Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A HORRIBLE HOARDING OF CATS! by Chloe

On the news yesterday morning, we heard the most awful story!  It was about a woman right here in Kansas City who was hoarding cats!  This means that she had way more cats than she could take care of in the proper way that cats expect to be taken care of, so lots of the cats were sick or even dead.

This woman had something like 120 cats, and 50 of those were dead.  The dead cats were all wrapped up and labeled with their names and the date of their death, and they were in the freezer or in the refrigerator.  The cats that were alive weren't in much better shape than the dead ones.  Many of them had mange, sores, and respiratory illnesses.  That's why this whole situation is so shocking, scandalous, and very, very WRONG!


The Kansas City, Missouri animal control supervisor said that it was "the worst case of cat hoarding I've ever seen."  The woman who was hoarding the cats didn't have any furniture at all.  She didn't even have a bed or a chair or a sofa.  All she had was a TV.  What kind of cat would want to live in a place where there is no soft furniture to sleep on?  I think that alone is enough to qualify as abuse and neglect, and I'm not surprised that the cat-hoarding woman got arrested and taken to jail.

The reason the animal control people went there to her house was because the neighbors kept complaining about the horrible smell that came from the house.  Even people who lived a whole block away could smell it.  They had been complaining for about a year, so I'm not sure what took the animal control people so long to get there.  Then when they did finally come on Saturday to check out the situation, they could see that they needed to spring into action, but the woman was not cooperative.

So the officers had to go get a warrant and come back Monday.  Then they spent most of the day trying to capture cats and haul them off to the shelter.  The conditions in the house were so nasty and horrible that the officers had to wear masks and gloves and put trash bags on their feet.


Inside the house, besides the cats, there was trash everywhere, and there were lots of roaches.  Also there was a dog and a ferret.  Sometimes the cats and the roaches went to visit the neighbors, and the neighbors did not like that either.  After all the cats were finally out of the house, it was locked up and labeled with stickers that said UNINHABITABLE.

The animals were all taken to the city shelter, but some of them are so sick that they will probably die.  The ones that get healthy again will be put up for adoption.  Mom says these cats are likely to be kind of feral and unsocialized, but we're hoping that someone will want to adopt them and give them a chance to sleep on a soft bed.  It's the least they are entitled to, after what they've been through!

A photo from a different, but probably similar, cat-hoarding situation

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

DOGS, DOGS, DOGS TO ADOPT!

It's been way too long since I told you about some of the poor, homeless dogs at the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City.  All of these dogs would make totally fabulous pets, and they are just waiting for someone nice like you to come along and adopt them!

Pixie is a 4-year-old chihuahua who weighs 9 pounds.  She gets along great with other dogs, but she needs to have a quiet home without really young children.










This is Trenton, who is only 4 months old.  He is some kind of dachshund mix, but he will probably be bigger than a dachshund, like maybe 30 pounds or less when he is full-grown.  Mom says that Trenton is a very sweet puppy, and very cute, too.  He would be great for a family that wants to adopt a puppy.








Poor Madison had to be given up by her person, who couldn't afford to keep her anymore.  Madison is a rottweiler, and she's only 2.5 years old.  She is really friendly and nice.  She's good with other dogs, and she's even housetrained.  Right now, Madison is a little plump, but she is on a diet, and hopes to be slimmer very soon!








Mom thinks Wendell is totally, totally adorable!  Mom has held Wendell at a satellite adoption before, which is easy because he only weighs 5 pounds.  Wendell is 5 months old, and he gets along fine with other dogs, especially small ones.  He thinks big dogs are a little scary, at least when he first meets them.  Wendell is some kind of terrier mix.  Mom thinks he might even have some Italian Greyhound in him because he has really long legs and kind of an arched back like an IG.





Lindy and Jitterbug are sisters who were found hanging out at a gas station.  We don't know how they got there.  Maybe someone dumped them, or maybe they ran away from home and were trying to hitch a ride.  Anyway, they are 3.5 months old, and they are probably shepherd mixes.  We think they will weigh about 50 pounds when they grow up.  Lindy is the blonde one, and Jitterbug is the black one.



















