The Unearthly Hour

Cue music and let the story begin…

Something haunting and mysterious happens when the sun sinks low in the sky and lingers for just a brief period of time.  The sun’s setting rays illuminate the desert landscape with dramatic effect. All of the strange little details are revealed, that, which might otherwise go unnoticed. The hour has come which turns Todd’s Backyard into a strange place, not of this world…

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The show begins when some cactus catch your attention, having suddenly turned into bizarre silhouettes. Their shadowed forms, outlined with spiny halos, are transformed into some kind of grotesque creatures springing from the ground! I can almost imagine them like the many-headed serpent the ancient Greeks called the Hydra, hissing and writhing …(As if rattlesnakes weren’t scary enough ;o) !!!

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Some of the cactus on our porch turn into wooly alien creatures that can make your own hairs prickle with the anticipation…Just waiting to see if they might start dancing or climbing out of their pots like little gremlins. Oh, the mischief they could cause!

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Spiky flames, that were once agave, flicker with moving shadows, setting the yard ablaze in a shades of green…

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Patches of short spiky spires carpet portions of the yard. Neither man, nor beast dare walk in their prickly path!

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And as the visual drama heightens the senses, the bird’s happy songs turn into the screeching cries of souls that loom among the lightness and the dark! (Ok, maybe a little too sinister?)

But this IS rather sinister…Spider webs appear out of nowhere, now to be seen glistening among the cactus throughout the entire yard! (Yikes…now realizing how many spiders we have!)

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And then, with only moments before the show ends, the sun sizzles on the horizon like a fierce red eye casting it’s gaze on the landscape, creating shapes and shadows that devour the yard in it’s glowering wake.

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For that unearthly hour each day,  the spell has been cast.  We can put reality aside and just imagine. Be it monsters, fairies, demons or angels…It’s the time when our minds can play after a long day of work and possibly a few drinks ;)! And it is with this climatic ending,  that the curtain falls. The sun has sunk behind the hills and Todd’s Backyard returns to the serene sanctuary in the desert preparing for a peaceful slumber and the dreams to come….

I just hope I don’t have nightmares!….

Auuugh spiders….. and cactus gremlins…

Rocks of Ages

It’s a new year!

And Todd’s Backyard?….It’s still here!

Kinda like sands through the hour glass, (wink, wink😉 , a little tribute to my mom’s favorite soap opera),  the days of our lives keep on sifting and shifting.  2015 was a little rocky. But, I guess somehow getting rough and tumbled now and then, can really ‘polish’ your perspective on life!! 2016 promises to be the beginning of a dazzling new year. And one of my many New Year’s resolutions is to start blogging again on a regular basis! So, it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll…

In the Sonaran Desert, rocks are, as you might suspect, plentiful! River rocks are a main staple in a lot of the landscaping in these parts. You will see many yards with dry rock river beds running through their property. In our case, Todd built this one that runs right off of our back porch which lines a natural wash. So, when it rains, it turns into a lovely little babbling brook! With El Nino visiting this year, it’s been running quite a bit!

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 Todd has used a lot of river rock in his landscaping, but, we have been lucky to embellish the yard with the natural rock we find right in our own yard!   We just happen to live a stone’s throw from the base of a large copper mine! So we’ve created a few little rock gardens to show off and display the rich mineral colors that are the trademark of the South West…

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Azurite, malachite, chalocite, antite, chalcopyrite, this-ite and that-ite…We totally dig living in the ‘ite’deal location for rock fans like us!! Several years ago, the town of Sahuarita redid the main street at the end of our block,  which runs close to the mine. They dug up tons rock filled with glistening crystals and vibrant colors, leaving the piles on the side of the road! So, we took our wheelbarrow and a pick and traveled down the street to do a little ‘mining’ ourselves….

Not only did we find some lovely colors, we were most happy to find some gorgeously quartz laced rock…

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Alas, we found no gold, silver or copper ;) But the crystals were a nice addition to Todd’s Backyard landscape!

