Squirrel Wars

squirrel-feederFor more than twenty years I have been fighting squirrels in my backyard. It’s a battle of wits that I’m losing.

Simple Solutions

My first efforts were naive. On the advice of friends, I bought a garden pole eight feet tall—having been assured that this would keep squirrels off. My handyman installed it outside my office window so I could enjoy the birds as I worked. Then I bought a cute birdfeeder with perches around the sides.

Within two days, the squirrels were practically waiting in line to climb the pole. After getting a short running start, they would scramble up, their momentum carrying them to the top. Sometimes it took more than one try, but soon it was a cinch. Frightened birds fluttered away.

My handyman suggested a wrap-around metal cone as a guaranteed way to repel squirrels. I had him install one near the top of the garden pole, following the manufacturer’s instructions. It worked for less than a week. After some trial and error, the squirrels found their way around the baffle by gripping the metal edges with their diabolical little feet. From there it was a short distance to the feeder.cone

Now I had a mission. I spent hours researching squirrel repellents. I was willing to try anything short of murder. In other words, this would be a battle of wits, not superior firepower. So far, I had spent $8.98 on a garden pole, $19.98 on a birdfeeder, and $36.95 on a metal cone. Instead of challenging the physical abilities of these little gymnasts, I thought, I’ll challenge their intelligence. With my Stanford-Binet scores, I should have no problem.

I searched on Amazon.com until I found a “Perky-Pet 336 Squirrel-Be-Gone Wild Bird Feeder” for $17.99. It featured six feeding ports with perches and a mechanism that closed access to the ports under the weight of a squirrel. My smugness was short-lived. The squirrels hung upside down on the feeder and never touched the perches. Sayonara $17.99 plus shipping.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

vaselineTime to be creative, I thought. Why not remove the metal cone and grease the pole with Vaseline? My effort was good for entertainment but not much else. On the first few attempts, the squirrels managed to make it halfway up the pole, then slid to the bottom like cartoon characters. Oh, joy! After that, they got a better running start and improved their strategy. Eventually, they rubbed off enough Vaseline to succeed.

My next idea was to drive them away with noise. I took a set of brass wind chimes apart with clippers and wired the chimes, one by one, to the bottom of the feeder. I hung the feeder below the eaves of the house, making access only a short jump away. When a squirrel hit the feeder, he’d be greeted with a mighty clang, be frightened out of his wits, and never come back.

The result was humbling. I was in the house doing dishes when I heard the chimes. Putting the last dish in the drainer, I dried my hands off and prepared to go outside and gloat. Then I heard a combination of a clang and a thunk, almost like a brass chime falling on the ground. Then two more. A squirrel had chewed the wires loose so the chimes did indeed fall to the ground.

Ready, Aim, Fire

My most recent attempt involved buying a water bazooka, loading it, and keeping it next to my desk. I didn’t have to wait long. As a squirrel fed on my sunflower seeds, I opened my office window quietly, took aim, and fired. The bazooka leaked all over my desk and soaked my smartphone.

Game over.c0aab9b7-4cf7-4418-9203-374d5ae705a2_1-b21d9a906bb4313e7118a6e73485011f

 

I Play the Accordion for Cows

A while back, I watched a YouTube video of a man playing his piano accordion on a vacant country road out West. I was interested because I, too, play the accordion. He sang a cowboy song. After the first few bars, cattle started emerging from the woods one by one, drawn by the music. After they’d come all the way to the fence that separated them from the accordionist, they stood respectfully in a semicircle, riveted by his song. Not a head moved. Not an ear twitched. When the accordionist finished, folded his instrument, and snapped it shut, the cows dispersed and moved back into the woods.

I thought, wow, I could do that. I recalled that when I drive to my morning A.A. meeting in Gainesville, I pass a field of cattle belonging to the University of Florida College of Agriculture. Maybe these cows would enjoy accordion music, too.

One morning, I put my instrumcowsent in the back seat of my car. After the A.A. meeting, I headed for U.F.’s cattle field. Parking on the curb adjacent to the cattle enclosure, I unloaded my accordion, strapped it on, and began to play. I sang, “Git along, little doggie” at the top of my lungs.

The cows slowly headed in my direction. When they’d come as close to the fence as they could, they stood quietly, listening to every note. Oh, joy.

