When Trailmates Moo

I like to watch fish. Tropical fish, mostly — but in a pinch, I’ll watch goldfish, and even those funny little crabs you can buy in the pet store. But when I really want to relax, I watch cows.

They dot the landscape in about half of our regional parks, moooving lazily along the ridgeline or sitting in the meadow, chewing the fat with their friends. Something I learned in Ireland, although I haven’t seen much of it lately, is how a cow behaves before a storm. They lay down, to keep their spot dry. It’s the only time I see them off their hooves, as cows seem to stand a lot, even when they’re sleeping.

The best place to hike among bovine is Briones Regional Park, but Sibley Volcanic Preserve is a good spot for them, too. There’s also the walk in the watershed off Pinehurst Road, across from the reservoir. In each place, cows of all colors may come up to you, and you need to be prepared.

“Don’t agitate them,” says the EBRP pamphlet on cows. In a fight with a 1,000-pound heifer, you’re almost certain to lose. Don’t walk through a congregation of cows. Go around if you can, especially if you have a dog. Cows don’t like dogs — they look too much like coyotes. And finally, don’t ever get between mother and calf. I friend I know did that once and got gored.

Cows are part of the pastoral setting we enjoy so much. They act as a buffer between the insanity of the city and the loneliness of the country. They’re fun. They can brighten your day. But don’t forget to give them their space.

ACT OF ARSON: No word, yet, on who set the fire that destroyed the office at the East Oakland Community Charter School (the old Hawthorne Elementary). Allison Delgado says staff members were demoralized when they saw what was lost — computers, equipment, and dozens of warm coats that were presents for the students. If you can help with a donation of money or supplies (even something as simple as Kleenex and hand wipes would be welcome) please drop by the school at 1700 28th Ave. in Oakland.

NAME DROPPING: Former Councilman Dick Spees and his wife, Jean, were at the opening of the new “In the Dark” exhibit at the Chabot Space & Science Center the other night. It’s a neat interactive wing where moles and shrews and other beady-eyed critters always seem to be staring at you — and you can’t argue with the venue, a place where it’s so dark you can see millions of stars. Speaking of stars, the Spees both volunteer long hours at Chabot, acting as humble docents leading tours through the massive facility. Imagine the surprise when visitors get to the Dick Spees wing of the building and then look at their guide’s name tag.

ANIMAL TALES: And since I started this column with an animal tale, I’ll end with one. Did you hear the one about the cat who fell in love with the bird? I know — you think it ended in fowl play, but read on.

George Place, who works at the Montclair Rite Aid, says his cat Genevieve and his pigeon Dudley are inseparable.

“It’s a unique relationship,” he says. The cat follows the bird up and down the stairs, even copying its bouncy little step. When its nap time, they sleep together, claw in paw and feathers in fur. This odd couple seems like a natural for David Letterman, but Place says he doesn’t watch the show. Maybe it’s just as well — we’ve already got one high profile sex scandal in the Bay Area.


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