Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

A Christmas Story

December 27, 2010

Christmas at our home started out uneventfully. The farolitos – or if you prefer, the luminarios – had lasted all night. At the bird feeders visitors included a few White-crowned sparrows, several English Sparrows, some Bushtits, and two robins, but nothing exotic or out-of-the-ordinary. Overflights of Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes added color and sound to the morning. The Border Collies helped us open presents and we had a traditional Northern New Mexico lunch: Posole, tamales, with copious doses of red chile.

A turkey was in the oven, promising turkey dinners, dressing, gravy, and turkey soup.

After lunch we watched “A Christmas Story.” That’s the movie about the little boy, Ralphie, who wants an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, a/k/a BB gun. But it’s not looking good for his chances: His mother, his teacher, and even Santa Claus assure him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

He expected resistance from his mother, of course. After all, Mothers know nothing about creeping marauders burrowing through the snow toward the kitchen where only you and you alone stand between your tiny, huddled family and insensate evil.” But he is stunned by opposition from his teacher and Santa Claus.

The Roast Turkey from "A Christmas Story"

A Christmas Story” is also the movie in which Darrin MacGavin plays Ralphie’s Dad and is constantly at profanity-laced war with electrical outlets, his car, and the furnace. As an adult, Ralphie remembers his father as an artist who, “worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay.” “In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that, as far as we know, is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.”

The Bumpus Bloodhounds

But, to his father’s credit, he was beloved by the bloodhounds belonging to the neighbors, the Bumpeses. The dogs mobbed Ralphie’s Dad whenever he appeared at his door or when he got home from work. Any man that beloved by dogs can be forgiven a lot of profanity.

And he loved roast turkey. After the Christmas turkey was roasted his wife was on constant guard to ensure he didn’t sneak into the kitchen and start eating it before dinner.

That turkey was the tragedy of the movie. The bloodhounds broke into the house and demolished it like it had been thrown into a Piranha infested river. Ralphie summed it up, “The heavenly aroma still hung in the house. But it was gone, all gone! No turkey! No turkey sandwiches! No turkey salad! No turkey gravy! Turkey Hash! Turkey a la King! Or gallons of turkey soup! Gone, ALL GONE!”

Red-bellied Piranha by Gregory Moine

I commiserated with that man. I love roast turkey and all its fall-out. And while I would never – and never did, even when I owned a BB gun – shoot a wild bird, I do love to eat turkey.

Anyway, while waiting for our turkey, we watched and enjoyed “A Christmas Story.” On our television, that movie was followed by “The Wizard of Oz” and neither of us had seen it in years.

But that didn’t matter. The turkey was ready, the dressing and potatoes were ready for the gravy and, even though I had not yet had a glass of champagne, I announced, “Our cookie is turked.” I was that excited, you see. Even the power of coherent speech left me.

So instead of watching another movie we ate our dinner.

After the meal we wandered back into the living room and watched the last scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy awakes and finds herself back in Kansas. Shortly one of the Border Collies wandered into view with something in her mouth.

It was a turkey wing.

A dash to the kitchen resulted in a view of several Border Collies in the middle of the kitchen floor, huddled around the turkey. What was left of it.


Here is the movie’s official trailer. A glimpse of the turkey heist occurs about 50 seconds into the clip.

What Happens if You Forget to Feed the Birds

April 24, 2009

We are often asked if forgetting to fill your bird feeders matters to the birds who frequent the feeders at your residence.

This cannot happen at our house; the Border Collies won’t allow it. Feeding the birds at our house requires coordinated teamwork.  A minimum of one human and three Border Collies is necessary,

Border Collies Feeding the Birds

Border Collies Feeding the Birds

As far as we are able to tell, it is the job of the first Border Collie to see to it that the human who actually fills the feeders goes to the appropriate places in the correct order with the right seed for each feeder.  The second Border Collie herds the first to insure that he makes no mistakes herding the human.  The third is a general purpose back-up in case of mistake.  Mostly though, her job is to herd the second Border Collie; Border Collies seldom make mistakes.  All three remind us daily to feed the birds, so we never forget.

Apparently, the job of bird feeding is more complicated than letting the chickens out of their coop each morning.  Only one Border Collie is required to oversee that job.  And, at the same time, he checks the property to insure that no cats have snuck onto the property during the night.  In this way the dogs minimize the risk to the birds of domestic cat attacks, one of the leading causes of song-bird death.

The breeder who sends us our Border Collies is either a Border Collie in disguise or the world’s greatest expert about dogs. As she teaches, “Border Collies know 150 separate commands and they make you perform each perfectly.”  She also interprets their behavior and empathizes with them.  It must not be easy, she says, to have to live with such dimwitted beings as humans who have to think before they do anything.  Always thinking; seldom acting: That’s how dogs see us.

So, for us, it is a hypothetical question of what happens to the local birds if we fail to fill the feeders; as we said, the dogs won’t allow it. But not everyone has a team of dogs to remind them.  What happens if you forget?

No one knows for sure, but the answer is probably not much — at least during times of good weather.  The birds who frequent your feeders are opportunistic feeders and feed on a wide variety of plants, seeds, and bugs and will survive without your feeders, especially if there are other feeders in the neighborhood.  If you forget one day or are gone for awhile, they’ll be fine and will return to your feeders as soon as they notice they are filled again.

rubythroathummer65That is not always true during times of harsh weather.  Mounting evidence indicates that some bird species are not migrating because of the availability of human supplied food during winter and the shoulder seasons of early spring and late autumn.  Significant numbers of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, for instance, no longer migrate to Central America, but remain in the Gulf Coast region of the United States during winter.  There is no doubt that supplemental food helps non-migratory birds survive winters.  And, as we always remind people, providing fresh water is at least as important as the food you put out.

But how you are going to feed your birds without a team of Border Collies is simply beyond our power to imagine.

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