Our Lizard Farm

Part of having a puppy, especially a shy or fearful one is getting them used to everything that life will throw at them.

In my case, while I have an almost blank slate, I also have a dog that is afraid of pretty much anything.  That is to say, at least he is afraid of anything that makes noise.

One step at a time, they say.  Divide and conquer, they say.  There’s a big world out there, they say. 

So lets explore.

I did manage to get him outside after his panicking at the big evil scary sliding back door that made a racket on its tracks.  Once his nose is out the door, Rack seemed to take the yard in style.  It gave me an excuse to let him sniff around and do a little weeding.

This is South Florida after all.  Blink and your yard has new growth.  Blink again and the weeds are putting out a cheery carpet of white and yellow flowers, shamrocks with their lavender blooms, and plants that people in colder climates keep in their homes and offices.  

Yes, I have philodendron growing in my back yard as weeds, don’t you?

Wandering around the yard, I was accompanied by my little black and white dog.  Picking up weeds as I go, pulling vines, and generally having little effect, I realized that I needed to get into the shed for the nippers.  The Bougainvillea was growing again after having been beaten back and it threatened to grow its tendrils into the spa.  Magenta flowers are beautiful, but you do need to get past that wall of blooms to get anywhere in the yard.

Opening the door to the shed, there was just enough noise to make Rack back off and assume his sitting position.  He does that when he’s overwhelmed, whether he’s in the back yard or in the middle of an intersection.  Definitely something to work on, at least he’s not barking at whatever is scaring him.

We had taken Lettie’s old crate out of the shed and given it to the animal themed thrift store.   It created a big hole that the detritus of life hadn’t filled in yet, so I was able to step inside and see an area of the shed that was invisible before.

Meaning to clean the shed out but realizing that there are always more pressing things to do when you own a house, I noticed that there was a row of little pearls on my workbench.

Those pearls each contained a developing lizard.

Since I get so much entertainment watching these little creatures go about their reptilian lives, I left the row alone with a smile. 

Yes, I’m going to be a Lizard Daddy!  Congratulate us, it’s a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a girl, and a girl…  They will have their own house and call it Lizardvania, the home under the Sea Grape Tree.

It’s all part of living in South Florida.  You live with wildlife, regardless of how you feel about it.  Blink and your gardens are overgrown.  Ok, My gardens are overgrown, Your gardens may not be.  You will have lizards, and black racer snakes, and visits from the Opossums and Racoons, and it’s all normal.  You will get used to it.

Just so long as there aren’t beady little eyes watching me in the spa from the utility easement at the back of the yard, I’m OK with it.  This is because when I’m in the spa I’m not dressed for guests!

Getting The Dog Ready For The Walk

Sometimes it takes two people to move a 36 pound puppy.

Luckily, since they’re puppies, they learn quickly.

Ok, let me rephrase this, since he’s a Mc Nab Puppy, he learns quickly.  That’s the benefit of having a Herding Breed, they are truly smart.

I’m now on Day 7 of Rack, the Shy Puppy.  Amazingly every single day I see improvements.

I was warned that he may panic in the car on the way back.  We were lucky there, he never made a peep.  It was a 250 mile ride back from Deltona with him in a crate and the two of us chattering the whole way. 

Over the weekend he handled a ride to the Vet in the back seat of the SUV with him sitting next to me wanting to be petted.  No crate at all, just sitting out in the open.

I was warned he wouldn’t be easy to walk.  He’s not easy to walk, but he’s coming around.  I was used to Lettie who would do just about anything I asked of her, but that was after being blessed with 12 years together. 

A week later, walks have become Rack’s favorite thing.   He’s a puppy, everything is his favorite thing or a source of panic.  He hates noises, so what do I do?   Take him out for a walk on Wilton Drive at Rush Hour.

There’s fear at the scary triangular trash cans.
There’s fear at the cigarette smoke.
There’s fear at the buses and trash trucks that roar past.
There was fear at a pair of women who dared to walk on the same sidewalk.

The point is if you have a fearful puppy, you have to expose him to small doses of the things that give him fear. 

It has only been a week.  The first walk he cowered in fear at my neighbor who got down on his knees to pet him.  Last night he rolled onto his side for petting next to that same neighbor’s feet.  Rack now will dance a puppy dance and make little happy noises when he sees other dogs all the while trying to wag his tail off.

