Sunday, October 31, 2010


Well, it's Halloween, and that means people will be forcing their dogs and cats to wear goofy costumes.  Personally, I won't even agree to wear a dog sweater, as I may have mentioned before, so wearing a costume is really, really nothing I want to do!

You can't fool me!  This isn't the real Scooby Doo!
But some dogs put up with it -- at least long enough to get their pictures taken.  And some even go in parades or contests with their costumes on.  Yesterday Mom took me over to the Humane Society, where there was a Pet Reunion and Open House.  I never went to this event before, even though Mom usually goes every year.  Barry has gone to it a couple of times, but after a while, Barry gets really stressed and starts trying to bite people.  So mostly Mom doesn't take him there anymore.

A dog dressed up as the x-ray of a dog
This year Mom decided she would take me, even though I was not adopted from the Humane Society.  But I am a rescue dog, and I am cute, and I don't bite people.  So that's why she took me.  Of course, I would have rather stayed home and taken a nap, but I did not get a choice.  At least Mom did not make me wear a costume, even though there was a costume contest.  But I did have to wear a bandana with pumpkins on it. Mom and I got our picture taken there, and Mom put on a witch's hat for the photo, but she did not look very witchy, in my opinion.  In the photo, I have "alien eyes," as Mom calls them, and she couldn't get them fixed on iPhoto, so I guess I look scary without even having to wear a costume.

I did not like being at the Pet Reunion until I found out there was FOOD there.  Mom gave me some food, and not just dog treats, but she gave me real People Food, which she never gives us dogs at home.  So I got to eat a couple of tortilla chips and some bean dip and a little cake.  But I didn't get any of Mom's brownie because it had chocolate in it, which is Bad for Dogs.

A lot of dogs were in the costume contest, and the dogs that won it were named Hunter and Holly, and they were littermates.  Their moms dressed them up as a doctor and a nurse.  Mom did not take her camera, so I don't have pictures of any of the dogs at the Pet Reunion.

Anyway, I have been collecting some photos of dogs wearing dumb costumes that people seem to think are "funny" or "cute."  Even Mom sometimes thinks these costumes are "cute."  But other times she feels sorry for the poor dogs that have to wear them.

First of all, why do people think it's cute to think of their dog being eaten by a crocodile?

Or by a giant fish?

Or to get stabbed through the head by a knife?  I guess I will never understand humans.

This costume is good if you don't have much time to make a costume for your dog.  Seems like it wouldn't stay on very well, though.

Okay, would you walk around with a balloon between your legs, just so you could look like a cow?

And these poor pug flowers.  Pugs look silly enough without having petals added!

Here's a scuba-diving dog.  You would never get me to wear all that stuff, and I certainly wouldn't get in the water with it on!

These three labs had to dress up as bunnies.  How humiliating is that?

If you are into Wizard of Oz stuff, you can dress your dog like Dorothy.

And if you are a Trekkie, you can make your dog be the Starship Enterprise.  (Poor basenji.  What if they really try to launch him into space?)

Here's Harry Potter with Cerberus, the 3-headed dog from hell.  Or maybe it's the costume from hell!

For a Western theme, you can dress your dog as a cowboy.

And here are two basenjis posing as Mexican vaqueros.  

Anyway, my point is that making your dog wear a costume is probably abuse, and there should be a law against it.  Of course, this is just my opinion, but as you know, my opinion is usually right.  I feel very lucky that my mom doesn't make me or my brothers wear costumes.  In fact, Mom says that this year we are going to be Halloween Scrooges.  I'm not sure what a Scrooge is, but it has something to do with an insect called a humbug.  I will have to do more research on this topic.  But anyway, Mom wants to watch TV tonight without having to go to the door every five minutes to give out candy, so we are going to leave our porch light off and pretend that we are not home.  I think this will be a really fun game to play!

Friday, October 29, 2010


At Halloween you always see lots of pictures of black cats because people think they are scary.  But this is just a dumb superstition, and it is not true that black cats are scary.  Mostly, black cats are as nice as any other color of cat, and it's not their fault that they were born black.  In fact, black is a very excellent color for an animal, as I have mentioned several times before, and if the black is trimmed with white, that is even better!