 My interest in rocks actually goes way back! Back to the prehistoric era that was my childhood! I attribute my appreciation for rocks, to my mom. When I was 4 years old, she took me rock hunting on the shores of Flathead lake, where she grew up. It was there and then that I discovered some varieties of rocks that tickled my imagination….Like flint (the material that the indians used to make their arrowheads). Petrified wood (which looked just like wood but it was a rock!)  And best of all, agates! These beautiful rocks that are transparent  and glow with colors when you hold them up to the light! All of these rocks were special, magical…they were treasures that could be found right on the ground!  By age 10, my entire room was filled with rocks! Rocks that I had either found, or bought from rock shops on our many family vacations. I learned all the names and knew all the scientific facts of each specimen- My dream was to become a geologist! But years later, that bubble burst  when I found out that the mastery of math was involved in such scientific endeavors.  ;p

 I never stopped loving rocks. Inevitably, my eyes always go to the ground when I’m out in places where the prospects for finding a rocky treasure might be good!  Once a rock hound, always a rock hound! Years ago I passed on the best of my childhood rock collection to my nephew when he was younger. However, I held onto and still have, many of the rocks from my childhood. Todd and I have  given them a special home in Todd’s  Backyard….

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There they sit, around the base of our chimenea mixed with other rocks that Todd and I have collected in the later years of our lives together. I don’t remember the names of many of them, but I remember many of the stories behind them….

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Pictured above was one of the very first rocks I ever found, back on the shores of Flathead lake. Mom called it flint, but I believe most rock experts call it jasper. I always imagined the indians chipping away at it to make their arrow heads! We also found many arrow heads on those same shores!

 Now displayed where Todd and I can enjoy them everyday, these rocks create their own kind of magic and artistic inspiration, especially when viewed in a different perspective…

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Close up, they can be appreciated for the exquisite artwork, only God can create!

Although I have aged and my mother is gone, these treasured rocks will remain ageless and will live on through the ages, holding within them all of the dreams once held by the little girl I once was.  And holding all of the memories of the woman that has found  some of her greatest treasures in Todd’s Backyard!

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I’ve taken some of these photo images and created products that are available on Todd’s Backyard Zazzle Shop:

Grey Granite and Quartz Mug
Grey Granite and Quartz Mug by ToddsBackyard
Check out Rock Mugs online at zazzle
Turquoise Treasure Pillow
Turquoise Treasure Pillow by ToddsBackyard
Browse Zazzle for a different throw pillow.

A Summery Summary

It seems just like yesterday Spring had sprung, but before we knew it, Summer had begun. The mild temps and gentle  Spring breeze suddenly turned to a searing 100 + degrees!  But even over the Summer we love our desert home and will recount this season’s events with this little poem…

We  were pleasantly surprised around mid June with an early debut of the Summer’s monsoon! Quenching the desert and keeping it wet…

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And the cloudy skies painted the most brilliant sunsets!

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Everything slows down in the monsoon’s muggy heat. An afternoon siesta is a sweet Summer treat!

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Unfortunately, there’s some creatures that just dont’ relax…Like the pillaging, plundering, leaf cutter ants…

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In the darkness of night they march by the billions, causing so much destruction it shocks us human civilians!

IMG_7658The remains of a pepper plant in the garden.

Every night through the Summer Todd goes on the attack, with a flame thrower and flashlight he torches them back. It’s Todd’s futile fight and a nightly ordeal, but I guess playing with flame thrower holds some sort of appeal?

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We have a new resident we see quite a lot. He’s out and about when the day is most hot. But, lizards do love the heat, that’s in their code, I just can’t figure out why they call this lizard a toad?

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Summer brings hordes of tiny baby quail, lined up behind mom, with their dad on their tail.  Sadly, quail babies are easy snackable fowl, for hungry hunters out on the prowl. As the Summer moved on we watched their numbers shrink, but those young ones remaining have grown larger, like these getting a drink…

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The baby quail , if not born into a family that’s wary, could end up as unfortunate Road Runner quarry. Some folks think Road Runners are really cool, but we think they’re creepy, sneaky and cruel. Small baby critters snatched away in a wink, even humming birds are not as safe as you think!

POEM6Road Runner- (Primary baby quail eater).

