Thursday, June 30, 2011

ADVENTURES WHILE WALKING, by Nicky

It's time once more to tell you about everything that's happening in the neighborhood!  A lot of days it's too hot for me and Mom to want to go out walking, so we don't go.  But sometimes we have a few cool days, and then we get out and check to see what all the new developments are.


In our last exciting installment of "Adventures," we learned from the graffiti on the back of a stop sign that "Miranda hearts Jonathon."  But guess what!  This passionate situation has changed, and now we learn that it is "Not anymore."


And besides that, we discovered that "Aubrey is a female dog," which was exciting news to me, since I really like female dogs, so now I'm hoping I can meet this Aubrey.  But the other piece of news is that "No one will ever like Johnny boi... anymore."  We don't know what "boi" is.  Maybe it's the first part of Johnny's last name.  Or maybe it's not.  And is this Johnny the same person as the Jonathon that Miranda doesn't heart anymore?  It was too much drama for Mom and me, so we just had to move on and look at other things.


On Sunday night we had a big storm, with lots of wind, and several tree branches got broken.  Some of these branches were just little ones, which is what we had in our yard, but other branches were pretty big, like this one.


Because it's summertime, lots of people have lots of flowers growing in their yards, and everything looks very pretty.  The people at this house are always in the process of trying to get their trim painted, so they leave the scaffolding up all year long.  But they have tons of interesting flowers and stuff in their yard, so we like to walk by and look at it.


The hostas are blooming right now, and so are the hydrangeas.


Some people use their wheelbarrows as flower pots.  I don't know what they do if they actually need to use the wheelbarrow to haul something with.


At this house, there are two griffins standing guard.  A griffin has the body of a lion, and the head and wings of an eagle.  Griffins are supposed to be good at guarding treasure and other things of value, so I guess that's why you would want them watching over your house.


You can almost always find somebody in the neighborhood who is getting a new roof.  How many people does it take to do a roofing job?  Judging from this house, it takes about 3 to do the actual work, and 4 or 5 to watch and supervise.


This is one of Mom's favorite places to eat.  It's called Governor Stumpy's, which kind of makes you think of some old Civil War veteran stumping around on a wooden leg.  But there is really nobody of that description at Governor Stumpy's.  They just have yummy food, which I can smell when we walk by there.  I wish they allowed dogs inside, but they don't.


Mom has wondered for years how any bird can take a bath in this birdbath while it has the giant squirrel sitting in the middle of it.  But maybe it's not about the birds.  Maybe it's just about having a pedestal for the squirrel statue.


When I saw this blue thing, I thought for sure that it was some kind of alien spaceship with little green men in it.  And Mom admitted that when she first saw it, she wasn't sure what it was either.  But she was fairly certain it was not an alien spaceship.  Now she thinks that it's a wading pool with a cover on it to keep dirt and stuff out of the water.  And when she told me that, I could sort of see that she might be right.


A couple of weeks ago, we suddenly noticed that some people near us have a mimosa tree, and now it is blooming and it looks very pretty.  This reminded Mom that her dad used to try to grow a mimosa in the front yard when she was a kid.  It would grow okay for a few years, and then there would be a really cold winter, and it would die back and have to start over again.  This is probably because mimosas are only hardy to Zone 6, but we live in a little patch of Zone 5 that is surrounded by Zone 6 on all sides.  So sometimes mimosas grow here, and sometimes they don't.


We saw this juniper tree with berries on it.  I guess you can use the berries in food, but I don't think I'd want to eat them, personally.  I'd rather have a mouse or a bird.


I have no idea why Mom took a picture of this ugly fire hydrant that obviously needs to be painted.  But Mom said she thought the texture of the peeling paint was interesting.  Personally, the only thing I think that texture is good for is to catch dog pee and make it available for sniffing for a while longer.


And finally, when we got back to our block, we were surprised to see a news channel vehicle parked at a house on the other side of the street from ours.  At first we thought maybe there was some Breaking News there, but nothing seemed to be happening.  So we decided maybe the reporter or whoever it is lives at that house and is all ready to run out and cover any news story that suddenly breaks.

Well, that's it for all the most exciting neighborhood news.  In a few weeks, I'll probably report back to you with more fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

PUGS

Lots of people like to own pugs, so you have probably seen a bunch of them around.  They have cute little smooshed faces and short legs and curly tails.  Also they have a wrinkled brow that makes them look really worried.  But I think maybe what they mostly worry about is where their next treat is coming from!

