With an Intelligent Dog, You Get Opinions

I have read that dogs don’t disobey.  They interpret.

You just may not understand how they are interpreting things.

Of course all of that interpretation will change based on where that dog finds himself in a pack.

A dog who is confident will decide that it wants to go for a walk, so it decides it will do so.  Whether it is on its leash or not.

Of course they tend to only do such a thing if they are not getting exercised enough or are deadly bored.

Don’t want your dog to wander off?   Walk him.  Long walks.  Three miles for a dog in a day really isn’t a lot unless you have one of those fussy little things that bark at a leaf moving in the next county or an airplane over head.

That’s your burden.  It still needs a walk.

Beta dogs are a puzzle.  They require careful handling.  After all, they are looking to you for guidance.

Constantly.

Rack is a Beta.  He’s also incredibly intelligent just like any other McNab Dog.  Intelligent breeds are that way.  Anything-Shepard.  Herding Dogs are used for their intelligence because they think.  In a house, they can get bored.   A Beta who is Bored is going to still find things to do and interpret what he thinks the rules are.

Luckily Rack isn’t bored often.  He’s happy to lay down and sleep next to me for most of the day.  My chair that I do most of what ever it is that I actually do is near a window.  I see things that happen, after all it is a busy street.

The other day I saw something go on.  Rack was asleep.  But being a herding dog, it was almost like there was someone whispering in his ear what is going on.

Then I spotted that something.  Could have been anything from the feral ducks to a neighbor getting landscaping to a passer by.

I made the mistake of saying “Oh.”.  Not particularly loudly mind you.  Just a slightly louder than a whisper “Oh.”

Rack had an opinion.  “WOO WOO WOO WOO!”

Standing up, he ran to the front door.  Fur up on his back.  I guess he didn’t like what was going on.

“Damnit Dog, go take a look, there’s nothing out there!”

“WOO! WOO woo grumblegrumble mmm”

The grumbling went on for a bit, then he lay down and go back to sleep.

“Knucklehead”.

I go back to entertaining myself answering emails.  Reading tech websites.  I realize that I have a website that needs attention.  He’s fast asleep and jogging in his sleep.  Alternating between running and wagging his tail.

“Hmm, better log into that site.”
“WOO WOO WOO”  He didn’t like my tone of voice.

“Rack!  Nothings wrong, go look!”

My standard thing is to keep him busy when he’s interpreting what I am going on about.  I won’t tell him to look if there’s a delivery in the area.  That would set him off again.

I get the same cycle of winding down and walking back to his place where he can continue watching me, getting things wrong, sliding into sleep, and wagging his tail.

When he’s not doing dippy things, he’s actually very quiet in the house.  But twice a day…

You see, the UPS truck comes through the neighborhood every afternoon and that would set him off.

Opinions.  Interpretations.  Two Plus Two are Five.

That’s what you get with an intelligent dog.  A Police Officer who worked with dogs once told me “On their best day, they’re still a dog”.  I can see that.  They just don’t always get it right.

But, I can easily tell him to walk around in the front yard to dry off his feet after I wash them at the end of a walk.  Even if his best dog friend the giant Rottweiler named “D.O.G.” is out there.

Yes, D.O.G., and no I don’t know what Double-Oh styled agency that he’s a part of or what it is short for.  It’s just 165 pounds of mostly black love sponge who whines at me from across the street.  And yes, he interprets as well since that whine is him saying come on over I am lonely.

Weirdly, Rack is now comfortable enough with that that he hasn’t taken the Once Around The Car “Walk in the Grass” order as being conditional and up for interpretation, but who knows.

After all, on his best day, he’s still a dog.

Safflower and Milkweed

Why do you want to grow those things again?

Because they’re DIFFERENT!

But they look like weeds, the thorns on the leaves pinch, and then the flowers dry up and …

I said they’re different.  Besides, we’ve got the seeds.  Why not grow weird plants?

