Thursday, July 7, 2016

The "Normal Self" of Donald Trump


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Donald Trump reminds me of a drunk. 
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I grew up with a parent who was a binge drinker.
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My mom didn't drink everyday. But when she did, she drank all day and spent hours ranting and raving against everything and everyone she saw wrong in the world -- especially family members.
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But I told myself everything was okay because the next day, my mom would be back to her "normal self." One just had to get through the night with her.
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But, can we tell ourselves the same about Donald Trump?
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Admittedly, some drunks are fun.
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The lack of inhibition, the kind of "free flowing consciousness" and the honesty in just spewing off what one thinks in the moment can be refreshing and entertaining to some -- especially in an otherwise, highly controlled and politically correct world.  
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But is such lack of impulse control something we should seek in a President?
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Sometimes, those with drug problems are fun too.
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Back in my party days of the 70's and 80's, I had friends who were "Coke heads." They were great fun to be with at dance clubs and bars because they could literally party all night. (I personally didn't indulge in Cocaine because I figured two vices of alcohol and cigarettes were already enough. -- I didn't need to add a third.)
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But as much fun and boundless energy my coke friends were on a dance floor, they were extremely hard to follow in a conversation. I recall often sitting at circular tables in clubs and having no idea what the subject of conversation was about. Discussions flitted from one subject to the next with barely a second in between. As one who is not normally at loss for words, I was completely alone in left field during these gatherings. If I did think of something to contribute to a conversation, subject was already on to something else. In short, there was never any focus or depth. Conversations with "Coke Heads" were like July 4th fireworks -- quickly exploding and changing from one second to the next, one's only option was to sit back, smile and pretend to know what was going on.
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Donald Trump reminds me of that, too.
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Perhaps the problem is me. Perhaps I have no appreciation for "spontaneity," or I have a slow brain. Or maybe watching and listening to Donald Trump simply evokes memories best forgotten.  
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The wild gestures and accusations, the conspiracy theories, the name-calling ,the jumping from one subject to another and the endless repetitions are not the result of too much alcohol consumption or coke snorting from what we are told about Trump. There is no  "normal self" to look forward to.  
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Donald Trump doesn't drink at all and reportedly takes no drugs.
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What we see and hear is his "normal self."
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And perhaps that is even scarier than someone strung out on alcohol or cocaine because there are treatments and cures for those. -- PCA
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                                                ******

Friday, July 1, 2016

"Ugly Ducklings" Soon to Become Beautiful Geese


Two families. John, Mary, Hansel and Greta with their six nearly gown goslings.
The "interlopers" at Reservoir for the molt. John and Hansel have mostly given up trying to chase them. -- The molt soon to come to end.
"Ugly duckling." -- Note the down still poking out through the feathers.
Another "ugly duckling."
John and Mary -- vigilant parents.