Then a police cruiser pulled up on the curb behind me. I didn’t notice him at first. But when I was about to pack up and head home, I turned, and there he was, wearing his seamless and solemn police face. I said excitedly, “You can’t believe this, Officer. I saw on a YouTube video that cows love accordion music.” Looking at his face, he didn’t seem to share my excitement. In fact, he looked as though he was thinking about writing a ticket.

Then his features began to melt, the corners of his lips lifted, and dimples appeared in his cheeks. Finally, he laughed. I knew he was in. I said, “Too bad you missed the concert, Officer. I’m on my way home now.”

Pulling away from the curb, it occurred to me that someone probably called the police station to report a crazy old woman on Williston Road playing her accordion and singing to a field of cows. I also realized that the cruiser undoubtedly had a video recorder and the officer would be taking the evidence back to his buddies at the station who would get a good laugh out of it.

Me, too.

 

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A Camel—The Perfect Pet

Opening the Gainesville Sun one Sunday morning, I glanced at the “Pets for Sale” section. Not that I need any more pets.

To my amazement, I find that someone is selling a female camel for $3200. Right here in Gainesville! How exciting!

Let’s see, I have an area about 50 by 20 feet in my side yard. A perfect place for a camel. I just have to buy a bunch of straw and a truckload of camel feed, and I’m in business. What do camels eat? Hell, I don’t know. I’ll find out from the person who’s selling the camel.r964423_10400496

Think of it, I can ride my camel all over Gainesville, to the wonder and amazement of all. I will be a celebrity. The $3200 is no problem. I’m making enough money in my freelance business. What better way to spend it than on a camel? (I have to admit, this notion might never have occurred to me after I quit drinking a year later.)

Thwarted

I call the camel owner. No answer. Drat.

An hour later, I call again. What’s the matter with her? Doesn’t she want to sell her stupid camel?

I’m so excited that I call my 40-year-old daughter to tell her about the camel. “You’ll never guess what, Julie!”

“What, Mom?”

“I’m going to buy a camel.”

“What did you say? A camel?”

 “Yeah, I found one in this morning’s paper, and I’m going to buy it and keep it in my side yard and ride it around Gainesville.”

Long pause.

“I hate to tell you, Mom, but you can’t do that.”

“And why not?”

“Don’t you know that camels’ feet are ruined on cement? They have to walk on soft ground, like sand in the desert.”

I am crestfallen. “Well, rats. I guess I can’t buy the camel then.”

“Probably not, Mom.”

Well, there goes one great idea out the window.

Tricky Daughter

A year later, the subject of the camel comes up in a phone conversation. We are both laughing at my folly. I say, “Good thing you knew that about camels’ feet, Julie, or I might actually have gone out and bought the thing.”

Julie smirks. “I just made that up, Mom. To talk you out of buying the camel.”

Which Are Better—Dogs or Cats?

According to many people, dogs are the ideal companion animals—better than cats, that’s for sure. They find cats irritating. Other people favor cats. The opposing camps maintain that the two species are like day and night. Forget that cats and dogs aren’t far apart on the phylogenetic scale and, in the bargain, they’re the two most commonly domesticated animals.

When dog supporters and cat lovers face off, you’ll sometimes hear them say, Hell, dogs and cats even hate each other. The dog is ready to shake a cat’s neck in its jaws until it’s dead. The cat, on the other hand, will jump on a dog’s back and ride it to hell.

Those of us who own both cats and dogs know this reasoning is more a reflection of the source than of reality. Humans are notoriously ego-invested in their pets. When people are vehement about the virtues of one species over the other, there’s something going on.

A guy has a Weimeraner he’s training as an attack dog. To him, Bruno is an extension of himself. This man has nothing but great things to say about dogs. They’re macho (his dogs, anyway), strong, brave, and self-sacrificing. They would die for you. In other words, everything a guy needs to feel good about himself.

This man hates cats. In his eyes, they are sneaky, self-serving, effeminate, and vain. He’s almost ready to forgive a close friend who has just adopted a cat. (If you can imagine such two guys being friends.)

In the cat-lover’s book, his friend’s Weimeraner is a dirty, unfriendly, sloppy suck-up. The cat lover believes there’s nothing more enchanting than Chloe’s feline grace, discrimination, and independence. He doesn’t expect her to whine with pleasure at the prospect of getting a treat. He admires the way she comes and goes without permission. He even gets a kick out of her clawing on the furniture occasionally, bringing a dead rat in the house, or waking him up at 4 am in the morning.

