Riding the Manatee

Fans of animal protection are hoping a Florida woman will be punished for manatee harassment. Just because a passing animal is big and slow, you are not automatically entitled to climb on. That’s a good thing to keep in mind next time you’re ambling around the State Fair.

The protected status of manatees is well known in Florida, where the Manatee Sanctuary Acts says: “It is unlawful for any person at any time, by any means, or in any manner intentionally or negligently to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb or attempt to molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.”

Legal scholars – what’s the difference between “annoy” and the other three infractions – “molest”, “harass” and “disturb”? Is it true that attempted annoyance is not illegal? Where is that fine line between attempting to annoy the manatee, and actually annoying her?

Perhaps it all comes down to the look the creature gives you as you take your ukulele out of its case.

Photo: Pinellas County Sheriff

Enforcement seems to be a problem, though. Too many people and manatees in the same areas lead to plentiful interactions, though few, if any, are initiated by the manatee. I guess they’re just not that turned on by being seen with us. It is a serious problem that can only truly be solved when people change their attitudes and expectations regarding wildlife.

The woman in the picture, Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez, age 52, turned herself in to authorities after a series of images of the incident made the rounds on the Internet. She could face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. That would be expensive and unpleasant and almost as bad as having your unflattering bathing suit photo distributed worldwide through countless blogs and news sources.

That said, it can be fun and life-enhancing to appropriately connect with animals, large and small.

Tell us an animal interaction story.

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61 thoughts on “Riding the Manatee”

  1. Let’s start with one close to home.

    I can add an update. Thousands of dollars have been donated to help Schoep in his last days. Schoep now gets frequent laser treatments on his arthritic joints. Amazingly, these have reduced the pain so much Schoep now moves like a younger dog again.

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    1. this one made me weep when i first saw it. something about dogs provide a bond that is like no other. two of my most heartfelt wailings were over my dogs. the lab basset died late 80s and i knew heartbreak was coming but it got me just the same. zeke my wolf dog died 6 months ago and i didnt know how attatched i was to him until i knew i had to let him go. my dad i knew. my dog i didn’t. kind of makes you think when your dog dies you can dedcide to go out and get another, how about your wife or best friend. there ought to be a place…

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  2. Good morning. Henry is the latest in a series dogs that have been our companions. We have also kept company with cats in the past. All of our pets have fit into our household as family members. They have all been house pets. Henry is the first pet that we have confined to a kennel at night. He came from an animal shelter where I think they let him pee inside and he would pee in our house during the night if not confined to a fairly small kennel. He’s reluctantly puts up with staying in the kennel at night.

    Henry is not a big dog and is just the right size to play with our 7 year old granddaughter who had a great time taking Henry for a walk. We think he could be a circus dog because he can stand on his hind legs and walk around with no trouble and also do a dance. His favorite game is tug of war. He almost never lets you win at this game. If you let go of the tug toy you have to chase him until he is ready to let you catch him then he will offer the tug toy to you to start another game of tug of war.

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  3. my life as a kid was one with cats. siamese cars names sam and patch. when i was a little kid we tried a dog form the pet store where they had distemper laden puppy farm critters for sale for the month they were in existance. we were all so naive in the 60s. imagine a business based on puppy mill puppies. then in about 7th grade my mom got a standard poodle from a friend who was a poodle lady. champions for sure inbred for sure. seizures and epelepsy for sure. standard poodles are very cool dogs smart, good tempered not like the little yip relatives, dont shed and kind of like a lab with curley hair and not as apt to be manic as a lab will be. teni got my dog. dylan was a lab/basset. my bassador. he was great. traveled the country with me in the vw van days and beyond. lots of stories about adventures and quirks both his and mine then back to cats because a wife and a dog is way too much maintenance. fast forward to current wife wh siad ok to a dog and i picked the basset because i didnt have time or patience for the labs shoe chewing transition of 3+ years little did i realize al the basset puppy traits would allow you to learn the concept of love and hate at the same time. thus the addition of my wolf dog, a couple of cats, a shivery little rescue critter and a fistful of fish tanks as we look aout the windows at the bird feeders. today i have 2 shepard pups in addition to the above minus the wolf dog who died this summer. i cant imagine having a cup of tea to be my preparation for the day ahead. if it wasnt for getting up to feed the critters i may on occasion sleep in til 7 or some ridiculous hour. no danger of that. this morning the pups broke through the gates and came to my bedside to tell me it was time to get up. i wondered why they were up so early and when i got my glasses rounded up so i could lok at the clock i realized i had been alowed to sleep in til 6. true luxury.
    i used to think pets were the perfect way to teach kids about love and death. little critters taeach all you need to know. in current state im not so sure why you would want to practice that but there you go.
    kids will be moving out in another 6 or 7 years and it will be me and the pups. and the fish and the cats. almost forgot the tourtoses we inherited this past summer. kinds fun. whats involved with chickens ben?

