Sunday, February 28, 2010

Killer Whales

The first thing you need to know about killer whales is that they are black-and-white, just like me!  And that makes them very beautiful, also like me!  Most other kinds of whales are a boring grey in color, so I think it's because of the black-and-white color of the killer whales that people like to go watch them swim in the ocean or at someplace like SeaWorld.

Killer whales are also called orcas because their scientific name is Orcinus orca.  They are actually dolphins, and they are the very biggest dolphins of all.  Every ocean on the whole planet has orcas, whether it's a really cold ocean or a really warm ocean.  There are five different types of orcas, but nobody has figured out yet if these five types are separate species or subspecies or races or what.

The different types of orcas live in different places and eat different types of food, so that's how you can tell them apart.  Some of them eat mostly fish such as salmon or herring.  Others eat mostly seals or sometimes walruses and sea otters.  Orcas can hunt together in groups, kind of like a wolf pack, and when they do this, they can kill really big stuff like gray whales and blue whales and sperm whales.  Some orcas also like to eat birds, such as penguins, cormorants, and sea gulls.

Killer whales live much longer lives than dogs do.  The female orcas can live to be 80 or 90, but the average lifespan is about 50 years.  The average oldest age for males is 29, but some get to be 50 or 60 years old.  The female whale is called a cow, even though she doesn't look anything like the kind of cow you might see on a farm.  She doesn't mate and have babies until she is 15 or so.  Then when she gets pregnant, it takes almost 18 months before the baby calf is born, after which the calf nurses for almost two years.  Orca cows have about one calf every five years until they are 40 or so.


Okay, now here's something really interesting about killer whales:  they never leave their moms.  Even after they are all grown up, they stick together in a group with their mom, and this group is called a matriline.  Usually there are 5 or 6 orcas in a matriline, and they stick together all the time because orcas are very social animals.  Then when a couple of matrilines who are related get together, it's called a pod.

There are people who say that it is cruel for humans to keep intelligent animals like whales and dolphins in aquariums or to keep land animals in zoos.  I'm not sure what I think about this question because I can see good and bad things about the argument on both sides.  Which means I am very open-minded, at least on this topic!  But I will admit that it seems mean to keep a great big huge animal like a whale in a place like SeaWorld, because whales like to swim long distances, and they can even go as far as 100 miles in one day.  Also in my research I learned that wild killer whales have never attacked or harmed humans, but sometimes captive killer whales like Tillikum have done that.  So maybe being in a small place can make a whale crazy, just like being in a crate can make some dogs crazy.

Anyway, now there are some whale expert type people who say that maybe Tillikum should be released from SeaWorld so that he can be a wild orca again.   But this is not as easy as it sounds.  Tilly was first captured near Iceland when he was 2 or 3 years old, and now he is about 30.  So he has probably forgotten how to be a wild whale, and he would have to learn how all over again.

Also if Tillikum went out to live in the ocean, he would have to find the pod he used to belong to because another pod wouldn't accept him.  And orcas want to be in groups, like I told you, so Tilly would probably die of loneliness or separation anxiety if he couldn't be in a pod.  Either that or he would come back to humans for companionship, because that is what happened with at least one other killer whale that got released but couldn't find a pod to hang with.

Some people want SeaWorld to set an example of not breeding or capturing any new killer whales, so that after the ones that are there now get old and die, there won't be any more orcas in captivity.  If people want to see orcas, they can go out in boats to see them in the ocean.  This seems like a good idea to me, but the SeaWorld people make a lot of money from orcas, so I'm afraid they might not agree.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tillikum, the Killer Whale

If you have been paying attention to Important News Stories About Animals, you will know that an orca whale killed a trainer at SeaWorld a few days ago.  This was a very sad event, and a lot of people don't understand why it happened, so that makes it even sadder.  The trainer, whose name was Dawn Brancheau, had been training killer whales for many years, and she was very good at it.  She knew Tillikum and had taught him tricks and fed him lots of yummy fish.  So she was not just some doofus who was messing around with whales without knowing what she was doing or how whales act.

Mom has been sort of obsessed with watching videos on the internet and reading articles and stuff because she is trying to understand why this whale would kill his trainer.  I told her that only Tillikum knows the real reason why he did what he did.  If he had a blog, like I have, he might be able to explain his actions, but since he doesn't have a blog, we will never know for sure.

Tillikum is a really big whale who weighs 12,000 pounds.  He killed two people before this, so you could say he has a history.  In 1991, a trainer got killed in British Columbia by Tillikum and two other orcas.  And then in 1999, a man snuck into the pool with the whales and he died because the water was really cold, but he also got bitten by Tillikum.

