Yes, I meant to write 'dogs'. 

Thanks for your comment, even though you confused part of the issue. Both birds 
and birdwatchers are at stake when arrogant dogowners let their dogs loose, and 
both in Ithaca and in New York city. You perhaps did not read the news or 
perhapos missed the earlier thread. But, clarifications below. 

Also I do *not* mean to say every dog-owner is evil. Some may be well behaved 
and some may be good people. And yes - some dogs may have therapeutic value. 

Mainly this is about dog (or cat-) owners that let their dog loose where not 
allowed, or, anywhere in breeding season. We have already turned so much of 
wildlife areas into golf courses and Walmarts, that we owe it to the wildlife 
to at least observe basic rules like that. 

I hope you agree. 

I should end here, because I don't want to take up too much bandwidth. Feel 
free to just hit delete, but I'll take up the challenge below. (I will digress 
away from birds, but also circle back to them). 

--I do feel strongly there is an unbroken line from the arrogance of the taking 
of the land, to the arrogance of letting dogs loose on it. It's the same 
spirit: I do it because I can. My dog will bite you, scare you, I use it to 
intimidate you - and whatever bird you wanted to see. I don't need your rules. 

The dogowner at 'Hog Hole' (what an atrocious name, by the way) who 
intentionally let his monster dog jump on my wife, just weeks ago, and who 
refused to leash the dog even then, despite our pleas, and despite all the 
signs about how all dogs must be leashed there - he's a lead example of the 
worst kind of callous, evil dog-owner, and, he was the one that prompted the 
original thread with produced such surprisingly numerous examples of similarly 
arrogant dogowners around Ithaca, as you may recall if you read those many 
messages from people either similarly victimized by dogowners, or who witnessed 
dogs set loose on wildlife.  

Note that right at the Hog Hole place(near Treman marina) these dogowners have 
a huge fenced area set off just for them and their dogs - yet not a small 
number of them still insist on letting them run around the entire park, scare 
off all the birds, and jump on people (sometimes on me, too), and so on. 

Then, why are they so nasty? Why the wilful setting aside of laws and rules, to 
bully both birds and people, as we see both at Hog Hole - and in Central Park? 

I see these dog-owners as indulging in a peculiarly self-righteous evil, which 
does connects right back to the logic of colonialism, which was, and remains: I 
took it, I own it, I do whatever I want with it, that is Law Number One. In our 
area, this connects right back to the blatant stealing and murdering which is 
how this country was "made", including specially here in Ithaca, where the ash 
is still smouldering after Town Destroyer George Washington sent his henchmen 
here to kill and burn and starve the original landowners out of here, and then 
run the place using slavery. 

This is straight out of John Locke, by the way, who, regardless of previously 
existing rules or forms of ownership, gave this idea of self-righteous 
appropriation legal shape, so as to support slavery and colonialism, in which 
he himself was so invested. BTW it's amazing how much slavery there was after 
the conquest right here around Ithaca; I teach the slavery and the colonization 
as part of my courses on world slavery, on indigenous peoples, and so on, at 
Cornell. (We may guess that beastly dogs were a big part of both the conquest 
and slavery but I don't know that part of the story).

Now let me digress some more and tell a story that, for me, best encapsulates 
how peculiar spirit of entitlement to do whatever, on conquered land, survives 
in the present: 

On a Queens beach in New York a few years ago I was tending to my little boy 
when a mother sitting next to me buried her cigarette butt in the sand. So I 
told her, "Don't do that. Kids play here." Her answer: "My people came to this 
country long before you ever came here." Hearing a foreign accent, she gave her 
gut reaction - 'I was here first, so I own this place, so I can spoil the land 
whichever way I want, and you should just shut up, and go back to where you 
came from' - That's the spirit! In my case, I was trying to speak for the kids 
on the beach - I wasn't even thinking of birds or sea animals but of course it 
is because of this same arrogance that the ocean floor is now covered with junk 
and cig butts. But, who's a Foreigner to tell a Colonist she can't bury her cig 
butt in this sand! 

We should agree that this spirit is exactly the same as that of the infamous 
gang of armed thugs out West, who flaunted the rules and occupied federal lands 
-- and then after they were finally arrested, gloves on, they were let go by a 
jury of the same mindset. As many said at the time, imagine if they had been 
Black, or Indian!  

