Monday, February 28, 2011

Street Dog Class In Session

I didn’t enjoy the dynamics of Stormy, Blondie and Owl as much as I did Stormy, Blondie and Bonita. The biggest difference is once Blondie accepted that Bonita’s presence didn’t mean less for Blondie, she wasn’t still posturing and threatening. Stormy bites and bullies Owl regularly. The male breeding imperative or as a human male I know once put it, “Be afraid; be very afraid.”

Blondie and Stormy taught Bonita each day; it was fun to see. Blondie teaches Owl. I see them hunting on the side of the hill. He does very well with the gimpy rear leg even when they wrestle and chase around the house. Stormy comes up to stop the fun. Blondie always sides with Storm turning on Owl.

Blondie has taught Owl the art of rat hunting. He has that sporting dog eagerness for the hunt. That group has far more virtues than I realized. You can see him thinking as he chases his prey. Some dogs just seem to make a mad dash. The dogs hunt and kill rats, whether they eat them or not. The dogs brought us a couple this week.

The trio acts like a pack at the doggy meet and greets. They seem to back each other up. Owl and Blondie back Stormy. Both boys bolster Blondie’s status. Owl just stays behind the two; he’s just there to learn. I have a feeling, if he were to make a mistake pissing off a dog at the get together; he might be on his own. That could change.

Watching the neighborhood meet and greets makes me think; all that is left of this ritual for pet dogs is the information they leave in scent marks. Wow, I always thought that the scent marking WAS the deal. I realize now that it’s more like an outdoor assembly hall, where messages are left.

Next breeding season Owl will migrate to where the bitches’ pungent odor calls. In the last five years, I’ve seen a fair number of dogs float past.

It’s taken that long for me to see loving dogs as the archetypal predator. Even the abandoned pets like Owl learn to survive, when they hook up with the savvier satos.

Seeing how the feral dogs survive, I have new respect for our fox and coyotes back in Illinois.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Bird Day

The neighbor boy found this baby in his dad's pick up. Open mouth barely able to hold his head up; we dripped water into his mouth every few minutes. Later he drank from my finger nail. A few hours later he flew off. Anybody have any idea what kind of bird this is?

Just the week before I got this adult building a nest, what pretty birds.
A little off the subject, but I hope you enjoy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Anthropomorphic Fantasy

Have you ever said to anyone, “If I were to come back as a dog, I want to come back as your dog”? Or maybe someone has said that to you.

So you’re coming back as a dog, three spots are available. You get to choose.

Spot #1 is for a pure breed dog in the home of a rich lady. She is very nice; you’ll get regular meals and veterinary care. She needs a loving companion in her life, but she works long hours six days a week. Those days you’ll be put on the six by ten porch for an hour, then led by the collar back to the garage, where you’ll wait until after dark for her to come home. Depending on how her day went, she’ll talk to you as she leads back to the porch. On Sundays you may get some of her time.

Spot #2 is for a beautiful toy dog. The family is of modest means; you’ll eat generic kibble. The little boy will like to grab your muzzle to get you to show your teeth and snap at his hand. You must never bite hard or you’ll be smacked.

The lady of the house is in a wheel chair, when she’s depressed she likes to hold a dog on her lap petting while she moans in sadness. You will want to love her and be there for her. She has a dozen other dogs, so when it isn’t your turn you’ll be kept on a two foot chain with access to water and shade. Once a day, the husband will hose down your area. Each dog is on a similar two foot chain so you can only get to within inches of each other.

The only time you’ll be off your chain is if you are on her lap or if they take you in your crate on a family outing. The family can’t afford veterinary care, so don’t get sick; they will do what they can for you.

Spot #3 is for a street dog. The litter will be birthed in a banana orchard; half will die before being weaned. You will learn the dangers of the road, when you see the last of your siblings run over by a car. You will learn to hate cars. Geckoes and lizards become your first prey. Your mom will teach you to become a competent ratter. You’ll find a spot in front a fine house. At night you’ll bark warning when strangers approach. Any rat venturing close the house is dinner. The lady of the house provides tasty scraps. You’ll watch out for her family as your own, dedicated and loyal.