Anyway, since Tillikum had this history, the trainers at SeaWorld were not allowed to get in the water with him.  But he did tricks and stuff by the edge of the pool, which you can see in a video that is on the internet that was taken by a tourist just a few minutes before Ms. Brancheau got killed.  Some other trainers and experts on whales think that what happened was that Ms. Brancheau was lying down in the shallow water with her face near Tillikum's head, and then her long ponytail got into the water, and Tillikum grabbed it because he thought it might be an interesting and fun toy.  So he pulled her into the water with him and he shook her and took her underwater with him, and she got all these injuries, and she drowned.

All the whale shows at all the SeaWorlds were closed for a few days, but they are going to open again today.  But the trainers won't get in the water with the whales for a while until everything gets figured out with Tillikum.  The people at SeaWorld are not going to do anything to punish Tillikum, which is good because that would be stupid.  He was just acting like a whale and not trying to eat Ms. Brancheau for lunch or anything like that.

Sometimes when people get bit by an animal, like by their dog, for example, they say, "She bit me for no reason."  But they are wrong about this because there is always a reason.  Humans may not understand why a dog bites a person, but the dog has a good reason and is just acting like a dog.  Maybe it's just that she's scared or got spooked, or maybe her instinct makes her act a certain way, like when the greyhounds attacked Gabe, which was kind of a pack thing.  People may not think it makes sense, but it makes total sense to the dog.

Well, anyway, getting back to killer whales, I did some in-depth research about them and how the wild ones live, and I will tell you all that Important Information tomorrow because if I try to tell you today, it will make my blog way too long.

Oh, but I just want to say that Mom went to SeaWorld in Orlando one time, and it was probably in 1993.  She saw the show with the orcas in it, and she sat in the Splash Zone, but she didn't get splashed very much, which she was happy about because it was March, and the weather was kind of cool.  Anyway, she can't remember how many whales they had there, but one of them was called Shamu.  Mom thinks that there have been several whales named Shamu.  It's kind of like having several dogs named Lassie.

Anyway, I would not want to meet a killer whale in person because I'm afraid it would eat me in one big gulp.  Those killer whales have very sharp-looking teeth, and I do not want to get anywhere near them.  But one time when Mom took me and Gabe to visit Aunt Cheryl in Texas, she bought us a Shamu toy at the thrift store.  This is the kind of Shamu that I prefer instead of the real one!

Friday, February 26, 2010

More Popularity of Dogs

Well, after learning all about which dogs are the most popular dogs in America, I got to wondering if people in other countries like the same breeds that Americans do.  So I nosed around a little and came up with some top-10 lists from other places.

I will start with Canada, which is more like just another part of the U.S. instead of a whole other country.  And the list of favorite Canadian dogs proves this, since it's a lot like the U.S. list.  Except for the parts that are different.  This list is from 2007, which is the most recent list I could find.  Anyway, here it is:
 1.  Labrador Retriever
 2.  Golden Retriever
 3.  German Shepherd Dog
 4.  Poodle
 5.  Shetland Sheepdog
 6.  Yorkshire Terrier
 7.  Miniature Schnauzer
 8.  Boxer
 9.  Shih Tzu
10.  Bernese Mountain Dog

In the U.K., the Labrador Retriever is number one again.  Yawn.  But then things get different because there are a bunch of spaniels on the list.  I don't know why people like spaniels so much.  Well, okay, they are kind of cute, but they have that long, curly hair that is always getting tangled up and matted if you don't comb it all the time.  Short-haired dogs such as basenjis are not only cute but are much easier to take care of.  But here's the list, for what it's worth.  It is from 2008.
 1.  Labrador Retriever
 2.  English Cocker Spaniel
 3.  English Springer Spaniel
 4.  German Shepherd Dog
 5.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
 6.  Staffordshire Bull Terrier
 7.  Golden Retriever
 8.  Border Terrier
 9.  Boxer
10.  West Highland White Terrier

Here's the 2007 list from Australia, which is kind of like the U.S. and U.K. lists combined:
 1.  Labrador Retriever
 2.  German Shepherd Dog
 3.  Staffordshire Bull Terrier
 4.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
 5.  Golden Retriever
 6.  Border Collie
 7.  Pug
 8.  English Cocker Spaniel
 9.  Dalmation
10.  Rottweiler

Okay, I know you're probably getting tired of lists, so I promise that this is the last one.  I just had to prove that there is at least one place in the world where the labrador retriever is not the number one dog.  And that country is Italy!  Here is their 2009 list:
 1.  English Setter
 2.  German Shepherd Dog
 3.  Segugio Maremmano
 4.  Labrador Retriever
 5.  Epagneul Breton
 6.  Segugio Italiano
 7.  Golden Retriever
 8.  Boxer
 9.  Jack Russell Terrier
10.  German Shorthaired Pointer

Anyway, since the labrador retriever is so popular, now I will tell you about a lab who just won a Special Award because he was a very brave bomb-sniffing dog in Afghanistan.  This dog's name is Treo, and he got something called the Dickin Medal, which is an award that the British give to animals in the military. It is kind of like an award called the Victoria Cross, except that the Victoria Cross is for people and the Dickin Medal is for animals.