They’ve both got a point.

 

 

Introverted Animals and Their Myers-Briggs Personality Types

Animals are more complicated than most of us realize. We can appreciate the many sides of dogs and cats that live with us, but wild creatures are a different story. Because they live in their own worlds and we aren’t close to them, we underestimate their intelligence, intuition, and altruism. We think they’re simple beings. They’re not. They’re as varied as we are.

This is an introduction to the introverted (I) members of the animal kingdom: the owl, sloth, deer, octopus, wolf, beaver, meerkat, and house cat. Unlike extraverted (E) animals, the introverts are generally quiet and often shy.

INTP: Owl

Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Perceiving

intp-owlLike most INTPs, owls have logical minds. They’re mindful and quiet. They’re solo operators and don’t socialize with other owls unless they’re mating. They don’t have patience with rules, even those laid down by other owls. While they’re not very friendly, they’re perceptive and wise.

As pets, owls never lose their wild behavior unless hand-raised from birth. People who use owls for falconry can tame baby owls, but only if they bond with them from the time the owlets open their eyes. Taming these birds is a challenge. An owl is an independent creature and never becomes affectionate unless it’s hungry. Owners who allow them the freedom of their houses are likely to find plants knocked over and glassware broken on the floor. They also have to deal with owl droppings on their curtains and upholstery.

ISFP: Sloth

Introverted, Sensitive, Feeling and Perceiving

isfp-slothLike human ISFPs, sloths are easygoing peace-makers. They take things as they come and live in the moment. In the company of other sloths, they are caring, mellow and considerate. While they have principles, they don’t make an issue of them. They avoid confrontations or standing up for their rights. While people think of them as lazy, what’s closer to the truth is that they’re just more laid back than humans.

Some people keep sloths as pets. The can become quite dependent on their owners, and they’re gentle with kids. Since they move slowly, they’re no trouble to keep up with. However, they do need large living spaces and plenty of tall climbing equipment. They must be kept in a consistently warm environment to maintain their body temperature. They need special diets with just the right amount of trace ingredients, and their veterinary care is costly. Finally, owners should be prepared for the long haul, as sloths can live to be thirty.

ISFJ: Deer

Introverted, Sensing, Feeling and Judging

isfj-deerAs ISFJs, deer are serene creatures, but they’re alert to everything in their environment. Their acute powers of observation help them avoid danger. They make themselves scarce during hunting season, avoid predators, and are even careful to avoid cars on busy roads. With their own species, they value harmony and show respect. The few people who live with them describe them as sensitive and trustworthy.

Not many people have been able to keep deer as pets. If not reared from their early days of life, they remain wild. Occasionally, humans have rescued fawns and raised them by hand. When this happens, deer often become loyal pets, even making friends with other animals in the house. They can be house-trained if they’re given access to the outdoors. However, an indoor life is unnatural for deer. They need plenty of space to wander in and opportunities to run with other deer.

INTJ: Octopus

Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judging

intj-octopusDoes the octopus have enough personality to deserve a Myers-Briggs type? Like all INTJs, these sea creatures are independent, intelligent and creative. Octopuses are quite aware of their own sharp minds, solving difficult problems. And they’re smart enough to know when a challenge is too much for them. Unless they’re looking for a meal, they ignore other ocean life. They work alone.

Marine biologists say that the octopus may be among the smartest ocean dwellers. Some move their arms in ways that copy the shape and movements of other sea animals. In captivity, they’ve been seen at play, much like children in a swimming pool. They grab toys in the water, then let them go in a circular current so they can catch them again. They escape from aquariums in search of food. They’ve even climbed into fishing boats and opened boxes to eat crabs. It’s unrealistic to try making a pet of an octopus.

 INFJ: Wolf

Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging

infj-wolfINFJ wolves, like their human counterparts, have morals and values. Often creative and inspired, they re skilled at sensing emotions in others, but they’re not likely to reveal much of themselves until complete trust has been established. Still, they are intensely concerned with the well being of their friends and families. They tend to remain mysterious and complex even when others know them well. Pack members see alpha wolves as protectors and natural leaders.