I have basil growing in my garden so I can make pizza.  Green onion in pots make so much that even I can’t eat it all.  My Rosemary has grown into a carpet of green.  I have banana plants in a pot that are taller than I am by a solid two feet that I need to break into separate pots for gifts. I can’t give away my spare coleus or mango trees.  There are peanuts growing all over the place…

Yes, PEANUTS!  As in Jimmy Carter’s pride

And the conversation petered off at the end.  People let their artichokes grow all the time and they end up with a big purple poof that looks like the yellow safflower blossoms.

Beauty is where you find it.  No, I mean YOU find it.  I may not agree, so don’t let that hold you back.  Be creative.  Grow what you like, especially if you like it on a pizza.

Gardening here is simple, drop a seed, it grows.  It may grow out of control.  Up North, that hardy Asparagus Fern you grow in your bathroom.  Down here, it is a noxious and invasive weed.  I can’t understand why someone wants all those thorns growing inside their house anyway.

But they like it.  *sigh*

So I’ll grow a few more oil seeds in my garden.  The flower bloomed, and stayed intact. I put the dried flower in a plastic bag, rolled it between my hands, and got more seeds.

You might ask where I get safflower seeds?  We ordered something electronic online.  It showed up saying that it was shipped from Bahrain of all places.

Bahrain?  Don’t they usually sell products in barrels?  Crude Oil?  Safflower oil too I guess.  There has to be a reason why you live where you do for centuries, so enjoy.

I put some seeds in the front garden and watched.  Landscapers came by and raked them up.  I put more seeds down and will “box” them off with old roof tiles.  They are good at figuring that all out.

I hope.

As for the Milkweed, well it was in the pot first.  It made it to the seed pod because the Monarchs never discovered it.  I carpet bombed the neighborhood with milkweed seeds where ever they were left to grow from the last time I did that.  The butterflies will enjoy that,  they’re back already eating the daylights out of what is in my yard.

Now, if I can only figure out how to squeeze inside my hedge so I can plant that variegated hibiscus to fill in some bare spots, I may be getting my flowers back!

Snail on Tree

In the yard, there is a little garden.

The little garden is an island afloat on a sea of grassy green.

In the middle of that island is an old snag of a tree.

I can’t bring myself to cut it down.  It’s old, it’s moth-eaten, and it’s partly dead.  But the parts of that old snag are quite thoroughly alive.

The old snag is a bottle brush tree.  It puts out red flowers that look like a bottle brush from time to time.  So I cut the dead spots off and leave the thing be.  I’m overdue for cutting more dead spots off that tree.  Because of those dead branches, I also have lots of air plants, Tillandsia, growing on the bark.

It is its own little ecosystem.

Spanish Moss, ants, birds.  It’s full of life even if the tree can’t decide what to do.

After a rain, much of that life is forced to the surface.  You can go out there and watch the lizards crawl over it and poach a few insects.  That is their place in life, to keep the pests down.

They don’t seem to mind being watched anyway.

But on the bark this one day was a snail.  They usually are seen stuck to a window or a post or some other vertical object.  When they are there, normally, they are not alive.  In fact it is rare that I see one out in the open like this particular day.

A little piece of Escargot trailing a shell that looks like a fancy chocolate, right there in the open, on my half alive tree.

Sure, I could cut it all down but what is the point.  I already have a palm tree next to it.  I did not plant that palm.  It ‘involuntarily’ grew in my pot in the back yard, and took it over.  Most likely thanks to some errant bird that left the seed when it was getting ready to fly from my Sea Grape tree in the back yard.  I did not weed the palm until I realized it was too late so I cut the pot away from the plant and dragged the root ball to the front yard where I figured I would need it.

The blasted palm tree is now more than 15 feet tall.

So it’s all a nice little family.  Half dead bottle brush tree.  Out sized palm tree.  Some red screw palms and another clump of green ones on the other side.

And the chocolate shelled snail lives there happily as well.

We will just call it a garden, uplight the palm, and call it done.  May as well.  You get some interesting visitors from time to time, you know.

Antique Car at Wilton Manors Fire Department

Every town has its quirks.

Wilton Manors has them too.   Mostly the inhabitants of all sorts, but once in a while you see something that leaves you asking what on earth is going on.

Square in the middle of town there is a restaurant.  There was a restaurant before it in the same spot.  It was a greasy spoon chicken wings joint that moved just out of town.