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    1. Love this line: “little did i realize al the basset puppy traits would allow you to learn the concept of love and hate at the same time”.

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    2. My new-to-laying chickens give me an Easter Egg Hunt everyday…
      Other than that, some food, some water, a place to roost (?) and they’re good to go.

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  4. I seem to have Internet this morning. So I could answer, but where would I begin. I have known a few homo sapiens, maybe more homo erectus, who would fall into this category.
    A few random ones:
    The killdeer and meadowlarks in the fields when I was a child, their calls, fake injured wings, chicks in nests. Up early with me as I crossed the field. How my dog ignored them when he ignored so few wild animals.
    How my father always had a pet hen which would run to him to be picked up.Somehow year after year, he always had one.
    The bear that used to watch our kids wait for the school bus on the North Shore.
    The year on the Shore we were invaded by skunks.
    Having to walk through the woods when the army worms were in full force.
    The deer that slept with our cows. Or finding a place where a deer had slept, leaving a warm nest in a brushy area. The deer having crept off as I approached.
    Very early in my childhood watching deer play on the hard-packed snow behind a windbreak with our collie, which looked much like a deer.
    How our horse knew when I was trying to catch him for work and when I was not.
    The barn swallows outside my window who remain despite the maintenance man trying to drive them away. How they sit on a sign outside my window and watch me watching them. they are gone now of course.
    The wonder and yet daily grind of the cycle of life that fed us in our childhood.

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    1. Clyde, I think the dog you grew up with and wrote about in your novel had the kind of life that a dog should have living outside on a farm with woods and fields nearby. Also, I think your dog was a Border Collie which have impressed me as being one of best kinds of dogs that are always very alert and active. Living in town, we have not been able to let our dogs run free and I always feel that they have had to suffer a little due to being kept inside or on a leash.

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    2. Thanks, Steve.
      Yes, Jim, border collie. Every book you read on border collies says do not try to keep them in an apartment or without ample chance to run. My son has always wanted one but knew he did not live right to have one. I know that to be true.
      I bemoan the fact that in all the bike riding I do in residential neighborhoods how seldom I see a child outside. And I only rarely see a dog with a child. How sad for the dogs and the children. I recently ran across the term “free-range childhood” to describe the kind of childhood children so often once had and so rarely do now, and I did.

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    3. as we learned in the quilted sky, you and claire had special relationships and an amazing ability to wait for the animals and a power of observation and the ability to tue into the animal vibe. it shows in your list too. not many of us would notice the listed observations
      it is the single largest regret i have of parenthood, that i cant give the outdoors to my kids. i wonder what will happen now that the free range part of the mystery of life is not a reference point for an entire generation and certain to be missing from future ones.

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  5. I find it fascinating that animals that you’d think would not have an affinity for each other, sometimes get along just fine: Here’s another such story:

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  6. Here’s another such story:

    A couple of years later Bella was killed, most likely in a coyote attack. When they found Bella, she was obviously not in the spot where she was killed; there was no blood in the vicinity. They did find blood on the trunk of Tara. She had carried Bella more than a mile from where she was killed to the spot where she was found.

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  7. When I get ready to go out on a Saturday night, Pippin becomes very clingy and looks at me with huge, imploring eyes. His eyes say so much.

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    1. Isn’t it funny how dogs know when you’re going to work, and just go lie down, whereas when it’s not time to go to work and you ready yourself to go for a walk with them, they know that too? Somehow they can distinguish between work day and weekend. They somehow know when you’re going somewhere and they can’t come (other than to work) and put on quite the quilt-inducing display. They know too when you’re taking them to the vet. I really miss having a dog in the household. but we’re about to “inherit” an 11 year old yellow lab from friends who are moving to Australia. Sure hope Daisy get’s along with Martha.

