Donna, thanks so much for addressing this paralle…

Donna, thanks so much for addressing this parallel. When my own girl, Daisy, joined me in 2001, it became devastatingly clear that the model of thought that engenders pit bull-type prejudice is inevitably linked to human ethnicity prejudice. When Daisy joined me, I had no idea that "pit bulls" were a thing. Except that my girl was one, I had no idea that dog breeds could be a target of prejudice. My girl taught me to always greet hatred with love and compassion, even joy. It came to be that while we stood shoulder to shoulder, we were standing for not only ourselves, but for all sentient beings. Tolerance and kindness is non-negotiable, and while it may never become the baseline, I hope that by working together, it may at least become socially formative across ALL demo graphics.
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Brave HSUS Rescuers Risk Lives to Save Stranded Pets

HSUS Rescue Team - Hurricane HarveyOn September 1, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was coordinating with other agencies and animal welfare organizations to rescue as many animals as possible who had been affected by Hurricane Harvey. They received a request to help a Chihuahua and a cat who were stranded in a flooded home. Christopher Schindler and Tara Loller of HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team headed out with Matthew Fortenberry, the director of Beaumont Animal Services.

According to HSUS, the intrepid trio first used a rescue boat to get near the house. Then, once railroad tracks and debris from the flooding blocked the boat’s path, they continued on foot. Once they were able to view the house, it was obvious that the home had been hit hard. The windows were all broken and a fast current of deep water flooded the home.

At that time, a group came by on a narrow boat and helped Tara. As she rode toward the house in that slim boat, Tara later relayed that she was able to hear the “desperate cries” of the dog wanting someone to help. Once in the house, Tara began moving through the waist deep water, searching for the two animals. Chuck later commented on Facebook about Tara’s courage, writing “Tara braved [a] really strong current that was flowing right through the house where we rescued these two!”

Suddenly Tara saw the dog whose cries she had heard from the boat. The white and brown Chihuahua was carefully clinging to the top of a floating sofa. After sniffing Tara, the terrified dog leaped into Tara’s arms. Clinging to Tara’s shoulder it was obvious that the dog “knew she was safe and was not letting go.” During this time, Chris and Matthew had swam through the current and forced the front door open.

After safely placing the dog in a carrier, the trio still needed to find the cat reported to be in the home. They could hear the meows of a cat but couldn’t see where she might be. Eventually they found the kitten hiding in an air pocket in a small area above a closet. Unfortunately, the air pocket that had saved the kitten’s life was too high for Tara and Chris to reach.

The rescuers were undaunted. Tara stood on Chris’s shoulders. Then she stepped onto one of his hands so that he could literally toss her into the small area above the closet. Tara was covered in insects and flat on her belly in the small space. However, uncomfortable as it was, Tara was able to reach the frightened kitten and hand her down to be placed in a carrier! Now that the two pets were in carriers on a boat, it was time to bring them to a safe, dry place where they could rest until their family could be found.

It’s not known how long the animals were hiding in the flooded home, but after their rescue, the small dog and kitten were brought to safety at the Beaumont Animal Shelter, where Tara posed with the two pets she’d saved so dramatically. When that photo was shared on Facebook, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS, praised the team, calling Tara and Chris “Life savers,” and noting that he is “so proud of [them] for this extraordinary effort.” Other commenters echoed the praise, referring to the team as “fearless heroes” and thanking them “for caring and saving” the pets.

Hurricane Harvey was horrible and the rescues are still on going. However, it’s because of compassionate animal lovers that pets like that kitten and Chihuahua are able to be saved. We bet that there’s nowhere else Tara and Chris would rather be, and nothing else they’d rather be doing than saving sweet pets and helping families separated by the fast floodwater.

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Such a wonderful story – both Chappy and Crystal d…

Such a wonderful story – both Chappy and Crystal deserve each other and deserve to be happy, supported and loved. I hope this story helps other blocky dogs find a way into homes that need them. Thank you BAD RAP for all your good works – for dogs AND humans.

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The Mandarin of the Closed Road

orange cat

The county closed this road a few years ago. I used to travel it often, for it shaved some minutes off my drive. It was potholed and roughshod and hardly the thing that someone driving a little sedan should venture on, but I drove it often. I knew where the big holes were anyway, and I got only one flat tire on all my years of driving it.

