Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mysteries Solved

The other day I said that it could not be possible that a dog would have gotten out on the ice to attack Joey, the flightless Pekin duck who is now recovering at Animal General from severe bite wounds. 
I may have to eat those words this morning. 
But, before getting to that, let me backtrack to Sunday night:
Although there were at least 25 geese at Harlem Meer on Saturday afternoon being serenaded by a rapper and fed by several kind people, none were there Sunday night.
"Wow, that's strange!" I thought.  "So much for all that crap about geese staying where they are fed."  
Of course one small part of me wondered if Central Park had sent out some sort of "harassment" operation to scare off the geese as they did almost two months ago at Harlem Meer.  But, officials at the Central Park Conservancy has assured me they would not being doing any more goose harassment during the winter.
The problem is that any time deliberate cruelty occurs to animals in the parks such as gassing geese or harassment of them, one's trust in the powers that be becomes somewhat eroded.
So yes, the thought crossed my mind.
Still, I have observed geese and mallards long enough to know that they often take off for their own reasons.  Certainly, every time it snows, it seems the mallards take off and leave Brad and Angelina to deal with the storms on their own.
So no, I had no idea why the geese took off again. I chucked to myself that perhaps they only came in on the weekend for the free rap concert and treats and then left for greener pastures? (Ha, ha, as if there are any green pastures in NYC these days. -- Even the mountains of garbage are covered in snow!)
Anyway, I was glad that the geese had been at the Meer for at least a couple of days.  They had helped to create a much bigger pool of moving water and that was good news for Brad, Angelina and the other ducks.
Nevertheless, Brad -- never a duck to take anything for granted or sit back on his booty -- was immediately back in the water Sunday night after eating, bobbing down in the water furiously.  Brad and his mate, Angelina must have heard the weather reports predicting more sub-freezing temperatures and snow storms. Neither of these ducks are slackers and that is exactly why they have survived so long despite not being able to fly.
I was disappointed about the once again vanishing geese, but got good news when leaving Harlem Meer Sunday night:
I ran into the lovely couple who had taken the box of abandoned hamsters last week.
The woman told me they had the hamsters for two days and that there were in fact, a whole bunch of hamsters in the box.   Several adults, juveniles and babies.  I am not sure of the exact number, but many more than I realized.
After conferring with their vet and making a bunch of phone calls they discovered that Petland Discounts on 125th street was willing to take all the hamsters!  So off the couple went to Petland where the hamsters were promptly separated by sex.  Presumably, the store knows how to prevent unwanted births -- unlike the hamsters' previous owners who simply dumped the fast reproducing animals in a public park on a freezing, snowy night. 
Anyway, getting back to other mysteries possible solved:
Last night, I headed back to the Meer not even trying to figure out what I might find or not find there.
And once again, there was surprise in store.
The geese were all back, as well as a larger than normal number of mallards!
And once again, there was kind of frenzy for the food.   One of the crazy mallards even landed and perched on the top of my head!
"Hey, come on now!  Who's up there?   That is NOT a good habit to develop! Ya gotta come down!"
He was a drake of course.  Some of the drakes are extremely bold -- and crazy.
I snapped a couple of quick photos -- especially of the sentry geese perched atop a small rock keeping careful watch of everything.   Geese are like that, you know.  The whole flock can be busy eating, but there are always two or three geese who don't eat, but rather keep careful and diligent watch for any potential threats.  
Snow flakes were beginning to fall when I bade good night to the birds and started to make my way out of the park with my two dogs.
But, as I neared the exits, I suddenly noticed what seemed in the distance like a coyote or dog bolting across the frozen ice of the lake!   The animal was heading straight in the direction of the waterfowl!
Oh No!  Oh My God!
Suddenly, a chorus of loud, goose honks similar to the night Geese Relief scared almost all the birds off the lake  -- and then the sight of the Canada geese taking quick alarm flight in familiar "V" pattern,  along with the mallards right beside them!
What the HELL?
I then noticed the animal on the ice bounding back in the other direction to return to his OWNER on the bank of the lake!
It was obviously a dog!
Well instead of heading out of the park, my first concern was for Brad and Angelina, the flightless ducks who have no means of escape from a marauding dog other than to hit the water in a hurry.
I headed over to the small pond.  
Thankfully, Brad and Angelina were swimming peacefully in the water unharmed -- along with ONE Canada goose!
The goose did not appear to be hurt, but I could not figure out why s/he didn't leave with all the rest of the geese and mallards.
I left what little I had remaining of bird seed for the three birds and then set out to track down the owner with the dog.
The dog was a youngish looking German Shepherd still running around in the snow when I caught up with her owner.  The man was white, about 40 with a bit of what looked like a beer paunch.
"Was that your dog running across the ice a little while ago?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah," the man smiled proudly. "Lila loves the ice and she knows her way around."
"You know,  a lady's standard poodle fell through ice at Prospect Park last month and drowned.  That's a dangerous thing."
"Ah, no!" the man laughed.  "Lila's very smart.  She knows what ice she can run on!"
"She was running near the birds and the ice is thin in that area of the lake!  Do you know a white duck was bitten by a dog and is now in a vet hospital!"
"My Lila wouldn't do that!  She likes to chase the birds, but would never hurt one!"
"She's going to fall through the ice!  Then what are you going to do?"
"I'll just call 911!" the man answered.  It was apparent he had been drinking and wasn't too capable of rational thought.
"By the time they get here, sir, your dog is going to be dead. It only take a couple of minutes to die from hypothermia.  Birds fly. Dog's don't!"
But, I could tell my words were wasted on this man who was flying higher than the escaping geese and mallards.
I finally told the man to keep his dog away from the birds and thin ice and bade him good night.   I have to hope my words have some impact on him later when he sobers up -- that is if he even remembers them tonight.
I realize of course that I don't actually know if it was this particular exuberant Shepherd who caused the injury to Joey.   It could have, after all, been any dog.
All I do know is that when I said a few days ago, that it couldn't be possible for a dog to get on the ice and injury Joey, I was dead wrong.
The story of the woman's poodle falling through ice and drowning actually happened last month at Prospect Park.    I wonder if he too, "was just having fun chasing birds?"
There is no overestimating human stupidity and irresponsibility.
How dumb does one really have to be not to figure out that birds on ice can fly, but dogs can't?
Mystery unfortunately solved where Joey is concerned.  He's lucky that he did not die due to this kind of human denial.
I hope I don't read about this guy's pretty, young Shepherd drowning in the ice at Harlem Meer.
The geese are once again laughing at the lunacy of us humans.  -- PCA

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