Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Once again it's time for me to give you some true information to put in place of the misinformation you might have had before, so here goes!


If you go fishing in the ocean, you will not find any fish called "sardines" swimming around.  But if you open a can you buy at the grocery store, you will find sardines in it.  How does this happen?  Well, the little fish that go in the can are really pilchards.  Or they might be baby herrings.  Anyway, the fish are very small and young, and they are just the right size to preserve and put in a can.

The word sardine has been used in English ever since the early 15th century.  It might have come from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where there used to be tons of little pilchards for fishermen to catch.

Sardines are very healthy for you to eat because they have good oils and vitamins and stuff to make your coat all shiny and nice.  Also they might keep you from getting heart attacks.  But if you have high blood pressure, then you maybe shouldn't eat sardines because they are preserved with a lot of salt.

In the U.S., people usually eat canned sardines, but in the Mediterranean, people also grill them or smoke them.  I think Mom should buy some sardines for us dogs and cats to eat because we would really, really like them, and they would be good for us, too.  Next time Mom isn't looking, I am going to write "sardines" on the grocery list!


Some people think this word has to do with "weather," but it doesn't.  If you look at it closely, you will see that it is spelled bellwether and not bellweather.  In Middle English, a wether was a ram who had been, uh, neutered, and he wore a bell around his neck and led the flock.  Because of the bell, you could always hear where the flock was.  I'm not sure why a flock would want to follow a ram who didn't have all his masculine, ramly parts, but I am just reporting what I read.

So anyway, a bellwether is a leader, like the ram is the leader of the flock.  But people use bellwether nowadays to mean more like a predictor or harbinger, instead of what the word used to mean.  So for example, if a certain state always tends to vote for the party that wins the election, that is said to be a bellwether state.

Sometimes the meanings of words change, and you just can't stop them from changing, especially if the word gets used for something we didn't have a word for, but really needed one.  So we just have to put up with it and try to go on with our lives.


You probably know that if a man has hair growing on his face in front of his ears, those are called sideburns.  The person who first decided this would be a cool way to wear his hair was General Ambrose Burnside, during the Civil War.  General Burnside had very bushy hair growing down to where it connected with his moustasche, but he kept the hair all shaved off his chin.

People started calling the Burnside look "sideburns" because of where the hair was, on the sides of the face.  And also the general was sort of incompetent, and he sometimes got things "the wrong way 'round."  So that was another good reason to turn his name around backwards, too.


If you were paying attention in history class, you might remember that in 1215, a group of English feudal barons went to King John at a place called Runnymede, and they forced him to have a long chat with them.  At the end of it all, King John signed a paper that said he and his heirs would give a whole bunch of rights and liberties to all the freemen of the kingdom.  This paper was called the Great Charter, or Magna Carta.

King John and the other kings who came after him did not always follow what the Magna Carta said, but the ideas in it were what English Law was later based on.  And besides that, it became the ancestor of the American Bill of Rights.

Anyway, the Magna Carta was never really signed.  In fact, historians think King John may not have even known how to read and write.  But he did have a seal, so that is how he put his official kingly mark on the Magna Carta.


Maybe you sometimes have a little fantasy about offing somebody who really annoys you.  Then you would bury the body in quicklime, which would totally eat up the body, and there would be no way to prove that you even killed anybody, and you wouldn't have to go to jail.  At least, in some murder mysteries, this is what happens.  But guess what!  It won't work because quicklime doesn't eat up bodies.  It is actually more likely to preserve a body.

So what is quicklime anyway, and what does it really do?  The chemical name for quicklime is calcium oxide, and it is this harsh alkaline stuff that you get when you heat limestone to a really high temperature.  People figured out how to make quicklime thousands of years ago.  They used it for things like mortar, treating corn, waterproofing boats, and maybe in Greek fire.  Now people use it to make heat, light (limelight), petroleum products, plaster, cement, and paper.  Which means that quicklime is really very useful -- unless you're trying to hide the evidence of a murder!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Frank and Louie; photo by Steven Senne, AP
Frank and Louie is just one cat, but he has two names because he has two faces.  He is a ragdoll cat, like our foster kitty Astrid, but she only has one face, which is plenty, since she has bad teeth and bad breath and drools.  But anyway, Frank and Louie is what's called a "Janus cat" because he has two faces, like the Roman god Janus.