Few people keep wolves as pets because socialization isn’t possible unless a wolf pup has been adopted within the first 2 weeks of life. For the first 4 months, the puppy needs to be kept away from other dogs in order to bond with owners. Pet wolves can become unpredictable and dangerous when they reach adulthood. These intelligent and dominant animals aren’t meant to live with humans. All wolves need 10 to 15 square miles of free space for exercise. They are running, hunting animals, always on the move.

ISTJ: Beaver

Introvert, Sensing, Thinking and Judging
istj-beaverLike all ISTJs, beavers are logical, hard-working types. They’re organized and live by team rules. They have a reputation for taking a practical approach to everything. When busy building and maintaining their dams, they’re dedicated workers who will do whatever is needed to get the job done. Like their human counterparts, they aren’t always easy to get along with. Both males and females get into fights on occasion, and many have scars on their rumps from being bitten by other beavers.

Beavers don’t make good pets. They need rivers to live in. Can they be kept in a pool? Only if the owner is willing to clean out the feces (poop), because beavers defecate in water. Any furniture in the house will be reduced to wood chips. And beavers will use their skills as busy workers to rearrange pillows and other household items. Then there’s the matter of size. Many grow to be more than four feet long and weigh over 50 pounds. Even zoos find beavers hard to keep.

INFP: Meerkat

Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceiving

infp-meerkatINFP meerkats are loyal to their families and friends. They stick together and live according to their values. Their behavior reflects an innate idealism and desire to coexist peacefully. They are curious about everything that goes on around them and are open to new experiences. However, when any of their family is threatened, they rise to the cause and get aggressive.

Like most INFPs, meerkats are easygoing and friendly, but they have alert minds. In the wild, they guard against danger by giving one family member the job of sentry while the others search for food. Some people, drawn by media images of these furry creatures, adopt them as pets. Usually, the work and risks are more than they bargained for. While meerkats can be cuddly, they also tend to destroy household belongings and sometimes hurt children. Their special diets and veterinary care are expensive, too.

ISTP: House Cat

Introverted, Sensing, Thinking and Perceiving

istp-housecatAs a typical ISTP Myers-Briggs type, the house cat is a study in contrasts. Cats are quiet and analytical, always trying to figure out how things work. But they’re easily bored. They’re keen to move on to the next adventure. As ISTPs, they’re often daredevils racing around or jumping off high places. If they were human, they’d be bungee jumpers. They’re live-and-let-live types, not particularly concerned with rules, regulations, or the good opinion of others.

As pets, house cats have many of the same qualities as their wild cousins, including bobcats, tigers, and leopards. The pet cat is just a lot smaller and therefore less dangerous. However, pity the mice that think it’s safe to be around one. Pet cats have the same basic instincts as jungle cats. They stalk prey, sharpen their claws, climb trees, and leap from one surface to another with grace and beauty. ISTP cats are sometimes sociable, but often they’re aloof, enjoying their private space.

 

 

 

 

Extraverted Animals and Their Myers-Briggs Personality Types

Animals have complex personalities. Some seem almost human. Those of us who love dogs and cats know this, but wild creatures are a different story. They live in worlds apart from us, so we underestimate their intelligence, intuition and altruism. They’re not simple beings. They’re as varied as we are.

In another blog, we describe introverted (I) animals: the owl, sloth, deer, octopus, wolf, beaver, meerkat, and house cat. Here we describe the more sociable species, the extraverted (E) animals: the fox, lion, otter, dolphin, honeybee, parrot, elephant, and dog.

ESTP: Fox

Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking and Perceiving
estp-foxLike most ESTPs, foxes look for pleasure in life and want to share it with others. ESTPs are charismatic and dramatic. They’re spontaneous and fun to watch. They know how to influence those around them. In this respect, foxes are like their ESTP human counterparts. If you’re looking for a good time, foxes will quickly endear themselves to you. They’re also quick-witted and can be tricky.

The jury is still out on foxes as pets. Farmers who keep chickens don’t have much good to say about foxes because they raid henhouses. However, some fox breeds have been domesticated to live with people. Families who adopt them say they’re as much fun as dogs and cats but more trouble. They must be kept in secure outdoor enclosures when not watched as they’re escape artists. Because of their high energy, owners need to provide them with tunnels, balls and chew toys. Left free to roam in the house, they make a mess. Also, they’re expensive to keep, considering vet bills alone.

