I was instantly captivated when I saw the adorable dog with folk art decoration holding a serving tray. Advertised online via Facebook, it was described as being made of metal (other times wood). The ad touted that it was an end table made in Bali.

Tell me what you think.

What do you think of this so-called end table? For whom do you think it might serve? Children? The vertically challenged? © Photo collection of Norine Dresser, 2021.

No wonder the sellers failed to list the dimensions. This was a bad joke on me. And I fault no one but myself for failing to be more discriminating when evaluating the product. I was so anxious to purchase it for my brand new screened in porch that common sense fled.

The ad also claimed that the tray could be used for serving a drink or displaying a house plant. No way! The tray is made of cardboard and any water on it would cause it to deteriorate.This was not the only instance I got taken by shady online advertisers. At about the same time, I ordered two other items featured on Facebook. I fell in love with some silly-looking colorful backyard chickens, supposedly made in Ireland. Additionally, I ordered some spectacular solar lights for the yard, made in Germany. Now these purchases were very convincing that they were legitimate. Both kept sending me fake (in retrospect) shipping updates, nineteen messages in total. First they claimed the products were in transit within their phony countries of origin. Then later, they claimed the products had reached customs, then cleared customs; next they arrived in the U.S. and cleared customs here to then inch towards my destination in Las Cruces, New Mexico. But they never arrived.

In desperation, I contacted the delivery company, shipping@24service.vip. And when I clicked on it, I was directed to a google link entitled, “Fraudulent email Pay Pal scams.” There I encountered complaints from other shopping victims lamenting the no-show status of beds, vacuum cleaner, mini-chainsaw, laptop, sandals, and a music box. Does misery love company? No. One victim wrote, “Once they get your money, they scam you.”

I wish I could tell you that these were the only phony ads I have fallen for. I saw a great deal on Clark’s sandals but totally forgot the wisdom, “If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t.” Sure enough, the shoes never arrived. Instead I received a crummy pair of sunglasses. You’d think I would have learned, but no. I excitedly purchased some Keen sandals in great tie-dye colors. Instead, it was not Keen but something equivalent to “Keenly.” When the shoes arrived they were only in black, yet I have been wearing them. They actually are the correct size.

I hope that by now, I have learned not to be an impulsive shopper. I rely on the internet for shopping because it has become difficult to do in person. I must now use a walker/rollator that I find difficult to load and unload from the trunk of my car. It’s so much easier to let my fingers do the walking.

I am so mad at myself for being such a foolish consumer. Do you know the feeling from also having fallen for an online scam? Are you willing to share your victimhood story? I hope so. But from here on, never forget the warning: Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware!

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who needs to be more cautious in future online shopping.



How Many Pigeons Do You See?

This Is What I See In My Backyard.


This Is What My Neighbors See.

St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy.

I received an anonymous letter:

            May 24, 2021

            To: Neighbor at ………

            Re: Pigeons

            Over the past few months, we have noticed an increase in pigeons which are creating a nuisance in the community.

            As a bird lover, I’m sure you understand that pigeons are altering the ecosystem. Pigeons run counter to ecology and conservation. These birds are invasive and are having a negative impact on our community.

            Over the past month, we have begun cleaning homes that are near yours. In trying to resolve this issue, we have worked to identify where the pigeons are coming from. On numerous occasions, we have observed pigeons feeding in your back yard then flying to neighboring homes to nest.

             This weekend we removed approximately 25 pounds of pigeon feces from the top of one home that neighbors yours. The pigeons are nesting in the HVAC units and damaging stucco with their feces.

            In addition, the pigeon feces is (sic) causing health issues for those of us with breathing issues.

            We are respectfully asking you stop feeding the birds for a short period to eliminate the pigeons and look for other ways to feed small birds.

            Thank you in advance for your consideration and attention to this issue! We THANK YOU!!!

Now if this letter had not been sent anonymously, I would have responded directly, attending to each of the charges. I then considered posting this note on the Next Door Neighbor Website. However, after reading previous comments about bird poop, the audience takes the subject too seriously. And as the owner of my local Wild Birds Unlimited store reflected, “If you have water or trees, you will have birds.”

Generally, when I look in my backyard there are either no pigeons, or two to four. No way could those birds produce 25 lbs. of bird feces. And by the way, did my accusers weigh the bags? And why? And can they tell the difference between pigeon poop and dove poop?  

As for the pigeon feces causing health issues, I have severe asthma, but I certainly can’t pin it on the poor pathetic pigeons.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, fresh bird droppings have not been shown to present a health risk. They quote the CDC as saying that fresh bird droppings on surfaces such as sidewalks and windowsills have not been shown to present a health risk. Of course, they recommend that people avoid contact with any animal droppings but add that good hygiene such as washing hands and leaving shoes at the door, are adequate preventions if someone accidentally comes into contact with animal droppings.

