A blog about my life with dogs.......

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oh Omaha

This week I am visiting sunny and snowy Omaha, Nebraska. For those of you readers outside and/or unfamiliar with United States, that is about a 4 hour drive east of my Iowa home. I just finished a basic wildlife rehabilitation class sponsored by the International Wildlife Rehab Council or the IWRC. I also just finished half of a super tasty margarita pizza from Zio's Pizzeria. MMM, good. It is so nice to have a pizza delivered! In Iowa I live far out in the country enough that no pizza place even comes close to delivering to me! This whole trip has been a real treat!

Speaking of treats, I had to stop for goodies at Three Dog Bakery! They have oodles of home made dog treats and even personalized biscuits and cakes! I have to admit I was all in when I saw they could make a personalized carrot cake with peanut butter frosting,.....I forgot to tell you all, but Captains birthday was valentines day....and a cake for Captain would be such a silly sweet treat for my dog crew. Alas, you must allow 3 days for personalized cakes and I didn't discover the bakery until my trip was ending in less time then that. That didn't stop me from picking up some fun treats and even a personalized one for little Captain (I'll snap a pick of him and the special treat when I get back!). The staff was so helpful and even pointed me in the direction of another great dog shop to check out, The Green Spot. Both shops filled to the brim with neat dog toys, food, treats, helpful staff and all manner of other creative dog items us humans can think up.

Back to business, the real reason I am in Omaha isn't to visit dog shops! It is to expand my rehab skills! The instructor IWRC hired for this class, Rebbecca McKeever of Lone Star Wildlife Rescue, was an enthusiastic teacher with lots of experience and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to meet and learn from her. The first day was devoted entirely to lecture and math. The second day was IM (intramuscular, into the muscle) and SQ (Subcutaneous, or under the skin) injections, physical exams, gavage(or tube feeding) and bandaging. I had the pleasure of meeting many people who have interests in saving opossums, raccoons, deer, foxes and even squirrels!

It takes a village. I can tell from some of my conversations that some of these hard working, caring folks are throwing anthropomorphic behavior in with their efforts. This is a great opportunity for me to talk now, as I have before, about anthropomorphic behavior in us humans. We do it all the time! With our dog, our cats, and in the case of a young woman today who described an opossum as being "naughty" for biting her we give the animals in our lives human qualities that they just don't have! I'll give some examples....

The possum was being a naughty boy for biting the person.

The dog got revenge on me for staying out too late by knocking over the trash and making a mess.

The cat loves me and thinks of me as her mother.

When you start thinking about it, it is easy to catch. But it is important that we understand the difference between our desire to expand our relationship with the animals we love one more human like, and that animal actually having that capacity to have that human quality. Sure, we can say that we are Fido's mommy and still know the difference. It may do Fido no harm that you think he thinks he is your mommy. BUT there is a time when these thoughts get people into trouble, because the dog does not have the time traveling brain function that allows him to plan the act of tearing into the trash bin NOW in order to make you feel unhappy LATER because you stayed out too late. A more likely scenario is that Fido got bored and smelled that yummy trash smell from the chicken packaging you threw out. Then, since he was hungry and all nose and stomach he decided to explore that tasty trash bin. MMM.

Then you decide to punish your dog for his 'vengeful' acts, you yell and stomp and say "BAD DOG!" when you come home late that night. So, Fido learns that when you come home late, you are mean and scary. In turn Fido displays appeasing behaviors when you arrive home late. Dogs offering appeasing and/or submissive behaviors to people upon there arrival, after a dog has gotten into the trash for example, leads some to the mistaken conclusion that the dog knew he was doing something wrong and is "apologizing". You see how easy we can get off track here?

When you tell your opossum that you love it, and you call it naughty for biting you, my thoughts jump to wether or not you are doing what really is in the best interest of the wild animal. Lets get it straight that when the opossum bites the human it is being a perfectly appropriate wild opossum. When the human forgets that the wild animal is and always will be wild, we humans can get hurt. 

 I don't mean to come down hard on the caring person who reaches out with their heart to help sick and injured wild animals, animals who may well be sick or injured due to human activity. What I do mean to hammer home is that being aware of our emotions and the role they play in the care of our animals is as important as knowing the science behind the care we rehabilitate them with. As rehab-ers it is our job to set these animals free when safe to do so, to let them know the wild they were born to know, and not burden them with a lifetime of confinement in a human word. Neither is it right to burden ourselves with more permanently injured animals then we can properly care for.

Human imprinting, means that a wild animal learns to think it is a human and/or gets its food from humans and/or should seek out a human as a mate. Animals who are human imprints cannot be released into the wild because they are a danger to themselves and to humans. Human imprinting happens when non trained people take in baby wild animals and care for them. If you find a wild animal baby here are a few things to do...

1. Walk away. In the case of owls, when young birds are fledgling they may become separated from the nest during practice explorations. No doubt the parents are nearby watching over the young owl, but they will stay hidden and not come to care for the baby until you leave the area. If you are still concerned, walk back later, and see if the baby has been moved or as moved himself. Also you can simply place the baby back into the nest if you can locate it. (It is a myth that parents will not accept their young after humans have touched them)
2. Call a rehabilitater. There are professionals that specialize in the care of baby wild animals, and many of us can match a baby with a foster parent. This will ensure that the baby can return to the wild.

All in all I have had a fine time here in Omaha but I am looking forward to being home again, settled in with the dogs tomorrow night. As I'm wrapping up here, with no pictures to share with you this post, now is a good time to share the video my young cousin Emma (a budding videographer perhaps?) shot of our last agility class. In these videos I am working with Captain, who for most of the class was refusing to run through tunnels. Also in these videos you get a glimpse of Michael, who right now is home with the dogs while I am away. As Michael and I got to know each other last summer he picked Wonder Dog as his favorite right away and in these shots he is having a great run with her! Michael is an archeologist, a great cook, and in his own way a budding dog trainer. I'm so grateful for getting to have 2 of my crew run in this agility class!

I have to thank 4rk9s(where this video was taken) and Diana Pesek, for being such a positive force for dogs and training. Diana has been involved in many of the classes I have taken over the years at 4rk9s. Diana is a birder as well as a dog training enthusiast and I happen to know she recently added a  boreal owl to her life list. Awesome!

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