Life After Death, an Elusive Amphibian, and Raccoon Roadkill

So, I might as well follow my last bereaved post with more drama from what I've been affectionately calling "our little menagerie." Unfortunately, our little menagerie has been getting smaller and smaller. A horrific chicken massacre was perpetrated by an unknown varmint. Sadly, half of the City Girls are no longer with us. *Update: The traps went un-tripped for days, but a roadkill raccoon was spotted nearby and I have fingered it as the perp.

We took solace in the fact that at least we had developing eggs in our homemade incubator, only to find out on hatch day that our first clutch of eggs were all quitters (embryos that stopped developing). And yes, we did open up the eggs to investigate the contents. The #incubatorproject was all in the name of learning anyway. Though I borrowed this pic from google, this is what we found.

So, our eggs were quitters, all except one.
Little Pip (or Pippi, as will be her mighty girl title if she's a she)
was a welcome distraction from all the gloom.

The joy of incubation success was soon overshadowed by yet another creature conundrum. The tree frog vanished! Yes, that's right. Georgie was nowhere to be found. Did he escape?! We left no stone in the terrarium unturned (literally). Every corner and every joint was checked. Did he burrow down deep into one of the plants in some misguided, off-season attempt at hibernation? Surely, not! Our little frog was nothing if not consistent. He always turned up after dark and often sat watching for someone to deliver his evening meal. Alas, it was affirmative. Georgie was MIA.

As we puzzled over Georgie, our next hatch day came and went with no pipping... no hatching. Feeling defeated by all of our animal mishaps, it was time to to put an end to the melancholy madness. It was time to place a hatchery order for baby chicks for my birthday. And that's just what I did... after Jorma agreed, of course.  Poor, lonely, little Pip couldn't wait any longer for hatchery chicks to arrive. She had had enough of solitary life.  

So, we went to the feed store and got her a friend. The day after bringing Harriet home from the feed store, it was time to say goodbye to Lulu. It was also 2 days past hatch day and time to think about calling it quits with the incubator. After all, chicks were on the way. I couldn't do it though. I left the eggs in there, knowing I'd regret it later. When we came home from the vet without Lulu, I peeked into the incubator and was shocked to find that one of our two remaining eggs had pipped! I couldn't believe it. It was exactly what I needed on such a sad day.

I stayed up all night so we wouldn't miss the hatch. And at 6:23AM, I woke up Janie Kathryn and we watched until  Lu (or Luther as the case may be) finally came into the world an hour later. It was then that we noticed the 2nd egg had pipped, too!  If you're keeping track, that makes 3 hatched chicks, 1 from the feed store, and more on the way from the hatchery. Eek!

Our third hatchling took a little too much time and I had to help out. Viability was questionable. So, I tried very hard not to get too excited, but a new life HATCHED IN MY HAND. It was so awesome! Things were looking up and you won't believe what happened next...

*Update: After a lot of TLC, Pokey is progressing and making friends with the hatchery hatchlings, now.
Jorma found Georgie! Yep, that's right. As Jorma looked out the back door, a phantom need to let the dog out, there was movement among the shadows of houseplants. And there in the darkness of the kitchen was the frog! Not a bad way to complete the first week of March, seeing that it had such a gruesome start! I guess the menagerie continues to grow after all.

For the sake of storytelling, I should end on a happy note. So, I won't go on about how Janie Kathryn got the flu the next day or that it has been raining cats and dogs, err chicks and frogs... or should I say it's been raining gallons- at least 128 of them, since that's what I've vacuumed from the basement bathroom since our happy little ending.


The Second Best Dog

Dear Lulu,
You entered my life at a very challenging time, as I had just lost my sweet Sadie. I was twenty-three and Sadie was more than just my dog. She was the one constant I had in those first two years of my Memphis life. When she ran away it was as if I was experiencing a death in the family or the worst break-up of my life. I was so angry and sad and I promised myself I would never love another dog the way I loved Sadie. However, it was clear to me that the only way to fill the void in my heart was to find another dog... even if that dog was only going to be second best.
I couldn't bring myself to go back to Memphis Animal Shelter, where I had rescued Sadie only a two years earlier. In my grievous state, I couldn't bear the thought of choosing one dog among many that faced euthanasia. So, I decided to give PetFinder a try and there you were at St. Francis Animal Rescue & Refuge (SFARR) in Oakland, TN.

You showed up in the shrubs of SFARR, skinny and almost completely hairless, ready to deliver ten puppies. When I found your story online, all your puppies had been adopted and you were the only one left waiting for a forever family. As I stared at your photo- a pit bull mix whose pink skin shined through a little peach fuzz- I don't know why you were the one. Maybe it was my good experiences with mother dogs or maybe it was that pitiful expression that jumped out at me, but I had to have you. And on New Year's Day 2003 I had Jorma drive me to Oakland, where I adopted you and brought you to your new home in Midtown.

As I said, it was a challenging time for you to come into my life. Not only had I just lost Sadie, but Jorma and I had only just begun living together and he had never had a dog before. I don't think Jorma liked you very much those first few weeks and it didn't help that you clearly had a problem with men. Truthfully, you sounded like a rabid beast at the sound of any knock at the door, but you were especially skeptical of men. While Jorma struggled with the ferocious barking and keeping you off the furniture (his rule, not mine), I worried that the three of us just weren't going to work out. I hated the thought of breaking up over a dog, but let's face it- dog people need to be with dog people. Luckily he came around and it wasn't long before I was planning a wedding and you were tagging along on road trips. And yes, it's true, I did come to embrace the couch rules.

Within the first year, you were no longer just my second best dog. You were "our first dog." Within two years, we were a little family with a cat and another rescue dog... and soon, a baby on the way.  Now,  I'm not sure I know what life is like without a dog. I've spent very little of my 37 years without one. Hell, after only 10 years of being a parent, I can't remember what life is like without a child! 
But I do know you were there. 

You were part of our lives when we got married. You were with us when we brought Janie Kathryn home from the hospital and when we bought our first house. You've been there for graduations.
You've been there for career highs and lows. You've been there for all the birthday parties and all the visits from Santa... We've never, ever spent a Christmas Eve waiting for Santa without you. 
We've played in the snow. We've driven across the country. We've hiked mountains. We've floated down rivers and boated around lakes. The adventures we've taken are seemingly countless.

Now it's time to say goodbye and my heart is breaking all over again- a broken heart that wasn't supposed to happen because you were always supposed to be second best. I'm going to miss you terribly, Lulu. I know that there will eventually be other dogs, but they will only be second best to you- Our first dog.
We said goodbye to Lulu this morning. She was our devoted companion for over 13 years. While she was never one for affection, no matter how many times I tried to snuggle or kiss her, she never minded posing for the camera. She was positively photogenic, my Lulu. 

Old age was getting the best of her and her health had been in decline for years. As if she knew it was the hardest decision for Jorma and I to make, she allowed me to snuggle her and shower her with love until the end. Our adventurer, licker of spoons, catcher of popcorn, solemn and sweet- May she rest in peace... though I suspect she's more likely frolicking with friends in celebration of her life spent as a rescue dog