Pigeons are not altering the ecosystem. They serve as food for peregrine falcons, hawks, foxes and martins. They also maintain and regulate insect species and weeds. Additionally, they play a part in seed dispersal by eating seeds and distributing them. Pigeons regulate insect populations as they are omnivores eating both plant and animal matter. And their poop is a great fertilizer.

So do I feel guilty as charged? Not enough to stop feeding them. And how can I discriminate against the pigeons and doves (sometimes called desert rats) and only feed the finches and quail? Besides, those pigeons and doves desperately try daily to access the finch feeders. They end up eating what the smaller birds spill on the ground.

I am sympathetic to neighbors having to remove bird droppings from the air conditioners or on their roofs. However, I do not feel culpable for this. I was advised that the city tried to get rid of the pigeons on the downtown plaza and somehow have gotten them to relocate in this general area. For that, I am not responsible.

I am willing to take responsibility for my actions and inactions. In this case, however, had the complaining neighbor been enough of a mensch to confront me directly, we could have had a meaningful discussion.

They say, ” J’Accuse?” I plead, “Not Guilty.”

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is also a bird lover. And although she prefers just feeding the quail, finches, and thrashers, she cannot discriminate against the doves and pigeons and other undesirables.


Gallery of Folklore & Popular Culture: flpcgallery.org



My yard has been certified as a Wildlife Habitat.

This is the sign that officially makes my yard a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wlldlife Federation. Photo by Mariah Chase.
© Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.

Since I first moved into my Las Cruces home in 2012, I have been birdwatching in the backyard. Although I would love to be a real birdwatcher and travel the world, or even closer, to observe our feathered companions, that is pretty hard to do when using a cane, as I must do. Birdwatching requires looking up with full attention. But looking up is hazardous for a klutz like me with natural tendencies to trip and fall. The only solution is to have a stationary bird center where I can observe from the stable environment of my dining room table.

What does it take to have one’s yard become a certified Wildlife Habitat? Naturally, food is one of the first requirements. I installed bird feeders right away. I ordered the usual supplies: bird seed; suet blocks; quail blocks; bark butter bits; worms. When the sales person at Wild Birds Unlimited asked whether I wanted live worms or dried worms, I made a quick decision, “Dead ones, please.” Why? Because if I ordered live ones, I would have to feed them celery every ten days and store them in the fridge. That became my line in the sand, and I opted out.

Another necessity is water. In addition to a solar-powered fountain that sits on the ground, I also have two other pans where they can drink. However, birds don’t follow my rules. Some bathe in the water rather than drink there. Others do both.

One must also provide a place where birds can shelter their young. I ordered two different kinds of bird houses and picked the perfect spot to place them. However, my backyard adviser, Liza Chase, warned me that if I used that chosen location there was too much sun and the hatchlings would cook in our desert sun. OOPS! The bird houses now sit in the shade of a tree.

So far, these are two different styles of bird houses. The upper photo shows a more standard bird house for finches, while the lower photo shows multiplex living quarters, also for finches that abound in the yard. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.
Gambel’s Quail resemble California Quail. This photo is a bit misleading because the yellow on its chest is actually more like a creamy white. Its black mask and orange cap indicate that this is a male.

My favorite visitors to the yard are the Gambel’s Quail. When I see their bobbing top-knots as they scurry around the yard, I automatically smile. They are my daily meditation as I get caught up in watching their dramas: taking dust baths in the holes dug for them by the bunnies; keeping track of their errant young – and there is always one straggler; one standing sentry at the top of the fence overlooking the brood and ready to sound an alarm if danger approaches. And they are the best parents. They tend to their young for a long time, guiding them even as late as their teenage years, yet nothing is as precious as seeing parents escorting a string of baby feather balls.

Did you know that Roadrunners are a part of the Cuckoo family? And that
seems so appropriate, too, because they are such silly looking birds. I love it when they visit my yard, although their presence frightens some of the smaller birds.

Roadrunners make me laugh. The yard mostly clears when they are around, although surprisingly, I’ve observed a bunny chasing one off. I can only surmise that baby bunnies must have been hiding nearby. While they are in the yard, they are usually on the hunt for lizards. When I first started learning about birds, I told Kristi Lane, the owner of my local Wild Birds Unlimited store, I wanted to feed them, too. That inclination was squashed when she said, “They’re carnivores, you know.” And they have a bad reputation for eating quail eggs.

Cooper’s Hawks are predators that visit
my yard. They are rather small for hawks, but that speckled chest is an easy identifier.

