Monday, February 8, 2016


Today is the first day of the Year of the Monkey.  If you were born in 1920, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, or 2028, you are a Monkey.  Of course, the Monkey people from the year 2028 haven't been born yet, but they will be.  Unless the world ends first or something like that.

The Monkey is the ninth symbol in the 12-year Chinese zodiac.  It is an animal that represents irrepressible curiosity and creative energy; however, it can also be seen as a naughty trickster.  People born in a Monkey year are energetic, inventive, gregarious, wise, intelligent, cheerful, and witty.  They are excellent problem solvers.  As bold risk-takers whose consciences don't bother them much, they are not afraid to experiment and test their wildest theories.

On the negative side, Monkeys can be snobbish, egotistical, deceptive, stubborn, reckless, suspicious, and manipulative.  They are opportunistic and not always trustworthy.  Beneath their youthful zest for life may lie an unscrupulous adolescent.

People born in a Monkey year are generally healthy, but they sometimes suffer from circulatory and heart problems, diabetes, arthritis, anxiety and panic issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or bipolar disorder.

Some famous people born in the Year of the Monkey include Leonardo da Vinci, Harry S Truman,  Eleanor Roosevelt, John Milton, Paul Gauguin, Bette Davis, Charles Dickens, Diana Ross, Gustav Mahler, Annie Oakley, Charlie Parker, Elizabeth Taylor, Omar Sharif, Isaac Stern, and Peter O'Toole.

The best jobs for Monkey people are those that offer excitement and challenge.  Examples would include being professional athletes, stockbrokers, realtors, lawyers, actors, writers, journalists, and diplomats.

If you consider all the good and bad qualities of the Monkey, you end up with the prospect of a year in which anything can happen.  The energy and motivation of the animal will create a fast pace, with better communication, more humor, and more wit.

It should turn out to be an optimistic year where finances, politics, and real estate will see an upturn.  However, there may be an undercurrent of insecurity.  It's a time for people to start new projects and devote themselves to even the most unlikely schemes.  Those who can hang on for the wild ride and outsmart the Monkey trickster will come out unharmed.  But the dull and slow-witted who cannot handle stress might come unglued!

Friday, February 5, 2016


It is almost time to say goodbye to the Year of the Sheep, but before we do that, I want to show you some artwork that has sheep in it.  I was actually surprised to find out how many artists had painted pictures of sheep because, in my opinion, they should have been painting chihuahuas -- or at least some kind of dog.  But as we all know, artists are kind of quirky, and they tend to do whatever they want to do.  My best explanation for why artists have painted so many sheep over the years is that artists like to paint landscapes.  Sheep are often found standing around in landscapes, but you hardly ever see a chihuahua in a landscape.  This is because chihuahuas have the good sense to stay inside where it's warm and dry, which sheep do not.

Anyway, here are a bunch of pictures, and I will not offer any critique of them, so you are free to have any opinion you like, even if it's the wrong one.

Sheep and Goat; artist unknown.  Freer Gallery of Art

A Goat, Sheep and a Dog Resting in a Landscape, Philipp Peter Roos (1651-1705)

Our English Coasts, 1852, William Holman Hunt, Tate Museum

Sheep, 1942, Salvador Dali

Sheep Shearing, 1675-80?  Adam Colonia, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dog Protecting Sheep in Winter, Edwin Landseer (1802-1873)

Woolmark Co. Sheep Art Campaign

Sheep by the Sea, 1865, Rosa Bonheur, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

A Flock of Sheep in a Snowstorm, Joseph Farquharson (1846-1935)

Telephone Sheep, 2006, Jean Luc Cornec, Museum Für Kommunikation, Frankfurt

Sunday, January 31, 2016


For the last couple of months, we have had a new resident in our neighborhood, and it's a barred owl.  Or maybe it's two barred owls.  Anyway, we hear an owl at night sometimes, and what it says is, "Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you all?"  Of course, the answer to these questions is that Mom cooks for us.  My brothers, Tristan and Marius, have tried to tell the owl this by barking back when it hoots, but it still keeps asking the question.

Mom is worried about the fact that we have an owl living in our neighborhood because she is afraid an owl will decide that a little chihuahua might make a yummy meal.  So when we go out in the yard after dark, Mom goes outside with us and doesn't let us stay out very long.  Well, except for Tristan, who doesn't want to come in because he doesn't have the good sense to realize that he might get eaten by an owl.

When I did some in-depth research on barred owls, I learned that they eat small animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, rabbits, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish.  Nowhere did it say that owls eat chihuahuas, but Mom still thinks that if an owl can eat a rabbit, it can eat a chi.  Owls swallow their prey whole, except the bigger prey, which they have to rip into pieces first.

Fresh frog for supper!  Yum!

