Monday, January 26, 2015

AT THE ZOO

Mom went to the Kansas City Zoo on Friday.  I wish I could have gone, but dogs are not allowed there, so I was forced to stay home and do a little napping.  Mom did not take a camera, on purpose, because she was just going to watch the animals.  But after she saw the animals, she was overcome with a terrible urge to take pictures of them, so she used her cell phone to take some photos.  And now I am going to show you the photos that she took.

Humboldt Penguin
The weather was kind of chilly on Friday, like in the 40s, so the zoo was not crowded.  There were no school groups, which was very nice.  Mostly, there were just moms who had young children in strollers.

Some of the animals like cold weather, so they were outside, enjoying it.  But other animals stayed inside where it was nice and warm.  I think those animals were the smartest of all!

Humboldt Penguin
Mom spent quite a bit of time watching the penguins.  The Humboldt Penguins were the easiest to see close-up.  They breed on the coast of Peru and Chile near the Equator.  They get their name from the cold Humboldt Current, where they swim.  No other type of penguin lives as far north as the Humboldt Penguins.  You can see a whole blog entry about this type of penguin here.

Dinnertime!  Yum!
Late in the afternoon, the Humboldt Penguins got fed.  It takes two people to feed them because one person has to hand out the fish, and the other person writes down exactly how many fish each penguin  eats.  This way, if one of the penguins is getting sick or getting ready to molt or something, the keepers will know because of how much or how little the penguin is eating.  The kind of fish the penguins mostly eat is smelt.  All the penguins have names, and the keepers know which one is which, even though Mom thought they all pretty much looked alike.


Another kind of penguin at the zoo is the King Penguin.  This is the second-biggest penguin, after the Emperor Penguin, which you might have seen in the movie The March of the Penguins.  Some of the King Penguins were swimming around a little bit, but not too much.  When they swam around, they kept looking down in the water, like maybe they expected to see a yummy fish down there.

King Penguin
Some of the Gentoo Penguins are busy raising chicks.  Mom tried to take a picture of one of the chicks, but it would not pose nicely for her, so all she got was the chick's rear end.  The chicks do not have all their feathers yet, so if they fell in the water, they could freeze to death.  This is why they have to stay in little pens right now.  One of the chick's parents stays with it for 24 hours, and then that parent comes out, and the other parent stays with the chick for 24 hours.  I guess this is kind of like shared custody for penguins.

The Gentoo chick (left) is only 5 weeks old, but it is already getting big!
The penguin on the right is one of its parents.
A very nice zoo docent told Mom all these interesting facts about the penguins.  He also told Mom that when penguins molt, they lose all their feathers all at once.  Then they can't go in the water for about 2 weeks, until their feathers grow back.  If they go in the water without their feathers to keep them warm, they will freeze to death.  So in the wild, penguins who are molting can't go hunting for food until their feathers grow back in.  Often, they will eat a bunch of extra food before they start molting, so that helps.

This penguin has been named Remi or maybe Reki--
it's hard to read the bands.
Right now, most of the penguins have colored wing bands that show which zoo they came from.  But if you donate a certain amount of money, you can name a penguin, and then it will have wing bands with its name.  I don't know how much money you have to donate to do this.  I think Mom should give the zoo some money so that she can name one of the penguins "Dorrie."  Wouldn't that be a good idea?


These are Moon Jellyfish.  They look pretty, but I wouldn't want to get stung by one!


Here's a friendly llama that came over to the fence to check Mom out.  She even got to pet its nose, but she was careful because she didn't want to get spat on or bitten.  The llama was eating some hay.  There was also a white llama, but it seemed more interested in eating than in visiting with Mom.


Inside the Discovery Barn, the ring-tailed lemurs were all bunched up at one end of a branch, taking a nap.  This seemed to me like an excellent thing to do on a chilly afternoon!


These are Amazon Milk Frogs.  They come from the Amazon River Basin.  I thought they were cuddling, like the lemurs, but Mom said that amphibians don't usually cuddle.  She thought maybe the two frogs were doing something else, or at least thinking about it.


Here's a little squirrel monkey who kept jumping up and down acting silly right by the glass where Mom was standing.  There were some other monkeys in there, but they didn't pay any attention to Mom.  Mostly, they were busy ripping up paper towels, which is a really fun thing to do, as I can testify.  Squirrel monkeys live in Central and South America.


Anyway, that's pretty much all that Mom saw at the zoo.  She didn't go to the Africa section or the Australia section or lots of other places.  She went to see the polar bear twice, but all he was doing was sleeping on some white rocks which are supposed to look like ice, so it was kind of hard to even see him.  Maybe another day he will be swimming and playing in the water.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

AKHAL-TEKE HORSES

If you are like me, you never heard of this horse breed before.  And if you are not like me, I humbly suggest that you try to be more like me, because I am such a darling and perfect little dog in so many ways!  Hahahaha!

