Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow Tiger

Next year is apparently the year of the tiger, which is why this one is helping to shovel some snow. Happy New Year to everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Apparently, elephants start in sports early!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Elephant Behavioral Research

An interesting video from two veterinary researchers on elephant behavior. Elephants being one of my favorite animals, I find this kind of thing especially interesting. They may get a little "out there" (as any cognitive researchers are wont to do by nature) when they talk about applying what has been observed in elephant groups to the interaction of human groups, but they do have a point. In some cases, I think it is applicable to apply what we see in the interaction of intelligent species that live in complex social groups to how we behave to each other.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baby Tapir born in Massachusetts' Franklin Park Zoo

Her name is "Tupelo" because, according to the keepers, she is very sweet. Baird's tapirs are very endangered, so this is a great success for the zoo. There are only 22 males and 12 females (including this calf) in captivity in North America.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fox Hunting in Snow

One of my favorite hunting strategies among animals belongs to the red fox. This video, taken in Yellowstone, shows this animal's unique and surprisingly effective way of catching rodents.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Working Dog Sent Home

Recently I posted about Cody, the lab "working" at his owner's BP station. Well, the killjoys at the health department decided he had to go. Read the story here.

As if you will pick up more germs from a dog than from a gas station. I think most people would be (rightly) far more concerned about the H1N1 snuffling kid pawing through the M&Ms than a dog walking around.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Life on White

Click here for a link to the website of thse folks who take some amazing animal images!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Raw Milk is a Raw Deal

As this article states, there is a very heated debate on the merits of raw versus pasteurized dairy products. We all know that milk is one of the healthiest, most complete foods out there (though a good argument could be made for the egg as well).

The gist of the debate centers around the thought that pastuerized milk is less wholesome than raw milk. Many think that the pastuerization process destroys many of the nutrients in milk. With the rise of the internet and the missinformation that is easily disseminated through it, sites abound to encourage you onto this new/old nutritional bandwagon.

As with all good conspiracy theories and "cult mentality" encouragements, there is some truth in the claims made by raw milk advocates. Citing old scientific articles on the husbandry of dairy cattle and the evils of "factory farming," raw milk advocates will have you believe that pasteurization was developed purely to cover-up the mistakes and mishandling of milk products from unfeeling capitalists who want to destroy the family farm.

Let's look at milk: it is a natural blending of protein, calcium and other nutrients that provides everything a body needs, especially a mammalian one. True, it has been consumed  safely for years prior to pasteurization and even refrigeration, but the reason for that wasn't because it was a healthier product. 

The reason for that is because more people lived on the farm or within an easy buggy ride of one. As industry was revolutionized, cities grew and town mice and country mice moved farther away from each other. There was a need to develop ways to feed people. Refrigeration and pastuerization were two of the inventions that made city-life possible, and allowed people who lived far away from the farm to have wholesome food. Many of the people who died from unpastuerized milk in days gone by were children, and statistics on those deaths are shady at best.

And, as untasteful as it may be to most of us, the rise of the factory farm has lead to consistent, cheap, wholesome food that can feed more people. And then there is the "organic food" craze. Both of these are topics that I'll need to cover some other time.

But is raw milk good for you? According to the Food and Drug Administration, raw milk contains many bacterial species including Brucella species (which can cause severe disease and even abortion), Campylobacter jejuni (a leading cause of diarrhea), Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Escherichia coli (another cause of diarrhea as well as a myriad of other diseases), enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus (diarrhea and septicemia), Listeria monocytogenes (leads to death in up to 25% of people infected with it), Mycobacterium bovis (causes tuberculosis in cattle, and may cause it in some people), Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the mycobacterium that causes TB in humans), Salmonella species (diarrhea and speticemia), Yersinia enterocolitica (diarrhea, septicemia, severe abdominal pain), and on and on. Pasteurization kills all of these.

If I need to list more reasons not to consume raw milk, you are a much braver soul than I.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Working Dog

I like this business plan!

Dog in a BP shirt greets customers at Clearwater store

The sequence of events happens dozens of times every day at the BP gas station/convenience store at U.S. 19 at Nursery Road. An unsuspecting customer pulls up to the drive-through window. But instead of a store clerk, up pops two paws, deep brown eyes and the tongue-flapping grin of a happy chocolate Labrador retriever named Cody. Kids in the back seats of minivans often squeal with joy. Even the usually stony faces of gruff construction worker-types can't help but crack a smile under the dog's unpretentious greeting.

"He hears the bell and goes running. When he pops up, that sets it off," said Karim Mansour, the store's and dog's owner. "Uncontrollable giggling."

The only thing that tops Cody's enthusiasm for a customer, is a customer who has a dog with him.

It all started one day five months ago when Mansour decided to bring his dog to work. He didn't think much of it at the time — he just wanted to have his best friend with him while he worked the sometimes slow, and occasionally, dangerous, early morning shift. The dog was given free rein of the store, and as a joke, Mansour put a shirt with a BP logo on the dog, and gave him a name tag.

"While he's here, he's an employee. My rule is, 'all employees need to wear the shirt,' " Mansour said.
Without trying, Cody, always eager to greet any friendly stranger, quickly became a celebrity among store regulars.

"The first time I saw him, he had his tail just waggin' and waggin'," said Richard Mealey, who comes in a few times a week. "I love dogs. He's great."

But the best part might be the double-takes the dog elicits at the drive-through window.

"Oh, he's adorable," said customer Candy Thompson when greeted at the window by Cody. "Oh, he's such a big lover."

Photo shoots with cell phone cameras from the drive-through window are commonplace.

