I have always had a soft heart for most of nature’s critters


Ever since I arrived in Ponoka from jolly old England I have had a real admiration and respect, and occasionally just a little fear for all sorts of animals, birds, bugs, and whatever. Over all those years, just like most families growing up together, we had lots of varied pets roaming around our house, and it was always a real sad day when we lost one of them, for whatever reason it may have been.

I will never forget those days growing up in our little bungalow along Riverside Drive, where my dear mother had a terrible fear for thunderstorms and cats, but my father would insist that we should hide under the stairs during a storm, and that we needed that lazy cat to catch all the mice that were always trying to sneak into our house! Like all other young whipper-snappers we were always bringing home in a jar all kinds of critters such as snakes, frogs, caterpillars, and other species that we begged to keep as our very own pet, but had usually disappeared by the next morning for some unknown reason.

Of course as all children are growing up most families will eventually give in and provide a loving new home to some wild and wonderful varieties of pets, including puppies, kittens, rabbits, gold fish, budgies, frogs, salamanders, hamsters, snakes, and who knows what else? Of course the initial usual ultimatum of most parents on this fuzzy issue is and always will be, “if you want a pet, you will be responsible for looking after it, taking it for a walk, feeding it, and cleaning up after it, or we will give it away to the boogieman!” How great it was to teach them new tricks, to have them snuggle up in bed with us at night, to take them for a car ride, to be allowed to take them to school for show and tell, and along the way they may even surprise us with some cute offspring?

As most parents will fondly remember when we were bringing up our families, I will never forget finally giving in to allow our kids to have a pair of rabbits, which they promised to always look after, ended up having to build three extensions on to our back yard pen, and then three years later finally gave away 24 beloved bunnies and their pens to a friend in the country! Along the way through those torrid teenage years we were also blessed with a spotted salamander that learned how to jump out of its cage and hide, a pair of psychotic budgies, two miniature sharks that grew to over a foot long and wiped out the rest of the fish tank family, and a hamster that ate my socks … and there would be others.

Of course we were all taught and educated our children to be careful or stay away from those pets that might bite, sting, spit, scratch, kick, along with some that just plain don’t like mingling with the human race. On the other hand it is great when your pet becomes a companion that you can ride, cuddle, pamper, love, share, and play with forever, no matter what! Although they can become a bit of a pain until you get them through the messy training period, the nibbled slippers, and the jealousy … but once they settle into the family home they will become a loyal family buddy for life. Whatever our favourite pets may have been then or now, we must always remember that they thrive on exercise, treats, chew toys, the right food, a soft place to snooze when the house is quiet, as well as a little pampering and TLC when we come home.

Some neat nature news

It is truly amazing how nature’s creatures help us day to day in protecting our pristine landscape, whether it be cleaning up the grounds in search of a daily nibble or to store in their hide-outs in preparation for winter, revitalizing our flowers and plants, and maintaining that delicate balance of nature in so many ways.

My wife and I were out walking at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre in Red Deer last week and were amazed to see some 400 head of big and little goats being watched over by their herders and dogs as they nibbled amongst the acres of high grass. This summer practise is apparently being used in many Alberta Municipalities to help maintain their recreation and parks areas.

I read a very interesting article last week explaining that Central Alberta Medicine River Wildlife Centre now employs a wildlife conflict specialist that they very affectionately call the ‘Skunk Whisperer’. Over our spring and summer months Gwenevere Marshal receives an average of 30 monthly calls to go out and assist municipalities and property owners to carefully evicting skunks from difficult situations. With her skills she claims that she gently talks to the skunk in a quiet manner, with hopes that she can evict the feared creature safely from the problem in an efficient and hopefully odourless manner. As we have all found out before it is always important that we share and give these creatures their space, which is the entire outdoors, and often beyond.

Please always remember that Life has no remotes … so let’s all just get up and help change it ourselves. Have a great week, all of you.

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