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Tag: wild

One-legged Ned and the feral cats

During my stay aboard a sailboat, docked at the marina at Nick’s Fish House in Baltimore, I expected to run into my old friends Ned and Kay Uhler, who used to drive down from their home everyday to feed the feral cats that call Nick’s parking lot home.

The cats, who I wrote about a few years ago, are still around — this black one tried to cross my path last night – but I’m not so sure about Ned and Kay. Somebody’s still feeding the cats though, and maybe it’s them. Perhaps I’m just not waking up early enough to catch them in the act.

Ace, when we get off the boat for walks, usually spots one or two, and seems eager to get closer and meet them, but I don’t let him. I doubt he’d get the same reception from them that Ned and Kay always did.

My story about Ned and Kay feeding the feral cats was the only one, during my newspaper career, that I wrote entirely in verse. This was well before I became a professional writer of “highway haiku,” which is much harder to write, especially for one who has been accused of being long-winded — at least on the written page.

Be that as it may, with thanks to the Baltimore Sun, in which it first appeared — and still appears, though interrupted by advertising — here, in a slightly edited, minorly rewritten version, is …

 ”A Feral Cat Carole”

The cats were quite hungry that cold winter day
But Edwin L. Uhler was well on his way.
Ned left Owings Mills, his wife, Kay, at the wheel
Driving 25 miles to deliver the meal.

They got to Nick’s Fish House, where Ned keeps his boat
And then something happened that’s worthy of note:
‘Twas a gaggle of cats – a feline regatta -
Appearing from nowhere upon hearing his auto.

One cat, then two cats, then three and then four
And then after that there came even more:
Black, tan and gray cats, they trotted and waddled
Some long-haired, some short, some solid, some mottled
.

From the rocks on the shore, from beneath a trailer
They crept and they scurried to greet the old sailor.
Ned wore a cap – a Greek sailor’s hat
And got out of his car with a big plastic vat.

With a wood-handled spoon, they laid food on the ground
Some here and some there in big heaping mounds.
And no sooner than that did the cats start to nibble
On Kay’s special mixture of canned food and kibble
.

Until he retired a few weeks ago
Ned, 80, came daily – rain, sleet or snow.
Kay joins him on weekends, and when the job’s done
They go out for breakfast and coffee, and fun.

Kay plays video slots, and Ned drinks a beer
Then they go home, all filled with good cheer.
They once sailed the bay, but those days are past
And their boat now sits empty, no sail on its mast.

Ned lost a leg about six years ago
A stroke left Kay’s right arm quite weak and quite slow.
But together, Kay said, they can meet most demands.
It’s a trade-off of sorts: “I’m his legs; he’s my hands.”

Ned ran a company that dispatched big trucks
Kay worked in the office – now how’s that for luck?
Kay liked him right off, partly based on this fact:
“He can’t be a bad guy, if he has a cat.”

They married, years passed and more pets they raised
But the last one that died had left them quite fazed.
The death of their cat had left them bereft
So the Uhlers decided they’d have no more pets.

But not long after that, at their front door one night
Two cats showed up, both of them white.
One they named Blanche, and one Crackerjack
But not long after that they were taken aback
To find Jack was a Jill — now what’s up with that?

Back at the marina, they tend even more
Though the days that they go there they’ve reduced to four.
It’s a long way to drive and they need to cut back
On the money they spend on big cat food sacks
.

Between canned food and dry, they’re paying high rates:
Forty-five dollars a week, or so Kay estimates.
“Forty-five dollars!” Ned says with a hiss
“Forty-five dollars? I did not know this.”

It all got started three years ago June
When the owners pulled out of the Dead Eye Saloon.
There were two cats they fed; one left there with them
But the one left behind faced quite a dilemma.

His name was ol’ Smokey, a friendly feline
With no rightful owner and no place to dine.
That’s where things stood when ol’ Ned stepped in
Not thinking that one cat would soon become ten.

Apparently Smokey had girlfriends, you see
And one became two, and two became three,
And three became four, and four became five
And the cat population continued to thrive.

As a marina, and a restaurant at that
Nick’s had some problems with occasional rats.
Now the rats are all gone, and some boaters like that
But still others complain about the number of cats.

Some even admit that the cats drive them bats
And soil their boats with nasty cat scat.
One boat owner said they look cuddly at first
“But when you put food out you’re making it worse.”

They leave paw prints on cars, and they stink up the joint
Leaving stains on boat cushions they choose to anoint.
One would be fine; maybe two would be cuter
But much more than that and it comes time to neuter.

And though it might make the soft-hearted pout
Some think the cats’ ranks need a good thinning out.
One-legged Ned doesn’t see it that way
And you can rest quite assured that neither does Kay.

Starving the cats is not a solution.
(And don’t even mention cat execution.)
Whatever their numbers, the cats need to eat,
And Ned will keep feeding come cold or come
heat.

