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Then the big dog vomited up 5 pounds of sunflower seeds, and that was just the beginning.

In a long and sometimes complex life, I didn’t see that one coming.

Here at Rancho Olson we have a little dog, a big cat, a bunch of birds and a very large dog.

And we feed them all.

In fact, we feed more than that. We have an undetermined number of barn cats, flocks of turkeys and pheasants cleaning up the crabapples in the orchard, a vast quantity of squirrels chewing through the black walnuts, and herds of deer looking for a way to breach the wire mesh protecting the chestnut seedlings. There might even be some wolverines and walruses nosing around, but they’re not begging me for food, so I’m seeing them as not my problem.

The fact that we have too many critters wouldn’t be an issue if they’d all just stay in their lane. That doesn’t happen. Frances, the big dog, keeps her bag of food in the shop, and I see the barn cats trooping in and out of there all the time. The little dog and the house cat get fed on opposite sides of the kitchen, but they’re always squabbling and sneaking bites of each other’s food any time a tail is turned - even for a second. When my wife was out of town for a week and I was in charge of pet feeding, I never relaxed for fear the wrong animal was getting the wrong kibble.

I must admit, though, I never, ever worried about the sunflower seeds.

We are two years into a bird feeding project. It’s much more entertaining than I ever thought it would be. The variety of birds that come to the feeder is fascinating, particularly if one of the dogs is parked underneath, keeping the squirrels at bay. The mixed bird seed is stored in a tub under the coat rack. Every now and then, Frances pushes her nose through it and makes a mess, but that’s not unexpected, because she’s a walking mess maker. Just picture a three-year-old with muddy boots and a sticky sucker who also sheds a bushel basket of black hair in the spring. That’s the effect she has when she’s in the house.

Frances used to sleep inside only on super cold nights, but she decided she wasn’t happy with her wheat-straw-and-sleeping-bag bed in the garage, so she’s been lobbying for a more flexible definition of cold and backing up her argument with non-stop howling.

A few mornings ago, I heard her frantically pacing in the porch. When I went to let her out, she dashed past me, got about five feet outside the front door, and threw up a massive quantity of sunflower seeds.

Words cannot convey the size and digestedness of the mess she made.

I had noticed that the disarray by the bird seed tub was worse than usual, but it hadn’t dawned on me that a significant amount was missing.

The dog looked over her shoulder at me. She looked a little embarrassed, then seemed to shrug. “What?” We’ve all eaten ten pounds of something we shouldn’t.”

Throughout the day, I came upon a few other messes around the yard and late in the afternoon, I saw evidence that at least some of the sunflower seeds had made it all the way through her digestive system.

Frances is back to trying to steal a few bites of the little dog's food and considering the alternative, I’m okay with that.

Life on the prairie. It doesn’t always make sense, but it’s never boring.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson


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