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

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Rat's Hands are Clean

Rats have a dirty reputation.  It turns out, compared with other critters, rats rank high in the cleanliness department.  Rats clean themselves frequently with their tongues, much the way cats do.  But they have something cats don't have:  hands.  Rats lick their hands and rub behind their ears.  They wash their hands before and after meals.

Clean, though they may be, they are wild animals that aren't always a joy to behold.  Now and then you may see a rat in your backyard.  Some hysterical folks are against wild bird feeders because rats eat seeds, too.  Personally, I don't discriminate at my bird feeder.  Still, there is no denying that the rat is not my target customer.

Rats are rodents (Order: Rodentia).  Some other familar rodents:  squirrels, mice, beavers, guinea pigs and gophers.

Some Rat Facts
-a rat can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter
-front teeth grow throughout life
-gestation:  22 days
-average litter size: 11
-rat pups are self sufficient at 4 weeks of age
-mom ready for first litter at 3 months of age
-vision best suited for the dark
-a rat can leap 2 feet, straight up (3 feet with a running start)

Rats have whiskers similar to cats, that serve as feelers, especially handy for navigating in narrow passages.  Rats have keen hearing and are pretty fast runners.  The long naked tail is used for balance when the rat stands on his hind legs.

It is tougher to kill a rat than it is to kill a mouse.  This is true, not because the rat is bigger and tougher but because the rat is cautious.  A rat will carefully examine a trap before taking food from it.  One rat notes the smell on another rat's breath.  Should a rat become ill or die, it is thought that the other rats remember that smell and avoid it. That's why it's harder to poison rats than other rodents. 

Rats live in colonies and sleep huddled together.  Typically, colonies contain multiple burrows connected by tunnels.  Dwellings for rats may be anywhere from a hole in the ground to inside the wall on the fortieth floor of a high rise building.  An Alpha Rat is in charge.  All the males are responsible for protecting the colony.  In the case of an intruder, lots of swaggering and teeth clicking goes on, but rarely does a rat actually fight.  If fighting does occur, it is unlikely that anybody is injured.

The rat body is designed to run on seeds and grains.  Since their favored food source isn't always available, rats have evolved to eat other foods such as pizza, raw eggs, potato chips or cat food found in a bowl on somebody's back porch. 

And sometimes, rats visit the backyard bird feeder.

for more on rats:
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Rats by Richard Conniff
Rodents of the World by David Alderton

for something differant/for those who like rats as pets:
Animals and the Afterlife by Kim Sheridan

Friday, July 8, 2011

Taming the Nemesis

When Lois was a youngster, it became clear that boxes bothered her.  Every time we'd get something in the mail that came in a box,  Lois would refuse to go near it.  Oh sure, sometimes she was leery of other things.  For instance, out on a walk on a windy trash day- if a garbage can rolled onto the sidewalk,  Lois would refuse to walk around it.  But this sort of thing was occasional and easy to avoid (we simply crossed the street).
  The box, however, was a fact of life in our home; a villain to be conquered.  We had to find a way to help Lois adjust to, coexist with, her nemesis, the box. But how?  

Here's How.

First.  Act casual.  Don't make a big deal out of it.  Forgo the, "it's OK Lois!  Look at the nice box!"  These words had no effect on her.  She stared at the box, frozen.  So, we acted like the box wasn't there.  We pretended that Lois wasn't standing immobile in a hypnotic trance.  Eventually, Lois broke free of the trance and walked away.   

Second. Try treats.  But accept that sometimes treats don't work.  For Lois, the presence of a terrible box was an appetite killer.  Not even the most desirable treat in the world would distract her from her trepidation.  Even a treat so rare and wonderful as Venison Liver Jerky made no dent in Lois' fear.  You don't keep trying the same thing and expect a different result (hey, isn't there an aphorism about that?).  

Third.  Position a reward beyond the box.  The idea was to get Lois to stroll with blissful indifference past the wicked box.  First we had to get her simply to move past the dang box  (even a panicked run past the box was progress).  We placed the box on the route to the back door.  Thus, Lois had to muster some courage in order to reach the coveted backyard.

Fourth.  Decrease the size of the scare by decreasing the size of the box.  It became clear that box size mattered.  Indeed, the bigger the box, the more Lois feared it.  So we down-sized.  A shoebox?  No sweat.  It was practically invisible to Lois.  A box the size of a vacuum cleaner?  Not invisible.  So we employed the positioning and the acting casual and pretty soon we graduated to an even bigger box.

Fifth.  Utilize the pack.  Call it group think or peer pressure or let the dogs train each other.  If you have a bunch of dogs, you have to be nuts not to let them help out.  So, we use our ever available canine coaches.  Fearless Rose may be half the size of Lois, but she is quite capable of shaming her into action with, "I dare you to walk by this box".

Lois is a grown-up now.  She has made peace with her nemesis, and most of the time, is able to saunter, her dread in check, by almost any box.  Then, yesterday, we got a new couch.

Hooray!  Our new couch arrived!  Bizarrely, it was in a box.  Needless to say, a box big enough to contain a couch is a big box. Without question, it was the biggest box we have ever asked Lois to approach.  (It must be noted in all fairness to Lois, none of the other dogs, except the always intrepid Rose, chose to go near this remarkably big box).

After we extracted the couch from the box and set the couch where it belongs, we carried the very big box outside.  It was almost time for the baseball game, so we flung the box onto the driveway, just inside the gate.  (The Tigers beat the Royals!).

This morning, Lois and I set out for our usual walk.  The monster couch box was blocking our path. There was about four feet of room between the box and the house.  Lois wouldn't budge.  I walked casually past the box and through the gate, the leash dangling enticingly in my hand.  Yes!  Lois followed. 

We had a lovely walk.  When we returned Lois barely glanced at the box.