Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More Ortho Adventures

As some of you may recall, a couple of months ago, I reported that Lois was having some hind leg issues.  Our vet didn't know what was wrong so we consulted with an orthopedic veterinarian.  Diagnosis: torn cruciate ligament or ACL. ( Orthopedic Adventures http://petsandothercritters.blogspot.com/2011/10/orthopedic-adventures.html).  Treatment recommended by this orthopedic specialist was -gasp- cut the bones in Lois's leg then screw them back together at a new improved angle! 

Hating that idea, I sought another.  Meanwhile, Lois favored that left hind leg more and more. Then I learned about an ACL treatment called Tightrope.

This is a much less extreme and invasive procedure.  Basically two sets of two small holes are drilled into the bone near the knee joint through which a sturdy cord is threaded.  This cord supports the joint; doing the job a fully functioning cruciate ligament does.  I made an appointment with Dr Lanier to determine if this was an appropriate plan for Lois.

Dr L examined Lois and said he wasn't so sure it was an ACL tear.  He couldn't feel the "shelf" you see.  Physical manipulation of a joint sans intact ACL acts differently than a normal joint.  A torn ACL creates an abnormal space or shelf. When the dog is fighting the manipulation it is difficult to feel the shelf.

We agreed that we'd sedate Lois so Dr Lanier could be sure of the diagnosis.  If he found a shelf, he would perform the Tightrope. 

Guess what?  No shelf.  No torn ACL.  It turns out that Lois has arthritis!  She has been favoring the left leg because there is a chunk of calcium in her knee that hurts when she moves it.

Dr. L gave Lois an injection of an anti inflammatory directly into the joint.  He also prescribed some anti inflammatory medication to be taken orally. In addition, Lois has had three Laser treatments and will have three more in the next week.  

Lois has improved enormously.  She is back to her normal play routine.  (We had stopped the fun for several weeks to rest the allegedly torn ligament). Lois runs and jumps with ease and glee.  There is no sign of strain or pain in her leg anymore.

Yep.  Say it with me...Wow!

Just imagine if we had proceeded with the bone cutting plan.  I try not to think about it too often, for that thought is an ipecac.

Lois will be seven next month.  That's middle aged for a big dog.   She may need anti inflammatory medication in the future and perhaps some more Laser therapy.  We will manage her arthritis. Being a middle aged gal myself, I will share my Glucosamine Chondroiton suppliments with Lois.  Our exercise regimen will continue too.

I will be forever grateful to Dr Lanier. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Appetite: A Measure of Temperment?

My temperament is stirring the oatmeal here.  This incomplete theory has been brewing in my mind for as long as I can remember.  Critters with a good appetite are jollier.  Chubby people are more cheerful than skinny ones.  Call it the Santa effect, if you like. 

I've revisited these childhood musings lately, in large part because of my dog Rose.  Why?  Because Rose has lost her appetite (she suffers from vestibular disease.  See:  It's Idiopathic, November 21st post) yet she is still jolly.  She is a happy scrawny gal.  So I am forced to rethink some things.

There is still some meat to the theory.  It is the definitions that need modifying.  The jolliness, the tendency toward bright expectation, is not a matter of body size, but of appetite. What appetite really means, is the matter to be better understood. 

Because, just perhaps, appetite is about more than food.  Appetite includes the affinity toward optimism and joy.  It is the stuff of faith.  Of gratitude. Of savoring the gifts we have and those to come.  One with a good appetite is one who embraces life and all that life hands you.  Even if you are a little dog who suddenly inexplicably feels dizzy, you know that life is good.

At this festive time of year, let us increase our appetite for gratitude.  And let us remember this is the season of giving.  And sharing. 

Merry Christmas!

special thanks to Rose- for yet another life lesson

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fluffy and the Sign, (2)


The following may be offensive to Political Correctness adherents and other ultra sensitive persons.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Some Things about Sharks

This post is dedicated to my favorite actor, the late Robert Shaw.  Recently, after re watching one of his shark movies, I got the urge to learn more about sharks to then share that information with my Resplendent Readers.

For some information on Robert Shaw:

Viewing  "The Deep" causes most people to remark that Jacqueline Bisset has pretty breasts.  Yes, the wet tee shirt scene made that clear.  Some people observe that Louis Gossett played a great villain.  Indeed, he had that malignant charm that a bad guy needs to keep you gleefully rooting against him.  What too many people fail to appreciate is Robert Shaw.  (The man had sparkling blue eyes of a sublime twinkle and hue second only to those of my husband, The Handsome One). 

In "The Deep" the Nick Nolte character had all sorts of diving accessories like an underwater camera and rubber shorts.  The Robert Shaw character simply strapped a scuba tank on over his street clothes and jumped into the ocean.  That is the sort of no nonsense manliness that gets my attention.  Of course, that's what's fun about having a favorite actor.  He tends to do things that please you.

So when are we going to talk about sharks, you ask? 

Right now.

Fossils belonging to sharks have been found,  believed to be 400 million years old, including a skeleton, skin and muscles.  These fossils suggest sharks haven't changed much.  Lots of fossil shark teeth have been found that look very much like the teeth of sharks living today.

Some Shark Facts

- they cannot swim backwards

- shark skin is smooth when rubbed from front to back, aerodynamically good, like the hull of a sail boat

- shark skin rubbed from back to front is rough.  Smaller fish use shark skin as an emery to remove  their own external parasites

- there are about 400 shark species identified so far

- sharks can identify the direction a smell is coming from by moving its head from side to side.  (Much as mammals do with hearing)

- the mako shark can reach speeds of 46 mph

- most sharks can see in color

- shark teeth vary from little nubs to big serrated triangles depending on what food the species eats

- some foods that sharks eat:  microscopic plankton, fish, whale carcasses, seals, dolphins, albatrosses,
sea turtles, stingrays, squid, crabs, sea urchins

- how they find food:  chasing prey, ambush, scavenging, filter feeding

- the average shark eats roughly the equivalent of  his own weight per month

- the age of a shark can be estimated by counting the growth rings in its spinal column

- sharks are slow growing.  Generally, the longer lived the shark, the later in life it matures.  Lifespans vary from 20-150 years/maturity achieved from 4-35 years.

Sharks are fish.  There are not, however, bony fish like a perch or tuna.  The shark is a cartilginous fish with a skeleton made of cartilage (a tough, flexible material also found in human joints, such as elbows and knees).  Other cartilginous fish:  rays and chimaeras.  Cartilginous fishes account for less than 5% of all fishes.

Bony fishes have bony skeletons and scales on their skin.  The shark's skin is also made up of scales but the scales are of harder stuff: tooth-like dermal deticle.  This skin protects the shark much like armour chain-mail.

