Saturday, October 31, 2015

Marathons, Fireworks and Spooked Wildlife


Geese begin to gather themselves tightly on the water as fireworks begin to explode in the distance last night.
They swam somewhat frantically back and forth throughout the half hour display.
Fireworks finally coming to an end, the geese breathe a sigh of relief and begin to make their way back to the middle of the water.
 
I am looking very forward to the New York City marathon tomorrow.
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But not because I am running or know or care about anyone who is.
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As the granddaddy of all the other marathons that have permeated Central Park since early spring, it is hoped to finally see the end of them -- at least for a few months.
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But, the NYC marathon is not just a one-day event.
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There are all kinds of other celebrations leading up to it -- including a fireworks display that took place last night.
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I arrived to the Reservoir shortly after 6 PM and was pleased to see some newly arrived migratory geese on the water, in addition to Northern Shovelers, mallards and a variety of other small, water birds in the distance.  
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But, the tranquility of the moment was shortly shattered by exploding lights in the sky and loud, booming noises.
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Apparently fireworks are part of the three day "celebration" as they are with many other CP events from classical music concerts to the welcoming of spring.
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Immediately, flocks of small birds could be seen catapulting from the middle of the water and up into the skies in what was surely panic. Many of the birds flew in frantic circles and others flew out from the Reservoir.
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Though the geese had previously been resting on the water in three separate groups, they immediately honked and gathered themselves tightly together into one large gaggle and made their way to the far north east of the Reservoir -- as far away as they could get from the exploding fires in the sky without actually flying out.
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I watched and followed as the geese honked and wildly swam back and forth in the water, as if uncertain what to do. There were several points I was sure the geese would fly out and flee, but they were ultimately reluctant to do that.
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I am not sure why the geese did not take to the skies, but speculate that there were older geese among the flock who were familiar with fireworks and viewed them as not serious threat. Either that, or the migratory geese may have simply been spent from already having flown hundreds of miles in a day and did not want to fly needlessly and waste energy. Either one or both scenarios in combination are possible.
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After about a half hour, the booms and explosions finally came to an end. Billowing smoke remained and floated up into the skies like that from 1,000 cigarettes.
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One gander was heard honking what probably was some kind of message to the rest that everything was OK and they could finally relax.  
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The geese slowly made their way back to the middle of the water again and began to separate into their familiar groups. There were about 25 geese in all.
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(It should be noted that if the fireworks were terrifying to the birds on the Reservoir, they must have seemed like the end of the world to that wildlife actually closer to them. Fireworks are actually shot from a location near the Boat lake. Perhaps this is just one more reason why we don't have much wildlife in Central Park anymore.)
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Today, I went to the Central Park Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/centralparknyc/?fref=ts
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Under their post warning dog owners about the fireworks last night, I posted a comment detailing wildlife observations during the actual fireworks and asked why it is necessary to have fireworks for so many non-related human endeavors? 
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I don't expect an answer.
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But, it's interesting to note that the cover photo for Central Park is not of a actual park, but rather a group of people running.
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I guess that says it all.   -- PCA
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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Waves of Geese and an Old Dog with New Phase of Life


The first waves of the wild geese gone now, but soon to be replaced by equally exciting new arrivals.
Chance -- an old dog rejoicing in and replicating former memories.
And when it becomes too tiring to walk more, there is the miracle of "modern technology."
 