ENTJ: Lion

Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judging

 entj-lionAs ENTJs, lions are independent, logical thinkers. They live in packs called “prides.” Because they’re thinking (T) types, they don’t let emotions enter their decision-making process. That’s why they’re often seen as callous. But these fierce cats can be warm and nurturing with members of their group. They’re caring parents, protective of their cubs and relatives. At the same time, they’re enterprising and powerful. Just like ENTJ people.

The stories of lions as pets almost always have a bad ending. While lions are cute and cuddly as kittens, they have another 15 years of life to live as wild animals. Nothing can change their instinctive nature. There’s a good reason people don’t keep big cats in their homes. Families lose their homeowner’s insurance, their neighbors hate them, and they get frequent visits from the police, not to mention federal and state wildlife officers. And then there’s the expense of feeding them. Lions need to eat about 10 pounds of raw meat daily at least five days a week.

ESFP: Otter

Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling and Perceiving

esfp-otter As ESFPs, otters revel in the moment. They live at top speed. They’re playful, generous with others of their species, and always see the bright side of life. They love having new adventures with their friends. Learning things in a routine way is not their thing. They like to experiment. They’re intelligent and creative. The object of life is to have a good time and eat well, lying on their backs cracking open shellfish or zooming around underwater looking for fish.

Do otters make good pets? It’s almost impossible to own an otter safely and keep it happy unless you own a lake. If otters are taken in the house, they produce a strong smell. They can spray like a skunk. Some bite when they’re displeased. They have sharp claws and teeth. Plus, they eat several pounds of seafood a day, which could put quite a dent in a grocery budget.

ENFP: Dolphin

Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceiving

enfp-dolphinDolphins are so sociable that they make friends not only with their own kind but with other species such as humans. They’re keenly aware of the feelings and needs of those around them. They aim to please. Like most ENFPs, dolphins enjoy company and are seldom out on their own. They have boundless energy and enthusiasm. It’s not unusual for beach-goers to see groups of them playing offshore, performing in the water like synchronized swimmers. ENFPs, including dolphins, get bored easily and are always ready for new adventures.

Dolphins are not pets. Many people even question the ethics of keeping them in water parks. The capture of dolphins in the sea is a violent event and causes the families of these intelligent water mammals much pain—not unlike that felt by human families that have had a child kidnapped. Kids and adults who watch them perform are usually delighted. Animal welfare people take a different view.

ESTJ: Honeybee

Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking and Judging

estj-beeESTJ honeybees are civic-minded creatures that try to improve their society, organize their environment, and make improvements. They’re perfect counterparts to ESTJ humans. They’re good at making their needs and desires known. As strong believers in the letter of the law, they follow rules and regulations. No-nonsense bees are practical and direct and have little use for new experiences. Bees live in a complex, cooperative society.

Needless to say, there’s no such thing as a pet bee. However, humans have kept bee colonies since the Paleolithic Age, as shown in cave drawings. While many people keep bees for their honey, others use them to pollinate trees and plants. In recent years, urban bee-keeping has become popular. Families feed the bees by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen. Just as ESTJ humans are “busy bees,” these tiny animals perform many chores: cleaning, making wax, repairing their hive, and feeding their young.

ENTP: Parrot

Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Perceiving

entp-parrotENTPs value intelligence and skill over all other things. They’re often described as witty, bright and resourceful. Parrots, the perfect ENTPs, can speak, hold conversations with their human owners, and even make jokes. They like to analyze every side of things and are creative thinkers and workers. They take pleasure in the company of others. ENTPs enjoy a constant flow of inspiration and jump from one challenge to another.

While parrots are hard to resist as pets because of their beauty and intelligence, owners often get more than they bargained for. The screeching and chattering can get tiresome. Parrots are cute when young but demanding when they reach adulthood. And they’re a long-term commitment, as they can live to be fifty years old. The exceptional minds of these birds make them both a joy and a challenge. Some talk and behave at the level of a three-year-old child. Parrots need an enormous amount of attention and care, more than most people can provide.

ESFJ: Elephant

Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling and Judging
esfj-elephantLike their human ESFJ counterparts, elephants are genuine and authentic. They care deeply for each other. ESFJ elephants bring out the best in those around them. They’re loyal and responsible to their families and members of their herd.They are tolerant of the faults of others. However, they’re also sensitive and their feelings are easily hurt.