Other names for this breed are Chinese pug, Dutch bulldog, Dutch mastiff, and Mini mastiff.  In Germany and Holland, pugs are called mops; in Finland, they are mopsi; in France, carline; and in Spain, doguillo.





The pug breed is very ancient, and we know this because in China, back in the time of Confucius, there are records of a short-nosed type of dog.  The Chinese emperors and nobles took these dogs out with them when they went hunting, and the bigger dogs followed along behind the chariots.  But the smaller dogs got to actually ride in the chariots, so in my opinion, it would be better to be a small dog.

By the time of the Shang Dynasty, which was 400 years BCE, there were dogs that we would call pugs today, but in Chinese they were called Lo-Chiang-Sze.  They were mostly lap dogs, and only members of the emperor's court were allowed to own them.  One emperor, Ling To (168-190 CE) liked these dogs so much that he gave the females the same rank as his wives.  The pugs were fed only the best meat and rice, and they were guarded by soldiers.  And if anybody stole one of the dogs, that person was put to death.

The faces of pugs are kind of like the faces of the Chinese fu dogs, which are also called lion dogs.  Statues of these fu dogs were put outside temples to guard them.  Several breeds have this same look, including the Pekingese, the Tibetan Spaniel, and the Lhasa apso.  Which means they probably have a common ancestor, like maybe the pug.

Buddhist monks in Tibet also began keeping pugs, and after that, the breed became popular in Japan, and then in Europe.  William, the Prince of Orange in Holland, had several pugs, and he took them with him wherever he went.  When Holland was at war with Spain in 1572, one of Prince William's pugs saved his life by warning him that somebody was coming to try to kill him.  Later on, when the prince became King William II of England, his pugs attended the coronation, and they all wore orange ribbons.

After that, pugs became very popular in England, and and they were popular in France, too.  Jos├ęphine, who later married Napoleon Bonaparte, had a pug named Fortune, and while Jos├ęphine was in Les Carmes prison, Fortune carried secret messages to her family.  The Italians also loved pugs.  In 1789, a lady named Mrs. Piozzi wrote in her journal, "Every carriage I meet here has a pug in it."

British soldiers sacked the Chinese Imperial Palace in 1860, and they took a whole bunch of pugs and pekingese dogs back to England.  Black pugs arrived in England and were first exhibited in 1886.  Queen Victoria had a lot of pugs, and she bred many of them herself.  Some of her pugs were named Olga, Pedro, Minka, Fatima, and Venus.

The pugs that you see in paintings and engravings from the 18th and 19th centuries mostly have longer legs and noses than pugs today, plus some also have cropped ears.  The pugs that were imported from China after 1860 have shorter noses and legs.

Meanwhile, in the United States, there was this thing called the Civil War going on, so people had other things to think about besides importing new dog breeds.  But after the war was over, pugs began arriving in America, and the AKC recognized the breed in 1885.  The Pug Dog Club of America was founded in 1931.


Pugs are sometimes called multum in parvo, which is Latin for "a lot in a little."  And the reason they are called that is because even though they are little dogs, they have big-dog attitudes.  They can be strong-willed, but they are usually not aggressive.  They like children, and they are sturdy enough so that they don't get hurt easily when kids play with them.  Since they are always alert, they make good watchdogs, but sometimes they get a little barky.



The colors that pugs can be are fawn, apricot fawn, silver, or black.  They have stocky bodies and tails that make a tight curl over their hips.  Because of their short faces, pugs' eyes can be injured easily.  Also they may have breathing problems, and it's hard for them to keep cool by panting, which is how dogs usually cool off.







There are lots of pugs in the world, but many of them have been bred to each other, which means that pugs can have some bad genetic problems, such as hip dysplasia, encephalitis, hemivertebrae, and demodectic mange.  Also they can suffer from overheating, obesity, or pharyngeal reflex.  And if a pug's wrinkles aren't kept clean, they can get irritated or infected.






So that's pretty much all I can tell you about pugs.  Except that pug owners seem to really like to put costumes on their dogs.  I don't know if the pugs themselves like this or not.  Since they always look kind of sad, it's hard to tell!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

FUN WITH WORDS

Maybe I should have called this blog entry "Fun with the Wrong Words" because that might tell you more about it.  But anyway, Mom said I could use some samples from her collection of funny things people say and write, and I could put them in my blog today.  All of these examples are when a person uses a certain word, and they thought they were using the right word, but really it was the wrong word, even if it was a lot like the right word.  And if that doesn't make sense, then maybe it will after I give you some examples.

