Archive for May, 2009

Obey The Pug


Or risk complete annihilation

Today Scientific American reports:

Investigators of a house firein Bellevue, Wash., last week are suggesting an elevated 11-inch wide glass bowl of water magnified the sun’s rays onto a wood deck, sparking a blaze that caused more than $200,000 worth of damage.  Fortunately, nobody—including the two dogs—was injured.

To see if this dog bowl theory held water, Lt. Eric Keenan, the Bellevue Fire Department’s community liaison officer, reconstructed the scene. He placed a partially-filled bowl on a wire stand nearly 14 inches above the sun deck at Bellevue City Hall. The atypical northwest spring conditions closely matched those on the day of the fire: a perfect “70 degrees and sunny, with light winds,” reported The Seattle Times. Sure enough, within about 15 seconds the small piece of cedar Keenan had set below the stand began to smoke under the sun’s concentrated rays. 
Thomas G. Brown, a professor of optics at the University of Rochester, agrees that the scenario is plausible, at least under very specific conditions. The bowl must be transparent—preferably glass—with an overall convex shape, according to Brown. A wider bowl would need to be set further from the flammable material to concentrate the sun’s rays. (The resulting energy, however, would be far greater than that created through a small bowl – or maybe even your dad’s magnifying glass.) The skies must also be clear, dry and the sun shining from more-or-less directly overhead.

I knew there was a reason I’ve always insisted on stainless steel bowls.  With dogs as smart as mine I have a nagging fear of this kind of canine science experiment run amok.  Regardless, I’m glad the people and pooches involved escaped unscathed and I’ll keep this trick in mind should I ever be in a situation where I need to start an emergency fire – on a hot, sunny day.

May 28, 2009 at 1:24 am 2 comments

Too Busy to Blog

What’s kept me away?

The Unbearable Cuteness of Peeping

Twenty-one adorable little peeps arrived here a two and a half weeks ago.  A mixed bag of heavy, cold-hardy egg layers.  We’ve discovered that stock tank full of baby chicks is more fun than an aquarium – and a lot cheeper than valium.  They are a terrible time sink. Audie (who is utterly smitten with his chooks) and I go out to watch, feed and handle them an absolutely ridiculous number of times each day.  Of course they’re getting quite tame. Today two of the Buff Orps stepped into the palm of my hand and fell asleep there [sighs].  The Partridge Rock that I nursed back to health after she injured her leg runs right to my hand (probably because I hand fed her fresh worms while she recuperated in the peep ICU.)  My favorite is  the little Dominique that likes to hop up and perch on my outstretched thumb.  She’ll stay there calmly while I lift her out of the brooder, then walk up my arm and watch me in that quizzical one-eye-at-a-time way.

If only they could stay this sweet forever…

Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Distractions

A friend of ours (who is also one of my favorite dog writers) came to stay with us for a week.  He and his four Border Collies travelled here to attend a clinic at nearby Kensmuir Farm with Derek Scrimgeour.  Zip, Audie and I attended a few days of the clinic as well.  Days at the clinic, dinner at night, lots of fascinating evening conversation and having six dogs (four of them intact males) in the house kept us all happily occupied but it made for a long, tiring week.

Derek was, as always, brilliant.  In just a couple of sessions he accomplished things that would take me months to achieve with my dogs.  He is a master in the use of pressure – release and in shaping a dogs understanding of space and distance.


Young Audie turned two.  As his breeder recently posted:

This is something like an eighteenth birthday in dog terms. It’s the age to start radiographing hips and thinking seriously about breeding a year or two from now, if that’s an option on the table at all. It’s the age at which one starts to think “Well, this is pretty much the dog that I’m going to have.”

And a fine young dog he is.  Bright, biddable, loyal, athletic and resiliant – exactly the dog I wanted.  Thanks Heather!

In other landmark birthday news our friend Solveigh just turned ten.  This is a significant milestone because she’s a Great Dane and, except for a bit of grey on her muzzle, still fit and healthy as a young dog.

