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How about a dog bird? June 24, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, pets, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I have had two beautiful, wonderful golden retrievers, Molly and Annie. Golden retrievers are what are called bird dogs: When they see a bird, they stop, lift up a front leg, and “point” in the bird’s direction. They also have what is called a “soft mouth,” so they can retrieve a duck or other game bird after it’s been shot without biting into it. Labrador retrievers and spaniels are also bird dogs.

These days, OFB and I have the pleasure of living with our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, whose herding instincts are superb but whose hunting instincts are nil. Squirrels send most dogs we know nuts, chasing them and barking endlessly in frustration, long after the squirrels have gained the safety of the trees. Shiloh just watches them (in silence, thank God). Baby raccoons waddle in front of her; she looks like she’s trying to figure out the best way to herd them—if only she weren’t on this wretched leash!—so she could keep them safely under guard.

Yesterday, I was taking Shiloh outside for a bathroom break when we had a new (and very endearing) experience. We were in the backyard, bound for the circle of trees, known as the Circle of Doom, that’s Shiloh’s outdoor bathroom area. I saw that two robins were blocking our path. One flew out of the way as it saw us approaching. The other held its ground.

I realized that I wasn’t looking at two adult robins, but at a parent and its just-fledged offspring, whom it was teaching to cope with life outside the nest. It was this toddler robin, probably on its very first flight, that was still in our path. I brought myself and Shiloh to a full stop to give the little robin time to run or fly away.

But it didn’t. It looked at us with the most extreme interest, and then began making a beeline right for us, running over the lawn on unsteady legs. All the while, its distressed parent hovered nearby, calling what no doubt translated as “What are you doing? Get back here!!! That dog is going to swallow you in one bite! And what about that scary person? Come back! COME BAAAACK!!!” Naturally, the young robin completely ignored its parent’s frantic cries.

Shiloh and I watched this phenomenon with quiet fascination. As it became clear that the little bird really was going to run right into us unless I took action, I took Shiloh back to the house, not because I thought she would hurt the robin, but because I was concerned about causing further distress to its parent. When we came back out later, both robins were gone.

I guess we’d had our first encounter with a dog bird.

            ‘Til next time,




1. siurana olive oil - June 24, 2012

Have you ever thought about including a little bit
more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all.
Nevertheless just imagine if you added some great photos or video
clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this blog could undeniably be one of the greatest in its field. Wonderful blog!

Thanks for the kind words! Certainly, you’re not the first to wonder why there are no photos, videos, etc. on Poor Richard’s Almanac. We don’t doubt that many actual and potential readers would feel a strong sense of relief if the occasional graphic element broke up our uninterrupted sea of prose! But we’re Luddites, techno-idiots. Our collective graphic abilities would put a self-respecting six-year-old to shame. We’re those people who cut off the subjects’ heads or stick our thumbs over the lens when taking photos. We don’t have the least clue how to upload a photo, much less make and embed a video. The one thing we CAN do is write, so we stick to what we’re good at and let the other blogs provide the visual appeal. Anyway, thanks for asking!

2. Frater Zee - June 24, 2012

Hi Si. Awesome story.

Here’s another similar. Tarra is a 9000 pound female elephant who lives on a large estate in Tennessee called Elephant Sanctuary — http://www.elephants.com/

One day, Tarra’s caregiver Carol noticed Tarra staring intently at a baby bird sitting on a fence wire only a few feet away. An elephant’s instinct is to “reach out” with their trunk and touch everything they are curious about. Somehow through elephant Zen, Tarra resisted this impulse for 3 to 4 minutes, giving Carol time to go fetch her camera and take this amazing photo:


I could also mention that Carol had raised Tarra from a youngster, and taught her to play harmonica and roller skate, but that is another story.

Certainly all animals have an intense awareness of other creatures they encounter. I often wonder what opinions these animals have of us humans.

Back to your story — somewhere I read that dogs, especially “pointer” breeds, are one of the few creatures who, when you point at something, will look in the direction (and maybe run towards) where you are pointing. A cat, on the other hand, will merely look at the hand which is pointing. What does this mean ?? Cheers.

Hi Frater Zee! Thanks for the wonderful story about Tarra and the links. Elephants are really amazing people. I think animals, like very young children, are actually able to “see” people as they are, not as they present themselves or through the lens of superficial societal values. That’s why their acceptance and love have such value. It’s also why people are right to distrust a person if their dog or cat is uneasy around them. I, too, have read that dogs will follow the direction of a human’s pointing hand or even foot, and that even the apes can’t do this. In fact, doubtless from their long domestication, dogs have learned how to “read” humans better than any other species, and probably considerably more accurately than most people. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but it’s doubtful you can fool a dog at any time, and certainly not more than once!

3. SaraC - June 25, 2012

Hey I nominated you for an award 🙂 http://domesteading.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/sunshine-award/

Thanks so much, Sara! We really appreciate it! We’ll try to get to those questions soon, but first we have to go blast Monsanto…

4. narf77 - June 30, 2012

Being the slaves to 2 dogs ourselves we know how different dogs can be. Earl (the youngest) is a born hunter and has to be kept on a leash on our property at all times as he has the propensity to kill and dismember just about any living thing that he comes across at any given time. Bezial, on the other hand, loves nothing better than laying on the deck watching the wildlife walk by. We can let him out amongst the feral cats…the free ranging chickens etc. and he will just wander through them at his leisure ignoring them summerily. Bezial used to be just like Earl especially when it came to cats and chased a neighbouring moggie once when he broke off his haltie and had to be rescued from the owners back yard! Your story was lovely and you headed back inside just in time…that poor parent was just about to expire!

Awww, thanks, Fran! Your story is lovely as well. Dogs are such special people!

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