Janus is always shown with one face looking forward and one looking backward.  That's because he is the god of beginnings and transitions, and also of gates, doorways, endings, and time.  The month of January was named in honor of Janus because that's when we are starting a new year, but we are also still looking back at the old year.

Usually, when a Janus cat or any other animal with two faces is born, it doesn't live long because it also has a bunch of other health problems.  But Frank and Louie turned 12 years old on September 8, 2012, which is the oldest that any Janus cat has ever been.  And because of this, he got to be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Another word for the "Janus cat" condition is diprosopus, from a Greek word that means "two-faced."  Or you can also call it craniofacial duplication.  This is not the same thing as being a conjoined twin.  Animals that have diprosopus are born that way because of a protein called the sonic hedgehog homolog (SHH), named after a video game character called Sonic the Hedgehog.  I think this might mean that certain scientists have spent way too much time playing video games, but no one asked my opinion, as usual.

A Janus kitten named Harvey Dent;
sadly, he only lived a couple of days.
Anyway, the job of this SHH protein thing is to decide how wide your face will be, and if there's too much of the protein, your face can get too wide, which means there's more room for extra stuff, such as an extra eye or two, an extra nose, and so forth.  If there's not enough SHH, you might end up with only one eye, but people and animals like this usually don't survive long enough to even be born.  Or if they are born alive, they only live for a few hours.

Most animals with diprosopus have had other congenital problems that kept them from staying alive.  There was a pig named Ditto who had the condition, and he lived to be an adult.  But he got pneumonia because he breathed through one muzzle while eating with the other one.  So the food went down into his lungs and that's how he got pneumonia and died.

Janus Cat by Felesya;
Frank and Louie was born in Millbury, Massachusetts, and when he was only one day old, his breeder took him to the Tufts University Veterinary School to be put to sleep.  But a woman named Marty Stevens who worked there said she would take him home and try to save him.  People told her not to get her hopes up because cats like that didn't usually survive.  But everyone was amazed that he really did survive, and now he is 12 years old.  Probably what helped Frank and Louie was that he has only one esophagus that works, and he may only have one trachea that works also.  So this means he is not as likely to choke on his food like Ditto the pig did.

Frank and Louie going for a walk;
photo by Steven Senne, AP
Ms. Stevens likes to take Frank and Louie out for walks on a leash.  People come up to pet him, and then they are shocked to find out that he is a Janus cat.  "I see a look of horror come over their faces when they actually see his face, it's funny," Ms. Stevens says.

Anyway, that's the story of Frank and Louie.  I'm happy that they made it into the Guinness Book, but I don't think I would want to live with a cat who can look at me from all different sides of his face, because that would be a little creepy!

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Mom's Big Project, which was to get rid of the carpet in the Cat Room, is all done now.  And it only took Mom two and a half days.  That's a day and a half longer than she thought it would take, but it's done now, like I said.  Sadly, Mom has a bunch of sore muscles and her back aches, but that's because she is old and out of shape.  I think she will survive, which is the important thing.

Here's a picture of the most stained and ugly part of the floor.  I can't believe so many bad dogs (and maybe cats) peed there!

But when you put rugs on it, you can hardly notice that it's so ugly.  Of course, you might notice that the rugs don't match, but Mom may actually put some matching rugs there later.  You never know what Mom will do.

Some places in the floor have these splintery sorts of holes.  We don't know what caused them, but it looks like somebody dropped something really heavy and sharp on certain spots.  We think the floor got wounded in these places before the carpet  was put down because there weren't any holes in the carpet.  Here's a picture of the biggest hole.  It's about 1.5" across.

There are maybe five or six of these gouges, and they all mostly have sharp splinters sticking out of them.  Mom tried to scrape them and smooth them out better, but I am just hoping I don't end up with a splinter in my paw.