Shark Sense

hearing- acute, they are able to detect sound from several miles away

smell- more like taste, really.  The shark has special receptor cells in the nostrils that act like taste buds to identify stuff in the water that flows over the receptor cells

vision- eyeballs much like most vertebrates.  Sharks are able to see fairly well, especially in low light thanks to a mirror-like layer in each eye that boosts the available light by reflecting it back onto light sensitive cells in the eye

taste- taste buds are located in the throat and the lining of the mouth.  The shark takes a bite of something, if it is deemed palatable, he swallows it. (Ideal foods are ones with a thick layer of high- energy fat, like a seal.  Even an obese human isn't really worthwhile.  This is why sharks usually spit people out after they bite them)

electroreception- the ability to detect electricity generated by other living things.  A shark can sense an animal that is not moving and buried under the ocean bottom by only its breathing and heart beat

Shark Sex

Most sharks are loners so migration is usually necessary for mating to occur.  Not a great deal is known about shark romance.  What is known, in some species, a female shark, when ready to mate will emit a hormonal substance into the water.  Males from miles around descend upon her.  Demonstrations of masculine vigor follow, including fighting and bloodshed.  The female chooses her suitor.  Typically, her choice is the largest and most dominant male.

The male shark has two external reproductive organs known as claspers.  (When not in use they are rolled up like a window shade and tucked in, in keeping with good aerodynamics). 

Some species lay eggs, others, live birth.  Gestation varies among species.  The closest sharks come to child rearing is giving birth in a sheltered lagoon rather than in open sea.

see some cool shark pictures:


Sharks by Mark Carwardine
The Shark Almanac by Thomas B. Allen

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Idiopathic

Lots of things happen in life that are unexpected.  And lots of times, there is an unknown reason for things that happen.  The most recent example:  Rosebud's adventure into the vestibular.

Just shy of two weeks ago, Rose awakened in the early morning and vomited some yellow foam.  Anybody who has ever lived with a dog has experienced yellow foam style vomit.  It's usually not a big deal.  You clean it up and everybody goes on with their day.  Alas, on this morning, Rose followed up the vomit episode with a distressing display involving staggering and peculiar eye motions.  In short, we feared that Rose had suffered a stroke.

Our veterinarian examined Rose.  It wasn't a stroke.  (There is some disagreement among veterinarians over whether or not dogs can even have strokes).  Diagnosis:  Geriatric Vestibular Disease.  The good news first:  Rose is expected to recover, if not fully, then nearly fully.

What is Vestibular Disease?

The vestibular apparatus is located inside the head near the inner ear.  The cochlea receives vibrations which are relayed to the brain by the vestibular nerve.  It is responsible for perceiving where the body is in relation to the earth.  (You know, up, down, backwards, forwards, stationary or moving).  The vestibular system helps us travel on uneven ground, follow moving objects with our eyes, navigate a staircase, catch a ball, and pirouette. 

When things have gone kerflooey vestibularly, the victim feels dizzy, disoriented, sick to her stomach, the eyes zip back and forth (nystagmus), she might fall down...AND there's the head tilt.  

Causes of Vestibular Disease

- middle ear infection
- brain tumor
- idiopathic (unknown)

Most cases are idiopathic and the dog recovers in a couple weeks, though the head tilt may remain.

Rose is doing better now.  She is eating, for one thing.  Not an enthusiastic eater under the best of circumstances, when she is nauseated, getting her to eat is no easy task.  For the first few days, she refused all food but did drink water.  Then I couldn't stand it anymore and pretty much forced finger fulls of baby food in her mouth.  (Dang, she has strong jaws!).

We still have to watch out for her on the stairs.  But she is able to navigate, more or less normally, everywhere else, in spite of the head tilt.  Yes, her head is literally tilted to the left and thus her body tends to move in that direction.  The first day she sort of walked in a circle.  She got the hang of things better with practice, now she can walk, pretty nearly, a straight line. 

Indeed, she is so much better now, that we've begun to make fun of the head tilt.

So goes things in life.  Trouble begets fear and worry, then action.  Before you know it, resolution, then back to regularity.  Sometimes it's idiopathic.

 www. veterinarypartner.com
 Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, by James Giffin, MD & Liisa Carlson, DVM.
 Dog Anatomy by Robert Kainer, DVM and Thomas McCracken, MS.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Breed Profile: Spinone Italiano

The Spinone Italiano originated in the Piedmont region of Italy.  Spinone is derived from pino, an Italian thorn bush.  As you may guess, birds and small furry animals often hide in Pino bushes trying to avoid detection by gun dogs.  

The Spinone is a versatile hunting dog, he can point, set and retrieve.  He is solidly built with plenty of muscle and stamina to trot all day.  His thick skin and rugged hair protects him from cold and difficult terrain. 

The coat colors are:  solid white, white and orange, orange roan with or without orange markings, white with brown markings, brown roan with or without brown markings, and chestnut roan with or without chestnut markings.   

The eyebrows and beard are of longer and stiffer hair, this protects the face from rough brush and briers .

The Spinone is affectionate, playful, energetic, cheerful and mischievous.  He loves to be with his family and is friendly to everybody.  He is gentle and easy going, making him a fine friend to children and frail folks.  Spinoni are good with other dogs and pets but beware of small pets, as his prey drive is strong.

The average life span of the Spinone is 12-14 years.  The breed is believed to have been developed using Italian Setter, French Griffons and White Mastiff.  The Spinone is 22-27 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 62-82 pounds.

In World War II, Spinoni Italiani tracked German patrols.  Italian art from the 15th and 16th century depicts dogs looking very much like the Spinone of today. 

Spinone Manifesto

- I can point as well as a Pointer, only I do sans hyper

- I'm happy to find game for you but when we are through, I want to sleep inside with you 

-  I'm not stubborn, just intelligent

-  if you don't have a sense of humor, I might annoy you  (LOL)

Next Breed Profile:  Shiba Inu!

sources:  akc.org, Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds by D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D., Dog Fancy, March 2011 issue,  The Shooting Man's Dog, by David Hudson 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dogs Behaving Semi-Badly

Is some bad behavior OK?  Are there levels of bad behavior, so that some are only semi-bad? Or do we simply employ levels of tolerance for bad behavior? 

And could it be that some bad behavior is somehow endearing?

To explore these questions, let us take, for example, Wilma.

When she was young, Wilma found it uproariously fun to remove
corncobs from the compost pile and place them in random areas
of the backyard.  Not finding it all that hilarious, I informed her that
she was not to do that anymore.  Meanwhile, the compost pile enjoyed an upgrade which included a lid.  Wilma stopped playing with corn cobs. 

However, she continued to make off with garden gloves.  With impish glee, Wilma would lie in wait for me to remove my gloves to blow my nose or tuck in my shirt.  Wilma knew my habit was to take off a glove and let it drop.  So intent on having a naked hand, it could be three or four seconds before I returned my attention to the glove.  This gave Wilma plenty of time to lunge in, snatch the glove, and precede to dance around the yard with it in her mouth- the equivalent of nah nah, Keep Away! ha ha.  Eventually, my failure to be amused or chase her to get the glove back extinguished the glove robbing behavior.