It took me through a bit of wasteground where the trees grew up thick and tall, and on night time trips, I’d often run into raccoons and deer. Their eyes would flash in my headlights and run quickly into the brush. They were my taste of country existence in this graduate school city:  rough rough, thick woods, and the wild.

This evening, I’ve decided to walk along the edge of this road, for there is a trail that cuts off the right and takes me into a nice little park.  The darkness falls hard upon trees, casting shadows along the pockmarked road up the the bright red gate that says “Road Closed.”

I approach the gate in deep nostalgia. I remember driving this road so many times, but now it’s closed to me.  A universe is walled off to me, and it makes me ache a little.  I wish I could traverse the road again, and I feel violated at the redness of the gate.

As I make my approach, I catch movement to my left.  It is a feral cat, a big tom.  He orange and puffed up like some kind of pumpkin beast set loose upon the countryside.

He bolts from me but stops short of the red gate. He stares up at me with his demonic cat eyes, as if he is accusing me for daring to disturb his peace and tread upon his domain.

We look hard at each other. I am not a cat man, and he’s not impressed with me either. We have nothing but contempt for each other.

We look into each other’s eyes for thirty seconds then a minute.

It is the orange tom who breaks the stare and slips under the red gate as if he never noticed me. He slips through as mandarin on his way back to his palace, which might be hidden somewhere in the deep timber.

But I will never set my eyes upon it. My human feet and my car tires are banned from the road beyond the gate.

But the cat is allowed. Indeed, no one knows he even crossed under the gate.  And no one cares.

I feel heartbroken at this development. My little wild road is closed off, and it has been left to the big tom to rule as his own.

Mankind is all about the rules. We regulate ourselves pretty well.

But when it comes to old cats that no one wants or cares about, we don’t have much in the way of rules at all.

We wall of the places to ourselves, but they become the domains of the cats. They rule according to the customs and instincts of cats.

Every walled off place becomes a fortress for a tomcat mandarin, and we mere mortals can only quake in their presence.

Or stare at them with contempt, as I do.

Or maybe it’s not contempt at all, but simple jealousy.

Yes, jealous of a darned old cat.

 


Natural History

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Homage to the Syrian hamster

golden hamster

Photo by Robert Maier.

It should be little surprise to readers of this blog that I have always been a bit into animals. My childhood dogs have featured heavily on this space, but the truth is I’ve had a wide variety of animals when I was a kid.

From grades 4-6, I was a hamster fanatic. At the time, it was very difficult for North American children to buy dwarf hamsters. The mainstay of the hamster world was the golden or Syrian hamster, and there were very few people breeding for docility in pet hamster strains. The goal was to produce as many different morphs as possible with very little regard to the temperament of the hamster.

As a result, many children from my generation have horror stories about biting hamsters.  Over my years of hamster keeping, I came to accept their bites as part of keeping them.

I got into hamsters rather on a lark. I was always reading the Barron’s pet guides, many of which were translations of German pet manuals, and the one on hamsters was written by Otto von Frisch.

hamster otto von frisch

This book created my hamster obsession.

The book was not just a pet care manual. It was full of anecdotes about pet hamsters, as well as discussions of scientific studies on their behavior.  It also talked a lot about the Central European ideas about hamster, for as I learned from that book, that there are hamsters native to Germany and Austria (the very large common hamster).  The species was well-known to farmers in the region as an agricultural pest and as a rather vicious creature that shouldn’t be messed with.  As someone who predominant ancestry is from that region, I was quite fascinated by these accounts.

And I knew I had to have a pet hamster.

After much pleading, I was given permission to get a hamster, provided I kept it at my grandparents’ house. My mother was an extreme murophobe, and I had to accept her conditions.

The first hamster I got was what was called a black-eyed cream. I named her Linda, because I was a child and thought that was a nice name.  And her variety may have been black-eyed cream, but her tendency to bite led to her receiving the moniker “the black-eyed bitch.”

I soon found that it was very easy to get hamsters. People were quite literally giving me new ones, including an old long-haired female that live for about two weeks then fell over dead from old age.