Under the edges of the carpet, between the tack strips and the base shoe, Mom found some interesting things.  It was kind of like Mom was an archeologist on a dig, finding clues that showed how earlier people lived.  Here's a list of all the fascinating things that Mom found under the edge of the carpet:

1 sunflower seed
1 bobby pin
1 earring back
1 paper clip
5 or 6 plastic BBs
1 straight pin
Several little plastic pieces that probably came off of toys

Also, Mom found 2 blue plastic things that she couldn't figure out what they were.  So she took a picture of one of them and put it on Facebook.  Right away, lots of people started telling her it was a Lite Brite peg.  Most of these people were younger than Mom, so they played with Lite Brite boards and pegs when they were kids.  Either that or their children played with them.  So now Mom learned something new, in spite of being so incredibly old!

Mom might have finished up the Big Carpet Project on Friday, except that she had to go out and shovel the driveway for a while because the neighbor kid never came over to do it, even though Mom thought he had said he would.  The mechanic at the shop where our car was getting fixed said it might be ready late on Friday, and Mom had to get the driveway cleared off at least enough so she could drive into the garage.  She only did a halfway job of shoveling, but at least she thought she would be able to drive in without getting stuck.

But then our car didn't get to come home Friday.  And it didn't get to come home most of yesterday, but finally it did about 5 p.m.  The reason our car had to be in the shop for so long was because it's old and a whole bunch of things inside it also got old, and they had to get replaced.  So we got a new head gasket and new timing belts and new spark plugs and a tune-up and all sorts of stuff like that.  Which means that now we could go on a nice, long road trip somewhere, if we could afford it.  But we can't because Mom spent a ton of money getting the car fixed.

Oh, but I forgot to mention that yesterday afternoon three men came by, and they asked if Mom wanted the driveway shoveled, which she did.  So they finished clearing it all off in about 10 minutes because they worked really fast, and they did a good job, too.  But now we are supposed to get another 10"--12" of snow in the next couple of days, and more shoveling will have to happen.

Okay, I'm about to finish writing, but I wanted to show you this picture of me with a nice chew toy I found on the floor after one of the cats got it out of the dish drainer.  Mom says it is not a chew toy.  She says it is really a lid to put on a can, but I beg to differ!

Friday, February 22, 2013


You won't believe how much snow we got yesterday!  I think it was about 10 inches! Or maybe 11 inches!  Or 12!  And then a little more snow fell last night, so now we have about a ton of snow, right here in our own yard.  At least Mom says it seems like it weighs that much when you start shoveling it, which she did a little bit of yesterday.  But she is going to pay the kids next door to shovel the driveway today because they are lots younger than she is, and they probably won't have a heart attack while they are shoveling.

Yikes!  Is that a king cobra out there in the snow?

Where am I?  Is that our oak tree? I can't see my feet!

Mel and I did not want to go out in the deep snow to potty, so Mom made a path down the patio steps and out into the yard a little ways.  At first Mel didn't want to go out there, but finally he did.  When he got to the end of the path, he had to go on out into the deep snow so he could pee on the exact tree he wanted to pee on.

Whew!  What a relief!

Mom took me out on a leash to show me the nice path she had shoveled, but I didn't want to potty in the place where she made the path, so I just held my pee.  Then, later on, I couldn't hold it any longer, so Mom let me out, and I went bounding out into the deepest part of the snow.  Then I just had to stop there for a little while because I didn't know how to get out of such deep snow.  But finally, I floundered back to the path that Mom had made, and I pottied there because it turned out to be a good place for pottying after all.  I just wish Mom had shoveled off most of the yard, so that I would have more choices about where to do my business.

My feet are cold.  Time to go in the house!

Okay, well, Mom started a Big Project yesterday during the big snowstorm, but she didn't get finished, so she will have to work on it some more today.  The Big Project is pulling up the old, icky carpet in the Cat Room, and throwing the carpet away.  Mom has only been thinking she would do this project for about 5 or 6 years.  But since our car is in the shop, and we are snowed in, this seemed like a perfect time for doing a Big Project.

Latifa checks out the ugly spots on the floor.

Mom even thought she could pull up the carpet in the Cat Room yesterday and in her bedroom today, but she was silly to think that, because she only got about half the carpet pulled up in the Cat Room yesterday, so she will have to finish that room today.

We all knew that the floor under the carpet in the Cat Room would be really ugly because lots of dogs have peed on it for many, many years.  Of course, I am not the kind of bad girl who would ever pee there, but I know for a fact that Gabe did sometimes.  And he told me that Trixie did, too.  Plus the carpet was probably there for a long time before Mom moved into the house, so it smells like some other dogs have peed on it.  Also, that room used to be the bedroom of the daughters of the family that Mom bought the house from, so who knows what they might have spilled on the carpet.

On the underneath side of the carpet, you can see
how many times it got peed on.

Anyway, Mom found some places under the carpet where the floor was really stained, and she didn't even get to the area yet that she thinks might be the worst.  I guess we will find out today what that part of the floor looks like.

The blood stains from when Jason bit Achilles last Sunday.
Mom tried to get them out of the carpet, but she did a lousy job!

I really liked it when Mom was working in the Cat Room because she took down the gate, and I got to go in there, which I usually don't get to do.  I crawled under the bed and did all sorts of exploring.  I thought there might be some food there, but sadly, I did not find any.

Latifa always has to be right in the middle of everything!

Latifa and Jason and Chloe were very interested in what Mom was doing to their room, except whenever she turned on the vacuum cleaner.  So they snooped around and crawled under the carpet and got in Mom's way.  Latifa chewed a hole in Mom's trash bag, which was not helpful.  I mostly took a nap in the other bedroom, which Mom said was very helpful.

Inspector Jason checks out Mom's work

Mom is not going to have anybody try to fix the floor.  She doesn't know if it can be fixed or not because of all the bad stains, but maybe a person with a sander could get rid of them.  She will probably just wait until she gets ready to sell the house and let the buyer decide if they want to fix the floors or put down new carpet.  In the meantime, we're going to have a bunch of rugs there so we don't have to look at the really ugliest places.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The first snake I am going to tell you about during this Year of the Snake is the king cobra, which is the longest and most poisonous snake in the whole world.  The average length of a king cobra is 12 feet, but sometimes they get to be as long as 18 feet.  If you stood an 18-foot king cobra on end, it would be as tall as a giraffe!

King Cobra in captivity.  Dr. Aithal's Snake park, Puttur.
Photo:  Hari Prasad

There are 12 types of snakes that are called cobras, and they all spread their necks or "hoods" when they feel threatened.  The word cobra comes from the Portuguese cobra de capelo, which means "hooded snake."  Cobras are not really very aggressive, and if they can, they will just try to get away from anything that scares them.  But if they are startled or cornered, they hiss and lift the front third of their bodies straight up off the ground.  They flatten the long ribs of their necks, and this pushes out the skin to form a hood.  The idea is to scare off any predators, and it's a very good idea, if you ask me.

If a 15' king cobra raises 1/3 of its body, it is almost as tall as a person.

King cobras live in the forests of Southeast Asia, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia.  They are considered to be VULNERABLE, because of the loss of habitat in some areas, but they are not in danger of extinction or anything like that.  In the wild, king cobras usually live an average of 20 years.

King cobra distribution map by Mad Max;
based on a National Geographic map

The skin of king cobras can be olive-green, tan, or black.  There are faint pale yellow cross bands down the length of the body, and the belly is cream or pale yellow.  An adult snake's head can be almost as big as a human hand.  Cobras are able to move quickly, even though they are large in size.  Their striking distance is 7 or 8 feet (2.5 m), which means that sometimes people think they are a safe distance from the snake, but really they are not.

The food that king cobras most like to eat is other snakes, especially rat snakes and small pythons.  But if they can't find their favorite food, they might eat lizards, small mammals, birds, eggs, or frogs instead.  When cobras go out hunting, they are able to "sniff" the air by capturing scent particles with their forked tongues and then moving the particles to the Jacobson's organ in the roof of their mouths.  King cobras also have very good eyesight, and they can see prey moving almost 330 feet (100 m) away.

