Sunday, June 28, 2015

Puppy in a car

Pip in her little car seat

As of yesterday, Pip has logged over 5,300 miles in my car. She's an excellent little traveler—never once has she shown any kind of car sickness. On one absurdly long trip--we went about 600 miles in one day, including through rush hour in Chicago when detours and an accident sent us right through the city (it took almost 3 hours to get from the end of the Indiana toll road to just past O'Hare!)--she got a bit restless, though that simply involved a bit of whimpering and needing extra pats. Normally she settles in for the duration.

I don't know how to prevent or deal with car sickness--I've never had a dog who suffered from that. I think part of my luck in Pip's excellent car skills comes from our very first rides the weekend I got her. My sister-in-law drove from the breeder's house while I held Pip in my lap, and the trip lasted only about a half hour. Then I drove with her on short legs, giving her time to adjust to the car carrier (with the special pad her breeder gave me that smelled like her mother and brothers), and partly with my friend Kathy holding her, until our first fairly long solo trip when we went from Baraboo, Wisconsin, home to Duluth. I had her in the front seat in her carrier, and I slipped the zipper partly open so I could reach in and pat her as I drove. We stopped at every rest stop for her to sniff about, but at that point I had to be VERY careful because she hadn't had her vaccination boosters yet, so that part wasn't as fun for her as it could have been. 

I keep one mostly white baby blanket in the car, which I use to cover most of her carrier when the blazing sun is shining on her carrier as we drive. So far it hasn't been hot where I've taken her, and I've never had to leave her in the car for more than 5 minutes, but when I do have to run in for an errand, a bathroom stop, etc., I cover the top of her car set with that white blanket, open the windows a couple of inches each, and run in. I keep a shoulder bag that she's comfortable riding in in the car, so when we do start encountering hot weather or the car has to be left in a sunny parking lot, I can pop her in that and just take her along--yet another great benefit to having a small breed. 

I keep a big water bottle in the car, and a dish for water, and whenever I stop, I give her a drink. A few times after I've washed it, I have forgotten the dish at home, so at stops, I simply poured water into a cupped hand—she instantly learned to drink from my hand. 

I haven't worried about what she eats before a trip--she's not a very big eater, so at home she always has kibble available, and whenever she seems interested, I give her soft food. She's still a bit like a baby bird--after she eats, she often needs to poop right away--so I of course always take her out before we leave on any trip. I feel sorry for people whose dogs get car sick because I've really never had to think about scheduling food before a trip.

I keep some nutritious snacks in the car, and always have a few chew toys in her carrier for her. I play music or news programs while we're driving, and she seems to like it when I talk to her or sing along. I think she actually finds our time in the car fun.

I keep one retractable leash in the car, with a holder for poop bags attached. I hook that via a carabiner to my belt pouch when Pip and I are birding, so my hands are free but I can instantly rein her in if necessary. And I never, ever leave home before I put her little harness on--hooking a leash to that is much safer on a tiny dog than hooking the leash to a neck collar. But I do keep a regular collar on her, too, with her name and my phone numbers, just in case. She's also micro-chipped, but if someone were to find her, I'd want contact information to be available instantly.

I don't know how much I can credit Pip's ease in the car to her own wonderful personality, whether I'm doing something unique that has contributed to it, and whether my own calm expectation that of course she'd be good in the car has helped. But this is just one more way that I feel exceedingly lucky to have this little puppy.

Pip with her retractable leash.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pip goes to Hunt Hill Audubon Center

Golden-winged Warbler
Pip's lifer Golden-winged Warbler
I gave a talk at Hunt Hill Audubon Center today, and then Pip and I took a little walk so Pip could get her lifer Golden-winged Warbler. Hunt Hill is the best place I know to see them. We didn't start our walk until noon, and except for a few persistent vireos (Warbling and Red-eyed) and a very persistent Indigo Bunting, there wasn't much song, but that's okay--I can't hear Golden-wings without my hearing aids anymore anyway. I did get quick looks at two females carrying food, and one male came out long enough for some crappy back-lit photos, but that was plenty good enough for a lifer. We didn't take a lot of time--a Common Yellowthroat male got a little agitated at Pip, and I didn't want to have birds focusing on her more than on their nesting responsibilities, so we mostly kept walking except when we found a Black-and-white Warbler taking a mid-day preening session. He didn't seem to mind us watching.
Black-and-white Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Shark baby

Shark Puppy! Pip's baby teeth are still there as her adult teeth come in.