This pup with the giant ears is Sarah.  She's a 6-month-old shepherd-lab mix.  When she is full-grown, she will probably weigh about 60 pounds.  Sarah got hit by a car, and that's why she ended up at the Humane Society.  One of her back legs was injured so much that it had to be cut off, so now Sarah only has 3 legs.  She runs around really fast, though, and most of the time she doesn't seem to miss that other leg at all.







Mom was really surprised when she saw Kendall at the shelter yesterday, because she thought it was the same Kendall who was there last year.  And sure enough, it was!  Of course, it's sad when a dog shows up at the shelter again after getting adopted, because it means the adoption didn't work out.  In Kendall's case, like in Madison's, the dog's owners had some things happen in their lives, and they couldn't afford to keep their dogs any longer.

So now Kendall is available for adoption again.  She is a very nice dog who is a shepherd-sharpei mix.  She is 4 years old, and she weighs 50 pounds.  When Kendall first came to the shelter, she had been taken away from a person who neglected her.  She had a broken leg a long, long time ago, and it healed up without being set.  She walks around fine on it, though.  Kendall would probably be happiest in a home where there was another dog to be her buddy.

Okay, those are some of the very adoptable dogs at the Humane Society, so please rush over there and fill out an adoption application, or else tell your friends to do it.  A homeless dog is a sad dog.  I know this because once upon a time, I was a homeless dog, too!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

MORE INTERESTING WORDS

It's time to get out the dictionary again and learn a few more words.  Or to look at some words we already know, and learn where they came from, which Mom seems to think is interesting, for some reason.  So here goes!








SUPERNUMERARY

If you are a regular part of a group, like for instance a club or an office staff or a wolf pack, you are a numerary.  But if you are brought into the group just for a little while, then you are a supernumerary.  So a temp worker would be a supernumerary, and a person who has a non-singing role as part of a crowd scene in an opera would be one, too.  Also if there is a ship, and some people are the crew that run the ship, but other people are maybe scientists who are on the ship to study whales or something, then the scientists would be supernumeraries.

There are other things that can be supernumeraries, too, such as nipples.  Sometimes people and other mammals have extra nipples.  They don't do the things that real nipples do, so they don't have any purpose except maybe to give you an interesting topic to talk about at a cocktail party.  I couldn't find much information about supernumerary nipples in dogs, but in humans they happen in about 1 male out of every 18, and in 1 female out of every 50.

Another thing that can be supernumerary is a rainbow, when it has some extra arcs of violet and green down below the regular arcs.



NOISOME

This word looks like it ought to mean "noisy," but it doesn't, so just forget I even mentioned the word "noisy."  What noisome really means is something that is yucky and smelly and disgusting.  A noisome object is offensive to the senses, especially the sense of smell.  It might even be harmful and unhealthy.  Of course, noisome is in the nose of the sniffer, so what a human thinks of as noisome might be the exact thing a dog would love to roll in.  A good example of this would be a rotten fish.

The word noisome dates all the way back to 1350 or 1400.  It came from the Middle English word noy, which means "harm."  This word is short for anoy, which comes from the Old French word anoier, "to annoy."



FLIVVER

Nobody knows exactly where the word flivver came from, but in the beginning, it meant something that was a flop or a failure.  Then in 1908, when the Model T Ford started to get popular, people called it a Tin Lizzie or a Flivver.  Maybe this was because the early cars didn't always work right, and people thought the idea of everyone driving automobiles would be a failure.  But then cars got better and better, and they had a price that many people could afford, which made them lots more popular.  Now most families have a car, and that's a good thing for dogs who like to go for car rides.

But the word flivver stuck around, although you don't hear it very often these days.  It is now slang for an old car that is small and cheap.  Also, a flivver can be anything that is badly made or inferior.



SKULLDUGGERY

I just think this is a funny-sounding word.  It makes me think of somebody in a graveyard at night, digging up bones.  But of course, the real meaning of skullduggery is that it's a deception or trick or something underhanded.  The best guess about the history of this word is that it came from the Scottish dialect word sculdudrie, which means "slipperiness and trickery."



FLOCCUS

This is what you call a little wooly tuft of hair.  Or it could be a fluffy, downy covering.  Floccus comes from the Latin, meaning "flock of wool."