These first ones are what you call homophones.  You might have learned about this kind of word in grade school, and if so, you might remember that homophones are words that sound the same, but they have different meanings and spellings.  Like for example, "meat" and "meet."

Okay, so here are some funny uses of homophones:


One sign of heat stroke is a staggering gate.
Yikes!  Look out for those staggering gates!  They're almost as dangerous as zombies!



My surgeon had a great bedside manor.
Well, he ought to be able to afford a really nice manor, with the amount he's charging you!


My dog has lost mussel mass.
Maybe he just got hungry and ate all the mussels!


And so, without further adieu....
Because saying adieu can be so sad!



These next ones are where a person used a word that was sort of like the one they should have used, but it is not the right word for what they meant to say.

He suffered a fractured sprint bone.
And you really can't sprint very fast when that bone is broken!


She was a very sick dog, but now she rules the roast.
This is my favorite one, because I'd really like to rule a roast someday!



I'm leaving a lot behind me as I tradition into the medical field.
I hope he is leaving behind a tradition of using the wrong word!

He died for injuries abstained in an automobile accident.
If only he had abstained from getting in the car that day, but who knew?

A deep-seeded truth is revealed.
And it has grown some really long roots!


He is getting his just desert.
I hope his desert has some pretty cactus plants in it!



I'm not going to heckle on the price.
It might be better to heckle the political speaker instead.

I don't even know who my descendants were 2,000 years ago.
But maybe your descendants 2,000 years in the future will know who YOU were.

A liter of basenjis is being trained for police work.
How many basenjis does it take to make a liter?  I'm not very good at metric measurements!



Okay, well, that is all the funny word uses I have for you today.  I hope you liked them.  Maybe someday, after Mom collects more of them, I can write another blog entry on this topic.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

IT'S MY 500TH BLOG ENTRY!

Wow!  I can't believe I have written such an incredible number of blog entries, and neither can Mom!  And with both of us working together (although I did most of the work), we have written this big, huge bunch of words and put them on the internet for people to read!  I told Mom I wanted to celebrate this important milestone with a great big chicken-flavored cake, topped with cat-poop icing and cicada sprinkles.  And do you know what Mom said?  She said "Yuck!"  I can't believe she still doesn't understand what kind of thing makes me happy.  Anyway, she said we would do something to celebrate, but it might not involve the kind of cake I would like to have.

Well, it seems like this would be a good time to tell you some more statistics, because those are pretty interesting, I think.  Of course, the numbers are always changing on the statistics page, so I have to just tell you the numbers from one particular moment in time, which was 6:30 p.m., CDT, on June 24, 2011.  And I chose that time because it's when I looked up all the statistics before I started writing this blog entry.

So here goes.  The number of page views of my blog for all time is 424,882.  And the number of page views for 24 hours from Thursday evening to Friday evening was 2,178.  It looks like most days there are about 2,000 hits, so I guess you can think of this number as kind of an average.

Here are the 10 most looked-at posts for all time, with the date they were first published and the number of page views for the top 5 most popular posts.

LEONBERGERS  (Aug. 10, 2010)  43,755
CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS  (Oct. 8, 2010)  38,881
CANE CORSOS  (Aug. 3, 2010)  32,515
CHINESE CRESTED DOGS  (Dec. 10, 2010)  29,650
ROUGH COLLIES  (May 26, 2010)  10,710
ANIMAL HOARDING  (July 18, 2010)
EAR CROPPING  (March 8, 2010)
ANGORA RABBITS  (Feb. 25, 2011)
POLAR BEARS  (Sept. 8, 2010)
THE COLLYER BROTHERS  (July 7, 2010)



The post that made everybody get mad and write a lot of comments was the post on ear cropping.  This post has 36 comments so far.  Mom deleted a couple of comments that were too nasty or that didn't make any sense, but she left most of them because she says everybody has a right to their own opinion.  I still don't understand why people think it's okay to do this thing to dogs, but some people say the dog doesn't feel much pain, and that people should be allowed to do anything they want to their dogs because it's a free country.  Which makes me want to bite part of their ear off, also for the reason that it's a free country, and I should get to do this.  Plus it probably wouldn't hurt them much at all.  Hahahaha!