So how did all this stuff about scary black cats get started?  Well, it didn't start with the Egyptians, because the Egyptians pretty much worshipped all cats, no matter what color they were.  And when the family cat died, everyone was very sad, and they wrapped the cat up like a mummy and buried it very lovingly.

But later on, in Europe during the Middle Ages, people started getting nervous about cats, especially black ones.  And this seemed to be because cats were very independent and sneaky, and also they made tons of kittens, so there were cats everyplace.  And old, lonely ladies sometimes felt sorry for the cats, and they fed them.  And then people started thinking the old ladies were witches and that they could change themselves into black cats and sneak around at night and do bad things.  So these nice old ladies and their cats got burned at the stake.

In France, thousands of cats were being burned up because people were afraid of them, but finally in the 1630s, King Louis XIII made them stop doing that.  But people in other parts of Europe killed off their cats, too, and then guess what happened.  There started being lots more rats!  And then the rats brought the Plague, and a bunch of people died.  Which seems to me like it was sort of a punishment for killing the cats.

Anyway, in America, even today, there is a superstition that if a black cat crosses your path, you will have bad luck.  And some gamblers believe that if you are on your way to the casino, and a black cat crosses in front of you, there is no point in gambling that day because you will lose.  The Irish have an old superstition that if a black cat crosses your path in the moonlight, you will die in an epidemic.

But some people actually have good beliefs about black cats.  In Japan and Britain, people think that black cats bring good luck, not bad luck.  In Scotland, if a black cat comes on your porch, you will have prosperity.

Sailors have always thought that cats are lucky to have on their ships, and black cats are especially good to have.  Fishermen's wives will sometimes keep black cats in their homes because they think the cats will bring their husbands home safe from the sea.

In the 19th century, pirates believed that if a black cat walked onto a ship and then off again, that ship would sink on its next trip.  And they also thought that a black cat walking toward you was bad luck, but a black cat walking away meant good luck.

Most people nowadays won't admit to believing any of these superstitions about black cats, but the sad truth is that when black cats are in shelters, they have a harder time getting adopted than cats of other colors.  So maybe, somewhere in the back of people's minds, they are still thinking about black cats and witches and bad luck and evil stuff.  Or maybe it's just because black cats are harder to get a good picture of to put on Petfinder.  And it's not that black cats never get adopted.  It just takes longer for somebody to adopt them.  Which is also true of black dogs, I am sad to say.

Anyway, if you want a black cat of your very own, you can find one at the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, where my mom volunteers.  Or if you don't live in Kansas City, you can probably find a black cat at your own local shelter.

Here are a few of the black cats at the Humane Society.  If you adopt any one of these cats, I promise that you will have very, very, very good luck.





Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Pariah dog in Egypt
The word pariah used to be kind of a bad word that meant you were an outcast and you didn't get invited to any nice parties.  And the way this word got this meaning was from a tribe in India that was named the  Pariah tribe, and they were outcasts.  So Indian dogs that were just living on the street without having anyone to buy yummy dog food for them were called pariah dogs.

But nowadays if you call a dog a pariah, it doesn't mean you think the dog is a bad, dirty outcast.  It just means that this type of dog has developed for many thousands of years without humans getting involved in the process.  So you could say that pariahs are "all natural" dogs who have evolved to survive in certain conditions, which are mostly at the edges of villages and cities where humans live.

Pariah dogs in India
Pariah dogs are interesting for scientists to study because their genes go back in a pretty straight line to wolves, but they are not wolves, they are dogs.  They live close to people, but they are not totally dependent on people for food and shelter and stuff like that.  So the pariah dogs are smart and independent and hardy and alert.  And they have to be that way so that they can stay alive.

The country that probably has the most pariah dogs is India.  There are lots of people who like these Indian Native Dogs, which are known as INDogs.  Dogs that look like INDogs, and also their fossils, have been found in lots of places, such as China, Israel, and Italy.  And the surprising thing is that many of these dogs ended up being about the same size and color.  Because usually they are medium-sized, and they are yellow or reddish in color.  They like to live in packs, kind of like wolves, and each group has a certain part of town that is its own territory.