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After our pond had been ransacked by a wayward heron last year, we  couldn’t bear an empty pond, as Summer drew near. So, Todd restocked the pond with some simple goldfish, hoping the heron won’t come back for another fishy dish.

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Todd then decided to put his construction cap on and build a shady shelter over the pond. It’s an attractive addition the backyard scene, keeping the fish happy and the pond from getting too green!

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With all the rain it’s felt almost like the tropics, making it seem possible to grow something rather exotic. However, a lush rain forrest we are not,  but something like pineapples, guess what, we got!

This is our neighbor’s amazing apple-of-pine…We helped them eat it, and it was divine!

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Last year I bought this plant that already came with it’s fruit. We let it ripen, then we ate it, then planted it’s top to take root.

 Below is the plant thats growing from that little top. Who knew pineapples were such a yummy, recyclable crop!

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However, we won’t expect a fruit for another whole year… Lots of patience required for this kind of farming career!

Todd definitely has some magic ‘green thumb’ power…. Early, his garden produced some lovely cauliflower.

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There were also some broccoli and some nice chili plants. The chilis would still be chillin’ if not for those damn leaf cutter ants!

We do have another crop that’s just now ready to pick…the prickly pear fruit…we’ve never them so thick!

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We will pick and deprickle them, then squeeze out the juice, which we freeze in ice cube trays for later use! (…like margaritas;)

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Our Gerti has had an enjoyable Summer, hanging out with old friends and a few new comers.

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She’s shared her house with lizards, rabbits and mice. And we uncovered some rattlesnakes in her garden, twice!! Thankfully, she didn’t seem at all destressed , but we totally freaked out, I must confess!

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Gerti was introduced to her strange mini twins, she was not at all impressed, to our chagrin. Now, they’ve had a chance to get to know each other, I think the little ones think Gerti’s maybe their mother?

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This Summer was the first after many changes last year, the loss of loved many ones we held so dear. But, we’ve been nourished by all of our many blessings as the desert’s season’s keep on progressing. The Summer rains have washed away the tears and renewed our strength with hope and cheer. Cheers!

Life keeps on going as time marches along…

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And to this hot muggy Summer, we say so long!

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees….

And the Clouds Up Above…. And a thing called Love….

I LOVE this Spring! The desert is bursting with blossoms and buzzing with activity. The unusually wet weather has made this month aMAYzing!! It usually doesn’t get this lush and green until mid July! And the Palo Verde Trees were spectacular with their brilliant canopies of yellow! I just love the Palo Verde Trees!

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 In fact, it’s been a monsoon-like this Spring…Just last week it built up in the afternoon. Big billowing clouds with distant rolls of thunder and a hint of rain wafting in the air. We love these kinds of days before the heat of summer has us in it’s grasp! Gotta Love it!!

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Yesterday, the temperature only got up to about 73! By this time of year it’s not unusual to hit the 100 degree mark. Needless to say, the flora and fauna are flourishing with the cooler, wetter weather!  In April the Cactus started to blossom and paint the desert with their brilliant shades of magentas, oranges and yellows…

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The Buckhorn Cholla. Love them prickles ‘n all!

 

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 The Pencil Cactus…Love!

 And the Prickly Pear  popped with a variety of  peaches and yellows…Love, Love Love!

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Some of the blossoms are bugged🙂 Love…not so much!

The bounty of blossoms attract all kinds-

Even the beezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

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Um…..Love them????

A few weeks ago, we were shocked to discover the mesquite tree that sits right off of our porch, had been bee-dazzled by a huge swarm! We have never seen anything like this. I didn’t even notice them until my brother-in-law pointed it out! The dogs and I had been walking around the tree and sitting right next to them for some time.  These were, most likely, killer bees…or a killer bee hybrid which, I’ve been told most bees in this area, are now. I’ve also been told that they usually only get aggressive when they’re threatened by certain noises or smells. Luckily, we didn’t buzz them off!…We must smell and sound ok?  They disappeared as suddenly as they appeared, when it warmed up in the morning…Whewwww!

