Animals

Frog Report

What happens when you want to get rid of a family pet?

You ditch the dog (or cat) and tell the kids, “We sent him to live on a farm, in the country.”

That’s fine… unless you already live on a farm.

What then?

Well, you try to foist your beast onto someone else’s farm.

That was my plan for Toulouse, our bully barn cat.

Toulouse is a 2010 model, acquired in a package deal with his sister, Olive. As I recall, we got those kittens around Halloween; Toulouse was coal-black like a panther, and Olive bore orange stripes.

Both have proven to be avid hunters, but Toulouse is a true hitman. Year ago, when voles invaded the yard, Toulouse dismantled their tunnels and devoted two straight days to rodent eradication.

Toulouse: “be the vole, be the vole…”

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Unfortunately, this summer, our black panther added Frog to his list of prey.

(Frog was also adopted as a kitten with her brother, 11 years ago. She was named by the cat lady’s daughter, who desperately wanted a pet frog. The name stuck. The kid called her brother “Cool,” but we opted for “Mel” instead.)

Pictured: Frog & Mel, wrestling on the deck, 10 years ago.

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Our cat colony has existed harmoniously until a few months ago, when Toulouse turned on Frog. After repeated beat-downs, Frog disappeared from the scene. She simply vanished.

And Toulouse moved along to beating up Mel.

That’s when I announced: Toulouse has gotta go. I posted a Facebook plea and a few folks stepped up to take him. But they lived nearby and I worried that he might be hit by a car while hiking home again.

Life got busy and project “panther placement” was shelved. I didn’t have time to deal with feline relations.

But now I have an update:

Frog has returned! She floats between our property and the neighbors’, and has staked out the back pasture and the culvert beneath the driveway — territory less traveled by the black panther. She still visits our barn to eat, but only when Toulouse is out hunting.

So for the time being, the cats — Mel & Frog, Toulouse & Olive, and odd-ball Felix appear to be coexisting.

And I’ve turned my attention to evicting another barn dweller:

Oh Possum 2.0.

Here we go again

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Equine Invasion

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“This place is going totally horse crazy,” said Martin, today. “It’s like… there’s no escape.”

“Yea, I know,” I said. “But now that the girls have Rocky, they want to ride all the time. And Hadley’s in pony club, and there’s lessons, and I’m hunting–”

“I’m not talking about the horses in our field,” Martin interrupted. “I’m talking about the ones in the house! You girls and your horses — you’re taking over!”

“It’s not that bad,” I countered.

Though the coffee table tells another story. 

Recently, a friend passed along her childhood collection of Breyer horses.

An ample collection populating the table.

 

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“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll find a better place for them. And this horse thing? Maybe it’s a phase; the girls could grow out of it.”

 

I mean, it could happen. Take Hadley: it looks like her enthusiasm is waning.

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She’s doesn’t like these horses one bit…

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Ouch, Chopper!

 

It’s hard to believe that Jazz — my positively placid Thoroughbred — who typically looks like this….

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and like this….

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…can inflict a bite that looks like this:

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I’ve known that Jazz can appear snarky and menacing in his stall, but Sunday’s incident proved that he ain’t bluffing.

That afternoon he embedded his teeth into my outer arm (not visible here), leaving an open wound and a goose egg surrounded by an expanse of discolored skin. But the eye-popping bruise runs along the inside. And since I took the photo above, it has grown larger and more sharply defined. Day 3 post-trauma, the bruise looked like a tattoo of a vast, purple mountain range, peaked at my triceps and sloped beyond my elbow. 

Not only is it painful, but the visual evidence of this spreading hematoma — as blood seeps further into surrounding tissue — grosses me out. Yuck.

So, what prompted Jazz to inflict this vicious wound? Well, I was invading his space.

I was tacking him up in his stall, something I never do. Subconsciously, I knew to watch for flattened ears and other moody behavior. But I was exhausted, distracted by the kids, and hurried with the saddle and girth.

And when you’re around horses all the time, you get sloppy. You forget how fast they can lash out. In a fraction of a second.

Jazz swung his head and struck with the speed of a viper.

Over the course of the week, I’ve thought a lot about the event (my throbbing arm a constant reminder). I have to curb Jazz’s bad habit. 

But reconditioning a biter is no easy task. You can’t reason with him and there’s no equine time-out. Striking the horse after the fact rarely provides lasting results.

Years ago I interviewed a veterinarian on the subject and he suggested squirting lemon or lime juice into the horse’s mouth, any time he flattens his ears or exhibits a sulky expression.

Such correction requires dedicated observation and good timing to deliver the juice. But it’s worth a shot. (Note: I’ve tried this before with a horse who was simply mouthy. It had the reverse effect: Huck loved the tart taste and would suck the juice right from the bottle. So far Jazz does not find it delectable.)

If you readers have any other suggestions, I’m all ears.

In the meantime, I’m entering Chopper’s stall with my weapon drawn and ready to fire:

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