Doesn't this dog look like a basenji?
Pariah dogs eat garbage that people throw out, even if it's all vegetarian garbage.  Sometimes they will suckle milk from a sleeping cow or buffalo, or they might eat dead animals.  They just pretty much eat anything they can find.

Mostly, pariah dogs are nice to humans, but they don't get chummy with them or anything like that.  Sometimes at night, an alpha dog might attack a person who comes into his territory, but usually the person can scare the dog away by yelling or by throwing a rock.

This dog could definitely be my cousin!

In the pariah dog pack, only the alpha male and female get to mate, which is the same rules as wolf packs have.  If the alpha male dies or something happens to him, there is a lot of confusion and squabbling until the dogs figure out who the new alpha is going to be.

Another INDog that looks like an African basenji
Anyway, like I told you, there are pariah dogs in lots of countries, and guess what!  Basenjis are actually pariah dogs, too!  Well, the ones who are still living in Africa are probably more pariah-like than the ones that are being bred to have curlier tails and stuff like that.  The UKC lets people register pariah dogs, and these dogs go in the same group as sighthounds.  But in Europe, pariah dogs are called primitive dogs.  And what they mean by "primitive" is "being little evolved from an early ancestral type."

So the point of all this is that basenjis, who are a type of pariah dog, have been around a long, long time, and we have a lot of street smarts, just like the INDogs and all the other pariahs in the world.  Which means we are probably all cousins, when you think about it, and that is a good thing!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Yawning is something that everybody does.  And by "everybody" I mean dogs and people and all other kinds of animals and birds and reptiles.  But even though everybody does it, nobody knows exactly why we do it, because it just sort of happens.  Which doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of theories about why yawning happens, because there are, and I'm going to tell you a list of some of those theories.

Theory #1:  We yawn because our blood needs more oxygen, or at least that's what people used to think.  But now scientists have proved that this theory is probably mostly wrong.

Theory #2:  We need to stretch our muscles, and we can do this while we are yawning.  If our muscles are all stretched, then we are ready to spring into action.  And this might be one reason why we yawn if we are nervous, because we think we might have to jump up and run away at any moment.

Theory #3:  Yawning is a way of cooling off the brain or even the whole body.

Theory #4:  Chemicals in the brain make us yawn.  These are the same chemicals that make us feel happy or sad or hungry or whatever.  Some chemicals make us yawn more, and others make us yawn less.

Theory #5:  People yawn because they feel empathy for other people.

Anyway, these are just some theories, and some of them might be true, and some might be false.  I am just telling you what I read about why we yawn.  And I have made the theories simple and easy to understand by leaving out lots of details, but if you like details, you can go to Wikipedia and do a search for "yawn," and read them all there.

But now I want to talk about why dogs yawn.  Sometimes when dogs yawn, it is because they are bored or tired or sleepy, just like when people yawn.  But other times yawning is used as a calming signal.  And the way a calming signal works is like this:  maybe you are meeting another dog for the first time, and you want that dog to know that you are not a threat to that dog.  So you turn your head and you yawn.  This means that you are not challenging the other dog, and there is no need for the other dog to attack you.  And if that dog has learned to read doggy body language, he will know exactly what you are saying.

Or another way you can use yawning is if you are in obedience class, and your person is trying to get you to do something, but you don't understand, and you are feeling nervous.  Then you can yawn to try to feel calmer and also to tell your person that you are nervous and confused.

People can use calming signals, too.  I mean they can use them with dogs.  They don't work so well with other people, because if one person yawns at another person, the second person will probably just think the first person is bored, and the second person will be offended.  But if a person yawns at a dog who is scared, then the dog will think that person is not so scary.

Oh, and then there is what is called "infectious yawning," which is if one person yawns and then everybody around them starts yawning, too.  This can also happen with chimpanzees.  And it can happen with dogs, too, because dogs may start yawning if they see their people yawning.  Which can mean that the dogs are trying to calm their people because they understand that the people are nervous or excited.  Or maybe it just means that everybody got tired and sleepy at the same time!

Sometimes just thinking about yawning will make you start yawning, which is kind of what is happening to me right now.  So I'm going to stop writing and go take a nap!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Piper said that I should write in her blog today because of my big X-ray Adventure.  But since I am only the Omega dog of the family, I don't know if you will be very interested in what I have to say.  Just remember if you find it too boring, you don't have to finish reading it.