Treo is 8 years old, and he got this award on Wednesday.  He is now retired from the military, and he lives with his handler, whose name is Sergeant David Heyhoe.  I don't mean any disrespect to Sergeant Heyhoe, but whenever I see his name, it makes me want to giggle.  Except that dogs can't really giggle.  Anyway, if you want to see Treo and Sergeant Heyhoe, you can watch this video: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2010/feb/24/military-animals   Sergeant Heyhoe talks really funny, and I thought he was hard to understand.  Mom says he talks that way because he is from Scotland.  I am just glad that Mom doesn't talk like that because if she did, I would never know what she is saying.

So what Treo did to win the Dickin Medal was he sniffed out some bombs, and this saved the lives of a lot of soldiers.  You can see in the video that Treo is very brave because he even goes into some water, looking for bombs, which I would not be brave enough to do because if I did it, I might drown.  One time, Treo found a whole bunch of bombs that were wired together.  This is called a "daisy chain," even though there are no daisies in it, or any other kind of flower either.


Treo was awarded the Dickin Medal by Princess Alexandra, who is a real, live princess.  Before Treo won the medal, 26 other dogs won it, and so did 32 messenger pigeons, 3 horses, and 1 cat.

I am very proud that a member of my species won this Important Award, but you could never get me to go out there looking for bombs, personally.  I would much rather stay home where it is warm and safe and dry!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Popularity of Dogs

Sometimes, when you are just sitting around, thinking about Important Stuff, you have probably asked yourself "Why am I here?" or "What is the meaning of life?" or "What are the ten most popular dog breeds?"  Well, I can't really answer the first two questions, but luckily, I have all the inside scoop on the third one.

The American Kennel Club likes to keep track of lots of Extremely Vital Information, so every year they tell us which dogs are winning the Dog Breed Popularity Contest.  And most years the winners are the same as the year before.  Basenjis never win this contest, but that's okay, really, because it's probably better not to be one of those dime-a-dozen breeds anyway.

So now I will tell you that -- surprise! -- Labrador retrievers were the number one most popular dog in 2009, just like they have been for 19 years in a row.  But guess what!  German shepherds are gaining on them and are now the number two dog instead of yorkies.  And maybe someday German shepherds will be number one again, just like they used to be in the 1920s and in the 1950s.  My brother Barry, who looks a lot like a German shepherd, is very excited about this.  The AKC thinks that maybe German shepherds are getting more popular because they are good at doing police work and security and military stuff, which there's a lot of need for right now.




But anyway, here is the list of the 10 most popular breeds of 2009:
 1.  Labrador Retriever
 2.  German Shepherd Dog
 3.  Yorkshire Terrier
 4.  Golden Retriever
 5.  Beagle
 6.  Boxer
 7.  Bulldog
 8.  Dachshund
 9.  Poodle
10.  Shih Tzu

And these are some breeds that have become lots more popular in the last 10 years:  bulldog, French bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Havanese.  Also people seem to like dogs now that are easier to groom, like mastiffs and Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

The Portuguese Water Dog has moved up from 80th to 60th in the last 10 years, which shows that this breed was already getting more popular even before Bo became the First Dog.

It turns out that people in different parts of the country have different ideas about what's the best kind of dog to own.  Here in Kansas City, German shepherds are tied with labs for the very most popular breed, and boxers are next, then bulldogs and yorkies.

I also checked out Houston, my hometown, and the top five breeds there are labs, yorkies, GSDs, bulldogs, and boxers.

In Washington, D.C., labs are first, then yorkies, goldens, poodles, and there is a tie for 5th place between bulldogs, dachshunds, and shih tzus.

One other city I looked at was San Francisco, and I was surprised to find that French bulldogs are 3rd there, after labs and yorkies.  Then goldens are 4th and bulldogs are 5th.