Birdwatching has its dark side, too. Sometimes a Cooper’s Hawk will chase a dove into one of my large dining room windows. The crash into the window creates a sickening “thud” that reverberates through the house. Then after the stunned bird falls to the ground, the hawk pounces; feathers fly, and the hawk devours its prey. That doesn’t sit well while I’m having my lunch.

You can learn a lot by watching the backyard action. Pecking order has real meaning. At the bottom of the pecking order are the mourning doves but the white winged doves have priority over them. And the quail have seniority over the doves.

Knowing how much delight I receive from bird watching, Liza came up with a great idea. she thought I would enjoy hearing them, too. She set up a baby monitoring system so that I can hear them when I am in my bedroom and in the dining room. After a short while, I have become quite adept at distinguishing between bird sounds. The only creepy part is at night when I hear unfamiliar sounds, and it’s too dark out there to identify the culprit.

Other regular visitors to my yard are grackles, who elicit the response, “The sky is falling,” because they commonly look skyward; finches of many varieties; curved bill thrashers; hummingbirds; pyrrhuloxia (a kind of cardinal); sparrows; and mockingbirds.

This plaque was a gift from my dear friends, Mariah Chase and Roxana Gillett. Roxana participated in the gift despite my having previously gifted her with twelve pink flamingos that did not thrill her. The flamingos have since migrated to my yard where they have multiplied over the years. The bunny (Cottontails) population in New Mexico has greatly diminished due to some pandemic that has been causing their deaths. Now instead of having three to five every day, I only have one.

During this pandemic, I have been enjoying ZOOM meetings of the Audubon Society. Recently, one presenter said, “Birdwatching keeps you sane.” I must agree with her. Each morning as I record how many infections and deaths have occurred in Doña Ana County in the last 24 hours, I then turn my head to watch the birds and surrender my worries.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist who has always loved birds. When living in Los Angeles, the Scrub Jays depended on her for daily doses of peanuts that they took from her hands. When they saw her car pull into the garage, they sat on the front steps hand railing and squawked at her to let her know they were hungry.


Visit my Gallery of Folklore & Popular Culture: flpcgallery.org

aging, cats, friendship, Uncategorized

Zoe and Sweetie Beattie: Friendship


Zoe, Sweetie Beattie’s BFF. Photo by Norine Dresser. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2020.












Sweetie Beattie chilling in a flower pot. Photo by Norine Dresser. © Norine Dresser Photo Collection, 2020.

Last Summer, an adorable young black cat showed up in my backyard. From her ID we learned her name was Zoe, and we alerted her nearby family who quickly rescued her.

For six months, Zoe visited our yard daily, to drink fresh water and to play with my house-bound cat, Sweetie Beattie. Zoe’s visits became the highlight of Sweetie Beattie’s day. They’d paw at each other, one on each side of the sliding glass door, and were adorable to watch. Sometimes, Zoe even brought gifts for Beattie.

This half-mouse is one of many treasures Zoe brought Sweetie Beattie. Photo by Norine Dresser. © Norine Dresser Photo Collection, 2020.

I found their relationship endearing. And I loved that Beattie had a friend. Then one day Zoe disappeared. Sweetie Beattie anxiously waited for her and every day after that. She acted depressed. I feared Zoe was a goner because we have many cat predators around here: hawks, owls, coyotes, cars.

After an absence of months, Zoe returned the other day. Sweetie Beattie was all excited once again, but this time Zoe ignored her. She was on to more satisfying activities like looking for prey. Then she left again. Will she ever come back?

The friendship between Zoe and Sweetie Beattie resembles  human friendships. Sometimes we spend a lot of time with a certain person, and then the friendship cools and we go our separate ways.

In November, 2019, I visited Los Angeles where I reunited with a group of friends for lunch.  Some were colleagues from CSULA; others were women I knew from an arthritis swimming class called, “Twinges in the Hinges.” The others were individuals I encountered in a wide variety of circumstances: a co-author; a former folklore student; a former guitar student, and a writer with whom our friendship evolved over, of all things, an L.A. Times obituary.


My wonderful friends from over the decades at Shiraz Persian Restaurant in Glendale, California, November 2019. Photo by Ann Bradley. © Norine Dresser Photo Collection, 2020.

Unfortunately, one of my oldest and closest friends, couldn’t make it because  she was in a hospital psychiatric lock-up. Recently, she had escaped from an Assisted Living facility where she was being treated for dementia. While wandering down a busy street, police officers tried to rescue her and she fought them off. Consequently, she was placed in a lock up. What a sad situation for this gifted woman who had such played a significant role in my life.

