Gene Street……

On our way home today we gave our customary royal wave to a street about 1.5 miles from our house. We have been doing this every time we drive by the street for the past three months. Eugene, the Jack Russell Terrier that lives with us, is afraid of thunder, lightning, fireworks, gunshot-like noises, etc.  On our first Fourth of July back in town, we found that fireworks are now allowed in the city several weeks before July 4. Gene was terrified…… he spent a lot of time quivering under the bed or on the bed under the comforter or burrowed behind whomever he found on the loveseat recliner.

A week before the main patriotic day display, I let Gene and Princess, our animal pack’s, alpha female Schipperke, out into the fenced backyard. On my way to bed, I told Mike the cat and dogs were outside.  About an hour later, I woke to the sound of the front door open and shut. Mike was coming back in the house. I asked him what was happening. He said he went to let the animals in after a series of really loud fireworks, and could not find Gene. For the next several days, Mike, sometimes by himself, or, sometimes with Alice, drove the neighborhood looking for their buddy.

When granddaughter, Hayley, and great-niece, Rosa, spent the night, I fielded questions regarding the steps they could take to canvass the neighborhood to find lost Gene. Hayley is a little more pragmatic than tenderhearted Rosa. Hayley was sorry Gene was missing and willing to engage in looking for him. Rosa told Hayley and me about her sister’s cat’s disappearance. Her cat was eventually found in an apartment in their complex. Rosa thought we ought to begin looking for Gene by her apartment across town.

Mike put a notice on the animal shelter’s website and placed a missing dog notice on craigslist. Five days went by, Mike was suffering, Alice was ready to post fliers around the neighborhood, and out of town family members were being notified. There was a lot of sadness in the house. The cat came home and was surprised to only have Princess to bedevil him. Princess even looked a little quizzically at us, probably wondering where the friend she most loves to growl at was keeping himself.

The afternoon of the fifth day Mike received a phone call. A man was asking if his dog was still missing. He thought our dog might be in the back of his shed. He could not get an animal to come out. The lost was found almost two miles away, five days after disappearing. The interesting thing is the Kansas Turnpike is between us and the man’s house. There is one underpass a block south of the street Gene was found on. Between our house and the finder’s house is a huge field, where coyotes, raccoons and opossum’s reign supreme. There may be a deer or a fox in the area and a bobcat has been seen within a five mile radius.

We do not know how the small, 12 year old, hard of hearing, partially blind, terrified dog made it to the shed. We are grateful to the craigslist reading Good Samaritan. We have renamed the street just north of the underpass, where Gene’s incredible journey ended.

We salute Gene Street, as we go by, and shake our heads as we drive under the overpass; listening to cars whizzing along at 75 miles an hour, tires singing, we wonder how it all happened. If only Gene could talk, what a story he would tell……..

©2013 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Parking Lot Mama……

Sunday we had breakfast at the Colonial Café. Leaving the restaurant we saw a pair of Canada geese who had set up housekeeping on an island in the Hobby Lobby parking lot next door. We pulled close and could see they were wary of us. They held their ground. We parked and watched.

We humans have been encroaching on the wildlife habitats in our country since the first settlements on the east coast. The first immigrants to our shores came to take advantage of this new world of abundance. And there was abundance, abundant wildlife, abundant forests, abundant waterways and abundant natural resources. Approximately four hundred years later we do not enjoy the same abundance. We have cornered wildlife, chopped down forests and polluted waterways. We have not done a very good job of living with our environment. If we continue to conspicuously consume our natural resources, anyone with an imagination has a pretty good idea of what the future will be. There is speculation in some quarters we may be too late to save the planet for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

There are days when I wonder where it will all end. And there are days when I see wildlife pushing back. Several years ago I saw two coyotes within my city limits and one running in the woods alongside the I-88 toll way between Lisle and Naperville. My urban wildlife sightings have included whooping cranes, herons, pelicans, eagles, Canada geese, several variety of ducks, deer and all of the smaller animals I consider “pesky rodents”, (ie. raccoons, opossums, armadillos, groundhogs) within “city limits.”

Wildlife pushback is on the rise. Last year we had a Mallard drake and duck raise a family of ducklings in our neighborhood. We think their nest was in the backyard of the corner house. They used neighbors’ swimming pools for paddling practice. One day mama duck brought her brood through the fence and into our backyard before she found her way across the lawns back to her nest. (editorial note: The pair is back this spring.)

For several years we followed the family planning efforts of a pair of Mallards in a nest located on a concrete island in our local Home Depot parking lot. They finally abandoned the nest last year.

On his way to Lowe’s, Mike swung by to see our little outdoor urban family. When Mama got up to stretch her legs, he saw eggs with the little holes where the goslings are trying to find their way out into the Hobby Lobby parking lot.

Here’s hoping this parking lot mama and papa have enough urban savvy to help their goslings survive……

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Farmville Update…….