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  8. Prior to Barney (my current hound) I had a basset named Norma. She came from the Humane Society and was one of those special companion animals who really is the stand out – like tim’s Dylan (or Kirsta’s Pippin, or Steve’s Katie…you get the idea). What Farley Mowat would call “the dog of your life” – maybe not the brightest, maybe not the prettiest, but the one who is there and gets you through the turmoil and the big changes and the inevitable growing pains that can come almost any time in our lives. Norma was, like a lot of hounds, a character. She liked to sit in my lap, slept with her head on my shoulder at night, adopted one roommate’s kittens as her puppies (only one would put up with being cleaned though – the long haired one, of course). As a puppy she delighted in finding new ways to get into the garbage (which I finally wound up having to put outside the apartment in a back hallway), ate a box of birthday candles on evening, rifled through a backpack to get at some state fair mini-donuts that were secreted inside (she brought the bag out in her mouth, clearly proud of her quarry), and sang with another roommate when she would practice for her voice lessons (I was informed that Norma had a preference for the American composers and was less likely to sing with the Europeans).

    Norma also went with me a lot of places – theaters (I had one set that included accidental dog paw prints in paint on the floor – it worked, so I left them), outdoor Shakespeare plays, family gatherings, and a friend’s farm. Part of the farm was still a working dairy farm (that part was maintained by my friend’s in-laws), the part where my pal lived was sort of hobby farm plus. He had goats, guinea fowl, tried emus, llamas, and for a while also had a big fluffy white herding dog named Walter. Now, Norma was used to the farm for the most part. She couldn’t figure out why the cows made the same noise she did when someone rubbed her belly since no human was anywhere near the cows (or their bellies), but she was willing to roll with that. When the first llama arrived, it was about the same time as Walter’s arrival. I let Norma into the goat and llama pen (which also held Walter, who was supposed to herd the goats – a task he clearly thought was optional). The llama was not at all sure what to do with Norma and made the strangest noise, something between and ack-ack-ack and a really loud cat hiss. Norma seemed non-plussed and decided that the llama could just be ignored. Off she trundled to try and herd the goats (a stubborn, non-herding breed attempting to herd a stubborn, playful flock – um, yah, she tried…). Walter, sensing a new creature in the large penned area, sidled over to Norma (mind you, Walter was probably 120 lbs, about the size of a large St Bernard) and decided he’d try to have his way with her. Norma wanted none of this. Her bits were de-commissioned and she had goats to herd, so she nipped Walter in the leg and gave her the sort of withering look that a guy with a bad pickup line might get, sort of a, “eeeew – at least buy me dinner first and then, still, eeewww.” The pecking order having been established (my spade 50 lb female clearly the alpha dog, not the un-neutered giant male), the humans went inside the farmhouse. While prepping dinner we heard great caterwauling from the goat pen and went out to see what was happening – I think my friend was worried that Walter was doing something awful to my poor hound, or perhaps the llama had had enough. Neither was the case. We rushed up to the pen to find Walter being backed up a hill by my low-rider, who was leaping up and nipping at Walter’s neck, seemingly backing him into a corner, where ultimately Walter laid down in defeat. Having taught Walter whatever lesson he needed, Norma went galumphing off to play with her buddies the goats never to be bothered by him again. Norma lived to be about 16 years old, surviving to welcome Daughter into our family and home, She protected the new baby and me as long as her blind eyes and arthritic legs could. I still miss her sometimes.

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    1. very nice anna, i think more than one dog of a lifetime is possible. they are all different. like kids, when i heard someone expalin that they dont have avorite children you just love em all different because of my dogs. you just love em all different.

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  9. The dog we had before our current dog was Ollie, a Corgi. People frequently wanted to pet him because Corgis are one of the most attractive dogs and they always wear an alert friendly look. They seem to always be smiling and their large pointed ears are always straight up. Ollie was usually a very friendly dog, but he could be a little aggressive and might try to bite you if he didn’t like what you were trying to do to him. He did bite a vet, but we thought this was funny because the vet is kind a a loud mouthed person.

    Corgis are listed as herding dogs and I guess they can be used that way. I think the somewhat aggressive tendency might be because they were used as guard dogs according to one book I read. They are not really a small dog. Their legs are very short, but they have a thick body and a large head. Also they are covered with a very attractive long coat of hair. Ollie’s coat was a gold color with white trimming.