Pip's adult teeth are coming in, but her baby teeth aren't quite ready to come out, giving her a nice set of doubles. She had a vet appointment today (weighed in at 5.2 pounds), and she confirmed that the baby teeth are loose, and should be out soon. She also said that it looks like Pip's teeth will line up perfectly.

Pip does not approve of my photographing her teeth. 

Pip goes to the bog!

Pip went to the bog with Erik Bruhnke and me for a day of birding and testing hearing aids for birding--Pip didn't actually wear a hearing aid or anything, but she helped by being very quiet when I was testing. She had a great time, and even added one lifer! She's now up to 5,100 miles in the car and 194 species on her life list.

Pip exploring Stone Lake
Pip at the end of Stone Lake Road, next to shore
Pip checking out a Canada Goose feather
Pip discovers a Canada Goose feather
Pip checking out a Canada Goose feather

At home after birding with Erik

Monday, June 22, 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pip in BirdWatching Magazine!!

Pip made the pages of BirdWatching, in my column in the current issue.

In this column, I didn't get into the differences between the American Kennel Club's Havanese breed and what Pip really is, a Havana Silk Dog. I'd thoroughly researched both before deciding that what I wanted was a dog with the best probability of a long, healthy life and a great start in life. Unless you personally know a breeder, it can be very hard to be certain whether you're buying from a puppy mill—some "dog brokers" can put up a very convincing front! AKC registers dogs from the most horrible puppy mills and hobby breeders that cut costs on vet visits and don't know how to do careful, knowledgeable study of dog pedigree lines before mating their dogs. The bottom line for the AKC is caring for nothing except the dog's pedigree and the registration fees, and all they require (besides that registration fee) is that both parents be registered with the AKC for that breed. They don't refuse registration for dogs that have even the worst genetic defects that cause the most painful, life-shortening conditions. And they're fine registering dogs from the most crowded, unsanitary, unhealthy, unethical puppy mills. The whole reason these horrible breeders thrive is because of the AKC policies. 

Havana Silk Dogs are no more expensive than most Havanese, despite the expensive and time-consuming work breeders MUST do to register puppies in the Havana Silk Dog Association of America.  I think the AKC has a lot of work to do to ever regain my trust; the HSDAA has earned it. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pip in Action!

My friend Lisa Johnson, who has a service called Pupparazzi Companion Animals Photography, came over this past week with her daughter Nora, just to say hi, but she got inspired to take a bunch of photos of Pip.








Sunday, June 7, 2015

June 6: Up to 190!!

Pip birding with me at Thunder Lake Wildlife Area
I started my life list on March 2, 1975. By June 6 that year, my life list totaled 40. I built up my list bird by bird, painstakingly working out each identification. A year later, on June 6, 1976, I'd gotten my life list up to 188. I got quite a few of those species during field trips in my ornithology classes, though I spent so much time outside of class birding that there were few birds I saw in class that I didn't end up finding on my own pretty quickly, and even in the classes, I was finding quite a few of the birds before anyone else saw them. I was very proud of every one of those 188 species.

I started Pip's life list on March 20, 2015. By June 6, 2015, her life list was already up to 190. She's way way ahead of me, but doesn't seem all that proud of the accomplishment.

This is proof that a life list number is just that--a number, that doesn't necessarily reflect on a birder's skills. Many birders get virtually all their lifers while on tours and field trips, relying heavily on their leaders' and guides' skills rather than finding birds and teasing out their identifications on their own. Like them, Pip has the numbers without the slightest interest in identifying her own birds. 

Some people with hunting dogs chuckle at the very thought of a little foo foo dog being interested in birds at all, but Pip focuses on them, by sight and sound, far more than any dog I've ever known, including our golden retriever, springer spaniel, and black lab. She often looks up into the sky and tracks flying birds, and looks into trees when she hears a bird singing. We stayed in a cabin in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, this weekend. When we stepped outside early Saturday morning, a loon was calling. Pip instantly sat down and stared out toward the lake, transfixed. So like many birders, she may not care about her life list, but sure does enjoy birds. And I sure enjoy birding with her. And that's all that counts. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Pip and Laura do a Big Day! (Well, a Sort-of-a-Big-Day)


Pip the Birding Dog has been spending a lot of time in the field with me in the past three weeks. She still has a lot to learn—after all, she’s not quite 5 months old. It was hard for her to learn not to bark at people and dogs, though she seems to be getting the hang of that. It’s also been tricky for her to figure out that when you’re on a retractable leash and your birding partner (who controls the leash) walks on one side of a tree or other obstacle, it’s a really good idea for you to walk on the same side of that obstacle.

