Tuesday, August 31, 2010

RATS!

We have rats living right here in our neighborhood, and we can smell them because of our superior doggy sniffing abilities.  But we don't usually see the rats because they live in holes in the ground, and they only come out at night when we are all sleeping in Mom's bedroom.

The kind of rats we have here are called brown rats, which is a really boring name, but it pretty much describes them.  Sometimes they are called Norway rats, sewer rats, Hanover rats, or wharf rats.  The fancy scientific name for these rats is Rattus norvegicus, which means "Norway rat."  And the reason the rats got this name was because the scientist who gave them their name thought the rats had come to England on ships from Norway in 1728.  But he was wrong about this, because guess what, there weren't even any rats living in Norway yet in 1728.

So we're not sure where the rats really came from in the beginning, but probably it was from northern China and Mongolia.  But by the time people figured this out, they were used to blaming Norway for the rats, so they didn't bother to change the rats' name to China rat.

Nowadays, there are rats everywhere in the world except in Antarctica and in the Arctic, because it is mostly too cold for them to live there.  This map shows all the places in red where rats live, and Missouri is one of the red places, so that is why we have rats here.

The rat hole in Henry's yard



Our rats like to live in the sewer, which is a big pipe that runs through the ground under the street.  Rats are good swimmers, so they don't mind if the sewer is full of water.  A lot of the time, the rats just go in the sewer through the drains because that is less work than digging a tunnel.  But sometimes they dig a hole, and we can see these holes when we are out walking with Mom.  There's a rat hole in Henry's yard, and Henry's dad keeps filling it up, but then the rats dig the hole out again.

Down inside their burrow, the rats make a nest where they can have their babies.  and also they have escape tunnels in case they need to get out in a hurry.  Rats are very chummy, so they live in groups, where they sleep together and even groom each other.  They have a Greek alphabet system like dogs do, with an alpha rat, beta rat, and so on.  Also they like to live where there are people, the same as dogs do, because people are a good source of food.  Rats are very smart to figure this out.  So they live in places like garbage dumps and alleys and sewers.  The alpha rat gets to live closest to the food supply, and the omega rat lives farthest away from it, so sometimes the omega rat doesn't get enough to eat and then it dies.

Rats are very good at making baby rats.  The girl rats can mate when they are only 11 weeks old and weigh 4 ounces.  After the boy rat mates with her, he leaves her alone to raise the family all by herself, which seems very irresponsible, if you ask me.  So the girl rat makes a round nest out of sticks or straw, and then after about three weeks, she has between 6 and 11 babies.  When they are born, they are blind and they don't have any hair, so the mama rat has to take care of them for three weeks, and then they are mostly grown up and can go out on their own.


A female rat can have three to five litters in one year, which is a lot of baby rats.  Some rats live to be three years old, but 95% do not even make it to their first birthday.  This is because there are a ton of predators out there eating rats.  If a whole bunch of one group of rats dies, the ones that are left start making lots more babies to get the number in their group up again.

Rats like to sleep all day and then go out at night looking for food.  They mostly find food using their noses because they have a good sense of smell, but they don't see very well.  They will eat almost anything, but they especially like grains.  They will also eat meat, like for example, ducklings.  There was this scientist named Martin Schein who once studied what brown rats like to eat, and he said the three things they liked best were (1) scrambled eggs, (2) macaroni and cheese, and (3) cooked corn kernels.  And what they really hated to eat was raw beets, peaches, and raw celery.

Brown rats can carry a bunch of nasty-sounding diseases with names that are really hard to spell, so I am not going to tell you what they are.  Some people blame brown rats for the bubonic plague, but actually it is the fleas that bite black rats and some other rodents that made people get sick from the plague.  After there started being lots more brown rats than black rats, there stopped being so much plague.

I think that rats would be very yummy to eat, so if I ever catch one, I will eat it.  But what you shouldn't ever eat is RAT POISON because it can KILL YOU!  Or at least it can make you really, really sick.  And the way it does that is it makes you start bleeding inside, and then it takes a long time to die, and you feel really icky the whole time.  So if you ever find any rat poison, don't eat it!  And if you find a rat that died from rat poison, don't eat the rat, either!