You can also use the word floccus to describe a cloud that looks like it has wooly tufts in it.

Personally, I think it's the perfect word to use when you're talking about those funny tufts of hair on Chinese Crested dogs!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Welwitschia: A Really Weird Plant!

There's this very bizarre plant, and it grows in Africa, in the Namib Desert, and it's called Welwitschia.  And not only does it have a weird name, but it looks really weird, too, sort of like a big pile of old, twisted, halfway dried-up leaves.  Welwitschias are called a "living fossil" because they probably were already around back in the Jurassic Period.  And if you ever saw the movie Jurassic Park, you will know that there were still scary dinosaurs alive back then.



Welwitschias were first discovered in 1859 by an Austrian botanist named Friedrich Welwitsch.  Of course, the native people had known about this plant for a long time already, but Mr. Welwitsch was the first western scientist to find it.  According to the story, Mr. Welwitsch was so surprised by his discovery that he just knelt down next to the plant and stared at it.  Later, he sent some plant material to Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, who was the director of Kew Gardens in England.  Mr. Welwitsch wanted to name the plant Tumboa, which is what the native Angolan people called it, but Sir Hooker decided to name the plant in honor of Mr. Welwitsch.  The full name is Welwitschia mirabilis, and mirabilis means "wonderful" or "marvelous" in Latin.





There are lots of mirabilis things to know about welwitschias, like for instance that a single plant can be anywhere between 400 and 1,000 years old, and a few might even be as old as 2,000.  This is even older than Mom, and I think she's pretty darned old!

Another amazing thing about welwitschias is that each plant only has two leaves, and it has these same two leaves for its entire life, even if it lives 1,000 years!  Of course, after 1,000 years, those two leaves might look a little shredded and ragged, but they are still the original two leaves.  Eventually, the leaves can grow as long as four meters.  The tallest welwitschia known is 1.8 meters high, and the widest one is 8.7 meters.

The place where welwitschias grow is very, very dry because it is a desert.  Sometimes there is no rain for two or three years, or even longer.  But the welwitschias are very smart, and they live close to the coast, where there is a lot of fog.  And the reason there is fog there is because during the night, the hot desert air meets up with the cold currents in the ocean, and that makes a really thick fog that lasts until about 10:00 a.m. the next day.  The fog turns into water drops on the welwitschia leaves, and it runs down the leaves and into the ground to water the plant.  Also the leaves can absorb some moisture directly from the air.  And there is a long taproot that goes way down in the ground, looking for any water that might be down there.




Female cones in flower
Some welwitschias are males, and some are females.  To get seeds, you need one of each kind of plant.  Then you need some flies to pollinate the plants, but sometimes bees or wasps will do it.  A lot of the seeds get eaten by small animals, and other seeds die because they get a fungus.  To sprout, the seeds have to have several days of fairly heavy rain, which is not something that happens every year in the desert.  But the seeds know how to be patient and wait for the right conditions to come along, even if it takes a few years.







Male cones in flower
Rhinos and antelopes sometimes chew on welwitschia leaves to get the juice, and then they spit out the stringy parts.  Also they might eat the soft part of the plant in the groove between the two leaves.  But this does not really hurt the welwitschia, and it just grows out again.

A long time ago, people used to eat the core of the welwitschias, especially the female plants because they were yummier.  They either ate them raw or they baked them in hot ashes.  This is why the Herero people called the plant onyanga, which means "onion of the desert."







Well, when the cactus show and sale were happening earlier this month, Mom saw some welwitschia plants for sale.  She didn't know much about them, but she went home and read about them on the internet, and after that she decided to buy one, even though they were kind of expensive.  So now Mom has a welwitschia of her very own, but hers is not 1000 years old yet, or even 500 years old.  It is only maybe one year old, so it is still kind of small.  Mom hopes it will be happy and will not up and die on her, like a lot of plants have done in the past.  But if it does die, then Mom says she will not take it personally.  She will just figure that she was not meant to grow welwitschias, and she will not get another one.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

OWNEY THE POSTAL DOG

The other day, when Mom went to the USPS site to order some stamps, she was shocked to see a stamp with a dog on it.  And it wasn't just any dog, it was a dog named Owney, who was the Postal Service mascot.  The reason why Mom was so shocked to see this dog on a stamp was because she and I had never even heard of Owney before, even though he is a pretty famous dog.  So right away, Mom ordered 60 stamps with Owney's picture on them, and then we started doing research on this brave and interesting dog.