Still, Wilma never fully lost the urge to take stuff that wasn't hers.  She found an outlet for this desire in the bathroom wastebasket.  When left alone at home, Wilma was given the run of the basement. Her crate was down there with a comfortable cushion and water bowl, the door left open.  This gave Wilma options.  Alas, sometimes she exercised her options by  entering the bathroom and pulling used Kleenex out of the wastebasket.  She didn't touch any other item in the wastebasket -only used facial tissue.  She would then shred the tissue and spread it around on the floor in the area just outside the bathroom door.

Needless to say, this shredding of the Kleenex does not fall under the heading of Good Behavior.  Indeed, it would not be exaggerating to say this was Bad Behavior.  Still, whenever we'd come home to find the evidence that Wilma had been messing with dirty tissue, we never scolded her, nor did we ever make any effort to stop the bad behavior.  (You know, like simply closing the bathroom door.)  Instead, while gathering up the pieces of tissue, The Handsome One or and I would typically say something along the lines of, "Wilma, why do you do this yucky thing?!"

Perhaps this is an example of taking the good with the bad in those we love.  (Or the good with the semi-bad).

The truth is, though Wilma passed away some sixteen years ago, I sometimes look wistfully at the bathroom wastebasket.

You know something else, more often than not, when I talk about Wilma, I refer to her as Saint Wilma. Either I am delusional or perhaps our loved ones are more endearing when they have semi-badness in their natures.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Real Crickets Don't Wear White Gloves

An overwhelming number of Cricket species spend most of their time on or under ground.  It's dirty down there in the dirt.  Jiminy Cricket wouldn't stand a chance in the wild.

Nevermind cartoon characters right now.  The real live cricket is quite an interesting character. 

Crickets are insects, cousins to the grasshopper and cockroach.  Insects in general, have six legs, an exoskeleton, antennae, eyes, jaws, wings, a digestive system, a nervous system, respiration system, and their bodies are separated into three parts, head, thorax and abdomen.

The cricket on the left is a male.  The female is on the right.  Notice the middle appendage on the female's rump.  This is used to lay eggs.  She shoves her oviposter into the ground (or into plant tissue) to deposit her eggs.  The eggs are laid singly or in pods of 10-200.

Some Cricket Facts

- found everywhere except very cold places, such as Antartica

- life cycle: two or three generations a year in the South.  One generation a year in the North: eggs or nymphs, overwinter in the soil and adults appear in the spring or summer.

- most active at night

- roughly 20,000 species

- larve (nymphs) pretty much resemble adults (rather like puppies resemble the dogs they become)

- some crickets are solitary, some live in colonies, or swarms

The most commonly seen crickets are Field Crickets.  They are medium sized bugs, black or brown in color, with a stout body and small wings incapable of flight.  There are however, other cricket species that are camouflaged to look like leaves or bark, stones or sand.  Other crickets are near blind burrowers that  never surface.  Some crickets are brightly colored, signalling their distasteful or toxic nature to warn away would-be predators.

Cricket predators include:  spiders, other insects, lizards, frogs and birds.  The cricket's legs are designed for hopping to escape being eaten.  Many crickets avoid prey status by spending the bulk of their time hiding in or under plants, in sidewalk cracks, and under the dirt. 

At night they emerge to eat plant foliage, roots, dead plant and animal material, algae, mud and the microorganisms in mud.

Also at night the (usually male) cricket makes a sort of chirping sound using his stridulatory organs.  These musical notes are for courtship (some species dance too!) and for territorial annoucements.  The stridulation organs are located in vents on the bases of the fore-wings.  When rubbed together, sound is produced.

The call of the male Snowy Tree Cricket is slower when the air is cool and is said to be a measure of temperature.  Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds add 40, and you have the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

images:  Bing, Audubon Pocket Guide:  Familiar Insects and Spiders
sources:  Enclycopedia of Insects  edited by  Christopher O'Toole,
Insects, A Golden Nature Guide

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Introducing a New Feature!

Fluffy the DogWalker comic strip debut right here at Pets and Other Critters!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Bit about Eagles

Eagles are designated under the Family Accipitridae along with Kites and Hawks. 

Four eagle species, listed here in decending order by size:

Bald Eagle
Golden Eagle
White tailed Eagle
Steller's Sea-Eagle

Some Eagle Facts

-birds of prey with hooked bills and strong talons
-sexes have similar plummage
-males are smaller than females

The Golden Eagle is a rather solitary bird, rarely is it seen in flocks.  During breeding, Goldens pair up and build nests on cliffs or in tall trees.  Both mom and dad participate in incubation and feeding of the young.  Incubation takes approximately 44 days.  Chicks leave the nest at roughly 10 weeks.

Golden Eagles eat small mammals, snakes, birds and carrion.  They are seen mainly in the Western US and Canada in mountainous and plains areas. They have solid brown plumage with golden wash on the head and neck and a band of white on the tail.  Wingspan is 80-88 inches.  Length (from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail)  is 30-40 inches.

The Bald Eagle has a distinctive white head and tail which does not develop until the bird is three or four years old.  Prior to that, the juvenile, or sub adult, is mostly brown.  Wingspan:  70-90 inches.  Length:  31-37 inches.

The Bald Eagle's territory stretches thoughout the US and Canada.  Their main food is fish, thus, they sometimes migrate depending on spawning patterns or when ice covers the water.  Unlike the Golden Eagle, Bald Eagles gather in flocks during migration and other non breeding periods.  Pairs stay together all year.  Courtship includes soaring side by side, chasing, and sitting close together and preening each other.  Copulation occurs at or near the nest site.

The nest and surrounding area, including water/feeding area is considered territory.  The Eagles will guard it from other birds such as Crows and Ospreys who may attempt to eat the eaglets.  Though the Bald Eagle prefers more room, a mile or two, they will tolerate other Eagles nesting as close as 150 yards- which is most common when there is good fishing nearby.

Two to four eggs are laid (two most commonly) in a large nest high atop a tree or cliff.  Nests are six feet in diameter, 4 to 10 feet deep, made of sticks and branches, sod, grasses and seaweed.  The Bald Eagles will often bring chunks of evergreen or deciduous green leaves into the nest to eat.  It is believed that nutrients from the green material are needed particularly during chick rearing.

The parents take turns incubating the eggs in 1 to 3 hour shifts.  The young hatch in 34-36 days, each several days apart. During the first two weeks, the parents both brood (sitting near the chick to keep it warm).  Both parents feed the youngsters.  After tearing off a bite-sized piece of meat, the parent puts it directly into the chick's bill (no regurgitation required!).  Feeding continues until the babies leave the nest. 

Eaglets back up to the edge of the nest and shoot their feces out.  There is usually a white wash surrounding the nest, which by the way, will most likely be used again and again for years.  The parents keep building on top of it, with fresh materials.  As Bald Eagles can live up to twenty years, sometimes the nest becomes too heavy for the tree.

At 6 weeks, the babies have grayish down covering their bodies.  During the second 6 weeks, feathers develop.  At 10-12 weeks, the babies begin to practice hunting.  They leave the nest a few weeks after that.

