Fourth of July Dogs on Parade

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As Covid-19 cases resurge across the U.S., our Independence Day celebrations will be constrained, and numerous traditional events — fireworks, fun runs, festivals, parades — have been canceled, including a favorite local institution, the dog parade.

Let’s revisit one of these fun events held in our California neighborhood. My partner and I are fond of dogs, though we don’t have one, and what photographer could resist a chance to shoot cute canines in patriotic costume on a bright July morning in the park?

We quickly spotted the parade queen: a petite Hollywood star in stylish hat and sunglasses, relaxing in her elaborately decorated carriage. Here she is taking a beauty nap before the show gets underway.

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With the costumes and accessories some dogs were sporting, I wondered: Do they enjoy any of this? Or, do they just gamely soldier through it to humor their beloved humans?

The queen’s owner assured me when I walked up to chat that the little star loved to dress up, caper around the house and elicit cheers for her performance.

Observing the scene, I found it plausible that dogs might enjoy these dress-up performances. They were certainly getting lots of attention from children, photographers and other parade goers, as well as their devoted families.

Some even seemed to be playing to the crowd: The parade queen sprang from her nap refreshed and sparkling when the event began, and here she is rolling along like a star engaging with an adoring audience.

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Imagine discerning dogs choosing their outfits, being groomed, arrayed, and checking the results in the mirror as the household cat trots by with a snicker heading for secret, solitary adventures.

The popular bulldog below outdid the parade queen for fancy attire in a dress with varied patterns, textures and decorative details. She even managed to keep those flags attached and intact.

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Next is the gregarious chihuahua I call “Ms. Congeniality.” She strolled the crowd before the event with her ruffled skirt rippling behind her, meeting, greeting and shaking hands. Was her stylish costume made by the bulldog’s designer? Look at the design details. Those two were the most elaborately dressed dogs we saw.

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Other dogs chose the minimalist route, such as these two rocking some glamorous neckwear and a “less is more” attitude.

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All were very civilized and fun to watch and photograph. I hope their photos and stories have provided some holiday humor and cheer.

Wishing all my readers and their canine companions a peaceful, refreshing and hopeful weekend.

Copyright M. Vincent 2020. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2018-2020.

Window Gazing Wednesday: Here’s Looking at You, Kids

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Watch out when you go window gazing –– you may be surprised by something looking back at you. That’s what happened to me on a Sunday morning walk this weekend. It was, however, a happy surprise and means that WGW readers get more than one featured photo today.

My partner and I like getting outdoors early on Sundays for a walk or run. This time, we set out right after breakfast for a ramble through downtown San Pedro, a community close to our Southern California neighborhood. It’s a historic, Port of Los Angeles town with interesting old buildings and much to explore.   

Wandering through the arts district, we came upon a familiar block of art studios and started browsing the windows to see what was new. It was then that I experienced that odd phenomenon of context shaping what we see. 

We were approaching a studio window containing a table and chairs and a tall metal feline sculpture. On the chair at the back there appeared to be another sculpture, a life-size sleeping cat in smooth gray stone.

I was startled when I got up to the glass, took in the soft fur, the delicate movement and realized this was no work of art. “Oh, it’s alive!” I said to my partner. As if on cue, the “gray stone cat” suddenly opened its eyes, stared straight into mine and rose to give me a closer look.

Moving in that lithe, elegant feline manner, this charming creature posed fetchingly for the WGW beauty shots above and here:

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I was so focused on capturing that face, those striking eyes, I didn’t immediately realize that the gray cat had two companions –– a pair of dark-striped tabbies –– napping on the other chairs around the table. Here’s one in the midst of sweet dreams:

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As we stood watching the feline trio, another couple of walkers stopped by. They told us they often took this route and regularly saw the cats hanging out in the window.

These clever cats found an ideal place for napping or watching the world go by, complete with a scratching board under the table. No matter if they might have to shield their eyes from the bright California sun while dozing:

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They’re window gazers in their own right, looking out versus looking in.