The scientific name for a barred owl is Strix varia.  Other names for it are hoot owl, eight hooter, rain owl, wood owl, and striped owl.  It has brown-and-white striped feathers, brown eyes, and a yellow beak.  All the other owls in this country have yellow eyes, so that is one way you can tell the barred owl apart from them.  Adult barred owls are 16-25 inches long, and they have a 38-49 inch wingspan.  They weigh between 1.1 and 2.3 pounds.

Owls generally roost during the day and hunt at night.  They are territorial and chase intruders away by hooting loudly.  They are most aggressive during nesting season.  Their preferred habitat is a large, mature forest, often near water.  Owl pairs probably mate for life. They like to nest in tree cavities.  But if there is not one available, they might use an abandoned stick platform nest made by a crow, hawk, or squirrel.  These owls do not migrate, so if a nest is suitable for them one year, they may use it again the next year.

Two to four eggs are laid in early spring, and the female broods them until they hatch four weeks later.  It takes four to five weeks for the young owls to fledge.  The main predators of the eggs and owlets are hawks, raccoons, weasels, cats, and great horned owls.  Barred owls live for about ten years in the wild and up to twenty-three years in captivity.

Two-week old chicks

Originally, barred owls were only found in eastern U.S. forests.  The Great Plains were a barrier to them due to the lack of suitable habitat.  But as the central part of North America became settled and was planted with trees, the owls were able to spread westward.  Once they reached the Pacific Northwest, they began to compete with the endangered spotted owl for habitat.  In some cases, barred owls and spotted owls have produced a hybrid species.

Recent studies have shown that suburban neighborhoods can also be an ideal habitat for barred owls.  In fact, scientists discovered that populations are increasing faster in suburban areas than in old growth forests.  One explanation for this may be the availability of rodents in urban areas.  Because the owls need larger, older trees for nesting, they will not move into newly developed neighborhoods.  The main danger to owls in suburban settings is from cars, but an increased number of offspring help make up for deaths from cars and disease.

©Ed Schneider, Lafayette, Louisiana, March 2009

So I guess that explains why we have barred owls living in our neighborhood now.  I just hope they came here to eat the chipmunks and squirrels, and not to eat any little dogs they might see!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Since it's still the Year of the Sheep (or Goat), I thought I would write an entry about the Rocky Mountain goat, which is an animal that is well known for climbing around on cliffs and crags that most animals would fall off of.  But imagine my surprise when I learned that the mountain goat is not really a goat at all!  Instead of being in the goat family, it is in a subfamily called Caprinae, or goat-antelopes, which includes species such as sheep, the chamois, and the muskox.

The range of the mountain goat includes the Rocky Mountains, the Cascades, and other mountain regions of the Western Cordillera, from Washington, Idaho, and Montana, through British Columbia, Alberta, southern Yukon and southeastern Alaska.  There are also introduced populations in other areas of the U.S.  In all, there are thought to be 100,000 members of the species in North America.

Glacier National Park; photo by Ron Niebrugge

Mountain goats are the largest mammals to live in high-altitude habitats that sometimes exceed 13,000 feet.  Most of the year, they stay above the tree line, although they migrate seasonally to higher or lower elevations within that range.  They feed on grasses, sedges, herbs, shrubs, ferns, mosses, and lichen.

Male mountain goats are called "billies," and females are called "nannies," just as if they were real goats.  Both males and females have beards, short tails, and long black horns which contain yearly growth rings.

Learning to be Mountain Goats

The reason why mountain goats are so good at climbing is because they have cloven (divided) hooves that can spread apart to improve balance.  Their feet also have rough inner pads on the bottom of each toe to provide traction, and sharp dewclaws to prevent slipping.  The animals are so strong and nimble that they can jump 12 feet in a single bound.

Bad Hair Day

 Mountain goats are white, and they have double coats.  The dense woolly undercoat is covered by an outer coat made up of longer, hollow hairs.  These thick coats allow the animals to withstand temperatures as low as -50ºF and winds of up to 100 mph.  In the spring, the goats molt by rubbing against rocks and trees.  The males molt first, and the females shed their coats after their kids have been born.

Glacier National Park; photo by Wingchi Poon
Nannies come into season in late October through early December.  Billies may dig rutting pits and put on showy fights to attract the attention of females.  Both males and females usually mate with more than one partner.  At the end of the breeding season, males and females go their separate ways, and the females form loose-knit nursery groups of up to 50 animals.

Kids are born in late May or early June.  Each nanny generally has only one offspring that weighs about 7 pounds at birth.  Within hours, kids start trying to run and climb.  After a month, the youngsters are mostly weaned, but they will follow their mothers closely for the first year of life.

Nannies protect their kids fiercely from predators such as eagles, wolves, wolverines, lynxes, bears, and cougars.  They will also position themselves below their kids on steep slopes to stop freefalls.