The Art of the Commonplace

After two months of having no use of my right arm, I can finally do *small* bits of things with it.  So I’m limping through one mountain of chores that piled up while I was on severely restricted activity and another mountain of chores that arose because, well, I was bored and decided I needed more stuff to do.

We ‘re putting in a small 12-15 tree orchard west of the house.  This involves clearing brush and weeds, selecting trees, adding a few truckloads of topsoil and planting trees.  I hope to get those last two steps completed this week.  Apples, pears, plums and apricots.  We’re in Minnesota so I’m sticking to disease-resistant cold-hardy trees.  Nothing fancy.

I got sick of the overgrown, generic, 15-year-0ld shrubbery around the house.  So – when the tree people were here a few weeks ago to cut some dead and in-the-way trees down I had them rip most of it out.  Half my front yard now looks like a buffalo wallow.   Craters filled with a mix of gravel mulch, dirt and shredded plastic give our place that perfect poor white trash ambiance.  With the help of my husband and a local farmer it’s getting replaced with a mix of miniature apple trees, grapevines, currant bushes, honeyberry bushes, a gold elderberry and a mix of flowering shrubs.  We hope to re-use that old rock mulch in other areas once I’ve cleaned it back up.

The Peep Hilton gets completed in our backyard this week.  A six by eight coop with an attached, covered run.  I’ll let the chickens range when Audie’s there to keep an eye on them, but since one of the Red Tailed Hawks’ favorite hunting perches is the top of an Aspen tree less than 50 feet from the coop, I think it’s prudent to keep them in a covered area when supervision isn’t available.

Then there’s finishing the bathroom, putting new shelves in the walk-in-closet-turned-storage room, spring cleaning, the vegetable garden, herb garden, perennials, the lawns, house and training building  to take care of as well as a husband and two dogs that want my attention too.

I hope to get a large chunk of it taken care of this week.  Look for more here in a few days.

May 27, 2009 at 2:14 am 4 comments

Still Life With Animated Dogs

Paul Fierlinger was born March 15, 1936 in Ashiya, Japan. The son of Czechoslovakian diplomats, he created his first animated film from a flipbook at the age of 12. In 1955 he graduated from the Bechyne School of Applied Arts. He worked as a book illustrator and cartoonist, and has created more than a thousand films ranging from 10-second station breaks to full-length feature films. Fierlinger escaped Czechoslovakia in 1967 and moved to the United States in 1968.

This film – about “dogs and other things of a divine nature”, premiered on PBS on. March 29, 2001.  If won the Golden Gate award in San Francisco, took 1st Prize at the International Festival of Animation in Zagreb and won the Peabody Award in 2002.

May 9, 2009 at 2:51 am 6 comments

Angry Farewell Notes From Runaway Dogs

By Dave Donovan on McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern:

To: Andrea
From: Tiffany, 3-year-old poodle

Bitch, seriously. The PETA fundraiser at Supercuts this coming Thursday?  Bad idea. I’m leaving right now before I ruin my nails on your face.

Go – now!  And read the rest.

May 2, 2009 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Hapi Puppy

A friendship that will truly last  forever

Today Discovery News reportsthat a puppy mummified 2,300 years ago was recently discovered lying at the feet of an Egyptian mummy.  The mummy’s tomb was inscribed with the phrase “Hapi-Men” prompting University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology staff to name the young dog “Hapi-Puppy.”

The approximately 2,300-year-old puppy, revealed during a recent CT scan, is thought to be one of the world’s rarest mummified animals. Early Egyptians often preserved cats, birds and even crocodiles, but not often dogs.

Jennifer Wegner, a senior research scientist in the museum’s Egyptian section, explained to Discovery News that unlike some of the other more commonly mummified animals, the ancient Egyptians “had no dog gods, per se, although certain gods, like Anubis, could take the form of a jackal.”

“In this case, we think Hapi-Men simply wanted to be buried with his beloved pet,” she said, explaining that “Hapi-Men” translates roughly to, “The Apis bull endures,” referring to the bull god Apis.