In one week this shy little creature has learned the map of the Central Area of Wilton Manors and knows where to turn to get home when the walk should be ended.  

No, Dad, we don’t want to do a third block, Home is THIS WAY!

Sure, the first shelter was most likely a Concentration Camp, but he was lucky enough to end up rescued by The Dog Liberator after a second shelter.  Gisele started the process of rehab, and we’re continuing it, even if we have to climb into a crate once in a while.

We only had to do that once.  He doesn’t understand that it’s easier for him to get his harness on while standing but it’s better than going hands and knees inside a large plastic box.

Training a dog is all about understanding what the animal is capable of, what the breed can do, what you can do for it, and applying that knowledge.

We’re on the right track.  Happy squeaks and puppy prancing shows the progress. 

For a highly noise sensitive dog to be able to handle the 7AM disgorging of the Fort Lauderdale High School Buses as they parade up the drive to NE 6th Avenue’s light at the same time as E-16 and R-16 come blazing out of the fire hall with lights flashing and sirens doing a “MERRRP” at some idiot in a minivan who didn’t make way, shows progress.

One walk at a time. 

Sometimes the walk requires a rather undignified start, and sometimes it’s just “Up!  Walk!”. 

Dear Tide – Humor

Dear Tide,

I am writing to say what an excellent product you have! I’ve used it all of my married life, as my Mom always told me it was the best. Now that I am in my fifties I find it even better!

In fact, about a month ago, I spilled some red wine on my new white blouse. My inconsiderate and uncaring husband started to belittle me about how clumsy I was and generally started becoming a pain in the neck.

One thing led to another and somehow I ended up with his blood on my new white blouse! I grabbed my bottle of Tide with bleach alternative, and to my surprise and satisfaction,all of the stains came out!

In fact, the stains came out so well the detectives who came by yesterday told me that the DNA tests on my blouse were negative and then my attorney called and said that I was no longer considered a suspect in disappearance of my husband.

What a relief! Going through menopause is bad enough without being a murder suspect! I thank you, once again, for having a great product

Well, gotta go, have to write to the Hefty bag people.

You Know You Might Not Be The Brightest Bulb In The Box When – Humor

You know you might not be the brightest bulb in the box when

* you put lipstick on the forehead because you wanted to makeup your mind.
* you get stabbed in a shoot-out.
* you send a fax with a stamp on it.
* you’re on the corner giving out potato chips yelling “Free Lays!”
* you try to drown a fish.
* someone gives you a penny for your intelligence, and you have to give them
* you think socialism means partying.
* you trip over a cordless phone.
* you take a ruler to bed to see how long you slept.
* At the bottom of the application where it says “Sign Here” you put
* you take 2 hours to watch 60 minutes.
* you study for a blood test and fail.
* invent a solar powered flashlight.
* you sell the car for gas money.
* you heard 90% of all crimes occur around the home, you move.
* you miss the 44 bus, and take the 22 twice instead.
* you take someone to the airport, see a sign that says, “Airport left”, and then
turn around and go home.
* you get locked in Furniture Shop and sleep on the floor.
* try to kill a bird by throwing it off a cliff.

A Yellow Hibiscus Blossom – Picture

If for no reason other than I think it’s a beautiful flower.

I’ve had Hibiscus plants around me since the mid 1980s.  You can get them to grow in Pennsylvania.  Obviously they have to come indoors for the cold weather, they simply won’t tolerate freezing or near-freezing weather.

I had a red hibiscus given to me in the 1980s and it flourished until the late 90s when it got infested with White Fly.  By that time, it had survived a couple cross state line moves, an annual onslaught of Japanese Beetles, and quite a few colder than it would like winters.

The yellow one was a plant that I had gotten right after moving here to Florida.   Hibiscus aren’t native here, but they are well loved and showy plants.   This one isn’t too happy living in a prison, also known as a fiberglass pot, but it does put out flowers, usually when I need a little beauty.

Some day I’ll take it out of its prison, but for now it’s a beautiful illustration of the old saying:

Bloom where you are planted.

Little Baby Squee Birds – Picture

It is Squee Bird Season.

I have no idea what these birds are really called.  I’ve never seen them other than in Florida, and wasn’t expecting to see them in Rockledge, Florida, half way up the state.

My own rule is always have a camera, you never know what you’ll find.

