Tuesday, January 29, 2013



This is mainly a British word, and it means a small metal cup or pan.  The word has been around since at least 1823.  It's not used much these days because now people have cups made of all sorts of other things such as china and plastic.  But if you are reading 19th-century English novels, like Mom keeps doing, you might run into the word pannikin.


If you rangle, it means you are running around in a weird and irregular way.  Of course, nobody really talks about rangling much anymore because the word is mostly obsolete.  Which is a shame because it is a perfectly good word that describes what my doggy brothers do sometimes in the back yard.

Rangle also means the little stones that hawks swallow to help their stomachs grind up and digest their food.  Chickens swallow little stones for this same reason, but it's not called rangle, it's called chicken grit.


This word has been around a very long time, like since 1350 or so.  It means "humiliating treatment, a display of contempt, scorn, rudeness, or insulting language."  Contumely seems like it should be an adjective, but it's really a noun, and I think this is confusing.  Also, the accent is on the first syllable, or at least that is the preferred way to say it.  The second-best way is to put the accent on the second syllable.  Mom had totally the wrong idea about what this word means and how to pronounce it, so I'm glad I was able to straighten her out on this!


This is the name for those tall, round hats that Greek Orthodox priests wear.  They look sort of like top hats, except without the brim.  Russian Orthodox priests wear them, too, but the Russian word is kamilavka. The priest wears this hat during services, and at other times he wears a softer hat called a skufia.  Different ethnic groups use different colors of hats.


Wadmal is a thick, coarse wool fabric that used to be worn in the British Isles and in Scandinavia to keep warm.  Now more people have furnaces, so I guess they don't wear as much wadmal.  Which is too bad, because wadmal is a fun word to say!


If you are standing around with your mouth hanging open, you have a rictus, because a rictus is a gaping mouth.  This word is often used to describe a bird's mouth, but it can also be a person's mouth.  Dogs have their mouths open a lot, with their tongues out, but this is usually called panting or drooling, and not rictus.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


A couple of weeks ago the nice meteorologists at NOAA wrote down everything there was to know about Kansas City weather in 2012, and they put all that information on their website.  Maybe you will remember that I kept telling you all summer about how hot and dry it was, and about how we were having a terrible drought.  Well, I wasn't just making that stuff up -- NOAA has all the numbers to prove that I was right!

When I first heard of NOAA, it was on the weather radio, and I thought they were saying NOAH, which is a great name for a weather agency because Noah was that guy in the Bible who built an ark when the Great Flood was coming.  But then Mom said the name was really NOAA, which stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  These are the people who keep all kinds of records about the weather, and they also make forecasts.  So they are very important people, just like the original Noah, except I don't think they've ever built an ark.

Anyway, now I'm going to tell you some things that NOAA said in their summary of Kansas City's weather in 2012.  First they said that the average temperature for the entire year was 58.8º.  This meant that 2012 was tied with 1946 for being the 3rd-warmest year on record since 1880.  There were 9 months with above-average temperatures.  The temperature was over 90º on 69 days.  Usually, the temperature is only above 90º on about 30 days.

Every year there are 108 days or so when the low temperature is below freezing, but last year there were only 86 days that cold.  And there was not a single day with below-zero temperatures.

On July 18, we had the highest temperature of the whole year, which was 106º.  And the lowest temperature was 5º on February 11 and 12.

All the precipitation we got during the entire year was only 22.28 inches.  The regular amount we are supposed to get is 38.83 inches, so we were a whole 16.55 inches below normal.  And this means that 2012 was the 3rd-driest year on record.

The longest period of time we went without any rain or snow at all was 27 days, and that was from November 12 to December 8.  The biggest bunch of rain we got in a 24-hour period was 1.6 inches on September 3-4.  We usually have about 53 days with thunderstorms, but we only had 42 last year, which made my scaredy-dog brothers happy.

Okay, now I will tell you about the snow.  During the 2011-12 winter season, we only got 3.9 inches total, which was the least-snowy season ever on record.  Usually we might get 18 or 19 inches during the winter, but that didn't happen last year.