Mom thinks that rats are cute, and I guess some other people do, too, because they started breeding them a long time ago to make them be more tame and have interesting markings and stuff like that.  These kinds of rats are called "fancy rats," and there are even shows where you can take your rat to win a ribbon, just like in a dog show.




I asked Mom if we could have some pet rats, but she said no.  I might have known she would say that.  She likes to look at the rats and hamsters and guinea pigs and mice in the pet store, but she thinks she already has too many animals to take care of.  In my opinion, she is totally wrong about this, but sometimes there is just no arguing with her.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Our Neighbors' New Roof

Our neighbors on one side of us are getting a new roof.  They have been getting the new roof for a week now, but they are still not finished getting it.  These are not the neighbors where Henry the wheaten terrier lives.  These are the neighbors on the other side of us.  They don't have a dog, which is sad, because everybody should have a dog.  Or at least a cat.

Anyway, the reason these people have to get a new roof is because their old roof was really, really old.  And the reason it was so very old is because there used to be an old couple named Mr. and Mrs. Price who lived in that house, and they didn't do much to fix up the house, on account of maybe they didn't have much money in their old age.

So when Mom first moved into our house, Mr. Price had to have an oxygen tank thing all the time, but Mrs. Price seemed like she was healthier, and she liked to sit outside and read books.  Then she surprised everybody by dying first, even though everyone thought Mr. Price would die first.  And then after a year or so, he died, too.

And after that, the house was for sale and somebody bought it really cheap because it needed a lot of work.  So this guy that bought it did a little work, but he did not fix the roof, and then he sold it again, and the next guy did some more work, but he did not fix the roof either.  And then the house was for sale for a long time, and finally a family bought it, and they are the ones who live there now.  And this family is made up of a mom named Michelle, who is a fire fighter, and two kids named Katy and Jacob.  And no dogs.

So this family has lived there like maybe three years now, and they have been fixing up different parts of the house every year.  And now they are finally getting a new roof.  And after they get the new roof, they are going to get new paint on the house.  We don't know what color the house will be when it is painted, but we hope it won't be white because white is boring.

Anyway, Mom says she has never seen a roofing job take as long as this one is taking but there is a lot of stuff to be done besides the roof, like for instance new trim has to be put on because the old trim is sort of rotten.  Also there are only three guys doing this whole job.  And the three guys are (1) the long-haired guy who smokes, (2) the shirtless guy with lots of tattoos, and (3) the very friendly Hispanic guy.

Mom didn't get a photo of the shirtless guy, which is kind of sad because he has nice muscles.  Not that Mom pays much attention to that sort of thing.  Mostly she is interested in his tattoos, but it's kind of hard to see them very well, just looking out our bedroom window.  But what we can see for sure is that he has a really big spider tattoo on his back.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that there is a big huge orange trash thing in the neighbors' driveway, and now it is mostly full of roof trash.  Aunt Michelle told Mom that she could put trash in the orange thing, too, if she wanted, so Mom took a rug over there that she was going to throw away, and she put it in the orange thing.  The reason Mom had to throw this rug away is because Gabe peed on it while his pee was still really stinky from his UTI, and Mom didn't want to try to clean the rug again because she already had to clean it once before when the same thing happened to it.

Well, okay, that's all I'm going to say about the neighbors' roof.  I'm just glad we don't have to get a new roof on our house because it is a noisy, messy thing to have happen right up above your head, and I don't think I would like it very much!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What Mom Bought at Art Unleashed

Last night Mom went to Art Unleashed, which is this big auction thing the Humane Society does every year to raise money for the poor, homeless cats and dogs.  Mom likes to go to this event a whole bunch because she likes artwork.  And also they have good food there.  Dogs can go to Art Unleashed, but only if they are homeless dogs from the Humane Society.  So my brothers and I did not go there because we already have a home.

Anyway, Mom bid on lots of different pieces of artwork, but she only ended up with three of them.  She could have had more if she had wanted to bid higher, but she didn't.  I wish Mom had bought a picture of a basenji, but she said she didn't see any pictures of basenjis there, which is very sad because basenjis are so incredibly cute.


Here's the first picture that Mom bought, and it is called "Spot."  It only cost $15, which I think may be more than it is worth because it is very strange, in my opinion.  This dog doesn't even look very much like a dog, besides being all sorts of weird colors that you could never find on a real dog.  Plus the dog looks fierce and scary.  Mom thinks that "Spot" is kind of funky and funny-looking, but if I had been allowed to go to Art Unleashed, I would have told Mom not to bid on it.