I’m pretty sure that the birds that frequent that particular tree were happy to see them go as well! I noticed while the bees were there, the birds, especially the humming birds were chased away by the buzzy bee guardians.  But after their abrupt departure, the usuals came back to their favorite hangout….

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The Orioles

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The Cardinals

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And the Humming Birds. Love them all!

But unfortunately…

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The dreaded Wood Pecker resumed his perch! Can’t say I love you dude!

Of course we have a huge variety of other feathered residents, but they tend to frequent some of the other trees in the yard.

We did have a different feathered visitor which we had not seen before in Todd’s Backyard….

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The Grackle.

But evidently, he was not impressed with the accommodations and left…haven’t seen him again. Hey…you’re mission’ the love! Oh, well!

So, life goes on in Todd’s Backyard and we are relishing this incredible Spring with the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, and the clouds up above…And a thing called love😉

Tortzilla!

It was a quiet Thursday, a little more that a week ago, when I was shocked to the point of virtual heart attack!  I may not have been so terrified, if I hadn’t been horribly sick with nasty bronchial virus, and I thought that I might be hallucinating. But, I wasn’t.

I was startled out of my feverish stupor when my brother-in-law came stumbling into the house with a giant prehistoric creature in his arms. He was screaming, not just with excitement, but with the strain of the ponderous weight he was hefting though the house onto the back porch!

Had I been in my right mind, I would have immediately grabbed my camera. But, I was in such shock all I could do was gape at this thing that looked like a large fossilized boulder with 4 spiny legs and a yoda-like face with large blinking reptilian eyes….And it was gaping back at me! Probably in more shock than I was, having been hoisted and joggled into this strange place!

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It was a 100 lb. Sulcata Tortoise (African Desert Tortoise)!

I had never seen one in real life. We had the opportunity to get a couple of them a few years ago, but with out a fenced yard, it would be hard to contain something like this!

So, my brother-in-law had come across this creature  lumbering down the median on a busy street near our house. Obviously, not a good place for him to be! So Jody was able to get him in his car and bring the tortoise to us, knowing that we were good tortoise folk :)

The most hilarious part of this little story, was what happened when Todd got home from work. We had not notified him to our new guest and waited anxiously for his reaction….. We sat there like nothing was up for a couple of minutes while Todd recounted his day, when he was distracted by a crash on the corner of the porch where he witnessed the ‘Tortzilla’ plowing over the rock sculpture Todd had so carefully placed there.  “WHAT THE F*&%K IS THAT!!!” Todd screamed as he jumped out of his chair!….

Ahhhh….It was priceless…should have got it on video! But who can think when they are sick!

Anyway, after an afternoon of speculation about this tortoise titan, I thought I better go on line and see if I could find any posts about a missing tortoise…surely someone must be missing him!! He would not be hard to miss!! But, surprisingly, I didn’t find anything. So we barricaded the porch, found a large box and filled it with hay, fed him all of the vegetables we had in the house, and spent the next few days trying to figure out what to do.

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Each day I looked on line for a missing tortoise ad with no results. And the speculation continued, our imaginations went wild… This is the story we concocted:

As a tiny baby, Tortzilla had been brought to Arizona from his native African Saharan Desert home as a exotic pet around 80 years ago. After his owner died, he was let out into  Sonoran Desert to fend for himself. There, he lived, sadly alone, since he was not native to this environment. But, he continued to grow and thrive until finally he made his way back to civilization seeking companionship…Serendipty ensues and he ends up in Todd’s Backyard!….Hey! You never know😉

 

Our dogs had various reactions to their new ‘brother’ tortoise…

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Daizy was intrigued, but kept a respectful distance, when there was a hhhhhrunmmmff from gentle giant. Our Cavelier, Baily was totally indifferent.  Our Chihuahua, Lulu,  was terrified and wouldn’t go near this strange thing. But Bizbee, she was bound determined to make Tortzilla her best friend, even risking her nose by getting all up in his business every chance she got!

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Tortzilla was extremely patient and gentle. He was fascinated by our baby torti’s when we put them on the porch for their daily sunning session.

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Although, I’m not sure if he wanted to love them, or eat them! But, the babies were certainly not scared of Tortzilla!