I feel that Christian Cooper was given exactly this treatment in Central Park. 
I take the woman's racist reaction to him as clear evidence - trying to frame 
him to the police as a Black assailant, was clearly her means of countering his 
voice of reason - in his case trying to speak for the birds, not for himself! 
Because Christian Cooper was Black, the Lady saw him as having No Right to 
speak, whatever his reason. She obviously thinks that *She* Owns Central Park 
/this Beach/ this Country - and she lets her dog loose to show it, and indulge 
in this feeling of "I own this, so I can ruin it, who's a Black dude to stop 
me." That's why she tried to use his "race" to deflect from her flaunting of 
the rules. 

That's my interpretation anyway: In sum, my argument is, both at Hog Hole and 
in Central Park, we're looking at the weaponization of dogs for the owner's 
psychological satisfaction in flaunting the rules and impose on others. And, 
that the roots of this go back to the Might-is-Right behavior of the conquest 
and slavery of the recent past. 

You can disagree, but then I'd like to hear an alternative theory as to, just 
why are those people so nasty? 

-- Finally, I would love if someone can point me to a history of dog-keeping in 
the US, from the time of slavery to the current preoccupation with dogs, which 
perhaps could support me, in my interpretation (and perhaps it would even show 
that the dog-owning itself started out as a psychological substitute for 

ps. Don't take me to mean to say that the bad guys win: It's a struggle. 
Slavery was indeed abolished, for one thing.  

And of course many people do follow the rules of the park and put their dog on 
a leash when the signs ask them to. These are good people who have understood 
that we need shared rules to coexist and survive, especially now that there is 
no Wild West anymore, and no more Great Outdoors, and the planet is under 
threat. Globally, countries like China ravage the ocean and fill it with 
plastic, just because they can - never mind it's coming to an end. But, same 
there: can we please have shared rules of decency in ocean fishing and 
polluting, before it's too late? Such big questions are of course much more 
important than whatever dog-owner ruins our birdwatching visits to Hog Hole, 
Ithaca, or Central Park, NYC, or causes damage to the last few birds that try 
to live there. 

But they are the same, and perhaps there is symbolic value in New York's 
Central Park, like in Ithaca, if some of that subset of nasty dogowners can be 
shamed or forced into complying with the rules, and to show some decency.

Not all the birds are dead (only a third). 


Magnus Fiskesjö, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University
McGraw Hall, Room 201. Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
E-mail:, or:

Affiliations at Cornell University, WWW:
Anthropology Department,
Southeast Asia Program (SEAP),
East Asia Program (EAP),
CIAMS (Archaeology),
Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA),
Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS),
From: Robin Cisne []
Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2020 8:29 PM
To: Magnus Fiskesjo
Subject: Re: [cayugabirds-l] arrogant dogowner going viral

Magnus, your last paragraph linking unleashed dog-walking to the depravities of 
colonialism is an ambitious overreach, and an outrageous conjecture unsupported 
by fact.  I assume you meant to type "setting their dogs on birds and people."  
No evidence has been offered, either in this forum or by Christian Cooper, that 
any owners of unleashed dogs have deliberately sicced 'em on innocent bird 
watchers.  You are not a victim.

I am a birder and the responsible, unarrogant owner of a frequently unleashed 
dog who is not permitted to bother people (and generally ignores them anyway).  
The great outdoors is big enough for all of us, even for people eager to police 

On Tue, May 26, 2020 at 7:40 PM Magnus Fiskesjo 
<<>> wrote:

Connecting to the recent discussion here, about arrogant dog-owners, this case 
in Central Park, NYC is relevant.

The sister of the birdwatcher in the incident sent around his original film, 
which is going viral and reaching millions now:

The BBC reports:

But, because the birdwatcher who reminded the woman she is required to have her 
dog leashed in the park, was a Black man, Christian Cooper, most attention has 
understandably turned to her astounding attempt to call in the police on 
account him being a Black person -- and less attention seems to be paid to her 
arrogance against our feathered friends ... which is why he told her.

Some people online have tried to highlight the guy's identity as a birdwatcher 

Here is Christian Cooper the man talking about the excitement of birdwatching:

Also his friend said this - turns out he's a TV host, “Birds of North America”:

All in all, I think this incident actually brought out how the arrogance of the 
dogowners setting their down on birds and people, is actually intimately 
related to the deeper history of colonialist appropriation (the "I, me, mine" 
selfishness of grabbing, owning, excluding others), and the racism that goes 
with it ... and apraently lurks right under the surface, consciously or not.

(ps. I live in both Ithaca and NYC and often birded in Central Park, and I 
often have chatted with fellow birdwatchers while waiting for birds in the 
Ravine and other places. I think I may have run into Cooper a few years ago)

Magnus Fiskesjö, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University
McGraw Hall, Room 201. Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
E-mail:<>, or:<>

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