Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Making Tracks

Spending time up north with my brother-in-law, Steve, is like having one's own personal nature guide. He points out animal tracks and (I assume) correctly identifies them. He can recognize a hawk when it's a mere speck in the sky. He can even distinguish raccoon poop from skunk poop. When I'm with Steve, I feel closer to nature. It makes me realize that I've lived in the city too long, and have probably missed out on some very neat stuff.

Which brings me to a childhood fantasy I had. I wanted to be like Disney's Snow White, not because I'm especially into dwarves, but because I wanted all the woodland creatures to be fearless of me. I wanted birds to land on my shoulder and sing in my ear, and bunnies to rest at my feet. I believed that if animals loved you, then you must be a nice person.

I no longer have that fantasy, well, not very often. I suppose I'll have to settle for a domesticated cat who occasionally comes when I call.

Anyway, back to animal tracks. Can you identify the one in the picture?

Image courtesy of OpenCage

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What I'll Go Through For My Cat

Performatrin Ultra
The dried food I buy for my cat is called Performatrin Ultra: Slim Care Formula. It's great stuff (my cat told me so). I recommended it to my parents for their overweight, grouchy as hell cat. Within weeks, not only had their cat regained her girlish figure, she positively purred (Note: they had been using a vet-recommended brand).

As I said, it's great stuff. Unfortunately, in my area, Performatrin can be purchased at only one store. The employees are friendly and knowledgeable, and the store is well-stocked, but I dread going there to buy the food.

Why? Because they have caged kittens and cats up for adoption--right there, at the front of the store. There's no way I can avoid their furry paws reaching through the mesh, nor can I resist their sad eyes and pitiful meows (it's a wonder I don't come home with a package of food under one arm and a cat under the other).

Anyway, tonight I noticed that I only had a bit of Performatrin left. I've thought about asking my husband to go to the store for me, but he'd probably look at me like I'd lost the final bolt that was holding my mind together.

Wish me luck--I'm going back to the store tomorrow.

Click here for more information about this great cat food (would my cat lie to you?)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mid-Air Collisions

Eons ago, when I worked in Toronto, I passed the Exchange Tower each morning on my mad dash from the train. One day, I spotted an injured bird on the ground, beside the Tower's massive windows.

What a beauty it was--long beak and smooth, brown plumage. Its black eyes were open, and I wanted so much to pick up the bird and comfort it (of course, that would probably have stressed it even more). Suddenly, getting to work on time was no longer important. I assumed the bird had hit the window, so I waited, hoping it had only been stunned. But the poor thing never recovered.

At work, the image of the bird haunted me. By the afternoon, I decided to contact the Tower's management. This was in the days before PC's and email, so I typed up a letter and mailed it off.

Within a month, I received a reply. They'd looked into the problem, and had been advised by the Ontario Science Centre to put dark silhouettes of hawks on the windows--the birds would steer clear of the presumed predator.

For years afterward, it gave me a great deal of satisfaction whenever I happened to look up at the hawk silhouettes. I don't know how many birds may have been saved, but I felt my letter had made a difference.

And I believe we can all make a difference--no matter how small.

Thanks to Eartheasy for the hawk silhouette. To learn about environmentally sustainable living, visit Greg Seaman's helpful website: Eartheasy

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You Can't Do That: Strange Animal Laws

You've got to wonder what prompted lawmakers to come up with these gems:

It is illegal to...

...herd more than 2000 sheep down Hollywood Blvd. at one time.

(Must've been passed after disaster struck during the filming of a Mel Brooks movie)

...allow cats to run loose without a tail light.

(Might be easier just to keep your cat indoors)

...take a lion to the movies in Baltimore.

(I suppose they came up with this one after MGM's early attempts at reality TV backfired) give lighted cigars to pets in Zion, Illinois

(I completely agree--not only is smoking bad for 'em, pets are hopeless when it comes to using ashtrays) educate dogs in Hartford.

(Makes sense--most of them are smarter than us already) give alcohol to a moose in Fairbanks.

(Takes the sport out of hunting them, I suppose. Sigh)

...for a farmer to sleep with his livestock in Clawson, Michigan.

(No comment)

...for cats and dogs to have sex without a permit in Ventura, California.

(Perhaps it's lawmakers who should require a permit)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dapper Dogs

There is something seriously wrong with this picture. Yes, the brown dress is perfect for the dog's "complexion", and the fit is enviable. But it's a freaking dress! Dogs should not wear dresses or pants or hats or whatever. It's demeaning, and probably pretty darn hot--after all, most of them do come with their own fur coats.

What is it with people who humanize their pets? I've a theory: Our pets tolerate us. They'd have a far better time running with a pack of their canine friends, or hanging out at night with their feline mates. Sure, life might be tougher without their personal chefs, but pets would be perfectly happy to do without. Animals are intuitive--they realize how much we depend on them, so they stick with us out of pity. Now, don't say I didn't warn you--you're pushing their patience to the limit if you put clothes on them.

There's big business in pet accessories, clothes and specialty foods. Here are more useless items:

Actual dog treats. Let's face it, dogs will eat poop if given the chance--they don't care what their treats look like.

The Doggone Thong. A gas-neutralizing pad for, you know, your dog's flatulence proplems. I can't believe this product is for real, but if it is, you'll be happy to know that the thong is washable and reusable.

Next on my hit list--useless cat products.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different

I'd be remiss if I didn't post something about Backspace's amazing Agent - Author seminar, taking place in New York on November 6 and 7. With only agents on the program, the seminars are a terrific opportunity to network, ask questions, talk about your work, and listen and learn from the people who make their living selling books.

I've attended three Backspace conferences, and If I had something at the agent search stage, I'd be at this seminar in a flash!

Check it out:

Backspace Agent-Author Seminar 2007

And if you aren't already a Backspace member, what are you waiting for? Joining this online community of writers might be the best thing you can do for your writing career--not to mention your sanity:

Join Backspace Now

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Going, Going, Gone

Grand Canyon Arizona
I watched Nature on PBS this week. The "Life in Death Valley" series highlights the plight of the Devil's Hole Pupfish--a fish that exists nowhere else and has survived in isolation for over 25,000 years. Until recently that is. Now, there's only about 125 of the little guys left. For more information: Life in Death Valley: Little Fish, Big Splash

This got me wondering about the many animals that are on the brink of extinction (never mind the ones that have already fallen over the edge). A large number of these are kept in the relative safety of zoos, but their living-in-the-wild brethren aren't faring too well:

2000 Giant Panda (Asia)
1650 Peregrin Falcon (North America)
1400 Hawaiian Monk Seal (Central Pacific)
700 Black-footed Ferrets (N.A.)
650 Mountain Gorilla (East Africa)
300 Cook Inlet Beluga Whale (Alaska)
200 Riverine Rabbit (South Africa)
100 Florida Panther (N.A.)
100 Red Wolf (N.A.)
100 Pink Dolphin (Taiwan)

And there's only 10-20 million black-tailed prairie dogs left. Yeah, I know, that sounds like a lot, but consider that their numbers have decreased by 95% in the last century.

Human encroachment, pollution, disease, commercial hunting/fishing, poaching--there's a long list of reasons why the world's wildlife are disappearing. The fact that we're responsible for the declining numbers is rather obvious.

I'll leave you with these fitting quotes:

"What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected."

Chief Seattle, Leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes

"Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it."

Milan Kundera, Czech Author, Critic

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Stop Calling Me!

About twice each year, I get the same phone call. The conversation goes something like this:

"We want to thank you for your ongoing support of the Shrine Circus, and hope you'd once again purchase tickets--"

"I've never bought tickets," I say. "Does the circus have any performing animals?"

"Of course."

"I don't believe in forcing animals to do crazy stunts for my entertainment."

"Perhaps you'd like to sponsor a child to attend?"

"Uh, no. How do I get my name off your list?"

"You'd have to talk to my supervisor."

I can't be bothered. This isn't a rant against the Shriners--they do excellent work--but I've never purchased tickets, so why do they keep calling me? The bigger questions are, why do circuses continue to use the animals, and why do people support the spectacle? It's selfish and cruel. Damned circus freaks.

And those marine parks with the whales and dolphins?

Oh, don't get me started.

Thanks to The Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS) for the use of their poster image. Check out their website: CAPS Website