3D model 

King cobras have short, fixed fangs that they use to inject about 600 mg of venom per bite.  This venom acts very quickly, and it attacks the victim's central nervous system.  If you are bitten by a king cobra, you will feel severe pain, blurred vision, vertigo, drowsiness, and paralysis.  Pretty soon, your heart, lungs, and kidneys start to fail.  Then you go into a coma and die.

King cobra eating a rat

About 50% to 60% of people who are bitten by king cobras die if they don't get treated.  The venom is so strong that it only takes beetween 15 and 30 minutes to kill someone.  There are two places that make antivenom for cobra bites.  One is the Red Cross in Thailand, and the other is the Central Research Institute in India, but neither makes very much of it.  In Thailand, a mixture of alcohol and ground turmeric root has been used sometimes to help people survive a cobra bite.

What can this man be thinking?

The good news is that king cobra bites are not common.  The snake mostly likes to do its own thing, far away from where people live.  If it sees something alarming, it will generally try to flee.  The main predators of the king cobra are the mongoose and the kite.  The mongoose is not affected by the toxin in the snake's bite, so that's a nice advantage.  But sometimes a king cobra can scare off a mongoose with its big, hooded display.

Cobra and mongoose

As soon as they catch a nice, fresh meal, cobras start eating it.  There is no reason to wait for it to die first.  Snakes don't have teeth, they just have fangs, so they cannot chew their food.  They have to swallow it whole.  Luckily, snake jaws are designed just for this purpose.  The ligaments that connect the lower jaw to the upper one are very flexible, so the jaws can move independently.  A snake can just open its mouth really, really wide and start swallowing.  Snakes can even swallow things are are much larger than their heads.  After it has swallowed a big, yummy meal, a king cobra probably won't need to eat again for quite awhile, like maybe several months.  This is because it has a slow metabolism, and so digesting all that food takes a really long time.

Female king cobras (who I think should be called "queen cobras," but nobody asked me) make better moms than most snakes do.  Usually snake moms just lay their eggs someplace, and then they go off and abandon them.  But a king cobra mother makes a nice mound and lays her 20 to 40 eggs inside it, so that they will stay warm.  After that, she sticks around and fiercely guards the nest until the babies hatch out, which takes between 60 and 90 days.  But as soon as the eggs start hatching, the mama snake leaves, because her instinct tells her to go find food someplace else and not eat her babies.

"Hey guys, where did Mom go?"

In Myanmar, king cobras are often used by female snake charmers.  Usually, the charmer has three pictogram tattoos, and the ink for these tattoos is mixed with snake venom.  The charmer believes that the tattoos will protect her from the cobra, and at the end of each performance, she kisses the cobra on the top of its head.


In Nepal, India, and other South Asian countries, cobras are associated with two Hindu gods, Shiva and Vishnu.  Shiva, who is a warrior and a "destroyer," wears a cobra around his neck.

Vishnu has a 5-headed cobra named Kaliya to shield him from the sun.

Personally, I think it's fine for all these snake charmers and gods to be hanging out with cobras, but I plan to stay a very long distance away from any snakes that are poisonous, starting with king cobras!

Monday, February 18, 2013

THE LATEST CAT NEWS, by Latifa the Cat

I will begin this report with a photo of me.  Mom took this on Thursday after she came home from the grocery store.  Jason and I were making good use of the bags.  All Mom does with them is put recyclables in them, even though they are clearly meant to be kitty hiding places.  I wish Mom had a better understanding of these things.

Anyway, I believe I can say with some confidence that I have successfully charmed my way into Mom's bed, lap and heart as her most favorite, snuggly cat.  I like to sit on Mom's lap while she's watching TV and give myself a thorough grooming.  At night, if Mom is sleeping on her back, I curl up on her thighs, and when she sleeps on her side, I crawl under the covers, into the curve of her nice, warm body.  I roll all around and Mom pets me and rubs my tummy and we get all cuddly.  Then she goes to sleep and I get too hot, so I have to go find another place to sleep.

