the perfect choice: Matilda loved him.

They wandered around the front yard together; Rupert rooting around in the grass making big dirt holes with his snout. Matilda by his side eating all of the worms that he uncovered… a bit like a gang-of-two and we began to call them by their aliases… Ham and Eggs.

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They were inseparable.

But then… the trouble began.

Rupert became comfortable with his new environment and his Prima donna personality began to shine through.

He didn’t like to be touched when outside in fact, he squealed and jumped back each time one of us approached him.

But at night, when he came in for dinner, and to go to bed on his furry little leopard skin blanket on the cool tile floor of the bathroom, he flipped over on his side expecting a full body massage as he smiled, yawned, smacked his little piggy lips, and stretched his little cloven-hoofed legs out in front of him and batted his long piggy eyelashes.

He was adorable… but of course… he seemed to believe that he was completely entitled.

By week two, we realized there was trouble on the horizon.

The front yard had giant patches of grass entirely removed… Matilda’s chicken feed had to be hidden from him or like the pig that he was… he would gobble it all down without a second piggy thought and… being that he is a very smart little man… he seemed to know exactly when the clock struck 6:30pm and so… he would  rush to the front door, squeal and bang on it repeatedly until we let him in for dinner and bed.

The sound was terrifying.

Charlotte, our youngest, actually heard his commotion and her eyes grew big as she said, “My God! It sounds like you have a Changeling at the door!”

A White Walker

A Zombie

A Pig Nightmare.

Rupert.

Or as my good friend Warren liked to call him: a Purely Evil Pig wrapped in Cuteness.

Now… of course my children loved to post photos like this on Instagram:

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Fooling you into a false sense of pig security as you say to yourself, “Awwwwwwwwww. How sweet! That Rupert is just the cutest little thing! D.D. must be exaggerating in this story.”

But I tell you, he is the devil.

The other night, I wouldn’t let him in a half-an-hour early for dinner and as I stood in the laundry room, getting ready to turn on the dryer, I heard a loud crashing sound from the front yard.

Afraid that something serious had happened, I rushed to the front door, opened it, and there I saw Rupert, his little piggy legs spread apart in a stance of defiance, his snout held high, one of my prized ceramic gnomes now decapitated and lying severed; body on one side… head on the other… across the front walkway.

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“Rupert?” I asked. “Did you do that?”

He wiggled his little piggy nose, pushed the decapitated head with his snout, and let out a loud snort as if to say, “FUCK YES I DID IT! And guess what? There’s more where THAT came from lady!”

I stared at him… he glared back.

I was shocked at the little bastard he had become… and just as I was about to punish him for his behavior by closing the front door and making him wait and extra hour for dinner, Ringo, aka Bastard Number Two, our male teacup chihuahua, ran outside, lifted his leg and peed inside the broken innards of my gnome’s head.

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I watched as Ringo’s urine puddled inside of my gnome’s little broken red cap… dumbfounded for just a moment… before I became enraged that these assholes were actually biting the hand that feeds them.

“THAT’s IT!” I shouted. “You fuckers get the fuck away from my gnome!”

Rupert ran for the bushes.

Ringo ran for the house.

As Matilda watched from a distance, her head cocked slightly to the side, amused to see her little toadies torment and mock me.

“Keep it up,” I said. “You’ll be chicken dinner, he’ll be Christmas ham,” and here I turned to shout inside of the house, “And you Ringo will have your balls chopped off.”

There was complete silence.

No one moved.

I reached for my broken gnome, dumped the pee from his cap and placed his bisected remains into a large flower pot.

I turned on my heel and went inside to sulk in the quiet of my office but not ten minutes later… piggy brat Rupert was squealing at the front door.

“Mother fucker,” I yelled, which didn’t stop Rupert from squealing but did cause my mother to mute Two and a Half Men long enough to shout, “God, the mouth on you!”

Too worked up to even yell at the “Old” I opened the front door and watched as Rupert passed me without another sound and made a B-line to the bathroom where he expected to find his dinner in his bowl.

When he saw that it was empty, he kicked over his water dish and stomped his little feet and THAT… was IT!

I had HAD it!

I smacked his fat little pig butt, and he didn’t even care, he just threw his weight into it and then turned around and screamed at me.

I physically turned him around the other way, as he wailed bloody murder and pushed against me… but I wouldn’t have it… I made the little bastard go to his piggy bed.

“NO!” I shouted. “NO RUPERT!”

He refused to turn around then.

He faced the wall and stood there.. defiantly… ass to my face… refusing to listen.

“Do you understand I won’t tolerate this behavior?”

He begrudgingly swished his tail once, just like a spoiled child who realizes that he has lost the battle but that the war isn’t over yet, and he understood.

I swear I could hear him chanting in his little piggy mind, I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I closed the bathroom door and went to get his dinner.

By the time I came back… he was rooting about, fluffing his blanket, as if nothing ever happened.

The little shit.

I reached down and fed him, then watched as he licked the bowl clean before flopping over on his side, tired and world-weary from his little tantrum, ready for his full body massage… as if we had made up… and all that transpired was now: water under the bridge.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

He grunted.

I sighed as I sat down on the toilet and rubbed the little man down.

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It was no different than dealing with a tired toddler.

He stretched and yawned and I resigned myself to my fate.

In the morning we would try again.

In the morning we would find a way to make this right.

In the morning, I would go to Jack-in-the-Box and eat a Breakfast Jack with ham and in that way… extract my revenge on Rupert.

Yes my little man.. that’s right…. a BREAKFAST JACK WITH HAM.

Oh Rupert…

My little piggy demon.

You.

Have.

Met.

Your.

Match.

In.

Me.

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