Okay, this one is a little better because it says "Good Dog" on it, and most dogs try to be good dogs.  But the dog in the painting is blue, which is a totally wrong color for a dog.  And also his teeth look more like beaver teeth than like dog teeth.  It really makes you wonder what humans are thinking when they make such goofy pictures of dogs.  Mom paid $70 for this painting, but I hope she doesn't think that me and my brothers look like this!


Okay, well, here's the third painting, which is the best one, if you ask me, even though this dog looks very stiff and square.  But at least he is the right color for a dog, and he seems halfway friendly.  If he had prick ears and a curly tail, he could almost look sort of like a basenji.  Mom paid $105 for this painting.

Anyway, the good thing about artwork is that Mom hangs it up on the wall where we dogs can't really see it very well because we aren't tall enough.  And since Mom has such weird taste in art, that's fine with me.

Oh, and before I forget.  Remember that crazy collage cat thing that Mom made to donate to Art Unleashed?  Well, it sold for $20, which made Mom kind of proud since she never even went to art school or anything.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Adventures While Walking

It's time for me to tell you about more of the Exciting Adventures that we have had lately in our neighborhood.  For a while, we didn't have any Adventures While Walking because it was too hot to walk.  But now we can go out there without getting a heat stroke and dropping dead in the street, which Mom thinks would not be a good thing for us to do.  So anyway, Mom took her camera along the other day to get some new pictures of our adventures.

We are still finding cicadas to eat, so that makes walking more fun.  Here's a picture of Gabe eating a cicada that he found.  Yum!


And here's a cicada that Mom got a picture of before Gabe ate it.  Gabe is very good at finding cicadas, so it's hard for Mom to even get a picture of one before it gets snarfed up by Gabe.  If Mom sees a cicada that we dogs missed, she will tap her foot by it until we come and grab it.  We have all learned that if Mom taps her foot by something on the floor, it means "Hey, you might be interested in this."


Acorns are starting to fall again, and that means the squirrels are out.  We see lots of squirrels when we are walking, but they are very fast, and they run up the trees, and since we are on a leash, we can't chase them very well.  This is a sad situation, but that's the way it is.  So usually we don't even try to chase the squirrels.  We just stand around wishing we could.


Here's a picture of me being a good girl and doing all my pottying in the middle of the street.  I have found that that is a very good place to potty, unless the pavement is slanted, and then the pee runs over my feet, which I don't like very much.


These people's kids always leave their toys and bikes and scooters on the sidewalk.  Mom is annoyed by this because she thinks the kids will grow up to be people who don't take care of the stuff they own and who just leave it lying around in everybody else's way.  Also Mom doesn't know why these kids' bikes and scooters don't get stolen, because it would be really easy to steal them.  But personally, I don't care if the toys are on the sidewalk because I think they are interesting to sniff.


This storm drain has a shoe sitting on top of it.  We don't know why.  First the shoe was down in the street, where it looked like it was about to wash down the drain, but it never did.  Then somebody put the shoe on top of the drain.  Maybe they thought the person who dropped their shoe would come by and take it home with them.  I don't know how someone can lose a shoe in the street and not notice that it fell off, but sometimes humans do strange things that I can't understand.  I'm just glad that dogs don't have to wear shoes.


At the end of the block, there are two trees with great big yellow ribbons on them.  Mom says that people used to tie yellow ribbons around trees and stuff to welcome soldiers home from a war.  Or sometimes it meant that people wanted a war to be over, because they didn't agree with the war.  There aren't so many yellow ribbons around these days, but now we have two on our street, so if any soldiers come here, I guess they will feel welcome.


Here's a house that's for sale.  It used to look really, really terrible, like not the kind of house you would want to live in.  But then somebody fixed it up and painted it and made the floors all shiny again, and planted some bushes and stuff.  So now it looks all pretty and nice, except nobody has bought it yet, maybe because nobody can afford to buy houses because of the Bad Economy.  Which is kind of sad, because I think the house looks lonely.


