Wednesday, October 31, 2012

VAMPIRE BATS!

Today is Halloween, so that means I get to write about some spooky, creepy subject such as vampire bats.  The main reason why vampire bats seem so creepy is because they only eat BLOOD.  They don't eat fruits or vegetables or muffins, which seems like a very unbalanced diet, but I guess it works for them.

There are actually three kinds of vampire bats, and they are called the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat.  All of these bats live in tropical areas of the New World, including Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America.  The Common Vampire Bat is the most common of these three types, which is probably how it got its name, and it's the one I'm going to tell you about.


Photo by The Daily Texan
During the day, bats hang around upside-down in dark places like caves, wells, mine shafts, hollow trees, and buildings.  This is called "roosting."  Males and females roost together, with each male having a "harem" of about six females.  In one roosting spot, there might be only six bats, or there might be as many as two thousand.






As soon as it gets totally dark outside, the bats go out to start looking for food.  They have something called thermoreceptors which tell them where the warmest places are on their prey.  It's important for them to know this because the "hot spots" are where the blood is closest to the skin.  The only other animals that have thermoreceptors are boas, pythons, and pit vipers.

Common vampire bats like to feed on mammals such as horses, burros, cattle, goats, and pigs.  These animals are all much bigger than a bat, so the bats have to be very sneaky and careful.  They generally land on the ground and then walk around their victim.  Vampire bats are the only kind of bat that can walk, using their hind legs and modified thumbs.  The other types of bats have evolved to the point where they can only fly.




Anyway, the bat picks a spot where it hopes it can bite the victim without waking it up. The actual bite is made with just the front incisors, which are so very sharp that the bite is mostly painless.  A tiny little pool of blood forms where the animal was bitten.  This is where the bat feeds.  Meanwhile, some stuff in the bat's saliva keeps the blood from clotting.  Sometimes several bats all feed from the same bite wound.













Vampire bats have really good kidneys, and they start peeing out the blood plasma within a couple of minutes after they begin to feed.  They have to get rid of as much of the unneeded liquid from the blood as they can so that they can fly back to their roosting place with such a heavy load of blood inside them.  When the bats get back to their roost, the females feed their babies, and then everybody settles in for a long nap while they digest their food.





Picture taken at Sangayan Island,
Paracas National Reserve,
Departamento Ica, Peru, March 2005
One thing that's really nice about vampire bats is that they really help each other out.  If a baby bat loses its mother, other females will nurse it.  Also, if a bat didn't have any luck finding some nice blood to eat, that bat can ask another bat for food, and get a handout.  Except that bats don't have hands, so it's actually a regurgitation of food.















Mother bats take care of their young for a long time.  First of all, there is a gestation period of anywhere from 90 to 120 days, and after that, one baby bat is born.  Right after birth, the babies grow pretty fast, but then their growth slows down.  It takes a young bat about 300 days to get to its full adult weight.  The babies are usually not weaned until they are 9 months old.





One reason why people are so afraid of vampire bats is because bats carry rabies.  Well, bats do carry rabies sometimes, but the truth is that only 0.5% of bats have rabies.  If a bat gets rabies, it will probably die within a few days, so it doesn't have much of a chance to spread it.  There is more danger of bats giving rabies to cattle than to humans.

I'm not sure if I would like have a pet vampire bat living with us or not.  I think it would be tasty to eat one, but I also think it would be hard to get past all those sharp teeth.  Mom says she would not want something flying around in the house at night and biting us while we're sleeping.  I wouldn't really want that either, so I guess this is one time that Mom and I agree on something!


Monday, October 29, 2012

REALLY WEIRD NAMES FOR PETS

The people who sell VPI pet insurance see lots of names of dogs and cats on insurance claims forms, so they know what names people are using.  And every year, VPI publishes lists of the most popular dog and cat names.  I have written about this before, and if you want to know more, you can read this post and this other one.   But I think the most popular names are pretty boring, so here's a more interesting list that VPI put together with all the wackiest names of 2012.

In my opinion, most of these names are truly weird, and you should never call your dog or cat by one of them.  But a few of them are pretty cute, and I think they are just fine, like for example "Bean Bag" or "Snazzel" or "Kitty Gaga."  One thing I have noticed is that lots of these names are about food.  I don't know if that means humans are just always thinking about eating, or if it means their pets are always thinking about eating.

So anyway, here are the lists.


DOG NAMES

Chew Barka
Nigel Nosewhistle
Sir Maui Senqkey Schwykle
Spark Pug
Agent 99
Stinker Belle
Vienna Sausage
Furnace Hills Dante
Señorita Margarita
Trigonometry
Spunky Brewster
Captain Awesome
Peanut Von Strudel
Raising A. Ruckus
Flash T. Trousers

Vito Meatball
Marcopolo
Otto Itchy Bobo
Tugboat O’Malley
Ziggy Stardust Floyd
Fudge McDreamy
Dandy Lion
Phat Daddy
Pawly D
Nacho Cheese
Jelly Diamondstein

Monster Truck Mickey

Fuzzbrizio
Cheeto Bear
Miss Snowy Pineapple
Mr. Cashew Maghoo
Fatboy Jackson
Firecracker Jack
Chubster
Whiskey Valentine
Oreo-Dunkin
Santa Paws
Snazzel
Boogie Woogie
Yucky
Yikes
Maximus Von Francis
Tuff Buckaroo
Mr. Bojangles Bobo
Ziggy Pop
Zoolander
Uncle Roscoe
Oreo Pudding
Little Scrappy
Major Sluggo



CAT NAMES

Pico de Gato
Dingleberry 
Dumpster Kitty
Schnickelfritz
Koobenfarben
Sassy Pants Huska
Vincent Van Furrball
Kitty Gaga
Beefra
Mister Bigglesworth
Cuddles McCracken
Slim Pickens
Magnificat
My Girl Catastrophe
Friar McFergus
Mr. Chubsy Buttons
Fergus McGillicuddy
Captain Skittlehook
Haircool Pawrow
Bean Bag
Mr. Moss McCheeks
Brown Cactus
Tempurra
Sugar Britches
Tiger Blood
Twinkle Toes
Albus Dumbledore
Madame Meow
Weow Weow
Shatsi Popo
Trinity Sweetypaws
Violet Diablo
Mister Peepers
Mr. Creamsicle
Black Sabbath
Yum-Yum
Kitty Bowersocks
Long John Silverrr
Meow Meow Thompson
Handsome Happy Fella
Fahlua Fudge
Orange Juice
Biggie Shorty
Breezy Chatter Bug
Wahoo Ferguson
Muffin Madonna
Minnie Mouse
Princess Raggedy Ann
Boogey Man
Candyapple





Friday, October 26, 2012

MOM BUYS SOME ROCKS

In my opinion, it's totally dumb to pay good money for rocks, when you can just find them lying around in lots of places on the ground.  But a long time ago I gave up trying to understand some of the dumb things humans do.  Anyway, on Wednesday Mom went to a place called House of Rocks, and while she was there, she bought some rocks, because that's why she went there in the first place, to buy rocks.


Mom knew exactly what kind of rocks she wanted, but first she looked around some at all the other kinds of rocks.  And she took pictures of rocks because she actually remembered to take her camera.  When you first get to House of Rocks, you can see ideas of how to use the different sizes and shapes of rocks because there is a display of stuff built out of rocks.  Of course, if you are not a stonemason, whatever you build out of rocks might not turn out looking this nice.


At House of Rocks, they have pretty much every size of rock ever made.  And all the different kinds of rocks have names.  Here's a pile of medium-sized rocks that are called Eau Claire.  In French, eau claire means "clear water," which is where you are likely to see smooth rocks like these.  Also, Eau Claire is a city in Wisconsin.  So maybe these rocks come from Wisconsin, or maybe they just come out of a clear stream someplace.  Mom likes to buy the little bitty size of Eau Claire rocks to use as top dressing on her cactus plants.



A lot of the rocks are cut into nice shapes that you can use to build a wall.  They are bundled into handy packages and they sit around on pallets, all ready to be loaded onto a truck.  It sounds like a boring sort of life to me, but the rocks have been sitting around for thousands of years, so I guess they are used to it.



There are signs that tell you the name of the rocks and how much they cost.  You can usually buy them by the pound or by the ton.  If you get them by the pound, you can personally pick out the ones you think are the prettiest.  But if you need enough rocks to build, like, a whole castle, you should probably buy them by the ton.



Some rocks would probably make better paving stones than walls, especially if they were lying down flat instead of standing up.


Here's the shed where the forklift lives.  There are lots and lots of pallets there.  You could probably build a whole house out of the wood in the pallets.  Or several dog houses.



I think this is a different shed, or maybe it's the other end of the first shed.  Anyway, it's sort of falling apart.



Sometimes people just want a great big rock or two in their yard.  I'm not sure why, unless it's so their boy dogs will have a place to pee.  If there are enough holes in the rocks, little plants will grow there.  These rocks are limestone, and limestone usually has a bunch of holes in it.  Sometimes entire caves are made of limestone.



This rock has some interesting lichen on it.



Behind the yard where all the rocks are at House of Rocks, there is a deep ravine, and at the bottom of the ravine, there is a creek.  This creek is called Turkey Creek.  In the past, Turkey Creek went through a part of town called the West Bottoms, where there were lots of stockyards and train tracks and stuff like that.  And whenever there was a flood, Turkey Creek got out of its banks and helped fill up the entire West Bottoms with water.



In those days, Turkey Creek flowed into the Missouri River, but then its route got changed, and now it goes into the Kansas River instead.  I guess this somehow helps keep so much flooding from happening, but that's all I know about it.

These are the controls of an old forklift that was sitting around in the open, without a shed to protect it.  That's why Mom thought it probably wasn't being used anymore.  Plus it looked like it wouldn't run, even if you put gas in it.


The tire of the old forklift has a bunch of rocks stuck to it.



This is one of the trucks that hauls rocks.




Here are some interesting rocks with layers in them.  If I were a geologist, I could maybe tell you what kind of rocks they are, but I'm not, so I can't.



Now we have to ask ourselves "Who is SCOTT?  How did his name get there?  And why is it upside down?"  I have lost at least 30 seconds of sleep thinking about this mystery, but sadly, I cannot solve it.


Finally, Mom found the kind of rocks she wanted.  They were all in a big pile.


Mom thought they were called something like "river rocks," but it turns out that the correct name is "Grey Cobbles."  Most of them seem to be made of granite, but I will just say again that I am not a geologist.  Mom told me that the rocks spent many centuries having their sharp edges rounded off by glaciers or water, and that is how they got so round and smooth.



Here are all the nice rocks that Mom picked out and put in our car.  She tried to guess how many rocks she needed and how much they would cost, but she was wrong.



It turned out that she only had to pay $42 for the rocks she picked out, and it also turned out that she didn't get enough rocks to cover the space she wanted to cover.



So today, while our kittens are at the shelter getting spayed and neutered, Mom is going back to House of Rocks to buy some more grey cobbles.




Tuesday, October 23, 2012

THE CONGO RIVER

Last week when I wrote about that old photo from the Congo that Mom bought, I saw a bunch of pictures online of the Congo River, and I was shocked to see how humongous this river really is.  Then I got to thinking about my distant basenji ancestors and cousins that live in the Congo area, and I figured that some of them might have even seen this river in person.  Which led me to come up with the theory that the whole reason why basenjis hate swimming so much is because our ancestors knew it would be very dangerous to swim in the Congo River, and that knowledge got  passed down in our genes for thousands of years.   I was very proud of myself for coming up with this excellent theory, and I am surprised that no one else seems to have thought it up before.


Sunrise near Mossaka
Photo by Bsm15

Okay, well, now I am going to tell you a little bit about the Congo River, but I can't tell you everything there is to know because it is a very deep subject.  Hahahaha!   The reason why that is such a good joke is because the Congo River is the deepest river in the whole world!  There are places where it is more than 720 ft (220 m) deep.  This is almost two and a half football fields, except that it's kind of hard to imagine football fields standing on end instead of lying down flat.




If you measure the amount of water that comes out at its mouth, the Congo is the 3rd largest river in the world, after the Amazon and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna complex.  The length of the Congo is 2,920 miles (4,700 km), which makes it the 9th longest river.  In ancient times, there were some people called the Kingdom of Kongo who lived near the mouth of the river, and this is how the Congo got its name.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo are two countries that both got their names from the river.

The Congo River has always been an important way to travel through the country.

The first European to discover the mouth of the Congo River was a Portuguese explorer named Diego Cão, in 1482.  He claimed the land for Portugal.  In 1484, Cão and his men sailed up the river, looking for the King of the Congo, but they never came back home again, and no one ever knew what happened to them.


NASA photo of Malebo Pool (formerly called Stanley Pool)

Soon after that, Portuguese soldiers and priests started showing up in the Congo.  Within 50 years, lots of Congolese people were being captured and sold as slaves by European countries who were all competing with each other to get the best stuff they could from the Congo region.