It seems the first waves of migratory Canada geese have flown through New York City and left just as quickly.
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I have seen close to 1,000 geese pass in and out of the Central Park Reservoir over the past month (though obviously not at the same time). The last group of about 45 geese flew out two nights ago, though they too, left in skeins of about 15 geese, roughly 10 minutes apart from each other.
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Yesterday was however, quiet with no migratory geese observed either in the morning or evening. But I speculate that was simply a momentary break, perhaps dependent on weather factors. (It's raining all along the east coast today.) Surely though, as day turns to night, more waves of geese will be arriving and departing -- and later in the year, the last gaggles will stay through the winter.
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Throughout this time, I have been bringing my "little old man" Pomeranian on most of the excursions to see geese at the Reservoir. Though because dogs and strollers are forbidden on the path, I have to be careful to go either during sparsely used times or park Chance off to the side (near the exits), but close to me in proximity.  
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Chance is a very good boy. He doesn't mind sitting quietly in his stroller while I snap photos and alternate attentions between him and what's going on in the skies and on the water. The latter is something he became well used to over the years.
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Sadly, it is something I thought Chance and I would never have opportunity for again. At 20 years of age, Chance can no longer do the long hikes in Central Park. Over the past year, it seemed a four or five block walk along neighborhood streets was the most Chance could muster as his legs have lost much of their former strength and vitality.
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Efforts to take Chance on longer walks seemed akin to forcing an 85 or 90-year-old person to do long hikes. It was hard to know what was important to do to keep Chance healthy and thriving and what was simply cruel.
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But, a couple of weeks ago, I purchased a doggie stroller from Amazon and as previously noted, it is a literal God-send.
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Chance loves his pretty blue stroller and it enable us to again spend time in the park together. Just as importantly, it seems to rekindle memories in Chance of what his former life and routine were.
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I take him along familiar paths -- places especially along the East Park Drive where I used to walk him and Tina every night years ago.
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Sadly, we lost Tina last year when at the age of 21, all of her body systems began to fail and my daughter and I eventually had her euthanized at the Animal Medical Center.
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Since then, it's just been Chance and me. But in recent months, I began to witness his seemingly rapid decline as was experienced with Tina over the last year of her life.
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Good nutrition and supplements help, but they cannot replace memories and experiences seemingly lost forever.
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But, a simple thing like a doggie stroller does reinvent the experiences and rekindles the memories.
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It has been encouraging and surprising to note Chance's sudden interest and alertness in what's around him and it's been nearly miraculous to note his newly found enthusiasm to walk, not just a couple of blocks, but close to a half a mile in the park!
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It's amazing how the old legs can still move when there is pleasant remembrance and positive association to spur them on!
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My only regret now is that the idea of a doggie stroller had not come to me when Tina was still alive. True, she was a heavier dog than Chance and hated being picked up, but I think, like him, she would have loved the rides and it might have served as spark to enjoy life in a new and positive way and perhaps even live a little longer.
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Only we should probably never fret about the "might have beens" and choose instead to be grateful for what actually is.
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I am very grateful for the availability of doggie strollers for those of us going through the pangs of watching our dogs grow older and not be physically able to do what once was so easy for them.
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Like humans, dogs can grow depressed and in some cases, perhaps even lose their will to continue living.
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Anything that can ease that sense of loss and help to rejuvenate spark and memory is indeed, a welcomed gift.
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Realistically, I know that at 7 years past the normal life span of a Pomeranian, Chance probably doesn't have a whole lot of "time" left.  20 years is very old for any dog.
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But, it is good to know that the fading days of his life can still contain many of the joys and experiences of his younger days. Chance many not be able to walk 3 miles anymore. But between enjoying the views from his stroller, getting out to walk for a spell and meeting new doggie friends in the park, life is pretty damn good.
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And just as the first waves of migratory geese are gone now, but soon to be replaced by the new and just as exciting later arrivals, life for humans and dogs also occurs in waves and phases, with no part being less important or enriching than the previous. -- PCA
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Song of the Geese -- "And We're Gonna Let It Burn, Burn, Burn"


Raising their wings to the sky and letting it burn.
Geese coming.....
And going.....
 