That’s great if you like that sort of thing.  I can make my own greasy spoon chicken, thank you, and I prefer barbecue or grilled at any rate.  Much better for you, or so they say.

Whoever They are.

As the old building rotted, someone came along and did the typical Screw The System Building Rehab.  Knock down every wall but two, then build a new building around it.   That means it is a rehab, and therefore not new construction, and the laws are less strict.

Not good for those of us around it.

The restaurant that later inhabited the space, to this day, is a sushi place.  All painted in purple.

I’m not a fan of eating raw fish in a Barney colored restaurant blaring bad rock music from twenty years ago, but maybe you do.  I’ll leave you to it.

Squatting there like a big purple carbuncle, it does draw your attention.  It is hardly ever “full” so if you want a meal and they are open go on in.

See, that’s the thing.   Right now, it isn’t open.  It’s closed.  They have a sign taped to the front door that explains that they’re doing some remodeling or some re-menuing of their food.  Bottom line is that it has been even emptier than it had been before.

Maybe they will open again or maybe someone will buy the place and hopefully banish Barney and paint the place a different color under a new format.

I love you,  You love me, Why not have some Broccoli?

As the place has been closed for about 2 or 3 months now, maybe longer, it has collected a few cars.  They were strategically placed to block the parking lot off from someone borrowing it and maybe making it look like it is actually inhabited with say a car club.

Ok, I’ll say a car club.  Because the cars that were left behind aren’t junkers.  I suspect that the city here would have something to say about that.  The cars are almost always what could be considered classics.

This car parked there caught my eye and forced me to think about it.   It’s a somewhat restored 1950s Chevrolet.  In baby blue, it also is Indifferently restored.  The back deck of the car is stained with age.  The paint seemed to have been done badly because it was a bit rough in appearance.

 

And the car had a flat.

Not just a flat, but the wheel itself was ground down leading you to believe that it had been dragged across the pavement to rest where it is over the final few feet.

By a giant purple dinosaur perhaps?  I doubt that, but the love that Barney would give to that car would be to put on the spare tire, I would hope.

1950s cars are rather rare now.  They’ve mostly gone into the hands of collectors.  They generally aren’t used to decorate parking lots with 1980s Corvettes, last century bucket trucks, or some of the other automotive relics that have showed up over the last month.  Always three vehicles, one to block each entry, and that sad semi restored baby blue Chevrolet that was there that day and this morning still.

We saw it that day.  Me, my dog Rack, and a rather nice looking tortoise shell winged Dragonfly balancing on the hibiscus hedge that is well maintained and intended to protect the property from Purple Dinosaurs.

So if you go by, you may be able to witness the worlds slowest car club.  Join the Dragonflies, and the other quirky denizens of this town.

 

You just won’t be able to get sushi, unless you bring your own.

Even better if you bring a purple dinosaur and drive up in an antique car.

 

You have one right?

Sunrise on Wilton Manors

I get up whenever I feel like it.  Unfortunately I tend to feel like it as early as 4:30 AM.  A late day is getting up at sunrise.

Part of it is habit.  I would get up on weekends back in the day.  First it was for rowing on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.  Later it was for running in the Valley Forge National Park, or to the trails for biking and Inline Skating.

I miss the Skating the most.  South Florida with its drivers that aim for anything out there including other cars is not conducive for putting any decent distance on inline skates.

Decent distance for me is 100 miles per week.  That is 162 km for the Imperially Impaired.

But the habit continues.

Lately it is a two mile, 3 km dog walk every day, rain or predawn shimmer.

That predawn shimmer can be quite beautiful.

I’m out there with my faithful side kick and shadow, Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) every morning and we cover practically the entire Wilton Drive.  It’s a coping strategy.  You see, Rack is quite fearful and having little traffic before 7AM, we’re out there to try to do some distance to keep in shape.   It works, but it also serves to allow him to get a taste of what he is afraid of without truly having a major panic attack.

The minor ones will trip you up enough anyway.  To get out and explore your own town at a time of morning when there are few others out there truly is a privilege.  On the one hand, you get a weird zombie movie or post apocalyptic vibe where there are tumbleweeds rolling down the main drag.  It’s dead quiet, and there are only a few  people up.  You can ignore them.

