Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fluffy and the Autumn Lawn


Saturday, October 27, 2012


Earthworms are the largest member of the class Oligochaeta.  Also known as Night Crawlers, the earthworm lives in the ground and seldom emerges during daylight.  This is because if the worm dries out, which is likely to happen under the force of sun light, death occurs.  The worm breathes through the skin and is best able to do so when moist. 

When the ground is flooded by heavy rain, worms come to the surface because now they are too moist.  The water surrounding the worm blocks (breathing) the emission of carbon dioxide through the worm's skin.  The worm's body retains this gas.  Thus the worms surfaces to release that gas by breathing. 

Worms live in burrows underground.  The burrows are created as the worm moves its muscular mucus coated body through the soil.  Worms eat leaves, both decayed and fresh, and assorted plant material.  They ingest soil too. 


The gut, or food tube, runs from the mouth to the anus.  The mouth of the worm has no teeth or jaws, it sucks in food and dirt.  The material goes through the esophagus to the crop.  Next stop is the gizzard where tiny stones in the soil work to grind the food.  Then the material goes to the intestine where digested food goes into the blood stream and non digested material exits via the anus.

Worm poop, or castings, is beneficial to the soil thanks to minerals and improved texture brought about by worm processing.

The pointed end of the worm is the beginning, or head (left, in photo below).  The thick band about 1/3 of the way down the worm is the saddle, or clitellum.  The end of the worm (right, in photo below) is where the anus is located.

The outer body is made up of segments, or rings.  Muscles run all along the worm under the segments.  Outside of each segment are bristles made of chitin (the same stuff that makes up the exoskeleton of insects).  These bristles are like little appendages.  Indeed, if you have ever tried to pull a worm out of the ground and found it hard to do, it's because the worm was gripping the earth with those bristles.  Sometimes worms get pulled apart during these battles.  The worm can survive and regrow part of its body if not too much is lost.
The worm is a red blooded creature.  Five sets of blood vessels are each run by a simple heart.
Worms are hermaphrodites.  They exchange sperm to fertilize their eggs.  Two worms lie side by side their seminal vesicles (located near the head) pressed against their clitellums.  The sperm fertilizes the eggs stored in the clitellum.  The fertilized eggs are cocooned and left in the warm soil.  The baby worms hatch in 60-90 days.   
The life span of a wild earthworm is about 2 years. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pop Rocks and the Aging Dog Walker

Over the years, my dog walking customers have given me some nice surprises.  Zucchini bread.  A fancy dog brush.  Freshly picked tomatoes.  Halloween candy.

Yes, Halloween candy.  Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I held a packet of Pop Rocks in my hand.  Hey!  This is the stuff that explodes when you drink it with Coke!  I've got some Coke at home.  I'm gonna try it!

Later, standing in my kitchen gripping a bottle of Coke, my middle-aged Sweet Tart generation mind spoke up.  Well now, since I'll be foaming at the mouth, I better eat my Pop Rocks and Coke over the sink. 

What a difference 40 years makes

Oh.  My tongue feels weird.  I think I'm too old for Pop Rocks.  Pass the Sweet Tarts. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012


With only a handful of exceptions, dogs bark.

People yammer.  Dogs bark.  Trouble is, sometimes a dog does more barking than is desirable.

You can reduce/control your dog's barking.  It takes patience, timing, consistency, and more patience.

Don't you get it? Shut Up means stop barking, Silly. 

Here's the thing.

Yelling SHUT UP at your dog hoping he will stop barking almost never works.  The reason is pretty basic.  You have to teach your dog what "shut up" means before he can comply with the shut up command.

Some suggest that yelling at your dog while he's barking is tantamount to joining in the barking and serves only to reinforce the barking.  I have an opinion on this but will save it for another time.  For now, we are discussing how to get your dog to stop barking.  Yelling wildly while the dog is barking wildly is, in short, not the answer.

The answer is to teach him a command that means stop barking. 

First, learn his pattern.  When dogs bark they usually do it the same way each time.  They may use different melodies depending on what they're barking at.  For example, the bark used to tree a squirrel has a different cadence than the bark used to intimidate the mail carrier.  To teach your dog the stop barking command you must learn his melody.  Pick a barking target that happens frequently and really listen to your dog's barks.  After a few times you'll recognize the pattern.

The pattern is like notes in a line of music.  You must identify the last note he barks before he stops barking.  That ending note is key.  It is on that final note that you give the stop barking command.  The dog hears the command and stops barking- as he always does per his pattern.  Praise him as soon as he stops barking. 

Next time he barks, give him the stop bark command on that last note of his melody.  He stops barking.  Praise him.

Repeat.  Be consistent. 

You'll need patience.  Barking is a tough doggy habit to break.  Still, it can be done. Eventually, the dog will put it together.  You give the stop barking command - he stops barking.  You praise him.  Ah hah!  Shut up means stop barking.  Learning occurs.

Once you teach your dog what you want him to do (or stop doing) the chances that he'll do what you tell him increase quite a bit.  In time, you can tell your dog to stop barking and he will stop barking.  That sure beats yammering.

