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Animals’ behavior keeps life interesting

Friday, April 25, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:25 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

The dog barked. And barked. And would not stop.

I was buried in sleep. A few brain cells cleared. What the —?

The dog, a German shepherd, barked harder. This was not: “Oops, I’ve been startled by a bunny burp.” This was: “SOMETHING SCARY IS OUT THERE, AND YOU’VE GOT TO LOOKLOOKLOOK NOW!”

But I wasn’t looking at anything yet. My eyes were still closed. I was trying to break into wakefulness when I heard car doors slam shut. Ah, it’s nothing. It’s just the guys who farm the place. They’ve driven up to do some work.

Then I opened my eyes. It was 12:30 a.m. OK, no one’s come to work in the fields at 12:30 in the morning.

The dog barked on, and she was running back and forth from the front door to the bedroom.

I got up and peered out of the front door. A Missouri State Highway Patrol Car and a Boone County Sheriff’s Department car were parked in front of my house. No one was in them, but flashlights bobbed by the house.

So the dog was right. Something might be out there.

Once I was up, the dog stopped barking. She and I stood at the front door watching and waiting. Nothing happened.

After about 10 minutes, a third cruiser pulled into my driveway and a fourth and a fifth. The drivers jumped out and scurried across the yard into the field. It seems as if they were out only a few minutes when they ran back, jumped into their cars and backed down the driveway and took off.

They were gone. The show was over. It was 12:50. The dog dropped right off to sleep. I lay in bed wide awake. I heard a helicopter fly over. I wanted to know what was going on.

Turns out that the chase went on for an hour longer but still in the neighborhood. This was the night that Larry Creason and Shawn Knight were arrested after a long chase through the fields along South Rangeline Road. Authorities believe Creason and Knight were trying to hide a mobile meth lab.

And keen observer that I am, I’d have missed the whole manhunt, if the dog hadn’t told me we had company.

***

While that was the most excitement we’ve had out here at Rancho DeLirious, we have had no shortage of peculiar behavior. For instance, we’ve been under siege by a female cardinal.

Do a little search on the Internet — “bird attacking window” — and you’ll find many stories of birds, male and female, pecking at windows in the spring. The experts say the birds are fighting with the reflections they see in the window, and this too shall pass in a few days.

We’re in the fourth week of battering. This is one hard-headed bird.

I put a stuffed cat in one window. That stopped the bapping on the bedroom window. But there were all the assaults on two sides of the study and two sides of the living room.

A friend suggested putting up a piece of paper. It had worked for her father when he had a pesky bird whacking his window.

So the next morning when the bird hit the window, I taped up a piece of paper. The bird donked a different pane. I put up another sheet. She moved over to a third pane. I followed. We went from room to room. She pecked. I taped.

By mid-afternoon, the pecking had stopped. And I was left sitting in rooms darkened with tacky paper shades. I just needed an aluminum foil hat to protect me from martian rays to complete the effect.

I think you have to score this a victory for the bird, who, by the way, still swoops in a couple of times a day, tags an uncovered pane and vanishes, as if to say, “Paper this, sister.”

Mary Lawrence teaches editing at the Missouri School of Journalism.


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