The story of Owney starts in 1888, when a little terrier mix puppy wandered into the post office in downtown Albany, NY, and fell asleep on some mailbags.  The postal workers liked the puppy, and they started feeding him and letting him ride in the wagons that took the mail from the post office to the train station.  In those days, most mail traveled around in trains because planes and trucks hadn't been invented yet.  And it wasn't long before Owney started riding on the trains to help deliver the mail.


The nice postal workers in Albany who first adopted Owney didn't want him to get lost, so they made him a collar with a tag that said "Owney, P.O. Albany N.Y."  Then they let him go riding on the mail trains all over the place.  Pretty soon, the mail workers on the trains realized that Owney was bringing them good luck, because no trains that he was riding on ever got into train wrecks.  This was important because trains were not very safe back in those days, and you could get killed if your train ran off the tracks or got robbed or blown up.


Owney kept riding the trains, and he traveled all over, back and forth across the country.  Wherever he went, the workers would put a new tag on his collar to show that he had been there.  Pretty soon, Owney had so many heavy tags that in 1894, the Postmaster General gave him a sort of harness jacket thing to hang all the tags on.  By the time he retired, Owney had gone more than 140,000 miles by rail.  Newspapers liked to write about him in the cities he visited, and they called him the "tramp mail dog."


In 1895, Owney got to go on a trip around the world by ship and train as a goodwill ambassador.  He was shipped as a "Registered Dog Package," and he traveled with his own little suitcase, which had a blanket, comb, and brush inside.

I am sad to say that Owney finally started getting old, and he had to retire from all his mail travels.  He lived at the Albany Post Office, and he got really grumpy in his old age.  He was blind in one eye, and he could only eat soft food, which is enough to make anybody grumpy, if you ask me.


Anyway, one day in June 1897, Owney ran off to the train station and got on a mail train.  No one knows exactly why it happened, but Owney bit a postal clerk and a U.S. Marshall in Toledo, Ohio.  So the local Postmaster told the Marshall to shoot Owney, and he did.

The postal workers in Albany took up a collection so that they could have Owney's body mounted.  He has been on display in a glass case at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. pretty much ever since then.  Of course, after more than 100 years, Owney was starting to look a little scruffy, so when the USPS decided to make a stamp with his picture on it, the Smithsonian asked a taxidermist named Paul Rhymer to spiff Owney up a little bit.  When Mr. Rhymer got finished working on Owney, he said "My restoration got it back about halfway to what it should have looked like.  We decided to try to make him look a little better, a little more realistic."  To do this, Mr. Rhymer replaced Owney's eyes, patched some bald spots on his fur, and carved a new snout for him.


Owney's stamp was released on July 27, 2011.  It was designed by an artist named Bill Bond, who lives in Arlington, Virginia.  It has a picture of Owney's head, and then in the background, there are some of the tags that he was given during his travels.  Soon the Postal Service will also release an Owney smartphone application that makes a 3-D picture of Owney jumping and barking. Also there will be a kids' interactive e-book about Owney for iPad.


So that's the story of Owney, the famous Postal Dog.  He had a good, long life, full of adventure, but at the end, I guess you could say he "went postal," and that's why he had to be shot.  Rest in peace, Owney!  We can now remember you forever because your picture is on a forever stamp.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

THE STORM THAT KNOCKED DOWN TREES, by Nicky

Friday night last week we had a really horrible, extremely destructive storm!  It happened the night after we had just already had a frightening storm on Thursday night, so it was definitely not pleasant getting scared out of our wits for two nights in a row.  Mom knew the storm was coming because she heard about it in the weather forecast, but she just casually went to bed anyway and went right to sleep, as usual.  I can't believe she does stuff like that!

But then, about 2:00 a.m., we dogs realized that the storm was coming because we could hear the distant thunder and feel the change in the atmospheric pressure, and we knew that Mom should not just go on sleeping when there was so much danger approaching.  So we began to pace and pant and drool, and Barry jumped on and off the bed, which he always does during storms.  And right away Mom got the message that something awful was happening!