Akhal-Teke, cremello color
But anyway, now I will talk about Akhal-Tekes, which are very beautiful horses with a special, unusual sheen to their coats.  They have slender bodies and necks, long legs, and sparse manes and tails.  They look like they might need to wear a horse blanket all the time to keep warm, but they are actually very tough and well-adapted to the harsh climate of Turkmenistan, which is where they came from originally.  In that country, they are much loved and are considered a national emblem.

Turkmenistan Postage Stamps
The ancestors of the Akhal-Teke breed have been around for a very long time, like maybe as long as 3,000 years.  They were known as Nisean horses and by some other names at first.  The people of Turkmenistan used them for traveling long distances and for raiding.  Because the horses were so important to the survival of the people, they were thought of as treasured possessions.  They were carefully bred, and their pedigrees were kept in the oral tradition.

http://www.akhal-teke.org/akhal-tekes-in-art.html
Akhal-Tekes were ridden into war against the Russian Empire, but Turkmenistan lost that fight, and their country was swallowed up by the Empire.  The Russians admired the horses, though, and soon started breeding them, too.

Uzbekistan Postage Stamp
Eventually, Akhal-Tekes made their way into lots of other countries.  Currently, there are probably about 6,600 of them throughout the world, but the biggest numbers are still in Turkmenistan and Russia.

Old postcard of an Akhal-Teke wearing "jewelry" around the neck.

The first Akhal-Tekes to come to the U.S., in 1979, were imported by Phil and Margot Case, of Shenandoah Farms in Virginia.  One of the mares they brought to their farm from an auction in Russia was named Oliva.  She was a descendant of a famous Akhal-Teke dressage stallion, Absent, who won medals at the 1960, 1964, and 1968 Olympics.  Soon the Cases were producing lots of purebred Akhal-Tekes who competed well in jumping and dressage.  In 1982, they founded the Akhal-Teke Association of America.

http://www.akhal-teke.org/
The thing that this breed is best known for is its coat, which is very shiny and not like the coat of any other breed.  The reason for the sheen is that within each hair, the opaque core is reduced in size or may be totally absent.  That leaves more space for the transparent part of the hair.  This transparent part bends the light as it enters and sends it out again, sometimes with a golden cast.

Photo by Artur Baboev, Wikipedia
This special sheen can be present in any coat color, but it shows up best in horses that are buckskins, palominos, cremellos, and perlinos.

Akhal Teke Stalliion - Samovar (his color is Perlino)
Owned by Central Asian Equines
Photo by Heather Abounader
Akhal-Tekes are still very athletic, just like they were in the days when the Turkmenistan tribesmen used them for raiding.  Nowadays, the most common activities for the breed are dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing, and endurance riding.

Free-jumping stallion Dirkhan, 2009 (Dargan-Formoza) line Kaplan
Photo:  Artur Baboev     Wikipedia

So my advice to you, if you like shiny things and animals with a special sheen to their coats, is to get an Akhal-Teke horse.  I don't think you will be sorry!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

OUR NEW FOSTER KITTENS!

It's been a long time since we had any foster kittens, but now we have FIVE!  They are all very cute, or at least they look cute in their photos.  Mom put the kittens in the Kitten Room, and she has not let any of us dogs or older cats go in there yet.

Our Uncle Rob, who lives in Los Angeles, helped Mom decide on some names for the kittens.  Usually, Aunt Tania names kittens before they ever go to a foster home, so Mom doesn't get a chance to name them.  But there were some special circumstances for these kittens, which meant that Aunt Tania hadn't got around to naming them yet.  What happened was that a nice lady found the five kittens with their mama, and she took them in because the weather outside was cold and nasty.

Zephyr, Zigzag, Zydeco
This nice lady named the mama cat Baby, which is a really dumb name for a cat (or dog) -- especially one who has babies of her own.  But that is just my opinion, which no one asked for, but I'm always glad to tell it to you anyway.

Okay, so the nice lady kept Baby and her kittens to the Humane Society to be vetted, but then she fostered them until the kittens were old enough to be weaned.  After that, she brought the kittens back to the shelter and left them there.  She might keep Baby herself, but we don't know exactly what's going on with that.

Zigzag
Anyway, there are 3 boy kittens and 2 girl kittens, and they all have names that start with "Z".  The girls are Zephyr and Zinnia, and the boys are Zigzag, Zydeco, and Zenith.  Their estimated date of birth is November 30, so that means they turn 7 weeks old today.

Zenith
Zinnia and Zephyr are what are called "patch tabbies."

