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Archive for December, 2007

Dumped to die … live to love again

(I’m taking off next week to do some Christmas shopping. I’ll be back here with a new blog on Monday, Dec. 17. /Gary)

** After you finish reading this Primal Rant, check out the Primal Rant below it on: “Are cats causing the ‘Silence of the Songbirds?’” What do you think?


Gary: Along the Highway 4 daily commute from Antioch, Calif., to Stockton, there is the gorgeous expanse of open country through Byron, past Discovery Bay trundling toward the Old River, Middle River and San Joaquin Bridges. Herons, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, feral cats and furry brown critters that I can only guess are otters abound in numbers both alive in the fields and dead by car on the road. On a sunlit spring morning the view of open sky and growing corn can rejuvenate any tired soul.

But there is another creature that does not belong out there, and for over nine years I have watched a tragedy repeat itself in a cycle that belies our better nature. So this is a letter born of simmering rage after seeing so much suffering caused by the careless, thoughtless beings who believe that the only thing of value is their own comfort.

Today, that once beautiful boxer met his match when, after trying to gnaw off a piece of smashed bird from the road to stave off utter starvation, he was hit by a semi that had nowhere to veer away to on the two-lane levy road.

Dumped by his owners, the boxer’s days were numbered anyway. Two months back the crippled shepherd running along, back and forth, day after day seemed to be searching frantically for his family. Maybe they had moved and decided he was expendable like an end table, or cost too much to feed, or was too big, or needed more attention than the family could spend, or maybe they just didn’t care. He was, after all, only a dog. Rex was smart, knew all of his commands and was really good with kids. They just knew he would, of course, acclimate to living in the wild in sub-degree weather, make pals with the coyotes, learn to hunt and live happily ever. Sure he would.

The two Chihuahuas had been great for making puppies for some back-yard breeder but now one was going blind and the other was becoming neurotic after years spent in a muck-infested wire cage. Out of uninspired laziness their human chose to toss them out on the highway. Literally, on the highway. In disbelief, a witness scooped up the pair and took them to a local rescue group.

It is a rare day when someone happens to arrive on-scene when a once-loved family member is tossed to the fates, left to linger alone and frightened. Dispensed like dirty water these creatures often die a horrific and wrongful death. Losing trust, they run from potential rescuers. Rex, who wagged his tail when his humans came home, now huddles in dismay wondering what he did wrong.

So, to all of you morons who choose to own man’s best friend for only the duration of convenience or monetary value, who just tossed out Rex on Highway 4 — let it be known that I utterly despise you.

There is no excuse that you could proffer that could ever convince me that a domesticated dog deserves such a dismissal.

With that said, here is a little girl who was sitting on the side of the road (way out in San Joaquin County Country on Highway 4 of course) just watching the traffic. Furless, crusty with mange, she smelled of dead fish. She walked right over as I bent down and rode in the car like a pro. A H.A.L.O foster volunteer bathed and medicated her daily, falling hopelessly in love with her.

Meet Lilly, dumped to die, she lives to love again.

Thank-you for letting me spill my guts about this.
Terri Courtney, Antioch

** You can find out more about Homeless Animals Lifeline Organization (H.A.L.O.) at

I’ll see you all when I get back on Dec. 17. /Gary

Posted on Friday, December 7th, 2007
Under: Cats, dogs, Pets | No Comments »

Raccoon & cat plotting something?

I was fixing some tea this morning in the pre-dawn darkness when I felt someone watching me. Turning around I saw a raccoon sitting outside the sliding glass door to the kitchen looking at me just as my cat, Tut, strolled up.

The raccoon placed its paw against the outside of the glass and Tut placed his paw against the inside of the glass at the same spot.

What was that? A gang sign?

Both animals lowered their paws after a moment and Tut turned around and they both just sat there looking at me.

OK, what’s going on here?

While you’re at it, check out the Primal Rant on “Silence of the Songbirds” below. Interesting. /Gary

Posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2007
Under: Cats, Raccoons | No Comments »

Cats Cause “Silence of the Songbirds”


Gary: I just borrowed the book, “Silence of the Songbirds,” (ref: pgs 173-176) by Bridget Stutchbury. I hope you have a chance to scan it.

Would you please do a column encouraging people with pet cats to keep them indoors? You know, I’m sure, that cats are a huge problem for birds nesting and birds that cannot fly well. To estimate the numbers of birds killed, homeowners in Michigan were asked to count up the dead animals their cats brought home.