Have you had a similar window gazing experience? If so, please leave a comment.

If you missed the start of the WGW series, you’ll find it and a very different animal sighting at this link.

Copyright M. Vincent 2018

Photos copyright M. Vincent 2018

Sunday in the Park with Goats

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Should my title bring to mind a famous French pointillist painting, this outing was nothing like Sunday in the park with Georges – Seurat, that is. No sedate stroll through an orderly green grove where other formally dressed weekenders placidly relax by the river, as in Monsieur Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

In our local park by the sea, the day was a riot of movement, activity and excitement as visitors met and mingled with a large herd of friendly goats:

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Parents, grandparents and kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens, enthusiastically turned out for the chance to feed, photograph and frolic with the energetic goats, who frequently led the crowd on a merry chase around their fenced field.

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With the herd’s sudden, quirky movements, and the mob of humans chasing after them, capturing the action on camera was a challenge. These curious, intelligent and playful creatures seemed to enjoy the encounter as much as we did, and it was fun to watch the interaction. 

However, the day’s frivolity aside, these were no frivolous goats, but a team of experienced vegetation management professionals.

Meet the Goats

The City of Rancho Palos Verdes, where we live, employs goats for natural brush clearance around the city. My partner and I have seen them at work munching brush in various locations – in residential areas, on hillsides, at our local nature preserves.

This year we took the opportunity to learn more about them at the annual Meet the Goats event held at Point Vicente Interpretive Center, a park and whale-watching station overlooking the ocean.

The City presents this fun, educational family event along with Fire Grazers Inc., the company that provides the goats. This year, there were about 100–150 goats. Here is the herd beginning one of its surges:

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So many interesting faces and personalities, from grown goats to charming kids. I loved capturing this blissful character (top middle below), with head up, eyes closed, sniffing the air as if transported. I call him “the nirvana goat.”

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The event organizers provided hay for visitors to hand feed the goats. Also on the day’s agenda was a goat herding demonstration.

Eco-friendly Wildfire Prevention

In California and other drought-prone areas of the western United States, goat grazing is not only an efficient, eco-friendly land clearing method, but a wildfire prevention strategy.

We learned that the Fire Grazers goats come to town every year before the hot, dry fire-risk season begins. This year they’ll be on brush control duty until mid-July.

As the company name implies, Fire Grazers specializes in vegetation management for fire hazard zones such as ours. To learn more about their approach and the benefits that goats provide, see their detailed website.  

An Impressive Goat Herding Demonstration 

The demo featured another hardworking animal, Duke the herd dog. Here he is with a member of the Fire Grazers team and a young friend, waiting for his cue to perform: 

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The Fire Grazers’ goatherd entered the field, and the action began:

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At the goatherd’s commands, delivered by speaking or signaling with his stick, Duke raced around the field, rounding up stray goats and uniting the herd. (Click on the photos below to enlarge.)

He also showed his skill by twice splitting the large herd in two, managing both groups, then bringing them all back together. After his vigorous labor in the hot afternoon sun, he took a well-deserved break in the water tub:

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His handler told us that Duke is 9 years old and probably in his last year before retirement: the rapid acceleration-deceleration required for his job becomes too much for an aging body. At the end of his service Duke will enjoy a quieter life at the farm.

The Old Goats Home

What happens to the goats when it’s time for them to retire? In my research on brush clearing goats, I came across a U.S. company with an admirable program. They’ve created what they call “The Old Goats Home,” where retired service animals from their herd can happily live out their days. The company seeks donations and goat sponsors to help support the animals’ care.  

I hope this program will thrive and to learn more about it. It would be great if all these industrious goats could enjoy the same reward for their service.   

Do you have vegetation management goats in your area? Please leave a comment.                               

Copyright M. Vincent 2018

Image of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-1886) is in the public domain. The painting is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

All Meet the Goats event photos copyright M. Vincent 2018.