Category Archives: animals

The Deerslayer

Saturday was supposed to be about raking leaves until my son called early in the morning. He said he was coming home with a deer. It was already dressed, he said, which momentarily summoned up funny images of a buck in a flannel shirt, but I’ve lived upstate long enough to know what dressed means.

He lives in an apartment, so there really isn’t a good way to skin and butcher a deer, so my house was the deer destination. I cleared out a space in the garage and screwed a big hook in the ceiling so the poor devil could be hoisted up by his horns.

I’ll spare you the details. but by mid-afternoon, my son and his girlfriend were vacuum sealing freshly cut venison on the kitchen counter.

My wife does not appreciate hunting, and she would certainly not like having a dead deer hanging in the garage. She was spared his earthy spectacle because she was gone for the day, off baking cookies with my sister in Poughkeepsie.

But fate’s a funny thing isn’t it?

Less that 12 hours later she called to say she’d hit a deer — a very big deer — not far from our house. She was fine, the car was a mess and the deer was MIA, having stumbled off into the woods.

Deer karma? Perhaps.

Before the tow truck arrived, I took a picture of the damage and wondered if the deer community would share pictures of wrecked vehicles the way hunters show off their prizes.

My son said I should have gone into the woods to find the deer. “No thanks — but don’t forget that your mother got a bigger deer than you did this year.”

Catabetic Emergency

maeve“Oh, shit, the cat is dead!”

It was 4am and Maeve was sprawled on the floor. She was cool to the touch and unresponsive. I took this picture to document how she was found — I couldn’t just leave her there until my wife got up — and knelt down in front of her. That’s when I saw that her eyes were open.

We’ve been giving Maeve insulin shots for several years and now she was in trouble, most likely extremely hypoglycemic, and she wouldn’t last long without help.

We called the pet hospital and they advised that we get some sugar into her — just as you would with a human — and their advice was to rub Karo syrup into her gums. So there I am, at 4:30, on the floor with a handful of sticky syrup in one hand and a cat in the other.

She gradually grew more alert, and when I showed her a small plate with a tablespoon of food on it she sat up and ate. Soon she was up on her feet, but a bit shaky; we herded her into the cat carrier for her trip to the vet. It turns out her diabetes was in remission and the insulin was making her blood sugar plunge too low. I’ll be damned.

I’ve told this story to a few people and the wondered if the cat’s physiology may hold some sort of medical secret that reverses diabetes. Actually, it’s not uncommon for diabetes to go away in cats, but wouldn’t that be something? Imagine the side effects listed in the commercial:

Some people may experience an urge to chase mice. Taking this medication could cause you to lick your hands and feet and curl up in someone’s lap…

So, all is well with Maeve the cat. Two days later she’s acting completely normal. You know, by cat standards, of course.

Nuts for Squirrels

After years of chasing squirrels, my dogs finally got one.

It always plays out the same way: the dogs sprint out the back door and the squirrels dash away from the bird feeder and up the tree — but this time was different.

A smallish, young squirrel fumbled its escape and Scarlett caught up with it at the bottom of the tree. Just as she put her paw on it, I called her off — but the squirrel turned and ended up right in front of Maddy, who cornered it in a nook at the base of the tree.

Maddy — who tends to be stubborn — wouldn’t back off, and I had to go over and pull her away from the startled critter.

Once the dogs were back in the house I went to the tree. The squirrel looked down at me and was like, “Dude, WTF?!” I couldn’t tell if it was injured, but after a while it vanished into the trees, so I’m assuming it was just shaken up.

The next day — like it never happened — the squirrels were back at the feeder, including one who looked a lot like the one the dogs captured.

And the dogs? I’ve got to figure that they’re filled with new hope. Now that they know they can catch a squirrel, anything is possible.

Under the Table and Dreaming

Scarlett looked up from her iPad.

“Rob, you see how New York passed a law that allows dogs in restaurants.”

“Yes — but only in outside dining areas. And only at restaurants that allow it.”

That’s when Maddy trotted in.

“Hey, Scarlett said we’re going to a restaurant!”

“No, not yet,” I said. “The governor has to sign the bill first.”

“What are you going to order Scarlett? I want pork belly. Doesn’t that sound fancy? What’s a governor?”

Scarlett handled this one.

“He runs New York, so he’s in charge of a lot of things. Like Thacher Park.”

“Oh my god, I love Thacher Park. The same guy who runs Thacher Park is going to let us eat at restaurants! He’s the best governor ever!”

Scarlett jumped down off her chair to get a drink of water.

“Maddy, I think this whole thing is just so they can bring us to restaurants — not so we can eat at them. And it treats us like second class citizens. The law says we need a separate entrance and we won’t be allowed to sit on chairs. No offense, Rob, but this is more about vain dog owners than about dogs.”

