Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lean Times

November is going to be my "Write Like Mad" month, so posts on Animal Ovation may be few and far between. I haven't got a title for this new YA fantasy, and I do like having a title for my WIPs (even if it gets changed later on). Since I've not written anything except this blog for a year, knuckling down and working on the book will be...interesting.

Edited to add: I will be posting in November, but they'll most likely be tiny, mouse-sized posts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween for the Furry Set

Halloween can be a scary time for your pet. Just a few things to keep in mind:

Chocolate is toxic to pets (I know it's toxic to my thighs--must resist temptation).

Candles should be kept away from wagging tails.

Kids and the constantly ringing doorbell can freak a pet out. Best to keep pets in another room.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Knowing Your A Bee C's

Honeybees go about their business collecting nectar and, inadvertently, pollinating the many plants they visit. They've been doing it for thousands of years and will continue on for thousands more.

Or will they?

Last night, Nature (PBS) took veiwers on one of its more frightening rides. The series, "Silence of the Bees", searched for answers to the puzzling decline in honeybee numbers. Scientists and beekeepers have a name for it--Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Just last month, the main cause of CCD was discovered by American researchers. From Nature's website:

Researchers have "linked CCD with a virus imported from Australia, IAPV or Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. Over the past three years, genetic tests on bees collected from stricken colonies around the U.S. found the virus in 96 percent of bees from hives affected by Colony Collapse Disorder."

Last winter's loss of tens of billions of bees has not greatly impacted our lives. But if CCD continues, and the pollination that bees provide stops, then crops such as apples, nuts, broccoli, soybeans, celery, squash and cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, and melons will disappear. Without honeybees, animal-feed crops, such as the clover that's fed to dairy cows, will be affected.

Until scientists, hopefully, remedy the situation, we can all do our best to help keep bees nourished and healthy:

Grow flowers and herbs that attract bees:

Basil, Borage, Catnip, Cornflower, Dill, Echinacea, Evening Primrose, Fennel, Goldenrod, Horehound, Hyssop, Lavender, Parsley, Poppy, Thyme, Sage, Bachelor's Button, Black-Eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, Clematis, Coreopsis, Dame's Rocket, Foxglove, Goldenrod, Heliotrope, Hydrangea, Lantana, Larkspur, Mexican Hat, Plumbago, Rose of Sharon, Salvia, Sweet William, Zinnia

Plant many of the same species close to each other.

Bees are most attracted to gardens with ten or more species of plants.

Wild and weedy is good.

Don't use pesticides!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What About the Animals?

Families evacuated, homes lost, and forests destroyed--the fires continue their terrifying assault on California. Of course, I worry about the people living there, and the firefighters who work so hard and in such dangerous conditions, but whenever I hear about these disasters, I always wonder, What about the animals?

For pet owners, many shelters have been set up to ease the burden caused by the evacuation. A friend, a California resident, rescued a dog she found wandering alone in a park. She told me about another abandoned pet that was taken to the vet, only to have it discovered that the sickly pit bull puppy suffered from Canine Parvovirus (PARVO), a potentially deadly disease.

And what about wildlife? Lizards, snakes and rodents burrow underground, so are relatively safe. Birds, unless nesting, easily fly from the fires. Larger animals, such as foxes, deer and bears, are at greater risk since their only means of escape is by running away which, depending on the fire's speed, is not always successful.

For those animals who do make it, surviving the fire's aftermath is the next hurdle. Intense fires cause the loss of vital topsoil needed for regrowth, and destroy seeds. Fire suspension methods, such as bulldozing, can alter the landscape and contaminate the soil.

Is there anything you can do to help wildlife after a fire? Here are a few tips from Douglas D. McCreary, Natural Resources Specialist, University of California:

Build and install nest boxes.
Retain some down and dead large woody material for amphibians and reptiles.
Provide clean water in shallow containers for animals moving through your property.

It's all so much doom and gloom, but I was able to find one bit of good news: The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reminds hunters that wild fires can alter hunting plans. Fire restrictions can limit a big game tag holder’s access in certain zones depending on conditions. So put away your guns, boys.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Popcorn and Handkerchiefs

I can't imagine why I willingly sit down and watch bad things happen to good animals, but I am, admittedly, a sucker for a heart-wrenching animal flick. Here's a list of my top four tear-jerkers:


The death of a devoted pet is bad enough, but having to kill that pet is unimaginable. And watching all this on the screen? Nuts. Yet, a couple of years ago, I sat my daughter down to watch this classic. I've probably scarred her for life.

BAMBI (1942) and DUMBO (1941)

These animations deal with losing or being separated from one's mother. Boy, that Disney guy sure knew how to pull our heartstrings--two more tear-inducing flicks. Dumbo may have been what initially turned me off circuses.

BORN FREE (1966)

It's been over 40 years since I first saw this film, yet even humming the title song can still choke me up. Unlike the other movies listed here, this one was based on a true story, and that makes it even more poignant. If I cry over a lioness leaving home, how the hell am I going to deal with my daughter going off on her own?

Come to think of it, I haven't see a good, bawl-your-eyes-out animal movie for a long time. Any recommendations?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Winterizing Your Pet

Up here, in the land of drastic seasonal changes, winter will soon be upon us. Snow, ice, chilling winds--man, I can hardly wait. Fortunately, I'm able to come into the house when I'm cold, put on the appropriate number of layers while I'm outside, and blast the heater when I'm in the car. Pets can't voice their complaints, so rely on their owners to keep them safe from winter's woes.


I don't have to worry about my cat as she only goes into the backyard, with me, on warm, dry days. Cat owners, who do let their cats outside, should be aware that:

Cats seeking warmth under vehicle hoods can be killed by the fan belt once the car is started. I once believed this to be an urban myth, but it happened to a friend of mine (and to his own cat). He described the result as "kitty catchatorie". Cat owner or not, always bang on the hood before starting your car.

Cats like the taste of antifreeze. Not a good thing. Clean up any spills immediately.

If you must keep or let your cat outdoors in the winter, make sure they have a secure place, protected from the wind and the wet.


Now, dogs have to go outside (unless there's a stupid dog product called "The Doggy Litter" that I missed). Some dogs tolerate the cold well, but for those who favour warmer weather, then a dog coat might be just the thing. Yes, I know this goes against what I preached in my Dapper Dogs post, but as long as the owner isn't trying to make a fashion statement, I think it's okay.

If your pet is outside, check on him often because conditions can change suddenly. If you keep your dog outside all winter (brrr!), give them adequate shelter and a supply of fresh water.

Leaving a dog in the car during the winter months can be just as dangerous as it is in the summer months. A car holds the cold, acting like a refrigerator, so is potentially deadly.

I know you keep your pet safe, but perhaps your neighbour doesn't. If that's the case, why not print off this post and stick it in his mailbox? Anonymously, of course.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dog Names: The Cultural Differences

I've never given much thought to naming my pets--the names just seem to come out then stick. I've had cats named Strider (yeah, I'm an LOTR fan) and Chowder. For years, my daughter said, "When we get another cat, I'm going to name it [insert weird name here]", but she decided on Meeko when the time finally came.

When I was growing up, we had dogs named Melody and Tammy (a samoyed, similar to the dog in the pic). I've no idea if those two names were ever popular, but they don't come close to making today's list. Here are the top ten dog names in the US and UK. Searched for a Canadian list, but to no avail:

United States


United Kingdom


When it comes to naming pets, it appears most of us aren't all that original. Both lists feature strong male names and feminine female names. There are Maxs and Mollys on both sides of the pond, and the only difference I can see is that there are more male dogs in the UK than in the US. And despite its popularity, I've never met a dog named Rocky.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cat Trivia

I remember when my daughter first started feeding herself--what a mess. By the time she was finished eating spaghetti, the floor looked like it was covered in red shag. But honestly, she had nothing on my cat. Meeko lifts the food from her bowl, and eats from the floor. Sometimes, she even carries food into the family room--sort of like T.V. dinner for cats.

Although I'm sure Meeko gets a big kick out of watching me clean it up, I figured there must be other reasons for her behaviour. I've checked the Internet, and this is what I came up with:

Cats don't like their whiskers to touch the sides of a bowl.

I'll start giving her food in a larger dish, and report back. In my search for answers to this and other deep questions, I discovered that there's lots of weird and wonderful things about cats:

A cat doesn't meow at another cat.

I know this was true of my cat, Chowder. She saved that sound just for me--at 4:00 in the morning, when she was hungry and I was sleeping. I feel very special.

25% of cat owners blow dry their cat after a bath.

As amazed as I am by this fact, I'm more amazed that people even attempt giving their cat a bath. I tried this once, and discovered it would be far safer to fling myself into a pack of hungry lions.

A cat that bites you after you have rubbed his stomach, is probably biting out of pleasure, not anger.

This is good news--my cat must be deliriously happy.

To determine if your cat's collar fits properly, make sure you can slip two fingers under the collar, between the collar and your cat's neck.

I have a confession to make: I always check the collars of other people's cats. If I feel they're too tight, I loosen them when no one is looking. I feel a bit like a guardian angel, though if I was caught in the act, I'm sure the owners wouldn't agree.

Monday, October 1, 2007

More Than A Lap Warmer

I've always been fascinated by tales of pets saving families from impending doom, so when fellow Backspace member, Sandra Kring related this story, I asked if I could include it on my blog. Since I could never do the story justice, she kindly permitted me to copy it here. Take it away, Sandra:

I had a dog for years. Well, my son was supposed to have a dog, but considering that the poor thing would have starved to death had he stayed glued to that master, he decided that I would be his master instead. He was a HUGE golden, 145 lbs, and lazy as the day is long. My son clocked him once—he stood for seventeen whole seconds.

The dog never barked when inside. If he wanted something, he’d whine (mildly), and if he REALLY wanted something, he’d rock (slightly) from side to side while he whined. Mute inside or not, it's not like you can ignore the fact that you have a 145 lb appendage stuck to your side. When I'm writing and have to get up, I make tracks! Not easily done, when you have to wait for a fat pumpkin to roll out of your way first. I bought him a bed in the hopes that he’d keep to his own side of the room, but sooner or later (usually sooner) he’d lumber out of it and flop down at my side. I can’t count the times I landed on the floor because I hadn’t heard him join me, and I tripped over him when I got up quickly. The dog was so quiet that he could even vomit without making noise. He barfed up a whole squirrel at my feet once, without a peep. Unfortunately, I leaned down low to see what it was, since my eyes hadn’t yet adjusted from the brightness of my monitor, to the dimness of the room. Man!

Pesky or not, that dog saved my life. Literally! I was feverishly writing the first book I’d sell, and I had tunnel vision. I sent everyone off on their merry way to work and school, and dug into my story. After a couple of hours, Buppa started whining. He’d already had his breakfast and his morning bark-fest outside, so I told him to go lie down. Up and down he went, in my room, out of my room, staring at me, whining, rocking, and finally, barking. I got up then and followed him. He moved like a bowling ball tossed by The Hulk to the other end of the house, barking at the smoke that was rolling out from under the basement door. I let the dog outside, called the fire department, and then hurried to my room to gather my writing.

The firemen got the fire out before the whole house went up, and other than smoke damage that required all new curtains and fresh paint, and melted pipes that needed to be replaced, all was well. Seriously, as oblivious as I am when writing, that whole house would have gone up in flames and I wouldn’t have noticed until the smoke got too thick for me to see my monitor.

Buppa died two springs ago at the ripe old age of sixteen—so much for obesity and inactivity causing early deaths! He was a pest, but I miss that fat, rocking pumpkin.

Sandra, thanks for sharing your wonderful memories of Buppa (pictured above). He was truly a heroic pumpkin. Stories like Sandra's prove that pets are much more than simple lap warmers and eating machines. In the news:

Earlier this year, a 14 year old Indiana cat awakened the family when carbon monoxide leaked into the home.

In August, a family dog protected four children after a bear wandered into their Vancouver yard.

Just today, my cat chased off a rather large and scary grasshopper.

We see lots of "Dog Saves Owner" headlines, but there are "Owner Saves Dog" stories too. In Hong Kong, Catherine Leonard rescued her dog from becoming a 15 foot python's main squeeze. Catherine doesn't recall exactly what she did to free her beloved pet, but once the adrenalin kicked in, nothing was going to stop her.

I'd like to believe that our pets are similarily motivated, but who knows? When pets smell poisonous gas, they might just be thinking, "Holy crap, I'd better wake up the hairless, two-legged being, or I'm gonna die!"

Next time your at the bookstore, be sure to look for Sandra's books The Book of Bright Ideas and Carry Me Home: A Novel

Cats, Costumes and Claws

In my Dapper Dogs post, Devon implied in her comment that it might be difficult to find any stupid cat products. She was absolutely right. I've come to the conclusion that cats have far too much common sense, but that doesn't mean humans share that trait:

A boon for lazy cat owners. I mean, who really enjoys cleaning out the kitty litter? But do cats wipe the seat and flush once they're done?

This poor guy must've been tripped out on cat nip when he allowed his owners to dress him up for Halloween.

This is a waste of money because...

...cats will sleep wherever the hell they want.

These are called Soft Paws and fit over a cat's claws. I've no idea how hygenic they are, or how practical, but I'll bet they're near impossible to put on. So unless you're willing to walk around with bloody ribbons hanging from your shoulders instead of arms, I'd steer clear of these.

Go back and take another look at that costumed cat. Its owners should be pelted with cat treats, and forced to clean kitty litters for a week. Man, we're lucky cats put up with us at all.