But for a young puppy, Pip is remarkably calm and well mannered, and is quickly learning the rules. It may have seemed rather crazy to try to do any kind of a serious Big Day with such a novice, but I had to start sometime, so on May 21, I took her out with me. I’d been out of town on the 16th—the day set aside as the Hawk Ridge Birdathon, when people do Big Days as a fundraiser for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. That day turned out to be ideal, with a migration fallout in Duluth and plenty of birds seen elsewhere in St. Louis County, too especially at the Sax-Zim Bog. May 21 was far less ideal: sunny and very windy, so not only were birds not gathered at migration stopover points; the ones that were around were much quieter than normal.

To make things worse, I had hurt my back the day before, and could hardly move when I got up until the extra strength Tylenol kicked in, so not only did we not get out by midnight, or at least 2 or 3 am, the way a respectable Big Day should begin—we didn’t set out until 8 am—ridiculously late for catching all kinds of species.

I’d set the modest goals of getting at least 100 species, which is usually fairly easy anytime in the second half of May, maybe even with a puppy along; and of getting Pip’s life list up to 175, which would mean seeing at least 13 species I’d not seen with her before. We started out with 21 species from my backyard, counted before 8 am. My Red-bellied Woodpecker didn’t show up, so we entirely missed that one. I thought the Canada Warbler we did see in my yard might end up being the only one of the day, but we saw several more of them elsewhere—this has been a big year for them. So those first critical hours, we didn’t get anything we actually needed.

Laura and Pip on our Big Day
Photo taken by Sandra van den Bosse
We started at Park Point. There weren’t many warblers—the weather was too beautiful for them to stick around—but did run into some birding friends. That’s how I got the only photo of Pip and me for the day and how we saw our only Marbled Godwit, which was wandering around the airport. For the first time in decades, people had seen a pair of Piping Plovers on the beach this year, so I took Pip out there. I kept her leash very short on the boardwalk and then carried her on the beach itself, and after a quick but careful scan, we left without seeing them. It would hardly be worth adding a cool species for me if by doing so I was jeopardizing a possible nesting.

Next we went to the Western Waterfront Trail. I thought we could probably race through there, but it turned out to be rich with warblers, so we took our time. In that one spot we saw 58 species, including 16 different kinds of warblers. I got some of my best pictures ever of Wilson’s Warblers, which happened to be as abundant as redstarts and Yellow Warblers that day. It was already lunchtime, when birds are usually quiet, but a Sora started calling from the marsh, and that inspired two more Soras and a Virginia Rail to answer. I also had an unexpected Marsh Wren and a late female Common Goldeneye there.

Wilson's Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
We didn’t leave the Western Waterfront Trail until 1:30, and had to buy gas on the way to the Sax-Zim Bog (another sign that this was not a true Big Day—it’s important to have the car fully gassed up before starting out on a real competition). We didn’t have a lot of time to cover the area. We went to Nicholls Lake and Stone Lake, and along Arkola to Owl Avenue, and then worked our way back to 133 and home—covering so little ground that we even had to skip Admiral Road, and still didn’t get home until after 9 pm. But in the bog we managed to add some excellent species, including Black-backed Woodpecker, Le Conte’s Sparrow, and Black-billed Magpie. We also came upon a ridiculously tame Rock Pigeon that was clearly imprinted on humans on Stone Lake Road. That was Pip's favorite bird of the day.
Imprinted pigeon on Stone Lake Road

Pip noticed quite a few other birds, and although she obviously doesn’t care about identifying them herself or amassing a long list, she’s at least as conscientious and knowledgeable a birder as some people who have attended field trips of mine. Her life list may have no value for her, but I’ll always treasure being able to look back on the birds I’ve seen with her along.

We didn’t do nearly as well as we should have, but the day was hardly a bust. We ended with 116 species—way better than I expected at the start—and added 21 species to Pip’s life list. I’m lacking every possible skill as a fundraiser, so I donated $100 to Hawk Ridge myself, but kind people donated an additional $165 to Hawk Ridge, to support our little effort. Next year maybe our little Great Expectations team can be real contenders again.