But the BP station is also like most other convenience stores — a sometimes strange melting pot of people from every class and creed, who at any given time could be going through some rough emotion. For those customers, Cody is the solution. He can do what the normal gas station clerk usually cannot.

"Convenience stores are so unpredictable. People come in drunk, stoned, angry, you name it," Mansour said. "He calms them down. Animals have the ability to soothe the human soul."

Earlier this year, a woman who had been fighting with her husband came into the station.

"She came in all sorts of bawling and crying," Mansour said.

Cody, sensing something wasn't right, went to the woman. She put her face next to his, and sat on the floor with him. After several minutes talking to Cody, the woman pulled herself together.

"By the time she was done petting him, she'd stopped crying and seemed a lot better. 'Finally,' she must have thought, 'someone who listens and doesn't talk back,' " Mansour said.

Ironically, Mansour acquired the Cody three years ago when an acquaintance, who was going through a divorce, could no longer take care of him.

Since Cody's following has grown, Mansour said, he has also seen a slight uptick in customer retention — a boon, considering his business has seen a slump in recent months.

"That Hess down the street is a superstore. It wipes me down. But people might come the extra half mile or so to get the more personal service — or just to see the dog, he said.

"In a dog-eat-dog world, when our economy sucks and business is hard, you've got to find a way to stand out."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alien Life on Earth

Click here to view a neat slideshow of some cool and creepy deep sea creatures.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Follow your nose to the Rhinos

Dogs to sniff out the state of Vietnam's critically endangered rhinos

Posted on 20 November 2009
Simon Mahood, member of the WWF rhino project in Vietnam, with dog 'Chevy', who is trained  to detect dung of the rare Javan rhino in the forests of Vietnam.
Simon Mahood, member of the WWF rhino project in Vietnam, with dog 'Chevy', who is trained to detect dung of the rare Javan rhino in the forests of Vietnam.

Vietnam – Highly trained detection dogs are being used help to determine the population status of the Javan rhino in Vietnam, in an attempt to save one of the world’s rarest mammals from extinction.

WWF researchers have teamed up with national park rangers using two detection dogs from the United States to determine the population status of the Javan rhinos in the forests of southern Vietnam, home to one of the world’s last two remaining populations of the species.

Javan rhino (rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) were thought to be extinct on mainland Southeast Asia until hunters in Vietnam killed an individual in 1988. It is believed less than ten remain, but no conclusive survey has ever been conducted to verify this.

“The Javan rhino is possibly the rarest large mammal on Earth,” said Sarah Brook, leader of the WWF rhino project in Vietnam. “This field survey aims to reveal the secrets of Vietnam’s little known Javan rhino population in an effort to save it from extinction.”

Samples of the dung will be sent to Queen’s University in Canada where DNA analysis will detect the sex and number of animals. The Zoological Society of London will carry out a hormone analysis to show the animal’s breeding capability.

After just five days of surveying the area, seven rhino dung samples have been found. These specimens have given the project team confidence that they will be able to gather all the necessary scientific information. The results of these analyses will used to formulate an urgent rhino conservation plan.

“The rhino is not only a rare animal unique to this country, but protecting the rhino is a flagship for conservation efforts in Vietnam,” said Hien Tran Minh, Country Director for WWF Vietnam. “If we lose the rhino the future does not look good for Vietnam’s other rare and endemic species.”

The Javan rhino is a highly valued commodity in the illegal wildlife trade, with the rhino horn, skin and faeces used for medicinal purposes. Habitat encroachment from agricultural expansion and planned hydropower development also pose increasing threats to this small population.

To improve protection for rhinos and other wildlife threatened by poachers, WWF in collaboration with the Asian Rhino project is supporting local communities to join the Forest Protection Department and national parks staff.

‘Rhinomania’, a blog written by the WWF team, will keep the public up to date on the rhino survey as well as on life in the national park.  Article

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cloudy with a chance of Pandas

San Diego's newest Panda cub has been named "Yun Zi" which means "son of cloud." Makes sense given that the cub's mom is Bai Yun which means "white cloud." Article here with video

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Also Available in Hardcover

This little guy was helping his owner, the owner of Murder By the Book in Houston, as she was stocking shelves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans and their dogs!

Thanks to my brother for sending these on. What fun! Doesn't it make all of you cat people want to get a dog? ;)

First of all, some Yorkies going what we very technically call "cracker dog" when their soldier gets home from a month long training stint:

And here are some Beagles, making some of the most awful happy noises you have ever heard:

And here is a Golden mix who is doing her best to melt into her soldier:

And, lastly, some Dachshunds going nuts:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breeder's Cup Classic

For those of you who may have missed the Breeder's Cup Classic yesterday, here it is. What an amazing race!

Make sure to watch Zenyata, the undefeated mare who was going to run in this final race of her career against a tough field. She is in the 4 post hole with the yellow blanket and 2 white stockings on her back legs.

Horse of the Year!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Behold the Puggle!

We all know that baby animals are invariably cute. Well, not this one...... This is a puggle, the term used for a baby echidna. Echidna are one of the most odd and interesting creatures out there. Here are some more pictures!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'Ware the fermented apples!

A hedgehog in England was found to be severely inebriated after gorged itself on fermented apples. Read more about it at this link. I'm not sure what the best part of the story is: that the hedgehog is going to be fine, or that they have a veterinary hospital specifically for hedgehogs called "The Prickly Ball Hedgehog Hospital." That is great!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Part 2 of the Bird v Cat article

Yet for all their indefatigable stalking, cats will rarely take on the most cursed vermin in our midst. “The myth has been propagated that urban roaming cats do a lot to control the rat population,” Mr. Schroeder said. “But science has shown that cats don’t predate on rats, especially not the rather large variety seen in our cities.”