I longed, though, for a true “wild type” hamster.  I wanted one that was marked just as the wild ones are in Syria, with white cheek flashes and sabled golden coats.

I never was able to purchase such an animal. The closed I got was what was called a cinnamon hamster. She was marked just like a wild type, but she had no black hair at all on her pelt.

She had come from Walmart, where she had been kept in a cage with several banded hamsters. The banded ones were wild type in color, but they had a white band going through their mid-section. I had managed to get two females from that cage:  this cinnamon one and a banded one.

Two weeks later, the cinnamon hamster dropped pink babies all over her cage. Apparently, a male hamster had been kept with her, and she was just in the early days of her pregnancy when I got her.

In five days, their fur started to grow in. 9 were wild-type but banded, but one was wild type in full!

I didn’t understand my Mendel in those days.  The banded trait is dominant over the non-banded, and the wild-type markings are dominant over the cinnamon. Cinnamon bred to a banded wild-type would produce young that were banded wild-type, but if the wild-type were a carrier for a non-banded hamster, it is possible to get at least one in the litter that lacked a white band.

That’s what this hamster was, and I was instantly transfixed. I spent my summer that year handling hamster babies, knowing fully-well the stories of mother hamsters eating their young if they were stressed.

The young wild-type hamster was a male, and he became the tamest hamster I ever knew. I named him Houdini, after a children’s book I had read, but he really didn’t live up to his namesake. He escaped a few times– always because I left a latch on the cage a little loose– but he was easily recovered.

One time, he did escape and was gone for several days. I was certain that he had wandered out of the house and had eventually fallen prey to some nocturnal predator.

I had all but given up on him, so I sat with a heavy heart in my grandparents’ guest room watching Nature on PBS.  I heard some rumbling sounds in the wall.  I thought I was hearing things, but the rumbling sound grew louder and louder.

I then caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was Houdini crawling along the side of the wall. He stopped and sniffed the air, and he scurried right up to me and let me pick him up.

My childhood mind said that Houdini came to me because he loved me. My adult mind now recognizes that Houdini recognized me as a source for food. He had spent several days wandering around the walls of my grandparents’ house and had become famished in his freedom. He caught my scent on his evening travels, and he came to me to figure out if I might have some food.

But a child’s mind saw Houdini as the Lassie of the hamsters. He’d come home out of the walls just because he loved me.

Despite that childhood flight of fancy, the hamsters taught me much. I learned what it was like to be around an animal that utterly has no use for humanity.  Dogs and horses are personable animals, but a hamster is solitary, remote, and mostly nocturnal (at least in captivity).

The world they reveal is a world in which territory matters the most. The males have greasy scent glands on their hips that they rub along their tunnels to mark their realms.  The females have a musty odor, and when they are receptive to males– every four days if not bred–they get quite stinky indeed.

I got to where I could tell if a female hamster was receptive just by the intensity of the odor. This odor is an adaptation to a species with such hyper territorial behavior that they are forced to live pretty far from each other. The strong estrus odor of a female hamster is necessary to announce to the male that it is okay for him to enter her territory and mate with her. When she is not receptive, she will attack any hamster, male or female, that comes near. In this species the females are bigger and fatter than the males, and males that don’t heed the odors wind up with a dangerous situation indeed.

These captive hamsters– all derived from a single litter captured near Aleppo in the 1930s– opened my eyes to another world.

The solitary Syrian hamster lives and breeds well in captivity, but it is still mostly a wild animal. In the past few years, breeders have produced truly more docile strains of hamster, but I knew them in the raw.

In fact, I think that if I were ever to be a hamster keeper again, I would try to get a little more of the more rugged strain. I would not be buying a cute pet for the kids. I would be be buying an animal that I wish to appreciate as a wild being with its own instincts and drives and desires.  I would want to be the naturalist hamster lover again. I would keep them with the cool detachment of an adult who understands animal behavior and not the childhood anthropomorphism or “cynomorphism” that turned them into furry people or severely debased dogs.

The Syrian hamster will always mean a lot to me. They were terrible pets for the typical child, but they were the ideal subjects for a budding young naturalist who needed to know animals that weren’t dogs or horses.