We were driving up to Deltona to pick up Rack, that day and made a detour for some fruit.  Sitting in a podocarpus tree, there was a nest.   These trees are excellent for shaping because they have very dense foliage, and this one was shaped as a rectangular column in front of the building.

As I walked toward the entrance, I heard a familiar and annoying sound.


Yes, the mating call of the Squee Birds.   The other day I had one here at my house that wanted to set up residence.   The entire morning I heard Squeeee Squeeee Squeee…. High pitched call.

Lunch came and went and I got more annoyed. 

Eventually I came outside and found the culprit, a bird looking for a place to roost and find a home.

Not on my watch.

I shooed the Squee bird away and he or she didn’t come back. 

Yes, I know it’s breeding season. 
Yes, I know you need a room. 
No, there is No Room At The Inn. 
Sorry, No Vacancies.  

So when I heard the bird in the parking lot, I laughed to myself and wondered what was going on.  There was the momma bird leaving and I looked in at a gap in the tree to find this sight.

I left the babies at rest and went on about my business.  But coming out of the shop, I realized that I had my camera crammed in my pocket and grabbed this picture.

Take nothing but pictures, leave no trace behind.

After I walked away, a family of five piled out of their minivan and looked in on the little creatures.  Dad gave the boys an education and then they went on their way as well.

Best way to see a Squee bird, online, but if you do find a nest, let it rest.

You Know Florida is Changing When it Gets Tough To Find Bulk Fruit – Picture

Last weekend, we went up to Deltona to get our new dog.  He’s adapting fine, and showing his personality each day more than the last.

But one thing surprised me about the trip.

I’ve been coming to Florida since I was a wee brat.  One of the things I would look forward to was to stop into one of those big fruit stands by the side of the road. 

They would almost always give you a sample of some Orange Juice.   After all, oranges are on the license plate on the back of the Jeep!   You could get different varieties of oranges that you just can’t readily find anywhere else – I’m addicted to Honeybell oranges, and will buy those by the full bushel when they’re in season!

When I moved here, my favorite place to get oranges was closed.  Federal Highway south of Downtown, right by the Port entry.  

That was fine, I could take my choice of two more stands in Davie.

One of those closed.

The Cushman stand on Forest Hill in West Palm Beach got bought up by Harry and David.  The land may be sold for some soul-less Mc Mansions on the site.   Sad.

Old Florida was disappearing, and this was one more symptom.

Mind you, it’s April.  It’s past the citrus season.   My orange tree in the yard, a Honeybell, is coming back from shock and had a bunch of flowers.   My yard smells wonderful, a floral and fruity scent greets me.   I never get more than a few oranges, but I did The Florida Thing one day by picking an orange from that tree, and eating it in my driveway.   I had a tourist laugh and ask if that’s what we all do here.

Some of us are lucky enough to have fruit trees, yes, and I do have lemons in the back yard for fresh Lemon Curd.

But the trip North to Deltona through the heart of the Agricultural area showed that many of those places were closing for the season, never to open again.

I guess we’re turning into Corporate-Ville.  I have more rude names for that, but you get the idea.   When you can’t find fruit near where it is grown, it is a sad thing.  The farms were retreating from the interstates and freeways, and large homes built in their place.   The groves were vanishing as well as the fruit stands I remember.

Sure, it’s Off Season for local fruit, but the buildings should still be there!

At least I was able to stop in Harvey’s in Rockledge.  They have a massive fruit processing plant where you can actually get the fruit “fresh off the truck” in the bag with their name on it.  Wonderful women there who are really happy to give you that little glass of OJ and want to tell you about what they have to sell, and are sorry the season is ending but you’re lucky because you’re here with US!

Rockledge is way too far to go for an orange, but you get the idea.   That’s why you go to the grove, it’s simply fresher that way.  I will say that it’s also simply BETTER that way!

Sometimes the old ways are the best.   I’ll have fresh squeezed orange juice for a while, that quarter bushel had a lot of Valencias for just that reason.   It’s “B” Fruit.  Blemished?  Sure, but tastes just as good.

Oh and there were two grapefruit that were the size of a kid’s soccer ball that are sitting in my fridge as a result.

These are the places where you can find Mango Butter, and produce in season, and weird little tourist trappy packages of overly sugared coconut patties.   They’re all wonderful, both the foods and the stores.

I just hope they’ll be there next year and not turned into some corporate drone’s idea of a sterilized experience where you can pay an extra 25 percent for the privilege.

Some things are best left alone.