Along with the wild animals: boars, birds of prey, lizards, raccoons, skunks, and the occasional mountain lion, our ranch had two very cool working ranch cats– Suzy and Chucky. The prior owners also had the happiest dog I’ve ever seen: a yellow lab named Lily that liked to jump in the pond to chase, but never catch, the ducks. While Lily moved to her new home with her owners, Suzy and Chucky stayed on our ranch to continue their work culling birds, ground squirrels, and vermin, and displaying their kills to prove they were earning their keep. They were both estimated to be over 20 years old but still fierce hunters.
Unfortunately, Suzy recently succumbed to cancer from her long days in the sun, and karma finally caught up with Chucky. After years of slaying birds, our best guess is that an owl found Chucky prowling in the night and took his revenge. We buried them in the quiet shade of an oak tree, explaining to the kids as best we can about the “circle of life” and the harsher realities of life on a ranch. Yet without our two hunters, the vermin were having a field day (literally) and we needed to keep the population in check.
So when one of our vineyard employees mentioned he had a litter of seven kittens he found who knows where, we decided to take them all off his hands. We invited our ranch manager’s children over so that his two children and our two could each choose their own special kitty. As the kids were getting to know their kitties, the mobile vet got to work de-flea-ing, de-worming, and administering their shots. We have Diamond, Rascal, Grave Digger (my son’s choice), and Chloe, among others. The kittens have been getting used to their nighttime quarters in the barn, slowly exploring their surroundings until they feel confident enough to hunt. Hopefully the kittens will grow to be as sweet but fierce as their predecessors.
On the canine front, we recently adopted a rescue pup. At 14 weeks, Auggie is a little love muffin, showing strong signs of being a wonderful ranch dog. His mommy we know is a cattle dog, and judging by the looks of his tail and his litter mates, we suspect his daddy was a German Shepherd. Auggie has become my little buddy, following me everywhere. It’s been about 20 years since I’ve owned a dog and I’d forgotten how sweet (but all-consuming) they are. He plays well with the kids (though showing some signs of trying to “herd” my rambunctious daughter), and spends most of his day following me around and trying unsuccessfully to sleep at my feet when he thinks I’ll be stationary, though I never am.
For now our expanded ranch family feels complete, until of course Auggie needs a playmate!