Monday, April 06, 2015

Your Cool Dog

N.B. Service dogs and working farm dogs are exempt from indictment.

     Let's talk about your cool dog-- or maybe your kid's cool dog, which basically means you are responsible for the well-being of the dog anyway regardless of whatever you told the kid-- and what your cool dog is doing around the neighborhood.

     Your first mistake was giving in to your whining kid who begged you for a dog and swore up and down that he or she would take total care of the dog. In abnegation of your responsibility as a parent, the cool dog quickly found itself living a life banished from human companionship. Maybe you tied it to a rope or chain in the backyard, with or without a dog house or shelter from the weather. Maybe you confined it to a fenced-in kennel instead. Or maybe you allow the dog inside the house but you dump it down the cellar whenever having an untrained dog is too inconvenient for you. Yeah, if you don't really know how to take care of a dog, you should have gotten the brat an ant colony or a bowl with a singular goldfish in it instead.

     If this sounds like you at all, your second mistake is in not finding a better home for your dog. It may be a good experience for your kid to scream a bit while you send the dog to someone who knows what to do for it. Your kid really is too big to throw that sort of temper tantrum. And your household environment will not get anymore peaceful once the brat reaches adolescence.

     Or maybe you believe that dogs should "run free" outside along with your cats. So every morning, you let the beast outside. And she comes back to you preggers again. Maybe that's why you named her "Sooner." Because sooner or later, she will turn up pregnant. More puppies for the gas chamber.

     Or maybe the dog is an intact male. In which case a ton of newborn puppies in the neighborhood all resemble him in some fundamental way. 

     Or maybe your dog is part of a pack of dogs in your town. Take the ranging distance from home of each individual dog [say a beagle might be willing to roam ten miles, the husky mix fifteen, the collie two...] and multiply them all together. Suddenly your dog and his or her best dog buddies get to be a nuisance farther and farther away from home.

     Your dog pees and poops wherever it wants to. Both a dog's pee and a dog's poop are highly acidic. They make burn spots and neither one act as fertilizer in the neighborhood gardens. Your dog may also roam around the school yard and park. Anyone who is not staring at the grass when they walk around public spaces risks tracking your dog's manure around. Oh, you can't be bothered to actually provide some companionship to your dog by taking it for walks [little Johnnie and Janie promised they would do that]. You won't pay for basic obedience lessons, even if you could be bothered to take the dog and the children with you once a week. 

I took the picture. I'm pretty sure you don't want to save the picture. But go ahead and save it to your computer if you must. Yeah, you can modify it or add words to it or whatever you want to. Credit and link back are both unnecessary. Copyright trolls are also unnecessary. So if you are one of those, you aren't welcome here. At all. Ever. Period.

     Your dog is "happy" being a natural, intact dog who roams around freely outdoors and therefore doesn't need you to exercise it. Your dog hates the leash and it's "wrong" to require your dog [or your kids for that matter] to do anything that it [or they the kids] don't want to do. You pet your dog a couple times a day and provide it bones and table scraps. What more could your dog want?

     Your dog wants to understand your expectations. That means training so you have a common "language" to communicate with. Your dog wants to exercise with you. Your dog wants to know what your rules and boundaries are. Your dog wants a job. Most dogs want some sort of job, even if it's to "keep the squirrels away from the bird feeders." Your dog wants to go places with you. Your dog wants regular meals at set hours. Your dog deserves proper dog food, fresh water, exercise, trips to the vet for vaccinations etc, freedom from the worms that will be picked up via raiding garbage cans or sniffing the poop of its infected dog friends, and freedom from becoming roadkill because you could not be bothered to do what is right for your dog.

     If someone steals your dog-- thinking perhaps it is a stray-- maybe your dog will wind up in better circumstances. Maybe not but we can hope. And as Junior screams his head off past midnight, please don't promise to get him another dog.

