Saturday, June 1, 2013

Who rules the roost?

I think the term "owner" in relation to pets is outdated. I know that many animal lovers prefer the term "guardian" which I don't generally use, mostly because I am lazy: "guardian" has three syllables and "owner" only has two. But the main reason I no longer think "owner" is appropriate is because it seems to carry with it a sense of control over that which is owned. And as almost any pet owner can tell you, we are not the ones holding the cards. 

Maia, for instance, has decided of late that the living room carpet is the appropriate place to go to the bathroom, ensuring, perhaps, that Mighty Mouth, our industrial carpet cleaner (yes - we named him, it seemed appropriate after all the time we've spent together) earns his keep. Do we want Maia to pee in the living room? Of course not. Do we have much say in the matter? Of course not. In an effort to prevent any further affronts to our carpet we have now set up a system of gates blocking both living room entrances. The gates are low enough for everyone but Maia to get over so they have not proven much of an inconvenience (unless, of course, you happen to forget they are there and trip over them.)

The chickens have very little say with what goes on in the house (not that they don't try - they run into the kitchen any chance they get, looking for crumbs on the floor) but they do exert a fair amount of control over the garden. Contrary to what my mom thinks - that I am the one making all of the decisions when it comes to the garden, whether she likes them or not (a large honeysuckle vine is the current bone of contention between us) - the real rulers of the yard are the chickens. Mom wanted rhubarb - the chickens wanted it more. It is now a small, raggedy plant barely hanging on after merciless grazing courtesy of the ladies. I managed to clear enough space in my garden for a winter daphne plant but the chickens were convinced that I had hidden some delicious treat underneath it and scratched around the roots determined to find it. Needless to say I had not hidden anything underneath it but did that stop the ladies from digging my poor daphne out until it was too far gone to save? Yeah, right. And I was so looking forward to it blooming next spring. The chickens were also responsible for polishing off every grape within their reach last summer. I suspect the wild birds and squirrels finished off the rest. Total grape harvest: zip. 

I expect the ducks would go after the grapes too, but they are unable to climb the arbor the way the chickens can. That doesn't stop them from going after the blueberries, however. They are so fond of them that they eat every berry within two feet of the ground (the approximate limit to Maggie's reach.) They don't even wait for them to ripen. As soon as the berries appear the ducks are down there, plucking them off the branches.

And then there are the rabbits. The cute, fluffy, bouncy little bunnies. The chewing, scratching, biting little bunnies. If they aren't scratching up the carpet, or marking their territory by peeing on the floor (a practice I try very hard to break them of), they are chewing. Their cage, their litter boxes, the deck, the door frame, the wicker baskets I store my fabric in, paper bags, books, and the cute wooden desk I picked up at a garage sale. Oh, and cords. Rabbits love cords. Telephone cords, vacuum cords, iron cords, lamp cords, and cable cords. The only weapons I have in the war with the rabbits are gates to block off furniture I don't want them chewing and a squirt bottle of water that is sometimes effective, sometimes not. Rabbits are stubborn creatures.

So, "owner." I think not. We are hardly in control of the situation. The main purpose we humans serve seems to be damage control. We roll out Mighty Mouth whenever Maia decides to pee in the living room, and follow the chickens around the yard, replanting what they dig out. We hide cords and fence off enticing furniture. Other than that, we have very little say in the matter; around here, the animals rule the roost.