Last week Mike found a horse drawn sleigh on Craig’s List. He talked me into going three towns over to check it out. The owner told us the sleigh came from Wisconsin sixteen years ago. She had it on the front lawn surrounded by rocks and flowers. While appreciating the appeal and charm of this piece of Americana, I was not convinced we needed to find a way to bring the rather dilapidated weathered sled home.  My spirit could see the potential; my flesh was weak. Mike did not have my qualms. He struck a bargain and paid his “mad” money.

During the rest of the week there were hints regarding the pick-up and delivery of the purchase to our home. I did not pay much attention because we had discussed part of the cost would include the hiring of  ‘two men and a truck’ for this task. Saturday rolled around and it became clear we were the pick-up and delivery service.  We would be borrowing our Farmville connection trailer and attaching it to a borrowed Tahoe.  My protest regarding the cost of gas and our time equalling the cost of other options went unheeded.

Three hours and $25 worth of gas later we had a dismantled weathered horse drawn Wisconsin early 1900’s sleigh in our driveway. The final after restoration resting place of said sled is still to be determined. We will keep you informed.

The best part of this suburban and rural trek was the chance to check out the Farmville animals. The baby rabbits still look and feel liked baby bunnies to me. The kittens and ducklings are adorable. The chicks have not hatched yet. They have another couple of weeks. The calves stared at us with interest, ambling over for a little pet and pat. The house remodel is coming along. Trees and bushes are planted and the garden plot will be plowed and tilled this weekend. Farmville is shaping up.

As we drove back and forth to hitch and unhitch I understood the appeal to my friend. As municipal buildings and subdivisions turned into fields and farms I could feel myself de-stressing. Peacefulness flooded through my body.

A little tiny voice whispered some reality into my ear… I am not sure about the seven mile drive for a gallon of milk…. The pizza guy would probably think this was outside his delivery zone….. Then there is the similarity to the Rodgers and Hammerstein Oklahoma movie theme song, because “the wind comes sweeping down the plains” of Illinois, as well as, Oklahoma and Kansas. Oh, well.

I wonder if Farmville needs a horse-drawn sleigh for their horse..…………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


The Eagles Have Landed………..

When I moved back to the area six years ago I stayed with friends for several months an hour away from my place of work. Needing a place to deposit my money, I found a US Bank we used years ago. The bank was close, convenient, had branches in Kansas and a friend of mine who works for them. After signing on the dotted line, I found the closest branches to where I wanted to live permanently were 8-10 miles away. Since distance is not as important as how long it takes to get anywhere in the Chicago metropolitan area, I began a search for the most direct drive in the shortest amount of time.

My favorite route is north on Randall Road to the Meier’s US Bank branch in Geneva. There is a long stretch of fields and woods with a stream from the Mooseheart/Orchard Road intersection to the Batavia Main Street intersection. This piece of road is very calming to a Kansas girl making her home in Illinois. A bonus, this particular Meier’s grocery is north of Barnes and Noble in the Geneva Commons shopping area and south of a Costco.

Last April we joined Costco and between the bank runs, Costco trips and my Barnes and Nobel dates with myself we were up and down Randall Road quite a bit. We started noticing groups of cars at the curve where the Mooseheart field turns into the Mooseheart woods. The line of cars was reminiscent of a trip through Yellowstone National Park. Very unusual for the area, people were out of their cars with tripods and really large telescopic lenses.

Researching migratory birds and bird watching sites online, I could not find anything about the current group of watchers in North Aurora. Several days later there were signs up on this stretch of Randall Road. The signs instructed us that only emergency parking was allowed here. The newspaper reported there were two eagles apparently nesting in a tree at the edge of the Mooseheart Woods. Mystery solved.

We managed to glimpse the eagle pair almost every time we drove up and down the road. Eventually young eagle heads were popping up beside either mama or papa. Sometimes we would see one of the parents soaring over the nearby fields. Watching this young eagle family sometimes became a destination drive-by. There is something beautiful about watching wildlife carve out their space in the middle of a booming suburban area. Kudos to the International Order of the Moose for maintaining the Mooseheart Children’s Home woods and field’s area in North Aurora.

The eagle family went away sometime last fall. I remember looking to see if they were still there and one day they were not. I wondered if the mated pair would be back in the spring. I am happy to report I spotted an eagle perched on the nest at the top of the tree yesterday. I felt gladness and was delighted they were back. There is comfort in the life cycle ritual of wildlife returning to the same nest to raise their young.

Spring is in the air, birds are twittering in the yard and the eagles have returned. Enjoying this one perfect moment in time…………………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Winter Wonderland

  We had 21” of snow last week.  There have been over 50” inches of official snowfall in our area this winter season. Snow has been on the ground for a very long time. Mike is still singing the sunny south tune and I admit to fantasies in that direction.  We have been limping along with our snow shovel, broom and local teenagers when snow falls around a weekend. This last snowfall took a hired snow removal truck with a blade and a snow blower.  After they had done their job I wondered how the dogs were faring.

   We have one pet door from the center hall door to the enclosed porch and another out the enclosed porch. I found the snow flattened at the pet door and a path around the parameter of the backyard. Pushing a path through the snow, they took care of their own snow removal.   Princess and Gene are still going in and out at whim and command.