Anyway, the storm proceeded to make a ton of thunder and lightning (which makes Mom nervous, too, although she won't admit it).  And Mom decided that since she couldn't sleep with everything going on, she should just go downstairs and feed Carson, the kitten, so she did.  Then we all went back to bed, and the storm finally moved on, and we fell asleep.

The next morning, Mom took Piper out in front of our house to get her to pee, and Mom looked down the street to the next block, and she saw that the street there was totally blocked by a tree that fell down during the storm.  Then a little later, we heard a bunch of chain saws and shredders, and we thought they took away the tree.









But on Sunday morning, Mom was shocked to see that the tree was still there!  That's when she decided it was time to walk the dogs.  So she took me down there to see what was going on.  I was somewhat flummoxed to see a tree lying in the street, because that is not where trees are supposed to be.  We couldn't even walk on the sidewalks on either side of the street.  We had to go through people's yards so that we could get around all the tree debris and gawk at it properly.






First of all, we realized that it wasn't even a whole tree that fell down in the street.  It was just a huge branch of a tree.  And it went all the way across a yard and the street, and it blocked some driveways, and it hit a man's car, which was a shiny blue Mercedes.  There was a woman out there also gawking and taking pictures of the tree limb, and she said the man who owned the car had only just bought it a week ago.  I guess that man feels like he is having very bad luck right now!






Then while we were there, some guys came to cut up the tree limb.  They had a thing that Mom said is called a "cherry picker."  I don't know why they used a cherry picker, since the branch that fell down was off an oak tree and not a cherry tree.  But I guess they know what they are doing because they make a living doing it.















Anyway, after we went past the huge oak branch, we suddenly saw that there was another tree that fell down during the storm, except it had already been cut up into chunks.  This second tree was a silver maple that got uprooted and landed right on the corner of someone's house!  That would be a scary thing to happen -- maybe even scarier than lightning and thunder!  I certainly don't want our big, huge oak tree in the back yard to fall on our house because we might all get smashed to death if it did!






So after we saw the maple tree chunks, we knew what the people with chain saws had been doing on Saturday.  And also we saw that the corner of the roof where the tree hit it had been patched.  While we were gawking at the remains of the maple tree, a man backed his car up to one of the pieces of tree trunk, and he said he got permission to take it home because he wanted to make a seat out of it.  Mom said she thought it looked really heavy, and the man said he thought so, too.






Then he tried to get it over closer to his car, but he couldn't even do that, let alone lift it into his car.  Mom did not offer to help him pick up the chunk of wood because she did not want to hurt her back.  Apparently, the man decided not to hurt his back either, because he just got into his car and drove away.

Well, that's the story of our fierce, tree-killer storm.  I hope we don't have to go through anything like that again soon because it is almost more than a dog can deal with.  Mom said the good part is that at least we didn't lose our electricity, so I guess that's something, but it doesn't seem like very much to me!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Coolidge Family and All Their Many Pets

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, on July 4, 1872, and he grew up to be the 30th president of the United States.  He is the only president we've ever had who was born on the 4th of July.  He went to Amherst College, and after that he was apprenticed to a law firm in Massachusetts, where he "read law."  This was a way of learning the law and getting a law degree without actually going to law school, which was expensive.  Mr. Coolidge became a lawyer in 1897 and then he started his own practice.





In 1905, Calvin Coolidge met Grace Anna Goodhue, who was a teacher of deaf children, and they got married on October 4 of that same year.  Mrs. Coolidge was a fun, talkative person, and Mr. Coolidge was very quiet, but they kind of equaled each other out, and their marriage was a happy one.  They had a son named John in 1906 and a son named Calvin, Jr. in 1908.

Mr. Coolidge soon got involved in politics, and he served in the Massachusetts legislature.  After that, he was elected Lieutenant Governor and then Governor.  In 1920 he ran for Vice-President on the Republican ticket with Warren G. Harding.  They got elected, and then when President Harding died, Vice-President Coolidge became President Coolidge.









