Crazy Birds

I love birds. At times they’re even funny.

I drove by a soccer field this week with a match in full play. The geese made me laugh out loud. This was clearly their field and they weren’t too happy with the invasion. So what were they doing? The were standing on the sidelines watching the game.  IMG_1978

We have woodpeckers in the neighborhood. You can hear their drilling on the telephone poles early mornings. They break for a siesta when the temperatures rise, then resume their work in the cool of the evening. One day our telephone connection will go dead. I’ll call the company on my cell phone and I’ll let them know who to arrest.

The other day a sparrow slammed into the window and crashed to the ground. It sat there with its heart beating through its chest, eyes glazed, all puffed out. We waited 30 minutes and then checked to see if it was dead. It was still alive. Another 30 minutes. We checked again. Still there. This time its beak was tucked into its wing and it was sleeping. We walked outside, it looked up at us, but didn’t move. We came back inside the house and got busy with other things. We completely forgot about it until later on in the afternoon. We checked through the window. It had flown away. I was relieved.

“What makes you think a cat didn’t eat it?” Alf said.

“No feathers,” I said.

That settled the matter.

Calvin says, “Birds are only good for one thing – sticking my nose into their chests and breathing in deeply.” beagle








Is Your Dog A Relative?

We live in a pet-centric world. For $50,000 dollars you can clone Buster so he’ll keep coming back to you. That’s probably the only way he’ll come back to you, because he’s figured out how to ignore you and turn a deaf ear to your commands.

Have you noticed the progression we’ve taken as a society with our pets?

They started out in the backyard. Some of them were actually working dogs. They earned their bowl of scraps herding sheep or cows. Or went hunting for birds with you.

Then they migrated to the back porch. Still looking in, but getting closer.

Eventually your wife gave in to Roxie’s begging eyes and let her inside your kitchen, then your bedroom was next, and now she’s sleeping on your bed.

The veterinary industry is keenly aware of this trend and has marketed it to the hilt.

Dogs and cats are not animals anymore. They’re hairy people. And because they’re relatives with fur, you’ll spend your last dollar on them. The vets are counting on it.

If Buster needs an MRI or a hip replacement, you’re made to feel guilty if you say no.

What about teeth cleaning, pedicures and doggie furdos? Any conscientious owner would of course make regular appointments for these. If you don’t, you’re the beast, not Tabitha, the cat.

I’m convinced this ridiculousness began with the pet food industry. They convinced us our animals should not eat human food because it’s bad for them, so as a substitute they produced good, wholesome, nutritionally well-balanced sawdust with flavorings. If last night’s leftovers are not safe for our pooches, then why are we eating them?

The more advanced we are in the medical industry, the more these tests trickle down to our vets to use on our animals. What’s good for Fred is good for Fido, too.

And of course since Fred now can live to be 100, he wants Fido by his side, too – at a spry 700 years old.

Calvin says, “Ouch! A little too close to home. Of course I want to carry on sniffing and peeing and chasing rabbits. Don’t you?”



Alf and I took the back road through the mountain range from San Gregorio to Pescadero. The fog hung heavy this morning over the tree line. Small, brown rabbits with large ears and white cotton tails scurried across the road and disappeared inside the brush. Quail fluttered away. As we rounded the last curve and came down the mountain, a large field bordered by eucalyptus trees appeared on our right. Trailers, trucks, and SUVs were parked at the entrance. Inside, women sat in canvas chairs, each with a border collie by her side, watching a dog practice herding a flock of sheep. We had stumbled upon the Northern California Chapter of the Working Sheepdog Association.

The woman in the middle of the field whistled her commands. Every whistle had a different tone. The dog was half listening. He didn’t obey on cue, and the sheep broke formation. He tried again and again and finally brought them as far as the enclosure, but his over-eagerness frightened them and they scampered in all directions. By now the sheep wore an afflicted look and the shepherd came to their rescue and called them back to the pen.

“These dogs are young and are still learning,” said Judy, a 24-year old veteran of field trials, with Katie, her new border collie on a leash. “Some dogs learn fast, others more slowly, and a few never get it at all.”

If I were a border collie, I’d wouldn’t have the patience for all those whistles and stupid sheep. I’d take control and show them who’s boss.

“What you don’t want to hear are the words, ‘Thank you’,” Judy said. “That means your dog flunked and you have to call him off the field.”

This particular dog, while he missed quite a few of the commands, was showing promise. The ones who demonstrate no aptitude for herding become household pets.

That would be me again. I prefer the couch to all that exercise.

Border collies are born with the herding instinct. Even as puppies they will herd a flock of sheep. As a pet, a border collie requires daily stimulus and exercise. If you have children he’ll herd them. Bunnies, ducks, kittens, even you.

As I watched the action on the field, I thought about the handler. What if a dog knew more than his owner, but because he was under orders, he wasn’t allowed to shine? What if the owner didn’t improve? The dog would sink to his handler’s level of mediocrity.

The opposite was true also. The handler could show considerable talent while the dog showed no inclination to learn. This failure would also reflect on the owner.

In order to excel, it struck me that both dog and owner would need to be evenly matched. That would be the ideal partnership.

Calvin says, “Point well taken. If us dogs held field trials for owners, you’d see exactly what we have to put up with.”