Perception Versus Reality: A Tale of Two Labels

By any metric, our kids seem to be living the high life. Just check out our new label. My kids are unfazed by their legless dog, which quelches any arguments about who's supposed to walk him. And they're oblivious to living beneath a structurally unsound roof with a single window. They have a sturdy tree for climbing and a perpetually shining melanoma machine that reflects the blue paint of my son's imaginary, '57 Chevy. Even the vineyard looks pretty good. When you're 7 years old, life imitates art. 1-09 Zin FB2 r1

Every morning we are awakened by the saccharine chirp-chirp and ingratating peeping of the baby birds nesting outside our bedroom. Imagine our kids' glee as they observed mama bird feeding her newly-hatched babies, three mini beaks squawking to the heavens, awaiting mom's regugitated and half digested mealy bugs. Their spirits were only half-dampened when they saw one of the babies decapitated, wings mauled into the gravel alongside the vegetable beds. In the daily hubub, I'd forgotten to toss the dead bird in the trash bin. Our pound pup, a terrier mix, had trapped him hours earlier. He'd delighted in swatting the fledgling flier and holding it down under his front paw, while it frantically fluttered beneath his grip. He couldn't understand why his toy stopped working and abandoned the lifeless, beheaded mop of feathers exactly where Amelia discovered it. And this was not even our first encounter with spring time animal proliferation. All hail the season of rebirth and renewal.

In March, the ferocious chaos of morning was suspended by Dexter's relentless barking. He'd spotted a raccoon in a tree. An angry raccoon. An angry, spitting, rabid raccoon. Its tail and leg were broken, and the nasty critter was intractably lodged in the "V" between two branches. The city animal shelter refused to rescue him since our property is technically "county," not "city." And the county animal activists were too busy to bother with another damaged beast. After all, they had the greater animal kingdom to rehabilitate- feral cats, skunks, and the road kill remnants of eviscerated possums. That's when Brian threatened to bash its skull with a shovel. The West County tree huggers arrived twelve minutes later. For the record, they used a tranquilizer gun. About a month later, the house phone rang unexpectedly. Caller ID was unidentified. It was the county shelter, informing me our raccoon had been nursed to health and was ready for pick up. It was not a prank. Without irony, they earnestly explained their procedure to release rehabilitated animals back to their original homes. Good luck with that one, guys. I hung up.

Before providing a detailed inventory of our animal detritus, let me go on record as being 100% anti-pet. In February, after years of begging for a pup, the kids had finally earned a feral cat. I figured a wild feline would be useful for ransacking rodents. Per the shelter guidelines, I acclimated the brutish non-pet in a cage for 3 weeks. The damn thing hissed and scowled at me every time I tried to refill its food or clean the litter box. But I liked his feisty spirit, all the better to navigate the rat trail and demolish any vermin in its path. As much as I detest cats, I hate rodents more. So on the eve of his cage release, I had high hopes for total rodent annihilation. The next morning, I saw the cat skulking outside my window. And then he disappeared...until he turned up dead in the gully outside our house. Not a week later I was calling Pest Control for rats scratching around and nesting in our roof. And the feral cat without 9 lives was laughing at me from cat heaven.

So yeah, country life looks a lot like our label, minus the graveyard of deceased fauna. And don't even get me started on septic and snakes.