My babies are so ugly now.
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Almost two months since they hatched as tiny, adorable balls of yellow fluff, the Central Park Reservoir goslings are now at that "awkward" stage between infancy and adolescence.
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Not quite fully grown, they are long, scrawny necks, tiny heads and big feet. Though quickly growing their adult feathers, there are still tufts of soft down sticking up through the feathers like tiny spikes that refuse to yield. And though starting to acquire the distinct markings of Canada geese and the familiar "face band," the white has yet to take hold and thus the goslings appear a mostly dingy, dirty gray.
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Han's Christian Anderson's famous, "The  Ugly Duckling" was written about swans. But it might have been more accurate as a fairy tale about goslings transitioning to geese.
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At two months of age, the goslings look like little dinosaurs.  
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The six goslings are not from one family.  Three hatched on May 8th and are the offspring of John and Mary -- the goose couple who attempted nesting over the past five years before finally hatching three healthy goslings this spring.
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The younger three goslings hatched a week later, but got off to a slow start as their mother (Greta) remained on the nest an additional three days (with babies tucked under her) in apparent hopes that her other two eggs would hatch.
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But, the extra eggs never hatched and finally Greta and her mate, Hansel had to move on with their surviving babies.
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Shortly thereafter, John and Mary moved their family to the east side of the Reservoir to seemingly join up with Hansel, Greta and their three new fledglings.  
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Though the two families don't necessarily hang out with each other all the time, they do claim and share the same general territories and are frequently observed eating together.
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Being slightly bigger and more developed than their younger counterparts, John and Mary's brood are sometimes a bit bullying of Hansel and Greta's babies. It's not unusual to see them assert their dominance by occasionally pecking and chasing the younger goslings.
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The parenting styles of the adult geese are not exactly the same either.
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Perhaps because they have raised goslings before, Hansel and Greta are much more laid back and permissive with their offspring than are the first-time parents, John and Mary -- the latter never leaving their babies out of their sight.  
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By contrast, Hansel and Greta's kids wander all over and it's not unusual for one to lose sight of his/her parents and start to cry out. But, they always find each other in the end.
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Perhaps this is still another way geese are remarkably human-like. Parenthood, when repeated, seemingly becomes like old hat. Hansel and Greta don't sweat the small stuff. If one of the kids wanders off, they find their way back. On the other hand, John and Mary are never more than a foot or two away from their goslings and always have their eyes fixed on them.
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Both, John and Hansel do however, take turns trying to chase off the visiting geese who arrived at the Reservoir around Memorial Day for the six week molt.
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But at this point, it is mostly a fruitless effort as both ganders are highly outnumbered by the visiting interlopers.  
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Though there is still the occasional territorial spat, the two families have mostly grown to accept the intruders. Perhaps they figure now that the molt is quickly coming to an end soon and the annoying "guests" will be on their way. It's just a matter of waiting it out.
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Probably due to the warm winter of the past year, everything was a little earlier this year.  
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Migrating geese returned earlier to their breeding grounds in the sub-Arctic or Canada this year. Nesting was slightly earlier and so was the molt.
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I see that many, if not in fact, most of the visiting geese already have grown their flight feathers.
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They will wait of course until they all are ready to fly and will then take off.
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The two families however have to wait until their goslings are ready to fly before they can leave.
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July will be a busy month with much of the action occurring over the next few weeks.   
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I somewhat sadly anticipate that by early August, all of the geese will be gone and we will only be seeing the occasional fly overs passing through.
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It's a long stretch then until the migratory geese start passing through New York City beginning in late October.
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As I so often say to people admiring the geese at the Reservoir, "Enjoy the geese now, for in a few weeks, all will be gone."
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Virtually everything in a Canada goose's life is preparation for flight and moving on.
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Only during this in-between stage from babies to juveniles, the goslings are "the ugly ducklings."
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But soon to be (God willing) beautiful and magnificent geese gracing our skies and flying in perfect "V" formation with their eternally devoted parents.
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Peace forever be with them. -- PCA
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Killing the Geese Who Lay the Golden Eggs of Opportunity and Easy Paycheck


Captured goose awaiting grizzly fate. (Photo, Van Scott)           
 
USDA WS earning easy paychecks at the expense and lives of hapless geese.
 