White-tailed Eagle's range in in northern Eurasia and Greenland.  Steller's Sea-Eagle is found in northeastern Asia.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, allaboutbirds.org
Golden Eagle head shot, Bald Eagle hunting: Wikipedia
Field Guide to the Birds of North America, National Geographic Society
Guide to Bird Behavior by Donald & Lillian Stokes
Encyclodedia of North American Birds  by Michael Vanner

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blame it on the Bandersnatch

There was a song playing over and over in my head.  Sometimes when I have a song in my head it's naked lyrics.  Sometimes it's with full orchestra accompaniment.  This time I had orchestra and Eydie Gorme's voice too.

Blame it on the Bossa Nova with it's magic spell 
Blame it on the Bossa Nova that he did so well
All it took was just one little dance
and then it ended up a big romance
Blame it on the Bossa Nova
the dance of love

For as long as I can remember, the remedy for a song stuck in my head has been the same.  Sing a partially remembered song I learned in grade school music class. 

The Mademoiselle from something something parlez-vous 
The Mademoiselle from something something parlez-vous 
The Mademoiselle and blah blah blah
the Mademoiselle and la la la 
Rinky dinky parlez- vous 

It almost always works.  By the time I hit the Rinky Dinky line for the second or third time, the song that was stuck in my head is banished.  Curiously, it is not replaced by the Mademoiselle song.  Why?  Maybe it's because I don't understand French and don't really know what the song is about.  Perhaps I believe it'll work, so it does.  Could be that it's happy magic.

Now and then, however, it doesn't work.  For some dark reason the Rinky Dinky doesn't erase the tape in my head so I must try something else.  I've tried singing other songs.  Other songs don't work.  If the Mademoiselle song fails, another song will not work either. 

Forcing myself to think about other stuff sometimes works but - and this is sort of neat- what I think about must be novel.  I can't simply fill my head with say, loving thoughts of The Handsome One.  I can't proudly recall past successes on the softball field.  Imaginative interpretations of cloud formations are an effective strategy.  Wild conspiracy theories work.  Lots of different ideas have proved successful in removing the song.  But they must be absolutely new ideas. 

Absent the novel element,  I'll just end up thinking about something with the unwelcome song in the background.  This is an improvement, but not a solution. Thus, I must come up with a completely unique thought.

My yard, as it so often does, offered inspiration.  From the yard sprung a novelty.

There was a hole in the ground in the grass right next to a stepping stone.  A spray of dirt fanned from one side of the hole.  It was not a terribly large hole, thus the likely culprit was a ground squirrel.  I already had a trowel in my hand.  (I'd been picking up after my dogs).  So I filled the hole back up with the trowel and gave it a couple of good firm stomps with my foot. 

The following day, as usual, I was patrolling the yard, armed with the trowel.  Back at that stepping stone, the hole had been re dug.  The spray of dirt now surrounded the hole, as though punctuating the message:  this hole is here to stay!  Feeling vaguely uneasy,  I glanced around.  Then I crouched down and peered into the hole, half expecting to be struck in the face with whatever this hole dweller used as a weapon.  It was at this moment that I recalled a really cool vocabulary word.

bandersnatch     (BAN-der- snach)  noun
-an imaginary wild animal of fierce disposition

Suppose a bandersnatch dug that hole?  There may be a bandersnatch living under my back yard. Perhaps there are a series of tunnels running under the yards in the entire neighborhood.  Suppose there are dozens, even hundreds of bandersnatches coordinating some nefarious plot?

Eydie Gorme' and the Bossa Nova have left my head.  

I carry a larger trowel these days.

source:  dictonary.com

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Orthopedic Adventures

You don't limp for a change of pace. You don't limp to gain attention.  You limp for a reason, especially if you are an active enthusiastic sincere dog, like Lois.  Something hurts, that is the reason for keeping one foot just off the floor while standing.  From a prone position you carefully, awkwardly arrange your feet under you before raising.  When you walk on stairs, you deliberately place each foot.  When you adapt such a regimen, something must hurt.

Lois is a large breed dog. No matter how careful the breeding, there is always the specter of hip dysplasia lurking in big dogs.  Thus, the initial conversation with Lois's vet zoomed into that scary territory.  Naturally, as the gimp was mild, we agreed to treat the matter conservatively.  Little point in signing her up for a hip replacement right away.  First things first and all that. 

Lois began taking Glucosamine Chondroitin.  I take the stuff myself.  Vitamins for the joints, according to Dr. Cutey, who did a knee arthroscopy on my husband, The Handsome One.  (But that is another orthopedic adventure.)

A couple months on the joint vitamins did nothing to improve Lois's hind limb issues.   Back to the vet for Xrays.  Great news!  Lois has incredible hips, practically perfect!  More great news!  Lois's spine is spectacular!  However, there is an oh, oh.  Her kneecap has this little something or other attached to it.  It looks rather like a cookie crumb.  Whatever it is, it isn't supposed to be there, at least not ideally. Other than this crumb and her gimp, there is nothing testing "wrong" with Lois. Off we go to a specialist.  I swallowed hard because this is an Orthopedic Surgeon.  Surgeons tend to do surgery.

Upon seeing Lois, the Orthopedic Veterinarian positively gushed.  Being a Canadian, the doctor explained, she learned to read in the company of an Old English Sheepdog.  Evidentially, the Canadian school system employs OES's as teachers aids.  And why not?  I can't think of a sweeter breed to sit next to a brat, er, child while he practices his Dick, Jane, Spot and Fluff. 

Anyhow, enough digression.  Back to our tale about a tail-less dog named Lois.

Lois has mild muscle atrophy on the left side due to favoring that limb.  Her gait shows a slight lameness of the left rear leg.  When manipulating the left leg,  Dr. Ortho found it less flexible than the right leg.  That crumb on the Xray is a touch of arthritis.  All evidence points to a tear in the cruciate ligament.   Dr. Ortho says it's about a 30% tear.  Surgery isn't needed until it's torn 50% or more.  Alas, most likely more tearing will occur. 

This is where the nice specialist really displayed her surgeon's soul.  She beamed as she explained that there are two surgeries available for repairing a cruciate ligament!  One involves putting in an artificial ligament to replace the torn one.  This surgery sometimes doesn't work because it's hard to firmly attach the faux ligament to the bone!  It often becames unattached, you see.  This surgery, therefore, is best for toy dogs who lead sedate, sedentary lives.  Then there's another surgery that "puts fly ball champions back in competition".  This surgery involves cutting the bone to change the angle of the knee joint which creates a newer stronger leg!  Cutting the bone.  Attaching a metal plate.  Screwing the metal plate into the bone.

But we don't need to talk about that anymore.  In fact, I would very much like to never talk about it again.

