The Life and Times of a Bored Terrier

We have been feeding birds year-round for at least a decade. The activity has its ups and downs, but I discovered a new downside this year. When we discovered how deer can suck down the contents of any feeder within reach in a matter of seconds, I came up with what I thought was an ingenious idea.

About one third of our backyard is surrounded by a fence. Inside the fence is the "girls' yard," the girls being Olive, Abbie and Poppy, our three dogs. Outside the fence is "my garden." It seemed a no-brainer to put the feeders in the girls' yard, as it is a sector in which we've yet to see a deer venture, and squirrels are at least harassed if not vanquished. It also cleared our consciences to know our part-time cat Maurice didn't often visit the girls' yard.
Feeder activity in the girls' yard.

bird stick
What I didn't predict was Abbie's predilection for bird seed. This year it turned into  an eating disorder combined with an obsession. She would spend a big part of her day grazing beneath the feeders, snarfing up sunflower, hemp, nyjer, and anything else in the mix. I started seeing "leavings" that looked just like those bird sticks made with a bird seed coating around a sticky middle.

When you have more than one dog, it's often difficult to track down the perpetrator of any dysfunctional activity. All three of them snacked on feeder debris, but not all of the leavings were seed-coated.
Dog with eating disorder.

Dog-owners know that many dogs operate under the belief that they should eat everything that smells good (and here, "good" is relative.) and let their stomachs sort it out. And while some dogs fall into the category of stomachs with legs, many do not.

Long time dog-owners also know that some dogs like to "recycle." When Abbie yakked up a pile of sunflower seed hulls, I started to worry. And when we found a huge, incredibly gross and smelly puddle of puke on the dining room rug, I became really concerned. (The rug was washable, but think twice about going to any laundromat.)

I turned to Google, and found several references to dogs eating bird seed. While most were of the opinion that, in moderation, bird seed snacking was no big deal. The best bottom-line answer came from syndicated pet columnist Steve Dale , who addresses the fact that wild birds carry diseases. I learned that, beneath any bird feeder you'll find not only seeds and hulls, but disease vectors in the form of bird droppings. I doubted the girls were avoiding seeds so tainted.

I cut off the girls' food for a day and then started them with a cottage cheese-rice medley for a couple of days. We moved the feeders outside the girls' area, requiring that Dave bring them in at night and put them back out in the morning to avoid feeding the deer. But I'm no longer seeing those bird sticks on the ground, and have found no more disgusting former stomach contents on the floor.
Abbie loves exploring the outdoors.

Abbie is a Cairn terrier. She's an "earth dog" bred for digging things (usually rodents) up from the ground. She loves to hide under a big arborvitae in her yard and has come close to undermining its foundation with her covert excavations.

I think she misses the soil and bemoans the loss of access to the unparalleled feeling of mud between her toes as she digs for treasure in her yard. How do I know this? She has recently taken to scraping the soil from the base of any plants unfortunate to be in pots at her level. I really need to get her out more. I think her eating disorder has transitioned to a whole new level.


  1. Oh my goodness, how funny...great post Jean! I too have had many moments battling our dogs behavior when unusual events end up happening in our yard, lol. The pictures are hilarious, love the close up. Wishing you a great weekend!

    Best wishes,