It had been such a good year to this point, that complacency was inevitable.
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The mild winter of the past year meant no known losses of migratory geese and ducks staying in Central Park from December to early March. An early spring resulted in successful hatching of at least 13 new goslings in Central Park.
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And we had no recent reportings of either goose harassment activities or sightings of USDA Wildlife Services crews in New York City.
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That is, until yesterday.
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Unfortunately, the capture and ultimate slaughter (or gassing) of 50 Canada geese from Brookville Park in Queens yesterday, signifies the beginning and not the end of NYC goose killings for 2016.  http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=f30b9b8b6b96841f3dcf76c40&id=5927705d10
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We don't know what parks were previously hit or which ones are targeted for goose roundups over the next two weeks. We do know that USDA WS does not make the trip to New York City for one roundup. Without doubt, there are other parks and city locations on this year's goose "hit list."
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Since WS seems to prefer previously targeted sites, it can be presumed that any parks subjected to goose culls in the past are likely to be so targeted this year. But that is not to guarantee previously "safe" areas to be safe this year. All of New York City is a potential "bulls eye" for government led goose culls. -- Especially those areas that don't normally get heavy pedestrian traffic in the early mornings.
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According to GooseWatch, NYC, a new goose killing contract has been signed between the city and USDA WS (after the old one expired last year), but details are not yet known. That is not only bad news for the geese this year, but subsequent years to come.
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Since roundups almost always occur just prior to dawn, few people are out and about that early to record them in photos or videos. Jeffrey Kramer who reported and taped the goose roundup yesterday at Brookville Park was deliberately monitoring the park. But I'm not sure how many other people are on organized "goose watches" this year. Obviously, Mr. Kramer can't be everywhere at 5 AM.
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For the most part, media doesn't want to report on the killings. If they do (such as the Daily News yesterday), it is with the use of both, euphemisms (i.e. the geese are "removed" or "euthanized") and rationalizations (i.e. "Airline safety, nuisance, health threat or too many"). News articles present the killings as palatable and "necessary" to the public through the repeated uses of fear tactics and obfuscation.
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Personally speaking, I am not too worried that a goose cull will occur in Central Park though as noted, nothing is guaranteed.  But, Central Park is so public with thousands of runners up with the crack of dawn, that it would be virtually impossible to conduct a roundup in CP without being noticed. -- Especially at the Reservoir which is where most of the molting geese are located. The logistics just don't work there.
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Of course all this goes to add credibility to the arguments that these culls are not about "airline safety," but convenience, ability to perform activities without public notice, financial incentives and ease of operations. (i.e. nearby roads for transport vans and flat, grassy or sandy areas to easily corral and crate geese.)
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Unfortunately, the reality is that goose culls are not just happening in NYC. They occur in urban parks throughout the country during the six week period in summer when geese are "grounded" due to going through the molt. They are essentially "sitting geese" and are helpless to escape by flying away.
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Sadly and ironically, instead of practicing patience and realizing that the geese will leave these targeted locations when able to fly again by mid July, we use the "opportunities" to capture and kill them.
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And though we may attach different rationalizations for the kills such as "airline safety" or the geese are a "nuisance," the reality is cruelty and killing for convenience and financial gain.
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The geese have no voice to defend and speak up for themselves and they have no lobbyists in Washington. They are quite literally, the "geese laying the golden eggs" for easy opportunity and paychecks.
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Yes, it had been a good year in terms of a mild winter and nature's gentleness and cooperation so far.
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But that all changed yesterday as humans are not always noted for kindness, tolerance and cooperation. -- Especially when there is self-serving benefit to be derived from cruelty and oppression of others and that includes, unfortunately, Canada geese. -- PCA
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Monday, June 27, 2016

Massacre of the Geese (Again) in New York City


 
A Canada goose youngster on the lookout....
As sure as the sun rises and sets each day, USDA Wildlife Services arrives in New York City each June to stalk, target and send to slaughter, hundreds of city park Canada geese.
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The helpless, flightless geese are an easy "cash cow" for the controversial wildlife killing  agency that has been exposed and criticized by The New York Times, The Washington Post, numerous animal advocacy organizations including the Humane Society of the United States and some politicians.
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Nevertheless, the slaughters continue.
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This morning (June 27th), WS trucks and staffers arrived in the pre-dawn hour to Brookville Park in Queens to round up and send to their deaths, 50 Canada geese:
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Brookville is a favorite target for WS, because it is quiet with few people around in the early hours to observe the clandestine activities. And the layout is conducive to easy corralling of the geese on grass with nearby roads to bring in the SUV's to transport the terrified geese to a slaughterhouse upstate.
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It is an easy routine that WS has down pat and repeats every year, as it does in other NYC parks such as Inwood Hills Park, Alley Pond Park, Van Courtlandt Park, Jamaica Bay Wildlife "Refuge" and others.    
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I personally refuse to waste time or space providing the excuses and rationalizations for such yearly carnage.  
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These hideous and cruel massacres are done for one reason and one reason only:
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Because they can and it is easy money to do so.
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Many people financially benefit from the annual goose slaughters in New York City and elsewhere around the country. From those involved in goose killing contracts and plans, to those who supply equipment to round up, corral and crate the geese, to those doing the scouting reports, to those doing actual roundups, to drivers to the ones who actually slaughter the geese and their goslings.
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There is no incentive for such people to change their ways and on the contrary, they will  fight and come up with every conceivable lie and excuse to keep such easy, cushy jobs. They tell themselves, the politicians, the media and the public that the geese are a "nuisance," or that they "break bones" or that they "take down airliners."
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But, it is all rationalization for doing something that is wrong on every level -- conducting a war on innocent wildlife for the soul purpose of making money.
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It is only when there is vigorous and consistent public protest that this carnage can finally end one day.
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But I personally fear that most of the geese -- as so much of the world's other wildlife -- will be gone by that time.
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Whether the issue be climate change, extinction of species or other nefarious human actions resulting in catastrophic change, we as a species are so much better at 20/20 hindsight than recognizing and taking action in the necessary moment.  
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Rest in peace sweet geese. Sorry that we have once again, failed you. -- PCA
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

