Monday, July 27, 2015

Street Dogs in the Night

At one in the morning, without warning, all hell broke loose; the neighbor’s dogs barking sounded scared. The Sato Hill Gang awoke from a snooze on the porch, galloped down the drive to investigate. The two terriers from up the hill joined the uproar with their fiercest, we’ll rip your ankle off bark and growl combos.
Before I could get out of bed, dogs were circling my house.  The yip of one in pain sounded close; it was here, by my house. Was someone kicking a dog? Puerto Rico is a poor island, so once in a while men walk the roads at night in search of opportunity.
The pained yips came from my carport. Good heavens, my car, I looked around for a weapon; not seeing one in my currently stressed out state, I prayed turning the lights on would frighten away any mal-traitor.   
Barking continued in all out panic at my neighbor’s, but only Blondie barked on my porch. My boys weren’t barking. Lucky and Robert Redford, two year old adult males defend the house bravely, so I calmed somewhat and opened the front door.

Dominic, the baby border collie jumped on my leg wanting re-assurance or, better yet, to go in the house. Robert Redford sat near the open door; Lucky followed him into a sit. I opened the door; they quickly filed in.
Blondie barks from the carport sounded halfhearted, but clearly, she had something cornered under my car. I knew it had to be a female dog, a bitch. If it were a rat, I’d have to pry all the dogs away.
Not wanting my face too near whatever hid, I walked to the bottom of the ramp. From there I could see the outline of a fat, short coated, brown dog with little prick ears crouched by a front tire.
Blondie stood between the car and the kitchen door, her now occasional barks were followed by a whine, which told me she was losing motivation. Goody, I called Blondie in the house. She’s not a girl to give up her power; she looked long over her shoulder toward the car before heading through the open door.
Alone under the stars, I waited for chubby brown dog to stir. The light by the kitchen door allowed me to see her every move; the sweet face followed me, but she wouldn’t come out.
Lit by the Milky Way, my valley is a tropical paradise, so I walked around the yard, stared at the lake before peering in at the huddled creature under my car. Would she be here by morning?
The dogs already in their sleeping spots, only lifted heads, when I came in to go to bed. The neighbor’s dogs continued to bar another half hour.   


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Different Life Styles With Dogs

Hi Terry,
The Blue Cross in India running S/N & vax programs; is this the same as Blue Cross/ Blue Shield? I want to get more info on any possible funding source.
I love your description of the dogs co-existing rather than belonging to humans. The energy dynamic is different. When I first arrived in Puerto Rico, the independence of dogs living outside the gates amazed me. I had never seen dogs self-determine their lives before.
I have noticed that the dogs in the more agrarian areas are healthier than the beach dogs of more densely populated parts of PR. To me, lean, injured and mangy seems to correlate with overpopulation.
Beach dogs with lepto from eating rats, I’ve seen, but not where I live in the country. My colony goes ratting most mornings. They prefer fresh meat to kibble. A rat’s last defense is to urinate in the dog’s mouth before the dog delivers the death bite. Some inexperienced hunters release the rat early, when they shake their heads to expel the urine.
What you said about the koori people having little consideration for their dogs reminded me of the groups of young men 18-20 year olds strolling the roads in Cuba with a number of male dogs.  The dogs were completely ignored by the boys, but the dogs were hanging with them. It intrigued me enough that I followed them for some distance. When the boys would stop to visit with other people, the dogs would go sniff something or lie under a tree. Why did the dogs stay with the boys, when they paid no attention to them, no re-inforcement that I could see; I hope to return to solve this mystery.
Colonizing dogs already at a site means that the dogs are neutered, vaccinated, vet checked, and monitored during daily care visits. There is no way to confine this many dogs.
If I picture life on PR a hundred years ago, I envision the dog situation to be similar; don’t you

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What Dog Traits Benefit the Group

The Puerto Rican island dogs forage alone, and sometimes in packs. The sound of dogs rushing through the brush with rats leaping for their lives in front of mostly mixed breed, Satos, some with serious grimaces, others clearly enjoying the chase with play face, quickens the pulse.
A hound mix, I called Owl, shared my porch for a time. He hunted lizards the way I shop for chocolate. (Yeah, yeah!) To quote an old Cab Calloway song, everybody eats when they come to my house. Kibble is served twice daily. Owl still shopped lizards with enough zeal that the other satos tried little lizards; a couple tossed their heads and spit it out, but others picked up the habit.
I watched a yearling German Shepard bitch teach six month old pups, Lucy and Robert Redford, to roll coconuts down my driveway, so the coconuts would crack open when they hit the side of my neighbor’s garage; but Blondie taught them to hunt rats, the supreme delicacy.  
In general, dogs’ behavior varies with the availability of resources. Hungry dogs are volatile around food, but well fed colonies can be social as dogs in doggie day care, which I ran for a dozen years.  
After years of reading your thoughts in the dark; why am I posting?
My experiences are written in my blog, as they happened. I’m writing this to encourage you with the multiple degrees to come, visit my island before the dog catchers round up the alphas, the docile, the elders.
Could you picture a holiday hanging on the beach watching a colony of free ranging dogs rummage in the brush?
You may be interested in advising me as I develop the protocols for maintaining dog colonies.
Dog problem: 100,000 to 300,000 free roaming dogs on island size of Connecticut.
Current solution:
Round up to euthanize every free running dog you see until a numerical limit of what the municipality will pay is hit.
Rescuers pic up every dog they can fit in their bac yard. Some are adopted or shipped to the states.