Saturday morning rolled around and Tortzilla had made himself right at home!  After all, when in Todd’s Backyard do what Todd does😉

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But, this is not where the story ends….Sunday morning, I finally found a  post on Craigs list- Family Pet, 100 lb. missing Sulcata Tortoise in Sahuarita from a house one street over from ours. My first thought was ” Well, maybe this isn’t the same Tortoise!”  But common sense ruled and I made the call.

The Grover family was ecstatic to get their beloved Chester back!! I didn’t ask how he got lost, but I had to know  his story….the real story…of this amazing creature!

Chester is only 18 years old! He can live to be 100!!! and will probably be twice this size ;0 He has lived with the Grover family for 8 years- they got him from a Reptile Rescue in Tucson. When they got him he was very ill and they nursed him back to health. A great story if I do say so myself!

And to the Grover Family….FYI…we really did not feed him beer! Only the best tortoise healthy foods are served in Todd’s Backyard!  Please keep up posted on him!!

Happily Heron After

Last Summer Todd got a blazing hot deal on a couple of Koi fish for our pond. We had originally stocked it with gold fish, which were all sadly snatched by the hawk. So, when Todd decided to restock, he added more plants and rocks for additional camouflage and went to the local Petco to purchase a few more fish. Not only are the fish fun to watch in the pond, but keep the algae down in the hot summer. When he returned from the store, Todd was stoked to have found  some 4″ Koi there, mismarked for $1.99! They usually sell for about $25 at the size!!  He picked out 2 (he should have snagged a few more)…Damn! And I wish I had taken some better pictures!…Damn!

Anyway…

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 The Koi grew and thrived in their new environment and all was well…

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Until one day last January when Todd was cleaning out the pond. To his horror, he discovered they were gone! The pond had been de-koied :0

We spent the next days speculating about what could have eaten them! A fine meal indeed, for any desert predator during the lean winter months! Of course, the hawk was at the top of the suspect list, but our neighbor has insisted that he’s seen a raccoon about at night! (We simply have to get a night camera set up at some point!)  But, we thought there would never be any way to prove who dun it!

Until about 2 days after the fish-a-disappearance, it all became quite clear.

I walked out onto the porch and almost had a heart attack when a massive winged creature took flight from the top of our roof, overlooking the pond. And with a slow and powerful woosh….woooooosh of it’s 6+ foot wingspan, it was gone.

It was a rare sight,  A Great Blue Heron!!! A wetland bird in the desert! We see them quite a bit on the beaches down in Rocky Point Mexico. The only place you might see them occasionally, here locally, is on the golf courses. I got a snapshot of this one last time I went golfing….

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Here’s a picture I got of a Great Blue Heron on the beach in Mexico…

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I didn’t get a picture of our backyard visitor until the next day, when we caught him hanging out on our neighbor’s rooftop.

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It was spectacular sitting there, just hanging out. I guess he was hoping to find a few more ponds in the area, having depleted ours!

He stayed there for a good 15 minutes while I got some shots…

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So, I guess we won’t be getting anymore Koi, but we are thinking about restocking it with some 99 cent goldfish with which we could afford to occasionally feed our five foot feathered friend! Although, now that he has a taste for Koi, Todd’s Backyard may be beneath his culinary expectations!  I guess we will see!!

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The Little Dog that Could

Once upon a time, there lived an old* woman who suffered a broken heart after her husband died.  Although she had family and friends who loved her dearly, she lived alone and wished for a little companion to keep her company. One day, the old* woman went with her daughter to visit their friends who lived on a ranch in the country. There, the old* woman met a mischievous little puppy that she immediately took a liking to. She was told the pup was a trouble maker…harassing the horses, pestering the neighbors, chasing cars and perhaps, needed a new home. So, the old* woman took the little dog home to live with her. To keep the puppy safe and out of trouble and fulfill her wish for a companion to keep her company. She called her new little friend Bizbee.

