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,
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.


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