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Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

It’s not easy keeping cool when the heat and humidity conspire to drain you of your energy and motivation.

Snowshoe hares know how to make the most of the dog days of summer by relaxing in the clover. They’re not running and hopping around as much as they did earlier this summer. 

My yard is a haven for them as I don’t have a dog.  Hares know how to stay cool by winding down activities and keeping a low profile.

In ancient times, the dog star Sirius was considered responsible for the sweltering heat.  Back then, its coincidental rising with the sun in July and August was thought to bring on the worst in men and beasts.

But there are many ways to tame the beast within during these ravaging hot days…

Taking a moment to pause and smell the roses is always a good way to refresh yourself through scent and beauty.  The wild rose bush is in bloom in my yard.  With its single layer of petals, it resembles the Dog rose (Rosa canina) often used in heraldry.

Even if you don’t have roses nearby, so many other beautiful flowers are in bloom at this time of year, both in gardens and in the wild.

Certainly one of the best ways to beat the heat is to take a stroll along the seashore.  Morning and evening walks are especially refreshing. 

Collecting seashells along the shore is a quiet activity sure to take the focus off the concerns of the day.  

Over the years I’ve collected a variety of Dogwinkles (Nucella lapilus) both at Rainbow Haven and Silver Sands beaches.  Worn smooth by the waves and bleached pale by the sun, they even feel like summer as you roll them between your fingers.

Of course the best way to be refreshed during the dog days of summer is to take a plunge in the water, be it a stream, lake or the sea.  Nature beckons.

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deadly star of bethlehem

Last summer I found two young snowshoe hares dead on the lawn one morning.  They were curled up in the fetal position and showed no outward sign of trauma.  They were the cutest little creatures and it was so sad to have to bury them.  I had seen them hopping around the rosebushes just the day before.  I couldn’t understand why they had died so suddenly.  A fox would have carried them back to its den.  If a cat or dog had attacked them, they would surely have wounds.

young hareHares have made nests in my wild rosebushes for years.  They didn’t this year.  In years past, young bunnies have often hopped out of the bushes as I’ve mowed the grass nearby.  Adult hares still graze on the lawn in the open, usually dining on dandelions and plantains.  In the winter they reach up to eat the green needles on the lower branches of balsam fir trees.

Recently I learned that most plants in the lily family of flowers are poisonous.  Plants in this family all have bulbs, flowers with parts in 3s and parallel leaf veins. Many of these bulbs are often planted in the fall in North American gardens for spring blooming:  narcissus, tulips, irises, hyacinths, crocuses and daffodils.

Although I”ve never planted any of these in my garden, a couple of years ago, a friend gave me a clump of Star of Bethlehem blooms to transplant.  I put them right next to the rosebushes.  At the time, I didn’t realize that their bulbs would be deadly if ingested by pet cats, dogs, rabbits or wild hares.  Could these have caused the death of the young bunnies last summer?  I’ll never know for sure, but I will be removing this beautiful plant and its numerous bulbs from my yard before next spring.

snowshoe hares

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porcupine2

It’s not unusual to see porcupines as roadkill.  I’ve often seen them high up in trees, sometimes a few together.  But this morning, I managed to see a couple very close up along the Salt Marsh Trail.  This male was gazing into the rising sun and didn’t seem too disturbed by my presence.

porcupine back and front

The quills on his back looked sharp and plentiful.  An average adult has about 30,000 of them.  As he turned around I could see his vulnerable underbelly.  Some predators, such as fishers, are adept at flipping porcupines over to reveal this soft spot.  Quills aren’t thrown, but become embedded in a predator’s skin when the porcupine whacks his tail at them.  The warm body temperature of the recipient makes the tiny barbs on the quills expand, lodging them even more securely into their flesh.

My dog, an Alaskan Malamute and wolf cross, would often bite down on porcupines.  Several times he ended up with the quills lodged on his tongue, on the roof of his mouth and down his throat.  An animal left in this condition in the wild would be unable to eat and die of starvation. 

porcupine on the trail

On the walk back, I noticed the porcupine had climbed down from the tree and was walking along the trail.  I guess he didn’t feel up to a second photo op.

Further along the trail back, I heard some strange sounds coming from a spruce tree.  There, barely discernible among the green needles, was a second porcupine resting on top of a spruce bough.  Somehow, the branch was able to handle its weight. 

porcupine on bough

Porcupines are protected in some areas, as they provide an easy source of food to humans lost in the woods.  They can be killed with a quick whack on their nose with a stick.

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