The president with Rob Roy and Tiny Tim


One really good thing that President Coolidge said was "Any man who does not like dogs and want them about, does not deserve to be in the White House."  The Coolidges all believed in this because it is obviously true, and they had a whole bunch of dogs, plus lots of other pets, while President Coolidge was in office.

Their first First Dog was Peter Pan, who was a wire-haired fox terrier.  But Peter Pan was too nervous to get used to all the activity of the White House, so he had to go live someplace quieter.  After that came an airedale named Paul Pry, who was a half-brother of President Harding's dog, Laddie Boy.  Paul got the name "Pry" because he was always sticking his nose into stuff where it didn't belong.  And worse than that, he was very protective of Mrs. Coolidge, so he would not let her maid come into her room to pick up things and clean.  So Paul Pry had to go live somewhere else, too.


Then the president got a red chow-chow puppy named Tiny Tim for his birthday, but the dog and the president never really got to like each other, so Tiny Tim became known as Terrible Tim.  A white collie puppy named Diana of Wildwood traveled to the White House in a plane, and she arrived looking so dirty that Mrs. Coolidge changed her name to Calamity Jane.










The Coolidges with Blackberry


The Coolidges also had a black chow-chow named Blackberry, a brown-and-white collie named Ruby Rough, a black German shepherd named King Kole, a yellow collie named Bessie, an English setter bird dog named Palo Alto, and a bulldog named Boston Beans.

But the two most famous Coolidge dogs were white collies named Rob Roy and Prudence Prim.  These two dogs got baths with blueing to make their coats look whiter.  Mrs. Coolidge especially loved Prudence Prim, who was so well-behaved that she could go to White House garden parties.  The First Lady made a little straw bonnet with ferns and green ribbons on it for Prudence to wear.  Prudence seemed to enjoy wearing bonnets, and she also wore one when she went to the Easter Egg Roll each year.  Sadly, Prudence Prim died while the Coolidge family was vacationing in the Black Hills one summer.  Mrs. Coolidge missed Prudence very much, and so did Rob Roy.


When Rob Roy first came to live at the White House, it was a big change for him, because he was used to being a sheep-herding dog in Wisconsin.  He didn't seem to know how to live in a house, and he was especially scared of the elevator.  Whenever he got in the elevator, he flattened himself down on the floor to try to hang on.  And when it was time to get off the elevator, Boston Beans, the bulldog, wouldn't let him.  So finally Mrs. Coolidge had to send Beans to live with her mother.










The kennel master said that Rob Roy was "a wild one."  He really liked to bark at squirrels out of the White House windows and chase them whenever he was outside.  President Coolidge especially loved Rob Roy.  He let him stay in his room at night, took him to his office every afternoon and to his press conference every Friday.  When the president went fishing, Rob Rob would always ride in the boat and bark in a happy way.






Mrs. Coolidge insisted on having Rob Roy in her official White House portrait.  She wore a red dress that would look good with the white dog.  Mr. Coolidge suggested that maybe she should wear a white dress and dye the dog red instead!

In September of 1928, Rob Roy started having stomach problems.  The Coolidges sent him to Walter Reed Army Hospital for surgery, but the surgery did not work, and he died.  This made everyone very, very sad, especially the president.

Anyway, besides dogs, the Coolidge family also had two cats named Tiger and Blacky.  President Coolidge liked to walk through the White House with Tiger draped around his neck.






Most of the First Family's pets were given to them as gifts.  Some were meant as food, like the raccoon that they got at Thanksgiving one year.  But the raccoon was really tame and nice, so they named her Rebecca and kept her as a pet.  The staff did not much like the raccoon because she tore their clothes and ripped silk stockings.  Eventually, she moved to the zoo, where she got a raccoon friend named Reuben.

The Coolidges were also were given two lion cubs which they named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau, a pygmy hippo, a wallaby, a duikir, a wombat, 13 Pekin ducks, an antelope, a bobcat, and a donkey.  There were 3 canaries named Nip, Tuck, and Snowflake; a thrush named Old Bill; a goose named Enoch, and a mare named Kit.




Calvin Jr., Calvin Sr., Grace, and John Coolidge,
probably with Rob Roy.  This photo was taken
on the same day that Calvin Jr. got a blister while
playing tennis and later died from the infection.




