I'm going to have to make a big decision. I'm under siege from a herd of groundhogs who are circling closer and closer to my fenced-in garden. They are also tunneling under my shed and under my house. It's only a matter of time until disaster strikes. I've tried doing the humane thing, setting out a Havahart trap baited with a slice of apple scented with vanilla. This is apparently sure-fire groundhog candy. Last year when I caught a groundhog, I put the trap in the back of my car and drove to some woods two miles away. I opened the door and the groundhog ran out, did a U-turn and headed toward my house. I think it beat me back. This year when I managed to catch one, I didn't make that mistake. I drove across the Delaware River on a one-lane bridge and let it go in a park. That groundhog will either have to swim, cross that bridge, or hitchhike to come home. The trouble is, the rest of the groundhogs have somehow figured out how to get the apple without releasing the trapdoor. So that's not working. I'm not into guns or poison or hiring people who are (yet). What to do? I realized one day that I didn't have this problem when I had Sisko. He was a peaceful-natured dog, but groundhogs annoyed him, and he would chase them into their burrows when he got a chance. The solution seems obvious. I looked at dogs at rescue shelters online and saw several I could imagine bringing home. Unfortunately, they were all located hours away. And it feels a lot like online dating. Glowing descriptions so often don't match reality. Then I saw Jo Jo on the Web site of the local shelter. She's just what I had in mind: a small terrier mix, not too young and not too old. However, when I went to see her, there was a problem. Her puppies had just been weaned and were in a cage down the hall. She could hear them, and she was worried about them--too worried to pay any attention to me. I might give it a week and go check on her again. But the cooling-off period is giving me a chance to have second thoughts. Do I really want another dog? As is, I'm free to take off for the city or a writing retreat or a workshop whenever I want. I don't have to have my train of thought interrupted when I'm writing to let a dog in or out. I don't have to let a dog out at four o'clock on a winter morning. I don't have any vet bills. On the other hand, the companionship of a compatible dog is hard to beat. And there are those groundhogs . . .
I am a writer for children and a former editor for Highlights and Highlights High Five. I live in a little farmhouse almost 150 years old in an ancient apple orchard in northeastern Pennsylvania, two miles from the Delaware River. The view from my porch is rolling fields, pine-covered hills, and deer and turkey. Here is where I sit and write when summer comes, watch the hummingbirds and chipmunks, and listen to the rain.