Anyway, if you want to check out the top five dog breeds in your own city, you can go here:  http://www.akc.org/news/index.cfm?article_id=4044

By now you are probably wondering where basenjis rank in popularity.  Of course, we are so darned cute that you would think we'd be Number One.  But apparently people prefer those big, dopey labs.  My own personal theory is that most people just want dogs that are easy to train and that will spend hours chasing a stupid ball and that won't bite their kids when the kids pull the dogs' tails.  Basenjis are too smart and independent for lots of people.  We know there are better things to do in life than chase balls, and we don't like having our tails pulled, so we might bite you if you try to do it.

Anyway, even though I knew we weren't Extremely Popular, I was still shocked, when I looked at the ranking for basenjis, to find out we had dropped to 88th in 2009, after being 69th in 1999.  Of course, we are a long way from being the least popular breed, like the English Foxhound is, but it kind of hurt my feelings to know that people don't like us as much as they used to.  Everybody likes to be popular, after all.  Luckily, Mom still loves me and Gabe, and she says we are the perfect breed for her.  Also Mom says that the AKC won't tell you this, but the very, very most popular dog breed in America is Mutt.

Oh, and if you would like to check on the popularity ranking of your own favorite dog breed, you can go to this website to do it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

BODY ARMOR, by Mel

Yesterday I had to go to Dr. Patricia's office, and it was a very stressful and unnerving experience, like visits to her office usually are.  As soon as I got in the car with Mom, my back legs started shaking, and I couldn't make them stop.  And then when we got there, my legs were shaking even harder, in spite of the fact that Mom and Nurse Debbie kept giving me treats.

The reason I had to go to Dr. Patricia's office was that I had to get a heartworm test, plus also a fecal test.  And then it turned out that I hadn't had a complete blood panel for three years, so Mom decided I should get one of those, too, even though she is feeling broke because it's the end of the month, and she didn't want to pay for it.  Oh, and I got weighed and had my toenails trimmed, and Dr. Patricia examined me.

Mostly I was pretty good, except when Dr. Patricia was looking in my mouth at my teeth, which she was trying to do even though I was wearing a muzzle.  So I got freaked out and tried to bite her, but I was not successful because of the muzzle and also because Nurse Debbie was holding me.  But otherwise, I was a good boy and did not try to bite anybody.

Finally, when the whole ordeal was over, and Mom and I got to go home.  But I started thinking that it would be useful for a timid dog such as myself to have some sort of protective armor to wear when he has to go to the vet's office.  So I did a little research online to see what I could come up with.

In this photo, you can see the Brewster Body Shield, which was developed during World War I.  It was made of chrome nickel steel, which was apparently very strong, because it could protect a person from machinegun bullets.  I thought maybe this armor would work for a dog, but then I read that it weighs 40 pounds, which is more than I weigh!  So even though I think the Brewster Body Shield would safely protect me from pokes and prods and needles at the vet's office, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to walk around if I were wearing it.


So then I did a search on armor that was specially designed for dogs, and I came up with some good possibilities.  Here's a suit of samurai dog armor that I think would make me look very handsome.


And here's some armor with a more medieval look that would provide good protection, I think.

Now I just have to figure out how to measure myself so I can get the right size.

Monday, February 22, 2010

President Nixon's Dogs

Today is the REAL birthday of President George Washington, but since I already told you about his dogs, I have randomly picked another president with dogs to talk about.  And the president I picked was Richard Nixon.  Mom is not a big fan of Mr. Nixon.  She says he was not a good or honorable president like Mr. Washington was.  But I don't care about that stuff.  All I care about is the fact that he had some dogs.

The first important dog that Mr. Nixon had was a black-and-white cocker spaniel named Checkers.  I had a lot of trouble finding a photo of Checkers, but finally I found one that I think must be him, even though it was not labelled.  Anyway, Mr. Nixon made a very famous speech in which he mentioned Checkers, and even today this speech is called the "Checkers speech."

At the time Mr. Nixon gave the speech, he was not the president.  He was just a senator from California.  The date of the speech was September 23, 1952.  Mom was 5 months old at the time, so she doesn't really remember the speech, although it's possible that she heard it, since her family had a television.  Here's a picture of Senator Nixon giving the Checkers speech:

Anyway, the reason for the Checkers speech was so that Senator Nixon could explain that he wasn't being a bad guy.  This was not the speech where he said "I am not a crook."  That speech was made a long time later.  But when Mr. Nixon was running for the Senate, a lot of people helped raise money for his campaign.  And then after he got in the Senate, they kept raising money to pay for him to travel to Washington and for postage and stuff like that.  And also a supporter of his who bred cocker spaniels had given his daughters a puppy.