Meanwhile, we can hope for some healing of the ligament with rest.  Poor Lois.  No joyful running.  No chasing her friend Mabel around the yard.  No jumping to catch a ball.  She may walk on the leash.  At least there is that.  For one month, we keep Lois on the sidelines.  To heal.  Still, she may heel.  Oh please, may she heal.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Breed Profile: Scottish Deerhound

The Scottish Deerhound looks very much like a Greyhound with shaggy hair.  As the name suggests, the Deerhound's original use was to hunt deer. The Deerhound is larger of bone and heavier than the Greyhound.  This speed, endurance and strength enabled the Deerhound to catch and pull down a stag.  

Old drawings and photos show that the Deerhound has changed little over centuries.  The Deerhound is 28- 30 inches tall (at the shoulder)  and weighs 80-100 pounds.   Like all sight hounds, he is built to run.  Many Deerhounds excel at Lure Coursing.  At home, it is best to have a fenced in yard, as the Deerhound may take a bead on a squirrel or rabbit and forget about everything else.

The Deerhound's coat is wiry, harsh, shaggy and roughly 3-4 inches long (ideal for a cold damp climate like Scotland).  It is a low maintenance coat requiring no trimming.  A quick brushing once or twice a week and a bath now and then is adequate.  The Deerhound comes in a variety of colors:  black, dark blue-gray, gray, brindle, yellow, sandy-red, and red-fawn with black points.  The most commonly seen colors, however, are the darker ones.

The Scottish Deerhound is a faithful companion to his family.  Toward strangers, his attitude is best described as politely aloof.

Deerhound Manifesto

-I am hardy enough to live outdoors but I'd rather be inside with my family
-if you want a big watchdog, get a German Shepherd or a Tibetan Mastiff
-I love to chase critters but will refrain from chasing those small critters who are members of my family

Next Breed Profile:  Spinone Italiano!

The Scottish Deerhound by E. Weston Bell
Scottish Deerhound Club of America
Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds by D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D.
Dog Breeds  by Juliette Cunliffe 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Malcom Strikes Again

Yes, Malcom.  That irrepressible, indecipherable Tortoise.  Just because we've lived together for over thirty years, doesn't mean I understand him.  So naturally,  I continue to speculate wildly about his motivations.

Malcom's enclosure is located in my office.  Malcom himself is all of four feet away from me as I sit at my desk.  Indeed, at this very moment, were he not asleep, he would be staring fireballs into the back of my head.

Critters like Malcom need exercise.  It's easy to forget that because Tortoises have a phlegmatic quality.  Unlike say, a ferret.  The lanky animated ferret simply looks ready for action.  Still, Tortoises are made to move, albeit, slowly.  It is therefore true that Malcom regularly moves about inside his enclosure.  He doesn't do laps around and around or back and forth.  He moves until he hits the wall, quite literally.  Then he hits the wall again and again.  Bumph, thunk.  His feet make a sort of grinding sound in the pea pebbles that cover the enclosure's floor.  Malcom's workouts are noisy. 

Picture it, you are at your desk reading or writing or doing something that requires concentration and right in the next cubicle, so to speak, there is a persistent thump scrape thumpking.  This goes on and on until you want to scream or run out of the room.  You sigh and return to your task.  But the beating of Malcom's shell against the glass persists.  Now all you want to do is grab Malcom and throw him out the window.

It is with great shame that I admit these thoughts.  Even greater is the shame at the number of times I have had these bad violent urges.  Happily, I am neither insane nor evil.  Malcom remains unharmed- even while he continues his efforts to drive me mad by thummmkk, scraaak, scrape, bummnk. 

For years, Malcom has been working to drive me out of my mind.  He alternates between silently staring at me with something that is either bland or malevolent, and hurling his shell against the wall causing a sharp yet dull sound with the beat of a slightly off  kilter metronome.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Wisdom of the Litter Box

We don't really want to talk about the litter box, but we're going to anyway.  Let us indulge in a bit of cat scatology, for the greater good.

Yes, the litter box is to a cat what a toilet is to a human being.  At least that is the hoped for situation.  Cats are fastidious about their personal habits.  Once they learn to "go" in the box they don't forget.  When a cat suddenly stops using the box or misses the target, something is going on that must be addressed.

Why is Kitty failing to observe proper elimination protocol?

There are a number of reasons.  Here are the most likely culprits:


While not an illness, there may be age related issues such as arthritis, at play.  Stiff joints make for less dexterity.  A different style box with lower sides may help the older cat maintain accuracy.

Other physical reasons for missing the target are illnesses such as bladder stones, urinary tract infection or diabetes.  Your veterinarian can help you sort that out.

Negative Association

Perhaps the litter box is in the laundry room.  One day, Socks is minding his own business taking care of business, when the spin cycle starts.  The rugs inside the washer gravitate to one side of the cylinder; thump thump thump.  Suddenly, the litter box is a scary place to be.

Maybe the weekend guests caused Tabby angst.  Remember that strange youngster in the group?  The one who seemed to vanish at intervals, you'd see him only in the periphery, lurking, furtively poking around?  Let's not speculate too deeply into what the little weirdo may have done in and around the litter box.

Stressful Changes

A new cat joined the household and suddenly Fluffy must share the litter box.  Your best bet is to offer enough litter boxes for everyone.

That different brand of litter that you tried because it was on sale?  It could be that Tigger doesn't like the smell or the texture or your audacity in making a change without consulting him.  New litter is best introduced slowly, little by little, beginning with adding about ten percent to the total mass of the old familar litter.

Other problems in litter box routine may be due to negligent clean up.  If there are too many clumps in the box, Mr. Boots may decide there isn't room for his latest effort.  Scoop frequently.  (You flush every time you go, right?)


A cat looking for love may use marking (squirting urine around) to spread the word, so to speak, of his or her availability.  This is something in the hormones and arguably not bad cat behavior, just natural desire.  Spaying or neutering usually puts the kibosh on lust and with it the urge to mark.

Other reasons for marking involve territory.  An indoor cat may see a cat outside the window and want to establish his domain.  A dash of urine on the living room drapes is one way of expressing ownership.

Sometimes when a new cat or dog or person has joined the household, a cat may pee on the carpet to relieve the unpleasant feelings of insecurity.  You might say, he snaps.  In time, he will, most likely, grow accustomed to these new resident critters and return to correct potty habits.

Adding a scratching post or two can help Puss Puss blow off a little steam while engaging in a more appropriate style of marking.

And, just because, buy him a new toy.  Play with him.  Pass the Cat Nip.

PetSitters World, September/October 2011
Warren Animal Clinic, Warren, MI

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vulture Culture

Scavenging is their specialty and vultures are extraordinary scavengers.  The vulture has keen eyesight and excellant sense of smell.  This aids in finding dead critters to dine on. Vultures are fairly heavy birds, which is useful in chasing other scavengers such as coyotes or jackals away from a carrion feast. Various species of vulture possess different characteristics designed for the food they eat.  For example, some vultures have super strong bills, the better to rip tendons and sinew off a carcass.  Other vultures have long necks that make it convenient to reach deep inside of a dead animal and pluck out some tasty innards.  Still other vultures eat the bones of an animal.  Large bones are dropped from great heights to break them up for easier swallowing.  These birds have amazingly strong stomach acids to do the digesting.