Elephants are among the world’s most intelligent animals. They have larger brains than humans. They are highly compassionate and kind, even coming to the aid of other species—including humans. Because of the high intelligence and strong family ties of elephants, many believe that it’s morally wrong for humans to capture them and use them for entertainment, work or other purposes. Howeve, few people even think about getting a pet elephant. Those who do are signing up for enormous responsibility and expense. Elephants eat over 400 pounds of fodder and other foods per day.

ENFJ: Dog

Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging

enfj-dogLike ENFJ people, dogs like to have a wide variety of friends. Dogs who are confined alone often become depressed and irritable. Dogs are cheerleaders and love to greet their families with a face lick and wagging tail. They feel good when those around them feel good.They are the picture of loyalty, which they give freely and accept joyfully. Usually, they adapt to new groups easily, as can be witnessed at any dog park. They are truly team players.

Dogs, all descended from the grey wolf thousands of years ago, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Over 300 breeds of dogs are now recognized, ranging in size from the tiny Chihuahua to the huge Great Dane and St. Bernard. More than any other animal, dogs understand humans and bond with them. They learn easily. They’re hard workers, too, rounding up sheep and cows, doing police work, and even guiding the blind and disabled. Many families feel their homes wouldn’t be complete without a dog.

 

Run, Molly, Run! A True Animal Escape Story

True Animal Escape Stories

Police capture Molly the heifer

A 6-month-old heifer was being delivered to a slaughterhouse near New York City when she made a bold dash for freedom.  Sensing that her life was in danger, she broke through a passageway between the cattle trailer and cow pens as workers were unloading animals.  Then she ran like the wind.

Eluding capture, she broke through a fence and took to the city streets.  The slaughterhouse workers chasing her couldn’t keep up. The pursuers called 911 for police back-up.  The calf made it about a mile through quiet neighborhoods before she was cornered by police officers in a fenced area between two houses.

After a van was brought to the site, the calf was led aboard and taken to an animal shelter in Brooklyn, where she spent the night.  By the next morning, shelter workers had given her a name—Molly.  Determined to save Molly, the shelter staff called farms in New York that rescued food animals.

The phone crew found the perfect place—a 60-acre organic farm where rescued cows, pigs, chickens and other animals live in comfort and didn’t have to worry about ending up on someone’s dinner plate.

When Molly arrived, she was fed fresh organic hay, given clean water, and put in a stall with a gentle bull named Wexler.  Molly and Wexler were free to go in and out of the barn into their own grassy pasture.

The owners of the farm, Rex and Connie Farr, rescue farm animals on a regular basis.  One day, a neighbor drove up with six crates stuffed with young chickens that had fallen from a truck crossing a bridge.  The chickens stayed on at the farm as permanent residents.  Another day, a 4-H club brought the Farrs a pony that their group no longer had money to keep.

Wexler, Molly’s boyfriend, came from a private school. He was part of an animal education program.  When the program was shut down, the school asked the Farrs to give Wexler a home.  Rex and Connie Farr also take care of goats, burros and other animals.

When reporters interviewed Rex Farr, he said, “Molly can eat and sleep here for the rest of her life. She’s not going anywhere. With us she’ll have a very good home.”

What about the cattle farmer who lost over $400 in the deal?  He said, “Molly is a gift from me.”   Maybe he figured that an animal as courageous and smart as Molly deserved her freedom.

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My Three Monkeys—Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary

I don’t actually own three monkeys. I sponsor them at Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, just north of Gainesville. It all started in 1998 when I visited the sanctuary and met Kari Bagnall, the founder. She’d opened Jungle Friends a year earlier after a successful career as a decorator in Las Vegas. She brought 13 rescued monkeys with her to central Florida and intended to to devote her life to primate rescue.

Two weeks before I met my first monkey, Cappy—a capuchin in his thirties—Kari found him an outdoor crate near Las Vegas, where he’d been exposed to all weather.  He was near death. Formerly, he’d been the long-time pet of an elderly woman who had been put in a nursing home. Cappy was lucky to survive the plane trip to Florida.

The day I met Cappy, he screamed with delight as I approached his mesh enclosure.  Perhaps I reminded him of his former owner.  He extended his little hand toward me through the wire, wanting to touch me. I was smitten. Our friendship grew over the years. As soon as Cappy spotted me crossing the property and walking toward his habitat, he began making happy cries and reaching through the mesh.  While I always brought his favorite treats, his first priority was our greeting ritual.  Only when he settled down to soft, sweet “woo-woo” sounds would he accept the grapes, bananas, or peanuts I brought.