We met as neighbors when she was 14 and I was 12. She introduced me to horses and Asian art and music, and we had many fun-filled hours shared at school vacation times. As adults we remained lifelong friends and socialized with one another up until I left Los Angeles in 2012.

When I arrived in her small sterile-looking hospital room, she was asleep, so I awakened her.  Her voice was low-pitched and difficult to understand. Desperate to connect with her, I brought up old memories of good times we had shared. Then I remembered a song parody we had written together to serenade a friend who had been injured in an auto accident. About fifty years ago, she and I and our husbands, stood outside our wounded friend’s window singing as cars with curious drivers whizzed by.

I began singing this same song in her hospital room, and to my amazement, she joined in.

(To the tune of Simple Gifts)

Here’s to Jerry Hundal and here’s to his wife.

Here’s to Jerry Hundal and God who saved his life.

And if we find ourselves in a similar plight

Will you sing to us in the middle of the night?

When true mobility is gained.

To bow and to bend we will not be in pain.

To turn, to turn will be our delight.

Till by turning, turning we come out right.

Despite the dreariness of the setting, when her voice joined mine, I felt uplifted. We  re-lived a joyful moment and laughed together. Given our ages and that we are geographically apart, I may never see her again. And if I never do, I will carry this poignant memory of my cherished friend with me forever.










able/disabled, cats, disabilities, Dogs, health, loneliness, loss, pets, Uncategorized


The first thing I did when I got home from the hospital was to lie down and cuddle my girl. She seemed to enjoy it, too. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.


Many of you know that I have been incapacitated since mid-February. At first, the doc thought that my problems were respiratory– bronchitis and perhaps pneumonia, so he sent me to the ER.

My daughter met me there, and after I was finally admitted and assigned to a room, we noticed a couple walking two large therapy dogs down the hall. We invited them in. One animal was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and the other an Akita. It lifted my spirits just to have these animals near me. Nuzzling the furry ruff of the Akita and wrapping my arms around its neck brought me great pleasure. Of course, I know that when we pet an animal, our blood pressure goes down. Aside from the science, when embracing another living creature, it makes us realize that all’s right in the world, or more precisely, I was going to be all right. And eventually I was after surgery for unexpected two compression fractures of the spine and a one week stay in a rehabilitation facility.

Therapy dogs at Las Cruces Memorial Hospital. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.


Decades ago, I wrote a paper called “The Horse Bar Mitzvah,” that became a chapter in a veterinary medicine textbook.* I presented examples and analyses of the relationships between humans and animals in different settings: horse bar mitzvah; cat mitzvah; dog wedding; festivals honoring the human/animal bond, for example, Blessings of the Animals. In addition, I researched the role of service animals: therapy horses, war dogs, rescue dog, therapy dogs.

Since publication (2000), dogs have increasingly played a vital role in our culture, e.g., at airports, sniffing out the taboo garlic and sausages, as well as drugs. And since 9/11, new roles have developed especially at airports, with the focus on explosives and terrorism.

Human/animal relationships keep evolving. Comfort dogs is a new title given to animals that  show up at scenes of disasters. I was moved seeing televised dogs disembarking from a van within 48 hours at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida. Who could not be cheered by seeing these eager animals there to be stroked and embraced by traumatized children and staff?


Doesn’t your heart melt at the sight of these comfort dogs brought to the school by a Lutheran Church Charity helping to dispatch K9 Comfort Boots and Paws on the ground?


New duties for dogs progress. Yale University has developed a program utilizing rescue dogs in New York low-income public schools. The dogs become reading buddies and foster social development. At my local university (NMSU), dogs are brought in at exam time to lower the distress students feel during this time of high anxiety. Courthouse Dogs allow specially trained service dogs to accompany children during testimony in a courtroom.

Since my return home from the hospitals, my cat, Sweetie Beattie, is never more than inches away from me. At first, I employed a caregiver to help me with pain issues during the night. Whenever, she came into the bedroom to take care of me, Sweetie Beattie lay at the foot of my bed skeptically eyeing all the caregiver’s movements. Or else she sat on the dresser warily watching the activities. During that time, I called her the Night Nurse for she acted as if she were supervising – definitely looking out for my interest.

The Night Nurse, aka, Sweetie Beattie supervising my activities. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.

As aloof as she may ordinarily be, Sweetie seems to sense that I need more of her attention now. Even as I am here at the keyboard, she is on top of my desk backed up against my computer, and with my extended pinky I can stroke the fur on her back. Can that compete with steroids and antibiotics? No, but she is a fantastic supplement.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is mad about her Sweetie Beattie.


*Companion Animals and Us:Exploring the Relationships Between People and Pets. Eds: Podberscek and Serpell. Cambridge University Press, UK., 2000.

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