Most Vultures eat dead things.  However, some eat insects and the inside material of eggs.  To crack a small egg, the bird will pick it up and drop it.  If it is a larger egg, the vulture will repeatedly drop a stone on the egg to crack the shell.

Vultures rarely flap their wings and are able stay aloft on wind currents for hours.  Many vultures gather in groups to rest, as well as while soaring.  Some vultures work together with other (vulture) species to find dead stuff to eat.  They then share the find.

Some Vulture Facts
-they are found in North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia
-22 different species
-male and female look similar
-they lack a syrinx (the body part most birds use to sing with)
-mostly quiet, but occasionally hiss and wheeze
-vulture fossils have been found along side of mastodons
-they lay their eggs on the bare ground or in a hollow log
-largest vulture has a wingspan of 12 feet and weighs 26 pounds
-many vultures squirt urine onto their legs to keep cool
-can eat as much as 20% of their body weight
-feet designed for walking, no talons

What is the difference between a Vulture and a Condor?  And where does the Buzzard fit in?

Most vultures from Europe, Africa and Asia are decended from birds of prey such as eagles.  Those found in the Americas are from the same line of ancestry as storks.  These similar birds coming from separate roots are considered examples of divergant evolution. The difference between a vulture and a condor appears to be a secret known only to experts. 

As for buzzards: that is a charming colloquial term for condors and vultures originating from the USA.

Condors and Vultures by David Houston
Encyclodedia of North American Birds by Michael Vanner


Monday, September 5, 2011

The Perils of Positive Training

The philosophy of positive training for dogs has been around for long enough, that most people have heard of it.  Never say no!  Reward, never punish!  Maintain a positive attitude at all times!  Commands are stated briefly and cheerfully (or with a merry click of a clicker)!   Keep lessons short and fun!  

Before long it begins to sound like one of those syrupy slogans that have infiltrated our Consciousness.  The Power of Positive Thinking!  Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative!  If it Feels Good Do It- oh wait, maybe not that one.  Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!  (Definitely not that one).

Please don't think I'm advocating the Put the Dog's Nose in It school of training.  I am not.  I also am, most assuredly, not a strict adherent to the Positive school.  The reason is very simple.  I live here in real life.  And the truth about reality is that sometimes you must say no.  In the real world you cannot always set things up so that your dog is good.  Naturally, you avoid trouble when you can.  That's why, when he was a puppy, you put him in his crate while you took a shower.  You didn't leave him in the kitchen hoping he would take a nap rather than chew on the baseboards.  Or you put up the baby gate to keep him out of the room before you fill the table with forbidden food.  Alas, in the real world sometimes you forget to put up the baby gate.  You are rushed because the guests are due and you aren't dressed yet. 

Your dog tries to take a taste off the buffet table.  Is this really the time to redirect him to a toy?  Real life rules!  A firm loud NO will get his attention faster than, "here my darling, have a nice pull toy".  You want the dog to stop before he dismantles hours of labor and ruins the dinner party before the guests have a chance to.  Besides, who really believes that gentle words detailing the wonder of the Nylabone are going to be more attractive to your dog than Pigs in a Blanket arranged in a circle?  Startle him!  Break his concentration from the thing he may not have!  Stop him before he does the bad thing.  Say NO.

When he removes himself from the platter of good things meant for others, then you praise him and give him the Kong filled with peanut butter.  He'll notice it is a lesser treat.  More importantly, he'll notice that you, his Master, forbid him the people platter.  That's real life for you. And for your dog.

Believe me, your dog won't stop loving you just because you used a non positive word and stern tone to enforce good manners.  He will not suffer damage to his self esteem because he was exposed to the negative forces of NO.

To me, positive training means reward him when he does what you taught him to do.  It also means don't be so stuck on positive that you fail to be adamant about correcting behavior that is not in keeping with the rules.  And accept that sometimes the only way a dog learns a rule is by breaking it.  And when a rule gets broke, it is you who must act.  Remember Dale Carnegie's First Principle:  Don't criticize, condemn or complain.  (Just kidding).   Seriously, train your dog with kindness.  But don't sugar coat it.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Breed Profile: Australian Shepard

The origin of the Australian Shepard is not Australia.  Some say the breed was developed in the United States, some say Spain.  What we do know, is that the Australian Shepard's instincts for herding and guarding were used to develop the breed for use as an overall farm worker.  Today the Aussie still works on the farm.

The Australian Shepard's work ethic also translates to talented fly ball competitors, rally and obedience champions, as well as eager companions for assorted activities.  The Aussie needs physical exercise and mental challenge, thus is best suited for an owner who would rather participate in Dog Dancing, than sit and watch Dancing with the Stars.   

The Aussie is medium sized, weight in the 45-60 pound range, height 18-23 inches at the shoulder.   The coat consists of a thick undercoat and a silky outer coat.  Shedding occurs heavily in spring and fall, and quite a bit all year.   That pretty waterproof coat comes in assorted colors: Blue or Red Merle (dark blotches over a lighter background of the same color), Black, Red, Black and Tan (the main colors are  accompanied by white trim on the face, legs and chest).

The Australian Shepherd has no tail.  Usually they're born bobbed, though some rouge Aussies are born with a tail which is usually docked in puppyhood.  Being tailless does not mean you can't tell when an Aussie is pleased to see you.  He makes that clear by wagging his entire hind end.

Like most breeds with guarding instincts, Aussies are loyal to their family and leery of strangers.   

The Aussie Manifesto

-I'm not hyper;  I simply have stamina to spare.
-It's not so much that I can outwit you, I just have a nimble mind.
-Sometimes I can't resist herding things.  This means adults, children, assorted pets, and sometimes even toys, run the risk of being rounded up. 

Next Breed Profile:  Scottish Deerhound!

The Essential Australian Shepherd by Wiley Publishing
Dog Fancy Magazine, January 2010
some nice pics

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Critters with Eight Legs

It could happen to you.

You're strolling down a garden path or sidewalk when suddenly you walk into a Spider Web.  As you desperately try to get the thin sticky yuck off off you, consider who put it there.

OK.  There probably aren't Giant Spiders building webs with human prey in mind.  Still, I've gotten spider silk in my hair on my arms enough times to wonder about it.  So I did a little research on Spiders.

The biggest spider eats birds, so human beings becoming Spider Chow is not very likely.  (We'll leave that scenario to the movies).

As most people know, Spiders are not insects.  Insects have six legs, Spiders have eight.  Spiders are of the class Arachnida which includes other eight legged creatures with exoskeletons, for instance:  mites, ticks and scorpions.  Spiders are categorized still further based on their various structures and behaviors -into some 38,000 species.