Cappy was later joined by Puchi, another capuchin. Puchi had been picked up by police on a freeway outside Chicago—badly burned and in need of medical care. Apparently he’d escaped from a residential fire.  Unable to locate his owners, wildlife authorities made arrangements for his transfer to Jungle Friends in Florida. When I met Puchi, he was pretty banged up.  Besides his other problems, he had an infected eye that eventually had to be removed.

Cappy and Puchi were a good match. Cappy, the big brother, doted on Puchi—grooming him so much that most of the hair not burned off in the fire was plucked off. Cappy taught Puchi to treat me like a VIP, so now I had two monkeys greeting me with joyful screams. Because I worried that Puchi’s disfigurement might discourage other sponsors, he became my second adopted monkey.

A year later Cappy and Puchi welcomed a third capuchin, Lucy.  Suffering from advanced cancer, Lucy was frail and very sick. But at Cappy’s side, she glowed with pleasure as he groomed her, picking through her hair for whatever it is monkeys find there. Now I had Lucy to consider, too.  Who is going to sponsor a monkey dying of cancer?  I decided it would be me.

One morning after the trio had been together for several months, Kari called me with a heavy voice.  Lucy had a seizure, she said, and died suddenly.  Not only that—Cappy died about an hour later of a heart attack. The stress of Lucy’s last throes must have been fatal for him. I was prepared for Lucy’s death but not Cappy’s. I went through my days stunned for a long time.

The deaths of Cappy and Lucy were much harder for Puchi, who’d lost his monkey family in the space of a few hours.  During the weeks of finding himself alone, Puchi poked around his habitat listlessly.  The Jungle Friends staff went out of their way to cheer him up and I visited more often, bringing his favorite treats. Puchi’s spirits remained low until Kari placed him with two other capuchins—Chi-Chi, a former circus monkey, and Wendell, a refugee from a sanctuary unable to treat his severe medical problems.  Currently all three monkeys, in their thirties, live together happily and in good health.

Becoming a sponsor has allowed me to make friends with monkeys without owning them as pets—a move that almost always ends in tragedy. Visiting Cappy, Puchi and Lucy and following their lives, they became part of mine. Every time I visit the sanctuary, I walk around the beautiful habitats that house more than one hundred healthy, happy capuchins and other monkey species. They scamper through trees and shrubs, swing on ropes, and run through overhead passages from one habitat to the other. These happy monkeys once led miserable lives of confinement and ill treatment as circus performers, breeding stock for exotic pet traders, laboratory subjects, and pets of disenchanted owners.

Monkey sponsorship costs as little as ten dollars a month. Information about how to join the Jungle Friends community of sponsors is available at http://www.junglefriends.org.

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Dholes–The Asian Wild Dog

Dhole, Wild Dog

Dhole, Asian Wild Dog

Dholes, a handsome breed of wild dog native to Asia, are divided into subspecies. One type has white fur around the muzzle, on its chest and in its ears. The other is reddish brown all over .  Dholes weigh about the same as border collies but their bodies are leaner and their legs longer.  The dhole is a trim, muscular dog.

Dhole of Asia

Dhole Dozing Near Den Entrance

Also known as the Asian Wild Dog, the dhole prefers to live in dense scrub or forests.  The dogs make their homes in dens—often holes vacated by hyenas and porcupines.  They improve the construction, digging tunnels and adding one or more entrances.  The dens may be located under or between rocks, in heavy underbrush, or on the banks of dry rivers or creeks.

The front door of the den is usually almost vertical. The tunnel behind it takes a sharp turn after three or four feet.  Some dens have several entrances and many connecting tunnels.  These dwellings become more elaborate over the years, as the dholes improve and enlarge them. Their living quarters are often the work of many generations, shared by the entire clan. Females give birth to their litters in the chambers of the den and raise them there.

Dholes have a complicated repertoire of sounds for communicating with each other.  Sometimes they whistle or make cooing noises to coordinate their movements through thick brush. Other sounds include whining for food, growling as sign of aggression, yapping, and chattering as a warning signal (for a video, click here). When dholes attack a prey animal, they make a screaming sound. Unlike many other wild dogs, dholes do not howl.