Mbandaka Market
Photo by Oxfam East Africa

The rainforest that grows in the Congo River basin is the 2nd largest one in the world, after the Amazon rainforest.  There are almost 400 types of mammals living there, 1,000 kinds of birds, and 10,000 types of plants.  Also there are reptiles such as lizards, snakes and crocodiles.  Sometimes dolphins, whales, and manatees come in for a visit from the Pacific Ocean.  And hippos like to hang out in the shallow water near the river.


National Geographic photo


There are lots of really scary-looking fish in the river, too, such as the Goliath Tiger Fish.  I think one of these fish could eat a small dog in two bites, which is why it is wise for basenjis to stay far away from the water.

Goliath Tiger Fish!

I have to admit that I have no desire to go visit the land where my basenji cousins live because it seems pretty scary to me.  Mom is scared to go there, too, mostly because there is always some kind of fighting going on.  So we have agreed we will just stay home and look at the pictures.



Sunday, October 21, 2012

AN UPDATE ON OUR FOSTER KITTIES

Our three kittens are now 12 weeks old.  Every day they eat some more, and they grow some more.  They have now got so big that they all weigh more than two pounds, which means they can get spayed or neutered.  Mom made an appointment for this to happen on Friday.

Mingo



Mingo is still the biggest and most handsome of the three kittens.  He actually weighs three pounds  He is a seal point Siamese.  Mingo isn't quite as cuddly as the other two, but maybe he will mellow out as he gets older.











Mingo taking a bath

















Moxie without the flash


The little girl kitten, Moxie, just weighs a little over two pounds, so that makes her the smallest of the three.  She likes to climb up Mom's leg or jump on Mom's shoulders.  Also she likes to sit in Mom's lap and fall asleep.


Moxie is a torti point Siamese.  It's very hard to get good pictures of her because right before the flash goes off, she closes her eyes.  Either that, or she looks kind of grumpy.  But she's not really a grumpy kitten.  She just looks that way in flash pictures.






Moxie thinking hard about how to catch the cat toy
























Morgan

Morgan, the other boy kitten, has long hair.  He has an undercoat that is kind of grayish-tan, like the color of his brother and sister.  We think people will want to adopt him because he is going to be so pretty, even if he is a black cat.













Morgan has enough hair between his toes
so that he could be a snowshoe bunny!




A couple of weeks ago, the kittens got the sniffles, so they had to take some pink antibiotic stuff for 10 days.  They are all better now, which is good, because they wouldn't be able to get their surgery if they were still sick.













Latifa's ugly boo-boo
Meanwhile, we still have Latifa here.  One day she hurt herself somehow, probably in the basement.  Mom thinks maybe Latifa got against a hot water pipe while Mom was taking a shower, but we don't know for sure what happened.  Mom did not see the wound until late in the afternoon because Latifa spent a lot of the day snoozing, like all the cats do.  Also, since Mom is much taller than Latifa and was looking down at her, she couldn't even see the wound from that angle.  But finally Latifa got in Mom's lap, and then Mom did notice it.  So she took Latifa over to see Dr. Vodraska when she went to pick up Barry, who got his teeth cleaned that day.











Latifa almost all healed up
So after that, Latifa had to take antibiotics for about two weeks.  But she is all healed up now, except for her hair growing back, which it is starting to do.  Soon you won't be able to see that there was even a wound there.

The other thing that's going on with Latifa is that she got some x-rays taken on Friday.  The reason for this was because when Latifa jumps up on things, she sometimes doesn't make it and she falls off.  Or else she gets up there, but she lands with three feet and then brings her right hind leg up afterwards.  Mom told Aunt Tania about this, and they agreed that it would be nice to know what was going on, so they could tell anybody who wanted to adopt Latifa.





Dr. Vodraska thought Latifa probably had an old injury that didn't heal up right, but when she looked at the x-rays, she found out that Latifa has hip dysplasia.  Usually it's just dogs who get hip dysplasia, but sometimes cats have it, too.  Latifa only has it in her right hip, where the ball socket of the hip joint is really shallow.  Tomorrow the radiologist will come to the clinic and look at all the x-rays for the past week, so after that we will know more about Latifa's hip.

In the meantime, she is not letting it slow her down at all, because she is always jumping into every weird place in the house.  I think she is wasting way too much energy with all this exploring and jumping and snooping.  But nobody asked me, so I guess I will just shut up about it -- for now.