But that's enough about that subject which I do not really want to get into again!  One thing I thought was interesting about my blog statistics was to look at which entries got the most hits just in the 24 hours from Thursday night to Friday night, because these turned out to be a little different from the all-time most popular entries.  So here are the top five for that one day:  CANE CORSOS, CATAHOULA LEOPARD DOGS, SHIBA INUS, ROUGH COLLIES, and POLAR BEARS.  And if I look at the top 10 for the day or for the past month, I see that my entry on the KLEE KAI breed is showing up at number 10.  So it looks like people are finding it and reading it, and one day it may be much higher in the statistics.

Anyway, I think these statistics pretty much show the same thing that the ones back in January did, which is that people like to read about different dog breeds more than they like to read about the fascinating details of my life.  This is a little disappointing, but I believe there are still a lot of my friends who like to read about me, so not to worry -- I will keep on writing about this favorite topic of mine!  But maybe I will also write about more dog breeds, too.  Especially since the AKC just recognized 3 more breeds at the beginning of June, which is something I thought they only did in January.

Well, okay, that's all for now.  I need to go see if I can convince Mom to make me that special cake to celebrate!

Friday, June 24, 2011

MORE JOBS THAT DOGS DO

Owen, Washington D.C.
I have already told you about bomb-sniffing dogs, which as you know, do really important work.  But guess what!  Now there is a very special kind of bomb-sniffing dog that is called a vapor wake dog.  And the way this dog is different is that it can detect bomb ingredients in the air, like for instance, if there is a crowd of people, and one of them is wearing explosives or is carrying a bomb in his briefcase.

Also a vapor wake dog can still smell the trail of bomb scent in the air 10 minutes after the person has passed, and the dog can follow the person into buildings or up stairs or into elevators or wherever the person went.

The vapor wake dog program was started at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.  And the dogs trained for this job are not just any old dogs.  They are dogs that are specially bred to have a really fantastic sense of smell.  Mostly these dogs are labrador retrievers or other sporting breeds that people don't pay much attention to out on the street or in crowds because they are very common breeds.

Raven, NYPD
As soon as the puppy is born, it starts the Detector Dog Raising Program.  During the first year of its life, the puppy does all kinds of things that help it use its scent detection abilities.  After that, it goes to the Training Center, where it gets 6 weeks more of very special training, and then the dog trains with a handler for 10 weeks.

More and more police departments are getting vapor wake dogs, but they cost $20,000 apiece, so not everybody can afford one.  The U.S. Capitol Police Force has a vapor wake dog named Owen, and the NYPD has several, including one named Raven.



Dogs are good at doing any kind of job that involves sniffing, and that is because the part of a dog's brain that has to do with scent detection is 40 times bigger than the same part of a human's brain.  But I've told you before all about how good dogs are at sniffing stuff.

Anyway, another special use that humans have made of dogs' superior noses is called scat-sniffing.  Maybe you already know this, but scat is just a fancy word for poop.  Mostly it's people like forest rangers and wildlife researchers who use the word scat.  I don't know why this is, but maybe they are just too embarrassed to say "poop."

Woodland Caribou
So the way that researchers are using these scat-sniffing dogs is to study the population numbers of certain kinds of animals, and also to find out how healthy these animals are and where they hang out at different times of the year.  People can learn a lot by studying animal poop, like for instance, whose DNA is related to whose, whether anybody has stress hormones, and what everybody had for dinner last night.  Some of the animals that have been studied using scat-sniffing dogs include pumas, jaguars, armadillos, foxes, and whales.  Before scientists started learning about animals from looking at their scat, they had to put radio collars on the animals to track them.  Also they had to go up in a plane or helicopter to try to count how many animals there were.  But now they can learn all sorts of things about each animal without even seeing it in person.

An example of this was in Alberta, Canada, where scat-sniffing dogs were used to find out why there were getting to be fewer and fewer woodland caribou.  Some people thought that the wolves were killing all the caribou, but after doing the study, researchers learned that the wolves were mostly eating deer, not caribou.  And besides that, it turned out that there were almost twice as many caribou as what people thought.  The real problem for the caribou turned out to be that they were afraid of the stuff people were doing in the forest, like logging and exploring for oil.   So because they were afraid, the caribou didn't go to the places where they could get the best food.  Which meant that without the best food, and also because they felt stressed, they couldn't stay as healthy.