Music fills at least half of my every day.
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Music plays in the background when I'm online. And it also plays through my ears when I'm in Central Park.
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Every now and then a song comes over the MP3 player that completely meshes with and corresponds to the world around one and specifically, the sights and outer sounds being witnessed and heard.
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"We don't have to worry 'bout nothing.
'Cause we got the fire
And we're burning one hell of a something...."
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The geese gather and slowly organize under the fiery, calling rays of the morning sun.
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There is purpose and intent in their every move. There is confidence that whatever lies beyond the furthest horizons, no harm can or will come to them.
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"They're gonna see us from outer space
Light it up,
like we're the stars of the human race....."
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All of a sudden, one goose, then two, then six flap wings, glide rapidly across the water and then lift up from it, heads turning boldly and proudly upward towards the sky.
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"We can light it up, up, up
So they can't turn it out, out, out....."
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They circle once around the Reservoir, gaining height and speed with each flap of the wings and honk of their voices. Then, the geese head, with purpose and V-shaped organization, in north eastern direction and ultimately out of the Reservoir.
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Over the trees, the geese leave Central Park and head east, away from the threat of Manhattan skyscrapers. Traveling towards the borough of Queens, the flying "V" turns direction south, over low lying buildings, eventually disappearing into far southern horizon.
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"We can light it up, up, up
So they can't turn it out, out, out...."
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One by one, each group takes off and flies out -- like planes taking off from a runway. Some skeins as few as three or four geese. Some as many as thirty or forty -- but most around a dozen.
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But, they all follow the same invisible path and the same grand old highway in the sky.
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And they all appear to be singing:
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"When the light's turned down
They don't know what they heard
Strike a match
Play it loud
Giving love to the world
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We'll be raising our wings
Shining up to the sky
'Cause we got the fire,fire fire
And we're gonna let it burn, burn, burn
Yeah, we're gonna let it burn, burn, burn."
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And as the Ellie Gould song (Burn) ends, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXtpLjffj5Y
I finally realize, there are no geese left on the Reservoir.
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But, I go home feeling peaceful and happy.
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No doubt in celebration of the glory and freedom, both, seen and heard.  -- PCA
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Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Making Room for Migratory Geese" -- Through Unrelenting Harassment


Migratory Canada geese gathered along the Central Park Reservoir this morning just prior to take-off.
Taking off on the rest of their long and taxing migration.
"Get the Flock Out!" Geese Police again patrolling Central Park to immediately chase out any migratory geese who stop to rest or graze at any of the park's lakes, ponds or lawns.
 