On average, each cat killed about one bird a week and though this may not sound like much, the damage adds up because there are so many free-ranging cats hunting near homes and farms. The 600 cats in this study would have killed more than 6,000 birds during a typical 10-week breeding season alone.

In another study done in Wisconsin in the early 1990s, an estimated 8 million to 17 million birds a year in that state alone were killed by free-ranging cats in rural areas.

To quote from the book: “cats are only doing what comes naturally but their predation on birds is not a natural part of the ecosystem.”

Domestic cats were introduced to No. America when the Europeans arrived and only became popular in the late 1800s. The number of cats in the U.S. alone has doubled since the 1960s and now stands at well over 75 million. Even well-fed cats kill birds. The author stresses that cats kept indoors are less likely to contract deadly diseases and will live an average longer life.

These facts, along with the greedy developers who are rapidly decimating all the habitats where birds have shelter and forage for food, cause me to encourage people to try to keep their feline friends from further decreasing bird numbers. And, after all, birds are not predators, as are cats.
Ms. Beth Pforr, Brentwood, CA

Dear readers:
From time to time I’ll print someone’s “Primal Rant” here for your enlightenment. You can respond to these Rants and add your own comments by clicking on “leave a comment” below. If you’re really riled up about something relating to animals or the environment, send me your Primal Rant about it in an e-mail (put Primal Rant in the subject field) or letter.

E-mail me at

Send your letters to: Gary Bogue, Pet & Wildlife Columnist, Contra Costa Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099.

Rants that are submitted may or may not be used. That’s up to me. (At least you’ll feel much better after you write them.) /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, December 5th, 2007
Under: Primal Rant | No Comments »

Great horned owl gives a hoot

I woke up last night when it started to rain. A great horned owl was also hooting in my back yard. December is courting time for great horned owls. If this guy gets lucky, he and a new mate will be incubating eggs before Christmas. Are owls hooting up a storm in your yard? /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2007
Under: great horned owl | 3 Comments »

Irresponsible dog owners break oil spill rules

Here’s a Primal Rant about a few dog owners who are breaking some important rules at the Point Isabel Dog Park in Richmond.

Dear Gary:
We don’t have a dog, but we like to walk in and near the Point Isabel Dog Park in Richmond. It’s fun to watch the dogs play, and see birds in the nearby marsh, and the views of the Bay are spectacular.

Due to the oil spill, there are hazmat teams working on the shoreline every day. There are signs everywhere warning people not to come into contact with the water, and yellow “caution” tape strung between the signs all along the shore. It is our impression that the warning signs also apply to dogs, and that the idea is for owners to keep their dogs under voice control at all times, or, failing that, on a leash, to keep them away from possible contact with toxic sludge.

However, as we walk along the path, there are abundant wet dog tracks and evidence of places where dogs have shaken water off. Clearly there are many dog owners who cannot (or will not) keep their dogs out of the Bay during the oil spill cleanup.

What strikes me as odd about this is that the Point Isabel Dog Owners Association presents itself as being concerned about the herbicides used by the East Bay Regional Park District to control weeds. How can they worry about that when black goo washes up on the shoreline rocks with every high tide and gets on their pets’ paws?

Point Isabel is a self-policed dog park and its rules seem very reasonable to me. Most of the dog owners are very responsible, although we have seen more than a few who get distracted and don’t even notice that their dog has pooped. Today we saw a man with two dogs off-leash in a protected marsh area which was clearly marked with signs saying that dogs must be on leash at all times and stay on trails.

I’m finding it increasingly stressful to observe human disregard for reasonable rules, as I don’t feel that I am in a position to “correct” the dog owners, although I do yell at bicyclists, who are not supposed to ride through the designated dog park area. It only takes a few people to ruin everything for everyone.

As a suggestion for your readers, they might try keeping their dog on leash when first arriving at a dog park, until it poops; then let it off leash.

Thanks for letting me sound off.
B., El Cerrito

Dear readers:
From time to time I’ll print someone’s “Primal Rant” here for your enlightenment. You can respond to these Rants by adding your own comments on same below. Primal Rants can be sent to me at Please put “Primal Rant” in the Subject field. They may or may not be used. That’s for me to decide.

The Primal Rants printed here don’t always reflect my own thoughts about a particular subject … but they might. /Gary

Posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2007
Under: Primal Rant | 2 Comments »