Well, it all started Wednesday, while Barry and I were taking Mom for a walk, and I found an extraordinarily tasty bone.  And the best part was that I found it before Barry did, so once it was in my mouth, it was MINE, and he couldn't have it.  Mom couldn't have it either, even though she wanted to take it away from me.  She said it was not good for me to eat that kind of bone because it had all sorts of sharp points on it, but I didn't care about that.  I just wanted to eat it because it tasted good.  So I kept chewing on it while we walked along, and finally it broke it into small enough pieces that I could swallow the whole thing.

After that, everything was fine until Thursday, and then my tummy started feeling a little weird -- but not weird enough to affect my appetite.  I ate all my supper, and I also went out in the yard and ate a bunch of grass.  Then on Friday morning, really early, I puked up all the grass, plus some pieces of bone.  This all happened before Mom got up.  And when she did get up, she saw that I had puked by the back door.  Also I really, really needed to go outside and poop, which I did as soon as she opened the door.

Mom cleaned up my puke, and she saved the pieces of bone, and then later on, she went out and tried to find my poop in the yard, which she finally did, behind the shed.  There were no big pieces of bone in my poop, but Mom was worried that maybe there were still some pieces stuck inside me somewhere.  I could have told her that I felt pretty good by then, but she would have worried anyway, because that's what moms do.

Anyway, I ate my breakfast just fine, and then Mom took Barry and me to Shawnee Mission Park, which she had already been planning to do.  We had a great time there, but I can't show you any pictures because Mom didn't take her camera.  The only bad thing was that I had some soft poop when we first got there, and then when we were down by the lake, I had a little diarrhea that was very watery.

Of course, Mom started worrying again, even though I was really feeling okay.  I even found a couple of piles of fresh dirt, right beside the trail, and Mom said they were mole hills.  I got very excited and started digging and sticking my nose in there because I could smell the mole.  Mom let me dig a little bit because she didn't really think I would be able to catch the mole, and she was right.  But I really like to dig into a hole where some yummy-smelling animal lives.  Mom says this is the terrier in me, because I probably have some terrier genes in addition to my whippet and German shepherd genes.

But anyway, after we got home from the park, Mom called the vet's office, and told them about the bones I ate and puked up, and they said she should bring me in so that Dr. Patricia could examine me.  I did not like this idea at all, but no one asked my opinion.  I get very nervous at the vet's office, and my legs shake really hard.  People tell me I don't need to be scared, and that I shouldn't shake like that, but I can't help it.

So we went to the vet's office, and we waited, and then when it was finally our turn to see Dr. Patricia, Mom put my muzzle on me.  Dr. Patricia looked at my gums to see if they were pale, and I snapped at her, even with the muzzle on.  But my gums were not pale, so that was good.  Then she listened to my heart and she squeezed my insides, and it sort of hurt, so she said I needed an x-ray.

After that, they took me into the back room where they torture dogs and do x-rays and stuff, and Mom read an old issue of Smithsonian magazine that was in the exam room.  Then they brought me back to Mom while they developed my x-rays.  And finally Dr. Patricia brought the x-rays in and showed them to Mom.  And it turned out that I had a few little pieces of bone left inside me, but nothing big enough to worry about.  Besides which, my hips and spine looked good, which is important in a somewhat more mature dog such as myself.

Dr. Patricia told Mom to give me twice as much Metronidazole for the next few days as what I usually get because she said that eating bones was not good for a dog like me who has inflammatory bowel disease.  Dr. Patricia also said that maybe the bones were from a pork chop because a local grocery store had a sale on pork chops recently.  Mom said she was hoping the bones were the remains of some prehistoric animal killed by Neanderthals, but Dr. Patricia said she doubted that the bones were that old.  I doubt it, too, because if the bones were that old, I think they would have been all dry and tasteless, which these bones were not.

