Category Archives: animals

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?

Dogs

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.

Road Kill

Have you ever run over a deer with your car? Well, let me tell you, it sucks.

High up in the Albany County Hilltowns over the weekend, a fawn dashed out from the woods and into the road. There was no way to avoid it; I tried to stop but it was too late.

It was a tiny thing, probably no more than a couple of months old, and as I walked back from my car, I was wishing for two things: either it would miraculously get up and run off into the woods or that it would be dead. But no, what I found was a gravely injured animal.

It was breathing and drifting in and out of consciousness — but as far as I could tell not suffering. This only made me feel slightly better. No, it was not my fault, but who could help feeling some of the collective guilt of all mankind. Cars are just a speck on the timeline of history, and it’s only relatively recently that deer/car collisions became a thing.

There was no damage to the car, but what about the deer? If it were dead, I would had dragged it from the road and been on my way, but this was more complicated. I called 911 and waited patiently with the deer. A couple of cars went by and I waved them away from the injured animal. My wife yelled to me from the car, “Watch out for bears!”

Bears? Yes, she figured that bears would emerge from the woods next, summoned like sharks by the scent of blood and prospect of an easy meal. Fortunately, two sheriff’s deputies arrived before the bears. They took down my information and sent me on my way, saying they’d put the animal down after we left.

I wonder sometimes if natural selection will someday bring us deer that are wise to cars, animals smart enough to stop and wait at the edge of the road and look both ways before crossing. Then we can blame them for being hit, and not ourselves.

Note: I have a picture of the deer here if you’re curious; it’s not gory, just sad.

The Horses Are on the Track

Nothing quite compares to the mediagasm surrounding Saratoga every summer — and it’s not unjustified. The racing season is the only world class sporting event we have around here and the whole culture surrounding it is a big deal.

Who could blame TV stations for committing huge resources to live broadcasts or newspapers for literally wrapping every edition in Saratoga coverage?

But over the weekend we saw something unusual: a piece from Times Union columnist Chris Churchill calling out the racing industry on animal abuse and doping. He says that all it would take is a documentary like Blackfish to blow some of the shine off of Saratoga. This was one of the few times a local media outlet has done anything less than a glowing story about the track and racing.

Nobody wants to spoil the party, do they — but If you’d like to see what damaging reporting about racing looks like, see the devastating series Breakdown in the New York Times.

Being imperfect, I still enjoy going to the track and spending money. For the record, I also continue to love the NFL, even though I know the truth about how it sometimes wrecks the players. I just can’t help it.

So, don’t expect to see a lot of negative stories about racing around here. Not as long as it’s front page news and there’s money to be made.

Deer in the Headlights

At about 1 a.m. Sunday, on my way to an ambulance call, I slowed down to let a deer cross Delaware Avenue in Delmar. It stepped up onto the sidewalk and paused in front of Bethlehem Town Hall, where it calmly watched me drive past.

This struck me as funny, having just read about Bethlehem’s new task force that will study the town’s deer problem and suggest some possible solutions.

What deer problem? Well, there are the obvious things, like the number of deer/car collisions and the damage deer do to property — but also they’re looking at the relationship between deer and Lyme disease.

I don’t know much about deer — certainly not as much as the big brains they’ve assembled for the task force — but something tells me this is like trying to change the direction the wind is blowing. If you read the committee’s web page and the meeting notes you’ll find oblique talk of hunting the deer with crossbows and deer sterilization.

Short of putting up a fence around town, will anything really be effective? Won’t new deer move in if you get rid of the ones already there?

So, here’s an idea: I have read that coyote urine keeps deer away. Maybe we need to import some coyotes — or, because that might not be popular, we could spray coyote urine. It could probably be spayed from a plane, but you’d obviously need a lot of coyote urine.

So, if you think the stench of coyote urine is not as bad as having all those deer running around, there you go. If there’s room on the task force, I’m available for the next meeting.