In my dolphin post, I shared a video of a cat interacting with dolphins. It was such an Awwww moment, I thought I’d share a few more with you.
I give you….Dog and Owl.
Dog and Otter.
And my personal favorite, Dog and Elephant.
Looks like Dog isn’t just Man’s Best Friend.
I have three cats. Two do little more than ignore or occasionally hiss and bat at my two dogs, but Sage, my oldest loves to torment play with my dogs. It’s all done out of love though, I’m sure. He’ll stroll teasingly in front of my aged Belgian, taunting him to give chase. Sadly, Domino’s hips aren’t what they used to be, so he has to be content with yelling at Sage instead of leaping to his feet and sending Sage scampering. I’m sure Sage misses their fast and furious chases; more and more I find the two of them curled up together on Domino’s thick and comfy bed. Sage is probably starting to feel his age too, he’s got three years on Dom’s thirteen. They often groom each other, trading face-washing and ear cleaning. Lately though, when Domino’s not watching, Sage also makes up to Golly, our 5 year old yellow Lab, face butting and grooming her. Golly is a little embarrassed by it I think; when I catch them in the act, Golly will turn her head away or stand up and walk off as if to say, “Nope, nothing to see here.”
Short and sweet this week folks. I found this video a while ago, and just love it! Lil’ Drac is a short-tailed fruit bat abandoned by his mom and raised by the folks at Bat World Sanctuary in Texas.
Why bats? Aren’t they icky, scary bloodsuckers? On the contrary, they pollinate and eat bugs. If you have bats in your area you can thank them for helping keep the insect populations in check. Go ahead and enjoy those bananas, mangoes and guava, all pollinated by bats.
This quickly became one of my favorite memes on Facebook.
I love bats! I always wanted to have one as an education animal when I worked at the Zoo, but it never happened. So, I am content to enjoy them from afar, and ask Hub to build us a bat house.
What’s a bat house? Why would you want one? A bat house provides a safe place for bats to roost and sleep. With increased habitat loss, bat populations are in trouble. You can provide a safe home for bats on your property, keep them from roosting inside your house and under your eaves, and reap the benefits of their insect control. Check out why we need bats, and why bat houses are a great idea here.
OK, I’m tossing you a softball here. Who out there remembers Flipper? Who’s been to Sea World? Does anyone not love the bottlenose dolphin?
When people say ‘dolphin’ this is the animal most of us immediately see in out head, but the bottlenose dolphin is only one of almost 40 species within the family Delphinidae. The Delphinid family also includes killer whales, Pacific whitesided dolphins, and spinner dolphins.
The bottlenose dolphin is the one we pet and feed at Sea World, the one who does the bulk of performing in dolphin shows and in the movies. Lots and lots of lore and legends surround the dolphin, going back to ancient times. In Greek mythology the dolphin is linked to the god Apollo, and his temple at Delphi, but also Dionysus, god of wine and revelry. Maybe that’s why dolphins are always smiling and look like they’re having so much fun? The Greek myth of Arion tells of dolphins rescuing this famous singer from drowning. You can read about this legend and more here.
Today, dolphins have a reputation for being intelligent. New Agers claim they are smarter than us and here to help the us and the planet. You can find dolphin swim programs all around, just Google it. Wherever there is warm water and tropical resorts, you are likely to find companies that either have dolphins on site or will take you out to them in their native habitat so you can swim with dolphins.
Who’s in? I know I would be the first to jump in and play. One of the most enduring legends about dolphins is their capacity to play and make friends. I think these two short videos say it all.
Doesn’t that look like fun? This one though, always warms my heart.
But how smart are dolphins, really? If you measure it by the things dolphins have made, then not very bright at all. However, put a human and a dolphin in murky water and ask them to find objects on the bottom or even floating around and the human will look like a floundering idiot. Current research shows that dolphins give themselves names, called signature whistles, that they develop when they are infants. Dolphins will use these to get the attention of other dolphins in their social group, or to find each other in murky waters. Is this language? Research done by Louis Herman in Hawaii shows that dolphins do possess the ability to understand word order, as shown in this really cool video.
