Animal Tales of Southern Gables

Animal Tales of Southern Gables

We introduced Justina Walls and her husband Glenn McCarthy a few weeks ago in our “Meet Your Neighbor” series,1 and noted that they are inveterate walkers, rain or shine. With so much time spent outside in Southern Gables, greeting and talking with neighbors, it’s not surprising that they’ve had lots of interactions with the inhabitants who speak in Woof, Meow, Hoot, and other exotic languages. Justina tells us about some of the couple’s encounters.

Glenn and I have had many animal adventures on our walks and met more neighbors through many of them. We found a black Scottie and returned it to its home numerous times. We bought a dog leash as a result, as that Scottie was heavy to carry back to its home and was a wiggly fellow!

Once when walking alone, two very large, friendly, energetic black dogs crossed my path at various parts of my walk. On my return home, they appeared again, seemingly from nowhere! They were reluctant to be coaxed into following me into the garage where I was able to “capture” them and call the telephone number on their tags. It was a Vet’s office but there was no answer. Then I called Lakewood Animal Control who happened to be searching for them. Through a series of efforts, they were happily reunited with their people. All this occurred in the garage as they were so large and strong, if the door to the yard or the house had been opened, they would have charged past me.

I had a recurring instance where a couple sat on the front porch with an older black dog who ran at me, growling and baring his teeth threateningly while the people shouted “he won’t bite” but did nothing. Thankfully, shielding myself behind a parked car helped me stay safe until he lost interest! That’s been the only scary animal adventure, thankfully. And yes, I started looking up the street a bit to see if the people and their dog were on the porch before turning into that street. There’s always another street to walk!

We’re both “dog moochers” as we pet the friendly dogs when both the dogs and their people let us know that it’s ok. Going home to our own kitties with dog smells on us was not a popular thing in all the years that we had kitties.

Glenn counts the rabbits in the seasons where we see them. For those who may not realize, they proliferated when the coyotes moved in, chasing out the red foxes. Red foxes can pivot quickly and easily, thus catching rabbits. Coyotes can’t do that unless the rabbit is old, injured, or too young to know better. Our wildlife guy explained that these things (like the weather) are cyclical.

We also watch for various birds and enjoy seeing the “regulars” as well as periodic unusual birds in our neighborhood. We enjoy the annual duck couple that comes to our street and sometimes our yard. We were surprised one dusky evening when a large owl swooped by. It was so close that the air flow from its wings tousled my hair, yet it was eerily silent. If geese or ducks are in the street, we shoo them out of the way. When driving, we stop and do the same thing to protect them. Other motorists often shout “thanks!” and give us thumbs up at those times. It’s wonderful to see that so many people care about the wildlife!

Photo by Glenn McCarthy

Our backyard has provided us with many years of wildlife adventures. When we first moved in, every evening we had red foxes, raccoons, and a periodic skunk mama with her babies.

Photo by Glenn

They all brought their babies in the evening, and in the daytime, the red foxes and kits would loll about in the back yard. We would watch them for hours. Of course, we have squirrels and many birds. Glenn now records and counts birds for a couple of different bird groups. We see more additional types of birds in recent years than we did originally.

Photo by Glenn

Perhaps the most unusual adventure was one very hot summer day when we noticed an elk in our neighbor’s back yard! He was standing under a shade tree, enjoying the breezes. After calls to our neighbor and several animal agencies, we learned that the elk had blocked morning traffic at Garrison/Estes and Morrison Road. They assured us that he’d find his way back out, and to not try to “herd” him or pet him. While we are both “city kids” we are not “dumb city kids” (at least not that dumb!) and laughed at the very idea of herding an elk! We enjoyed him from the window and the back deck. And yes, by that night, he had found his way out and we hope he returned to his habitat safely.

We hope that everyone enjoys this wonderful area and slows down enough to see and appreciate nature all around us. We are so fortunate to live in an enchanting area of the world!

Justina Walls holds a BS in Criminal Justice from The University of Texas at Arlington and a JD from The University of Denver. Her early career was in Criminal Justice and she later moved to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where she held various positions in Equal Opportunity, Native American Programs and Single and Multifamily Housing including management. She has held a license as a Spiritual Practitioner since 1994 and Certificates in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell University and Forks Over Knives Plant Based Cooking from The Rouxbe School of Cooking. She has taught healthy plant-based cooking and nutrition for over 30 years. She lives and travels with her husband Glenn McCarthy.


Doing Good

Doing Good

Many of us have been stuck at home for too long, and might be thinking about safely going out. Meeting old friends and new people is a pretty attractive idea right now, isn’t it? And what if venturing back out into the world came with extra benefits, like making you feel really good about yourself and the world?

Doing good is good for you. We know about the healthy physical and mental benefits of volunteering for worthwhile causes, but inertia might be holding us back. We’ve written before about the benefits of volunteering, and in this time of restricted social contact those benefits seem even more valuable.

In this issue we feature a local organization that can always use good-hearted help. Local, yes. Really local! They’re actually in our Southern Gables neighborhood. They have been carrying on their work throughout the pandemic while maintaining safe practices (masks, handwashing, gloves, social distancing) in the workplace.

Joy’s Kitchen provides food to anyone who wants it. The work is done by volunteers, with masks and social distancing. Tasks include collecting surplus food at donating locations; sorting and classifying food items; and passing out boxes of food to anyone who drives up during the distribution hours.

To find out about volunteering, or even about getting food for yourself or to take to friends or family, go to You will be helping neighbors, and just as importantly in the mission of Joy’s Kitchen, preventing waste of surplus food.

Rescue Food — Feed People

To understand the importance of this slogan, you first have to appreciate the concept of “rescuing” food. The amount of food that goes to waste in our economy, when so many people are lacking, is astonishing. It causes harm to the environment as it decays in landfills. It represents misdirected resources that are grown and made for health and comfort but go wasted, missing that purpose and serving no one. Saving it from waste is a serious mission. Joy’s Kitchen serves 4000 families a month with hundreds of thousands of pounds of recovered food. A day’s work can move anywhere between 6000 and 17,000 pounds of food, rescuing it from waste and feeding people.

Every bit of that food helps the earth, and helps families maintain healthy diets while allowing that portion of their budgeted resources to be used for other needs.

The food distribution center is in our neighborhood at the Westwoods Community Church, 7700 W. Woodard Drive. There are no requirements to get food. You don’t have to be “in need” of food. (Does this seem strange? Here’s why it’s that way.)

Volunteer shifts are scheduled for just a few hours each, starting at various times beginning at 10:00 in the morning.

Food distribution hours are 1:00 to 3:00 PM on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.* People can come in and “shop” for produce, meats, dairy and dry goods at no cost.

To find out about volunteering, go to Do good.

Photos: Food surplus graphic and food photos are from Joy’s Kitchen.

*  Edited on 7/5/21 for changed days, hours, and method of food distribution.