We saw this man standing on a ladder.  He was from the telephone company.  I think it would be scary to stand up there where all those wires are because if you touch the wrong ones, they can kill you.  So you will not see me climbing any ladders!


Oh boy!  It's the UPS truck!  Sometimes it comes to our street, and then Barry and Mel go crazy barking because they think the UPS driver will come to our door.  And sometimes he does come to our door to bring us a package that Mom ordered.  Mostly Mom only orders books and DVDs, but sometimes she orders Dog Stuff.  I wish she would order Dog Stuff more often!


Okay, that's all the adventures for one day.  Did you notice that I changed my blog to be purple and pink?  I think it looks very pretty that way.  Mom helped me figure out how to pick the new colors and stuff.  Since it is Year Number Two of my blog, we thought it was time for a new look!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's the ANNIVERSARY of my BLOG!

It was exactly one whole year ago today when I started writing my blog.  Can you believe that?  I can hardly believe it myself.  I really surprised my silly dog brothers, because they never thought I would stick with this project.  And even Mom was kind of surprised that I did it, but I showed them!  And now it's time to begin Year Number Two of blogging.

When I started wondering what I should write about in my special Anniversary Blog Edition, I decided I should write about ME!  Because that's what this blog is about, anyway, it's about ME and all the stuff I'm interested in.  In the beginning, Mom didn't think that I would have enough things to talk about to fill up a whole blog, but she forgot that I have an opinion about almost every subject you could ever think of!

So let's see, what can I tell you about me today?  Well, I guess I can say that yesterday Mom took us cicada-hunting because the weather was nice and cool, for a change.  She took me and Gabe out together, and I even agreed to walk all the way around two whole blocks without doing hardly any balking.  We found quite a few cicadas to eat, but there are starting to be not so many of them as before.  And they don't scream at us all the time from the trees, like they used to.

Mom is a little worried about me because sometimes we find a cicada that I don't want to eat.  It used to be that I would eat any cicada that I found, but now I am a little pickier about which ones I eat.  Mom doesn't know why this is, but I don't think I always have to explain my M.O. -- which stands for modus operandi, and that's Latin for "This is the way I do things, so deal with it!"

In fact, Mom is a little worried about me anyway because she thinks I don't have much energy these days.  But who needs energy?  In my opinion, it's better just to take lots of naps.  And besides that, I am getting to be a more "mature" dog, so I can't exactly go around acting like a goofy puppy all the time.

Okay, well, I've got a little time left over, so maybe I will talk about Gabe a little bit, too.  He just started taking some new orange capsule things because he has a very bad Urinary Tract Infection.  Yesterday Mom took Gabe to visit Dr. Patricia, and they mostly just sat and talked about Gabe and about how to keep him from getting more UTIs in the future, after he gets all cured from the one he has now.  And also they want to have him take less prednisone because the prednisone is doing some sort of bad things to him.

And Mom is worried that Gabe might have cancer in his bladder, just because she heard of a basenji on her internet list who has bladder cancer, and also because Gabe's sire died of cancer, but it wasn't bladder cancer.  Dr. Patricia said she thought Gabe's symptoms would be different if he had cancer, but she also said that if Mom was worried about it, they could do x-rays and a sonogram on Gabe to make sure.  Dr. Patricia is always really nice about letting Mom spend extra money on us dogs.  Ha!  So anyway, now Gabe has to go there on Monday morning to get that stuff done.  But at least he is allowed to have breakfast before he goes, so that is good.

Okay, well, that is the end of this special Anniversary Edition of my blog.  I just want to say thank you to all my faithful followers and readers.  It's lots more fun to write a blog when you think that somebody might actually read it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

President Hoover's Dogs

Well, since I started thinking about Iowa when Mom went there, I decided to check out the only president that ever was born in Iowa, and that was Herbert Hoover.  And of course what I wanted to know was did he have any dogs?  So I did some in-depth research, and I was happy to learn that President Hoover and his wife, Mrs. First Lady Hoover, both liked dogs very much, so they had a bunch of them.

But before I tell you about the Hoover dogs, I will tell you that Mr. Hoover was born in a little house in 1874 in West Branch, Iowa.  Mom has actually been to visit this house, but that was several years ago, and all she remembers about it is that it was small and white.  Anyway, Mr. Hoover was the first U.S. president to be born west of the Mississippi River.