"We harass resident geese to make room for the migratory geese."
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The above was told to me several years ago by a spokesperson for the Central Park Conservancy, when questioned why Canada geese were being harassed and chased from Harlem Meer.
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Even at the time, I knew this statement to be completely lacking in credibility.
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Resident geese and migratory geese do not follow the same behavioral patterns nor do they typically "loaf" in the same locations nor mix together.
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But, if we needed proof that the statement was blatantly false, it can be noted in the fact that, ("Get the Flock Out") Geese Police is once again, patrolling Central Park -- at a time when virtually all the geese passing through one of the world's most prestigious parks are in fact, migratory.  
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Geese Police has been observed over the past week, patrolling the lawns, lakes and ponds of Central Park, as well as chasing geese from the Boat Lake through the use of kayaks and a Border Collie. (The Boat Lake is one of the few areas in Central Park to actually have any geese to chase.)
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But, despite the lunacy and needless cruelty, there is still some good news to report:
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1-- Virtually all the migratory geese pass through and briefly rest at the Central Park Reservoir -- the one watercourse, Geese Police does not have access to.
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2-- The 16 geese currently at the Boat Lake are led by two ganders ("Man" and Warrior") who are well accustomed to Geese Police and are not easily intimidated.
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Bad news of course is that any migratory geese who briefly land or perhaps attempt to feed in places other than the Reservoir, will be subjected to harassment.  
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Considering that migratory geese fly thousands of miles on treacherous journeys from the far north regions of Canada and the sub Arctic to points south in the United States, rest and feed stops along the way are extremely important to them. Any disruptions or molestations to that, can potentially and negatively impact the rest of the migration.
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Put simply, migrations are extremely taxing on all birds in terms of stress, dangers and physical endurance even under the best circumstances. If they cannot stop to replenish both energy and nourishment, some could ultimately be doomed.
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In the past, I have observed migratory geese briefly stopping to graze and/or rest at the North Meadow in Central Park, as well as the Great Lawn and Harlem Meer . But, in recent years, little of such has been observed, most likely due the aggressive, anti-wildlife policies of the Central Park Conservancy, of which Geese Police represents only one.
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I specifically recall a gaggle of four migratory geese who had briefly stopped at Harlem Meer one morning a couple of years ago -- only to be immediately harassed out by Geese Police. Of course I complained to the Central Park Conservancy, but obviously to no avail. They know who I am and routinely dismiss my calls or letters. ("Crazy old goose lady," no doubt.)
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It is a personal frustration that I am apparently the only person bothered enough by these damaging and unnecessary actions to actually protest them. I know other people are dismayed, but evidently not enough to make a simple call or write a note.  
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It is impossible to count the number of conversations I have personally had with other park goers over the past few years in which they expressed distress with the "disappearing" and low numbers of waterfowl in Central Park or even having personally witnessed Geese Police in action. But, I can't recall even one (other than my friend, Liliana) who actually took the time to make their thoughts known to the Central Park Conservancy.
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Evidently, wildlife lovers are not as vocal as those whose wishes are to turn Central Park into an enormous, outdoor gym -- which is pretty much what it is now.  (Indeed, the only things missing are treadmills and exercise machines, but I trust they will be installed any year now.)
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All of this is particularly disturbing in light of species vanishing from the planet in what is recently referred to as the, "Sixth Greatest Mass Extinction" and massive numbers of sea birds currently dying on the west coast from California to Alaska. http://tribelive.ning.com/forum/mind-blowing-die-off-of-seabirds-underway-from-california-to-alas?fb_action_ids=10153814628233394&fb_action_types=og.likes
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With all of this in mind, I am making special effort to get to the Reservoir as often as I can during the fall migrations to catch the migratory geese either coming into (usually at night) or leaving the Reservoir with the rising sun.
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It is a thrill beyond words to see and hear this magnificent undertaking twice a year.
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But should the migratory geese eventually "disappear" from Central Park as so much other wildlife has over the years, let us consider, it was death by a thousand cuts of which uncontested and unrelenting goose harassment was but a small part.
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The greatest death knells were silence and indifference.  -- PCA
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Friday, October 16, 2015

Return of the Embattled Warrior Goose and Now Undisputed King


Warrior watching over his flock in the water.
"Hi There! Don't mind my rough appearance."
Warrior (right) and his mate, Princess.
Guarding the flock who remained dutifully in the water.
Embattled and physically challenged, but still respected by all, Warrior surveys while his demure mate looks on.
 