One time my mom saw a Rocky Mountain goat.  It was in Glacier National Park.  But I don't care if I ever see one because they live way up high where it's cold and snowy, which is not the kind of place any sensible chihuahua would want to go!

Monday, January 4, 2016


My Grandpa Claude, who was my mom's dad, got drafted during World War II.  This is something that happened to a lot of young men back in those days because the military did not have enough volunteers.

There had been a draft during WWI, but it was discontinued when that war was over.  In 1940, a new national conscription was started, even though it was still peacetime -- at least in the U.S.  This new draft required all men between 21 and 45 to register, and if their names were drawn by lottery, they would serve for one year.

In August 1941, the term of service was changed to two years.  Then after Pearl Harbor, the service was extended to the duration of the war plus 6 months, and all men between 18 and 64 were required to register.  During the course of the war, 49 million men were registered, 36 million were classified, and 10 million were inducted.

Anyway, Grandpa Claude got called up in February of 1943.  At that time, he was 31 years old, and he had been married for two and a half years.  He apparently registered for the draft in Clay County, MO, but then transferred his registration to Wyandotte County, KS, where he and Grandma Helen were living.  Grandpa Claude was working in the Fairfax bomber plant, spray-painting planes.

For his induction, Grandpa Claude went to Ft. Leavenworth, KS, which is a military base that has been around since 1827.  It is used to train a lot of officers, including some from other countries.  There have been a number of famous officers there, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and George S. Patton.  There is also a maximum security military prison at the base.  But it should not be confused with the Federal Penitentiary in the town of Ft. Leavenworth.

Ft. Leavenworth
Anyway, while Grandpa Claude was sitting around, waiting to find out if he would have to go to war or not, he got some Red Cross stationery and wrote down all the stuff that was happening.  Mom thinks he must have been really bored because he wasn't the type of person who usually kept a diary or anything like that.  So here's what he wrote, including all the original spellings.

Friday 12 A.M.  K.C.K
   Left home at 5:15 via taxi and arrived at buss station at 5:30.  Had to stand outside untill 6 when they opened the doors.
   We dine inside and wait untill 6:40 when we get on the buss for Fort Leavenworth.  Was 33 of us from Ward 4 on one buss and two other buss loads from K.C.  Arrived at induction station at Fort Leavenworth.  We file out of buss and line up in road 4 abreast.  They ask if we have had breakfast.  Most of the boys had'nt had their brk.  So we start marching to mess hall no 3.  Was quite a walk and was cold.  After breakfast we march down to no 4 where we get lined up to go for medical examination.
   After putting bag in no 4 basement we go inside.  The room is packed, was lucky to get to set down.  After waiting for about an hour our names was called and we lined up, got our papers and struck out for no. 1 medical examination.
   We have another wait.  Soon we have an order to strip.  We strip[,] check our clothes and line up for another wait.  We finally get started.  X Ray is first and so on down the line.  We go all over the building which takes about 45 minutes.  We get around and get clothes and get bussed.
   Time is quarter to twelve, and are marched back to mess hall for chow with orders to be back at 12:30.  We [eat] and go back[,] wait untill about 1:10.  Finally our names are called.  I get a small slip of paper and go to checking station.  My paper calls for an x ray Sat AM with no breakfast.
   Wait for an hour in station then go back to no four for my bag.  Then we march over to 15 recreation hall about one mile.  Were assigned to barracks 14.  We stand around untill 4 oclock and are called out and lined up and marched back for chow.
   We eat and march back   is 5:15  we stand around and watch the pool games for a while then go over to our barracks and make our beds lay around untill 9 when lights are out.  The wind is blowing a gale and the old stove papers rattle.  The fire builders are in every hour to build up the fires and make a lot of noise.

Sat 13
   Up at 5:30 make our beds and go to the latrine and wash.  at 6 we march to chow and back to station no one.  It isn't open and we stand around and shiver.  At 6:50 we get in and wait till 7:10 when we are sent to checking station.
   All the fellows in my barrack are either sworn in or rejected and have gone home.  at 8 they [pick] a bunch of us up at checking station and take us in ambulance to hospital.  Another hours wait and strip for stomach view and X Rays.  Another wait and we are picked up and taken back to checking station.  We march back to barracks and then back for chow.  March back and go to barracks.
   Two calls are made but my name isn't called.  at 4 we go to chow and back, and read till 9
 lights out.

Sun 14
   5:30 up.  6 chow  lay around and wait.  12:  chow.
   4 chow and march.  No calls   suppose will be here another day.
   I hate this waiting around.