Days will be spent hanging around with other dogs or human friends. Sometimes you’ll go off in the woods exploring all day. You’re on your own, when sick or injured.

So which life would you pick, if you were coming back as a dog?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Matter of Trust

When we arrive home in Puerto Rico, good times roll for the neighborhood street dogs. We feed twice a day, snacks are given often. A bowl of fresh, clean water is available all day. We pet. We clean and treat wounds.

Dogs at our kennel in Illinois may not see us for a year, but they’re happy when they come back because we’re good to them. I guess I expected it to be that way, when we come back to the dogs here.

Blondie was happy to see us. She moved back up the hill the night we got home. She goes to visit the neighbors, but she stays with us.

Stormy may or may not come up for a meal; he doesn’t live here anymore. He lives in the street in front of Mike’s house. As long as Mike’s family is home; Stormy does sentry duty. When they leave, he will come by for a visit. After the family settles in for the night, he’ll sleep on our cushion.

Stormy did give up this spot to Owl, but some meals Stormy won’t let Owl near any food dish. He asserts his superiority, Owl backs down. Storm has what he wants, unchallenged by Owl.

Blondie plays with Owl. The old dog seldom plays, but Blondie and Stormy still go off on adventures together. At this point, if push came to shove with the boys, I think she’d back Stormy. Except for occasional feeding time power plays, all behave properly in our presence.

I don’t think that Stormy stays away because of Owl. He is fiercely loyal to those who are here with him. It has nothing to do with the quality of care they give him. This family has dogs; he is not one of them.

I’ve had this little dog’s love like that and lost it. Having a relationship with this dog isn’t about reinforcers or slick training gimmicks. It’s a matter of earning his trust.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Dogs Are A Gift

 Nobody seems to honor that the feral dogs are part of the ecology on the isle of Puerto Rico. Pick up and euthanize them, tell us it’s in the dog's best interest to be dead.

We have here a historic relationship between man and dog, fighting a common enemy.

People aren’t aware of the valuable services these dogs provide. Perhaps, if school children were taught what the satos do for us; they would be more cautious drivers later.

For years I’ve watched the satos turn down edible stuff. Dog people would authoritatively say things like, “ He doesn’t know it as food.” Let me get this straight, a starving omnivore doesn’t know food. Okay, how about we try, they’re going out for fresh later and don’t want your crappy food.

Like any wise consumer, Stormy avoids highly processed foods. The less self sufficient satos scour the roadside for discarded human trash. Owl has a taste for geckos.

Rat hunting goes on at night; you don’t see it. The acoustics of this region allows you to hear well. The hunters don’t have the distinctive bay of hounds hunting in the mountains at night, but what sounded at first like squabbles in the night, now makes sense as some dogs after a pair of rats.

Lucky Puerto Rico has a friend to combat the invasion of rats. A recent Yahoo news article told of the Galapagos spending one million dollars for phase one of a program to get rid of rats destroying the environment.

So Puerto Rico what’s it going to be; care for your satos or a few million dollars? Please, don’t tell me you’d think about illegal poison! I just read about the neighborhood that lost so many loved family pets to a person, who just poisoned some rats.

Puerto Rico will have better policies for handling the dogs when she sees her satos as a special gift, maybe then we'll have an animal control plan suitable for the island.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Natural Life

The romantic school girl fell in love with the island beauty, a place to be in harmony with nature. Clever canines popped into her life. Were they the carriers of the ancient wisdom of her Indian ancestors?

She had learned a lot from and about dogs in her lifetime. For some people the attraction to an animal is so strong, it must be spiritual or you’re just bleeping nuts. Some days it is difficult to tell.

Watching nature at work teaches us about the simple rhythms of nature that we live with, but don’t think about when they work. For example, when a rodent population becomes large, predators move in for a feast.