About two weeks ago, there was a flock of newly arrived and what I presumed to be, migratory geese at the Central Park Reservoir.
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But the lead gander particularly caught my eye.
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He appeared to be very roughed up -- as if having been in many battles. The front of his neck was raw and missing feathers.
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He came close to the rocks and looked up as if recognizing me (something unusual for migratory geese).
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A part of me wondered, "Could it possibly be? Nah, it couldn't be! It's just a goose that looks like him."
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I continued to watch this gander for a while.
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No doubt he was the undisputed leader of the gaggle. He was quite formidable in chasing other geese away from himself and his immediate family and laying down rules.
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Later that evening, I called my friend, Liliana.
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"There was a goose at the Reservoir tonight that looked a lot like Warrior. That same roughed up neck with missing feathers and he seemed to recognized me!  But, of course, it couldn't be..."
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Both, Liliana and myself, have assumed for almost a year, that Warrior was long dead.
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He didn't look good the summer before last when he and his mate, Princess attempted to nest at the Boat Lake and their eggs were destroyed. When both geese finally left the Boat Lake in December of 2014, they had not been seen since anywhere in Central Park.
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A brutal winter followed and one spring and summer without any sign of the gander with the scars of past battles (along with some chronic skin condition) and his dutiful, but forever devoted mate.
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But then suddenly, what appeared to be Warrior in both looks and behavior magically turned up at the Reservoir early in this year's fall migrations!
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Liliana was surprised with the news, but like me, was skeptical that the gander was actually Warrior.
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The only way to know for sure would be that, instead of flying out of Central Park with the rest of the migratory geese, Warrior and his mate returned to the Boat Lake.
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Sure enough, the following day, Liliana called to report that indeed, Warrior and Princess had returned to the Boat Lake -- but they did not return alone.
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The pair had evidently produced four goslings this past summer!
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And not only were Warrior and Princess overseeing their four immediate offspring, but they were also the apparent top of hierarchy to a gaggle of 14 geese in total (including the family of six).
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It's not clear if the other 8 geese are members of extended family or just summer flock mates who have tagged along with the family during the fall migration with Warrior as the designated leader.  
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It has been known for some time that in geese, families with young generally "rule" and the older ganders especially tend to take on leadership positions for the whole group. -- What they say, goes.  (Female goose mates, however, choose nesting locations in the spring. Apparently, it was Princess who smartly decided this past spring that the Central Park Boat Lake was not conducive for nesting and raising young.)
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Over the past two weeks, Liliana has regularly reported the comings and goings of Warrior and the family, as well as their dominance, not only of the geese in their immediate gaggle, but all the geese on the lake -- including the four resident geese who are now clearly outnumbered and have to acquiesce to the larger group.
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But, though he may appear (and is) rough and tumble with other geese, Warrior obviously has a tender heart for those humans he remembers fondly. He has always been a favorite for my friend, Liliana (probably because she feels sorry for and worries about him) and he repays her kindness with special acknowledgement and gratitude.
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Yesterday morning I went to the Boat Lake to see for myself, if it really was Warrior who had returned with his mate (and entire gaggle!) and if he still remembered me?
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And yes, Warrior and Princess not only remembered, but came right up to me! However, the other geese of his gaggle, including the couple's four young goslings remained cautiously in the water.
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It was good to see these two special geese again -- though Warrior looks even more embattled than what I remember. (He apparently has some chronic skin condition that results in irritation and feather loss around the neck and head.) 
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Both now and in the past, Liliana and I have discussed possibility of trying to rescue Warrior and bring him to the Wild Bird Fund for diagnosis and possible treatment. But, such would negatively impact his mate and (now) offspring, as well as the gaggle he heads up. Moreover, it's not certain such a long standing condition actually is treatable.
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So, for the moment, the decision is once again to carefully observe.  As long as Warrior is eating and behaving normally, it is probably wiser to let him be. He has obviously learned to "adapt" to the condition and adapt well -- especially in procreating, successfully raising young ones and even leading a flock.
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It was nice yesterday to see Warrior proudly standing on the rock with his devoted mate nearby, looking over his gaggle. 
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If bothered by any physical challenges, he wasn't showing it.
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As said to my friend, Liliana, "You chose the perfect name for this gander, as he is a true warrior through and through!"   -- PCA
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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Taking Chance on Old Doggie in a "Baby" Stroller