Let’s see…swim and play all day with your best buddies? Yeah, next life I think I want to be a dolphin. What would you be if you could choose?
Happy New Year! New beginnings, new possibilities, new horizons to seek are all awaiting us in 2013. This is the time of year when people make resolutions, plan to break bad habits and form good ones, and reconnect with friends and family. My wish for everyone on the planet is this: May 2013 be the year that brings you all the love, prosperity and abundance you desire.
But we didn’t get here all at once. It was a long journey through all of 2012; the joys and sorrows of the past year are part of us, and it is up to us to take in those lessons, the bitter and the sweet, learn from them and move on. Take your pain, bless it, thank it for its teachings, and let it go. Take your joys, embrace them, tell yourself that prosperity/love/abundance is your true destiny and desire, and manifest that for the coming year. You can do it!
Every journey starts with a single step. Today is the first step of your new life. Seize it!
To help you on your road, I want to introduce you to two animals that make incredible journeys in a single year. Let them inspire you, that you too can accomplish much and travel far in 365 days.
The Humpback Whale
Humpback whales make the longest migration of any mammal on the planet; 5,160 miles traveling from the frigid waters surround Antarctica to the balmy Caribbean. Think you’ve had a long year? Try swimming from the pole to the equator and back again. Humpback whales are found in all the oceans, and they regularly migrate from cold Arctic or Antarctic feeding grounds to warm equatorial waters to bear their young.
Humpback whales are baleen whales. All cetaceans, the animal group that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises, are divided into two groups, baleen whales and toothed whales. Baleen whales strain very small fish and other organisms from the water using thick, fibrous plates called baleen. These baleen plates hang from their upper jaws like curtains, and the skin and muscles of their lower jaws expand tremendously to take in huge quantities of water and food. The water is pushed out with the tongue and the little critters in the water are trapped by the baleen and eaten.
It’s not just their travels that make the humpback unique, look at those long front flippers. Oh yeah, and they are flippers NOT fins, here’s the difference; flippers have bones and fins do not. No other whale has elongated, wing-like pectoral flippers, making the humpback whale instantly recognizable.
What really makes me love the humpback? They sing. Just like my own Hubby making up songs to delight me, humpback males sing long, complex, beautifully haunting melodies to entice the ladies. Here’s the really amazing part, all whales sing the same song. It changes year to year, but every whale makes the same changes in a year. It’s still a mystery how they communicate the changes to each other.
I figure if all the humpbacks in an ocean can manage to get their act together each year and all decide on the new song, I should be able to step it up and make the goal of being better at networking and growing as a writer.
The Arctic Tern
This tiny, 4-ounce bird makes the longest migration of any animal on the planet. They have the humpback beat by a whole hemisphere. Arctic terns migrate from Greenland to Antarctica, traveling 44, 000 miles one way. These birds have a life span of up to 30 years, and scientists estimate in that time they travel 1.5 million miles. Let me give you a little perspective on that number; in its lifetime, an Arctic tern will travel the equivalent of to the moon and back three times. I will never again complain about my commute.
On the upside, they never see winter. Their travels take them from northern summer to southern summer. How far would you travel to always have long, warm summer days?
Arctic terns mate for life. Talk about commitment: “Honey, it’s time to pack up the kids and head to Antarctica.” It must be true love.
How far would you go for what you love? From one pole to another?
We are all on this life journey together. Many small steps taken one at a time can carry you incredible distances. What commitments do you need to make for your journey? What is your first step? How far will you go?
“Look! A seal!” A little boy points excitedly. Mom, walking nearby peers in the direction her child is pointing. A sausage-shaped creature lolling just above the surf line blinks back at her.
“Is it a seal, Mommy?”
I know this has been a burning question for so many of you. It’s even tripped up animal expert Randall. In this video he refers to a seal as a sea lion, incorrectly. Oh the horror!