Ned rose from his barstool after sitting a bit
He straightened his cap to secure a good fit.
He pondered a question: Why not just quit?
And he said only this: “They appreciate it.”

(“Dog’s Country: Travels with Ace” is a regular feature of ohmidog!, and is in the process of becoming its own website, focusing on dogs and travel. Feel free to keep up with our progress — on the trip, and on the website at travelswithace.com)

Dogs suspected in flamingo deaths at zoo

flamingosBaton Rouge Zoo officials think a pack of wild dogs may be responsible for the Sunday night deaths of 17 flamingos, more than a third of the zoo’s flock.

Despite having 24-hour security, the zoo didn’t discover the deaths until staff arrived for work Monday morning,  Phil Frost, zoo director, told The Advocate.

Zoo officials don’t know how the dogs got into the zoo, or through an additional fence and into the flamingo enclosure, but they said canine paw prints were detected.

Besides the 17 flamingos killed, one more bird was injured in the attack and was being treated at the zoo’s hospital, said Mary Wood, the zoo’s marketing director.

The remaining 30 members of the flock who survived were back on display Monday. Zoo officials aren’t sure how they managed to survive the attack.

Beware the wild beagles of Long Island

A band of wild beagles is scaring residents on part of Long Island, WABC-TV reports — even though it’s nothing new.

Dot Faszczewski, of Orient Point, was walking her dog, Trapper, when she encountered two or three of them.

“I could hear them coming towards me, it was a ferocious kind of barking,” she said. “I quickly grabbed my dog and came running into the house, just as we got in the dogs jumped at the door. I thought it was just some wolves coming at me.”

The report noted the beagles have been a problem for many years — the result of dogs being abandoned by hunters for failing to meet “rabbit-catching quotas.” 

Area shelters have been trying to round up the beagles, socialize and rehabilitate them and find them adoptive homes. Reports of the beagles being aggressive don’t surprise shelter officials.

“Certainly if they’re out in a pack and their starving and their freezing they’re going to become aggressive,” said Pam Green of the Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton. She said her shelter takes in about 40 beagles a year.

Moscow’s strays: A study in reverse evolution

On the streets of Moscow, the evolution of dog is playing out in reverse.

So contends Andrei Poyarkov, a biologist and wolf specialist who has dedicated himself to studying the city’s vast population of strays — the 30,000-plus dogs that, while learning such new urban skills as using the subways, are in reality moving back to something closer to a wolf-like state.

His efforts were recounted in an enlightening piece in yesterdays Financial Times.

Poyarkov began studying the strays in 1979, starting with those living near his apartment and the ones he encountered on his way to work. He made recordings of the sounds that the strays made, and began to study their social organization. He photographed them and mapped where each dog lived.

Poyarkov, who works at the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, says Moscow’s strays are somewhere between house pets and wolves, in the early stages of the shift from the domesticated back towards the wild. It’s a process that he believes can’t be reversed, at least not in individual dogs. The strays are resistant to domestication, and many can’t stand being confined indoors.

Most of Moscow’s strays rarely wag their tails, are wary of humans and show no signs of ­affection towards them. A few remain comfortable with people, but more have moved on to a second stage, where they will approach people only to get food.

A third group interact mainly with other strays and get their food from garbage bins.

The last of Poyarkov’s groups are the wild dogs. “There are dogs living in the city that are not socialized to people. They know people, but view them as dangerous. Their range is extremely broad, and they are ­predators. They catch mice, rats and the occasional cat. They live in the city, but as a rule near industrial complexes, or in wooded parks. They are nocturnal and walk about when there are fewer people on the streets.”

Toxic dumping turned Russian dogs green

greendogA pack of wild dogs roaming the outskirts of the Russian city of Yekaterinburg have taken on a green tinge, and authorities suspect it’s from scavenging for food in a dump that may be contaminated with chemical waste.

The greenish dogs are among a pack of about 20 strays, believed to be former guard dogs.

“I go past those dogs every day,” villager Alexei Bukharovsky told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “They are usually reddish … but then I saw, running along the white snow, an almost completely emerald dog. At first I thought someone had been playing a joke.” 

A police spokesman told the news service that illegal dumping of chemical waste is probably to blame. The spokesman said local councils had been ordered to clean up the site.

You can see more photos here.

Unlikely Friends: Lion and humans

We’ve shared the story of Christian the lion with you before, but it’s one of those of which you can’t get too much.

One of the segments featured on “Unlikely Animal Friends,” a National Geographic Channel special that aired last week, focused on the relationship between Christian and the humans that he was happy — ecstatic, even — to see again a year after they returned him to the wild.

How to handle a feral cat: workshop tonight

Alley Cat Allies, a group that promotes humane care for cats — both those in homes and those on the streets — will conduct free workshops in Baltimore tonight and tomorrow.

Tonight’s session will be at the Maryland SPCA, 3300 Falls Road, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Thursday’s will be at Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), 301 Stockton Street, also from 7 to 9 p.m.

