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Slugs on the Walkway

 

It has been raining a lot lately so, once again, we have a crowd of slugs on the brick walkway surrounding the building. Usually we have slugs and snails, but for some reason the snails are absent this time.

I actually prefer the snails because at least they have shells to provide some cover. Slugs just slither across the bricks, naked and slimy, leaving a slow trail of glistening muck behind them. Cricket is fascinated by them. She will walk up to the slugs and carefully sniff them, like the scientist she is. Neither dog ever steps on a slug, or tries to lick, or god forbid, eat one. I’ve never seen any of the robins pick up a slug either, the way they dig up the worms and carry their squiggly brown bodies in their mouths as they fly away.

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“They’re so squishy, Mommy.”

I decided to do some research to see if I could figure out why the snails are absent this time around. The only real difference between slugs and snails is that snails have shells, like a house they carry with them. Without shells to carry around, slugs can squeeze into smaller, and skinnier spaces to hide. When attacked, slugs can contract their bodies, making themselves harder and more compact, but normally they have soft brownish/gray bodies, and they vary in size from a quarter of an inch to two inches and longer.

(I want to warn you that there are slug pictures coming up, and even the two photographers – aka me and Mom – got a little nauseous during the photo shoot.)

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A camera shy, daytime slug.

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More brazen night time slugs.

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Note the goop trail.

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Follow the leader.

Both snails and slugs like to eat vegetation, so they are ever present in gardens, eating up plants and fruits, and even the roots and stems that keep the plant alive. Some people turn the tables on those slugs and snails and actually eat them. Blech.

They are both very slow moving creatures, so that as they cross the walkway at night they are likely to be squashed or crunched under my feet, making me feel like a murderer, and totally grossed out. There have been a number of times when I wasn’t sure what I was looking at up ahead, especially in the dark, because we have a lot of small dogs living here now, and many of the slugs are about the size of a small dog’s poop. I wouldn’t want to step on that either.

I still have no idea where the snails went this season, but one of the articles I read mentioned that snails, because of their shells, can hibernate, both in winter and summer, by retracting into their shells and creating a mucus plug in the opening, to keep in the moisture and keep out the small insects that would try to invade their sleep. Maybe all of the local snails are sleeping in dark hidden places in the backyard, and leaving it to the slugs to eat up all the vegetation they can, until the weather cools down again. Maybe snails have as much trouble with the heat as I do.

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I wonder if that house is heavy.

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Maybe they could get some in-shell air-conditioning?

In the meantime, the dogs and I have to do a lot of hopping and swerving to avoid stepping on the slugs, and I’ve tried to find something to like about them, since they are temporarily my neighbors and we have to live in such close proximity with one another. Other than the fact that they are very easy to take pictures of, because of their slow motion lives, the mucus trails they leave behind can be sort of pretty, like glittery graffiti.

That’s something.

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“Really?”

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“No, not really.”

 

 

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In the Heat

I hate the heat. It’s still only spring on Long Island, but the temperature went up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit the other day, and then it went down again, so that the heat in my building came on, until it felt like it was at least eighty degrees again. Just to piss me off. When I get too warm, by even a few degrees, I start to get double vision, bad headaches, dizziness, and sudden bouts of nausea that make me want to sit down on the floor for a few hours until the world stops spinning. It’s unpleasant.

At my synagogue, people are always telling me how chilly it is with the air conditioning on. Aren’t you cold? Four women ask me, one after the other. If it’s over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, then no, I’m not chilly, I’m fine.

I’m considering attaching a small fan to Cricket’s head so that when she, inevitably, jumps on my chest and tries to smother me awake, at least I’ll get a nice cool breeze for my trouble.

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“Where do you think you are going to put this fan, Mommy?”

Cricket is currently a big fluffball, because my mom prefers the fluff and always conspires with Cricket to put off grooming for as long as possible, until not only can’t we see Cricket’s eyes, but she can’t see us either, through the encroaching hair from her forehead above, and her cheeks and nose below. It’s possible that she’s staring at me with searing hatred; it’s also possible that she’s asleep. I’ll never know.