Well, now you know the whole story of the 2012 weather in Kansas City.  Mostly, I guess you could say it has been dry and warm.  Except for a few days when it got to be really and truly cold.  We will have to wait and see how things turn out in 2013, but so far, we are starting off pretty much the same way.  Frankly, I don't mind not having a bunch of rain because I don't like to get my feet wet when I go out to potty.  But Mom is really, really wanting snow and rain to come and water the grass and trees and stuff.  Besides which, everybody is tired of The Drought, so it would be nice if it just went away!

Friday, January 25, 2013


My mom has a dragon tattoo, and she is not the only person who has one.  It turns out that a dragon is a very popular thing to get tattooed on yourself.  The reason for this might be because of the power and magic and energy of dragons.  They represent all kinds of cool things, as I have been telling you during this whole Year of the Dragon.  Mom got her dragon tattoo because she was born in a Dragon year, and she thought the tattoo would be fun to have, and that it would bring her good fortune.  Except that right after she got it, Gabe died, which was not very fortunate.  But we have all had some better fortune since then, so that's good.

Mom's dragon tattoo

Anyway, there are many kinds of dragon tattoos, and many places you can put them on your body.  Some people just get regular old black tattoos, and others get colorful, complicated tattoos that probably took a whole bunch of hours to make, not to mention hurting a lot!  So now I will stop writing and start showing you some pictures.

Here are a couple of Celtic dragon tattoos on men's arms:

The rest of these arm tattoos are either Chinese or Japanese dragons.

Another place people like to get dragon tattoos is on their backs.  Usually, these are pretty big tattoos.  Personally, I think that if you spend that much time and money getting a tattoo, you would want it in a place where you could see it and enjoy it, instead of having to look behind you in a mirror all the time.  But that is just my opinion, which nobody asked for, as usual.

Okay, so then there are the people who put dragon tattoos on their fronts or sides or all over their whole bodies.  These people might be crazy, but I am not going to say they are for sure, because they could be reading this blog, and I don't want them to feel offended.

I told Mom she should get a tattoo like this last one because it has really pretty colors, and it comes with long, gold fingernails.  But Mom said the fingernails would drive her nuts.  And anyway, she thinks one dragon tattoo is plenty.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


This month the AKC added two new dog breeds to the list of breeds they recognize for registration.  One of these breeds is the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, which I already told you about in another blog entry.  And the second breed is the Chinook, which I am going to tell you about today.

The Chinook is a sled dog, but it doesn't look like a normal sled dog, at least in my opinion.  A man named Arthur Treadwell Walden, who lived in Wonalancet, New Hampshire, bred a husky-type bitch to a mastiff-type dog in 1917, and one of the puppies seemed like he would make an especially good sled dog.  This dog was named Chinook, and he is the main stud dog that the whole Chinook breed came from.

Mr. Walden bred Chinook to Belgian Sheepdogs, German Shepherd Dogs, Canadian Eskimo Dogs, and maybe some other breeds.  Then he bred Chinook's puppies back to him.  Pretty soon, Mr. Walden had a bunch of dogs with similar looks, and they were all good at pulling sleds.

Since there is usually a bunch of snow in New England, it's a good place for dog-sledding.  Mr. Walden already had lots of experience training sled dogs and driving sleds in the Yukon.  So now he got people in the Northeast interested in the sport, and he helped found the New England Sled Dog Club in 1924.

In 1927, when Richard E. Byrd starting planning an expedition in Antarctica, Arthur Walden applied to go along, even though he was 56 years old, which was over the maximum age.  But he got accepted because of his experience with dog sledding, and he trained all the dogs that were being used on the expedition.  It took over a year for the team to do all the training and test all of their equipment.

I am sorry to tell you that during the expedition, Chinook disappeared on January 17, 1929, which was his 12th birthday.  No one knew whether he had an accident or just went off to die or what.  His body was never found.  The news of his death got printed in newspapers all over the world, and back in New Hampshire, the people named the road between the towns of Tamworth and Wonalancet "Chinook Trail."

But anyway, getting back to the Chinook breed, after Arthur Walden's death, his breeding stock went to Julia Lombard, and then on to Perry Greene in the late 1940s.  Mr. Greene continued breeding Chinooks for many years until his death in 1963.  Since he was really the only person breeding these dogs, there soon got to be very few of them left.  In fact, by 1981 only eleven breedable Chinooks were still around.  Breeders in Maine, Ohio, and California divided the dogs that were left and managed to save the Chinooks from extinction.

In 1991, the Chinook breed got registered status with the UKC, but there still aren't very many of these dogs around, like maybe only about 800.  Every year 100 or so puppies are born worldwide.  The UKC registry allows breeders to cross-breed to other types of dogs that were likely used to create the Chinook breed in the first place.  Then every 4th-generation dog that is back-crossed can be registered, but it has to meet the breed standards.

Chinooks have been in the AKC Foundation Stock Service since 2001, and they were added to the Miscellaneous Class in 2010.  This month the Chinook became the 176th AKC breed, and it is part of the Working Class.  Also, the Chinook is the State Dog of New Hampshire.

The double coat of the Chinook is a light honey to reddish-gold color.  If there are black markings on the ears, muzzle, and eye corners, that is especially good.  Buff markings are okay, but white markings are not allowed.  Chinooks are between 21" and 27" in height, and they weigh 55 to 90 pounds.  They are balanced and muscular.  They can have either prick ears or drop ears, but drop ears are preferred.

Chinooks make really good family dogs because they are playful and affectionate, and they love children.  They don't need a ton of exercise, but a daily walk is good.  If you don't have a sled for them to pull, you can use them for carting, flyball, agility, skijoring, or search-and-rescue.  You should not leave them outside in your yard all the time, because Chinooks want to be inside with their humans.

Since they were bred to be part of a team, Chinooks get along well with other dogs.  They are smart and easy to train.  They don't make good guard dogs, so if you want a dog for protection, you should get a different breed.

Okay, well, that's about all I know to tell you about the Chinook breed.  I just wish those silly men hadn't gone on that expedition to Antarctica, because I hate to think of poor Chinook dying out there, all alone in the cold.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Our lives are always totally exciting, as I might have mentioned before.  And now it's time to tell you about all the very latest excitement that has been going on.

One of my most graceful sleeping poses

First of all, two of our foster kittens, Cooper and Michelin, got adopted.  So now we only have Dunlop.  We don't know why Dunlop hasn't been adopted.  Mom thinks he was cuter than his other two brothers, but in my opinion, one cat is pretty much like another cat.  Anyway, Dunlop has been out to PetsMart several times to adoption events, and he also spent two different entire weeks out there in a cage.  During the second week he was there, Michelin got adopted, so then Dunlop was all by himself for several days.  You should have seen how happy he was when Mom brought him back home!

Dunlop looking cute and adoptable

Any time Dunlop was at PetsMart, he got kind of stressed, which made him want to growl and hiss at people.  So maybe that is why he didn't get adopted yet.  At home, he hardly ever growls or hisses.  So we think he just doesn't like to be in a cage, and if anybody wants to adopt him now, they will have to come to our house and meet him here.

Anyway, Dunlop figured out on Wednesday that he is big enough to jump up on the kitchen counter.  Mom lets the cats get on the counter on one side of the kitchen, but not the counter on the other side.  Jason and Latifa, and now Dunlop, are very bad kitties, though, and when Mom isn't looking, they jump up where they are not allowed.

Latifa likes to jump from the forbidden counter to the top of the refrigerator.  Then she crouches there like a spooky little black panther, watching everything that goes on.  We don't think Dunlop has been on top the fridge yet, but Mom caught him on the counter one day, looking up there.  He is definitely learning bad habits from Latifa and from Jason.  But some bad habits he figured out all by himself, such as getting inside the dishwasher or the refrigerator when Mom opens the doors.

If Dunlop doesn't get adopted pretty soon, he is going to go live at the Humane Society and try to get adopted there.  At the shelter, he will have lots of other kitties to play with, plus volunteers to socialize him.  And potential adopters can see him out running around loose, and not in a cage.

One reason we want little Dunlop to get adopted is because we now have TWO NEW FOSTER CATS in our house, which means it is getting kind of crowded here!  The new kitties are not kittens.  They are maybe 4 or 5 years old.  Or maybe they are older than that.  They both came from a home where a woman had 25 cats, which she finally decided was more than she could take care of, especially after she got arrested for having so many.


These two new foster cats are ragdolls, which is one of the 10 most popular cat breeds.  The lady who owned them used to breed ragdolls, but then she stopped breeding them.  She even got some of them neutered and spayed.  But she still ended up with too many cats.  Aunt Tania agreed to take 10 cats to start with, and maybe more later.  The two that Mom is fostering will be adopted out through Aunt Tania's group, DivaPets.  The rest of the cats will probably just stay at the Humane Society.

Some of the 10 cats were actually in good condition, except for having fleas.  They can be put up for adoption pretty soon.  Not all of the cats are ragdolls.  Some are just ordinary long-haired cats, and 3 are short-haired cats.  The ragdolls seemed to be in the worst shape, so Mom picked out two of them to foster.  Mom and Aunt Tania gave all 10 cats Greek names.  The two cats Mom brought home are called Achilles and Astrid.

Achilles only weighs 10 pounds, and he ought to weigh
more like 12 or 13 pounds.  Also he chewed a lot of his
hair out while scratching fleas.

So far, Mom has kept the two foster cats in a room by themselves, but I will try to tell you a little bit about them, even though I haven't really met them personally.  Achilles is a seal-point cat with a big head and blue eyes.  He is kind of thin, especially in his back end.  He doesn't have much muscle mass in his hips and back legs, so we think maybe he had to spend a lot of time in a cage.

All the cats had ear mites and fleas really bad when they arrived.  Achilles scratched one of his ears so much that he got what is called a hematoma.  If a cat has a hematoma, and it isn't taken care of, the ear will sort of get all wadded up, like a cauliflower ear.  This is what happened to Achilles.  Mom has spent quite a bit of time cleaning out all the black ear mite stuff from inside Achilles' ears, so they're looking better, but he still scratches them.

Astrid weighs less than 6 pounds, so she needs to gain weight, too.

Astrid is a lilac point ragdoll, and she had very, very bad teeth.  On Monday, she got a dental, and she had to have 6 teeth pulled.  Mom says that Astrid seems to be feeling better now.  She is eating canned food, which Achilles is also eating.  They get three meals a day, which doesn't seem fair, since we dogs only get two meals.  But Mom says she is trying to fatten the kitties up.

Achilles and Astrid are taking medicine because they have an upper respiratory infection.  Mom would have let them out of their room before this, but she didn't want the rest of the cats to get sick also.  Astrid is much shyer than Achilles, and she doesn't like it when Mom tries to clean out her ears and does other things like that.  So Mom might have to get Aunt Tania to help her do some of these things.

Astrid has a face that makes her look like she's pouting!

Well, this is getting long, so I need to stop writing soon, but I wanted to tell you what happened Thursday morning.   Mom was laying out all the pills for the dogs, and there were 3 or 4 cats on the counter where she was doing this.  She thought Dunlop might eat one of the pills, so she pushed him away, and somehow a little pitcher of water got spilled, and then MY DISH fell off the counter and broke into millions of pieces on the floor!  It was a sad and tragic thing to happen because that dish was black-and-white, so it was perfect for a black-and-white dog like me.

Mom took forever mopping up the water and then sweeping up all the pieces of my poor little dish.  I was afraid I might not get fed, since I didn't have anything to eat out of.  But Mom has a big collection of dishes for dogs and cats, so she just opened the cabinet and got out a yellow dish for me.  It's a taxi-cab sort of yellow, not a daffodil yellow.  It's not quite as special as my black-and-white dish was, but I have to admit that when it is full of food, it looks really pretty!

Sometimes there is so much excitement at our house that we all have to take a nap!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


NOAA photo of nearly complete, medium-sized igloo
At this time of year, which is winter, you just might find yourself thinking about igloos.  And maybe you are even thinking about building one in your back yard, if there is actually some snow there.  But if you are having a Severe Drought, like we have in Missouri, you will probably need to make your igloo out of straw bales or adobe bricks!

Inuit village of Oopungnewing,
near Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island, 1865
The people who are famous for building igloos are called the Inuit, and they live in cold, frozen places where you wonder why anybody in their right mind would want to live there.  But the Inuit have figured out how to survive in the Arctic, and they have been there for many hundreds of years.  There are various groups of Inuit people, but the ones who mostly built igloos were the ones in Canada's Central Arctic and those in the Thule area of Greenland.

Igloo on Atlin Lake, BC
Photo by Juergen Weiss
Some people think the Inuit only live in igloos, but this is not true.  They mostly live in regular houses, the same as anybody else, especially nowadays.  But they used to build igloos whenever they went out hunting, and sometimes they still do this.  The reason they have to go out hunting in the middle of the winter is because hardly any plants grow in the Arctic, so the diet of the Inuit is almost all meat.

The Inuit word for igloo is iglu, which means "snowhouse."  There are three sizes of igloos.  The smallest was just used for one or two nights during a hunting trip.  It was often built on open sea ice.

The view from inside an igloo
Medium-sized igloos were semi-permanent family homes.  There was usually a single room where one or two families lived.  A lot of times, several of these igloos were built near each other, which made a little Inuit village.

The biggest igloos were built in groups of two.  One building was used for special occasions such as feasts or traditional dances.  The other igloo was made to live in.  It might have as many as five rooms, and 20 people would live in it.  The "rooms" of a large igloo were smaller igloos that were connected to the big one by tunnels.

To build an igloo, you have to have the kind of snow that can be cut into blocks and stacked.  Snow like this happens when the wind blows it really hard and compacts it.  Usually, the hole left where the blocks of snow have been cut out is used as the inside of the shelter.  The blocks are then stacked in a circle around the dugout part, with each round of blocks getting smaller.  The blocks lean against each other to make the domed roof.  A tunnel leads into the igloo, with an animal skin or tarp as a door flap.  The tunnel keeps cold air from blowing into the igloo.  You can put a clear block or two of ice in the roof to let light in.

If you want to build your own igloo, you can get some basic instructions here:  http://people.howstuffworks.com/igloo3.htm

And see a short video here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-x5QOSqP3E

Igloo interior, Alaska, 1916,
U.S. Library of Congress
Inside the igloo, beds are made on ice shelves or scaffolds, and lined with caribou furs.  It's best to put your bed up high because heat rises.  Body heat will help make the igloo warm, and so will lamps and stoves.  Oh, and you need a small vent hole or two so you won't get carbon monoxide poisoning.

A building inspector checking out an igloo
After a day or two, ice forms on the inside of the igloo, and also on the outside because of little thawing and freezing in the sunshine.  The ice helps insulate the igloo even more, which is good.  Some Inuit groups also use animal skins to line the walls and ceiling.  This can help raise the temperature inside the igloo to anywhere between 36ºF and 65ºF.

The Igloo Hotel in Cantwell, AK
This is the only kind of igloo I would even consider
sleeping in, but sadly, it seems to be closed!
Even if the only thing you have inside your igloo is an oil lamp and some body heat, experts say the temperature will be about 40º warmer than the outside temperature.  So if it's -40ºF outside, you can enjoy a nice, warm temperature of 0ºF inside.  Which, if you want my opinion, is still much, much, much too cold for any person or dog to be out in!  So I have made a vow never to go to the Arctic or sleep in an igloo.  I plan to stay right here in Missouri where we have a lovely furnace and not enough snow to even tempt us to think about building an igloo!