Cats’ toll on birds is a less mythical matter. In one famous study reported in the journal Nature, Kevin R. Crooks of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Michael E. SoulĂ© of the Wildlands Project in Colorado looked at the population dynamics among cats, coyotes and scrub birds in 28 “urban habitat fragments” of Southern California. In the developments to which coyotes had access, free-ranging cats were rare and avian diversity high. The coyotes ate cats but rarely bothered with birds. Where coyotes were excluded, cats ranged free and bird diversity dropped.

Very likely, the cats got the young. As it happens, many temperate-zone birds go through a dangerous time early in life, when they are too big for the nest but still poor at flying. The fledglings spend their time on the ground, hiding in bushes and waiting for their parents to come feed them. People come upon the baby birds and think, poor dear, it’s fallen from its nest, but no, this is the system. “They’re incredibly vulnerable,” Dr. Marra said, “and in high-cat densities, the fledglings get nailed.”

In a newly completed study, Dr. Marra and his students used radio transmitters to track fledgling survival in two Washington suburbs: Bethesda and my own Takoma Park. The towns are similar socioeconomically and demographically, but while much of Takoma Park is crawling with outdoor cats, many streetscapes in Bethesda are, for reasons that remain unclear, largely cat-free. At least partly as a result of this discrepancy, Dr. Marra said, fledgling survivorship among Bethesda birds is about 55 percent, similar to what you would see in a natural population. But for birds that happen to be born in my tree-lined paradisiacal hamlet, only 10 percent last long enough to take wing.

There are ways to keep a cat happy inside. Becky Robinson, the founder and president of Alley Cat Allies, who has taken in five strays, recommends any number of the increasingly popular “exclosures,” plastic pods that you pop into your window for the cat to enter and watch the world, or snaky mesh cages that you can even take camping.

I’m relieved to report that our new cat, Manny Jr., is content with our screened-in porch and the many hunting opportunities our home affords. Sorry, but the crickets are fair game.

Save the Birds!

This excellent article was in the NY Times a few weeks ago, and states very well one of my biggest "pet peeves." (pun fully intended) As a conservationist and avid bird-watcher, I am a huge proponent of people keeping their cats indoors.

Give Birds a Break. Lock Up the Cat.

Published: September 28, 2009

The other day I looked out the window and saw a strange black cat sauntering through our yard. It was a beautiful animal, with bright penny eyes and fur that gleamed like a newly polished shoe, but still the sight turned me ghoulish. So I ran outside, hollered, stamped my feet and finally managed to chase the little witch’s sidekick away.

I am not superstitious. I have always been a cat lover. Yet if there is one thing I don’t want crossing my path right now, it’s another bored, carnivorous tourist, another recreational hunter on the prowl. Our yard is already a magnet for half a dozen neighborhood cats, all of whom I know to be pets with perfectly good homes of their own. But they are free to roam, while we, between our burbling bird fountain out front and our well-stocked bird feeders in back, just happen to look like a felid Six Flags — now more than usual with the busy fall migrations under way.

I would like to complain to the cats’ owners, demand that they come claw their property from mine, but I don’t. I’m a coward, complaining is unneighborly, and I’m all too aware that I could be accused of hypocrisy, of the pot calling the kitty black. Until she died two autumns ago, our cat Cleo was a notorious free ranger, yowling outside neighbors’ windows, climbing on top of their roofs. We tried to make her a housecat, but when she retaliated by using our living room as a giant cat box, we cravenly sighed and flung open the door.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have held my ground, plugged my nose, and kept Cleo inside. Experts disagree sharply these days over how to manage our multitudes of stray and feral cats, with some saying off to the pound, others preaching a policy of catch, neuter and release, and everybody wishing there were other options to click. Yet when it comes to pet policy, and the question of whether it’s O.K. to let your beloved Cleo, Zydeco or Cocoa wander at will and have their Hobbesian fun, the authorities on both sides of the alley emphatically say, No. There are enough full-time strays; don’t add in your chipper. It is not fair to the songbirds and other animals that domestic cats kill by the billions each year. New research shows that neighborhoods like mine are particularly treacherous, Bermuda Triangles for baby birds.

Peter P. Marra, a research scientist at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo, pointed out that cats were the only domesticated animal permitted to roam. “Pigs have to stay in pens, chickens have to stay in pens,” he said. “Why are cats allowed to run around and do what their instincts tell them to do, which is rampage?”

It isn’t fair to the cat. Regular stints outdoors are estimated to knock three or more years off a pet cat’s life. “No parent would let a toddler outside the house to run free in traffic,” said Darin Schroeder, vice president for conservation advocacy at the American Bird Conservancy in Washington. “A responsible owner shouldn’t do it with a pet.”

In the view of many wildlife researchers, a pet cat on a lap may be a piece of self-cleaning perfection, but a pet cat on the loose is like a snakefish or English ivy: an invasive species. Although domestic cats have been in this country since the colonial era, they are thought to be the descendants of a Middle Eastern species of wild cat, and there is nothing quite like them native to North America. As a result, many local prey species are poorly equipped to parry a domestic cat’s stealth approach. “People fool themselves into believing that by simply putting a bell on a cat they could prevent mortality to birds,” Mr. Schroeder said. “But a bell ringing means nothing to a bird.”

Moreover, free-ranging domestic cats are considered subsidized predators. They eat cat food at home, and then hunt just for sport, a strategy that allows them to exist at densities far greater than carnivores achieve in nature. “It’s estimated that there are 117 million to 150 million free-ranging cats” in the United States, Dr. Marra said. “They’re the most abundant carnivore in North America today.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sea Dragon

Sea Dragons are certainly one of the strangest and most interesting creatures in the ocean. Here is a video that shows their unique courtship and hatching of their eggs.

Sea Dragons

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are you a Twitcher?

You may be.....if you live in Great Britain and are a bird-watcher. That was the first thing I learned from this article.

Rare bird sighting draws hundreds

Eastern Crowned Warbler
The bird is usually found in the Far East. Pic. Dougie Holden
Hundreds of birdwatchers have flocked to a South Tyneside quarry after a bird usually found in the forests of Asia was spotted there.
Twitchers from all over the country have descended on Trow Quarry in South Shields after the sighting of an eastern crowned warbler.
News quickly spread on internet message boards after a photo of the bird was posted on Thursday night.
The last reported European sighting of the bird was in Holland in 2007.
It is believed the bird landed in the quarry after becoming disorientated for some reason.
Significant sighting
Birdwatcher Paul Cook, from Whitburn, near South Shields, told the BBC: "There has been nothing like this in Britain before. This is massive.
"Within minutes of the discovery last night pagers were going into overdrive and my phone has never stopped since.
"I would say about 300 people have been there already and I would imagine the numbers will run into the thousands come the end of the weekend."
The most recent sightings of the bird in the last four years have been in Holland and Finland but it is normally a native of the Far East.
Lee Evans, of the British Birding Association, said the sighting was "significant" and was on his way to South Tyneside from the organisation's base in Buckinghamshire.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Neat Nature Images

Here is an article about outdoor photographers that has some amazing images, including these (that tiger is downright frightening): Creative Images

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cute Overload

OK, I want a pygmy rabbit now. (Link here)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thoroughbred News

I previously posted about the amazing ladies of Thoroughbred racing, Zenyatta and Racheal Alexandra here. Well, they continue to impress. Zenyatta remains undefeated (13 straight wins) going into yet another big stakes races this weekend at Santa Anita. She is the heavy favorite to win the $300,000 Lady's Secret Stakes which she also won last year. Here's to hoping her winning ways continue! What an amazing mare! Link to story

In other Thoroughbred news, anyone interested in owning a quality racing Thoroughbred can do so comparatively cheaply due to the economy. Keeneland recently hosted their fall sale of Thoroughbreds, and average prices were much lower than they have been in years past. Owners seem to be looking toward the future as the fillies for sale seemed to be the most popular. Here are some stories regarding the sale: Fillies Rule at Keeneland Keeneland sales down 33% 'Bargain' Storm Cat colt Too bad I don't have $500,000 lying around. ;)

Thursday, October 8, 2009


With Rio being chosen as the site for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, preparations are already under way for the equestrian competition. What is especially nice is that Brazil hosted the PanAm Games in 2007, so they already have the facilities built and in-use. The only major thing they need to do is add some more stabling.

An especially interesting note: the summer games will take place there during Rio's winter since it is in the southern hemisphere! It should be lovely for equine and human athletes alike since average high temps are expected to be in the mid-70s.

Here is a link to the Rio bid video. I'm pretty sure the promise of a private beach swayed a lot of votes. ;)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Supreme Court Hearing

Thanks again to my brother for keeping me up-to-date on this topic! Here is a very entertaining account of how the Supreme Court handled this one:

The Supreme Court mauls the law banning animal-cruelty videos

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Animal Case before Supreme Court

My brother brought my attention to this issue being brought before the Supreme Court. This is an analysis of the issue at hand, and what precedent it may set for animal cruelty cases.

"Congress’ attempt ten years ago to ban animal cruelty, by banning video and other depictions of it, had its first constitutional test in the Supreme Court Tuesday, and appeared to have failed. Despite efforts by an Obama Administration lawyer to show that Congress wrote carefully and narrowly, most of the Justices strongly implied that the law probably goes too far — or at least was so vague that no one can know just what is illegal. Only one Justice, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., seemed tempted to support the law as is.

The case of U.S. v. Stevens (08-769) tests the constitutionality of the 1999 law that made it a federal crime to make and sell commercially “any visual or auditory depiction” of killing or seriously abusing a living animal, if the conduct is illegal under either federal or a state’s law. [Disclosure: Akin Gump represents respondent Robert Stevens in the case, and blog contributor Patricia Millett argued on behalf of Mr. Stevens today. However, the author of this post operates independently of Akin Gump and is not involved in the firm's litigation.] The Justices, loosing a series of hypotheticals on what kind of conduct could not be depicted legally under the law – from bull-fighting to using geese to make foie gras, suggested that the statute likely would reach far beyond what Congress was actually seeking to ban.

Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal, asking the Court to reinstate the law that had been nullified by the Third Circuit Court, said Congress intended to shut down “a robust market” for so-called “crush videos,” images of small animals being stomped to death. It was, he said, a “narrowly targeted restriction.”

But he was only a few words into his opening when Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether Congress had any evidence that there was “such a robust market” for videos of dog-fighting or even of hunting. Katyal countered by stressing anew that the law was limited in scope, did not apply to hunting, and was a challenge only to the commercial market. That simply prompted Justice Antonin Scalia to say that applying it only to a “commercial market” was not to limit it, since that would embrace “anything sold.”

From then on, Scalia continued to assail the sweep of the law, and other Justices joined in the challenge. Scalia was so relentless that, when Patricia A. Millett, the lawyer speaking against the law, seemed to be leaving some opening for Congress to pass laws in this area, the Justice gave her a mini-lecture on “it is not up to the government to decide what our worst instincts are.” Millett had the most difficulty fending off questions from Justice Alito about whether Congress could write a law that would ban a TV channel devoted to “human sacrifice.”

In contrast to Katyal’s argument (seemingly one that made no discernible headway with the Court) that the law was a strictly limited one, Millett suggested that it would apply so widely that courts simply could not salvage it by trying to spell out what it did not cover. “You would have to excise so many things, I don’t know what you would have left,” she said.