Mom has done an excellent job of collecting cat beds for our use, and these are all lined up nicely on the bed in the Cat Room.  Here's the newest bed, with Chloe and Jason sleeping in and on it.  Jason has the wrong idea about how to use this bed, because you are supposed to go inside it to sleep, but I am not going to tell him that.  He can be kind of mean when he gets mad at me!

In other feline news, on Saturday Aunt LaDene got a new cat.  Her old one died last fall, or maybe it was in the summer.  Anyway, he was old and blind and kind of demented.  Also, he was peeing all over the house, so finally he had to go to the Rainbow Bridge.

Mom did not know if Aunt LaDene wanted another kitty or not, but then last week a lady called Mom and said her neighbor had to go to a nursing home, and this neighbor had a cat who needed a new place to live.  The name of the cat was Sonic, because he was found at a Sonic drive-in.  He was mostly orange with some white spots, and he was 10 years old.

Aunt LaDene's new cat Sonny (a.k.a. Sonic)

So Mom told the lady she would find a home for this cat.  Then she told Aunt Tania about him to see if Aunt Tania knew anybody who could foster Sonic.  Aunt Tania tried to find somebody, but she wasn't haven't much luck.  Then Mom thought of Aunt LaDene, and she asked her if she wanted to foster Sonic -- and maybe adopt him if she liked him.  So Aunt LaDene thought about it, and she decided she could do that because she missed her old cat, and she wanted to have another cat to keep her company.

The left side of Sonny

Mom and Aunt LaDene went to pick up Sonic on Saturday, and they took him over to the shelter to get his shots.  But there weren't any vets there, so he couldn't get his shots after all, and Mom is going to take him back there today.  Aunt LaDene decided to change his name to Sonny instead of Sonic.  Mom took some pictures of him, and I have to admit that he is a handsome cat, even if he isn't sleek and black, like I am.

The right side of Sonny.

All right, so now I will talk about our foster cats, Astrid and Achilles.  I think Piper told you that Astrid had a bunch of infection in her mouth, so she had to have 5 teeth pulled.  Then it turned out that she still had some infection, so she had to take Clindamycin for 10 days.  After that, Dr. Regan looked in Astrid's mouth again, and Astrid still had some infection, so she will probably have to have more teeth pulled.  Anyway, Mom is taking Astrid to the shelter today so that she can have another dental done on her.  We will have to see if she comes home with any teeth left at all!

Mom would like to get Astrid listed on Facebook, so that she can get a forever home, but we are going to wait and see how the dental turns out.  Astrid is still kind of itchy, and she has not been gaining weight, even though she eats a bunch, so she might have allergies, and she might be hyperthyroid.  If she has these kinds of health problems, it will be harder to find a home for her.  But Mom thinks Astrid is so pretty that someone will surely want to adopt her, no matter what.

Astrid likes to walk all around the house and check things out.  Sometimes we other cats hiss at her a little bit, but mostly we just ignore her.  She lets Mom pet her, but she gets kind of nervous about it.  You can tell she's not used to being petted and held and handled a whole lot.  And unfortunately, She doesn't know how to schmooze with humans and worm her way into their affections, like I do.

Achilles, on the other hand, spends most of his time in the room where he and Astrid eat and sleep.  He is anemic, so that makes him not have a lot of energy.  Also, I think he is afraid of Jason, because Jason really hates him.  Jason makes loud squalling noises at Achilles, and sometimes Achilles squalls back.  Mom doesn't like hearing this, so when they start, she separates them.  But if Mom doesn't separate them in time, Jason attacks Achilles, and then they have a big, noisy fight.

Yesterday afternoon Mom went to a cactus club meeting, and she left the door open to the foster cats' room.  She has done this before, and nothing bad happened -- at least that she knew of.  So yesterday she left the door open again, and after she came home from the meeting, she took a nap, during which I slept on top of her, as usual.  Then it was suppertime, so Mom went in the Cat Room to get our dishes, and she saw BLOOD on the carpet.  At first, she didn't know where this blood came from.  I could have told her, because I heard the big fight that caused the blood, but I didn't want to be a tattletale.  