     Your dog really could have a cool dog. You could have investigated dogs in general and how to give a dog the best home possible. You could have taught little miss Brattikins how to take care of a dog. Your dog could have enjoyed being an excellent citizen. But instead your dog ran off or was stolen, got killed off in the woods or smashed by a car, caught worms or rabies or who knows what, was found dead in your yard tied to his dog house. If you don't really like dogs, then don't get a dog. Tell your kid that he or she can get their own dog when they are out of the house. Because at least then, you have successfully said "no" to your kid once.

sapphoq n friends say: On the other hand, you may really have a cool dog. In that case, the above rant does not apply to you. You carefully thought over your commitment to a dog. You learned or already had experience with what constitutes proper care of a dog. Your kids are fairly well-behaved so you won't have to rescue your dog from their abuse. You as a family do things together and take the dog with you. You've attended dog shows or volunteered at the shelter or watched Cesar Millan on television. You took your dog to obedience and made the kids go with you. Your dog has all of its shots and a regular vet. You exercise your dog daily. You have rules and boundaries in your household-- and both your dog and your kids obey them. Your life is not one chaotic mess that you wish to share with a dog. Yeah, there are some cool dog owners around. My dog and I celebrate each and every one of you.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Birds Are Singing and The Snow is Melting

     Yesterday, I took the dog out to a buddy's woods and creek to visit a younger doggy friend. It was a brilliant day with March snowflakes, flowing water, and ice jams piled up along the banks of the creek.

     There were many herd paths leading out to the creek itself and around and through the woods.

     The two dogs had a great time digging holes in the snow and playing. The pictures of them playing together did not come out well enough to post them. The younger dog that we visited is a very balanced and stable dog. She knew enough to know that Blondie is very old and adjusted her play style accordingly. 


     Being a yellow lab, Luna was ready to play fetch and also to investigate bits of ice melting into a nearby stream.

     Blondie for her part was alert and happy.

     She enjoyed her time there investigating the smells around the creek and woods. When it was time to go home, she was ready for a nap.

     This morning, Blondie and I went to a small creek and some cleared land where there is a jogging path. Since the snows came, there have been few joggers or walkers there. Absolutely no one else was around when we showed up.

     Blondie was happy to be there and flopped down to do a doggy snow angel-- I really do have to take a picture of this-- so I knew that she has been feeling better. We walked near the jogging path [which indeed was covered by snow] and watched various birds doing what birds do. 

     The cardinals have been out in full force, singing from trees all over the place. I think it must be mating season for them. The cardinal "whistles" were predominant. I spied one hairy woodpecker tapping a dead aspen for insects. She was pretty fat. There aren't so many over-eaters in the bird world so I figure she must have been pregnant but I don't really know for sure. The year-round robins were flying around from their copse of trees to what grass could be seen. Looking for grubs? Maybe. I don't really know. I don't know the life cycle of grubs well enough to know where they are right now. I didn't see the resident blackbirds or the crows there this morning. That surprised me.

     The agency that "owns" the part of the creek [and the jogging path itself] decided last summer to not mow near the creek anymore. And it also arranged to have gray stones put down in the water channel of the creek itself. Both in my view were sucky decisions. The minkies and the greenies and the northern leopards [all frog species] had been doing fine in and around their creek before the agency messed things up. 

     I figure that after the ice and snow are gone, I will drop by the creek several times a week and move one stone at a time out of the water channel over to the sides. At least then the frogs will be happier again. If I move one stone a day, folks won't notice for awhile.

sapphoq n friends

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Your Sweet Cat

     Your sweet cat that you allow outside to roam at will defecates on the properties of others and kills wild birds. Cat poop does not smell good. Like dog poop, it is too acidic to use as "fertilizer" for garden plants. Cats kill birds. Cats have been killing birds for eons and will continue to do so.

     I came home today to find that your sweet cat has killed a song sparrow and left it on the snowbank near the bird feeder. That the bird was whole is indicative of the fact that your sweet cat killed the song sparrow with no intention of consuming it. You feed your sweet cat well-- that is too your credit-- and maybe you even take your sweet cat to the vet for shots and wellness visits. The thing is, you sweet cat hunts and kills birds in spite of not being hungry.

     My grandparents had a farm and ergo a barn and a clutch of barn cats. The barn cats killed mice. They never strayed from the barn. They were not a danger to the local bird population and they had a job to do. In return for rodent control, my grands fed the cats. 

     But those cats are not your sweet cat. Your sweet cat is pampered. In thinking that you are doing the best thing for your sweet cat, you have created a four-legged ecological disaster. Your sweet cat hunches down by bird feeders waiting for birds to kill.

