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If all else fails

March 1, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

“If all else fails,” reasons the writer, “Write about the animals.”

I get a lot of questions about the menagerie of animals here at Gilly Hollow. The subject of those pets seems to be popular with the more dedicated readers of this column.

I find it hard at times to keep them all sorted out. Each has their own personality (and quirks) which sets them apart as real individuals. Some of you know certain details. Here is a brief biography of the lot.

Holly is the oldest pet resident here. She is a somewhat lame one hundred twenty pound yellow Labrador retriever. Holly’s previous owners managed to break her spirit by locking her in a kennel. She would dig her way out and make her way to the Animal Rescue League all by herself. She’d turn herself in and the staff would release her to the owners for a fee. This happened a few times with more severe consequences for Holly each time. The last time, they just left her. We rescued her from there and she has been a free roaming family member since.

Holly, because of self esteem issues will seldom look you in the eye. She will defer to any of the other animals during any dispute, except those involving food. I once saw Holly eat a fresh caught rabbit, fur, bones and all in about three minutes – crunch, crunch, and crunch.

Holly has one hip which gives her some problem, and qualifies her as one of the freaks here at Gilly Hollow.

The second animal is an overweight three legged Vizsla mix house dog named Paris. Paris lost a leg in a gunfight with a neighbor a few years back. A .22 round shattered the bone above the knee. The front leg was removed at the socket right next to her body.

Paris has adapted quire well to three legs. She can run almost as fast as a “four legger”, but often trips and falls on her chin. Everything on Paris is the same deep red brown color – her nose, her eyes, and her gums – everything except the very tip of her tail which is white.

Animal number three is an overly-eager, overly-friendly chocolate Labrador retriever named Frankie. Frankie’s greatest joy in life is to race cars down our 1/2 mile long lane. I’ve clocked him at over 30 mph. He won’t quit until you’ve passed him. The trouble is he runs right in front of the vehicle and will only move when he thinks you are going to overtake him. Both Holly and Frankie are allowed free range on our 43 acre property. Mostly rugged timber, they enjoy a wonderful dog’s life.

Animal number four is a one-eyed cat named Wink. With a missing eye and torn nostril and lip on her left side, her face is frozen in a permanent “wink.” While she may be missing an eye, she misses very little with the other. Wink is a consummate, patient hunter.

A couple winters ago I was out trying to drum up some business for our fixed wireless Internet business. It was a morning in February after one of the coldest nights on record. I’d left a flyer and business card on the door of a house where I knew someone was moving in. I turned to walk back to the Jeep and across the frozen tundra racing full speed towards me was this smallish, skinny little white cat. She came up to me, and while not being vocal, insisted I pick her up and rescue her. I did.

The cat rode on my shoulders the couple miles back home. I made her stay in the garage that first day until I could take her to the vet to be checked out. She was given a clean bill of health.

Wink has translucent pink ears laid bare by frostbite. Her missing eye and deformed face are the result of what was probably an attack by a larger animal. Her vocal cords were frozen too, so she has a very weak meow, and doesn’t purr like most cats.

Wink is allowed in the house. She is half wild. Wink shies away from house guests and will run and hide when kids come to visit. From the beginning she bonded with me and thinks I’m her mother. She will come up and head butt my foot to get my attention. Then she will take her right paw and tap me to tell me know she wants something. Usually that something is food, or to be let out.

Wink will watch attentively as you go about certain tasks. I do believe Wink thinks she is human, or at least will grow up to be a human. She understands how doors are opened, and tries to turn the knob herself to get it open.

Wink has found a spot here at our place, and in our hearts. And not only because she is a tree climbing, walk taking, doorknob twisting – comes when you call her feline either. The face is the allure Her missing eye frozen in a perpetual wink melts even the hardest of hearts.

The fifth and final animal in our menagerie is Garth. This one is a plain old run of the mill black and white alley cat -- with personality. He was rescued by the Tama County Humane Society. He was found in someone’s garage. He had suffered some unspeakable trauma which had to be excruciatingly painful. He had a compound fracture of one of his rear legs which healed with the foot and leg pointing backwards. A humanitarian campaign was launched by the staffers of the Humane Society, and money was raised to pay for amputation of Garth’s deformed leg.

Besides the missing limb, Garth is an ordinary house cat in every way. While Wink will only be touched or petted when she is in the mood, Garth is always in the mood. He wants to have human contact all the time. Because of the missing rear leg he has a hard time jumping very high. His favorite perch is on your lap He loves to be petted and is quite insistent you not stop when he’s in position.

While I believe the best defense is being too tough to tackle, peaceful coexistence is best accomplished with a loving pet; five make it even easier.

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the “Local Columns” button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.

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