Some Spider Facts:

-found everywhere, except possibly, Antarctica and the Ocean
-life span 1-2 years (an exception: female Tarantula's life span is 10-20 years)
-most spiders have 8 eyes, but some have as few as 2
-legs are used for locomotion, taste, sensing objects for navigation, and sensing vibration
-range in size from 2 millimeters to the size of a small pizza
-typical litter size: 100
-venom is mainly used to subdue prey, only a few species have venom that can harm mammals

The Spider Body

The body of the Spider is made up of two main parts: the Cephalothorax (head and thorax) and the Opisthosoma (abdomen).  The Cephalthorax contains the eyes, mouth, fangs, brain, poison glands, stomach and legs.  The Opisthosoma houses the heart, digestive tract, reproductive organs, lungs and silk glands.  The two sections are attached by a small waist, or Pedicel.

There are many variations in Spider appearance but they all have this basic framework.  Some Spiders are hairy, some are not.  Some are bland in color, some quite garish.  Some species are able to change color for camouflage allowing them to blend into such backgrounds as leaves, tree bark and bird droppings.

Baby Spiders and the Creation of Them

Male and female Spiders live apart. When it's mating time, the male finds the female usually via Phermones.  Sometimes the male is much smaller than the female and she barely notices him when he inserts his seed.  Male Spiders don't have a penis.  The male transfers sperm from his testes to his palp (finger like appendage near the mouth).  Then, when he finds a willing (or indifferent) female, he inserts the sperm.  Sometimes the male is at risk of being killed either before, during, or after the event.

Many Spider mothers build a silk sack around their eggs and guard the sack from predators.  When the babies hatch they eat their egg, then cut their way out of the silk sack.  Some Spider moms allow the babies to ride on her back for a week or so.  At that point, the babies molt and go out alone.  The molt only happens to youngsters.  Because the exoskeleton is stiff, it must be shed to allow for growth.  Some Spider moms will regurgitate food for the babies, some moms will offer up their bodies for her children's final feeding before they must fend for themselves.


Not all Spiders spin webs.  The web silk is formed inside the Spider's body and projected out through a spinnerette located in the abdomen.  Silk comes in different strengths (sort of like fishing line does).

When we think of webs, we usually envision the orb/symmetrical design (like Charlotte's).  Spiders employ other ways of webbage, such as:  blanket, clump, scaffold, hammock, funnel.  Other Spiders don't use a web to capture prey, they hunt using stealth, ambush, diving underwater, bungee jump using a silk thread, or steal food from another Spider's web.  To avoid getting stuck in webs, Spiders walk on their tip toes or stay on the non sticky strands (remember there are different "grades" of silk, some are non stick).

That webbage you walk into on a garden path, where it appears that places to begin and end a web are several feet apart?  Most likely, it is a Spider that uses a single line or two, like a tight rope.  The Spider is able to catch insects using a narrower trap.  The theory is, the Insect (or you) cannot detect the single line as well as a cluster of lines, making it more difficult to avoid.

Spiders sometimes hang out just after a molt, for protection.  Their bodies are vulnerably soft for a while, before the exoskeleton hardens. 

They also hang around in search of victims.  (boowaaraahh!)

The Natural History of Spiders  by Ken and Rod Preston-Mafham
The World of the Spiders  by Adrienne Mason

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Here's a Cute Critter!

This is a Speothos venaticus, or bush dog.  These rarely seen dogs live in rainforest and wet savannah areas.  On average, bush dogs are 12 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 15 pounds. They have webbed feet, and are good swimmers.  They dine mainly on small mammals.

Bush Dogs live in small packs.  After a gestation of 67 days, the litter arrives with from 1 to 6 pups.  Puppies remain with mother till 8 weeks of age, though some stick by her longer -up to 5 months.

for more information

Friday, August 12, 2011

Can you hear me, Rose?

Five years ago, in people years, Rose was in her mid forties.

In a couple of months, Rose will celebrate her fourteenth birthday.  This puts her, in people years, somewhere in her seventies.

Rose has a blue tinge to her eyes now, suggestive of cataracts.  She moves a bit stiffly these days, suggestive of arthritic joints.  And she just might be losing her hearing.  Is she deaf as a post?   

Don't know for sure.  One thing for sure, when Rosebud sleeps, she does it heavy.  Of course, sometimes dogs sleep deep.  Lately, Rose's sleep is consistently in the deep end. The sound of, "do you want to go outside?"  no longer snaps hers out of slumber.  Indeed, verbal entreaties do not awaken Rose at all.  She must be shaken awake (or rocked awake, when she is sleeping in one of her favorite places: a green lazy boy chair).

When she does wake up, it isn't clear whether she is heading to the door because she heard the Outside Announcement or because she is eager to join the dog procession.  When it's time to come back inside, Rose doesn't respond as quickly to, "let's come in house,"  as she used to. 

Rose has always been inquisitive and curious.  You know, nosey.  Rose maintains an interest in critters that inhabit the yard.  Sometimes she gets so caught up in the chase she loses track of time.  In her younger days, I would have to call her an extra time to break her focus on the fauna.  I've always considered Rose's vermin hobby part of her sassy badness.  Sassybad means stubborn, independent- not immediately doing what you're told.  In other words, the very spunk that makes a dog a companion and friend to be proud of.  Needless to add, these qualities can also be irritating.  In a close relationship, you discover that the infuriating stuff about someone you love is often the most endearing. 

Now adays when I urge Rose back inside after she has had a session of critter hide and seek, speaking to her doesn't cut it.  I must move into her line of vision and beckon with my hand.  She then trots in step behind me and into the house.

Though Rose is the kind of gal who looks you in the eye, it seems that lately, she watches me far more than before.  (Either that, or I'm studying her so much these days, that she's staring at me staring at her).  Then again, she may be looking for cues and clues because she can't hear.

Yes, I'm pretty sure that Rose is pretty deaf.  This isn't too big of a deal.  We have plenty of nonverbal ways to communicate, and we can develop more as needed.  And it gives me a glorious excuse to stomp on the stairs!  We don't want to startle Rose; I'm sending her a warning message via vibration.

When we take a moment together, just us, I stroke her and whisper, "Rosebud".  Her eyes still melt into mine with a love I can only hope to be worthy of.  Can she hear me?  Maybe she can't hear with her ears anymore.  Rosebud hears me with her heart.   She always has.

sources:  Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by James Giffin, MD & Liisa Carlson, DVM

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ramon has a Clubfoot

Just when you think you've got it all figured out, something goes awry!

With great joy, I've been keeping birds for years.  My birds live in a draft free room, in clean cages with plenty of room to fly, with clean water to drink, fresh food, the finest seed, mineral grit, a variety of perches and swings, the companionship of other birds, toys... 

I'm doing everything right- or so I thought.  Turns out, bad stuff happens, even under ideal conditions. 

Somehow, while going about his affairs, secure in his cage, Ramon injured his foot. 

The most likely reason for a caged bird to hurt his foot is due to nails that are too long.  The bird catches his nail on something, panics, tries to pull himself free, fights and flutters, causing injury.

Riddled with guilt for possibly failing in regards to Ramon's pedicure needs, I checked his nails.  They were not particularly long.  While we're on the subject, trimming a Zebra Finch's nails is pretty easy. (The hardest part is catching the bird).  You can use the same type of nail clipper you use on your own nails.  Hold the bird firmly but not too tightly. (The Finch Aviary website has a nice instructional video on nail trimming).   The nail's quick is usually visible, leaving it unlikely that you will cut into it and cause bleeding.  If you do, a little dab of corn starch on the spot stops the bleeding. 

Let's talk about catching a Finch.  The most common way to do it is to stick your hand in the cage and grab the bird.  (Think Silvester and Tweety.  But strive to be more gentle about it than Silvester).  It may be possible to train a Finch to jump on your finger like a Parakeet. I've never tried.  I simply reach in the cage and trap him in my hand.  He'll fly around trying to escape being caught. Eventually, he'll tire and the flying becomes slower making it easier to catch him.

As you've guessed, I did catch Ramon to examine his foot.  There was some swelling but no blood.  Speaking of blood, Sue of Royal Bird Haven advises using diluted peroxide to clean a foot wound.  Sue further advises that if the skin on the foot is dry or chapped appearing, apply olive oil.  As for Ramon's foot, the precise injury was unclear.  Torn nail?  Nope.  Broken bone?  Maybe. Close examination and gently feeling leg and toes suggested that there was probably not a broken bone.  It doesn't make sense to slap a split on there just in case.  Or does it?  I didn't.  I kept an eye on Ramon.  For the next few days, while at rest, he sometimes held the injured foot aloft.  However, he regularly used the stricken foot when perching on the edge of the food bowl, standing on the grit dish or when bathing.

OK, Ramon most likely did not hurt his foot because of over-long nails.  Other reasons for a caged bird injury:  something in the cage.  I took inventory.  Any splinters or gouges in the perches?  No.  Chips or cracks on the grit dish or water bowl?  No.  (That's right, for my birds's grit and water, I use a bread plate and small side bowl from the beautiful china set I inherited from my grandmother).  Any rough spots or dents in the cage bars?  No.  Problems with the swing, the food bowls, the clothes pin that holds the fresh greens?  No.  Everything appeared to be in tip top shape.

What else could explain the damage to Ramon's foot?  A disagreement with a cage mate that lead to fisticuffs?  Let's see, Ramon shares his home with Lupe, a young female.  Following the untimely death of his mate, Mary, Lupe was introduced to Ramon.  In short order, they were sitting close together grooming each other.  Lupe is less demure than Mary was.  Even so, it seems unlikely that there was a scrap between Ramon and Lupe.  And even less likely that a dustup ended with physical harm to Ramon, the larger of the two.

It's been a few weeks now, since the mystery incident involving Ramon's foot.  He no longer holds the foot aloft when at rest.  He moves around on both feet like everything is just dandy.  There is no denying though, the foot doesn't look the same as it used to.  Unable to explain how Ramon came about his unfortunate talipe, I can only shrug and say, Ramon has a clubfoot.

Like the scar on G.I. Joe's face, my mangled foot is a reflection of my manly lifestyle.

sources: http://www.finchaviary.com/,
               Royal Tropical Fish and Bird Haven, Royal Oak, MI

Monday, August 1, 2011

On Critters Tall

Giraffes are herbivorous mammals found in Central and South Africa.  The giraffe is a ruminant, which means he has a four chambered stomach and vomits up food to rechew.  You know, they chew their cud.  Favorite cud: Acacia leaves.  The giraffe's long neck allows him to easily reach greenery in tall trees.  Remarkably, that long neck has the same number of vertebrae as the short necked human:  seven.

Some Giraffe Facts

-average male (bull) height (measured to the horn tip): 18 feet
-average female (cow) height: 14 feet  
-bull weight: 1800-4300 pounds
-cow weight:  1200-2600 pounds
- gestation: 15 months
- top speed: 35 mph
- average lifespan: 25 years
- tongue length:  21 inches
- enemies: lion, hyena and leopard

Giraffes aren't herd animals in the same way as, say, elephants or wildebeest.  Groups of giraffes vary from as few as six to as many as forty members.  The cows often create a group when their calves are young, taking turns feeding while the others baby sit.  Bull giraffes aren't involved much, hands on - so to speak, other than in mating.

Cows give birth standing up, which means the baby's arrival is a rough one.  He quite literally drops in.  In good giraffe tradition, the calf stands up quickly and within 15 minutes is walking.  Babies are about 6 feet tall at birth and weigh 150 pounds.  One year later they are 12 feet tall.

Both males and females have horns, which are formed from ossified cartilage.  The females have tuffs or hair on top of the horns, males are bald. 

Nobody knows for sure, but it is believed that giraffes cannot swim. (Of course, Bumblebees aren't supposed to be able to fly either, so this is one of those nifty mysteries that we can speculate wildly about should we wish to do so).

Giraffes are not highly vocal but they aren't silent either.  Males make a loud coughing sound during courtship.  Females whistle to call to their young.  Calves bleat, moo and mew.  Miscellaneous giraffe vocalizations include grunts, snorts, hisses and flute-like sounds.

One species of Acacia tree germinate only after seeds pass through a giraffe's digestive track.

sources:  http://www.nationalgeographic.com/, Tall Blondes by Lynn Sherr

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Breed Profile: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a toy breed that combines the hunting spirit of a spaniel with the soothing lap dog style of a companion animal.  The typical Cavalier is 12-13 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 13-18 pounds. 

In other words, bigger than a baby Robin but smaller than a Mastiff.

The breed was named for King Charles II.  The Cavalier was added years later when the breed was revived with an emphasis on the Cavalier line.  That line stressed a longer nose and "old fashioned" style, as seen in this painting by Sir Edwin Landseer.  

The King Charles spaniel was originally bred to hunt small game.  Today, he is still quite capable of pointing, flushing and retrieving.  Many Cavaliers are also accomplished in agility, tracking, obedience, lure coursing and therapy work.

The coat is silky and of medium length. Trimming is not required.  Cavaliers come in many colors:  Chestnut (red) and White, Tricolor (black, tan, white), Ruby, and Black and Tan. 

Cavalier Manifesto:
- I like to cuddle- not only with people, but also with cats, birds, bunnies, other dogs, and creatures I've yet to meet.
-If you're looking for a little watch dog; get a Terrier. 
-We don't all have a lozenge!  Still, it's a fun story!

Wondering about the lozenge? Here's the story:  Sarah Churchill grew up in King Charles' court and grew to love the King Charles Spaniels.  One day, she sat stroking the head of one of her red and white Spaniels, who at the time was just about ready to whelp.  Because Sarah was waiting anxiously for news of her husband, a soldier fighting in the battle of Blenheim, she did a lot of stroking.  Soon the bitch delivered five puppies.  All of the pups had a spot (lozenge in dog parlance) or Blenheim Spot, on the forehead, like a thumbprint, precisely where Sarah had been so persistently stroking their mother's head with her thumb.

Next Profile:  Australian Shepherd!

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel by Barbara Garnett-Wilson