Then Senator Nixon got nominated to run for vice-president with Mr. Eisenhower, who was running for president.  But people said Mr. Nixon was doing bad and sneaky things because he had this money that was being raised for him to use, even though it was not really against the law to raise this money.  So Mr. Nixon went on TV and told everybody that he was not doing anything wrong, and that he wasn't rich like some people who were running for office, which was why he needed the money, and most important, he said that even if he had to give all the money back, he would not give back his dog, Checkers, because his daughters Julie and Tricia loved that dog a whole bunch.

About 60 million people listened to the Checkers speech, and some of them even cried because they knew what it meant to love a dog, and so they told the Republican National Committee that Mr. Nixon was a nice guy with a heart of gold, and that he should run for vice-president, which he did, and he won.  And the speech was important in history because it was one of the first times a politician had used TV to talk to a lot of people.  And because Mr. Nixon talked about Checkers in a way that made everybody feel sorry for him, whenever any politician did that kind of thing in the future, it was called a "Checkers speech."

Checkers died in 1964, and he got buried on Long Island in the Bide-a-Wee Pet Cemetery.  Here's a photo of his grave.  There were some rumors for a while that Checkers would be dug up and buried at the Nixon Library in California, but these rumors were false.  So Checkers is still there on Long Island, and all the rest of his family are buried in California.

Anyway, so after Mr. Nixon was the vice-president for two terms, he ran for president, but he lost to John F. Kennedy.  Then he tried to be the governor of California, but he lost that race, too.  After that, he said he was going to stay out of politics.

But he didn't stay out of politics.  Instead, he ran for president again in 1968, and this time he won.  When the Nixons moved into the White House, they had two dogs.  One of these dogs was a poodle named Vicky, and the other was a Yorkie named Pasha.  Vicky and Pasha were playmates for the Nixon girls, who were getting pretty much grown up by this time.  Then the White House staff gave Mr. Nixon an Irish setter named King Timahoe, so after that there were three First Dogs.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Timahoe is the name of a town in Ireland, so that's where the Irish setter's name came from.

These dogs were all well-behaved, and so they sometimes got to hang out in the Oval Office and such places while meetings were going on.  President Nixon kept some doggy treats in his office, just in case one of the dogs got hungry.  King Timahoe used to greet visitors by offering his paw to shake.

But President Nixon didn't usually like to be seen in public with the dogs because he sometimes got tangled up in the leashes, and he did not want some photographer taking his picture just when he was in a silly-looking position.

In 1972, Mr. Nixon ran for president again, and a ton of people voted for him, so he got elected.  But then there was this great big scandal called Watergate, and that's when Mr. Nixon said "I am not a crook."  But more and more people started to think that he really was a crook, so the Congress was going to throw him out of office.  But to save them the trouble, Mr. Nixon resigned as president.  Then he and Mrs. Nixon and the three dogs went back to California, where they all eventually got old and died.

And that's the story of the Nixon dogs, who were really all much better behaved than their dad.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Fox, the Cock, and the Dog

Here is another fable by our old friend, Mr. Aesop:


One moonlight night a Fox was prowling about a farmer's hen-coop, and saw a Cock roosting high up beyond his reach.   "Good news, good news!" he cried.

"Why, what is that?" said the Cock.

"King Lion has declared a universal truce. No beast may hurt a bird henceforth, but all shall dwell together in brotherly friendship."

"Why, that is good news," said the Cock; "and there I see some one coming, with whom we can share the good tidings." And so saying he craned his neck forward and looked afar off.

"What is it you see?" said the Fox.

"It is only my master's Dog that is coming towards us. What, going so soon?" he continued, as the Fox began to turn away as soon as he had heard the news. "Will you not stop and congratulate the Dog on the reign of universal peace?"

"I would gladly do so," said the Fox, "but I fear he may not have heard of King Lion's decree."

Cunning often outwits itself


This is a pretty good story, and here's why:  the Fox thinks he is being really smart and can fool the Cock into trusting him and coming down from his roosting place.  And after the Cock does that, the Fox can grab him and eat him, which would be a very yummy meal for the Fox.

But the Cock is actually even smarter than the Fox, because he fools the Fox into thinking that the Master's Dog is coming, and the Fox doesn't want to be attacked by the Dog, so he runs away.  The Dog is clearly a loyal and faithful Dog who protects the chickens from foxes.  Probably, the Dog would like to eat chickens himself, but he has been trained by his Master to protect the chickens instead of eating them.  So the Dog is smart, and the Cock is smart, and the Fox thinks he is smart, but he's not really very smart at all.