They opened my mind to something else, and I will always appreciate them for their indifference and their solitary grumpiness and their general remoteness.

***

This is my contribution to Rodent Week.

 

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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I believe this project actually helps educate peop…

I believe this project actually helps educate people on both pitbulls and "wolfdogs" by reducing overbreeding and showing how wonderful blockheads can be as mentor dogs. Good work.
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Westminster Winner, Rumor, Gives Birth to Eight Puppies!

Westminster Kennel Club is pleased to announce the birth of eight puppies to 2017 big show winner Rumor, the German Shepherd. Channel 3000 in Madison, Wisconsin has video of the puppies, but wouldn’t let me share it. You can view it on their site. Owner/Handler Kent Boyles says Rumor is being a great mother to […]


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Should You Let Your Dog Sleep in Your Bed?

Sleeping with dogs?

My two dogs sleep in my bedroom- Wanda likes her soft-sided “hut” and Maisie stretches out on the chaise longue which is designed as “hers,” but neither of them sleeps on my bed (partly because, as a widow of two years, I have a crazy idea I might one day have a man in my life again and certainly don’t want him to have to wrestle my dogs for a space next to me!)

My sister, on the other hand, has her two little Brussels Griffons sleep on and in her bed (each of them is approximately the size of the head of my big Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda!) One of the little ones sleeps on my sister’s shoulder (sort of like a prone pirate’s parrot) while the other often burrows down under the covers by my brother-in-law’s feet.

I have friends who have many variations on our bedroom sleeping habits with their dogs – and I’ve always wondered whether that canine scratching in the night, licking paws, changing position, can interfere with sleep. We’re all conscious of how important those hours of beauty rest and REM sleep are to our wellness – so does having a dog in the bed improve or undermine good sleep?

A Mayo Clinic Study Shows Where Dogs Should Sleep
Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, is the author of a recent study which asked the question: “Does having a dog in the bedroom, or in the bed, disturb sleep?” The researchers studied 40 dog owners who did not have a sleep disorder.

Drum roll for the answer: The results indicated that “sleeping with dogs helps some people sleep better ? no matter if they’re snoozing with a small schnauzer or dozing with a Great Dane,” the Mayo Clinic News Network reported.

However, there was a caveat: do not let your canines crawl under the covers with you. According to the study, the sleep benefit extended only to having dogs in the bedroom, not in the bed itself. Owners who cozied up to their pups in their bed sacrificed quality sleep.

Human Life Quality Validate the Canine-Human Bond in Bed!
“The relationship between people and their pets has changed over time, which is likely why many people in fact do sleep with their pets in the bedroom,” the Mayo Clinic study concluded. “Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”

And for myself (since being a sister means there is always a bit of a competition) – I relish knowing that my dogs and I are doing our shared sleep the “right way!”

Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

Halo Pets

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Classic Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids

Classic Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids
Classic Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids
Classic Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids

I’m a sucker for good ol’ fashioned classic kids’ Halloween costumes. There are so many options available these days in comparison to when I was growing up, especially character-themed ones – and that’s great, because it makes things a lot easier for parents. But I am just so drawn to simple, classic costumes. Maybe that’s because my mom made most of ours, so I feel nostalgic about more traditional costumes with homemade vibes. And I have such wonderful, vivid memories of dressing up as a very handmade Little Bo Peep, and of my baby sister pretending to fly around the room as a truly adorable toddler bat. There’s just something I find so endearing about those kinds of costumes.

Last year, Essley asked repeatedly to be a pumpkin (as seen in the photos above). I found her this pumpkin costume for $ 29 and absolutely adored it – it’s so well made and I think Emmett will be able to wear it next year if he wants to be a pumpkin. I found a comfy pair of simple skeleton jammies (here’s a similar set for $ 14) and a little black beanie for Emmett to wear. I thought they looked so sweet together in their no fuss, classic costumes.