Colony keepers Program:
 If trap, neuter, and return programs are to develop public support, a follow up control, support system should be in place.
As part of the protocols, I want to identify the dogs that are more valuable to the colony, so they will escape culls.
If people come to observe these fascinating animals, the government of this broke ass little island will co-operate in handling the dogs in a more humane way.
Watching a bunch of males (dogs) poking around on a walk is my idea of fun. My travel goals include other places to watch dogs. Moscow to ride the trains with the dogs tops my bucket list; I’m guessing I’m not alone.
Can you envision behaviorists visiting colony keepers to enjoy dogs behaving old school except for the hunger and rampant reproduction. Picture January on a tropical island, hmm; that’s how I got here. Is this a crazy goal?
The protocol should identify traits of benefit to the colony. Any suggestions? Questions? I hope I’ve explained it adequately. Thanks!
Oh, and Terry I’ve read a number of studies you’ve supplied links for; thanks!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Pack Behavior Concept is a Lost Leader

Hi, somebody in group asked, so here's a share!
I was looking to this conversation more for answers, than to tell you guys all about my observations.
After almost thirty years as a professional trainer, meaning that’s how I earned my living, we decided to retire to Puerto Rico, where my education began started over.  
In 2005, the first Sato, Puerto Rican slang for mixed breed, usually dog of the street, perro de calle, I came to know we called Stormy, a border collie terrier mix. He appeared at the bottom of our driveway; the way many would follow.
The best thing that happened was that I had just had surgery and could barely move. Forced to sit on the porch, I watched him chase cars with the vengeance of a zealot. I couldn’t rush down there to save him. He handled life on his own; something no dog in my domain has ever had the opportunity to do.
Based on your comments in group, I’ll briefly, nah, not so much, hit the highlights of the observed since meeting the wonderful Stormy.
He lived in a specific “spot,” which included my house and two others on the opposite side of a narrow country road. He defended all three houses from anything that didn’t belong: cars, people, other critters of the island: dogs, cats, mongoose, and he was a marvelous ratter.
At night a pair of big feral male dogs that lived off the road in a field with streams would come to inspect Stormy’s spot.  They sniffed and pissed, while Stormy laid with his head to the railing, so they passed his rear, as they nosed around on my porch. They toured his spot like the big bullies they were.
Stormy didn’t budge while they peed on his water dish, my car, and the entrance posts of the porch. You can say I’m anthropomorphizing, but I could feel Stormy seething. He couldn’t confront these dogs and he knew it, hence the I’m going to ignore you posture. This inspection and claiming of superiority/territory repeated.
I began to notice that night barking was different, than back home in Illinois, where it seems to be mostly about intruder alert. It starts with a chorus from all over the valley, gradually, voices drop out; until it would be only Stormy and two or three of the older dogs of the valley.
Listening to these older dogs in the dark, I could hear that there was a pattern in their barks. To give you an example, one dog would bark, woof, woof, ruff. The second dog would bark the same thing back.
It’s funny because Puerto Ricans repeat my Spanish just to make sure they heard what I intended. (My Spanish sucks.) I bring this up because that’s what this repeat barking came to sound like to me.
Stormy had a bark I recognized as, I’ll be right there because when he barked it, he left with what seemed to me like purpose and intent. No bribing him changed his mind, but he did give me a dirty look. Ha-hah!
From the first nose to tail I ever witnessed, I knew it to be some sort of  important dog language communication. A mile and a half or more away Stormy stood on the side of the road parallel to an Airedale mix male who was just settling into the neighborhood. Ears neither forward or back, just draped to the sides, they stood there, facing opposite directions, looking like they were in a trance, but I believe it to be intense focus on each other.
I pulled to the side of the road to watch, and then, of course, I had to call Stormy. His ears momentarily twitched in my direction. The dog freakin’ told me to butt out, so I drove off to watch in my rear view mirror. It was years before this big strong male following a female interloped on Stormy’s spot.
Damn, this is awfully long, sorry. The deal with so called pack behavior concept is that it’s a lost leader, going now where. These aren’t families like the wild dogs in Africa. They are strangers thrust together to compete for limited resources. They form alliances, make enemies, but always they work for themselves.
I saw a blind mother lead around by her son fiercely keep other males away while he bred at bitch for days. Breeding behavior is always interesting, but that I’d never seen before. Mother and son were completely devoted. The bitch he was breeding snapped at momma; he dismounted and just chewed the shit out of her. Not too much later, he bred her again.

I haven’t thought about this stuff in years; thanks for asking.