From Feral, Alley Cat to Diva -- The Long, Strange Trip of Rebecca


Rebecca during her wild, alley cat days.
Rebecca now. No cushion too soft and no loving too much.  
 
It's been a long, strange trip for Rebecca.
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She was part of a trap, neuter, release (or adoption) project I conducted more than five years ago for the feral, "alley" cats in the back of my apartment building who, up until that point, were breeding like rabbits.
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Healthy kittens were fixed and placed for adoption, as were a couple of easily socialized young adults. (I personally kept one of the cats, Jill, along with the four I already had.)
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Although young and appearing healthy at the time, Rebecca unfortunately tested positive for FIV ("feline AIDS") as did her sister, father, and very feral mother. 
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All four cats were neutered, vaccinated and held at my vet's until otherwise healthy and recovered enough to be released back to the alley.
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That is where they stayed while I continued to monitor and feed them every night over the ensuing years.
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A couple of years ago, the wild mother (a tabby cat named "Mika") managed to somehow escape the alleys and got onto the city streets. I later heard through a neighbor, that a rescue group successfully trapped Mika and were working to socialize and place her. But, in the years I knew and fed Mika, I was never able to touch her. She was extremely feral and thus I am not sure what luck the rescue group had with her. The good news was that the then 6 or 7-year-old cat was out of the alleys.
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But, Rebecca, her sister, Ronda and her father, Robbie remained. Of the three cats, Rebecca and Ronda became affectionate and trusting over the years, while Robbie remained aloof and untouchable.
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A couple of years ago, I took photos of Rebecca and Rhonda and promoted them on social media and adoption sites seeking foster or adoptive homes. But, there were no offers.
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There were many times I worried over the cats. Particularly over the brutal winters of 2013 and 2014. We had more than 60 inches of snow during the winter of 2013 and the frigid cold the following winter caused thousands of water birds to starve to death on iced over lakes and ponds in the north east. Even this past winter, temperature at one point plunged to 1 degree below zero in NYC.
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But, through it all, the three robust cats not only survived, but thrived. All three developed particularly thick and dense coats in the winters and I made sure they were consistently well fed.  
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Then, a few months ago, Rebecca suddenly disappeared. I looked everywhere for her and questioned neighbors and local stores. I checked lost and found Internet sites everyday and the city pound (Animal Care and Control).
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But it was as if Rebecca had simply vanished into thin air. There was neither sign nor sighting of her anywhere for more than two weeks.
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Feeling despaired and horribly guilty, I said a prayer and attempted to "make a deal" with God.  I promised that if Rebecca showed up again, I would immediately rescue and take her in.
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Then, a few days later, I gazed out my window one rainy morning and to great shock and relief, finally saw Rebecca!
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But, it was pouring rain and Rebecca looked really, really bad.
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She was thin, filthy, soaking wet, appeared listless and dull and there was a deep indentation in her tail, as if she had been trapped somewhere.
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Worst of all, she was in the adjoining alley separated by a tall, steel fence!
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Not stopping to think about anything, I filled a dish with cat food and ran down to the alley. I had to pray Rebecca was hungry and strong enough to climb the fence and come to me.
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Fortunately, Rebecca responded and slowly made her way to me.
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Shocked at how weak and dehydrated she was, I immediately picked up Rebecca, held her close to me and ran upstairs to my apartment as fast as I could. She neither had the strength nor will to try and break away.
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I brought Rebecca to my bathroom, where I quickly set up food, water, litter box and blanket.
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But first, I had to dry her off as she was completely rain-soaked to the bone.
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The dirt, caked mud and filth on the cat turned the fluffy white towel completely black within seconds.
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I had rescued hundreds of stray and alley cats in the past, but never one as filthy and "black" as Rebecca.
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It was apparent that she must have been trapped in some very filthy basement for the two weeks as nothing in the alleys could have produced that much dirt and grime.
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I actually went through several towels that morning with Rebecca and even so, the once gray and white cat appeared mostly blackish. There was no white to be seen at all. Moreover, the denseness of her thick winter coat only compounded the stuck-on grime and filth problems. It was as though the dirt was Krazy-glued to her coat and body, never to come off.