Katyal had been challenged rigorously throughout his argument, but Millett did not encounter any serious pressure, until Justice Alito opted to join actively in the questioning.

Alito suggested that the law may have accomplished, over its decade on the books, just what Congress had in mind: it had dried up the market for “crush videos,” while not causing a decrease in videos or TV shows about hunting. He told Millett she should be addressing “what’s going on in the real world,” and not focus on hypotheticals like producing foie gras with geese. She replied that, if Congress were to write laws in the First Amendment area, it had to “write with a scalpel and not with a buzz saw.”

But she seemed less sure of her argument when Alito moved on to questions about Congress’ authority, hypothetically, to try to stop human sacrifice by banning its depiction on videos and in other media. She at first said that such a law might be valid if it were “properly drawn” and “narrowly tailored.” As other members of the Court showed some interest in the human sacrifice hypothetical, Millett made further concessions even while not answering directly. First Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and then Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., insisted on a direct response to Alito’s hypothetical. She answered that Congress could legislate in this area, unless it sought to ban the content of such depictions “just because it did not like it.”

A final decision in the case is not expected for at least several weeks."

Here is a link to the article at SCOTUSBLOG

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puppy Mills

Here is a link to an interesting article revealing some of the clandestine nature that surrounds puppy mills and commercial breeders:

Lawmakers push to expand Iowa dog breeder oversight

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flying Dachshund

Waldi is hard to take pictures of when he is running. Blink and you'll miss him!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Veterinary Care vrs Medical Care

My brother sent me this great article looking at the costs of veterinary care verses human medical care. Click here to see the full article plus an array of great comments.

A dog is a rat is a doctor is a vet

I want to return briefly to a point made in a hard-hitting post from Canadian blogger Blazingcatfur about the awful treatment his mother received:

With barely contained anger I informed the nurse that keeping an ill, 84 year old woman in a hospital corridor for 18 hours was not the type of care that anyone should be expected to tolerate. In fact my cat receives better treatment from his vet.
This is not the first time I've seen the point raised about veterinary care being better than health care for humans. And you don't have to compare veterinary care to health care under socialized medicine to see the difference, although it becomes particularly glaring if you do.

Under our "system" of veterinary health care, there's generally little or no wait, they're invariably friendly (because you could always grab your dog or cat and take it to another vet), and as to the prices?

Let me give a personal example. My old dog Puff once swallowed half a tennis ball he had flattened, and it opened up like a parachute inside his small intestine. This formed an insurmountable blockage, and necrosis set in. Without immediate emergency surgery, Puff (by that time in horrible agony) would have been dead in a day or so. He was cut open, the foreign object removed along with a three foot section of intestine (the two severed ends being anastomized together) and after a couple of days at the vet I took him home, where he fully recovered without complication.

The bill for all of this? Nine hundred and fifty dollars.


Now, this was some time ago, and today it would be more. Probably close to a couple of grand.

But imagine how much it would cost if a boy were to swallow something he shouldn't have and it lodged in his small intestine and had to be removed. I shudder to think of the possible bill for emergency surgery and two days in the hospital, but I think you'd be lucky if it cost less than $20,000.


The instruments, the drugs, the surgical techniques, sterile hygiene, intravenous lines, and post-operative support, all of these things are basically the same. True, the boy would not be placed in a four by six cage during his stay in the hospital, but a bed in a room is not all that complicated.

What accounts for the huge difference in price? A lot of people say it's the liability insurance, but is that all there is to it? It's not as if there's much difference in the degree of education between an MD and a DVM. (And it's actually harder to get into vet school than it is to get into med school, so if there's an issue involving brains, the vets might win.)

It strikes me that there is a giant, overarching difference between veterinary care and regular medical care, and that is that the former is barely regulated by the government, while the latter is so regulated that even now -- without socialized health care -- many doctors feel as if they spent most of their time being bureaucrats. Is that it? I'm sure my vet kept records for Puff, but I'd be willing to bet they consisted of little more than a couple of paragraphs summarizing the diagnosis, the procedure, and his recovery. And I'd also be willing to bet that for the same procedure on a boy, if all of the records were all printed out they'd be a stack of documents inches thick.

I realize that people will say I am silly and comparing apples and oranges, but it wasn't that long ago that the complex education and licensing as we know it simply did not exist. When they weren't cutting people open, "barber surgeons" cut hair and shaved faces.

But you don't have to go back to the 18th century. A close friend who died a few years ago had a copy of a bill she received for the birth of her son in the late 1940s. Including delivery, hospitalization, and maternity care, it came to just over two hundred dollars. Even if we correct for inflation, there is simply no comparison between the prices then and the prices now for medical care.

While I realize technology has added many tools to the medical arsenal since the 1940s, the same tools have been added to the veterinary arsenal, so that can't be all there is to it. I have not seen any vet bills from the 1940s, but I am sure that a cursory examination would reveal that the rate of increase has risen in a normal manner that we would expect, while the rate of increase for human medical care has skyrocketed. (Of course, in those days, far fewer people had health insurance. Might the "blank check" from the big pocket have something to do with it?)

Should we allow vets to treat humans? Why not? If a woman can consent to an abortion, why can't I consent to having a veterinarian cut a tennis ball out of my intestines?

Why can't we be consenting adults?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Order of Finish

As some of you may know, I have been doing a lot of work lately with the greyhounds at the local dog track. I thought I would post this pretty neat order of finish in a race last week. They finished in order: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.

