Each morning, I wake up to my little routine. As soon as I start to stir just a little, our dog, Milo walks up to the top of the bed and gets uncomfortably close to my face. He’ll stay right there, staring at me as if he is trying like crazy to get me to read his thoughts.
“Hey, biped—I really have to pee. I saw you sneak out of here around 3:00 to go, and I didn’t say anything but it’s been a long time since I went outside and I know I’m highly trained and all, but I need to shake a leg here. And just how much asparagus did you eat anyway?”
I get up quietly, trying to let my wife sleep in a bit longer, and tiptoe out of the bedroom like a thief, closing the door behind me. The dog is already at the front door pacing around in circles. I open the door, and he scoots outside to take care of business and sniff around for whatever walked in the yard besides him. It’s still darkish outside, and the windows were left open overnight, so the house is comfortably cool. It feels and smells like camping. Meanwhile, I head over to the laundry room, where the dog biscuits are stored in a cookie jar, and I get a couple of treats. They’re comically small because it really doesn’t matter, but I pinch them together in an attempt to make two feel like one. Somehow I feel as if Milo judges us for our biscuit frugality.
On the way back to the front door, I catch a glimpse of the turkeys that have been hanging around for most of the summer. The little ones that were once the size of a supermarket rotisserie chicken have now filled out and grown to almost the same size as the adults in the rafter. They’ll be out there for about thirty minutes if nothing disturbs them, going back and forth between the spillage from the various bird feeders.
Meanwhile, Milo is patiently waiting on the front step. It’s too early for any school buses or garbage men, so there’s not much in the front yard to hold his attention. He hasn’t seen the turkeys, and I’d like to keep it that way for now.
“That felt so g-o-o-o-o-o-o-d. May I have my good-boy biscuit now?” he says sarcastically.
“Good boy, Milo, good boy,” I said out of habit as I handed him his treats. He wolfed down the tiny biscuits and hurried back towards the bedroom, hoping to catch a few more minutes before Mrs. G. gets up. I opened the door just enough for him to slip through and I could hear him jump up on the bed as I closed the door behind him.
So about those turkeys.
There are at least a dozen, but maybe more. I’ve never counted but each year there is a new group of them. They used to commute across our backyard on their way to the woods, but this year they’ve gotten used to the steady supply of birdseed on the ground. I can set my watch by the times they show up, and over the summer, they’ve gotten slightly less skittish. It’s not as if I can walk up and feed them out of my hand, but if we’re on the porch and quiet, they’ll walk within a few feet of us. This has not escaped the attention of Milo, who has two modes for watching turkeys: Stalking and quiet or full blown maniacal rabid dog madness. Either way, it’s always amazing to see our sweet athletic dog channel his primal retriever and lunge after these giant birds.
Usually the turkeys will run off in crazy symmetry, but occasionally a few will take flight, which is a lot like watching a bathtub fly. They’ll hit the branches with such a clumsy force that twigs and leaves will spray out in all directions. Looking up into the trees and seeing a group of homely, fifteen-pound birds perched on a limb always feels a bit prehistoric.
Somehow they have also figured out that if they run just outside of the invisible fence line that Milo will stop cold, which is scarily weird. I’ll often wonder what else they’ve figured out, as they pace around like a bunch of feathered Mick Jaggers while taunting the dog. Are they outside wearing bifocals, reading and carefully folding my newspaper before I get to it?
But it’s early and Milo is back in the bedroom, so it’s just me, a bowl of cereal and the turkeys, who are not at all happy with the squirrels at the moment, but that’s their problem. I’ve contained the dog; you’ve figured out invisible fencing, you can deal with the squirrels.
We’ve also had a swarm of hummingbirds this year and seeing a fluttering bird that weighs as much as a nickel just a few feet from the turkeys makes me wonder how they are even in the same species. We’ve also had a hummingbird moth at the feeder, which completely screwed with any thought I ever had about nature making sense.
It’s been an interesting summer, filled with many interesting mornings, each one the same yet remarkably different. Mrs. G. is up now, and Milo came trotting out on her heels to see what’s going on. He caught a glimpse of the turkeys from the kitchen window and has started his low growl. I figure, what the heck. I opened the door and let him do his thing, which he did with bouncy glee. This time, the birds scattered into the woods, instantly camouflaged by the brush. Milo puffed up his chest and scuffed his paws on the grass, letting the birds know that this was his turf, but they’ll be back later. They know where the seed is.
©Rick Garvia 2014. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited.