Friday, December 30, 2011

THE MAN WHO GOT EATEN BY HIS DOGS

This is a terrible, but totally true story about something that happened in September in Indonesia.  And what happened was that a 50-year-old man named Andre Lumboga went out of town to celebrate a festival.  He was gone for 14 days, and he did not leave any food or water for his 9 dogs.  I cannot believe anybody would do such a thing, but this seems to be what Mr. Lumboga did.

Of course, the dogs got really, really hungry because of not having any food, so after a while, they killed the two weakest dogs and ate them.  And then when Mr. Lumboga got home, they jumped on him and tore him apart and ate him, too.  I'm thinking he might have been surprised by this and also sorry that he did not arrange to have his dogs fed while he was gone.  It kind of makes you wonder what the heck he was thinking, or if he was thinking at all.

At first, nobody knew that Mr. Lumboga had been eaten by his dogs, but then a neighborhood guard noticed that Mr. Lumboga's suitcases were sitting out in front of his house, all lined up, as if he had just arrived home.  And after five days of seeing the suitcases sitting there in the same way, the guard went up to the house, and he smelled something yucky, so he called the police.




By the time the police found out about the situation, the dogs were hungry again because they had had several days to digest Mr. Lumboga.  So the dogs tried to eat the policemen, too, and the policemen had to "paralyze" them.  I hope this was just a temporary thing, but I don't know if it was or not.  Anyway, the police found Mr. Lumboga's skull in the kitchen, and the rest of his body was in the front of the house.  Not that there was a whole lot of the body left.

None of the reports I read explained what happened to the dogs afterwards.  I hope they didn't get killed, but I am afraid they might have.  It's probably better not to know these things.  Anyway, I think Mr. Lumboga got what was coming to him since he left the dogs without any food or water.

The part of Indonesia where Mr. Lumboga and his dogs lived is called Sulawesi Island.  The pictures I found of this island show lots of nice mountains and beautiful beaches.  Also there are some very interesting native houses that look really different from American houses.  Pictures like these made me think that Sulawesi Island might be a good place to visit.  But I also saw pictures of people killing hogs and bulls for wedding feasts and other special occasions.  And I learned that in Sulawesi Island, it is very common to eat dogs, bats, and forest rats.

So now I'm thinking that it would be best for all dogs to stay as far away from Sulawesi Island as possible.  At least that's what I plan to do!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

MY VISIT TO THE INTERNIST, by Nicky

Does this nose make me look handsome?
Yesterday, Mom took me to see a special doctor called an internist.  Her name is Dr. Grigsby, and Mom met her once before on the horrible occasion last January when Gabe had a ruptured bowel.  Dr. Grigsby was the one who figured out what was wrong with Gabe and then put him to sleep after Mom agreed that was the best thing to do.

So I was a little nervous, going to see this internist person, because I thought maybe she would decide to put me to sleep, too.  But I was relieved to find out that Dr. Grigsby just wanted to figure out why I feel yucky and grumpy and have diarrhea so much of the time, and make me feel better.


Mom has already spent a lot of money on me to get blood tests done and also an ultrasound.  And what we learned from all this expensive stuff was that I have high liver values in my blood.  Also I have high folate levels, which might have something to do with vitamin B.  It's all very confusing to a dog who was only bred to run races and not to understand chemistry.  The ultrasound, which cost $315, didn't show anything unusual that was happening inside me.  But the high folate levels meant that I have a "diffuse intestinal disease."  This disease might be inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Gabe had, or it might be lymphoma, which is a type of cancer, or it might be an overgrowth of bacteria.

A dog getting the inside of his guts
revealed through endoscopy
My regular vet, Dr. Griswold, said I needed endoscopy to figure out what was going on in my intestines, and that's why Mom took me to see Dr. Grigsby.  Endoscopy is where they stick a long tube thing way down into your throat or up your butt, and it has a light and a camera on it, so they can see what's inside your guts.  Also they can get little snippets of your intestines, and then they can look at these under a microscope and see what is going on in there.

But Dr. Grigsby looked at all the information from the tests I've had, and she told Mom that maybe a couple of things were wrong with me, and one had to do with my liver, and the other was happening in my intestines.  She thought we should start with the liver, and she said she could stick a needle right straight into my liver and suck out a few cells and look at them.


So Mom left me there most of the day, and I had another ultrasound to make sure Dr. Grigsby knew where my liver was so that she would stick the needle in the right place.

These are some liver cells,
and those big yellow
blobs are bile.
After the doctor looked at the liver cells, she called Mom and said that I do not have cancer in my liver, which is very good news.  But what I do have is a whole lot of bile pigment that is not supposed to be there.  This means that the bile is not draining out of my liver in the proper way.  Dr. Grigsby sent my liver cells to the lab so that they could look at them, too, because they might see something that she didn't see.  When she hears from them, she will call Mom.

I did a little bit of research on bile, and I learned that it is made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.  And what it's used for is to help you digest the fats that are in your food.  Bile also has this stuff in it called bilirubin, which is a really funny word to say.  Anyway, my blood tests showed that I had way too much bilirubin.  The interesting thing about bilirubin is that it is what makes your pee yellow, your poop brown, your bruises turn yellow, and lots of things yellow if you are jaundiced.  I wonder if having too much bilirubin could turn me into a yellow lab.  I hope not, because I don't think I'd want to be a lab.  I really prefer being a greyhound.

Dr. Grigsby prescribed some medicine to help me not have diarrhea so much, and I also some medicine to make my liver better -- except Mom hasn't picked up those pills from the drugstore yet.  And now we just have to wait until we hear from Dr. Grigsby again.  Meanwhile, I plan to take lots of naps because that is something I excel at doing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

GUESS WHAT! I'M GETTING ADOPTED! by Jacen

I got a super-cool Christmas present, and do you know what it was?  Mom told me that she is going to adopt me!  But only if I want her to.  Well, duh.  Of course, I want her to!  What have I been working for all these weeks, with my seductive purring and alluring displays of charm?

So it's all decided, and Mom just has to do the paperwork.  Aunt Tania said Mom would not even have to pay an adoption fee for me, which Mom was happy about, but it makes me feel a little cheap.  Still, it's a huge load off my shoulders not to have to think about going to that scary PetsMart place again.  Nope, I can just stay here at home, where I belong, with my big brother Charlie and my big sister Chloe, and all the crazy dogs.  Oh, and Mom.  She's the best mom ever, and I really mean that, even if she's not going to pay an adoption fee for me.

The first thing Mom said she would do is change my name to Jason.  Okay, that's actually the same name, but she said it's a more sensible way to spell it.  Also she told me I would have to go to Dr. Patricia's office and introduce myself to everybody there and get a microchip.  Chloe says it hurts to get a microchip, and she knows this because she had to get one after that time when she went walkabout.  So I am not looking forward to that, but I guess it will be worth it to get to stay here with Mom.

The three little kittens got spayed and neutered this past Thursday, so now it's their turn to try to get adopted.  And Mom says she will absolutely not adopt any more cats, so I just got in under the wire!  Mom is going to send photos and bios of the kittens to someone named Harriet, so that she can put them on Petfinder.  Then on Saturday, Mom will take the kittens to PetsMart so that everybody can see how adorable they are and adopt them.  Well, I say, "Good luck with that!"

But Aunt Tania says our kittens will be the smallest ones there, and people really like to adopt little kittens. Also lots of cats usually get adopted during January.  So we are hoping that our kittens really will find homes very soon.  I will miss having them around to play with, but Mom says there might be more foster kittens here someday that I can play with.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying life in my forever home.  Mom treats me like one of the big cats, so I get to eat with Charlie and Chloe.  At first, I just ate out of whichever of their dishes I wanted to eat out of, but lately Charlie has been getting some special blue pills because he kept puking last week.  So now I am using my little yellow dish, and Mom supervises us to make sure Charlie eats all his food because it has his medicine in it.  And while we are eating, Barry stands out in the hall and whines because he is hungry, and he wants Mom to hurry up and feed the dogs.

At night, I usually sleep with Mom in her bed, but sometimes I sleep with Chloe or with Charlie.  They are pretty good about letting me snuggle with them, and one time Mom found us all three sleeping together in the same bed.  I like doing this because it feels nice and cozy and warm, like sleeping with my littermates.  Except I can't remember for sure if I had any littermates, but I think I probably did.  Mom told me that somebody found me as a stray and took me to Animal Control.  I don't know much about what happened to me before that, but I think my mama and my littermates must have got lost somehow.  Anyway, I hope they all found nice humans to live with, like I did.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

REINDEER


Reindeer are called caribou in North America, and they look a little different from the reindeer in Europe and Asia, but they are all known by the scientific name of Rangifer tarandus.  Also, they all like to live in the Arctic and Subarctic, where the weather is pretty darned cold.  Some people who live in those regions hunt reindeer, or they keep them as domestic animals to pull sleds and provide milk, meat, and skins.


There are a lot of reindeer around, so we don't have to worry about them going extinct.  But a long time ago, in the Pleistocene era, there were even more reindeer in the world, and you could find them living as far south as Nevada, Tennessee, and Spain.  Nowadays most of the reindeer live in Scandinavia, Greenland, Alaska, and Canada.  Except for the nine that live with Santa at the North Pole.

Caribou live in the green part and reindeer in the red part.
Reindeer fur is really warm, which it has to be, since the reindeer insist on living in such cold places.  They have a thick, woolly undercoat, with a longer overcoat made of hollow hairs.  The air in the hollow hairs makes very good insulation for the reindeer.


There are several different colors of reindeer fur.  The reindeer that live farthest north, such as the Peary caribou, have the whitest fur, and they are also the smallest type of caribou.  Further south, the Woodland Caribou are the largest and have the darkest fur.



Like other kinds of deer, reindeer grow antlers, and usually both sexes have them.  The males have bigger antlers than the females.  Old males lose their antlers in December, young males in the spring, and females during the summer.  Reindeer have the largest antlers of all deer.  Only moose have bigger antlers.


Reindeer have special noses that are built with lots of surface area inside their nostrils.  This makes it so that when the cold air comes inside their noses, it is warmed first before it goes on to their lungs.  And then when they breathe out, the moisture in their breath is condensed, so that it keeps their mucous membranes from drying out.

A very cute girl and a very cute reindeer calf in Mongolia

Another thing that's special about reindeer is their hooves.  In the summertime, their footpads get spongy,  which makes it easier to walk on the wet, soft tundra.  But in the winter, the footpads get small and tight, so that the edge of the hoof has traction on the ice and snow.  Also, this helps the reindeer dig down in the snow to find reindeer moss, which is the lichen they most like to eat.  In the summer, they also eat willow and birch leaves, sedges, and grasses.


The mating season for reindeer is from late September to early November.  The males get into big fights about who will mate with which female.  They use their antlers to fight with, and the males who are the most dominant might get to mate with 15-20 females.  The calves are born in May or June.  After 45 days, they can graze on their own, but they usually continue suckling until autumn.


Reindeer have a lot of predators.  The calves seem to be especially yummy, and they are favorite meals of golden eagles and wolverines.  Brown bears and polar bears will eat reindeer of any age, and so will gray wolves.  Reindeer can usually outrun the bears, but wolves are faster.  A pack of wolves might follow the same reindeer herd for several months and just catch one to eat whenever they get hungry.


North American caribou migrate farther than any other land mammal.  They sometimes travel 3,100 miles in a year, covering 390,000 square miles.  In Europe, some types of reindeer migrate, but they don't go as far.  Caribou travel between 12 and 34 miles a day when they are migrating, and since they can swim really well, they will cross any lakes or rivers that get in their way.  They can run at speeds of 37 to 50 mph.


I don't know who first decided that Santa Claus traveled around in a sleigh with flying reindeer.  Maybe if I did enough research, I could figure this out, but I'm not going to do the research right now.  What I do know is that Santa's reindeer first got their names in 1823 when a man named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem called A Visit from St Nicholas.  To be honest, I think it would be kind of scary to have a bunch of reindeer landing on the roof and a fat man coming down the chimney.  So I would rather just get my gifts from Mom!

Friday, December 23, 2011

THE NORTH POLE

The North Pole is at the very tip-top of the earth, like the farthest north you can ever go.  Except there is no actual pole there, so it's hard to know if you are really at the North Pole or not.  People say that Santa and his elves and his reindeer live at the North Pole, but I'm not sure this is true, because why would anybody want to live in such a cold place?  But I'll let you believe whatever you want to believe.

A really old map of the North Pole,
 made by Gerardus Mercator in 1595 

Anyway, if you were standing on the exact site of the North Pole, any direction you went from there would be south.  The North Pole is also called the Geographic North Pole, and it is at the latitude of 90º North.  This is also called true north, and it is exactly opposite the South Pole.  The Geographic North Pole is different from the Magnetic North Pole because the Magnetic North Pole is not true north.  Instead, it is based on the magnetosphere of the Earth, and it is always moving around.



Both the North Pole and the South Pole have a bunch of ice on top of them, but the South Pole is located in Antarctica, and the North Pole is in a frozen ocean.  So even if you set up a pole at the North Pole, the ice where you put the pole would move around some, and then your pole would be in the wrong place.  The ice at the North Pole is about 7 to 10 feet thick, and the sea at the Pole is 13,930 feet deep.  The closest land to the North Pole is Kaffeklubben Island, which is off the northern coast of Greenland, about 430 miles away.  But nobody lives there.

The town of Alert

The closest place where any people actually live is a town called Alert, in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada.  This town is located 508 miles from the Pole.  Alert was named for the HMS Alert, which was a British ship that wintered near there in 1875-76.  The permanent population of Alert might be as many as 10 people, but there are other people who just stay there part of the time.  In Alert there is a weather station and also a military intelligence station.  I don't know if any dogs live in Alert, but if they do, I hope they have really thick fur coats!



Starting way back in history, people wanted to go to the North Pole.  I don't know why, except maybe just because it was there.  Some sailors tried getting there in ships, but mostly they got stuck in the ice, and some of them died.  Other people tried to go there with dog sleds.

The Peary Expedition

On April 6, 1909, a U.S. Navy engineer named Robert Peary said he and Matthew Henson reached the Pole, along with four Inuit men.  They took a picture of themselves when they got there, but they did not include their sled dogs in the picture, which doesn't seem fair, if you ask me.  Anyway, since nobody on the trip was really trained in navigation, some people said later that Peary did not find the right spot where the Pole was.

The first flight over the Pole was made on May 9, 1926 by Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett, but later it turned out that their solar sextant wasn't very accurate, or something like that.  So they probably didn't really get to the Pole either.

On May 12, 1926, a Norwegian explorer named Roald Amundsen flew from Norway to Alaska in the airship Norge.  This trip had accurate proof that it really crossed over the Pole.  After that, the first people to walk on the Pole, and to be in the right place when they did it, was a group from the Soviet Union who landed a plane there on April 23, 1948.

USS Skate

The first submarine to cross the North Pole was the USS Nautilus, on August 3, 1958.  Then on March 17, 1959, the USS Skate surfaced at the Pole, which made it the first naval vessel to do that.

If you had to live at the North Pole or the South Pole, you should choose the North Pole because it's at sea level, and that makes it warmer there.  Which may be why Santa lives at the North Pole.  In January, the temperature ranges from --45ºF to --15ºF.  In the summer, temperatures average about freezing.  The highest temperature recorded at the North Pole was 41ºF, which is way warmer than the record high of 7.7ºF at the South Pole.

A grinning Russian ship at the North Pole

In the wintertime at the North Pole, the sun is always below the horizon, so it's pretty dark.  And in the summertime, it's always light because the sun is above the horizon.  Also in winter, there are Northern Lights, and those are really cool to look at.



Polar bears live pretty close to the North Pole, but the only thing for them to eat at the Pole itself is Santa's elves, and they are too small to be worth the trip up there.  Other animals that live close to the Pole are the ringed seal and Arctic foxes.  Some birds that have been seen at the Pole are the snow bunting, northern fulmar, and black-legged kittiwake.

The amount of ice in the polar cap is getting to be less and less, which is a problem for animals like polar bears and walruses, who like to spend their time on ice floes.  It's also a problem because when the ice melts, the sea levels go up.  This means that some islands could get totally flooded, and so could some cities near the coast, such as New York City.  The reason the ice is melting is because the average temperatures are rising, and the reason the temperatures are rising is because of Global Warming.  Some people don't believe in Global Warming, but I do.  I believe in it even more than I believe in Santa Claus!


But speaking of Santa, where did the idea first come from that he lives at the North Pole?  Well, it might be because a long time ago, in Greek mythology, there were these superhuman, godlike people called Hyperboreans, and they lived really far north, even farther north than Thrace.  The North Wind, which was called Boreas, supposedly lived in Thrace, so the Hyperboreans lived "beyond the Boreas" in a perfect land where the sun shone 24 hours a day.  Which is what happens in the Arctic during the summer.  And since Santa Claus is sort of a superhuman figure, people started to think he must come from the northern land of Hyperboria, which we now call the North Pole.

Webcam view in July 2011

Anyway, if you want to know what's going on at the North Pole at any time of day or night, you can go look at the NOAA North Pole webcam.  Besides pictures, there is all sorts of information about temperatures and weather and stuff like that.  And if you're lucky, maybe you will get a glimpse of Santa loading up his sleigh for his big trip on Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

JEFFERSON DAVIS AND TRAVELER

This might be a picture of Traveler.
If not, it probably at least looks sort of like him.
Jefferson Davis was a president, but he wasn't the president of the United States.  Instead, he was president of the Confederate States of America, which was a new country that the southern states made during the Civil War.

Mr. Davis was born in Kentucky in 1808.  He went to West Point and then fought in the Mexican-American War.  He got elected a Democratic Senator from Mississippi, and after that, he served as the U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.  When he finished being in the Pierce administration, Mr. Davis went back to being a senator from Mississippi.  He thought that the South should not leave the Union, but he did believe that states had the right to do that if they chose to.







On February 9, 1861, after Senator Davis had resigned from the U.S. Senate, he was picked to be the provisional President of the C.S.A.  Then in November he was elected to a 6-year term as president.  And nobody even ran against him.  President Davis kept that office during the entire Civil War.

After the War, Mr. Davis went to a place called Beauvoir to do some writing.  Beauvoir was a home that was located near the coast, in Biloxi, Mississippi.  It was owned by a friend of the Davises, Mrs. Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey.  She had named her home "Beauvoir," which is French for "beautiful view."  Mr. Davis liked the house so much that he bought it from Mrs. Dorsey.


Mrs. Sarah Dorsey
When he began staying at Beauvoir, Mr. Davis met Traveler, a dog that he soon came to love very much.  Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey took a lot of trips abroad, because they were rich, and when they were in the Alps, they bought a mixed-breed puppy that had a Russian bulldog for a father.  The Russian bulldog seems to be a breed that isn't around anymore, so I couldn't find any pictures of Russian bulldogs.

Anyway, the Dorseys trained their puppy, Traveler, to be a bodyguard for Mrs. Dorsey.  One time when they were on a camping trip in the Arabian desert, Mr. Dorsey found out that one of his Arabian servants was stealing from him.  So he had the man punished.  After that, Mr. Dorsey went on a 2-day trip, and he left Mrs. Dorsey with an old Arab sheik to take care of her, and Traveler was there to guard her.  In the middle of the night, Mrs. Dorsey woke up when she heard a man scream.  It turned out that the thief who had been punished came back with a big knife to get his revenge by attacking Mrs. Dorsey.  But Traveler heard him and pinned him down.

Another time, when the Dorseys were in Paris, Mrs. Dorsey wore a bunch of expensive diamond jewelry to a party.  After the Dorseys got back to their hotel, Mr. Dorsey went out to smoke with some friends, and Mrs. Dorsey went to bed and fell asleep.  She woke up when she heard the sounds of a fight.  A thief had followed her back to the hotel to try to steal the expensive jewelry.  Traveler attacked him and bit him in the throat.  This man was one of the worst criminals in Paris.  He was sentenced to be hanged, but before that could happen, he died from his throat wound.


After Mrs. Dorsey died, Traveler became Mr. Davis's dog.  They hung out together all the time, and Traveler was a good guard dog for Mr. Davis, just like he had been for Mrs. Dorsey.  The doors and windows of Beauvoir never had to be locked because Traveler always made sure nobody got in unless they were allowed to.  When Mr. Davis wanted Traveler to know that it was okay for somebody to be there, he told the dog, "This is my friend," and let Traveler check the person out by giving them a good sniff.  After that, Traveler accepted the person and let them go wherever they wanted to on the property.

Even though Traveler could be fierce as a guard dog, he was very gentle with children.  He let them pull his hair, pound on him, and ride him like a pony.  He especially liked to play with Mrs. Davis's little niece.

Another thing that Traveler liked to do was chase fiddler crabs on the beach.  Whenever he managed to herd a bunch of them into the sea, he would bark and kick up sand to show how happy he was.  But if he was walking with Mr. Davis on the beach, he acted like a very serious body guard and did not chase the crabs.  He knew it was his job to keep his master safe, and if Mr. Davis got lost in thought and walked too close to the water, Traveler would steer him back up the beach a ways.

Jefferson Davis in 1885
One day Traveler got very sick, and Mr. Davis brought the best doctor in the area to try to make him well again.  But nothing the doctor did made Traveler feel better.  Mr. Davis and the doctor sat up all night with Traveler, and at daybreak, Traveler died with his head on his master's knee.  Mr. Davis was very sad, and he said, "I have indeed lost a friend."

Traveler was buried in a wooden coffin in the front yard of Beauvoir.  A stone was put on the grave to mark it, but later the stone disappeared.  Mr. Davis died in 1889.  For a number of years, members of the Davis family lived at Beauvoir, but finally it was turned into a presidential library.  During Hurricane Katrina, the house was badly damaged, but it has now been repaired and is open again.

I asked Mom if we could go to Mississippi to the beach so that I could chase the crabs.  Mom said that might be fun to do sometime, and I said "How about next week?"  Mom said she didn't think we could go that soon.  So who knows when we'll get there, if we ever do.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

AARDVARKS

On Friday Mom went to an estate sale, and she bought an aardvark.  She thought at first that she was buying an armadillo, but the more she looked at it, the more she decided it was an aardvark instead of an armadillo.  And one reason she thought this was because the animal was carved out of that soapstone stuff that people in Africa make carvings out of to sell to tourists.  There was a zebra at the sale, too, carved out of the same kind of stone, but Mom did not buy it.  She only bought the aardvark.





Mom's aardvark
Well, when I saw Mom's aardvark, I became inspired to write about aardvarks in my blog, so I did some research and I learned that aardvarks live in most parts of Africa, except not in the Sahara Desert.  There are lots of them, so they are not in any danger of going extinct.

The scientific name for aardvarks is Orycteropus afer, which is Greek for "digging-footed from Africa."  The name aardvark is an early Afrikaans word, and it means "earth pig" or "ground pig."  The animals were called this because they live in burrows in the ground, and also they look a little like pigs, even though they are not even remotely related to pigs.



Other names for aardvarks are "antbear" or "anteater," but aardvarks aren't related to the South American anteater either.  In fact, aardvarks don't have any close relatives at all, so that may be why they don't have family reunions.  Their closest relatives are elephant shrews, sirenians, hyraxes, tenrecs, and elephants.

Aardvarks have tough skin with some coarse hair on it.  Their toes have wide, flat nails that are really good for digging.  Their long snouts have a flat sort of disc at the end where the nostrils are.  The aardvark's mouth is shaped like a tube, and its tongue is like a long, sticky worm that can be 12 inches long.




The whole reason aardvarks are made like this is so they can dig termites out of their mounds and eat them.  Termites and ants are almost the only things that aardvarks eat, which frankly, does not sound like a very yummy or well-balanced diet to me.  But aardvarks seem to do fine on it.  Adults weigh between 110 and 180 pounds, and they live as long as 23 years in captivity.