An old dog feeling young again and just enjoying the ride.
One of the hardest things about having a dog for many years is watching him/her grow older and not be able to do the same things as years past.
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My Pomeranian, Chance, is nearly 20-years-old now.
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Up until two and a half years ago, I used to walk him and his companion dog, Tina, two to three miles in Central Park every night.
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Sadly, we lost Tina last year, when at the age of 21, she lost her ability to walk or even get up from a sitting or sleeping position. I knew the end had come when she no longer wanted to eat.
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It's always extremely tough when that day inevitably arrives when one must learn to say, good-bye to a loved, companion pet of many years. Our dogs and cats literally become our family and that is especially true when our adult human children marry and move on to their own lives and families.
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Fortunately, my daughter accompanied me the day we had to bring Tina to the Animal Medical Center for euthanasia and we were fortunate to have a very caring and compassionate veterinarian. Tina's departure from this world was peaceful and without pain.
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But, it was still heartbreaking and wrought with grief.
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Fortunately for me, I still had Chance to come home to.
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But now Chance too, has reached advanced senior age and like Tina, has slowed tremendously over the past year or so.
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I rarely do walks in the park anymore with Chance as it requires great effort on his part. Though he still loves going out, the old bones are simply not capable of long hikes. Supplements help, but do not turn back the hands of time.
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Still, I have greatly missed walks in the park with my dog(s). More importantly, I know Chance has missed them.
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What to do -- if anything?
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With the weather turning cooler now and Central Park not quite so mobbed with dense crowds, runners and cyclists, the thought occurred to me last week about the possibility of purchasing a doggie stroller for Chance.
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Of course, I worried that such might be out of my budget or worse, Chance simply wouldn't take to it.
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Chance has always been a funny dog about avoiding furniture and even the doggie bed I bought a couple of years ago.  (My cats use it.)
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Nevertheless, I decided to look into the matter.
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Shockingly, doggie strollers are actually inexpensive and affordable (or at least on Amazon.com, they are.)
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I found and ordered a pretty blue, doggie stroller from the Internet site -- and then thought myself completely insane for doing so.
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"Chance will freak out in it!  It will be too heavy and cumbersome to lug up and down stairs. He won't fit comfortably. I still won't be able to take him on the Reservoir path. The stroller is so cheap, there must be something wrong with it. I'll just waste money for something the cats can't even use."
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Yes, I thought of a million things that could go wrong, the biggest being my beloved and senior Pomeranian being utterly terrorized and traumatized. I could envision Chance struggling and tearing to get out and perhaps even having a heart attack in the process!
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Of course, 90% of the stuff we worry about never happens.
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The stroller arrived a few days ago.
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But, it wasn't until this morning, (at the crack of dawn no less), that I finally garnered the gumption to give it the old college try.
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Getting both, the stroller and Chance to the street wasn't the big deal I thought it might be. (The stroller is lightweight and easy to carry.) I walked Chance a couple of blocks while pushing the stroller. (Also not hard).
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And then finally the moment of reckoning: Putting Chance in the stroller and heading to Central Park!
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I had done a short trial run in my apartment to be sure the fit was OK and it was. But, Chance had been a bit nervous at home. Would he totally freak out in the streets?
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Chance was a bit fidgety and a little whiney at first. Oh, oh.
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But, once we started moving along, he settled down and finally seemed to find a comfortable position.
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By the time we got to Central Park, he was sitting upright, alertly looking out through the protective netting, and had a wide smile on his face! 
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There was little activity on the Reservoir at that early hour on a Sunday morning. What few runners there were, actually smiled and chuckled at the Pomeranian in a small, "baby" stroller.
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I could not have dreamed or begged for a more perfect morning.
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Migratory geese on the water, the raccoon family settling in their dens to sleep for the day and my happy old dog enjoying a "ride" in the park.
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It was like a trip back in time, as it had been so long since I had been able to enjoy quality, guilt-free time in Central Park with my dog. (Our recent walks had been short and seemed a struggle for Chance.)
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Chance and I were in the park for a little over an hour and both, he and I enjoyed every minute.
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When at last we were back home, Chance came out of his stroller, tail wagging like a puppy!
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Yes, 90% of the stuff we worry about doesn't happen. And yes, sometimes a little optimism and positive thinking goes a long way.
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So glad I took the chance for Chance. He is one very happy old dog now who for the moment, is feeling young again!  -- PCA
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