A very tragic thing happened to the First Family in 1924.  Their younger son, Calvin, got a blister on his heel while playing tennis with his brother on June 30.  The blister got infected, and then Calvin got blood poisoning.  There were no antibiotics in those days, so he died only a week later, on July 7.  He was 16 years old.

President Coolidge got elected in 1924, but he refused to run again in 1928, mainly because he was still very sad and depressed about his son's death.  "When he went, the power and glory of the presidency went with him," Mr. Coolidge wrote.  "I don't know why such a price was exacted for occupying the White House."







In 1928, Mr. and Mrs. Coolidge retired to a nice house called "The Beeches" in Northampton, MA.  They lived there happily with their dogs and probably some other animals, too.  Then on January 5, 1933, Mr. Coolidge had a heart attack and died.  He was 60 years old.

After her husband's death, Mrs. Coolidge did work to help deaf people.  During World War II, she was active with the Red Cross, civil defense, and scrap drives.  She died on July 8, 1957 at the age of 78, and she is buried next to President Coolidge in Plymouth, Vermont.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Dog Named Buster

This is a story about a dog who lives in Boulder, Colorado, and his name is Buster.  He is part labrador retriever, and he maybe has some beagle and pit bull mixed in, too.  Buster got adopted from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley when he was just a puppy.  His human's name is Samantha Squires, and she is a single mother with a 4-year-old son.

Buster was living a very happy life in Boulder with his family, including doing all kinds of things with his mom, like running and sleeping and eating.  He had some separation anxiety, so he liked to be close to his mom whenever he could be.

Then on November 19, Buster suddenly disappeared.  Ms. Squires went out for a run, and when she came back, Buster was gone from the yard.  The gate was open a little, so she figured he had got out and he would come back soon because that had happened a couple of times in the past.  But Buster didn't come back.  And there was no trace of him anywhere.  Ms. Squires looked and looked for him.  She even looked for his body up in the hills because she thought maybe a mountain lion ate him.  But she didn't find his body.  And she thought maybe somebody stole him, but there was no way to tell if somebody did or not.

So Ms. Squires and her son were very sad, but Ms. Squires never quit hoping that Buster would come back someday.  She kept all of Buster's toys and stuff, even though in April she finally adopted a new dog named Toby.

Then one day in May, an amazing thing happened, which was that Ms. Squires got a letter in the mail from a shelter in Salinas, California, and they said they had her dog.  Also they said that if she didn't contact them by May 31, the dog would be put up for adoption.  Ms. Squires had never even heard of Salinas, which my mom says probably means that Ms. Squires never read the novel East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.


Nobody knows how Buster got all the way from Boulder to Salinas, which is more than 1,200 miles away.  Of course, Buster knows, but he's not talking.  What we do know is that on May 20, a man named Peter Ochoa saw Buster sitting on his front porch in Salinas.  Mr. Ochoa didn't know that the dog's name was Buster, but he found out that the dog was friendly and knew how to do "sit" and "shake."  Mr. Ochoa thought the dog looked tired, so he gave him some water, after which Buster wagged his tail.  Mr. Ochoa called Animal Control, so they came and took Buster to the Salinas Animal Shelter.  Mr. Ochoa told the Animal Control officer that if nobody wanted to adopt Buster, he would give him a home.

The shelter scanned Buster for a microchip, and he had one.  Then the shelter people tried calling the phone numbers that came up with the scan, but none of those numbers were any good.  So after that, they sent a letter to the last known address associated with the chip.  Which is how Ms. Squires, who never read East of Eden, found out that her dog was in Salinas, California.


After that, the problem was how to get Buster back to Colorado.  Ms. Squires could not afford to drive out there and get him, and she could not afford to have him flown home.  So at first she tried to set up a relay of her Facebook friends to transport Buster.  But then Frontier Airlines offered to fly Buster to Colorado for free, so of course she accepted their offer.


Soon Buster was reunited with his family, which made everybody very happy.  And here are the things we can learn from this story:  (1) you should always microchip your pets, and (2) you should not leave your dog out in the yard while you are away, especially if he has a history of getting out of the yard.  Oh, and Mom says that everybody should read East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, because she remembers that it was a most excellent book, even though she read it so long ago that she couldn't really tell you now what it was about.