After he finished being a child in Iowa, Mr. Hoover went to Stanford University, in California, which was a brand-new school at that time.  He graduated in 1895 with a degree in geology.  Also while he was there, he met Lou Henry, and later on, he married her.  She was also from Iowa, and she also got a degree in geology.

Mr. Hoover went to work for a company that was digging mines in Australia, so he lived there for a while. And later on, he and Mrs. Hoover lived in China.  Then World War I came along, so Mr. Hoover did a bunch of work to help supply food and stuff like that to people in Europe who needed it.

After the war, President Harding gave Mr. Hoover the job of being the Secretary of Commerce.  Then when 1928 came along, the Republican Party wanted Mr. Hoover to run for president.  So he did, and he told everybody that Americans would have plenty of money and that he would make the government be more efficient.  He said, "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land."

That's what Mr. Hoover said, and people believed him.  Plus he gave everybody an autographed picture of himself with his dog, King Tut, who was a German Shepherd.  And he held King Tut's paws up so that it looked like he was begging for votes for his dad.  And everybody liked what Mr. Hoover said, and they liked the photo, and so they voted for him, and he won the election bigtime.

Then Mr. Hoover started being President Hoover.  And he and Mrs. Hoover had three children and a lot of dogs living with them in the White House.   King Tut was the president's favorite dog.  He got adopted in Belgium during the war, when Mr. Hoover was there giving out food to hungry people.

The Hoovers also had two fox terriers named Big Ben and Sonnie, a Scotch collie named Glen, an Eskimo dog named Yukon, a setter named Eaglehurst Gilette, an elkhund named Weejie, and another German shepherd named Pat.  Oh, and then there was also a great big huge Irish wolfhound named Patrick, who was given to Mrs. Hoover by his breeder because the breeder was an old school friend of Mrs. Hoover's.

So everybody was mostly happy for about six months until the Stock Market crashed.  And when that happened, lots of people lost lots of money, and they lost their jobs, and they lost their homes.  And they didn't have any food, so they had to go to soup kitchens to get a little something to eat.

President Hoover didn't really know what to do or how do deal with this horrible situation, so people started blaming him for all the bad stuff that was happening.  I don't know if it was really his fault or not because I don't understand all that money stuff, but I do know that President Hoover did not really make it onto the list of the best presidents ever.  In my opinion, though, anybody who liked dogs as much as he did couldn't have been all bad.


Anyway, while President Hoover was feeling super stressed about the Great Depression and how to make it all better, his favorite dog, King Tut, was all stressed because he thought it was up to him to guard the Hoover family and also the White House.  So he would patrol the lawn every night, and he would bark at people who came in to see President Hoover.  And all this stress made him get all frustrated and sad, and he didn't feel like eating, so he lost weight.  And finally President Hoover sent King Tut away to a place where he could be more relaxed and happy, but King Tut did not feel relaxed and happy.  Instead, he just kept not eating, and he kept wasting away until he died.

President Hoover was very sad when King Tut died, but he did not tell the American people that he was sad about his dog because he knew people were worried about lots of other important things, like where to get food to eat.  And also President Hoover was a very private man, which is one reason why people didn't like him, because they thought he wasn't very warm and caring.  So when President Hoover tried to get re-elected in 1932, he lost to another dog lover named Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

After President Hoover wasn't president anymore, he and Mrs. Hoover went to live in their house in California.  Sometimes they liked to get in their car and just go driving for hundreds of miles and visit mining camps and all sorts of places.  Also Mr. Hoover liked to go fishing, and he even wrote a book about fishing.  All together, he wrote 16 books.

When Mr. Hoover died in 1964, he was 90 years old.  He was retired from being President for 31 years, which is the longest retirement yet of any president.  I don't know if he still had dogs when he was old, but I like to think that he did.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cats do NOT rule! Sheesh!

I can't believe Mom let that crazy Chloe take over my blog and write that dumb entry yesterday.  It's pretty clear to me that things got totally out of control while we dogs were being held prisoner at Pooches' Paradise.  I heard that the cats were running all over the house, and Charlie even went down in the basement when Mom was doing the laundry.  And during the night, the cats kept jumping on the bed while Mom was trying to sleep, and Chloe was sharpening her claws on the mattress.  Mom really needed us dogs here to protect her from all this silliness.  But now we are back, so the cats had better beware!  