That is all he wrote, but Mom knows the end of the story, which is that the Army rejected him and sent him back home to paint bomber planes.  What those x-rays showed was that he had a deformed duodenal cap which was being irritated by a duodenal ulcer.  It's just as well, really, because Grandpa Claude still helped the war effort by painting lots of planes that olive drab color that the Army always liked to use.  If Grandpa Clause had gone off and got killed, Mom would never have been born, and I would not have anyone to feed me and snuggle with me at night.  Which would have been a tragedy worse than war, if you want my opinion!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015


#1:  The most common sheep used in the U.S. to produce milk are the East Friesian.  This breed was imported from northern Germany and the Netherlands in the 1990s.  The sheep are all-white and yield from 1,100 to 1,700 pounds of milk yearly.  Sheep milk is mostly used to make cheese.  It has a higher fat content than milk from a cow or goat.

East Friesian ewe with lots of milk!
#2:  Black-faced sheep are most valued for their meat.  Suffolk and Hampshire rams are used as sires to increase muscling and rate of weight gain for most U.S. lamb production.

Suffolk sheep

#3:  The way you can tell a sheep from a goat is by the fact that a sheep has oil glands on its face and between its toes.  Four million years ago, there were only goats, but sheep gradually evolved to be a separate species.  Scientists have now mapped the entire genome of the sheep and found the genes that make sheep good producers of wool.  Also, there are genes that help sheep digest low-quality grass and plants.

Separating the sheep from the goats

#4:  Why does the Bible say that sheep are kosher for Jews to eat? Because sheep chew their cud and have cloven (two-part) hooves.  So do cattle and goats, which means their meat is also kosher.

Cloven hooves

#5:  Several centuries ago, the Navajo Indians domesticated and adapted Spanish Churro sheep so that they would do well in the arid conditions of the Southwest.  The resulting breed is called Navajo-Churro.  The ewes lamb easily and many have twins.  Rams often grow two or four horns in large spirals.  The sheep produce a coarse "carpet wool," which is used to weave the blankets Navajos are famous for.

Navajo-Churro ram
More Navajo-Churros

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Back in the old days, before pickup trucks were invented, lots of Europeans used dogs to pull carts loaded with milk, bread, and goods to peddle.  Many of these people could not afford a horse, mule, or ox to pull their cart.  And in places where the streets were narrow and crowded, it was easier to maneuver with just a small cart pulled by dogs.

Most delivery carts had two or more dogs hitched to them.  Peddlers sometimes used only one dog.  During World War I, dogs were used to pull small field guns.  And in World War II, the Soviets hitched dogs to carts with stretchers for wounded soldiers.  During the First Crusade, after the horses and mules had starved, dogs carried people and supplies on toward Jerusalem.

In the UK, the use of carts came to be thought of as cruel to dogs.  So a law was passed in 1839 banning dog carts within 15 miles of Charing Cross.  Part of the idea behind this prohibition was that when dogs were overworked, they were more likely to get rabies.  The medical journal The Lancet reported in 1841 that the number of rabies cases had indeed gone down, but no one could say for sure if this decline was due to the legislation.

Interlaken is a town and municipality in the Swiss Alps.

Parliament had previously passed other laws to limit cruelty to animals.  The first of these, in 1822, prohibited cruel treatment of horses and cattle.  And in 1835, bull-baiting and cock-fighting were banned.  Parliament's next act in favor of animals, in 1841, was to decree the use of dog carts illegal throughout the kingdom.

The Sologne is a region of north-central France.

The logic behind some of these laws was strange because the British saw no problem with using horses, donkeys, mules, and oxen to haul wagons, even if the animals were basically worked to death.  But because dogs were seen as beloved pets, their use to pull carts was called "cruel servitude" by the RSPCA.

This seems like much too big a load for those two dogs to pull!

Further legislation required a tax on all working dogs.  Sheepdogs had their tails docked to show that the tax had been paid.  Poor people who could not afford the tax were often forced to abandon their dogs or destroy them.  Instead of using dogs to pull carts, people used children, because there were no laws against child labor.

Zeeland is the farthest western province of the Netherlands.
It is made up of several islands and peninsulas.  

Anyway, even though dog carts were banned in the UK, their use continued on the continent, especially in the low countries.  Working dogs were quite valuable to the people who used them, and they were usually treated well.  In rural areas, dogs who pulled carts were often family dogs who served as guard dogs at home.

Many dogs played more than one role, since they could also guard the cargo they were transporting.  Rottweilers, for example, were originally known as "Rottweiler Metzgerhund," which means "Rottweil butcher's dog."  Butchers particularly favored this fierce type of dog for pulling cartloads of meat and other products to market.

The milk inspector is saluting the family, so he must think their milk is okay.

Most of the dog cart pictures I am using in my blog today are postcards that Mom bought on eBay.  As I have probably told you before, Mom tends to spend way too much money on eBay.  Usually, she buys things that are not very interesting to me as a dog, but I think these dog cart postcards are really cool.  Right now they are in Mom's antique booth, so if you want one, you should rush over there and buy it immediately!

And now, for a change of continents, this boy and his cart are in Quebec.