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Ursula has found her spot in the sun. The breeze blows lightly over her as she checks everything out. The kitchen door? No, still closed. She turns her head. Maybe something is happening with the garage door. No, still closed. When it opens, she will check the new cupboard where the two-legged folks keep the dog food. It has some kind of locking device, but twice she has managed to open it, to crack that nut. She needs to do a quality check. She has torn open a small hole in the kibble bag, just to check the freshness, mind you. But it’s a lot of work. First to wait for the garage door to be left open, then to scrape off the lock on the cupboard, and finally to nose into the hole in the kibble bag.

How about the porch door? Sometimes the egg master puts out a dish of yolks to keep her coat nice. Cullen, the brown dog, gets a dish, too, but it’s really wasted on him since he lets his coat get full of burrs.

No, nothing going on on the front porch. She turns her head again. How about the coop? Ursula gets up and walks over to the double door and noses it. Sometimes it will open, but today her nose bumps lightly on it and stays closed. Curses!

Don’t the silly humans know she needs to check on the freshness of the chicken pellets? Don’t they know she needs to do quality control on any eggs she finds in the nest boxes? When will they learn? Ursula is the queen of all she surveys, but she is hardly alone in her royalty.

You may want to think twice about asking me to take care of your pets for you while you’re away. One friend made that mistake, and I have managed to spoil poor old Ellie, a tiny Yorkie, beyond all reason. I didn’t mean to, but I think Ellie might demand certain luxuries, like having her food warmed before it is served to her. Here’s how it happened:

It’s been chilly in the mornings, so when I drop by to let the dogs out and give them breakfast, I find both of them — elderly Ellie, the lady of the manor, and Miss Primrose, the young(er) pup — curled up warm on their little round cushions.

I roust them out of bed for their morning constitutional in the yard and then set to preparing their breakfast until they’re ready to come in.

Ellie has special soft food, and I have to put her plate on a chair so she can eat undisturbed by Primmie, who thinks Ellie’s special food smells delicious.

By the time I have finished the preparations and let both doggies back into the house, tiny Ellie is shivering. I set her up on her throne with her platter of delicacies, but it is cold out of the fridge and she turns up her nose.

Worried, I texted my friend, who assures me that Ellie would eat when she was ready. I let her down from the chair and she runs on her tiny legs straight back to her warm bed and curls up again.

Dinnertime repeated the same cycle with the same refusal, and reluctantly, I put her plate back into the fridge twice more.

By dinnertime the second day, it dawned on me that after a chilly walk, chilly food on a cold plate was not very appetizing, and I got the inspiration to pop the plate in the microwave for 30 seconds.

This time, Ellie lapped it right up! (Of course, I had to check to make sure it wouldn’t burn her tongue. After some experimentation, I discovered that 30 seconds is great if I then give it a stir with a spoon to make it evenly warm.) As my father used to say, Ellie now belongs to the clean-plate club.

Primmie watched these goings-on with interest, running to her own food dish (just dry kibble for her) and munching as if to show me, “I’m a good girl, too! I can clean my plate, too!”

And now the dogs are getting used to my visits. Instead of having to roust them out of bed, I am now greeted by Primmie when she hears my key in the door. Ellie, who sleeps pretty soundly, is sometimes with her and sometimes not, but now she is always enthusiastic about every part of my visit, especially today, when there was a corner of bright sunshine in her little yard outside. I fix her high tea and help her ascend her throne, where she, too, is the queen of all she surveys.

Walk in beauty; work in peace; blessed be

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Hartland near White Heath. She is interested in how the seasons roll around each year. You can read more of her writings and see photos at or at Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She wants to thank her friends for writing and will answer you all soon.

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