Because the old* woman loved Bizbee so very much, she decided to find her a friend. So, she brought home another puppy she named Benson. The old* woman loved both of her dogs more than anything…Her very life revolved around them!  Over the next several years, Benson grew into a giant 100 lb. dog who commanded all of the attention from the old* woman and anyone who came to visit. But, little Bizbee loved her Benson and didn’t mind that she was not the center of attention.

Because the old* woman loved her dogs so much, she became obsessed that something might happen to them and went to great lengths to keep them safe! Both dogs were never allowed to leave the house for fear they would run away. The old* woman’s daughter pleaded with her mother to let the dogs, at least, come visit her house. But the old* woman was too frightened because her daughter and son-in-law lived where there was no fence, lots of sharp cactus and dangerous wild animals roaming about! But her dogs were happy with their lives. They were well loved and well taken care of. They loved the old* woman and the old* woman was happy.

One day, the old* woman had a stroke and became very ill. Her family was  overwhelmed with taking care of her so, her precious dogs were sent to a ‘safe’ foster home until she was well enough to care for them once again. But, the old* woman did not get any better and she died…Most likely, a broken heart contributed to her death, as she was afraid she would never see her beloved Benson and Bizbee again….

And this is where the story begins…

My mom passed away on December 5th. She had a stroke the first of October and started to recover, but had another stroke and complications that she could not recover from. The day after she died, I called the foster home caring for Benson and Bizbee to see if they would adopt both dogs. My mother was adamant about keeping them together. Benson, a 100 lb. labradoodle was just too much for our little pack, so Todd and I could not take them.The foster mother, our local groomer, was happy to adopt Benson, but Bizbee?…Well, she was a ‘problem’ dog.

Todd and I agreed that we would bring Biz home and see if there was anyway she might be able to live with us….at least until we could find her a suitable home. We were worried that having led such a sheltered life, we would encounter all of the horror’s my mother had imagined…Chasing rabbits for miles and getting lost…fighting with a javelina…getting impailed on a cholla, getting bitten by a rattlesnake, running away at first chance…With Bizbee, you just never knew. She loved to pounce on birds and chase lizard’s in my mom’s yard, much to my mother’s horror! Bizbee could be a handful!

 

I brought Bizbee to our home on Dec. 9th.

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She was a little lost and forlorn. My heart ached for her as she found the blanket that covered my mom when she passed away, and laid on it the first day she was here. But then she found Baily. She had known Baily and our other dogs for years since we had taken them to my Mom’s house many times! I’m sure this was a huge factor in adjusting to her new environment.

Since we were a little nervous about letting her outside, we got a tether so we could hook her up on the porch without worrying about her bolting. But poor Bizbee was not very happy with this situation!

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‘ The evil eye😉 ‘

 One afternoon, shortly after Bizbee came to live with us,Todd left that sliding door open, forgetting about Bizbee. Upon entering the house and realizing Bizbee was no longer in the house we panicked! I  would be devastated if we lost her! All the fears my mom had would be validated!

But, as soon as we prepared to go walk the neighborhood in search of her, little Bizbee calmly walked into the house from Todd’s Backyard, looking at us like “What’s the big deal?”.

Since then, the tether has been put away and Bizbee is free to have new and fun adventures in Todd’s Backyard….

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 Helping Todd grill with Daizy is one of the best!

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However, it would probably be much more fun to actually help him get the chicken to put on the grill!

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Bizbee has taken her seat on the porch…She does not chase the rabbits, she does not eat lizards (yet). Her only mishap has been an infected cactus thorn in her paw (Sorry Mom!)

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Bizbee has found a new life with a family that loves her, and is also trying to find a new life after the loss of someone they all loved.

Epilogue:

After the little dog found a new home,  she became the little dog that could….

She could make new friends.

She could investigate the yard as she pleased…for the most part.

And she could mend a broken heart…for the second time!

And as for the *old woman’s daughter…..She apologizes to her mother for calling her *old ( Therefore the *) and hopes that her mom is not rolling over in her urn for posting this blog-  But the daughter is sure that that her mother is happy in heaven knowing that her beloved Bizbee is still well loved and taken care of and will live happily ever after.

Mom, rest in peace…

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 A little part of you is still with us through Bizbee….Thank you!