Coyotes will sing, when they hit the treasure of a rodent colony. The wildness of their yips is scary and exciting. It engages the wild in us, so we don’t invite the coyote in for a cup of kibble.

The island dogs, our satos, hang around all day. They are thin. Many pets get thrown out. They don’t do well unless they hook up with experienced satos. What people do with their pets is another sad tale. Life for the island predators is no more difficult than that of their continental counter parts.

Dogs are energetically and spiritually connected to us. It is important to take care of them, but we must know them for the animal they are. It is apparent that the pets they have become do not have the proper respect of all.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Working Street Dog's Day

Another day in the life of a working street dog begins when commuters head to jobs. Stormy positions himself to bark, chase or dramatically snap at the cars which he designates as dangerous. When any of the neighbors (human type) are out, Stormy is on duty.

As the sun rises over the ridge, the neighbors rustle around their properties. Stormy checks in on each one before returning to our house for breakfast. My one consistent training is to squeak to let the dogs know when food is served. With a second squeak Stormy hits second gear up the drive.

Again Stormy lets Owl have breakfast first, takes his second. Blondie must like eat on the side of the veranda that faces the lake. No sooner than the third bowl is set down, Storm is chasing Owl away from his bowl. When I set Storm’s bowl down, he just looked at it like, “Crappy kibble again!” He picked up one piece stepped away from the bowl and chewed as if it were painful. At first glance, I wondered if his mouth was sore.

Blondie is really maturing; she chose to stay with her food instead getting involved. As I race around the house to separate the boys, I am so proud of her.

Stormy has Owl pinned. When I step into Stormy’s personal space, he looks at me. I give him a hard look, he dismounts Owl. I say nothing, but point to his bowl. Stormy trots back to it. A couple of low grumbles over kibble tell me this isn’t over yet. As soon as I walk away, Storm is back over there, making his point. This time I give him my, “I’m really mad look.” It works!

Peace is restored before Blondie finishes her breakfast. To my delight she comes over for a pet rather than compete for resources.

Blondie and Owl mouth dual on the grass, while Stormy head back to his sentry post in the road.

It is so common to hear Border Collie people say that this dog needs a job, but Stormy is the first Border Collie of my acquaintance to assign one for himself. He’s slowed down over the years, but dedicated as ever.

About five years ago I came here to recover after surgery. I could hardly move. Watching him chase cars in the road in the rain would break my heart, but I admired his dedication. Sometimes I thought it was out of control herding behavior, but through the lens of time I see a Border Collie doing his job. How do I tell him about social security and his pension?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Some Dogs Do Lie

There’s not much smarter than a six year old Border Collie street dog. Stormy does some amazing things, but subterfuge is not something you see a dog do very often.

Stormy spends most of his day down in the street. Owl and Blondie are playing mouth duels on my grass. Storm stools up the driveway to see these locking canines. The guy turns on a dime heads back down to the bottom of the driveway where he is facing the garage.

This little son of a gun starts barking, facing the garage. It’s an alert bark. Blondie flies down the driveway looking for action. She runs up the road. I’d love to know what she was looking for, and then she heads down the road all ready for something. When she get back to Storm, I want to say she had a quizzical look on her face, but I won’t.

Blondie and Stormy stand there nose to nose for a minute, then head up the hill together. Blondie didn’t seem to mind that she’d been had.

The direction Storm faced seemed to have nothing to do with the message. She looked for something in the road. She took off like a bat outta hell. Owl responded to the call, but only went halfway down the hill. Stormy is still working on getting rid of Owl, so he can’t be too careful.

Owl is starting to use his leg more. I’ve been doing some passive range of motion exercises with him. The hock injury was new; the hip injury wasn’t as fresh. He may have been hit by a car.

At dinner time Owl is now the first to eat. Stormy takes the second bowl and Blondie walks all the way around the veranda to have her dinner overlooking the lake.

I wish some of the behaviorists on my list could see these guys in action. What I’m wishing everyone to see is the depth of dog language and relationships.