Dhole Couple

Dhole Pair

Their body language is complex, too. A friendly greeting involves pulling back the lips as though smiling, lowering the tail, and licking. The dogs show submission the same way. When dholes want to play, they assume a play bow. Angry or aggressive dholes open their jaws slightly while pulling their lips back and snarling. The hair on their backs stands up, as well.  When they’re afraid, they tuck their tails beneath their bodies and flatten their ears.

A dhole pack gets excited just before an early morning hunting trip, nuzzling each other and rubbing bodies. When they spot a prey animal, they work as a team—each with an assigned role.  One or more dholes lead the chase while the rest keep up a steadier pace behind. The dogs aren’t fast runners, but they have stamina and can keep going for hours.  When the lead dogs get tired, those trailing behind move up and take over. Dholes often drive prey animals to a body of water where their swimming skills and ability to leap high into the air give them the advantage.

Tien Shan Mountains

Tien Shan Mountain Range

While dholes prey on deer, wild boar, water buffalo and other large animals, they also eat plants and fruit.  They enjoy various kinds of grasses, herbs and leaves. One of their favorite foods is mountain rhubarb, found in the Tien Shan mountain range (photo).

(To watch dogs at a watering hole, click here)

On rare occasions, dholes attack tigers. Tigers—fearing these determined canines—climb a tree or stand with their backs to it.  If they maintain their defensive stance, the tigers have a good chance of survival. If they try to escape, they’re usually killed. While dholes will take on a tiger, they are cautious about it—knowing that the big cat has enough strength to kill one of them with a single paw strike.

The few people who have tried to raise dholes in captivity have found it difficult.  The dogs are nearly impossible to tame, although they may play with domestic dogs while they’re still pups. (To watch dhole pups at play click here). When captive dholes reach adulthood, they usually become too aggressive to trust around other animals.

Dholes live to be about ten years old in the wild, but may survive as long as sixteen years in captivity.Dhole Range Map

South American Bush Dog–Smallest of the Wild Dogs

The smallest of the wild dogs is the South American bush dog, weighing in at less than 15 pounds.  No bigger than a terrier, it has a solid little body and short legs. The bush dog is built low to the ground so it can dart through the underbrush of the rainforest without being seen.

The problem with their small stature is that bush dogs can’t even see each other in tall grass and thick bushes. They make up for this with a repertoire of grunts, squeaks, whines and growls that carry over long distances at ground level. They “talk” almost constantly, telling each other where they are and what they’re doing. Bush dogs also mark their paths of travel with frequent urine marking.

Bush dogs have soft, reddish brown fur.  With their short ears, round heads and blunt noses, they look more like weasels than dogs. When a bush dog jumps into the water, it looks like an otter, paddling with its webbed feet.  Bush dogs dive underwater like experts and swim with their eyes open to catch fish, turtles, and other water animals. Because of this ability, they usually live near rivers. To watch a video of bush dogs catching a turtle  click here.

Holes vacated by armadillos and other burrowing animals often become the homes of bush dogs. Others move into hollow logs. If they can’t find anything ready-made, bush dogs dig their own dens (photo).

Hunting together during the day, a pack of bush dogs fans out over the forest floor. Occasionally they hunt alone, listening and sniffing their way along. As a pack, they work together so intelligently that they can bring down prey as large as peccaries and tapirs—some weighing over 500 pounds.

When a bush dog pair has pups, other adults in the pack stop mating.  This allows the group to focus on one litter at a time. For several weeks, the babies stay hidden in their den.  The extended family makes sure no predators get close. When the pups finally emerge, pack members share the job of protecting and feeding them.  Their aunts and uncles carry them in their mouths just like their parents do.

As the pups outgrow nursing, pack members bring them food–chewing it first and then transferring it to the babies’ mouths.  The pups paw at the muzzles of the adults to them know they’re hungry.

Among the friendliest of the wild dogs, bush dogs greet each other joyfully after a separation, wagging their stubby tails. They sleep close to each other (click here), travel in an orderly way (single file), and rarely fight over anything. The packs have no clear ladder of dominance the way other wild dogs do. They treat each other as equals. It’s hard to say who’s running things in a bush dog pack.

Little is known about these secretive animals because they stay so well hidden in the rainforests of South America, mainly in Brazil. Much of our knowledge of their behavior comes from zoos helping to preserve the species in captivity. Zoo staff find them friendly and sociable, much like pet dogs. As of 2010, the American public could see bush dogs in only five city zoos—Oklahoma City, Palm Beach, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Little Rock.