Monday, July 18, 2011

"Dog Days of Summer" (But, Potential Blessing in Disguise for the Geese?)

"Hot time, summer in the city;
Back of my neck, feeling dirty and gritty."
Another song from the 60's comes to mind in capturing New York City during what is now another round in an oppressive heat wave that is predicted to last all week.
It is never good news hearing that temperatures are projected to climb to the mid 90's for five days or more.
Even things normally enjoyed are not enjoyed during the high heat of the summer -- such as a walk in the park.
These days it is more of a ordeal walking through Central Park, then something looked forward to.  I have to be careful that my dogs don't overheat.   I have to be careful that I don't melt down like the wicked witch of the west in the Wizard of Oz.
Nevertheless, during these ominous and fearful days of "goose roundups" from city parks, monitoring Central Park is something one is compelled to do as matter of staying on top of the situation with the geese in one's own area.
Yesterday, I headed out with my dogs at 7 AM in order to avoid the heat that would inevitably come later in the day.
But, even at that hour on a Sunday morning, the park was already teaming with thousands of runners, cyclists and dogs with their owners.
Just looking at the runners, their shirts already drenched in sweat, made me want to either flee home or simply melt down right there in the middle of the park drive.
But, eventually arriving to the boat lake, my spirits immediately lifted.
There, on the safety of their protected rock in the middle of the lake was the "family" of geese, apparently sleeping late on a Sunday morning.
I raised and clapped my hands in the air and called out to them.
And then, slowly and lazily, they all left the safety of the island rock to swim over and meet me on one of the other rocks attached to the park embankment.
But, as sweet as the moment was, it was quickly short circuited.
After getting just a couple of minutes to greet "my" geese and share a few treats with them, suddenly a large dog came bungling down the narrow path behind me and headed straight for the geese on the rock.
In terror, the geese all bolted and immediately headed straight for the water, honking out distress calls in the process.
The dog quickly followed, splashing madly in the water and swimming a few feet.
But, the geese were faster, more proficient swimmers and managed to get away.
Then, the dog owner, casually sauntering down the path, appeared before me with a bemused look on her face.
"I really like to come here to see the geese!" she said with a smile.
Then, why do you allow your dog to HARASS them? I wanted to scream at her. 
But, deciding it was too early in the morning to get into a fight with someone, I simply threw the woman a not so amused look and said, "Dogs are not supposed to be in the water."
"Oh, yes, these park rules!  Well, I don't agree with all of them."
The woman did call her dog out of the water however, and seeing I was clearly not in agreement with her actions, she left.
The situation pissed me off, however, because it caused personal conflict.
As a dog owner and lover myself, the last thing I want to do is get into confrontations with other dog owners.
But, I wonder why and how people like this woman cannot be respectful of the rights of other animals to be left in peace?  --  Especially, someone claiming to "like" the geese!
Did this woman think the geese were simply there for the entertainment and bemusement of herself and her dog?
One of my dogs, Tina, is a herding type dog. Tina's natural instinct IS to chase and "herd" other animals, including waterfowl.
(In fact, it was Tina who got me interested in ducks and geese to begin with because she is so fascinated by and loves to watch them.)
But, while I never formally "trained" Tina to leave other animals alone, she has been conditioned over the years, not to move a muscle, when we are around waterfowl.  Both she and my other dog, Chance, simply sit and watch the birds and never make any moves towards them.  They know what I want and expect from them.
When I see dogs owners like the woman yesterday, it tells me they don't actually spend time conditioning their dogs to behave respectfully around other animals. -- They probably don't even take their dogs to the park that much.
Frustrated that my visit with the geese was cut so short by an irresponsible dog owner, I looked out over the lake to see that other dog owners were also allowing their dogs to swim and splash in the water.
This was just one more harassment that the geese and ducks have to put up with -- especially in the summer.
I then looked over and notice that "my" geese had returned to the safety of their rock in the middle of the water -- where nothing can get to them.
Later in the day there would be many dozens of boats on the water and the fisherman would be out with their hooks and lines.
No, the birds of our lakes and ponds do not have it easy in the summer.  In fact, I personally believe summer to be the cruelest of all the seasons to them (especially with the goose roundups).
But, at least to this point, the geese of Central Park are still "safe" from the USDA killers.
Last night, when hearing the weather predictions for the coming week, I first cringed, thinking, Oh, No!
But, then another thought came to mind. -- A memory from the conversation the other day with a USDA official:
"We don't conduct roundups when it is too hot.  It stresses out the geese too much."
Could it be that the high heat of this coming week might actually be a blessing in disguise for our beleaguered geese, both in New York and Canterbury, Virginia?
Of course, New York City is not Virginia. What an official from the south says about roundups there might not apply to here.
And we were told on Friday that there are still three roundups scheduled for New York City.
Still, it would be nice to think of one potential "silver lining" in all this projected heat, humidity and misery:
"Hot time, summer in the city
Back of my neck, feeling dirty and gritty
No geese, isn't it a pity?
Can't round 'em up, when its 90 in the city"  -- PCA

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