Anyway, my little examination and x-ray cost $180.  Mom was not happy to have to spend more money on vet bills when she just had to buy new tires last week for her car, and soon we'll be getting a new garage door that will cost about $700.  But I don't worry about money.  That's Mom's job, because it's what moms do.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mom's New Sponsored Child

I think I have told you before that Mom sponsors some kids in different parts of the world, and now she has a new one.  He is a little boy who is four years old, and he lives in Zambia.  His name is Shy.  We don't know if he is really shy or not.  He does not look very shy in the photo.  Also his father's name is Shy, so maybe he was named after his father and not because he is actually shy.

Anyway, in case your African geography isn't so good, Zambia is a country in the south part of the continent, and it used to be called Northern Rhodesia, back when the British were in charge of it.  Before the British came along, there were hunter-gatherers living there for thousands and thousands of years.  Maybe those people used dogs to help them hunt, but we don't know if they did or not because people back then did not write any diaries or blogs or anything to tell us this stuff.  

Zambia is just south of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where lots of my distant basenji cousins live today, but I haven't heard of any basenjis living in Zambia.  Maybe there are only Rhodesian Ridgebacks in Zambia.

Anyway, most of the people who live in Zambia are in the capital city of Lusaka, or kind of in that region.  Also there are people in the northwest part of the country, which is called the copperbelt.  Mom's sponsored child, Shy, lives with his family on the edge of Lusaka, where many of the people are squatters.  This means they don't really own the land they live on.  Shy lives in a house made of concrete blocks, and it has a metal roof.  So it is better than some people's houses in that area.

A lot of people in Zambia are very poor.  The average income per person in a year is $1150.  About 55% of the people make less than $2 a day, which would not buy very much dog food.  Also a bunch of people have tuberculosis and AIDS, which are very bad diseases.  Maybe 15% of Zambians are HIV-positive.

It used to be that Zambia had a better economy, and that was because they mined a lot of copper and sold it for a good price.  But then people stopped wanting as much copper, so Zambia got poor.  Now they are trying to find other ways to make money, like by getting tourists to go there, by raising more crops, mining gemstones and nickel, and by making hydropower.

Open copper mine
In Zambia, there are schools for most of the younger children, but after the 7th grade, tuition isn't free anymore, so a lot of kids can't afford to go to school anymore.  If you finish the 9th grade in Zambia, you are thought to be well educated.  The organization that Mom sponsors Shy with, Children International, tries to help kids stay in school by paying their tuition and buying them school clothes and stuff like that.  Of course, Shy is too young to go to school yet, but he will start in the next year or two.

The main thing that people in Zambia eat is called Nshima.  This is made out of a corn flour called mealie meal.  Usually it is eaten as a porridge, but sometimes it is cooked into cakes, like in this picture.  You can also make Nshima out of cassava, which is a root, kind of like a potato.  Anyway, I think this food looks pretty yummy, but I bet the dogs in Zambia don't get to eat it, just the people.  

Nshima and relishes
Anyway, I don't think I would like to live in Zambia because people over there can't afford to buy nice dog food, so I would probably starve.  I guess it's nice that Mom can help a little boy like Shy, but I think it be better if she would spend the money on food or treats for her own dogs!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

President Taft's Dogs and Cows

President William Howard Taft was a large man, and by "large," I mean "overweight."  He weighed about 350 pounds, which back in those days was pretty unusual, although nowadays you can find more people who weigh that much.  So anyway, when Mr. Taft went to live in the White House, he took a cow named Mooly Wooly.  And the reason he took this cow was because he wanted to make sure he and his family had plenty of milk and butter.  But Mooly Wooly didn't really produce enough of this yummy dairy stuff, so President Taft got a different cow, and she was a Holstein named Pauline Wayne.  So Pauline grazed on the White House lawn, and she made lots of milk, and everybody was happy.

Pauline, the First Cow

Oh, and the Taft family also brought a dog with them to the White House, but I will tell you about that later.  First I want to tell you a little bit about Mr. Taft and Mrs. Taft and about how they ended up being the president and first lady.  

Mr. Taft was born on September 15, 1857, near Cincinnati, Ohio.  His family was well known, and his father was a lawyer.  Mr. Taft went to Yale College, and after that he got a law degree at Cincinnati Law School.  He had a dream of one day being the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, so he worked in a lot of different legal jobs, and then he got appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1887 and to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1891.