Zinnia
Zephyr has really long hair, and Mom thought she was a tortoiseshell, but Dr. Regan said she was a patch tabby.  It's hard to see the stripes on her body, but you can see them on her legs.

Zephyr
Zydeco is the shyest one, or at least he was at first.  Now he's getting much braver.

Zydeco
Some of the kittens like to sleep in the scale.  Mom calls them the "self-weighing kittens."

Zinnia and Zydeco
The kittens like to go exploring in Mom's plants.  They have already knocked several off the shelves, but they have not broken any pots so far.

Zenith
At first, the kittens did not eat very well, but Mom has been trying some different food, and now the kittens seem much hungrier.  If they don't eat everything, Latifa is always glad to help clean the dish.

Zenith
Okay, so now I will tell you something about the kittens' mother, which is that she is FIV positive.  FIV stands for Feline Immunovirus, and it's like the kitty version of HIV.  Having FIV will not kill you, or at least not right away, but it weakens your immune system so that you are more likely to get some other disease that really might kill you.  It's not the same as Feline Leukemia, which is a different disease.

Zinnia
In the U.S., between 1.5% and 3% of healthy cats have FIV.  But among sick cats, 15% or more may be infected with the virus.   The main way that FIV goes from one cat to another is through a deep bite wound.  So the cats who are most likely to get it are male cats who go around fighting each other all the time.  This is one reason you should get your cat neutered or spayed and keep it inside your house.

Zigzag
We don't know how Baby got FIV, and we don't know if any of her kittens have it.  Sometimes kittens can get the virus from their mothers while going through the birth canal or by drinking infected milk, but this doesn't happen often.  Kittens may still have antibodies from their mothers until they are 6 months old.  So if they test positive for FIV antibodies before that age, they have to be retested every 60 days until they are 6 or 7 months old.

Zephyr
If any of our kittens turn out to be positive for FIV after that age, they might have to be sent to a sanctuary of some kind.  It's pretty hard to get somebody to adopt a FIV+ cat unless they already have one.  But chances are good that all the kittens will be just fine.  At least, that's what we are hoping.

Friday, January 16, 2015

WEIRD STUFF IN ANTIQUE STORES

The last couple of times Mom went antiquing, she didn't buy anything; she just took lots of pictures. Well, okay, she did buy one little thing, and it was a pin shaped like a chihuahua.  It only cost $2.95, so even after buying it, she had plenty of money left to buy dog food, and that is a good thing.


But now I will show you some of the stuff that Mom saw, like for instance, this set of teeth.  If you push the lever on the back, they open and close, just like real teeth do.  They're kind of creepy, if you ask me, especially because they look like they might have come out of a real, dead person's mouth.  I guess a dentist would keep these in his office to show you what teeth look like without the rest of your head around them.


And speaking of dead things, these cow skulls are all bleached out and ready to put in your garden, or whatever people do with such things.  A dog might like to chew on a cow skull, but only if it has some meat on it and is not so all dried out.  Oh, and you might notice that these skulls have teeth in them, too, but they are cow teeth and not human teeth.


This photo shows a knight and his bedpan.


Here's a little carriage that could be hitched up to a dog or maybe a pygmy goat.  I think it is very cute, but personally, I would rather ride in it instead of pulling it.


These are the stops on one of those old pump organs.  Another name for this kind of organ is harmonium.  It makes sounds by blowing air through reeds with a bellows.  If you want the organ to keep making sounds, you have to keep pumping the pedals.  This type of organ was popular in private homes and churches during the 19th century.  Using different stops could change the quality of the sound.  Pulling out all the stops made the organ really loud.


Here is a rock with character.  I know if has character because I read the tag!


I imagine that any bird would like living in these clay boots.


Here are some boots that are more decorative.  George and Martha Washington make up one pair.  Then there is another boot with a dog barking up at a squirrel or something.  Why would a dog do this on a ceramic cowboy boot?  That is a deep question I cannot answer.


Mom used to read Bobbsey Twins books when she was a kid.  Well, at first her mom had to read them to her because Mom didn't know how to read yet.  Anyway, it turns out that the Bobbsey Twins are much older than Mom or even Mom's mom.  The first book was published in 1904 by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  There were 72 books in the original series, which ended in 1979.  Supposedly, a lady named Laura Lee Hope wrote all the books, but she didn't really, because there was no such person.  Instead, a bunch of different people wrote the books.  There was a second set of 30 books that were published from 1987 to 1992, but they weren't as popular as the ones in the original series.

There were two sets of Bobbsey twins.  Nan and Bert were the older pair, and Flossie and Freddie were the younger pair.  They had a mother, a father, two black servants, a cat named Snoop, and two dogs named Snap and Waggo.