This study took 3 winters, with 4 trained dogs and their handlers.  The dogs found the scat of 1,914 caribou, 1,175 moose, and 327 wolves.  The diet of the wolves turned out to be 80% deer, 10% moose, and 10% caribou.  After the researchers learned this, they knew it would be a mistake to kill a bunch of the wolves, which is what people first thought would help the caribou.  Because if the wolves were gone, there would be tons more deer, and the caribou would have to compete with them for food.  So you can see that the scat-sniffing dogs were very useful in helping people learn all this important stuff and in saving their distant ancestors, the wolves.

Sniffing for Orca poop
The dogs that are used to sniff scat are not specially bred for the job, like the vapor trail dogs are.  Many times, the scat-sniffing dogs are rescued from shelters, where nobody wants to adopt them because they are so hyper.  What makes a good scat-sniffing dog is one that can't get enough of playing fetch.  This kind of dog can stay focused on finding scat while going long distances.  Then when the dog finds some, there is a 90-second play period as a reward.



I guess the dogs who look for scat are not allowed to eat it after then find it, which is kind of sad, if you ask me.  I think that wolf poop would be especially yummy because it would have a bunch of meat and bone stuff in it.  Personally, I'm a pretty good scat-sniffing dog myself, at least when it comes to cat scat. But mostly I just look for it in our front yard and maybe a few of the neighbors' yards.  It's way too much trouble to go all over the whole neighborhood trying to find it.  And getting to eat some of it is a much better reward than playing with a stupid ball!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

HOW MANY CATS DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A CLOWDER?

Well, first of all, I would like to thank everybody who said they liked my "Ode to Summer" poem that I posted yesterday.  I don't want to sound too smug, but I think you will probably see this poem in literature textbooks in the future.

A clowder of cats

Today I am going to talk about something called collective nouns.  And what these are is names for several items that are all together in one place.  If you are like me, you probably mostly use ordinary words like "group," "bunch," "gang," or "gob."  But now I am going to tell you some more interesting and unusual words that you can use.  And all of these words are for animals or birds, so that makes them even better.

When I first decided to talk about collective nouns, I thought I could just make a little list for you and that would be an easy way to write a blog entry.  But guess what!  There are way more collective nouns than I ever dreamed there could be!  So I am just going to tell you a few of them today, and that way I will have a bunch left over to tell you about another day.


A kindle of kittens
So first I will talk about CATS, because a group of cats can be called a clowder.  Which is a fun word that sort of makes me think of chowder, but that's something different.  Anyway, I don't know how many cats it takes to make a clowder, but I'm guessing maybe at least three.  Because two cats would just be a pair.

But besides a clowder, there are some other things you can call a group of cats, such as a clutter, a glaring, or a pounce.  And a bunch of KITTENS is a litter, a kindle, or an intrigue.




A pack of howling wolves

Sadly, DOGS don't have as many interesting names for their groups.  Mostly they are just packs.  Except for HOUNDS, which can be a cry.  And a group of CURS is called a cowardice, but I think that term isn't very nice, personally.  FOXES have lots of good words, though, because you can call them a skulk, cloud, troop, or company.

WOLVES are mostly just a pack, the same as a bunch of dogs, but you can also call a wolf pack a rout.





A coalition of cheetahs
CHEETAHS get together in a coalition, which sounds like a very powerful group.  Not to mention that they can run really fast, too.  A group of LEOPARDS is a leap, and LIONS can gather in a pride, a sault, a sowse, or a troop.













A sault of lions
Okay, well, that's enough new and exciting words for one day.  There is actually a whole book about these collective nouns, and it's called An Exaltation of Larks.  It was written by a man named James Lipton.  I have not read this book, and neither has Mom, but I think that anybody who read it would learn a lot of very useful words.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ODE TO SUMMER, by Piper the Poet







In summertime, the sun shines fiercely down
And makes me wear a little doggy frown,
Because the heat is way too hot for me
And I must stay inside, near the a/c.







In summertime, it’s hard to keep your cool
Unless you get into the wading pool
And get all wet, but I would not do that!
I’d end up looking like a big, drowned rat!







In summertime, the days get really long,
And all the birds sing silly, chirpy songs.
If only I could catch one I would sup
On it, and then it would at last shut up!









In summertime, cicadas come around!
They crawl out from their holes deep in the ground.
I eat a bunch, and then I eat some more,
Because that’s what cicadas are made for!








In summertime, we have big storms at night.
My brother doggies pant and drool in fright.
But thunderstorms and lightning don’t scare me,
Because I’m just as brave as I can be!








So summertime is here, starting today,
And then, no matter what, it’s sure to stay
Till autumn comes and fills the whole wide world
With dead leaves, acorns, and a lot of squirrels!