The sessions are part of the organization’s “Every Kitty-Every City Program,” and is open to anyone interested in learning more about dealing with stray and feral cats.

Feral cats are outdoor cats that are unsocialized to humans and therefore unadoptable as pets. These workshops will provide information on how to best care for feral cat colonies through communication, mediation, and trap-neuter-return practices.

Wild dogs and cats euthanized in California

More than 100 feral cats and dogs living in squalid conditions were euthanized after authorities found them with the remains of 200 other animals placed in trash bags on the grounds of a home in rural Temecula, Calif.

Ten dogs were rescued, but authorities had to remove the dead bodies of 318 cats and dogs from the property, said Willa Bagwell, executive director of Animal Friends of the Valleys.

“They were just wild animals. They had never been touched,” she told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. “I’ve never seen this many animals and animals this feral.”

When animal control officers initially arrived, packs of dogs attacked each other, and about 70 dogs circled officers and threatened to attack, leaving authorities with no choice but to euthanize the animals, she said.

Temecula police Friday arrested Elisao Gilbert Jimenez, 66, on suspicion of animal cruelty after being called to the residence about a vicious dog. Jimenez lived alone and let the animals breed and roam freely without taking any of them to a local shelter because he feared they would be destroyed, Bagwell said. Jimenez put animals that had died into bags instead of burying them because he didn’t own the property, she said.

Pricey pocket-sized pet proves popular

One of the most popular booths at World of Pets Expo in Timonium over the weekend was that of “Pocket Pets,” distributors of Sugar Gliders, a tiny squirrel-like marsupial that lives in the wild in Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea and Tasmania.

They’re cute little boogers, with big brown eyes. Imagine a squirrel, crossed with a bat (would that be a squat?). The company says they are inexpensive to feed and care for, don’t smell bad or bite and are quick to bond with humans(contrary to some Internet reports). The company calls them “sugar bears,” and they sell for upwards of $400.

They’ve been sold in the US. for more than 15 years, and grown increasingly popular — in part because they’re so easily transportable. They love being in pockets, partly because that’s how they traveled in their infancy, partly because of the warmth the human body provides.

They’re also capable of gliding, having a fur covered membrane between their wrists and ankle that serves like a parachute when they jump of tree limbs.

Fascinating little creatures, and it was nice to get an up close look at them. But their domestication struck me as a little sad — that life soaring from treetops, for some, has been replaced by living in a pair of Levis. The average life span of a sugar glider is 12 to 15 years.

While Pocket Pets says sugar gliders are not exotic pets, the Humane Society of the United States considers them just that — and says that as such they require considerable expertise and specialized facilities. ”Wild or exotic animals — even those who were captive-born or hand-raised by people — have not been adjusted to life with humans. Doing so takes generation after generation. So keeping them as pets is usually inhumane — deliberately or not — and comes with threats to human health and safety.”

Texas town approves shooting stray dogs

The rural North Texas town of Ferris — about 20 miles south of Dallas — has approved a policy that allows authorities to shoot “wild” roaming dogs.

Ferris City Manager David Chavez said the Ellis County town approved the policy because it was becoming a dumping ground for unwanted pets. People drive out to the country to release pets they no longer want, but the starving animals breed, form packs and wind up scavenging for food, he said.

Ferris Police Chief Frank Mooney said the city would shoot only “potentially violent dogs,” and only as a last resort — after attempts to humanely capture the animal had failed.

This is a case, once again, of dogs being punished for the acts of humans; it’s the sort of thing you might expect in Baghdad, or maybe Alaska; and it’s full of faulty reasoning.

Every dog (like every human) is “potentially violent,” especially when it sees a lynch mob coming after it. My dog once roamed the streets himself, and gentle as he is, I’m sure he might have given indications otherwise if someone came after him with a rope or pole, much less a shotgun, which the new policy permits. I’m not entirely sure smalltown Texas lawmen should be acting as judge, jury and executioner.

As you might expect, the new policy has enraged animal welfare advocates.

“It’s unfathomable to me that the city of Ferris just outlandishly wants to go out and shoot these stray dogs,” Niloofar Asgharian, a board member of the nonprofit Animal Connection of Texas, said in a story in the Dallas Morning News. “It doesn’t do anything except that these dogs end up dying a slow, miserable death.”

Animal welfare advocates have suggested trapping the animals and better enforcing laws that prohibit dumping dogs.

“It seems like a cruel punishment to the animal when the blame is on people,” said Sherwin Daryani, the executive director of Operation Kindness.

There are 50 to 100 feral dogs roaming Ferris’ streets, said Misty Clark, the city’s lone animal control officer.

The town of Ferris can be reached through this contact form.

(Image: From dallasartsreview.com, ”Stray Dog,” a painting by Roger Winter, an artist and teacher from Denison, Texas, who served on the faculty of SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts)