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Creature Feature

Guess who’s the top dog?

When you stop by Will & Veronica’s produce stand in Owings, you’ll likely be greeted by Onyx and Gizmo. Onyx is a five-year-old, 115-pound male German shepherd/husky mix. Gizmo is a 10-year-old, three-and-a-half-pound male Chihuahua.     A few friendly sniffs hello and they’ll be on their way again, hard at work chasing bees and flies, herding pigs, napping in the sunshine or hitching a ride on the golf cart.

Scott Sylte stands firm for his service dog

As the sun dips into the Bay at the Calvert County marina where he lives, 59-year-old Scott Sylte stares into the Chesapeake. He likes an angry sea. With salt-and-pepper beard and a skipper’s cap, he more closely resembles a sea captain than the human rights champion he is.     He doesn’t like the word activist — but it fits him.

What shall Maryland Therapeutic Riding call this blue-eyed filly?

The stork visited Maryland Therapeutic Riding in Crownsville on April 30. A blue-eyed pinto mini filly — the smallest and youngest member of the farm’s herd — needs a name. The birth was a surprise; her mother Beauty was plump when purchased, but vets and staff alike believed all she needed was a diet.     Maryland Therapeutic Riding uses the healing and therapeutic power of horses to improve the balance, strength, muscle tone, self-image, self-confidence and quality of life for people with special needs.

From Tasmanian devil to Teddy bear

You never know what temperament a dog may bring with him. I was so in love with Teddy, a Pomeranian-Papillon mix, that I figured I could deal with any little problems that came with this five-and-a-half-year-old rescue from death row at a pound in Baltimore.     He didn’t like children, I was told. He was touchy about being touched on his rear quarter, and he didn’t like raised voices.     No problem. We were just two old retirees, the ideal couple for this dog.

Cinema worth barking about

Great Spangled Fritillary

     Fritillary butterflies may be the original social butterfly. Dozens appear in June when butterfly weed dazzles into bloom, affably sharing landing space and lunch with tiger swallowtails and clusters of bumblebees.

Our flowering gardens are butterfly way-stations

     The butterflies nectaring around your garden took wing from the caterpillars nibbling there a few weeks back.     Fewer black swallowtails are flashing their wings in my garden. Many summers, all the leaves are eaten down to the stalk by the hungry white, black and yellow-stripped caterpillars that pupate black swallowtails. This summer, I’ve seen only one such caterpillar.     But I have hopes for other caterpillars, other butterflies.

Summer’s darlings, winter’s pests

Three seasons of the year bugs are pesky. But summer has fun bugs as well as pests.     I have a strong dislike of bugs, especially stinkbugs, verging on fear. Those little stinkers freak me out with their buzzing around hitting anything in their path. They and their evil eight-legged or beetle-y friends rule my house, and many other peoples’ too, when they come in from the cold.

Encounters with wild neighbors

The creatures of Chesapeake Country are out in force. Since the last full moon on June 13, critters of every make and model have been hopping, waddling, crawling, slithering, walking, meandering and flying out of cover and into view.     Since that moon, treetops flash with male fireflies signaling their mates. Closer to ground, females flash in their own code. Strange flying things come nearer still.

Don’t count your ducklings before they’re hatched

Over Memorial Day weekend, the egg appeared on a seat in my cockpit.     Clearly a boating friend was playing a practical joke on me. He must have come across a greyish-green egg as he was making breakfast and decided the obvious thing to do was leave it on the boat where my daughter and I make our home.     Not to be bested, I imagined a whirlwind of revenge pranks.