And the lesson we can learn from this fable is that you should be careful when you are trying to outsmart somebody because that somebody might be smarter than you are.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Eating Dogs! Yikes!

I know that this is a gross and disgusting subject, but I feel like someone should talk about it, so that's what I'm going to do today.  And if you don't want to read about it, I will totally understand.

Anyway, here it is, the horrible truth:  There are people who EAT DOGS, just like they would eat chicken or pork or beef.  And in my opinion, that is just not right.  In some countries, the eating of dogs is now against the law, but not everywhere.

One of the countries where dogs are eaten the most is China.  People have been eating dogs there for thousands and thousands of years.  The Chinese call dog meat "fragrant meat" or "mutton of the earth."  Many Chinese through the ages believed that this meat would act like medicine and keep their bodies warmer and healthier, so they especially liked to eat it in the winter.

Chinese people have always kept dogs as pets, and they do not eat their pet dogs.  They only eat dogs that are specially raised to be used for meat.  Usually, these dogs get made into meat when they are between 6 and 12 months old.  And the way they are usually cooked is they are made into stew or else they are roasted.

It is still an accepted practice to eat dog meat in China, but most Chinese people don't eat dogs nowadays. In fact, some people are totally against eating dog meat because the dogs are not treated nicely, and they are killed in cruel ways.  There's a group called the Chinese Animal Protection Network that has been protesting the eating of dogs and cats.  A lot of people think this group has the right idea, so they have signed a pledge online that they will never ever eat dog or cat meat.

In Japan, people eat dogs that they import from China.  Some other countries where people really like to eat dog meat are Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tonga, Vietnam, and East Timor.

In Korea, people used to eat a lot of dog meat, but now it is against the law to use it as a food ingredient.  Here are some other countries where people used to eat dogs, but now they don't:  Mexico, The Philippines, Polynesia, Switzerland, France, and Germany.

In a lot of countries, eating dog meat is not really against the law, but it is considered to be "taboo," which means people think it's icky, so they just don't do it.  This is true in places like Canada and India.  It's also true in the U.S., but some states have actually made eating dog meat illegal, and other states haven't.

Some American Indian tribes used to eat dog meat.  Captain Lewis and Captain Clark reported this when they were on their Big Expedition to the West Coast, during which they met lots of Indians.  Captain Lewis thought dog meat tasted pretty yummy, but Captain Clark could not bring himself to eat a dog.  Anyway, even though dog meat was a delicacy for some Indian tribes, for others, like the Apaches, it was a taboo to eat it.

One problem with eating dog meat is that if it is not inspected and stuff, like other types of meat are, it can make you sick.  Just last year, some people in Vietnam got sick with cholera because they ate infected dog meat.  And people have also gotten rabies from eating it.

During my in-depth research, I found two descriptions of what dog meat tastes like.  One person said it tastes more like pork than like any other kind of meat, but it also has its very own flavor.  There are a lot of bones in it, kind of like chicken has, but the skin is tougher and more fatty.

The other person said that dog meat tastes like mutton, but that it is leaner, and it has lots of bones.  Also there is some skin attached, which makes it chewy.

Mom says that if she were starving to death, and there was nothing else to eat, she would eat dog meat.  This is what some of the explorers in Antarctica and the Arctic had to do.  They had to eat some of their sled dogs in order to keep from starving.  But Mom says she would not eat any of her own dogs, which I was glad to hear her say.  I guess I would eat dog meat, too, if I was really hungry, but I wouldn't want anybody to eat ME.  So what I think people should do is mostly just eat other kinds of meat that doesn't come from dogs.  Or better yet, just eat plants!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

PIGEONS

Pigeons are birds with kind of shiny feathers that look pretty in the sun.  And also they have beady orange eyes.  Pigeons used to be sometimes called Rock Doves, but now they are officially called Rock Pigeons.  And their fancy scientific name is Columba livia.  Pigeons and doves are all part of the same bird family, except usually the bigger ones are called pigeons and the smaller ones are called doves.  They all make that "coo coo coo" sound, which is nice to listen to, and they all like to poop on statues.


Rock Pigeons were named that because they build nests in rocky places like cliffs.  But they also build nests in barns or trees or on the ground or under the eaves of your house.  The nests are mostly just a pile of sticks with that sort of thrown-together look.  I guess pigeons have more important things to do than designing fancy nests.


When pigeons mate, they stick with that same mate, which is called being monogamous.  Dogs don't do this, but some birds do it and so do some people.  Anyway, the happy pigeon couple makes one or two eggs, which they put in their stick nest, and then both the mom and dad pigeon take care of the eggs and the babies, which are called "squabs."  Here's a picture of some squabs, which are really ugly, if you want my opinion.  Puppies and kittens are way cuter!