She curled up in the corner.

“You two can go, have fun. The whole thing just sounds like it will be disappointing. But bring me a doggy bag.”

Canis Populi

If you take your dogs to Thacher Park, it’s best to go early. More often than not, you’ll have the place to yourself and they can race up and down the trails without bothering anyone.

One recent morning was different. Instead of the usual empty parking lot, we found three school busses — and the hiking paths were far from empty. We were barely out of the car when college kids started approaching us and asking to take pictures of the dogs.

Pictures of the dogs? Of course you can — but why?


It turns out that this was a biology class from Siena College who were out learning about the forest by conducting a scavenger hunt, and among the things they needed to find was a mammal. As we walked along, we continued to be approached by mammal hunters, petting the dogs, shooting pictures and checking off an item on their list.

At one point, we encountered their instructor, who looked on sourly as the students discovered our dogs. I’m sure he had squirrels, chipmunks or other woodland critters in mind — not dogs — when coming up with the activity.

But hey, you take what you can get, right? And the dogs loved being queens of the forest for a day.

Good Fences

There we were, me and the dogs, out for a walk one recent evening when I practically jumped out of my shoes. Two very angry dogs charged out of the darkness and came directly for us — until they reached the invisible fence line.

They stood at the edge of the yard viciously barking and snapping. Both me and my dogs were rattled and I impulsively yelled, “Fu*k you!” This was not just pointless, but stupid. Dogs don’t understand fu*k you, and if the owners heard me? That’s not the sort of thing that makes for good neighbors.

Some people will disagree, but invisible fences can be a bad idea. The way they work is that dogs wear a shock collar triggered by proximity to a buried boundary line. In theory, you should be able to train the dog (with pain, by the way) to stay on your property and turn off the system. Few people ever get to that point.

And there are inherent problems. Like if your a dog is wildly aggressive toward strangers and other dogs. Or if your dog learns that the rewards of escape outweigh a mildly irritating shock. Or if your dog is so frightened of being shocked she ends up fearful of leaving the property on a leash with you.

One dog in our neighborhood has learned that if it leaps high over the invisible line it can avoid a shock. Would you trust your fence system to keep that dog safe, ever again? No, me neither.

It takes a lot of time and skill to make that sort of training work — and it’s far beyond the capabilities of the average dog owner. Let’s hope none of those invisible fence dogs are lost or injured or end up biting someone. And if that does happen, don’t blame the dog.

Eat My Ass

Years ago I wrote a couple of blog posts with references to eating horses.

This was way back in the Albany Eye days, and even though I was just joking, some people responded quite angrily. Maybe they didn’t like the links to horse recipes from a Quebec supermarket chain — or maybe they simply had no sense of humor — but the bottom line is that you don’t have to drive far from here to visit a place where they eat horse meat. Don’t blame me!

I was reminded of all this when Modern Farmer, the agri-hipster magazine based in Hudson, featured donkeys in their winter edition, including a story called Donkey Delicacies. Unlike in Albany Eye, this was not meant to be funny, but a serious overview of donkey eating. As you can imagine, the online version of the story got some colorful responses. Here’s my favorite:

Why would you have all these articles glorifying donkeys talking about how great they are and then feature an article about the different ways you can eat them? It’s fucking disgusting and shows how incohesive the journalism on this site truly is.

So, how do you really feel about that donkey story?

Obviously there’s a lot of cultural bias when it comes to food. I may be fond of cows but don’t think twice about eating them. Who the hell would eat a dog? Lots of people in China, that’s who.

Hey, it’s complicated. We could talk about this all day, but, I gotta go because I’m cooking up some homemade sausage. That’ll do, pig.

In Ireland with a distant cousin

Foto Friday

Inis Meáin, Galway, Ireland

Bears 1, People 0

Holy crap! Did you read about that bear attack in New Jersey!?

Yes, earlier this week a 300 pound black bear killed Darsh Patel who was hiking with friends in the Garden State’s Apshawa Preserve. Reports say that Patel and his four friends split off in different directions when the bear appeared to be stalking them — and when they found the victim, “Officials said it appeared that the bear was guarding the body and may have considered Patel a food source.”

As the old saying goes, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

It’s rare for bears to attack humans, but when they do, Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (on their very terrible website) advises “If a black bear does attack, fight back!”

OK, bear, put up your dukes. But maybe you can head off an attack as follows:

Avoid direct eye contact, which may be perceived by a bear as a challenge. Never run from a bear. Instead, slowly back away.

Hopefully, bears are not aroused by the odor of human urine or feces, because there’s a very good chance it will be coming from you.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if this bear incident triggers some sort of irrational response from us humans. And you know what will inevitably follow: Bear Week on Discovery.