(SmartDogs would like to point out that the statement that early Egyptians did not often preserve dogs by mummification is not entirely accurate.  While most Egyptologists do believe that pet dogs were not commonly mummified and buried with their owners – we do know that hundreds [if not thousands] of Egyptian dogs and jackals were mummified and buried to commemorate Anubis, the god of the underworld.)

The puppy, who is described as being “generally of the Jack Russell type”, may not have been terribly hapi about his own untimely demise.  While the cause of the dog’s death is not yet known, due to his youth, researchers believe that he may have been killed to accompany his master after death.

“We see this as a senseless slaughter today, but in ancient Egypt it would’ve been viewed very differently,” Monge explained. “People then felt life on Earth was very short. Hapi-Men wanted to spend all of eternity with his dog.”

hapipuppy Hapi Puppy

Hapi Puppy may be one of the most ancient mummified dogs yet discovered, but his Egyptian masters weren’t the only ancient culture that honored the bodies of their beloved canine companions after death.  Back in 2006, National Geographic reported that 43 mummfied dogs had been discovered in a thousand-year-old pre-Inca Chiribaya culture cemetery near Lima, Peru.

The researchers found 43 dogs buried in separate plots alongside their human owners, naturally preserved by the desert sands and ensconced with treats for the afterlife.

“We have found that in all the cemeteries, always, in between the human tombs there are others dedicated to the dogs, full-grown and puppies,” Guillen told the Associated Press.

“They have their own grave, and in some cases they are buried with blankets and food.”

The discovery speaks volumes about the high status the Chiribaya culture placed on the dogs, which Guillen says were prized for their skill in herding llamas.

Why does Guillen believe these were herding dogs?  In Red Orbit she is quoted as saying:

“They are dogs that were thanked and recognized for their social and familial contribution,” anthropologist Sonia Guillen said. “These dogs were not sacrificed.”


“We have found similar dogs” to the Chiribaya shepherds, he said. “But it is better to take precautions before confirming the existence of a type of original animal.”

Ricardo Fujita, a genetics researcher at Lima’s San Martin University, said the physical traits suggests a link between today’s’ short-snouted, long-haired dogs and their possible Chiribaya ancestors. But the jury is still out.

“We are conducting DNA analysis on the ancient dogs to compare them to the new ones, but it will be months before there are results for a final verdict,” he said.

BBC News reportedthat the Chiribaya shepherds looked like small golden retrievers with long, golden coats.  Even though the data appears to have been collected three years ago, I wasn’t able to find any reports on the results on the DNA testing of the Chiribaya shepherds on the web.  Oddly, several references to DNA analysis of fleas collected from the dogs were available.

Speaking of mummified dogs – has this storyabout a modern canine mummy – the Hound of Waycross.  

He (or she–now there’s no way to tell) was a four-year-old hunting dog in the 1960s. Accompanying its master on a hunt, it ran off to chase a squirrel or a raccoon. The critter must have scrambled into a hollow chestnut oak tree, because the bog did the same. Only the hound dog could not get out. It was wedged in the tree so tightly that it couldn’t move. It died.

Rather than decaying, the dog became a natural mummy due to the conditions of its “coffin.”  First, all scent of the dead dog went up the inside of the tree like a chimney. Predators and insects never got wind of the hound dog. Second, the dog’s body was well protected (and well-ventilated) in the hollow trunk. Finally, resins from the core of the tree may have helped in the dog’s preservation.

Sometime in the 1980s, loggers were cutting trees in the forest. Without knowing it, they cut down the dog’s tree and placed it on a logging truck. Then they looked inside and saw the mummified dog. Rather than send him to the sawmill, the loggers donated the dog and its tree coffin to the Southern Forest World Museum in Waycross. 

Following his or her un-hapi demise and subsequent discovery, the Hound of Waycross is now on exhibit at Southern Forest World Museum in Waycross, Georgia.

May 1, 2009 at 3:06 pm 3 comments

Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste


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May 2009