    Ollie was fairly happy laying around the house, but I think he would have been happier if we could have provided him with a more active life. Once in a while he would get some exercise by taking off and running very rapidly in a big circle around the furniture in the living room and dining room. He was a great favorite of ours and we miss him. I think he lived to to be 11 or 12 years old which is the normal life expectancy for a Corgi.

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    1. I know so little about breeds. Our family’s breed of choice is mutts. Our border collie came to us as a castoff, she even he was a mutt in a way. There’s a zoologist who has done a wonderful study about how various breeds get the traits they do. I saw it as a Nova show. Fascinating.

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      1. Ollie is the only pure breed dog that we have owned. Our daughter wanted a Corgi and bought the dog with her own money. We inherited Ollie from her when she went away to college. Our current dog, Henry, seems to be a cross between two pure breeds, perhaps a Poodle and a Schnauzer. He came from a shelter so we aren’t sure of his breeding, but he looks just like pictures of this cross. I think crosses between two pure breeds can result in some good dogs if it is done by a good breeder. Henry is a very well built dog and doesn’t seem to have any health problems.

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      2. mutts are the only way to go but it is interesting to learn the personalities, kind of like germans and irish and japanese. all very broad generalizations but the absolutely come form somewhere that ihas a basis in reality.

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  10. The notion that a mutt is hardier than a purebred dog rests on a theory called “hybrid vigor.” I’ve often wondered how well that idea is respected by those who would know. The first purebred dog my family had, a beagle named Jody, died young. My parents explained that as what happens with purebred dogs.

    Jody was an interesting example of cross-species interactions. Her mother died shortly after giving birth, so a friendly cat was brought in to be “mother” for this littler of baby beagles. I don’t know what she did beyond offering affection. I doubt a cat could nurse baby beagles. But that meant that Jody grew up thinking cats were her mother, which led to some complicated situations.

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      1. Inbreeding, and hybrid vigor are interesting topics that I should study, but I am also lazy, Clyde. I save my own vegetable seeds and avoid growing hybrids because I can’t save seed from them. Hybrid vegetables and grains might have some advantages, but good open pollenated ones are satisfactory for home production and are necessary if you want to save seed. If you do save seed you need to be aware of inbred depression which can take places in some, but not all, kinds of vegetables if you only save seed from a very small number of plants.

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  11. I had a cat when I was in high school. Freddy would come when I called, slept with me in my bed every night, all night – curled up behind my knees as I lay on my side – and even had her kittens under my bed (started out on my bed, then she went under the bed). Freddy was my soul mate, but unfortunately died young after an encounter with a very large and very enthusiastic dog played too roughly with her and her internal injuries were such that the vet put her to sleep. Life was not the same after that.

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    1. Some educational talker, cannot remember who, thinks all schoolrooms should have living things in them so they will die and the kids will deal with it. As a secondary English teacher I always had plant,s which did me the honor of dying. I sometimes had fish and would board small rodents and reptiles for the biology teacher. The fish died, of course, but the other things somehow survived their time with me. The kids used to tell me that I bored them to death.

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  12. Thirty-odd years ago, we had a female cat, a calico named Monschka. She was strictly an indoor cat the first couple of years when I lived in an apartment, but when we moved to the house where we live now, she was allowed to go outside (as if we could have stopped her!) Well, Monschka got pregnant and presented us with five cute kittens which we were lucky enough to find good homes for. One of those homes also had a small, spayed poodle. These two, the poodle and the kitten, bonded immediately and did everything together, in fact the poodle even began lactating so she could nurse the kitten; which she did for the longest time. We had no idea this was even possible.

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  13. We had a skunk in our shed this summer with which we managed to avoid an interaction. I discovered the skunk was in the shed because there was a dead rabbit in there that it was eating. I don’t know how the rabbit got in there and why it was dead or how the skunk got in there. The shed door is usually closed and I didn’t find any holes where the skunk or the rabbit could enter.

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  14. Hey–
    These stories have been fun to read and imagine.
    I’ve had a lot of good dogs. There’s been a few that, well, they can’t all be winners.

    I had some goldfish as a kid. They sort of came and went. There have been a few barn cats but they never seemed to survive very long.
    We had a finch for several years. Was a gift from a friend. Just recently was asked by a neighbor if we wanted their bird so may be getting another.