The photo is taken as an extended exposure, the camera placed on the finish line. The contraption in front is the lure that the dogs chase. Due to the exposure, especially fast moving parts like legs can often look odd. On top, you see the "mirror" image so that we can see both sides. Sometimes we can only tell order-of-finish from the mirror. This is the same type of photo we use for photo finishes. A photo like this is taken of every race and, the ones that are close, we can zoom in on and see who crossed the wire first.

Definitely a rare order of finish!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


As many of you know, I am a hopeless fan of all things Lord of the Rings. I stumbled across this video with Blanco, the Andalusian stallion that plays Shadowfax, and his trainer. The video itself is nauseating, but it is great to see such a talented horse. Apparently his trainer does clinics and workshops on equine training at her barn in San Diego. I bet that would be interesting! Anyone ant to go? ;)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Red Panda

Just a cute red panda picture

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wind Getting off Easy

My brother brought this article to my attention. Definitely some food for thought, especially for avid bird-watchers such as myself.

Does Wind Get Off Easy?

When birds die due to oil or chemical exposure at an oil company's storage or waste-water facility, the company may be prosecuted for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Exxon-Mobil, for example, recently pled guilty to killing 85 birds protected under the MTBA. The oil giant will pay $600,000 in fines, and several million more to implement a compliance plan to prevent bird deaths in the future.

Exxon-Mobil's not alone. Electric utilities are also prosecuted when protected birds are killed by poorly insulated transmission lines. And yet not all power produces are prosecuted for the accidental killing of protected birds.

As the Entergy Tribune's Robert Bryce detailed in the Wall Street Journal, wind power kills more protected birds than Exxon-Mobil's refineries, and yet gets a free pass.

A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.

Altamont's turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon's tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.

The number of birds killed by wind turbines is highly variable. And biologists believe Altamont, which uses older turbine technology, may be the worst example. But that said, the carnage there likely represents only a fraction of the number of birds killed by windmills. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy estimates that U.S. wind turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds per year. Yet the Justice Department is not bringing cases against wind companies.

The problem of bird kills from wind power are well documented. A 2001 report on avian mortality by the National Wind Coordinating Council estimated wind power was responsible for 33,000 bird kills per year, the vast majority of which are protected under federal law. The American Wind Energy Association estimates bird mortality rates are, on average, "one to six per year or less" per megawatt of wind power capacity in the United States. Given the U.S. had 25,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity in the U.S., wind power could be responsible for as many as 150,000 bird kills per year. How many will die if wind production increases ten-fold or more to meet proposed renewable energy mandates? (And will we consider that actual wind output can be far less than installed capacity.)

Wind power is hardly the only thing that kills birds. Bird kills are a problem with many tall structures, and other energy sources are hardly without their problems. All things considered, wind may be preferable to available alternatives (even if it cannot provide base load capacity) and could be an important part of America's energy supply in the future. Yet it seems clear that when it comes to killing protected birds, traditional energy companies face federal prosecution, while wind energy gets a pass.

One reason for the special treatment is that it is easier to reduce bird kills at traditional energy facilities than a wind farm. In Exxon-Mobil's case, netting can keep birds away from potential contamination sources. There's no comparably easy fix for wind farms -- at least not yet. So federal prosecutors may target enforcement efforts where they can maximize the environmental results. It's also possible that there's no political benefit to going after "green" energy.

Here is the link to the article. Lots of links are available in the article to the various information sources mentioned.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A New Lost World

Lost world of fanged frogs and giant rats in Papua New Guinea

A lost world populated by fanged frogs, grunting fish and tiny bear-like creatures has been discovered in a remote volcanic crater on the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.

A team of scientists from Britain, the United States and Papua New Guinea found more than 40 previously unidentified species when they climbed into the kilometre-deep crater of Mount Bosavi and explored a pristine jungle habitat teeming with life that has evolved in isolation since the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago. In a remarkably rich haul from just five weeks of exploration, the biologists discovered 16 frogs which have never before been recorded by science, at least three new fish, a new bat and a giant rat, which may turn out to be the biggest in the world.

The discoveries are being seen as fresh evidence of the richness of the world's rainforests and the explorers hope their finds will add weight to calls for international action to prevent the demise of similar ecosystems. They said Papua New Guinea's rainforest is currently being destroyed at the rate of 3.5% a year.

"It was mind-blowing to be there and it is clearly time we pulled our finger out and decided these habitats are worth us saving," said Dr George McGavin who headed the expedition.

The team of biologists included experts from Oxford University, the London Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution and are believed to be the first scientists to enter the mountainous Bosavi crater. They were joined by members of the BBC Natural History Unit which filmed the expedition for a three-part documentary which starts tomorrow night.

They found the three-kilometre wide crater populated by spectacular birds of paradise and in the absence of big cats and monkeys, which are found in the remote jungles of the Amazon and Sumatra, the main predators are giant monitor lizards while kangaroos have evolved to live in trees. New species include a camouflaged gecko, a fanged frog and a fish called the Henamo grunter, named because it makes grunting noises from its swim bladder.

"These discoveries are really significant," said Steve Backshall, a climber and naturalist who became so friendly with the never-before seen Bosavi silky cuscus, a marsupial that lives up trees and feeds on fruits and leaves, that it sat on his shoulder.

"The world is getting an awful lot smaller and it is getting very hard to find places that are so far off the beaten track."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Check out this site!

I thought I'd share one of my favorite websites for anyone interested. Go to ZooBorns to see pictures of baby animals from zoos and aquariums around the world! For those of you who find too much "cuteness" nauseating, you may want to stay away. ;)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

“I think lab owners know how stupid these animals can be."

Dog’s ‘snack’ may result in award


Denver Daily News Staff Writer

One black dress sock ended up costing Greenwood Village resident Kevin Koritza $2,500, a very sick dog and a chance to claim the inaugural Veterinary Pet Insurance Hambone Award.

Becca, Koritza’s young Labrador retriever, ate her master’s dress sock last year. As a result, Becca grew increasingly sicker and was “splashing liquids out of both ends” five days after eating the $2 sock. When Koritza was going to the pet store to buy a different kind of dog food for Becca in hopes of curing her then-undiagnosed ailment, Koritza’s dad called saying the dog had puked out a sock and was going to be just fine.

But Kortiza’s dad didn’t pick up the sock. And by the time Koritza got home, Becca ate the vomit-soaked clothing accessory back up again.

“She was so dehydrated from being so sick that the sock didn’t have a chance to go anywhere, it just got stuck in her intestines,” Koritza said.

A $2,500 surgery was required to remove the sock from Becca’s intestines. The surgery was successful, though, and Becca is now as happy as can be, according to Koritza.

“It was an expensive lesson in good housekeeping,” he said.

While Becca’s misadventures put a slight dent in Koritza’s pocketbook — Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) covered about half the cost of the surgery — the 26-year-old and his 2-year-old dog are one of 12 finalists for the inaugural Hambone Award being given out by VPO. After a year of collecting the most unusual pet insurance claims from each month, the nation’s oldest and largest pet health insurance provider is holding a competition that invites the public to vote on which is the most bizarre claim of the year.

The pet with the claim that is voted most unusual will then win the Hambone Award, which is named in honor of a VPI-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting to be found. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for treatments.

“Our intent with the Hambone Award is to let pet owners know just how unexpected the unexpected can be,” said a statement from Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI.

Koritza and Becca face some strong national competition for the Hambone Award. Some other contestants include:

• After being caught eating a pacifier, Lulu the English bulldog was brought to the veterinarian for an X-ray. The X-ray resulted in a surgery to remove 15 pacifiers that Lulu had ingested over the course of six months;

• A bucket of minnows — bait for an ice-fishing trip — piqued the interest of Quincy the Labrador. But when Quincy stuck his snout in for a sniff, he managed to inhale a three-pronged fishhook;

• Marley the Labrador retriever’s owner was trying to clear the beach of sea urchins when Marley, true to her retriever nature, ran to fetch one of the poisonous creatures. She spent the next couple hours regretting the decision.

Koritza likes his and Becca’s chances of claiming the award because it’s such a disgusting story.

“The other ones are comical, but they just don’t have that edge of absolutely disgustingness that we have,” he said. “I think lab owners know how stupid these animals can be. They’re a special breed and come with their challenges and personality.”

People can vote what they believe is the most unusual pet insurance claim at Voting will end on Sept. 14, 2009, and the winner will appear on the Rachel Ray Show in the near future.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

As a Matter of Fact.....

Last weekend I was on-call. Overall, it was a fairly quiet weekend, though I had a few I needed to go in on. Sunday afternoon I was called into the clinic for a nonemergent call (a client needed to drop a dog off for further workup for the next day, and something had come up that would prevent them from doing so on Monday). Waldi was very eager to go on a car ride, so I took him along with. He was perched on my lap, front paws on my left arm as he stared eagerly out the window. I had the window down as it was a lovely day.

While stopped at a fairly busy intersection, an SUV pulled up alongside. The driver rolled down the passenger-side window as well as one of the back windows so her kids could see him. Waldi was fairly quivering with, cars driving by, people talking to exciting.

"What a cute dog!" the lady said. "He looks like he is nervous. It's Sunday! You don't need to worry that you are going to the vet or something!"

The light changed...and we headed off to the vet! ;)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Golden Tooth

The following story was published on a site dedicated to science-based medicine. The author has some especially well-researched and reasoned articles about many things, with especial focus on things like vaccines, acupuncture and herbal medicine. The following story that he sites in a recent post about acupuncture I found very interesting, and I think the moral of it is applicable to a lot of different situations!

"One of the fathers of critical thinking and skeptical inquiry, the French philosopher Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (1657–1757) recounts in 1687 in his Histoire des oracles–a debunking book on popular beliefs, myths and superstitions that caused tremendous stir in theological and philosophical circles of his time–a colorful story that could very well illustrate the flurry of interest and research in acupuncture that followed a 1971 anecdotal account of its use in China, and the plethora of verbiage and publications that ensued. If the story of the Tooth of Gold is comical, colorful and amusing, its applicability to acupuncture is not.

In 1593, the rumor ran that a seven year old in Silesia grew a tooth of gold in place of one of the cheek tooth he lost. Horatius, professor of medicine at the University of Helmstad, wrote a history of this tooth in 1595 and alleged that it was partially natural, partially miraculous, and that it was sent by God to this child to console the Christians that were oppressed by the Turks. Just imagine what consolation and what concern this tooth might bring to the Christians or to the Turks. For this tooth not to lack historians, Rullandus rewrote its history in the same year. Two years later, Ingolsteterus, another learned man, wrote against the views of Rullandus on the tooth of gold; to which Rullandus immediately wrote a fine and wise reply. Another great man named Libavius gathered all that had been written on this tooth and added his own views. Nothing lacked to these many fine books, other than the tooth were truly of gold. When the goldsmith examined it, he found that it was made of a leaf of gold skillfully applied to the tooth; but they began by writing books and then they consulted the goldsmith.1

Translated from French by the author"

That last line is the best: "They began by writing books and then they consulted the goldsmith." If that doesn't read like an Aesop moral!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Project

Knowing my love for birds (especially wild birds) a co-worker brought this critter in. After crashing into a window, she needs a fair amount of TLC, but she is improving!! She can now navigate her beck right into the syringe that we feed her a highly nutritional sugar water/ cricket mixture and can hop around her enclosure much more nimbly. When i first got her, she could hardly sit upright. Here's to hoping she'll continue to improve. She's a little fighter!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fabulous Fillies!

I haven't posted anything about horse racing lately, but there certainly has been a lot going on. Even though we are weeks after the last of the Triple Crown races were run, the biggest name in the field remains Rachel Alexandra. She is the amazing filly that famously won the Preakness and remains undefeated...and decidedly so.

But one horse you may not of heard as much about, but should, is Zenyatta, an undefeated 5-yr old mare that has been the darling of the racing circuit on the West Coast. Huge, powerful, strong, impressivee, she is a mare to watch as she flies down the track.

There has been a lot of talk lately about a possible match race between these two fillies. A nice discussion about it (and a great video of Rachel Alexandra's ridiculously easy win in the Mother Goose stakes race) can be viewed here.

So, will Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra ever meet? Hard to say. Rachel Alexandra's team has been decidedly careful about the races in which she runs. There was some hope the two would meet at the Breeder's Cup, but it doesn't look like they will. We'll just have to see.

And, so you have some reference, here is Zenyatta's most recent and one of her signature dominating wins...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Not Bad for the 4th

Being on call on a holiday, especially the 4th of July, is always a little nerve wracking. It is one of those holidays that often spells a perfect storm for a run of seasonal emergencies such as heatstroke, hit-by-car, big dog vrs little dog, eating of things one shouldn't (especially bones out of the trash), and fireworks incidents. This 4th is ending with a few calls, but none of the above apart from a dog that chewed on a cardboard firework casing. Hopefully the rest of the weekend continues just as quietly.

Friday, July 3, 2009

But my mom's groomer's sister's friend's brother's....

There are many natural and homeopathic remedies out there that are touted for every condition under the sun. I have a fair number of animals that come in for various problems where initial treatment with such therapies have failed. From the coonhound that has been dewormed with chewing tobacco to the dog with hip dysplasia that is on a strict emu oil regime, there is a lot of hogwash-in-a-bottle for sale to the right buyer.

Now, despite the lack of significant clinical evidence, I am not as quick to dismiss some of these remedies as others. I have a handful of such remedies that I occasionally will add to a treatment program because (a) I know they can't hurt anything, and (b) I have seen them help some animals. I'll recommend joint supplements to help arthritic dogs though there is significant debate in the literature on the usefulness of such practices. I have some cats with chronic urinary bladder issues that seem to benefit from cranberry supplements. I even have an herbal solution that I have used a few times on very large wounds to speed healing to great effect.

That said, I found the following video hilarious. When you read through some of the homeopathic remedies out there in an effort to find relief and treatment for a particularly frustrating case, you soon find ridiculous recipes, just like this:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sea Lion Takes Fireboat for a Ride

Sea Lion Takes Fireboat for a Ride

NEWPORT HARBOR -- A sea lion became a unexpected sea captain when the curious creature took the helm of an Orange County Sheriff's Harbor Patrol fireboat, officials say.

Last week, Harbor Patrol deputies responded to a report of an aggressive sea lion who had reportedly latched onto a child's pant leg, according to Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Slikker.

The deputies were able to get the the juvenile sea lion back into the water, but only a few minutes later, it jumped back on the dock. Concerned for public safety, the deputies decided they would take the animal to a local sea lion hangout, Slikker says.

They were able to get the sea lion onto the fireboat using a makeshift leash. During the trip, the sea lion snuck into the V-berth and then jumped into the driver's seat, according to the deputies. They say he used his flippers to experiment with the many buttons and controls that were laid out before him.

The marine mammal made his way to the lower steering station and accidentally started shifting the course of the boat. Deputies attempted to persuade the sea lion to leave the throttles -- which, at the time, were switched to reverse. Deputy Slikker says they eventually got him to move off the controls and regained control of the boat.

The mischievous sea lion and the boat were brought to the Harbor Patrol docks to wait for an animal control officer. Back at the docks, the animal was gently coxed from the boat with a garden hose, deputies say. After a few squirts of water, he jumped onto the dock, where he waited around for an hour and a half before heading back into the bay.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Save the Hamsters!

France faces court for hamster neglect (click link for full story)
source: The New Zealand Herald

The French Government faces punishment for failing to look after its hamsters.

The European Commission has brought a case in the European Court for allowing the great hamster of Alsace, the only wild hamster in Western Europe, to decline to the point of extinction.

If found guilty, the French Government faces fines of up to €17 million ($37 million) or €68,000 for each of the 250 animals still thought to be living in the fields around the city of Strasbourg in the east of the country.

The great hamster, European hamster or Cricetus cricetus is much larger, and prettier, than its familiar domesticated cousins. It has a brown and white face, a black belly and white paws and can grow to be 25.5cm long.

Although a protected species since 1993, the wild European hamster is one of the most threatened mammals on the continent. Its habitat has been decimated by suburban sprawl. Its preferred foods - wheat, barley, lucerne and cabbages - have been ousted by vast fields of more profitable maize, which it detests.

After several warnings, the European Commission has decided to take legal action against Paris under the European Union directives for the preservation of wildlife.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just another Cute Dog

This little dog had knee surgery last week. She looks pretty happy about it, even with her e-collar!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Roman Dog Names

Looking for a unique name for your dog? I stumbled across this interesting list today: Roman Names for Dogs.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Leaping Lizard!!

Here are some pictures of the project that consumed our household for a solid week! As a benefit for the local aquarium which opened their big lizard exhibit, 25 lizards have been distributed throughout the community for painting and then displaying. This fella can now be viewed at the Dubuque Arboretum! The pictures are a random sampling of angles.