This accordion used to belong to someone named Carmen.  It was very shiny and flashy.  I wonder whether Carmen could really play very well.  Did she play Mexican music, like in a mariachi band?  Whatever became of her?  It would be nice to know these things sometimes.


Here are two little raccoons wearing spectacles and carrying umbrellas.  They are salt-and-pepper shakers, which some people really like to collect.


Raggedy Ann was a character created by an American writer named Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938).  He wrote and illustrated a whole series of books for little kids.  Raggedy Ann has red yarn for hair and a triangle nose.  She was patented on September 7, 1915.  A book to go with the doll first came out in 1918.  It was called Raggedy Ann Stories, and it was very popular.  In 1920, Raggedy Andy Stories introduced Ann's brother, Raggedy Andy.  He wears a sailor suit and hat, but I don't think he has ever gone to sea.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

AN ARTIST NAMED ROSA BONHEUR

Rosa Bonheur lived in France in the 19th Century, and she was an animalière, which means that she painted lots of pictures of animals.  She was also a realist, which means that when she painted an animal, it looked very much like the real thing.  Mlle. Bonheur made many paintings of dogs, which is something I like very much in an artist.  But she also painted horses, sheep, oxen, deer, lions, and some other animals.  Today I am mostly going to show you some of Rosa Bonheur's horse paintings, because it is still the Year of the Horse.

Portrait of Rosa Bonheur, by Anna Klumpke, 1898

When Mlle. Bonheur was born on March 16, 1822 in Bordeaux, she was given the name Marie-Rosalie Bonheur.  She was the oldest child in a family where everybody was an artist.  Her mother taught piano, and her siblings all grew up to be artists.  The family's father, Oscar-Raymond Bonheur, was a minor landscape and portrait painter.  He became friends with Francisco Goya when Goya was living in exile in Bordeaux in the 1820s.  M. Bonheur belonged to a Christian-socialist sect called Saint-Simonianism.  This group believed in the radical idea that women should study alongside men and get the same kind of education that men did.

Wild Horses, 1889

Rosa Bonheur's mother died when Rosa was only 11.  All the children were sent to school, but Rosa kept causing trouble, and she got expelled from several schools.  Her father tried to apprentice her to a seamstress, but that didn't work out either.  So he agreed to teach her how to be a painter.  At this point, Rosa Bonheur was 12 years old.

Lion at Rest, 1880

Her artistic training was done in the traditional way.  She started by copying drawings from books and by sketching plaster models.  Later, she did studies of living animals in the pastures and open fields.  She learned animal anatomy by visiting slaughterhouses and by dissecting animals at the National Veterinary Institute.

Plowing in Nivernais, 1849

Mlle. Bonheur's first big success was a painting called Plowing in Nivernais, which the government commissioned her to do in 1849.  Today this painting is in the Musée Nationale du Château de Fontainebleau.

The Horse Fair, 1852-55

Another work that she became really famous for was called The Horse Fair.  It was a huge painting, like 8 feet tall and 16 feet wide.  Queen Victoria saw it and liked it very much.  The French Empress Eugénie also liked it.  In 1865, she personally visited Mlle. Bonheur in her studio to award her the cross of the Legion of Honor.

Buffalo Bill, 1889

Even though Rosa Bonheur worked in a traditional way, such as by doing careful sketches before she started putting paint on the canvas, other parts of her life were not so traditional.  For example, Mlle. Bonheur preferred to wear trousers instead of a dress, especially if she was visiting a slaughterhouse or vivisection lab.  She said, "I was forced to recognize that the clothing of my sex was a constant bother.  That is why I decided to solicit the authorization to wear men's clothing from the prefect of police.  But the suit I wear is my work attire, and nothing else.  The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me..."

Bonheur in the garden of her Chateau at By (1880-1890)

She liked to smoke cigarettes, and she never married.  For over 40 years, she lived with her childhood friend, Nathalie Micas.  Then, in the last few years of her life, she lived with American artist Anna Klumpke, who wrote Rosa Bonheur's "autobiography."

The Ass

Mlle. Bonheur had a strong sense of independence.  She believed that women could be successful artists, just like men could be, and she went on to prove it.  She was probably the most popular female artist of the 19th century.  She was even more popular in England than she was in France.   Paul-Louis Hervier described her in the 1908 La Nouvelle Revue as: "Simple, welcoming, of an extreme frankness, she was loved by all; because of her good heart, her generosity, her simplicity, which were not studied but spontaneous, she acquired the well deserved reputation of a beneficent fairy."

Monarchs of the Forest

Rosa Bonheur died on May 25, 1899, at the age of 77.  She left everything to her close friend, Anna Klumpke.  Many of Mlle. Bonheur's paintings, which had never been shown in public, were sold at auction in Paris in 1900.  One of her works, Monarchs of the Forest, sold in a 2008 auction for just over $200,000.