     Besides that, your sweet cat has a pretty good chance of dying younger than if kept as a strictly indoor cat. We live by a road. The road has cars. The cars have drivers who hit roaming animals. Your sweet cat may wind up squashed like a pancake one of these days. You will cry about the big meanie driver who ran over your cat, forgetting that drivers have a responsibility to follow safety rules. It is not always possible to break for an animal dashing across the road. Period.

     There are feral cats who live in some building up the road. Some of them are fighters. Your sweet cat runs a chance of a beat down by one or more of the feral cats. Your sweet cat may come home requiring the attention of the local or not so local animal hospital. Or your sweet cat may not survive the run-in.

     Some kids may tease and hurt your sweet cat. Someone may use your sweet cat as target practice. Somebody may decide to pick up your sweet cat and turn it in at the animal shelter, an animal lab, or bring your sweet cat to a new "home" someplace else.

     If you really love your sweet cat, you will not allow your sweet cat outside. 

     ~sapphoq and the dead song sparrow

Friday, February 27, 2015


I don't mean to forget. But I do. I forget often to list "goldfinches" as birds that hang out at my backyard and side yard feeders. I don't know why I forget them. Just because they are drab in the winter and not all yellow shiny like they are in the summer.

So yeah. There are goldfinches. Lots of them. All over the neighborhood. And in my yard.

I like "my" goldfinches. And they "like" my yard. Or at least the variety of bird seeds that are offered there.

~sapphoq n friends~

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Birds: week of February 15, 2015

     A white-throat[ed] sparrow flew in with some chickadees and nuthatches several days ago after a storm. It ate some black oiled sunflower seeds from the clinging feeder [but sitting on the tray] for a long time. I spotted one [same one or different one who is to say] today who spent much less time at the same feeder but then flew off to the pine trees.

     Our chickadees have indeed become a mixed flock this winter to include a few nuthatches and many juncos. The house sparrows that hang in our short pine and along the extended branch [read: untrimmed] of our mock cherry tree continue to do so. They have been a bit quieter since the snow storms started, not really fighting each other for places on the feeders as they usually do. We've a pair of cardinals who have been coming to the mock cherry steadily on a daily basis. Today I saw the male over at one of the suet feeders negotiating a place with a female downy [woodpecker] and one junco. The three birds seemed to have been taking turns as it worked out. A collection of mourning doves continue to hang on the deck rail as well as in the yards feeding on whatever spills from the feeders. They also tend to hang on various branches for half-hour naps. The blue jays, crows, and red-winged blackbirds are always in the neighborhood. We've had a couple crows choosing to hang out in branches above the yard quietly observing. Kestrels continue in abundance of late. I usually see at least one a day which is more than this time last year. They don't come to the feeders. I see them circling around or parked in the top branches of a tree. I did see several crows chasing a hawk away from some nearby woods. My imagination told me the crows were angry. The crows were scolding as they flew after the hawk. The hawk flew away and I haven't seen it since. The hawk was impossible for me to identify as it was a couple of standard city blocks away from me in distance.

     I can tell when the storms are coming because the birds feed frantically in greater numbers the day before each storm comes in. Today has been exceptionally cold with wind chills to 30 below or more and hardly a bird in sight. Can't say I blame them. I barely venture out in this weather myself.

     The squirrels do not stay away in the cold. I've seen our standard grays, a few reds, and some red gray crosses. Several of them hand in the choke cherry when confronted with the old dog and then jump up to branches of the oak tree behind us. Two of them run for the deck rail and then plunge over the snow to then climb the aspen and then fling themselves over the fence that way. Yeah, there still is the one daredevil around who goes to ground immediately when confronted with the dog and then runs under the fence. I think that one just likes the chase.

     In the woods nearby, there was a sudden increase in deer prints. It looked to me like many deer came through rather than just a few. The deer tend to hang below one of the trails but these prints were right where we walk into the woods and were "many" rather than four or five sets.

     I've also seen rabbit prints in the yard but no actual rabbit themselves [yet] this year. There usually are several who may be living under a bush near the front feeder but I haven't seen them yet. They are the common cottontails. I did also see a set of snowshoe prints.

sapphoq n furry friends

Friday, January 23, 2015

Birds: Week of January 23, 2015

     Old dog, her walking buddy, and I went for a short meander in some woods the other day. The snow was crunchy underfoot. I found a nest.