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“I don’t see a problem.”

If I were Cricket, I would go to the cabinet and take out the rounded-edge doggy scissors, and bring them to one of the nearby humans, as a hint. But Cricket is not me, so she hides under the couch and pretends it doesn’t bother her at all that she can’t see, and has started to smell of eye snot, and is probably sweating to death in that fluffy coat. Totally not a problem. Everything is cool here.

Butterfly likes to sit in the direct line of the fan, or the air conditioner, and feel the breeze in her hair, but she also likes to go out for walks in the heat of the day, so she’s an enigma to me.

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“I’m an enigma? What’s an enigma?”

I would like to complain about the current changeability of the weather, and how it goes from hot and humid, to rainy, to cold and windy, and then to mild and pleasant, so that I am forced to change from my winter jacket to my fall jacket to my rain coat al in one day. But by July, the heat and humidity in New York will be so unrelenting that I will be hugging my air conditioner for dear life. Even Cricket will be splayed out on the floor, looking for one last cool spot. Though she still won’t be begging for a haircut, or a bath. She could be dying of heat stroke and she’d still see the bathtub as a torture chamber. So, I’m trying to embrace the moments of nice weather when they come up and ignore the rest for now. Maybe, along with putting a fan on her head, I should get Cricket a book bag so she can carry all of my weather options with her: like a bottle of water, an extra sweater, and maybe a rain hat. Then all I’ll have to do is convince people that she’s my service dog and bring her with me everywhere I go. I mean, what could go wrong with that?

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“Help Me!!!!”

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The future service dog.

 

 

The Rains Came

 

The rains came this week and washed away most of the snow, leaving ice bergs every five to ten feet across the backyard. Cricket took it as her duty to explore each little island of snow. She climbed up to the highest point of each one and seemed to be contemplating names for the new nations, given the amount of time she spent inspecting each crevice, deep in thought. This one I shall name Mathilda, for my Australian friends who have never seen snow. This other one I shall name Pluto, because it is so much smaller than all the others that it may not even be a real ice berg.

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The new nations.

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“What shall I name this new nation?”

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“Shall I poop here?”

Cricket took her job very seriously, but then she was distracted when she reached the one remaining snow bank up against the retaining wall, because there, over yonder, was a pile of cat poop that had not yet been claimed. Ahoy!

The endless variations in landscape that come across Cricket’s yard keep her enthralled – from the autumn leaf piles, to the desiccated brown grass over the summer, to the variations on the theme of snow. She could write a treatise on the magical world of her backyard, if she could only figure out how to type on the computer, one key at a time. Weqjhrgweop.

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“Mine!!!!”

For Butterfly, the rain meant that she could get closer to the bird seed that our neighbor spreads on the lawn each day. Our downstairs neighbor likes to feed the birds every day, so that they will congregate on the snow in front of her apartment and she can see some life in the midst of the cold and icy winter. When I look out the window there is always a line of birdseed on top of the snow and a huge squirrel stealing the food brazenly from the tiny birds. Butterfly would like to line up with the cardinal, and the mourning doves, and the squirrel, and at least sniff communally, but they seem to think she looks too much like Cricket and do not yet trust her intentions.

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The leftover smell of little bird feet still fascinates her, though.

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Bird feet smell so good!

As the snow melts, both dogs help me find the rocks of cat poop that solidified over the winter and now dot the landscape. This is not my favorite task, but the girls enjoy it immensely.

If the groundhog was right, and winter has only a few more weeks left, then the backyard will soon transform again, into its green-shoots phase, and then its over-come-with-weeds phase, which is Cricket’s favorite. She loves to help Grandma pull up weeds, and drag them around like trophies, and then lovingly chew them down to nothing.

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“Yum!.”

It is truly a wonderful world.