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The indentation on her tail was not an open wound and thus appeared that it would eventually heal. But I was not sure that either Rebecca or I would ever get all the dirt off. She settled down in my bath tub quickly turning the white to a dark gray, ashen color.
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I then had to think about how this "feral" cat was going to suddenly adjust not only to being in a human home, but to five other cats and a dog! Would my other cats even accept Rebecca?
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Rebecca's positive "FIV" status was not concern to me as Jill, my other cat rescued from the same alley years before was also FIV positive. FIV is not easily transmittable to other cats (other than through bites or sex) and to be frank, doesn't appear to compromise the cats in any way. Rebecca was, after all, a cat who had survived blizzards, extreme heat, all kinds of storms and even below zero air temperatures.
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But, whether Rebecca could suddenly "adjust" to indoor life and strange animals was a whole different question. Would she spend her life hiding or attempting to escape back to the familiar yards that had been her "home" her whole life? Would my other cats bully and terrorize her? Would she miss the two cats she had grown up with and had relationship with? Would Rebecca view my dog as a threat and attack him?
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These concerns I had serious doubts about.
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But, as matter eventually turned out, all the reservations, hesitancies and fears I ever had about taking Rebecca in were completely baseless.
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I kept Rebecca in the bathroom for the first two weeks. It provided a safe, secure place for her as well as affording opportunity to clean herself up. Most importantly, it allowed me the chance to pet, pick her up and socialize her. I discovered Rebecca loved being petted and nuzzled in my lap.
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But, after two weeks, Rebecca showed signs of curiosity and desire to expand her horizons. She wanted to see what was on the other side of the door.
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One of the things that had always impressed about Rebecca during her years in the alley, was her cheerful and confident disposition. There was always an air of optimism and forbearance about her -- as if nothing could get her down or upset or even frightened. I recalled seeing her navigating thick snow banks, making her way through puddles and drenching rains and holding up during single digit wind chills. Through it all, Rebecca (and her sister, Rhonda) always maintained the same sense of stoicism and cheerful acceptance of circumstance. Their tails were always raised high in the air and both cats enjoyed their nightly rounds of petting and nourishment regardless of whatever nature had to dish out.
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But, would it be the same in a completely foreign environment?
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Rebecca was a cat who had never (over six years) been exposed to indoor lighting, TV, music, vacuum cleaners, litter boxes, furniture or living with a human -- not to mention, my other animals.
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But, that same air of confidence, adaptability and optimism that had served Rebecca so well during the tough years in the alleys also served her in my home.
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Though at first a little cautious and tentative, Rebecca quickly gained her footing throughout my apartment and greeted my other cats (and dog) with politeness, cheer and respect.
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There were no fights, kufuffles or conflicts of any kind. It was as if Rebecca had been here the whole time.
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But, perhaps the biggest surprise of all was just how well and how fast Rebecca "took" to the comforts of indoor living and human company!
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Within days of being released from the bathroom, Rebecca was enjoying naps on the furniture (electing never to sleep on the hard floor or hide) and coming to me for attention and petting.
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In fact, Rebecca has become so demanding of pets and belly rubs, my other cats have to compete now for any left over affection. Moreover, Rebecca especially likes being picked up and nuzzled like a baby!
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Who knew any of these things about Rebecca when she was eking out survival in the dark, foreboding alleys?
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Rebecca is making up now for all the affection and attention she missed over six long years. She literally can't get enough of it.
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She has in fact, become a "diva."
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I feel bad of course that I did not pick Rebecca up a lot sooner. I feel bad too, that her equally sweet sister is still out there.  (On the other hand, picking up Rhonda, would leave her very feral dad all alone. -- Something I am hesitant to do in light of the relationship between the two cats. Were something to happen to Robbie, I would pick up Rhonda.)
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It is always hard to predict the outcome when deciding to rescue and take in a so-called, "feral" adult cat.
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Many will have a difficult transition from the outdoor life to life in a human home with all the trappings that go along with it. Many ferals will remain skittish and easily spooked for life.
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But, for whatever strange reason and despite her very feral parents, Rebecca was always meant to be with humans and in a human home.
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I suspect from the moment she was born, Rebecca was a diva at heart.  
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Friday, June 17, 2016