But there are the changes as you walk along.  The skies go from indigo to purple to blue.  You get a Subtle Hint Of Mauve, whatever color your eye translates that to be, on everything, and the buildings begin to glow.  The flowers begin to pop.  Later you hit the golden hour and the world wakes up.

So does the traffic, and that can be a distraction for a fearful medium sized mostly black dog.  He gets more insistent to get

Off The Drive and turn back into the neighborhood to head on home.  It’s a 45 minute or more wander.  Later walks are always longer.   You need to take care getting across that street that you didn’t when you left home.  People wave, the officers in the patrol car flash their lights or chirp their sirens to say hello, dog walkers emerge.

I am living my own version of the intro to the movie Roxanne as all the sudden I am smiling as a baby Beagle and a Pug are wrapped around my legs begging for attention and Rack is snuffling around the owners looking to be pet.

We’ll end up home soon enough.  Herd a few ducks, watch the last clouds turn from golden to white, and ponder whether the rain will come on shore before you get home.

Another dog walk at sunrise ends with the cool of the living room.

Hello!  I’m home!  What’s for Breakfast?

There Is Quite A Lot Of Wildlife Watching Me

I admit it.

Actually I admit it frequently.

I’m fascinated by the wildlife that we have here in South Florida.

Walk out into the yard and I’m being watched.

Lizards, literally everywhere.  I had heard there were a lot of them around, but coming from a “temperate” climate like South Jersey, I never really believed that they existed.  You just don’t see a lizard staring back at you from a Pin Oak tree in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Here, I walk to the front door and there are lizards sunning themselves on my driveway watching me back through the glass.

I’ve seen Muscovy Ducks on my front porch more times than I care to count, and I’ve taken to inviting them to leave.  They’re way too messy to be a good house guest.

They are perfectly fine on the water and near it, but the one night that I stepped onto my porch after sunset and found myself interrupting some seventeen of them making funky Duck Love and smelling the pungent aroma of what happens when you startle them, they needed to move on.

Did you know a bird will lighten the load before flying by making a poop?

Some other places have alligators in their swimming pool.  Key West, Florida has Chickens.  I suspect they are fine until they get to be a bit too populous, but people brought them there to begin with.  If you don’t want chickens, help yourself to the eggs they leave under your shrubs.

I wonder if they will trade a few chickens for some ducks?

They came there because their many generation removed grandparents were used in fighting.  That’s not at all allowed these days, but some did escape and settled in.

So I did get to see the chicken cross the road, even if I am still not quite sure why it did.

You end up with wading birds deciding that it is time to perch on your Jeep.  It doesn’t happen too often, they aren’t out there every day.  Luckily they are some of the more shy creatures out there.  If you get anywhere near them they fly off.

I have seen these Snowy Egrets, or what ever they are called, walk across lawns in long herds like something out of a Disney Movie.  They’re also the reason why I don’t tell the landscapers to spray the yard.

We get so many of them here that the grubs I see them going after are kept well under control.  Along with the Black Racer snakes in some rare occasions.

But we do get quite a few visitors.

In the morning, being awakened by the song birds that show up in my bottlebrush tree is a normal happening.

Some of them are louder than others.  And some are more insistent than others.

It’s also why I  have a habit of waking early, or at least an explanation.

Go on outside and have a look around.  The sheer volume of things that I see in my own little yard here in suburbia always has me wondering just what am I missing.

I’ve been told that there are scorpions here, and if I leave my boots outside for some strange reason, I bang them on the pavement to make sure I don’t bring any hitchhikers in.

I’ve found way too many lizards to count.  They do keep the spiders at bay though and that’s a welcome aside.

After all, a Banana Spider in the house at the size of a Volkswagen is a but of a shock.  For a while I was fortunate.  My old windows had another predator that took up residence in one small nook.  Then the house was upgraded to Impact Resistant glass.  Hurricane Glass they call it.  But it also took the nook away and my frog was gone.

I do kind of miss the frogs after all that is said and done.