Termite mounds can be really tall!
In Africa, where the aardvarks live, it gets very hot, so during the day they stay in their burrows where it is cooler.  Then at night they come out and look for termites.  Aardvarks don't have very good eyesight, but they can hear really well, so they are always listening for predators.  Also they have a great sense of smell, and they can sniff out termite mounds or ant colonies.  During the night, aardvarks usually go an average of 1 to 3 miles while hunting, but sometimes they go as far as 18 miles in one night.




This mound got dug into, probably by an aardvark.
When an aardvark finds a termite mound, it digs in very quickly and starts snarfing up the termites.  The aardvark can close its nostrils to keep dust out of its nose, and its thick skin protects it from insect bites.  Aardvarks can dig 2 feet deep in only 15 seconds, even though they move much more slowly when they are just walking around.  During one night, an aardvark can eat as many as 50,000 termites or ants.







Real aardvark burrows have much smaller openings.
This one is probably in a zoo.
Besides eating termites, digging burrows is something that aardvarks also do a lot of.  They usually have a main burrow, which is big and has lots of escape routes.  And then they may have several smaller burrows where they can just hang out during the day.  When they are sleeping in their burrow, they close up the entrance with dirt, so it doesn't even look like there is a burrow there.  Abandoned burrows are used by smaller animals such as the African wild dog.






Aardvarks live by themselves unless it is mating season.  After mating, a female aardvark waits 7 months and then one cub is born that weighs about 4 pounds.  After 2 weeks, the cub can leave the burrow and follow the mother.  By 14 weeks, it is eating termites, and it is weaned by 16 weeks.  At 6 months, a cub can dig its own burrow, but often a cub will stay with its mom until the next mating season.










The main predators of aardvarks are lions, leopards, hunting dogs, and pythons.  Also there are some African tribes that hunt aardvarks for their meat.  If an aardvark is trying to get away from a predator, it can dig a burrow really fast, or else it can run in a zig-zag way.  Sometimes it will use its claws, tail, and shoulders to defend itself, and its thick skin also helps protect it.






In African folklore, the aardvark is admired because of how hard it works to find food, and also because it is not afraid of soldier ants.  Some African magicians make a charm out of parts of the aardvark, mixed with the root of a certain tree.  A person who has this charm is supposed to be able to go through walls or roofs at night.  Burglars like to use this charm, and so do young men who want to visit girls without the permission of the girls' parents.




I think aardvarks are funny-looking, and it might be interesting to have one at our house, but Mom says we do not have enough termites to feed an aardvark, or at least she hopes we don't!

Monday, December 19, 2011

MORE OF MY FAVORITE TV SHOWS

A long time ago, I wrote about some of the TV shows I like the most.  I still watch some of those shows, but other ones aren't on the air anymore.  We don't know if they got totally cancelled or if they are just taking a long vacation.  If they got cancelled, this is very sad, because I really liked watching Dogtown and also Dr. G: Medical Examiner.  But we haven't seen them for a long time, so we think maybe these shows aren't being made anymore.

Luckily, there are some new shows to watch instead of those old ones, so that makes me happy.  Anyway, here's a list of some of my favorite shows now.


1.  Bones
This show was on my list before, and I still like it because it has lots of bones in it.  The only thing that would be better than seeing all those bones on TV would be chewing on them personally.  At the end of the last season of Bones, Dr. Brennan and Agent Booth finally admitted that they were in love with each other.  It only took them like 14 seasons to figure this out, and then when they did, they got in bed together and made a baby.  The baby hasn't been born yet, but she will be born sometime this season, probably in the middle of some exciting and scary story line.  So we are waiting to see how it happens.



2.  Hoarders
     and Hoarding: Buried Alive
Hoarders was on my list before, but now there is also a second show about hoarding.  Mom and I are still watching these shows out of morbid fascination, because we can hardly believe that people live like that, except we know it is true.  These people are really sick, and they need lots of counseling and "after care" to keep from filling their houses up with stuff all over again.  It is a very sad situation, and it makes a lot of people get mad at each other because they think their mother or father or whoever loves their stuff more than they love their family.  Which, sadly, is sometimes true.