Pigeons are pretty sociable, so they like to roost together in groups in places like the local park or on buildings or on telephone lines.  One important question I have about pigeons is how they know which telephone pole to sit on.  Because, if you have ever noticed, you will see a whole bunch of pigeons sitting on one particular pole and the wires around it, but not on other poles.  I was hoping to find the answer to this question while doing my research, but I didn't find it, so if anybody knows the answer, could you please tell me?


I have never eaten a pigeon, but I think they are probably very tasty.  I say this because pigeons have a lot of predators, and here's a list of some of them:  falcons, hawks, owls, eagles, possums, raccoons, owls, and cats.  Also people sometimes hunt pigeons and eat them.

Pigeons can also be kept as pets.  Back in the old days, pigeons used to be trained to carry messages.  Some pigeons have carried messages during wars, and have even won awards and medals for doing this, just like war dogs have.  Which is pretty amazing for a bird, if you ask me.

We don't really have any pigeons in our neighborhood where we live right now, but where Mom used to live, there were pigeons.  One time, a pair of them built a nest in a little place under the eaves on her house, and then they had babies.  But the roof was slanted, so the nest kept trying to slide down.  But the squabs still managed to grow up and be adult pigeons.  After which, the nest slid all the way down and clogged up the gutter.  It's stuff like this that makes some people not like pigeons, but Mom still likes them because she thinks they are pretty, and she likes the cooing noise they make.  And I like them because I would really like to catch one and eat it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PHYSICAL THERAPY FOR ME, TOO! by Gabe

Well, guess what!  I get to do physical therapy, too, and I started doing it yesterday.  Piper and I both went there together, and I think I do it better than she does.  So there!  Plus I even liked the swimming part!  Piper thinks I'm crazy, but I think she's crazy, too, so it's kind of mutual.

Anyway, Mom put my basket muzzle on me so that I couldn't bite Dr. Connie or Nurse Katie.  I did kind of snark at Dr. Connie one time, but mostly I was very, very good.  Dr. Connie was pleased about how cooperative I was and how I did all the stuff they wanted me to do, and I didn't balk like Piper, and I didn't bite them, either.  But they kept the muzzle on me, just to be safe.

Dr. Connie told Mom that she thinks my problem is that my muscles and stuff are hurting me, and not so much my back.  This stuff that hurts is called the "soft tissue."  So one thing they did to me was massage my neck and my thighs, and I liked that, and Mom is going to do that to me, too.  And Dr. Connie measured my thighs, and she said I have a little atrophy in my right thigh, just like Piper does.

Another thing they did with me was they stretched me over this great big ball.  That felt pretty good, too.  And then I got in the pool, and I did a little bit of swimming, and Nurse Katie was there to make sure I didn't drown.  Which just goes to prove that not all basenjis hate water all the time, in spite of what Piper might tell you.

So anyway, everything went fine, and then Mom came to the therapy room, and Dr. Connie told her about all the things I did and what a good boy I was.  And she also told Mom about the exercises they did with Piper that Mom should try to do with her at home.  I say "try" to do because Piper doesn't always do what she is supposed to, even with a treat to convince her.

And after that, they were trying to get me to do "down" and then lie on my side, so they could show Mom how to stretch out my back leg and scrunch it up again, which they had done with me earlier.  But I started getting scared with 3 people all pushing at me and trying to make me lie down, so I had to start snarling and snapping at them to tell them to back off.  And I would have gladly bitten someone if I hadn't been wearing that dumb muzzle.

So Mom said not to mess with me anymore because once I got like that, I would just stay like that for a while.  Mom knows these things from prior experience!  So Dr. Connie had to demonstrate the leg stretching thing on Piper, except that Piper was all squirmy and uncooperative, so it was a little hard to do.  But Dr. Connie also gave Mom some photos of how to do it, so Mom thinks she can figure it out.

Then after that, Mom paid the bill, and she asked Dr. Keil's nurse about my eye goopy, which keeps coming back.  And the nurse said I need to go see Dr. Keil again, so Mom will have to make an appointment.

Oh, and speaking of doctors, Piper and I went to see Dr. Patricia last week to get our check-ups and also some shots and stuff.  And Mom told Dr. Patricia that I was licking myself a lot on my legs and tummy and thighs and places like that, which drives Mom nuts when I do that.  So Dr. Patricia looked at some of the places I have been licking, and she said she would take a skin scraping to see if I have mites.  And also she thought we should do a test for fungus, which we have never done before.  What happens in the fungus test is they send a little bit of my hair to the lab, and then they put it in a special dish and try to make the fungus grow, which takes about a month.