Aside from that, it’s a cool video and for an excellent cause too. Yay Randall!
I know, it’s a huge issue, and I’m here to help. In a few brief sentences, I’m going to make all of you pinniped experts.
Pinnipeds are aquatic mammals; the name means wing-, or fin-footed. This group includes seals, sea lions and walruses. No one has trouble recognizing a walrus.
Big tusks, googly eyes and a huge moustache of sensitive whiskers. Easy!
Seals and sea lions are just as simple, once you know what to look for. Just remember, a true seal has no ears.
See how this lil’ cutie above just has a hole immediately behind his right eye? No external ear flaps for the true seals. These guys have very short, clawed front flippers, although you can’t see the claws in this pic. The true seals are incredibly graceful swimmers, but they inch along like fat worms on the beach. Their front flippers are too short to prop them up very far, and they drag their hind flippers behind them.
Their movement on land may be slug-like, but seals are able to climb and maneuver over obstacles such as rocks and logs.
A sea lion, on the other hand, has external ear flaps.
See how this pretty girl also has long front flippers? Sea lions can pull all four limbs underneath their body and run down a beach like a dog. They’re actually pretty quick, faster than you and me over the short distance, so if you ever do see one, or more, on a beach make sure you keep your distance. Federal law actually prevents you from approaching them; all pinnipeds are covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Do not attempt the following:
Yes, it was the best job in the world. Harpo was a total sweetie, and he met thousands, quite possibly even millions of people in his years at the San Diego Zoo as an animal ambassador.
So, what is Harpo?
I found it on this Facebook webpage. I don’t know this group and don’t belong to it, but I felt this was important information to pass along.
Feral or abandoned cats are a growing issue for communities, and require a community response. More and more animals are abandoned as families are forced to move, or downsize due to economic pressures. Often animals are not altered because the surgery is just one more expense a family cannot afford. Fortunately there are groups out there that will spay/neuter and perform this valuable service of trapping, altering and releasing these wild cats.
The Humane Society of the United States has issued this statement regarding TNR. Wikipedia’s entry describes the pro’s and con’s of this feral cat management strategy.
TNR is controversial. Wildlife advocates say it is damaging to local species of birds, reptiles, mammals, etc. Studies regarding population management are divided; some show it works, others argue it doesn’t.
I am not on the fence about this. I think TNR is a viable start to management options, because this is not a problem that is going away any time soon. It’s not a perfect solution, but better the cat be spayed/neutered and released than killed outright.
And, enough soapbox. How about some funny?
Enjoy your Wild Wednesday! Thanks for stopping by!
One of the more enjoyable parts of working at the Zoo was that I had the opportunity to educate people; not just about the individual animals, but about habitats, ecosystems, and how species are interdependent upon each other. Including us.
One of the most common questions was, “What does it eat?” Since most of our education animals were predators, the answer was generally some other animal. I got many, many cringes and sad faces, sometimes in a hushed whisper they’d ask “Bambi?” From the same people who were about to sit down to a steak dinner prepared by a five star chef. If I was feeling flippant, I would ask, “where do you think meat comes from?” The answer I got quite often was, “the store, on those little styrofoam rectangles.” Some of them were even quite serious.
Sometimes, whether we like it or not, we get a reminder that everything eats something else. If you watch Tosh.O then you saw the video of the snow leopard and the squirrel.
***** Fair warning, this video shows squirrel death*****
Frankly, that squirrel was destined to be dinner. Did you see how it stopped and practically waited for the snow leopard to catch it? The truth is, on this planet, animals eat other animals and we are another link in that chain. When we forget or ignore that we are forgetting who we really are; a part of the life cycle.
As I listen to that dad’s reaction I can’t decide if he is truly horrified, or trying to cover his laughter and somehow reassure his child by saying “Oh no!” However, I see that as an opportunity to teach the child that what happened is not wrong, or sad or bad, but part of life. Kitty was hungry for a snack, are you hungry for a hot dog? It’s the Circle of Life.
I once knew a gal who couldn’t stand to look at raw meat. Loved her steak, just don’t, for the love of pete, show it to her in its bloody, uncooked state. Well done and on her plate, no problem. She didn’t cook much. Another friend was a vegetarian because she’d raised so many baby pigs and cows she couldn’t stand the thought of eating one of them any more. What I loved about both these women was that they acknowledged their dining habits were dependent on others, and made their choices accordingly.
Where do you fall in the spectrum? What would you do if that was you and your kid watching the snow leopard? Have you ever had to hunt for your dinner? Raised livestock? Which are You, dear reader?
It all started when Hub began teaching me about music, and musicians. You see when we first met, I was pretty musically stupid; although I liked music I had never paid much attention to the names of the bands, or the songs, that I liked. Any of you out there who are musicians are sure to sympathize with Hub.
A typical conversation went like this:
Awesome song comes on the radio while we’re driving.
Me: Oh, I love this song! Cue off-tempo tapping on my leg.
Hub: Oh yeah? Who’s singing it? Then, with rolled eyes. And you’re off. Hub then demonstrates the ‘proper’ way to tap in time with the beat.
Me: What do you mean I’m on the one and the three? That matters? And I don’t know who this is. Or the name of the song. See, I know that’s going to be Hub’s next question.
Thus began my musical education. Now I can tell Led Zepplin from Rush, name which Beatle is singing which song, name the artist AND title of my favorite songs, and I have finally (somewhat) mastered the fine art of keeping time ‘appropriately.’ Who knew counting to four could be so difficult?
But, why should Hub have all the teaching fun with Name That Tune? So I started Name That Mammal. He’s getting pretty good, too. What’s that? You say you can’t wait to learn fun facts about some cool creatures?
Then let’s play….
Name That Mammal!
You may never have seen this particular coat variation on this big cat before:
This cat is usually spotted, but has tell-tale tear marks that positively identify it.
The spots on this cat are solid, and irregularly shaped. Again you see the distinctive tear marks. These act like the dark marks football players will put under their eyes; they help reduce the glare of the bright African sun. At one time, you could find these cats throughout southern Asia, India, and Africa. Today they have lost more than 3/4 of their former range.
Their extraordinarily flexible spine allows them an incredible reach and drive when they run, making them the fastest land mammal, able to reach speeds of up to 70 mph.
I worked with Kubali for a brief time before I left the Zoo. She was the last big cat I worked with but she is still there today meeting and educating Zoo visitors. Like their tiny cousins, these cats purr. They are the only big cat to do so.
She was purring when this picture was taken.
Bonus points if you can name the coat type in Picture 1.
To give credit where credit is due. Pictures 1, 2 and 3 were found at the following websites. Picture 4 is all mine!
I had dreams of writing, even when I worked at the Zoo. Then, I used to think I’d write my memoirs. I figured by the time I’d put in 20 or 30 years I’d have enough memories cached away to make some interesting stories. I even had a title for my autobiography: Dead Mice In My Pocket. Catchy, right? I mean; if you saw that sitting on shelf at Barnes and Noble, you’d pick it up, wouldn’t you?
When you work with exotic animals, you get used to having a lot of odd things in your pockets, dead mice being only one of them.
It was a great career; I had a blast, made lasting friends and have treasured memories. Animal training is every bit as rewarding and heartwarming as it looks on TV. Exotic animals are not pets, but the emotional bonding is the same, at least on this human’s part.
I worked with sea lions, wolves, some big cats, birds of prey, many different types of reptiles, wild dogs, porcupines, and so many more. I get asked all the time, ‘which one was your favorite?’ They all were, for very different reasons.
Akela, the timber wolf, was such a funny pup. We took turns babysitting him off site for a few weeks, before the hospital had room to quarantine him. Those were some rough shifts let me tell you! Daytime TV, a wolf puppy snoozing in my lap, and I’m getting paid? Sweet!
Harpo was the first sea lion I worked with. He was already elderly and blind by the time I started, and he was the one all trainers started on. Harpo was the equivalent of the solid, reliable plug you put first-time horseback riders on; won’t startle, won’t bolt. But he was no push-over, if you weren’t consistent or clear in your training, he wouldn’t work for you. Same with Corky, the harbor seal.
Honda, the small-toothed palm civet. Get it? Honda…Civet… oh well, I didn’t name him. He really was a sweetie, but he bit so many people he intimidated most. I learned from Honda that sometimes the loneliest ones are the ones that look the scariest at first. Honda was a big love once you knew how to work with him, and not let him bite.
Jezebel, my sweet Harris hawk; she was nothing but joy to work with. She came to us a naïve, untrained bird, and became one of our most reliable free-flight birds. I’d go running up to the top of the stadium to catch her as part of the show, a glove on one hand and a dead mouse for her in my pocket. The best part was hearing the squeals as people seated close by watched her eat; she was not dainty and entrails frequently went flying. Nature in action, people, it’s what you came here for.
Every day, I was grateful. “Man, they’re paying me to cuddle a cheetah!” went through my head more times than I can count. I’m still grateful, and yeah, I do miss it. But, right now, I’m content with my dogs, cats and chickens. Oh yeah, and one fish. I tell Max (he’s a Betta. Get it? Betta Max? **sighs**) he’s lucky he’s so small, or he’d get thrown at a sea lion.
Not really, and Max knows I’m just kidding. He’s shaking his fins at me right now.
I was lucky enough to have that dream career. When I was a kid, if you asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always answered, “Animal trainer!” For eight years I lived that dream, and it was glorious. Really.
But what happens when you’ve reached a goal? Do you stop setting them? I loved my job, but I stopped growing, and I needed to get away from an environment that was entirely too comfortable for me. I didn’t think in these terms when I was going through it, but in retrospect I can see that I needed to grow in ways that my animal training career and lifestyle couldn’t provide. So I uprooted and transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, and learned about new goals, and how to grow.
What’s your dream job? Do you have it? Are you seeking it? Have you reached your goals?
I love hearing from you! I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read and comment and I value your insights and opinions.
At work, I am affectionately (I think!) known as the Crazy Chicken Lady. Not many people raise their own meat and egg-producers, and as someone pointed out, “You know, they sell eggs and chicken at the grocery store, you don’t need to go to all this work.” Yeah, I did know, thanks! I raise chickens because I really enjoy knowing that some of the food my family and I eat is raised, and killed ethically, treated humanely and that I provide them with the best life possible while they are with me.
But that’s not the only reason…chickens are fun, they give you eggs, they’ll rid your garden of pests, and they’ll eat your weeds. With the right handling they can even be affectionate. Really! Okay, I also know not everyone wants to commit to this level of urban farming, and no worries, it’s not for everyone.
However…if you’ve ever thought you might like to try your hand at chicken ranching in the city, go for it! I’ll bet you find it’s easier and more rewarding than you thought. Here’s what you need:
A safe place for the chickens to sleep and lay eggs
A safe place for the chickens to spend the day
See? Simple, but, of course there is also the time commitment factor. Expect to spend some time every day with your flock, feeding, watering, gathering eggs and cleaning their pen. It’s important to get to know your birds, so spend some time observing their behavior and how they interact. If you know how your girls act normally you’ll be able to quickly spot if one starts to exhibit signs of stress or illness. On workdays, I take between 5 and 10 minutes in the morning to let the girls out and make sure feed and water is full for the day. I take 15 minutes or so in the evening after work to check each one, gather eggs, top off water and food, and close them in for the night. Weekends and days off I move them to different pens for variety, clean pens and scrub feeders and waterers.
Where do you get your chickens? I ordered mine from McMurray Hatchery but most feed stores will have live chicks in the spring, or you can search online through places like Craig’s List or even the newspaper will likely have a pet or livestock section.
Chicks Or Older Girls?
This is entirely up to you. Chicks are fragile and require extra care, can die easily and often without warning or sign of sickness, but they will be the least expensive option. For best success you should keep them indoors, in a draft-proof pen (I used a large cardboard box) and a heat lamp is a must. They won’t start to lay until they’re around 4 months old, so you’ll have to be patient, but you’ll get the most eggs out of a bird in her first year or so; after about 2 years, egg production drops off. Pullets (hens under 1 year) or hens will be anywhere from $8 to $20 per bird, but less likely to die on you spontaneously. You’ll have the instant gratification eggs almost immediately, but if you buy older girls, you may have slower egg production. You might consider this a bonus if it’s just you or one other person and you don’t know what you’d do with a bunch of extra eggs. I just sold my 2 ½ year old hens, 4 of them, to a family that wanted to try chickens but didn’t want to bother with chicks this year.
Where Chickens Come Home to Roost
Hens need a henhouse; someplace they can sleep at night, with nest boxes for egg laying. A henhouse needs to be secure from predators; things like foxes, coyotes, cats, raccoons and even rats love to find henhouses with easy access. Chickens shut down in the dark. Their eyesight is poor at night and they know that lots of things out there in the dark like to eat them, so their instinct is to find a safe place to roost when the sun goes down and not move until morning. If a night-roaming predator makes it into your henhouse, your girls will not have a chance, and the predator will have an easy meal.
Nest boxes should be big enough that your hens can stand up, 12” x 12” x 12” should do. Make them easy to access for egg collection and cleaning.
Chickens also need some land they can forage around in during the day, but you still need to protect them from wandering predators. Cats, hawks, roaming dogs are all a danger to your flock.
There are plenty of online chicken supply sites. Check out places like My Pet Chicken, Omlet, or Backyard Chickens for more information on breeds, chicken coops for sale, plans to build your own coop, feed and equipment. A plethora of chicken information is available to you.
You should check your local laws regarding keeping chickens in your town. Some have limits on how many birds you can keep, and many prohibit roosters. You also want to be a good neighbor; let yours know you plan to add chickens to your yard. Generally, free eggs help smooth things over.
This is my henhouse. It’s in my garage, so my hens are doubly protected from the elements. It also means I can clean it in the coldest and wettest seasons and still stay dry. The nest boxes are on the left, the perches are on the right, and there is a door cut into the garage wall that gives them access to their enclosed run. The run is roofed over with chicken wire, and it runs on two sides of the garage, giving the girls plenty of room to roam. They are safely enclosed in the run, and I don’t worry that the neighborhood cats are stalking my hens while I’m at work. I’ve never, ***knocks on wood***, lost a bird to predation. Also, I have two other pens that I can rotate my flock to during the day to give them some variety and a change of scene.
Feeding. There are lots, and lots, and lots of commercially available chicken feeds out there. I give my girls a locally milled, non-GMO, organic feed, but your local feed store should have a good selection or be able to answer any questions. You can also give your chickens scraps: left over greens or fruit, plain yoghurt or cottage cheese. They love to hunt for bugs; if you turn them loose in your yard to forage they will help control pests. However, if you have delicate or valuable plants, you will want to protect them from scratching chickens. Laying hens need extra calcium for making shells, be sure to provide plenty of oyster shell (again available at feed stores). I just fill up a feeder and leave it to the hens to eat it when they need it. I figure they know better than I when they need more calcium.
Hens drink more water than you think. Provide them with plenty of fresh water daily.
Enjoy those fresh, delicious and good-for-you eggs! Read here about why your eggs will be healthier than those produced by factory farm chickens. Yes, there is a difference!
Have you raised chickens? What are some of your favorite breeds? Do you long for some little cluckers of your own? What else do you think you’d need to make your fowl fancies come true?
I always enjoy reading your comments! Thank you for stopping by and please share your thoughts with me.
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