3.  Confessions:  Animal Hoarding
This show is even more horrible to watch than the regular hoarding shows, because it is animals that are being hoarded.  Usually it's dogs or cats that people hoard, but sometimes it's birds or rats or rabbits or snakes or horses.  What mostly happens is that the people start out keeping a few pets or rescuing a few animals, and then things get out of control.  And pretty soon the people can't afford to get medical care for their animals or even to feed them properly, and lots of times there are dead animals in the house that the people don't even know about.  Plus it smells really icky because of all the pee and poop.  Actually, I think it might be interesting to smell so much pee and poop, but Mom says it would not be healthy, especially if you had to breathe that stinky air for a long time.

Anyway, this show is not having any new episodes right now, so maybe the producers are out making some new ones.  We will have to see if it comes back later on.



4.  Pit Bulls and Parolees
We just started watching this show a few weeks ago, and we think it is pretty interesting.  It's about a woman named Tia Torres, and she has a pit bull rescue called Villalobos, which is located in California. The Torres family also consists of two daughters and twin sons.  All of the kids are at least teenagers, but it's hard to tell how old they are, exactly.  We don't know where Mr. Torres is.  We do know that he was in prison sometime in the past, and so Ms. Torres understands how hard it is for a person on parole to get a job.  Maybe Mr. Torres is back in prison, or maybe he died, or maybe he and Ms. Torres got a divorce.  Anyway, he's not on the TV show, but some of the parolees are.  Ms. Torres will hire them if they like dogs and are willing to work hard and be honest and stuff like that.

So what happens on this show is that Ms. Torres is always getting calls from somebody who wants her to come and rescue a pit bull.  In one episode, there was a dog chained out in a field in the sun without any water or food.  And in another episode, some people moved out of their house and left a pit bull and her puppies.  Then another time everybody was trying to catch a stray bulldog that was living in a 40-acre field.  And they finally did catch her, but it took like a week or something.


Meanwhile, people come to Villalobos to adopt pit bulls, and Ms. Torres tries to match them with the dog that's best for them.  So on this show there are lots of happy-ending stories.  At Villalobos, there are at least 150 dogs, and most of them need homes, so if you want to adopt a pit bull of your very own, you can go here to look at the available dogs.



5.  Fatal Attractions
This is another show that you might call morbidly fascinating.  It's about people who like to keep exotic pets.  And these are not just any exotic pets, these are animals that can hurt you really bad or even kill you.  Some examples of these animals are tigers, lions, chimpanzees, poisonous snakes, crocodiles, bulls,  and hyenas.


Usually, what happens is that people get these pets when they are little and cuddly, and the people believe that they have bonded with the animal, and that it will never turn on them.  But lots of times they are wrong.  So they end up with some horrible scars, or they lose an arm, or they get killed.  Or if they don't, then somebody else they know does.

But for some reason, these people are totally obsessed with these dangerous animals, and even if they almost die from an attack, some of them will keep tempting fate by having the animals around.




6.  Body of Proof
This show is sort of like Dr. G: Medical Examiner, except that Body of Proof is about fictional autopsies instead of real ones.  And also all the people who are getting the autopsies have been murdered.  The star of the show is Dr. Megan Hunt, who is played by Dana Delaney, who is very pretty and sexy.  Mom gets annoyed because Dr. Hunt always wears dressy clothes and high heels to crime scenes and also while she is doing autopsies.  Of course, she puts on a lab coat to protect her clothes, but Mom thinks that the shoes are not practical for walking around in the woods where some of the bodies are.  And also shoes like that would hurt your feet if you had to stand around in them for several hours while you were doing an autopsy.  But this is how you can tell that the show is not real, because Dr. G would never wear that kind of shoes while she was doing autopsies.


So anyway, those are some of my favorite shows right now.  Mom has some other shows that she also watches, but they don't have any animals or bones in them, so I usually fall asleep while they are on!