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Those Things That Go ‘Thunk’ in the Night

I am sorry to have to make this public announcement. The Peaceable Kingdom is a heart-warming fantasy, suitable for Christmas cards and the numbered Julita Jones serigraph that hangs in my sunroom beneath the Mexican mirror. It is not true that “birds in their little nests agree,” although that hyperglycemic sentiment was in a childhood book I had.

Birds in their little nests act like Corsicans and Sicilians locked in mortal combat, dear little hummingbirds diving, strafing and slashing at each other for a foothold on the feeder.

This lament, however, is about animals. Now, normally, I am sister to St. Francis, staunchly on the side of furry, finny or feathered folk, although the coyotes on my hill are persistent and I do weary of them.

This is about my duels with smaller animals. It all started because we have an avocado tree in the front yard. According to Dr. George Mulfinger, orthopedic surgeon and arborist, mine is a tree native to Mexico. The fruit is small, smooth-skinned and perfectly black. And this year, the crop was huge. Everyone we know has had enough guacamole and still the fruit thumps down.

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The tree is partly over my bedroom roof and throughout the night for weeks, there have been great thunks in the night, followed by the rolling sound of the avocados as they dropped to the ground.

When I went out each morning to pick up the fruit, I noticed that a few of the avocados had bites out of them. I threw these over the hill and picked up the good ones. The next morning, a few more were nibbled.

I know that animals, at least many dogs, like avocados. When Doug and I were living in the middle of an avocado grove in La Habra Heights, our miniature schnauzer almost ate himself up to the size of standard schnauzer. Obviously, there is nothing you can do when your dog lives in the midst of such a caloric oversupply.

About two weeks ago, sleep went out of my life. That is because the animals gathered under my window and then worked their way through the pickets of the wrought iron gate and fence. Every animal in the Linda Vista hills got the word. They must have taken an ad in the Penny-Saver. “All you can eat. Prime avocados free. Bring your own sacks.”

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They gathered every night about 9:30 in the ivy and started their endless arguments about which cadre would go first. I have seen squirrels, opossum, skunks and, worst of all, raccoons. They are adorable, raucous, insatiable and querulous.

The ivy made rustling sounds as the brigands argued over the pecking order. I cannot tell you which animal made which noise but the entire company talked, whined, whispered, yelled, hissed and barked forte forte.

This drove poor Peaches to distraction. When the animals were inside the fence and munching away, Peaches ran to the glass doors and could see them three feet from the end of her nose. She has a voice like an enraged coloratura who has just been upstaged by a tenor. And in the morning you could see why she persisted in the caterwauling. Itty-bitty, darling raccoon tracks were all over the step outside my sliding glass doors where Peaches and the bandits stood nose to nose.

Now when Peaches screamed, I bellowed at her to be quiet, often leaping from bed and flailing at Peaches with a bedroom slipper. She would settle down for 10 minutes and we repeated the exercise. All night long.

During the two weeks, Peaches was skunked twice and given vinegar baths which made her smell like a dog who had been sprayed by a skunk and then given a French dressing rubdown. We saw the skunk up close in the driveway one night and he was a Rambo of skunks. He carried his full, luxuriant tail with the arrogance of a Hussar in his finest busby. The skunk had a full, glossy coat and superbly efficient scent glands.

Peaches was so depressed by the way she smelled that she wanted to be consoled by being loved. It’s hard to smell like a skunk and have your family reject you, too.

This has not been an easy two weeks for any of us until I hit upon a plan. I put a lawn sprinkler just inside the gate and turned it on when I went to bed. This is the third night now and except for some minor rustling, I have been ecstatic.

I have slept through the night except for running in and out once in a while to turn on a hose with a powerful nozzle, which I aim at the various animals within my hose shot. There was that time I forgot to turn off the burglar alarm before I rushed out the front door, but I can’t tell you about that. It makes me sob like a raccoon.

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