Friday night there was a big storm here with lots of wind and stuff, and that made Barry and Mel really nervous.  But we all survived the storm, and Barry did not rip any of his teeth out, like he did that one time when he was being boarded during a storm.

Mom told me that she and her friends who were driving to Des Moines had to drive through a really scary part of the storm, and it rained so hard that they almost couldn't see the road sometimes.  Mom was glad that Aunt Judy was driving and not her.  By the time they got to Des Moines, it had stopped raining, so they were glad about that.  

Oh, and remember that I told you Mom would buy some plants?  Well, sure enough, I was right!  She bought 7 plants.  But they were mostly small ones and not too expensive.  Two of them were aloes, and two were hoyas, one was a haworthia, one was an echeveria, and one was a gasteria.  Just in case you wanted to know.

Last night we watched a show on the Animal Planet that was about the Great Rift Valley, which is in the east part of Africa.  There are some really deep lakes there and high mountains, and also hot springs and geysers and all kinds of weird stuff.  We  also saw a bunch of interesting animals on the show.  We saw some hippos fighting, and one of them got killed, and we saw lions and cheetahs hunting.  And we also saw vultures and pink flamingos and lots of baboons and monkeys and mountain gorillas.  Oh, and they showed some bats in a cave and some fish down in the lakes.  And there were wildebeests and buffalos and scary crocodiles.

But we did not see any basenjis.  And I think this is because they were only showing wild animals, and also because basenjis live more in the middle and west parts of Africa, instead of in the east part.

Anyway, I'm glad we don't have any crocodiles around here, because they have big mouths with lots and lots of teeth, and they could eat up a little basenji in one big chomp!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CATS RULE!


Hi!  I'm Chloe the Cat!  You will not believe the fantastic thing that happened here in our foster home.  Our foster mom took all the dogs away Friday morning and got rid of them.  So now it's just us cats here.  Friday night, even our foster mom wasn't here, and we had the WHOLE HOUSE totally to ourselves.

And then yesterday afternoon, our foster mom came home again, but she didn't bring any dogs with her, so then we had her AND the house all to ourselves.  Obviously, this is the way things should be.  I can't believe it took our foster mom so long to figure this out.  She is pretty slow about some things.  Like, for instance, she does not understand that we need lots more food than she has been giving us.  She keeps talking about our "losing weight," but we don't care about that.  We just want to eat.  We LOVE to eat.  Eating is extremely important to us.  If we don't get to eat enough, we might die.

When our foster mom went away Friday, she gave us a bunch of food, so we were happy because we thought she had realized at long last that that is what we need and want.  So we ate all the food right away.  But then she didn't come home Friday night to feed us, so we got kind of hungry.   And then we were still hungry Saturday morning and most of the day Saturday until she finally got home and fed us again.

But now everything is lovely, and I hope it stays this way forever.  Our foster mom says she cannot adopt us, so somebody else will have to give us a Forever Home.  But maybe she will change her mind about that.

You know, this blogging stuff is kind of fun.  Now that we don't have any dogs here, maybe I can take over this blog and make it nicer and more cat-friendly.  Just keep your paws crossed, and we'll see what happens.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mom Is Going to IOWA!

Just when we thought we had all that awful cactus show stuff over with, Mom told us she is going to Iowa to be a judge for the Iowa club's show.  This was horrible news for us dogs to hear, because it means Mom is going to abandon us for TWO WHOLE DAYS at Pooches' Paradise.  She is going to take us there later this morning, and then she and three other people are going to Iowa.

The place in Iowa where they are going is called Des Moines, and it's the capital of the entire state of Iowa, so there is a State Capitol Building that has a shiny gold dome on it.  But Mom is not going to the capitol building.  She is going to the cactus show, which will be at the Merle Hay Shopping Mall.  Of course, there will be cacti there to buy, so Mom will probably buy some, even though she doesn't need any more plants because she just bought some last weekend.  But Mom is silly like that, so I am sure she will bring home some plants.


Oh, and guess what.  Mom looked through the whole list of stores at the Merle Hay Mall, and there is not a single Petco or PetsMart there, so she can't even buy us dogs any treats while she is there.  Which I think is a very sad state of affairs.

