Each morning at dawn there is a critter convention in my backyard. A rabbit, a groundhog, a robin and a chipmunk convene to discuss who will eat what.

Each morning at dawn there is a critter convention in my backyard. A rabbit, a groundhog, a robin and a chipmunk convene to discuss who will eat what.


So far, the biggest eater is the groundhog. He waddles to the low-hanging flower buds and chomps on them. He then slithers like a seal to munch on some clover. He is scary and looks like s thug. He might even be connected. I call him Big Louie from Detroit. You got a problem? He’ll eat it.


The skittish rabbit lives on the edges. He munches on grass and buds and keeps a weary eye on Big Louie. When Louie moves, the rabbit moves. Sometimes the rabbit jumps away at crazy, jack-knife angles like a fighter plane juking to side step a shoulder-launched SAM missile.


The chipmunk has several escape routes and likes to crawl through a hole in the fence that you couldn’t get a golf ball through. The chipmunk is also surprisingly noisy. He sits there chirping a high one-note monotone. If you don’t look at him, you would think you were listening to a small bird.


The robin is a frequent flyer. A gust of wind, a shaking of leaves can cause her to soar into flight up to the gutter on the roof of the house. In a few minutes when things have quieted down, she will return and poke at worms or grubs in the lawn.


Grace the pug dog seems to ignore most of the critter activity. They usually run off when Grace descends the back stairs, her dog tags jingling. The rattling alarms the critters and everyone immediately gets out of Dodge.


Grace sees her role as a detective.  She sniffs the aromatic archaeology and classifies each scent – this a hedgehog, this a rabbit, this a chipmunk, this a robin. Grace does not rush the process. Detective work takes long and close observation, especially when the sun is out and it is warm.


There are other scents to observe and classify as well: Markings by other passing dogs, broken oak branches, a billion leaves. She wades into the leaves the way we wade into surf – full of expectancy and delight. The leaves crunch and crumple and feel good on her paw pads. She could spend the day prowling but her owner already worries about the deer ticks that may have hitched a ride on Grace.


After each backyard adventure, Grace has to be examined for ticks. There are always some hangers-on that need to be removed.


Meanwhile, the chipmunk notifies the other critters that the beast of the pug has gone inside. They dart from their safe havens in the woods and head for the greenery. The robin chirps from on high.


The pug sleeps.   


Peter Costa is a columnist for GateHouse Media. His latest book of humor is “Outrageous CostaLiving: Still Laughing Through Life,” which is available at amazon.com.