Monday, November 16, 2009

Birds and Drugs, but not together

Last week I posted a short video of a part of the large flock or flocks of big, black birds that stop off here every year in the fall. Even though it wasn't the clearest of footage you can still make out the fact they were eating something.

Knowing how many walnuts fall to the ground in my yard every year, one reader suggested "maybe they are eating the nuts". Nope. Not possible and that's a not possible on two fronts. First, it isn't possible because neither of the areas the birds were interested in were areas that had walnuts on the ground, because no walnuts trees grow in those areas. In the back the trees in question are 2 mulberry trees, a large locust and a maple. In the front its 2 large maples and a couple of blue spruce. It is worth noting than none of the trees are less than at least 50 years old, so we aren't exactly talking about small trees.

As for eating the walnuts, not possible. When the walnuts first fall they are about the size of a baseball and covered in a green outer casing. They are also hard enough to do some damage when they hit things. After they have been on the ground for several days the green covering turns brown and then gets soft and mushy underneath. They are true ankle breakers at that stage. Next the mushy stage passes and what is left is the hard shell nut most people are accustomed to seeing. The big, black birds in question don't have the right sort of beak to hammer open one of those shells. So, no they aren't eating the nuts. That job is left to the truly amazing squirrel colony that lives in the trees.

DRUGS and dogs

I got to attend a lecture on Sunday. This lecture was given by one of the big authorities on animal behavior modification via the brave, new world of drugs. Since I went as someone else's guest I was sworn to keep my mouth shut. By noon I honestly thought my head was going to explode.

When the reservations were made for us the person taking the reservation was told there would be a service dog coming. She promptly told my friend "no dogs allowed". Which triggered a reminder that the lecture was being held in a public place and service dogs were allowed by law.
Now the only reason I am bringing this up is because of what was said next.

You see, the response to the "service dogs are allowed by law" was the statement that the same law allowed them to turn away any noisy dog or any dog that caused a problem. Don't you sort of wonder why they would make such a statement? I know I have my own ideas. I honestly believe that while they call themselves dog trainers and animal behaviorists, they have actually never seen a trained dog actually working.

Several people came up to me during one of the breaks or at lunch time and wanted to know what "program" trained my dog. I guess I'm sort of snotty, cause I said I'm the program that trained this dog. It sort of acted as a conversation stopper. I make no apologies for my lack of patience with the clicker, food, play group and their lack of ability to actually get a dog trained.

Cranky. Yes.

Annoyed. Yes.

Miffed. Oh my, yes.

What fun (not) to sit and watch a 'famous' person proudly announce how wonderfully friendly her super dog was. Why he even jumped up on a counter at Petsmart and gave the clerk a big kiss.

I confess at this point that I too once had a dog jump up on the check-out counter at a PetCo. The clerk offered her a treat without asking my permission first. This was Wrap as a young, very exuberant dog. Before I could so much as blink, much less stop her, Wrap had elevated from the floor to the counter, snatch, eaten the cookie AND...

And knocked the clerk out of the way, stuck her nose into the cash drawer, grabbed a mouthful of 10 dollar bills and floated back to the floor. Do I need say I was upset, mortified, angry at the clerk, ashamed that I didn't catch the beginning of her jump and a host of other things. None of them were good. Meanwhile, Wrap thought it was one of the funniest stunts she had managed to pull off so far. Now I look back on that day with fond memories, but never have I bragged about how friendly my dog was that day.

WHATTHEFU**? She also was so kind as to share a video of her rapid stuff method of treat training. With a dog in a tight and very controlled environment we got to watch her use food to get the dog to "hold its breath". For the life of me, I never did see the dog actually stop panting and close it mouth on command and, honestly that is what I expected to see.

I almost forgot. Sanity had to retrieve her bed so I could roll it up when we left. And she had to figure out how to get through the press of people and the chairs blocking the way when I sent her back to where we had been sitting to retrieve my jacket.

Most of all she had to deal with a large number of pretty clueless people in a rather small space. As you can see it is going to be a tight fit.

Here we go, working our way between the tables on the way to the restrooms.
Look closely and you can just spot us beginning the return trip.

In order for her to do two of those jobs I had to repeatedly ask people to please leave her alone since she was working. The really funny one happened after the third person picked up her leash and tried to stop her. After I told that person to leave her alone, she gave them a dirty look, picked up the leash in her mouth and carried it herself. I'm thinking she was just flat tired of what her body language was calling the 'stupid humans'.
Sticking close so as to avoid getting kicked, stepped on or fondled by strangers. Amy's not a stranger, but a friend. Just seconds before this picture was snapped two different strangers wanted to fondle her. I said no they couldn't pet her or touch her because she was working. And I'm not all fire breathing dragon, I did thank them for asking.

Finally I was totally blown away by the number of strangers who came up to me and wanted to know if I would like them to "take her outside?" for me. I continue to try really hard to see that as well-meaning, but clueless offers of help. Mind you, I'm not at all ungrateful of help given to move objects out of the way of the scooter or open the restroom door or any other heavy door. But take my service dog away from me? Not on your life. I work very hard at developing a high level of trust between myself and my dog. No way am I willing to endanger that trust by handing her off to a complete stranger to take her where? And do what with or to her?

Now I'll stop this, cause I actually do feel a little better and who knows? Maybe I'll manage to find it in my heart to better understand the drive away from actually training a dog to using different drugs as a blanket to over the dog's problems.

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