And Piper also has this place in her armpit that she keeps licking and scratching, so she got a skin scraping and a fungus test, too.  And meanwhile, we have to take antihistamines, plus I am already taking prednisone and a bunch of other stuff.  So with all the things that got done at Dr. Patricia's office, the bill was over $600, which did not make Mom very happy.

Mel is also due for some shots and stuff, but Mom hasn't made an appointment for him yet.  Mom says that we dogs are very expensive to have around, and it's a good thing she loves us or else she would throw us out in the snow.  Ha!  Mom thinks she is soooooo funny sometimes!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents' Day

Today is Yet Another Holiday, and it's called Presidents' Day.  Tomorrow we can go back to just having regular days, but first we have to celebrate Presidents' Day.  Back in the old days, when Mom was a little kid, people used to celebrate George Washington's birthday and also sometimes Abraham Lincoln's birthday.  But then someone decided it would be easier to have a Generic Presidents' Day when we could just think about all the presidents, or else about the president of our choice.

So I generically chose a president to tell you about, and the president I chose was Mr. Rutherford B. Hayes.  There are two reasons why I chose Mr. Hayes, and one is because he has a funny-sounding first name.  And the other is because he had a bunch of dogs and other animals, which means he must have been a good person and probably a good president, too.  Here's a picture of Mr. Hayes looking presidential:

Mr. Hayes was born in 1822 in the town of Delaware, Ohio, which is confusing name for a town because it sounds like you live in two states at once.  Anyway, Mr. Hayes went to college and then he went to Harvard Law School, and then he became a lawyer in Cincinnati.


In 1852, he married a woman named Lucy Ware Webb.  Here's a picture of them on their wedding day.  I guess in those days, people didn't smile or wear white dresses for their weddings.

Miss Lucy Webb also grew up in Ohio, and she also lived in Delaware, Ohio some of the time.  Then she went to Wesleyan Women's College.  Later on, she became the first First Lady to ever have graduated from college.  She had a strong opinion about slavery, which was that it should be done away with.  So she talked Mr. Hayes into joining the Republican Party because it was against slavery.

During the Civil War, Mr. Hayes was wounded five times, and Mrs. Hayes went to visit him in camp, and she took care of him there.  Also she helped the soldiers get supplies and stuff they needed.  By the end of the War, Mr. Hayes was a Major General.  Then he went into politics and ended up being the governor of Ohio twice.

He got elected president in 1876, but only by one electoral vote, and more of the voters actually voted for the other guy.  A lot of people were unhappy about this, so a bunch of arguing went on, but finally they made a deal, and Mr. Hayes became President Hayes.

Both President and Mrs. Hayes loved animals, so they had a whole bunch of them.  Here's a picture of Mrs. Hayes with their cocker spaniel, who was named Dot.  Mrs. Hayes also had a cat named Piccolomini, a peacock, and a mockingbird.  Mr. Hayes had a black dog named Jet, a Newfoundland named Hector, and a greyhound named Grim.  Also there were Deke, the English mastiff, two hunting dogs named Juno and Shep, and two shepherd dogs.  Oh, and a goat.  But some of these animals were ones they got later after they retired and went back home to Ohio.

President Hayes liked to write in his diary about his dogs.  Grim, the greyhound, was sent to him as a gift from Mrs. William DuPont in Wilmington.  Grim was two years old, and the whole family loved him.  In fact, Grim became famous all over the country.  Then a terrible thing happened, and Grim got killed, which made everybody really sad.  And the way he got killed was that a train hit him because he was just standing on the train track.  President Hayes thought maybe Grim was used to having carriages go around him when he stood in the road, so he thought the train would also go around him.

I think I forgot to mention that the Hayeses had eight children, too.  Three of them died when they were little, but five grew up to be adults.

Anyway, that's all I could find out about the First Animals that Mr. and Mrs. Hayes had, but I learned a few other interesting facts, and here they are:
1.  The first telephone in the White House was put in while Mr. Hayes was president.
2.  Mrs. Hayes was called "Lemonade Lucy" because she thought alcoholic drinks were bad, and she didn't serve them in the White House.
3.  The Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn was invented by Mrs. Hayes.
4.  President Hayes did not try to be president again.  He thought presidents should only serve one term, but that the term should be six years long.
5.  Mr. and Mrs. Hayes retired in Fremont, Ohio.  She died of a stroke in 1889 and he died from a heart attack in 1893.