Really, Frogs, since I saw three there the day before the nook was taken away a couple years back.  Funny how things like that end up in unexpected places.

At the moment though, there are the butterflies.  Sure, I have all of those creatures cohabiting with me, the dog, the parrot, and the humans in this house.  But the plants are all scattered with a dusting of butterflies in various stages of life.  They all will hatch as time allows them, and I am surprised that they spend more time in that chrysalis than I would expect.  After all, hanging on a leaf just means you’ll get spotted and the leaf could get brought inside for an incomplete photography project.

But I am sure that you all have heard that before, haven’t you?

Wildlife Photography Takes Forever Or How A Monarch Pupa Took Up Residence In My Living Room

I suppose it was meant to be.

I figured out that if I cut a length of Mexican Milkweed about the length of your longest finger and put it in wet soil, there was a good chance it would root and grow.

About 80 to 90% chance of success I have noticed.

Then if you planted them in a sheltered place, they would get to the point where they would look appetizing to a passing Monarch Butterfly, and eggs would get laid on it.

Knowing that the life cycle of a Monarch was short, and that I had only a few Mexican Milkweed plants, I watched them get decimated back to sticks.  They even sampled my Mango tree and some of the Coleus that are near by.

I noticed that I had three pupae forming in the plants that I had found, hopefully more than that.  There were 16 caterpillars feeding on that one sad last plant.

It hasn’t really recovered.   Give it time.

Some of them made it into strange places.  That Mango tree in a pot had one in a very visible spot.

I began video taping the Chrysalis when it began to turn translucent.  They go from a beautiful jade green through translucent, then transparent, and will crack open so that the butterfly can emerge.  It takes about two weeks.

 

I had that camera out there so long that South Florida began to come out of the Dry Season and into the Wet Season that we’re “celebrating” with a vengeance.

Seven Inches of Rain yesterday.

That last dry day though.   The pupa that was on the little Mango tree is no longer.  I went out and checked it and the pupa had vanished.   Bringing in the camera, I looked at the time lapsed video and there was a flurry of action when the disappearance occurred.  A female Cardinal bird had spotted the camera, perched near it, and spotted the pupa hanging under the leaf.  One peck and the pupa was gone.  The bird actually looked into the camera and if it is possible, she smirked at it.

Fine!  Be that way.  I took things into my own hands.

There was a second one that managed to find a home up in a set of wind chimes.  I’m leaving that one alone.  The third one, on the other hand, is now in my house.

But that third chrysalis I am taking care of.

It was on a leaf in my garden.  Specifically a red dracena plant that I had planted as shrubbery under the windchimes that are home to that second chryaslis.

The leaf got cut, brought inside and adhesive taped to a mat that my dog uses for the background.    I had a set up.  I could put the camera on the table and instead of walking all the way to the tripod on the back of the property next to the shed, I could simply turn it on and let it be.  Every time I would walk past the camera, I would inspect the camera and my little companion, and make changes if needed.

That was about 3 days ago.  I’m starting to get cabin fever.  There’s a rhythm to this sort of thing.  It needs to be observed if you want a chance at any success.  A Monarch won’t emerge late at night, so I am effectively “off duty” after dinner.  They want to have the sun to dry their wings and get ready to fly off.

It does not happen in seconds, rather a few minutes to dry, and flap about.  Then they take off.  I will be able to switch off the ceiling fans, and re-position the camera for that scene.

But for now I wait.

It’s not even a guarantee that I will get a successful video.  The creature could die.  There are no errant Cardinal birds in my house, but things sometimes just don’t “hatch”.  It’s pretty reliable that at this point it will hatch, it’s in a controlled environment at 76F and household humidity levels.

It could wander off the frame of the camera, which is close and only as wide as the leaf is.   It could do that when I am out of the house, which I have been fortunate enough not to have to go anywhere for a bit.

But at least I will get the emergence.

If you look closely, you can actually see the distinctive orange and black pattern of the Monarch’s Wings inside the clearing skin of the chrysalis.  So I believe that this one is still alive, and still growing.  Percolating perhaps.

Give it another day or three.  After all, it’s their movie, isn’t it?

And sometimes the story is in the journey and not the destination.