This is Achilles before he got bitten by Jason

Mom thought maybe Astrid was peeing blood, and she kept looking at Astrid's butt, but she didn't see any blood there.  Then Mom went downstairs, and she discovered that Achilles was missing from the foster cat room.  So she went back upstairs, and she found him hiding under the bed in the Resident Cat Room.  When she got him out of there, she saw that he had a big wound with lots of dried blood on his jaw, and she knew right away that Jason must have done this bad thing to Achilles.

Of course, Achilles wouldn't let Mom mess with the wound, so Mom called Aunt Tania to ask if she should take Achilles to the emergency clinic, but Aunt Tania said just to wait and bring him to the shelter.  So now Mom has to take 3 cats to the shelter today, Astrid, Achilles, and Sonny.  

But before she can even go there, Mom has to be in a commercial that is being filmed for the Pet Telethon.  The filming will be this morning, and Mom will play one of the starring roles.  Her role is called "older person."  Luckily, Mom doesn't have to learn any lines for this important role.  She just has to look sad and lonely in one scene, and then she has to look happy after she gets a cat.  All of us here are very proud to have a mom who will be on TV, helping cats and dogs get adopted.

Well, that's all the feline news I can think of to tell you right now, but next time something happens, I will let you know, or I'll make sure Piper lets you know.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Photo: Fred R. Conrad, New York Times
If you watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this year, you might have noticed that the dog who won Best in Show was an Affenpinscher.  His name is Banana Joe V Tani Kazari, but mostly he is just called "Joey" for short.  This was the first time ever in the history of Westminster that an Affenpinscher has won.

Winners of Westminster get a
humongous silver dog dish!
Photo:  Denver Post
Joey, who is about to turn six, was born in the Netherlands.  Now that he has won Westminster plus a whole bunch of other dog shows before that, he is going to move back to his home country and retire.  The news stories did not say this, but I think that Joey will probably be pretty busy making Affenpinscher puppies, because that's what retired famous show dogs do.

Affenpinscher circa 1915
The Affenpinscher breed started out in Germany, and it has been around at least since the 17th century. In German, Affe means "monkey," and Pinscher means "terrier."  Affenpinschers got their name because the scruff of hair around their faces makes them look like monkeys.  The French called the breed diablotin moustachu, which means "moustached little devil."

By the 1600s, there were lots of terriers in central Europe because people liked having them around to keep rodents out of their barns and kitchens.  The original Affenpinschers were bigger than the ones today, but smaller versions of the breed made good lap dogs for ladies, besides being good ratters.  So the Germans started breeding smaller dogs, and sometimes mixed in pugs, German pinschers, and German silky pinschers.

Later on, the Affenpinscher became the basis for some other wire-coated breeds such as the Brussels griffon.  Affenpinschers were most popular in Germany, but there were enough of them in the U.S. for the AKC to recognize the breed in 1936.  Then World War II came along and gave people other things to think about besides breeding dogs, so Affenpinschers got sort of neglected.  Which is why they are still pretty rare even today.

Photo: Mary Bloom
An Affenpinscher weighs between 6.5 and 13.2 pounds and is 9 to 12 inches tall.  The coat is harsh and rough if not groomed, but softer and fluffier if it is.  The European standard says the coat has to be black, but the AKC also allows gray, silver, red, black-and-tan, and belge (a mix of several colors).

Possible health problems include a tendency to fractures, luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, and cataracts.  Like other small dogs with short faces, Affenpinschers might also have respiratory problems in hot weather and collapsed tracheas.

Affenpinschers look sort of like terriers, but they are not really terriers.  They are part of Group 2 in the FCI classification, which includes pinscher-schnauzer types of dogs.  Affenpinschers get along better with other dogs and pets than some terriers do.  They are very playful, active, and adventurous.  They are affectionate with their humans, and also protective.  Sometimes they can be territorial about toys and food, so they might not be the best choice for families with very small children.  The best family for an Affenpinscher is one that likes to be entertained and that has a good sense of humor.