Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Squirrel - Proof Friendly Feeder Raises Score to 11-0.
Squirrel Baffles Humans, Defeats Squirrel-Proof Feeder

For Father's Day last year I got a squirrel-proof bird feeder. We were all enchanted with the blue jays nesting in a bush outside the bedroom window, within eyesight of my computer desk. The squirrels are abundant, so I got the model illustrated above, with weight on the bar keeping the seed locked up.

Birds are so light that many can feed on that bar without lowering it and shutting off the food supply.

This worked well for an entire year. I fed the squirrels field corn and a new composite type of corn. When I bought a bag of peanuts in the shell, for snacks, I decided to share them on the window sill. I lift up the window, place some peanuts on the ledge, and watch them feed.

Recently two fed at once on the window sill. I thought they would fight, but instead, one groomed the other, chewing through the pal's fur. Suddenly they sat up and faced each other. Turf battle? The Sill-marillion? No, they touched paws and faces in a quick little friendship move. Grooming resumed after.

For Father's Day this year, the squirrel decided to defeat me again. He climbed the pole of the bird-feeder, held on with one arm, and pumped the bar to jiggle sunflower seed out into his mouth.

I had my wife come and watch the show. She said, "Time to take down the feeder!" I said, "No, this is entertaining. Besides, I can put a baffle on the pole."

Sassy Sue and I went to hardware store for a baffle. Duncraft sells a large one for about $30. I can imagine an ad saying, "Perfect for our formerly squirrel-proof feeders!"

Sassy went outside with me to install the bracket under the baffle. Unlike the photo above, our land is fairly level and Sassy's friends live next door. They love to have her walk over and greet them. I have to watch them, since Homer is a grouch who thinks Sassy is too peppy and loud. Sometimes he sits in the corner and looks disgusted. Once he bowled her over. Sassy watches for cues from me. I call her back after a few seconds of mutual greetings.

Sassy Sue is quite popular around town. At the dog park, children love to throw her ball and watch her snatch it out of the air, bringing it back. Very few dogs retrieve balls. I have not seen one that brings it back to the owner's hands.

More significantly, Sassy Sue astonishes the audience by jumping up with her three legs to get the ball. No one is surprised when she plants herself and catches the ball with a loud "Swak!" sound on the way down. But when she is running full speed away from me and grabs it before it hits the ground, everyone says, "How does she do that?" I am still impressed, after seeing it done many times.

One father was far away with several small children. Soon they were all behind me, watching the show. Next they were participating. More than one girl has said, "Sassy is a bossy dog!" I usually answer, "They gave her the right name." I have not heard a dog talking so much at the park. Sassy tells me to hurry up when we walk toward the gate. She barks loudly at her friends inside the park.

People see the loving nature of Sassy right away. She has a shy smile that invites petting, and she asks for more. She recently sat in my lap, put her paws around my neck, and hugged me. If she can involve two of us in petting her at the same time, that is perfect.

I happened to stop at Dairy Queen without Sassy in the back seat. The young woman gave me the cone I always share with the family and asked, "Where is Sassy Sue?"

Sassy's new duty includes watching for the fox in our yard. Our daughter-in-law first spotted it last year, but I thought that was just a chance sighting, an animal walking through. The fox must live in the wooded lot and prowl our yard a lot.

Sassy's perch is on top of my pillow, looking out the bedroom window that faces the wooded lot. This is where she keeps track of everything on our little street. Dogs and cats do not trouble her (except on TV) but that fox sends her into hunting mode.

I have seen the fox walking back into the woods, thanks to her alarms.

When I go to the kitchen, three dogs follow me, in case I am getting something they like. They love the sound of things being unwrapped. When I make a cheese sandwich, they expect some, lining up shoulder to shoulder.

I normally ask, "Would the Three Little Piggies like some cheese?"

They move forward one step, in unison. When I told this story in a sermon, Sassy's ears perked up.

Sassy Sue Vocabulary
I have lost track of how many sounds Sassy Sue can make. She has a German Shepherd vocabulary and all the strange vocal habits of the Cattle Dog, derived from the wild Dingo which is part of the breed's DNA.

She rarely warbles, but it is fun to hear. One night she saw her reflection in the bedroom window, since the inside light was on. She sat up and warbled, warning us about the dog in the window.

When I stop at the bank or post office, she sticks half her body out of the window and gives me a loud bark, once or twice. She grins at me and sits on my seat until I return. People find it comical when they see her in the driver's seat.

Last week I stopped at the vet's office to pick up medicine. Sassy's last trip earned her some shots. I left the window down. She stuck her body out and gave a long warbling warning cry. I understood. "No more shots!"

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