This year, Essley wants to be a mermaid, and I think we’re going to do a cute, no frills dinosaur for Emmett. I’m fully aware of the fact that sooner than later, my kids are going to want to pick out costumes that will likely be store bought and character-themed. (This could possibly even occur this year; if the dinosaur doesn’t work out, we’re going for Emmett’s second favorite thing: Elmo.) And that’s wonderful! But for now, I’m going to continue swooning over the more classic varieties. If you’re on the same page as I am, here is a list of ideas for simple, traditional costumes.

  • Pumpkin
  • Ghost
  • Witch
  • Bat
  • Skeleton
  • Black Cat
  • Scarecrow
  • Angel
  • Devil
  • Mummy
  • Simple Princess or Prince
  • Simple Superhero
  • Ballet Dancer
  • Ladybug or Bee
  • Pirate
  • Fairy
  • Vampire
  • Frankenstein 
  • Clown
  • Animal (Lion, Dog, Bear, etc.)

If you have kids, what are they wearing this year? Do you have a costume picked out for yourself yet?

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Links I Love – The How to Help Edition

I try to be a positive person, but man – it’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a pretty awful week. Between the devastation mounting in Puerto Rico two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, Texas and Florida and the Virgin Islands only beginning their own long roads to recovery after Irma and Maria, and the horrific shooting in Las Vegas yesterday (as of the time I’m typing this, there are 59 dead in what is the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history), there seems to be a pretty dark cloud hovering lately. And also, Tom Petty died. I mean, come on universe. What is going on?

I normally reserve Links I Love posts for Fridays, and I had a different post scheduled for today. But truth be told, I just didn’t feel right posting something lighthearted today (and the post I had scheduled was just that). And while I did have a Links I Love post planned for this Friday, I really don’t think I could have sat here and written about a cute pair of jeans I found online or a funny link I came across about puppies or something. I mean yes, for pete’s sake, lets try to keep some humor and simple pleasures in our lives right now rather than allowing ourselves to completely fall into a pit of despair and give up entirely – but let’s not hide from reality either.

All of this said, I’m bumping up this week’s Links I Love post and using it to share links of ways to help. Let’s not let these horrible occurrences fade into the background you guys. Even if we can’t all pack our bags and travel to these areas that need us and devote our lives to volunteering, there are small things we can do that I truly believe can collectively make a difference. Thoughts and prayers are so important but they’re not enough. We need to take action. (And while I consider myself to be a pretty political person, I choose not to discuss politics on the blog. But I will say that taking action via contacting your representatives is a way to help too. A powerful one.)

HELPING LAS VEGAS

If you are in the state of Nevada, go give blood. United Blood Services began taking blood yesterday at two locations: 6930 W. Charleston in Las Vegas, and 601 Whitney Ranch Drive in Henderson.

A fundraiser called the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund has been created by the Clark County Commission Chair. So far, it has already raised $ 2 million for the victims and their families.

The National Compassion Fund will send 100% of proceeds directly to the victims, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. The NCVC started a similar fund after the Pulse nightclub shooting.

HELPING PUERTO RICO

The Puerto Rican government issued a guide that lists their most needed emergency supplies it needs the most. National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is coordinating donations.

UNICEF is providing immediate support to children affected by the hurricane in Puerto Rico. Ninety percent of every dollar goes directly to helping the children. You can donate here.

Global Giving has a fund in place to provide relief to survivors in the form of emergency supplies like food, water, and medicine in addition to longer-term recovery assistance to help residents recover and rebuild. All donations to this fund will exclusively support any necessary hurricane relief and recovery efforts in the Caribbean.

HELPING THE VIRGIN ISLANDS 

An official website has been set up for the recovery effort in the Virgin Islands after they were hit by both Irma and Maria, with information being updated regularly. Donations can be made directly through this site.

HELPING THOSE AFFECTED BY IRMA IN FLORIDA

NPR put together a great article last month that list numerous ways, both monetary and otherwise, to help those in Florida that were affected by Irma.

HELPING THOSE AFFECTED BY HARVEY IN TEXAS

It’s been a month since I wrote this post on 10 ways to directly help those affected by Harvey, but it’s still relevant, and they still need our help.

Thank you for reading, and for caring. And if you have other ways to help I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments or via email. In the words of my all-time favorite band the Grateful Dead, “one way or another, this darkness got to give.”

image source

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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