Nest in young sapling, view one

Nest in young sapling, view two

Nest in young sapling, view three

It will be curious to find out if nest will be reused this spring. Behind the nest is a view of an old [farmers] field which hasn't been planted in many years. The sapling itself was in the midst of a collection of young ash, aspen, birch, and not so young hawthorn trees-- and some brambles. Casual footpaths lead to the field from several directions. The trees within the woods are much older than those around the field.

     Dogs were tired afterwards and spent some time sprawled out on the living room rug before I took old dog's walking buddy home to her family.

     In the side yard the other day nosing around a willow was a male white throat [Zonotrichia albicollis] who had neglected to read his bird manual. Admittedly, I've mostly viewed white throats running through side brush but this one had decided to nose around the mid-level of the willow instead. Shortly after he left [and I saw no other ones then], a downy woodpecker landed on the suet cake in the same willow tree.

     The chickadee flocks in the backyard by the feeders have become more mixed of late. They've included nuthatches along with a few white-throats but not the fox sparrow that hangs with them in later spring.

     When picking up old dog's walking companion the other day, I was amused [but not surprised] to find a pileated investigating a tree across the way. The picture is not a very good one. The colors are lost but it was clearly a pileated. My conjecture is a pregnant female but I wouldn't bet money on that.


     Old dog has hosted several sleepovers with a couple of doggie buddies of late. Here are two pics of old dog and her collie buddy before organizing friend came to help me organize the living room.

Collie buddy and old dog, view one

Collie buddy and old dog, view two

     Old dog is definitely showing her age and I dread the day of her death. I am amazed that she has lasted this long-- she is twelve and a half-- but for as long as she is eating, walking, and fairly happy then life will go on. She has been sleeping a bit longer in the mornings lately. If she is fortunate, she will pass naturally in her sleep.

     She does have a bit of arthritis in one rear leg and in the small of her back. Gentle exercise and the inclusion of her younger walking buddy [which I call with great affection "the rent-a-dog" who lives in the neighborhood] along with a daily anti-inflammatory has so far staved off having to make the decision to put her down. I do very much carefully evaluate her quality of life. I've observed what happens to dogs and cats when their owners are unable to let them go.

     I have caught old dog on the deck watching the birds at the feeders in the backyard. She used to hate mourning doves [and chased them off in her younger days] but she has now accepted their presence to the point of allowing them to rest on the deck railing near where she naps. She also has sorted through her escapades with squirrels, choosing to chase them only when they are swinging upside-down from the baffles over the tube feeders. She used to chase all backyard squirrels on general principle but now not so much. My guess is that a squirrel hanging upside-down is too much of a temptation for even an old dog to resist.

     Within the last couple of years, red squirrels have moved in and are now interbreeding with our grays. The results are fertile and colorful. I've seen mostly gray squirrels with fluffed out red tails, gray squirrels with red coloring mid-section but with gray tails, and every possible variation. The reds have thinner tails than the grays do but when they get together, the babies are interesting. They also appear to retain their bi-coloration through adulthood. I've heard reports that black squirrels are also moving into the area but I haven't seen them round here as of yet. I like blacks and I look forward to their addition to the neighborhood.

     I've continued this winter with leaving peanuts in the shell [unsalted, unroasted] out for the blue jays and crows weekly. It's great fun to watch the corvids carry away their prizes. Some of the jays will eat a peanut in a nearby tree and then come back for more to carry away to their caches. But the crows always fly off with them. The squirrels and some of the woodpeckers too get excited about the peanuts. Even so, it is primarily the blue jays and some crows that descend upon the yard within minutes of putting out the peanuts.

sapphoq and friends of the furry and feathered kind

     As usual, I took the pictures myself. As usual, you are free to right-click and save to somewhere on your computer, upload them to social media sites with or without any clever captions that you wish to add or not.
     As usual, if you are a copyright troll I have no love for you. The originals of my photos are safely stored in several places and you can go find some other targets to involve in your legal quarrels.
     And for good measure-- fuck the DRM.