The capitol with the fancy gold dome
Anyway, you may be wondering, like I was, how the city of Des Moines got its strange name and what the name means.  So I did a little research on this subject, and I found out that before there was a city, there was first a Fort Des Moines.  And it was built at the place where the Raccoon River runs into the Des Moines River.  The man who was in charge of building the fort, Captain James Allen (who maybe was a very distant relative of Mom's, since her last name is also Allen) wanted to name it Fort Raccoon.  I think this would have been a fine name for a fort, or even for a whole city.  But the U.S. War Department told Captain Allen to use the name Fort Des Moines instead.

In French, des moines means "the monks" or "of the monks."  And that is what the early French explorers called the river.  But there weren't really any monks around at the time, which makes you wonder what those French guys were thinking.  Well, this historian named Virgil Vogel wondered the same thing, so he did a bunch of research, and he found out there used to be a group of Illinois Indians who were called "Moingona," and this name means "people by the portage."  Which was a good name for them because they lived near the Des Moines Rapids.  So Mr. Vogel thought maybe the French explorers and mapmakers started calling the river Des Moines because it was easier for them to spell and pronounce than "Moingona."

The Raccoon River, but without any raccoons
Anyway, Mom is going all the way up north to Iowa, and I was afraid it might be cold and snowy up there, but Mom says it is a lot like Missouri, which means it's hot right now, and it only snows in the winter.  Not too long ago, they had some flooding in Iowa, but not as much flooding as they have in Pakistan right now, where the whole country is pretty much underwater.

Well, I have to get ready to go to Pooches' Paradise now.  I wish I didn't have to go there.  I wish I could just stay home and have Mom stay home, too.  But Mom says she is not going away again for a long, long time, like at least until next year.  So that makes me feel a little better.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

BLACK-FOOTED FERRETS


Black-footed ferrets are ENDANGERED, but that's better than being EXTINCT, which is what people used to think the black-footed ferret was since nobody had seen one for a long, long time.  But then in 1981, a bunch of ferrets got discovered on a ranch near a town in Wyoming called Meeteetse, which is a really funny name for a town.


There were about 130 black-footed ferrets there, and scientists started watching them to make sure they were doing okay.  But then the ferrets started not doing okay because they got plague and also canine distemper, so a whole bunch of them died.  After this, there were only 18 left, so the 18 ferrets were captured and taken to several zoos and asked if they could please make some baby ferrets.  And so lots of baby ferrets, which are called kits, were born.  Then after 10 years or so, there were enough ferrets to start putting them back out in the wild, where they used to live.  But first they had to take a class called Being Wild 101.


So by 2007, the number of wild black-footed ferrets was over 750, and there were also still 250 in captivity.  And in 2008, the label for the black-footed ferret got changed from EXTINCT IN THE WILD to ENDANGERED.


Black-footed ferrets are members of the weasel family, the same as otters, badgers, and wolverines.  They are related to those ferrets like you can buy at the pet store, but the pet store ferrets are a tame variety that originally came from Europe.  The black-footed ferret is the only kind of ferret that is native to North America.

A ferret can weigh up to 2 and a half pounds.  They are 18 to 24 inches long, including their tails.  Their favorite food is prairie dogs.  In fact, 90% of what they eat is prairie dogs, which sounds like a gourmet sort of diet to me.  In a year's time, a black-footed ferret can eat about 100 prairie dogs, plus some mice and birds and insects and other stuff.  But the main thing they need to have around is prairie dogs.  And the way they hunt them is they sneak down into the prairie dogs' tunnels at night and try to get a sleeping prairie dog.  And during the day, they even live in prairie dog tunnels.


So the reason that the black-footed ferret almost went extinct was that people kept killing off all the prairie dogs, for the reasons I mentioned yesterday, and then the black-footed ferrets didn't have anything left to eat.  But now, like I say, they are making a sort of comeback.  And wherever a ferret is taken back into nature to be wild again, there has to be a great big Prairie Dog Town because it takes 125 acres of prairie dogs to feed one adult ferret.


I don't know if black-footed ferrets are good to eat or not, but they have anal scent glands, like their cousins in the weasel family, so I'm not sure I would want to try to find out.  I think that, for now, I will just stick to prairie dogs.