Lions, Bears and Tigers, oh my!

Lopez  13233 Lions, Bears and Tigers, oh my!Lopez  13012 Lions, Bears and Tigers, oh my!

Ok, so there are not really lions, bears and tigers where we live, but for us city folk, there might as well be! You see Chelsea, Cocoa and Cleo all moved with their “citified” diva mom from the heart of NYC to the country.   The boys, who did not join our family until after we left the city, are most definitely country dogs and are in their element in our new home.

Now I keep referring to the “country,” but full disclosure, it is only a 25 minute drive from the NYC.  But distance doesn’t matter, for us it felt like another planet.  Initially, we were excited about the freedom, the quiet, the ability to roam without leashes (yes, I was as excited about that as the girls were).  Then we became deeply disturbed about the freedom, the quiet and the ability to roam without leashes.  No constraints, no blaring horns, subways, taxis, buses, police and fire sirens, massive pedestrians, 24/7 chaos on the streets, YIKES!!!!  Were we crazy to give up all that comfort?!

We now had our own patch of grass in the form of a backyard.  To the girls, it was like their own dog park.  I mean where else could they roam around without leashes coming from the city?  It seemed peaceful and quiet and there was a lot of it too.  Our yard is right up against a heavily wooded town park, so it is very quiet.  But along with peace and tranquility comes  . . . wildlife.  Ok, I knew we would see squirrels and birds.  But when I say wildlife, I am talking about the jungle!!  Just two days after moving into our new home we had an uninvited visitor, a huge coyote. Yes, a coyote!!  Huge, bold, no fear, in our backyard to “welcome” us!   Now the girls thought it was a big dog joining them in their new dog park, but one look at Mama’s face and the following shrill scream, alerted them to the fact that something was a little off in the “dog park.”  You think!?!

After herding the girls into the house, who by the way were barking and jumping up and down excited about their new “playmate,” I immediately dialed 911.   I mean who else do you call when you have an intruder in your home, even if that intruder has four legs?  Well, after being redirected to the parks department by a very patient dispatcher, Ranger Joe (have no idea if that was his name) thanked me for letting them know and told me to stay inside until our visitor was gone.  What?!?!  They weren’t going to come down and trap the coyote, arrest him, take him to, oh I don’t know, where ever they take uninvited coyotes (as if any of them are ever invited).

When I asked what I could do to stop them from coming back, I was told I couldn’t really do much.  What I learned was that coyotes don’t really have any predators (except humans) and are not extremely fearful animals so they are willing to take on other predatory type animals, like bears. BEARS!!! Wait there were bears too?!  I was assured that was not likely this far down the Hudson, but that some people usually spray the urine of a predator animal in their yard to stop other uninvited guests and some people mistakenly believe that bear urine would deter coyote.  I knew that I was in another universe now–spraying bear urine?!  The only urine being sprayed in my backyard was that of my dogs and that was more than enough.  Where the heck did we move to?!

And that was only the beginning.  The parks department wanted to know how much my dogs weighed.  When I told them that they were between 20-30 lbs, they told me that I did not have to be too concerned about the hawks swooping down and carrying them away.  WHAT?!?! Holy crap!!  So not only did I have to keep my eyes peeled on ground level but I also need to be looking up in the sky too!?  We had only been in our new home for under a month and I felt we were under siege by wild predatory animals!

And if that were not enough, we soon realized our backyard, the private dog park, as my girls thought of it, was actually a wildlife preserve & zoo without cages!  Did you know that wild turkey like to travel with an entourage?  Well the ones in our yard do.  They come in packs of at least 8, they fly (ok, I had never seen a turkey fly before) and they can be aggressive big birds.  They like to sit perched on our fence waiting to descend on the fallen bird seeds from one of our many bird feeders.  And there are also, groundhogs, rabbits, that truly do multiply in the blink of an eye, frogs, snakes, foxes, and deer, squirrels and chipmunks, we even saw a possum.  My dear Chelsea was so scared of the backyard that she barely moved from the deck for months. Oh wait, that was me!

My husband is a retired NYPD Detective and I always felt safe while living in the city.  Maybe be it was a false sense of security, but I knew how to be diligent and still be safe and enjoy the city.  But now I felt like I was a prisoner in my home being held against my will while the wild savages took over my yard.  Ok, so I may be exaggerating a bit, but just a bit.  And of course, I passed all my neurotic paranoia to my girls.  But they were used to it by now, they already knew to jump over puddles because Mama taught them to protect your stilettos at all costs, that rain was your enemy because it causes your hair to frizz and that grass was pretty to look at but not for sitting or walking because you never know what was really underneath.   So now it was avoid the yard at all costs.  The front porch became our only outside space and we thought we were just fine.

Thankfully, our family grew by four and we were now a family of  7 dogs.  Three girls and four boys.  The boys were a different breed altogether.  The loved the grass, the freedom to roam the expansive yard and they made friends with everyone they met, including the wild savages my girls and I were hiding from.  You see, the boys simply accepted the backyard and all its inhabitants as one big place of wonderment.  Everything had a place, a purpose.  Now they are dogs after all, so the first time they saw the wild turkey, deer, foxes, hawks, they were amazed, barked and ran up to see what it was but after a few times of doing this they all just seem to co-exist.

Once they realized that the deer were not going to play fetch and that the turkey and hawks can fly, they just let them do their thing and the boys did theirs.  Now I will say that for the gophers, squirrels, rodents, chipmunks, frogs and snakes, the boys do believe that all those animals were put in the yard for an exciting game of chase.  I feel bad for few of those animal who did not volunteer to play the game:).  But otherwise the dogs just accepted everything they way it was and everything seemed ok.  Even that crazy huge coyote hasn’t made an appearance again, not in our yard at least.  We have heard of other coyote sightings in the neighborhood and we can hear coyote kills way in the distance on some nights but he hasn’t come back to us for a “visit.”

Slowly but steadily the boys approach to living started to rub off on me and the girls.  Cleo actually digs holes in the dirt, Cocoa loves a great game of fetch running the entire expanse of the yard and Chelsea loves to explore all the yard’s nooks and crannies.  Cleo even caught a chipmunk and field mouse but was extremely sad that they did not want to continue to “play” with her.  She has no clue why the game of chase makes them “sleep.”   I am very surprised and happy to say that we are all enjoying our yard, no longer fearful but excited to discover what the yard will be revealing to us each day.  But if you thought we were no longer “citified” the girls and I still walk on the stepping-stones in the backyard preferring them over the grass.  Oh well, we are works in progress.

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