Sunday, October 5, 2008

Another Sunday walk with Black Jack

We found the best part of the day for our walk yesterday.  The sun broke through the clouds, and lots of animals and birds were out doing their thing, I guess in preparation for Winter.  This  squirrel drove Black Jack bananas.  I think it felt secure on its high wire perch.  The athleticism of squirrels is a never ending source of amazement to me.  One day a few years ago, I heard a fellow interviewed on CBC who's lifework was squirrel research.  He had placed a camera inside a sort of squirrel house that he built.  For two years (if I remember correctly), no squirrels inhabited the house.  Then, a family took up residence.  He said there is a kind of choreography that happens before the babies leave home.  The parent will get up and lead the babies in a circle around the nest, first in one direction and then in the other.  This happens at regular intervals, and he believed it was training for the survival activities of jumping and flying.  I didn't follow up on that story, and have forgotten the researcher's name, but I would love to know if he's still making new discoveries about squirrels.  
High Wire Observation
The beginning and end of our regular walk is along Point Grey streets.  The middle part usually includes some ball playing in a field at the entrance to the UBC endowment lands (although not yesterday, as I'm still worried about Black Jack's knee and have kept her to leash walks only since Monday).  Finally, we walk through some forest trails before heading home.  Here, we have just entered the forest, and Black Jack has spotted something.  Does anyone else hook up the leash like this?  Bill saw a lady using the leash in this way on her large dog, and after talking to her about it, decided to try it on Black Jack.  It has absolutely stopped her from pulling, and unlike the Haltie, is stress-free for her.  She doesn't mind it at all.  I guess it wouldn't work as well on a male:)  
Although the Fall colors are more subtle in Vancouver's temperate climate than the brilliant reds I remember from my years in Quebec, they still inspire feelings of nostalgia and they have their own distinct beauty.
Just before the end of the wooded portion of the walk, we saw this busy little chipmunk.  It was Impossible to focus -  Black Jack's antics drove it away after one quick click.  Still, its Mohawk haircut made it a must show.
Then we saw this lovely little chick-a-dee.  Another focus fail but must show (sorry folks).
Back on the street, this crow sounded the alarm when it  saw us coming.  Is there anyone reading this who loves crows?  I've been fascinated by them (and the entire Corvid family) ever since trying to rescue a juvenile a few years ago.  I was convinced its wing was broken and called the wild life rescue people. After three calls, a young man finally came, and I had to admire his patience as he showed me how to test the wings (not broken). He explained the best thing was to take it back where I found it and also told me that parent crows kick the juveniles out of the nest at the right time.  They then space their feedings further and further apart until the lazy teens finally get hungry enough to fly. This next part of my crow experience might cause you to scoff, but I swear, all the crows in the neighborhood became really friendly after that.  There had been cases of them dive bombing residents, but they used to meet me when I walked my dog, even following us all the way to the beach.  Okay, I did give them the odd dog treat, but it was more than that.  I believe they knew I was trying to help that young one.  It, by the way, fledged just a couple of days later.  Shortly after that, I read the book "Bird Brains" by Candace Savage.  Her photography and descriptions were the clincher.  I have been reading the mythology, and admiring the antics of crows and ravens around me, ever since.
Warning Call
This nearby crow didn't appear to be worried at all.
And finally, a couple of flowers to conclude this blog.  One of the many things I love about Vancouver is that flowers  bloom all year long.


  1. Squirrels: Whenever I have Tilley at UBC with me her ears get stuck at a level of alertness they never achieve anywhere else. She loves to watch the antics of those crazy squirrels (as do I).

    Crows: Raven was named Ebony when I bought her, but it did not suit her in my eyes. I have always loved Ravens. They recently interviewed an author on the CBC who had written a book about crows. I believe it was simply called Crow, but I'm not positive. It sounded really interesting.

    Dogs: Several people I know use their leashes like that at flyball. My girls don't really pull so I have never tried it.

  2. Crow Country by Mark Cocker. Published in the UK, but you might be able to find it on eBay or something.

  3. And don't you love the whoosh of a raven's wings?

    Thanks for that reference. I looked up the book and now have to have it:)

    Oh, how I wish Black Jack didn't pull. My best efforts have failed so far, except for that leash trick. I thought I did quite well with the basics of dog obedience with Scott (my last dog), being lucky enough to take him to classes with Jean Donaldson when she was in Montreal. I reread three of her books when Black Jack came along, but it's a whole new ball game and so far, I haven't figured out the rules. Fortunately, she's a very easy dog in so many ways. She likes all humans and 99% of the dogs she meets, is unbelievably great with children, and she's well-behaved in the house. But I am really bothered that she can't be given the privilege of a free run in the forest, or with other dogs. She begins to run/play, and all looks well. Then she suddenly goes into what I can only describe as a running trance. Even when the other dog stops chasing her, she just keeps going until she finally comes back to earth. She's been lost on three occasions, and each time, i thought I would never see her again. Now, I resign myself to short ball games as her only free run, and I watch her focus very carefully. The first sign of her redirecting it to a smell or sound has me reaching for the nearby leash. And for this past week, even the ball games have had to be stopped, while I try to assess the state of her knees. All suggestions welcomed:) I would also welcome suggestions for a good vet in the Kits/Point Grey area.

  4. Not much time, but Terri Eisen and John Shaw at Kits Animal clinic are the best vets in the city by my exacting standards.