Meanwhile, in 1886, Mr. Taft got married to Miss Helen Herron, who was mostly called "Nellie" by all her friends and family.  She was also from Cincinnati, and she had a good education.  She worked as a teacher before she got married and also for a little while after she became Mrs. Taft.  Eventually, the Tafts had three children:  a son named Robert, a daughter named Helen, and a son named Charles.

Mrs. Taft had a dream, just like her husband did, but her dream was that Mr. Taft would someday be the President of the United States.  So she did a lot of stuff to sort of move his career in a different direction that was not so much about being a judge.  In 1900, after the Spanish-American War, President McKinley appointed Mr. Taft to be the Governor-General of the Philippines, which made Mrs. Taft very happy.  The Tafts moved there, and Mrs. Taft got very interested in meeting the Philippine women and learning their language and helping them have better lives.  This was the first time a white woman had done such a thing in that country.

After the Tafts came back to the U.S., Mrs. Taft convinced President Theodore Roosevelt that her husband would be a good president, so President Roosevelt began grooming Mr. Taft for that job -- which is not exactly the same thing as grooming a dog, even though it is like it in some ways.  And Mr. Roosevelt made Mr. Taft his Secretary of War.

The Taft inaugural parade on a snowy day.
Mrs. Taft was the first First Lady to take part in an inaugural parade.
Then Mr. Taft ran for president in 1908, and Mrs. Taft helped him with his campaign by giving him advice on what to say in his speeches and what positions to take and stuff like that.  And Mr. Taft won the election and got to be president, even though what he still wanted was just to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  But the Tafts moved into the White House, and they brought their family dog, but nobody knows now what the name of that dog was.  And there was the cow, Pauline, like I told you before.

Then one time a famous opera singer named Enrico Caruso came to the White House to sing for the Tafts, and he thought the daughter, Helen, might like to have a nice dog that would be more fun for her than a cow, so he gave her a little white dog.  She was very happy to get this dog, and she named him Caruso.

Helen is holding her little white dog in this picture, but it's hard to see.
I wish Mom had a hat like these ladies had because it would be fun to chew it up!
Mrs. Taft made a bunch of changes at the White House, like for instance she hired African-Americans for the important job of being ushers, which only white men did before.  She also invited more types of people to the White House, and not just Society people.  She invited all the members of Congress and their families, divorced people, and military people of every rank.  Also she had the White House people start riding in automobiles instead of carriages pulled by horses.

Then in 1909, a sad thing happened, because Mrs. Taft had a stroke, and it took her a long time to get better.  She had to learn to talk all over again, which was not easy, and she always talked sort of funny after that, which made her not want to speak in public or to the press.  And another reason she did not want to talk to the press was because she didn't want the public to know that she liked to smoke and drink and play poker, because women mostly didn't do those things back then, especially if they were the First Lady.

The Taft Family
Mr. Taft loved his wife very much, and he took care of her while she was sick.  But she was not able to give him the good advice and help that he was used to getting from her, and he turned out not to be a very good leader of the nation.  A lot of important Republicans got mad at him, and they didn't want him to be president again.  And when he ran for re-election in 1912, he lost to Woodrow Wilson.

President Taft giving a speech
After that, Mr. Taft did some teaching, and he also founded a group called the League to Enforce Peace.  But it was hard to make peace in those days because World War I was happening.  

Finally, after the war ended, Mr. Taft had his dream come true because he was appointed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Harding in 1921.  Mr. Taft was very happy being on the Court, and he said "I do not remember that I was ever President."  He was the only person in U.S. history to have been both the Chief Executive and the Chief Justice.  

Chief Justice Taft is in the middle of the front row.
Mr. Taft probably had what is called obstructive sleep apnea, which is something that overweight people have sometimes, and it is dangerous for your health.  He lost 80 pounds, and then he felt better and had a lower blood pressure.  In fact, he felt so much better that he went on a trip to Alaska.

On February 3, 1930, Mr. Taft retired from the Supreme Court because his health was getting very bad.  He died only five weeks later, on March 8.  He was the first president to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mrs. Taft died at the age of 81, on May 22, 1943.  She was also buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The only other First Lady who was ever buried there was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.