    And then there’s cows. I suppose since my closest interaction was with cows they have made the biggest impression.
    Rosie was the Guernsey that my sisters took to the fair. I don’t remember her but I remember her daughter Jennifer.
    Some of my favorite cows were Mary, Trova (after the band) and, of course, LynneCow (after Lynn Warfel-Holt). Toppsie was one of Dads cows that had about the worst personality I’ve ever met in a cow. She was just plain ornery. Her saving grace was she gave a lot of milk. Ate her neighboring cows feed too — and of course, what went ‘in’ had to come back ‘out’ eventually, but she sure did give a lot of milk. Felt no sorrow in finally being able to sell her.
    Dawn had no cartilage in one ear; it was just floppy.
    And then there was Sandra. She had something wrong with her eyes. She was almost blind. But she learned to follow the rest of the herd by sound. Sometimes if she got out in the pasture and separated from the group I would go find her. Once I was within her hearing, I could just call her and she’d come running. When she had her first calf, the calf had the same issues.
    I don’t remember what I did with the calf, but I just let Sandra retire on the farm. I didn’t have the heart to sell her. I didn’t want her to go through all those strange places and trucks.
    And when the time came, I put her down myself. And that was hard.

    I’ve put down some dogs too. And I cry.

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    1. My mom asked me if I would drive her last dog to the vet to be sent on her way to the great dog park beyond. Mom just couldn’t make that drive – she knew she’d be crying too much. When it was time to put down my dear Norma, I had a vet who came to the house to give her that last injection (actually, two as i recall) – my best friend came and held my hand, Husband held onto Daughter (who was still an infant) and Norma laid in my lap. We all cried, including the vet.

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    2. Sniff (that’s for both Ben and Anna, and anyone else who’s had to do that).

      I wonder if Lynne Warfel (formerly Warfel-Holt) doesn’t realize she had a cow named after her… Just heard her voice this afternoon on Classical MPR…

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      1. Lynne, the person, and LynneCow were quite friendly. Lynne and I spoke often but I lost track of her after she left MPR a while ago. I sent pictures of the bovine version. Lynne loved it. She’s a horse and dog person herself.

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        1. Ben, click on my name and you will see one of my favorite pix. Daughter, Daffodil, granddaughter (don’t remember the name, but some flower, maybe Petunia III), Rosie (mother), and Phillip son (Phillip). A fine family, agreeable good milkers. Mother purebred Guernsey, all offspring from same Holstein-Guernsey cross, which the NE MN Experiment Station right then decided was a good mix for NE MN. Who names cows after anything but flowers. Love how they are all lined up by the water tank chewing their cuds.

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        2. I envy you knowing her! She’s one of my all time favorite radio people. has that subtle sense of humor…

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    3. Well, if you don’t cry when you have to have an animal put down, I’d wonder about you; that really hurts. Our most painful experience in that department was Mitzi, our Welch Corgi. She was only a little over two years old, and in perfect health, but she had an aggressive streak that we just could not control. She had viciously attacked our old dachshund, several times, and the last time almost killed him. Now, one and one-half year later, we still grieve her loss and it hurts to even look at a picture of a Corgi, let alone meet one out for a walk. She was such a charming little creature, sweet and affectionate with a wonderful attitude about her, but she was completely unpredictable around other dogs. Would have never dared to take her to a dog park. I miss her so.

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  15. The apartment I shared with Rose and her brother Michael (who later became Husband), an upstairs duplex on 27th and Dupont in S. Mpls, had a screened back porch at the top of a steep outside stairway. The screen door to the outside didn’t really latch. One night we three came back from an episode at Bridgeman’s (need you ask?) and heard a scuffling noise. Had to find a flashlight and there were… hidden in a cardboard box on its side… a mom and two newborn kittens. We couldn’t turn them out – winter was fast approaching – so we took them in, named them Momcat, Boots, and Pluff. I was enchanted, Michael was on board, and Rose, not then nor ever a cat person, reluctantly agreed. Guess whose closet Momcat dragged the kittens to.

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  16. A fun moment for me on fb tonight. A former student of mine posted a picture of a clock his great grandfather got for his wedding in 1902. The clock still works; he winds it every Sunday night. His great grandfather was Charlie, the Charlie I knew as a child who served as the model for Charlie in my novel.

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