Falling Goose Feathers and Growing Babies -- The Season of the Molt


Hansel and Greta with babies in early June.
Babies growing fast.
Families merging.
First of the intruders arriving for the molt.
"Damn, they're here again!"
More interlopers!
John and Mary and their fast growing goslings who are now dark grey.
 
It's the dreaded season of the molt.
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The molt is the six week period during early summer when Canada geese lose and replace flight feathers. But for that six weeks, they are grounded.
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It's generally not a happy time for the geese.
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Frustrated by their inability to fly and move about, the geese can be cranky and cantankerous.
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Usually gathering in "safety in numbera" groups just prior to the vulnerable molt, it's inevitable that territorial and dominance skirmishes break out with older or paired geese often chasing and pecking pesky yearlings or underlings who just don't show enough respect for boundaries.
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There is established hierarchy among Canada geese. And at no time is it more apparent than during the challenging molt.   
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At the Central Park Reservoir, new arrivals for the molt period flew in earlier this year than previous springs. Most were already settled in by the first week in June.
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The Reservoir is an attractive location for molting geese due to its safety appeals. There are few (if any) natural predators, no dogs, no fishing and no goose harassment. Moreover, protective fencing surrounding the Reservoir ensures the geese are not chased or frightened by overly eager children or annoyed adults.
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The drawback to the Reservoir is that it doesn't contain grassy lawns for geese to feed upon as grass is their primary food source. But there are plants and foliage throughout the surrounding rocks and the geese make do with those. Apparently safety is more important to geese than favorite food sources. They are highly adaptable and vigilant creatures who make safety their #1 priority.
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The arrival of approximately 25 geese for the molt was, needless to say, not welcomed news to the two established goose families already there.  
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Both, John and Mary and Hansel and Greta were clearly annoyed with the new arrivals on to their "turf." The fact, both pairs are raising three goslings each, only added to the irritation.
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The two families have somewhat merged over the past couple of weeks with the daddy ganders taking turns chasing and "correcting" unruly and interloping upstarts.  
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But John and Hansel have their work cut out for them as both families are clearly outnumbered by the intruders.
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And so there eventually comes a point of begrudging acceptance.
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"We're all in this together," so to speak.
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With the pressure of guarding their mates and raising babies, neither John nor Hansel has time or energy to chase visiting geese 24/7. In another four or five weeks, this will all be over and the temporary intruders will be on their way. I sense both families already know this. It is perhaps comparable to human families having to put up with visiting relatives over holidays or summer vacations -- grin and bear it.
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Regarding the six goslings (three for John and Mary and three of Hansel and Greta), all are growing and developing quickly and normally. John and Mary's offspring are 9 days older and therefore, a little bigger and darker than their counterparts -- though when all together, it is sometimes hard to differentiate among them.
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Goslings grow very quickly and are full size within two months. By ten or eleven weeks, they are flying and usually leave the hatching and rearing locations with their parents. They are usually not seen until the following spring when the family returns to nesting location again. It is at that time that the parents (when wanting to nest again), "kick the kids from the nest" and send them on their way. Usually the necessary parting of the ways is not pretty to witness, but it is nature's way. All children have to learn to be adult and on their own.  
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Since all of the goslings hatched in May, many people and children have delighted in observing and watching them grow. There is rarely an evening that I don't run into other nature lovers enjoying and photographing the geese and their rapidly changing babies. It has all made for many warm and engaging conversations.
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Yes, it has been a wonderful spring so far, brimming with new life and hope!
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And even if there is the natural annoyance of falling feathers, temporary grounding and nuisance interlopers, it will all be over soon enough and both families will be on their way.
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But, oh the joy of this short-lived, but brilliant season!
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Enjoy the geese -- and their precious babies while you can.  -- PCA
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