   Jem is not interested in going anywhere except the pillow in my office.  His whim is for me to find the litter box and put it back in use and I understand his distaste for commandlike behavior.  We are both content to hang out in the office together on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

Be careful and keep warm. Jem is…….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Phil and Me………..

Years ago we lived in an old farmhouse with some acreage. For daily exercise I created a walking path. I would walk the long way around the farm pond, make a figure eight loop by the back of the barn; bypass the house, walk out by the tree break hedge row, back by the pile of wood from the old shed and up to the house. Walking the path twice took about 40 minutes. While the girls were in school, I would walk the path twice at least once a day.

One warm, sunny late August day, a movement in the grass out by the pile of shed board caught my eye.  I slowed to a stop and looked down at the cutest little reddish brown furry animal I had ever seen. The little thing was very young and, literally, rolled up in a ball. I could not even see her head. Poor little thing, she was hoping if she did not see me, maybe I did not see her.  Feeling an unexplained sympathy with the desire, I backed a step away and gave her space, continuing my walk a little less briskly, a little more contemplatively.  

The memory of that walk is one of my life-defining moments. There was a shallow peace surrounding my life in that time. All had not spun out of my ability to control. A time before the upheaval and chaos in my middle earth life began. We were living in a cocoon spun with hopes and dreams based on a level of denial so deep, I could not even begin to imagine the amount of digging it would take to escape. My imagination at that time was based on a whole other set of priorities, which seems far removed from where I am now.

The little animal baby was a woodchuck and for some reason she symbolizes the beginning of the end of my denial world. Five months later I was having an emotional meltdown in my friend’s kitchen. In my life journey, this particular meltdown is known as the I-am-turning-37-and-I-not-only-do-not-have-life-figured-out-I-may-never-have-life-figured-out-revelation.

There is a really deep peace in my life today. I am on the other side and if I still dabble in denial it is of short duration and there is any number of people in my life willing to remind me of the consequence of straying off my real time path.

Imagine my surprise when a woodchuck came back into my life today. While researching groundhogs for a February 2nd post, I discovered woodchucks are groundhogs. Always pleased to learn something new, I am still wondering how I missed this piece of information all of these years.

You can bet I am going to be paying closer attention to Punxsutawney Phil’s more or less winter prediction tomorrow. After all, he is a distant Pennsylvania cousin to my Illinois woodchuck. According to reliable sources*, he has an 80% prediction rate, good enough percentages for me.

Wonder what message Phil might have for me tomorrow……..

*Wikipedia: “Groundhog Day proponents state that the rodents’ forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time.[24] A Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years puts the success rate level at 37%.[24] Also, the National Climatic Data Center reportedly has stated that the overall prediction accuracy rate is around 39%.[25]

WKBW-TV meteorologist Mike Randall put it a different way: since there are always six more weeks of winter after Groundhog Day, and the concept of early spring in the astronomical sense simply does not exist, then whenever the groundhog sees its shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter, the groundhog is always right, but whenever it predicts an early spring, it is always wrong. The results have an approximate 80% rate of accuracy, the average percentage of times a groundhog sees its shadow.[26]

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Animal House…

There are several pets living in our house. The cat and I are most in tune with each other. We respect each other’s privacy, allow for each other’s occasional need for attention and do not get upset if the other is moody. The dogs are more in my face and very much in need of attention. Hmmmm….kind of like the other human living here.

Eugene is a Jack Russell Terrier. He is intelligent, athletic, fearless, and vocal……..he is stubborn at times and can be aggressive towards other animals and humans. He protects us by barking even before the postal carrier drops mail through the front door mail slot; continuing to harass the letters, magazines and advertising circulars as they lie on the floor waiting to be picked up. I appreciate his sentiment, if not his method. Eugene terrorizes the backyard squirrels and birds and anyone who walks by on the sidewalk.


Princess is a Schipperke, a small Belgium dog known for herding sheep or working on boats. Princess is, also, very stubborn and extremely intelligent. We have to spell words…..o-u-t…d-o-g…c-a-r … when talking in front of her. I used to call her “P” instead of Princess and I cannot even do that anymore. She is mischievous and has a headstrong temperament. Schipperke’s are sometimes referred to as the “little black fox”, the “Tasmanian black devil”, or the “little black devil. Schipperkes* are “very smart and independent; and sometimes debate listening to owners, instead choosing to do whatever benefits them the most.” Princess is the alpha animal in our house. She would really like to be the pack alpha. Eugene recognizes her superior abilities and the cat does not care what she thinks, he is simply not interested in being in charge. The humans are on to her little games.

Jem’s name is taken from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Jem came to us as a kitten with his female litter mate, who I named Scout. Scout disappeared several years ago. Jem missed her for awhile and then he moved on. Jem is an indoor and outdoor cat. He uses the pet door as easily as the dogs. He is inside most of the time in winter and deigns to show up for food in the summer. He terrorizes the goldfish in the pond, the ground squirrels and the neighbor’s cat. The neighbor told me her cat and Jem have made an uneasy peace this past year. Jem still follows her cat into her house whenever he is in the mood.

Sometimes it is hard to keep the “children” home……


©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved