Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pip goes to the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

Mute Swan
Mute Swan (NOT the one Pip saw!)
On April 9, I was scheduled to speak about hummingbirds at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, on behalf of North Pikes Creek Wetlands and the Chequamegon Audubon Society. My original plan was to leave in early afternoon so Pip and I could go birding along the way, but the weather turned out to be crappy--freezing drizzle all day--so we didn't leave until 4 pm.

Pip snuggles right into her car seat--the Snoozer wheeled carrier that is allowed as carryon luggage to travel with a dog. When others are riding, too, I belt that into the back seat, but when it's just Pip and me, I secure it in the front seat next to me. So far Pip has travelled over 1,000 miles with me with no problems whatsoever. Except for that first ride with Jeanie driving and me holding her on my lap when we got her from the breeder, and a length of the trip from Chicago to Baraboo when she sat in my friend Kathy's lap, she's done all that travel in her Snoozer, with no sign of discomfort, anxiety, carsickness, or restlessness. I keep a couple of toys and a chew stick in there, and she occupies herself when not napping. If I unzip enough of the cover to stick my hand in to stroke her, she snuggles in, but doesn't even try to poke her head out, much less seem interested in escaping from the carrier.

So our drive to the Visitor Center was easy and uneventful. I listen to the radio and music from my iPod when I drive. Now that I have my hearing aids, I can hear it perfectly, with reduced background noise, when the volume is set considerably lower than I used to have it at. That's probably a Good Thing for a puppy's sensitive ears. Between drizzle and high winds, we didn't see any new birds at all on the drive (I'd been hoping at least for a harrier!). We were a bit early when we arrived, so I drove on into Ashland to see if we could pick out one of the two Mute Swans in the wetlands along the highway, and voila! #52 for Pip! With the crappy visibility, I didn't pull over on the busy highway to check out all the waterfowl, but when we pulled into the Visitor Center, I stopped at the ponds, and there was a gorgeous male Wood Duck and a pair of Hooded Mergansers. So Pip made it to #54!
Wood Duck
Wood Duck (NOT the one Pip saw!)
I walked her around a bit, but the cold, wet ground didn't feel that great to her, especially with the rain and wind. I put her back in the car while I went in and got set up, and then came back out for another little walk. We met a woman who was stopping (the Visitor Center doubles as a highway rest stop) with her Chihuahua puppy. Pip was a little shy, as was the other puppy, and Pip made the situation a little harder for the other dog because the one thing she has learned from our cats is to bat her paw back at them, and she immediately started batting her paw at the Chihuahua. They did a little sniffing of each other, and his owner and I both considered the encounter a success.

After Pip finally wet, and after making sure she'd be allowed inside in her carrier, I brought her in with me for the program. I showed her to a few friends when we came in, before the big crowd arrived, and then put her in her Snoozer with my jacket covering part of it. She immediately curled up, and I didn't hear a peep out of her for the next hour and a quarter. She was silent as the people came (and it was a very full house--they had to set up chairs in the aisles of the auditorium!), and during the initial speakers' comments and my introduction, and throughout my talk, which lasted an hour, and when I took several questions. Then I brought her out. She was happy and calm meeting lots of people.

So far Pip doesn't seem to find it tedious that at least a couple of men in any crowd are guaranteed to blurt out that a little dog "looks like eagle food" or "would be easy pickin's for a Bald Eagle" or other predictably dismissive and rude comments. Most of course don't intend the comments to be rude--they just think it's funny and that they're the first person to ever think it up--but after 16 years of hearing that, over and over, about my little dog Photon, it has gotten very old. Unfortunately, the crowd Thursday night had three of those people. I've never been able to think of a good comeback that isn't equally rude, so I just try to ignore them. Anyway, at her current weight, Pip would be easy pickin's for an eagle or a Great Horned Owl, so it's not like there isn't some truth to that. But no one looks at a big dog and blurts out how easy it would be for that dog to get caught in a leg hold trap or be killed by a car or truck. I'm not sure what aspect of small dogs makes it so easy for people to instantly remark on their mortality, when on average they live considerably longer than larger breeds. Oh, well.

The wind and temperature were both fiercer when we left, and it was snowing horribly. Driving was treacherous all the way to Iron River--no one seemed to be driving faster than about 40--but then it cleared up and by the time we got to Poplar, no snow could be seen on the ground at all. Hard driving conditions seem much easier somehow with a good dog along for company. We got home about 10:30. This is usually bedtime, but Pip had been restrained in the carrier for so much of the evening that I let her play for an hour before we went to bed. Within a couple of days of coming home, when I put her in her little bed, inside a Rubbermaid container next to my side of the bed, she curls right up with a chew toy, plays for a little while, and goes to sleep. I was very tired, but even though Russ woke up early, she stayed in bed quietly until I woke up at 7:30. Great puppy, or the greatest puppy?

Pip in her little car seat

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