More on barking...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fluffy and the Competition


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Patron Saint of Dogs

Saint Rocco (Roch, Roque) was born around 1300 in France, with a birthmark of a red cross on his chest. When he was twenty both his parents died, leaving him a large inheritance.  Rocco gave all of his inheritance to the poor and took a vow of poverty. 

Rocco devoted himself to caring for those suffering from disease.  Many miraculous healings are attributed to St. Rocco accomplished by his faith in prayer.

While nursing the sick during a plague, he became ill.  He went into the woods to die.  A dog brought him food.  The dog's owner, wondering where the dog was going every day carrying food, followed the dog and found Rocco.  The dog's owner took Rocco home.  Rocco recovered.

Saint Rocco is not only the Patron Saint of dogs but also of plague and contagious disease.  His feast day is August 16th.  In art, he is shown standing next to a dog and displaying a mark of disease on his leg.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Breed Profile: French Bulldog

French Bulldog

The French Bulldog is a small, sturdy dog who enjoys lap time and being the center of attention.

The Frenchie is fun loving but not big on exercise.  His pushed in nose makes for uncomfortable breathing after exertion and in hot humid weather.  Furthermore, he is heavily boned, with short limbs, a big head, and a low center of gravity- not the makings of an athlete.  Most French Bulldogs cannot swim.

 Still, this dog is more than a lapdog, he has loads of gumption and personality to spare. 

Bulldogs were popular in 19th century England.  Some smaller Bulldogs (under 25 pounds, typical Bulldogs are twice that) had unusual ears.  The ears were erect, unlike the the usual rose ears found in a Bulldog.


In the mid 1800's a bunch of Lace workers went to France to work.  Naturally, they brought their Bulldogs with them, some of these dogs were of the small bat eared style.  French people noticed these cool dogs and soon the Bouledogue Francais (French Bulldog) was developed. 

Many ladies fancied the French Bulldog.  He  served as a flea magnet.  His job as a lapdog offered  fleas a warmer bodied option.  People are only about 98 degrees, dogs run around 101.  The warmer the better is the flea's motto.

Ladies of the Evening carried the French Bulldog around as a conversation starter.  After an arrangement was made, the easy going Frenchie would wait patiently while his mistress entertained her client.

Some French Bulldog Facts

- lifespan:  9-12 years

- weight:  22-28 pounds

- there is no height standard

- short single coat in assorted colors:  brindle, fawn, white, brindle and white, pied (black and white patch pattern)

- very short corkscrew type tail

Frenchie Manifesto

- I bark at the UPS guy because he is skulking around outside.  If you invite him inside, I will greet him like an honored guest

- I am not stubborn, I simply know my own mind

- if you work away from home all day, please take me with you,  I get a little nuts all by myself

A Frenchie loves to cuddle with his favorite person.  Many say that the male Frenchie's devotion leans toward clinginess, while the female Frenchie tends to be more dignified in her display of affection.
In general, the French Bulldog gets along well with other dogs and children provided they are properly introduced.
Most French Bulldogs are cheerful, mischievous and intelligent but not terribly motivated.  Don't expect your Frenchie to volunteer to do much in the way of herding or hunting.  He is an indoor dog, well suited for his job as delightful companion.
 See some nice photos.
Next Breed Profile:  Scottish Terrier!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fluffy and the Walk Out

Fluffy the DogWalker  by Lynn Benoit

Monday, October 1, 2012

Quiet Molt Zone

Molting is an annual occurrence for the canary.  Typically the molt starts in summer following the hectic breeding season.  The bird's body responds to the amount of sunlight and probably other mysterious triggers as well, and the molt commences.

The canary is noticeably less jovial during the molt due to the stress of dropping and growing feathers.   He usually stops singing.

All the feathers do not fall out at once. The bird has no bald spots and can fly throughout the molting period.  The molt usually takes 6-8 weeks to complete. 

At this difficult time, offer the canary more protein such as boiled egg and oily seeds such as flax.  Some birders recommend extra vitamins and supplements also.

Canaries still need a bath everyday.  The cold water of a bath helps to soften the feather sheaths, easing the molting process.

For some 3 or 4 weeks, Shubert has been silent and feathers have littered the floor beneath his cage.  We're half way there!

Leave me alone, dammit.  I'm molting.
Some interesting stuff about bird molts
- the molt replaces some or all of the feathers.  If a feather was previously lost due to an accident, that feather will grow back first 
- the hard part of a feather is made up of protein keratin and considered dead - similar to hair and nails 
- molt frequency varies based on the species of bird, the environment and sometimes the age of the bird
- some birds have a pre nuptial molt- their plumage changes in time for the breeding season to attract a mate - examples: Bunting, Warbler 
- some birds molt twice a year- examples:  Wrens, Bobolinks
- some birds go though years of molts before they achieve adult plumage- examples:  Eagles, Gulls
- some birds molt once a year- examples: Owls, Chickadees