First it was the herds of deer in the yard.  Then the ground hogs on the porch. And then, oh boy, the bear at the bird feeder. Lately, it seems, nature has been encroaching more and more on our weekend home in Pennsylvania.

Sometimes it can be breathtaking. Like this Easter, when a bald eagle landed in one our trees. The only way to describe that moment was jaw-dropping fabulous.

But other times it can be jaw dropping in the wrong way. Like when I discovered that a red squirrel had taken up residence in our little guest cottage this past winter and left about two hundred walnut shells under the couch, along with a big fat mess.

When all this creature craziness began, my husband and I were puzzled. We’d lived in the house for years and the wildlife had pretty much kept their distance. Why were they now making their presence so known?

Finally it sunk in. The intrusions had begun about a year after our West Highland terrier, Skyler (right), died. It became clear to us that feisty Skyler had been keeping nature at bay for well over a decade—growling, yapping, barking, patrolling, chasing, and showing everyone who was boss. We chuckled thinking how it must have annoyed him to realize that we didn’t understand the full extent of the job he was doing. “Those two,” he must have thought. “They have no idea how hard I work.”

That realization about Skyler was a good lesson for me. It made me consider how important it is to sometimes step back and think about the role that a person, activity or even a place plays in our lives. It’s helpful to ask: “How much do I rely on that? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? If good, do I show my appreciation? What would happen if it changed?” With all the animal activity this spring, I’ve been vividly reminded of Skyler and the importance of those questions.

Speaking of spring, I hope yours has been lovely so far. I’ve been busy doing appearances for my new psychological thriller, The Secrets You Keep. If you haven’t had a chance to read yet, I’d love for you to take a look. Suspense Magazine called it “the perfect meal of psychological thrills.”

And I’ve also been reading the copyedited pages of the seventh Bailey Weggins mystery, Even If It Kills Her, due out on October 31. It was enormously satisfying for me to get back to writing about Bailey again, and I just signed a contract to do two more. If you want to read the first chapter of Even If It Kills Her, you’ll find it in the ebook version of Secrets.

Enjoy the rest of your spring and if you have any red squirrels, please don’t send them my way!!