Guest blog by Frank Weaver
“So first, your memory I’ll jog,
And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.”
~ T.S. Eliot, ‘The Ad-dressing of Cats’
from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Perhaps it is due to a defect in my character, but the company of animals has for me often been preferable to that of human beings. Not that I am any sort of misanthrope. I like people, and get along well with practically all of them. It’s just that I find the complex machinations of the human mind—how to read it, how to respond to it, what to make of it—quite exhausting at times. Whereas the instincts, behaviors, and personalities of most animals lie much more at the surface, readily accessible if not always understood. Their innocence is profoundly appealing, and thus dealing with them is just easier for someone like me.
So yes, I love animals, all of them. I daresay, they tend to love me back most of the time. And how could it be otherwise?—given that my namesake saint is most famous for his inspiring rapport with birds and every other beast.
Saint Francis with the Animals by Lambert de Hondt / Willem van Herp
At long last summer has arrived, July Fourth is just around the corner, and temps are rising to unbearable levels. Time to break out the bathing suits and beach towels! And don’t forget to pack a book or two…or seven. Herewith we present a full week’s worth of vacation reading for you fans of our furry friends (including dogs, cats, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and more) to enjoy while you soak up the sun.
(Click on a book’s cover image to view editions available from Amazon.)
Woodcut from the Middle Ages depicting peasants fending off a rabid dog [source]
The primary responsibility of any pet owner is to make sure their animal stays happy; and the best way to do that is to keep it safe and healthy. For that reason, a pet ID tag
for your dog or cat (attached to the collar, along with microchipping for added protection) ensures a speedy return home if it gets lost. In addition, a rabies tag indicates that your pet has been vaccinated against a frighteningly deadly—yet easily preventable—disease.
Celebrating Cats for National Poetry Month
What sort of philosophers are we, who know absolutely nothing of the origin and destiny of cats?
— Henry David Thoreau
The beginning of the relationship between humans and Felis silvestris catus is lost to time. It goes back at least 10,000 years—before even the inhabitants of ancient Egypt “tamed” those early housecats.
And that relationship has always been much more than just a convenient, mutually beneficial domestic arrangement between Man and Animal. Something about the eyes, the attitude, the motion of a cat opens doors into a world beyond the human experience that is exquisitely sensuous and mysterious, even magical.
Because of their own capacity for “seeing beyond” and delving into the mysterious, artists have always been attracted to cats as worthy subjects of their art: drawing, painting, and sculpting them in countless ways to reveal at least a little of that ineffable mystery which surrounds them like an aura. And, of course, for centuries poets have not been able to resist writing about them.
Bessie was a stately hen
Who pecked her fill in dirt and sand.
The one thing missing from her life
Was this: a pretty poultry band.
For just as girls love bracelets, so
All chickens worth their salt demand
To wear on leg the height of fashion:
That is, a Ketchum poultry band.
One of the most basic goals of good livestock management is to keep track of your animals, which means employing a reliable system of identification. Among the various methods available to positively identify cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and other livestock, the most common include tagging (with plastic ear or neck tags); and, at the high-tech end, RFID (radio frequency identification) using a transponder to relay the animal’s info and location.
Whatever method you adopt, it should be appropriate for the type of animal and the size of the herd. Moreover, since none of the aforementioned methods is completely foolproof—ear tags can fall off, transponders can malfunction—it is prudent to have a redundant identification system in place.
Whether used as the primary system or a backup, one of oldest and the most reliable methods is animal tattooing, which is especially popular among hog farmers. Not only is hog tattooing reliable, it is fast, simple, portable, and cost-effective. It is also suitable for every stage of the hog’s productive life cycle, from piglet to farm to slaughterhouse to market. Last but not least, hog tattooing enjoys the advantage of being a permanent form of identification.
If you are an HVAC engineer or building maintenance manager, do you prefer to do things the easy way—or the hard way?
The answer should be obvious; yet the question is more than a rhetorical one.
In the masterful 1985 sci-fi comedy Brazil, filmmaker Terry Gilliam depicts a bleak, dystopian industrial society where everything is done the hard way. In this satirically imagined dysfunctional world, all machines are Rube Goldberg devices that function poorly, if at all. Electric wires dangle from shower heads. Individual telephones each have their own switchboard. Computers consist of bare cathode ray tubes from which big black hoses protrude. And—as seen in this clip from the film—the hardware innards of buildings are revealed to be an impossibly complex, hopelessly tangled muddle of unlabeled cables, ducts, pipes, valves, and rubber bladders. It is a plumber’s and pipefitter’s worst nightmare.
There are strange and mysterious sounds
When the winds of winter blow,
The long nights are crystal clear and cold,
And the fields and meadows are covered with snow.
~ Joseph T. Renaldi (from “Winter Wonderland”)
Even for those who don’t much like the season, winter does have its charms. Is there anything more serene than the sight of newly fallen snow on a frozen meadow, or more enticing than festive holiday lights illuminating a city street? Yet behind all that beauty lie dangers, hidden and unhidden, that every pet owner must be aware of once the winter months roll around. Now, with daily temperatures dipping below zero in New York, New England and other northern states, we will end the year with cautionary advice for pet owners keen to protect their animals from these perils and keep them safe, healthy, and happy. Continue reading
With Christmas rapidly approaching, perhaps you have already started making your list and checking it twice. Good luck with that. Finding just the right present for family and friends can be a tough job. But if that special friend or family member is also a pet owner, then here’s a unique, affordable gift idea that will make the job much easier… Continue reading
Meet Our Favorite Creatures of the Night
When people think of Halloween, they usually picture pumpkins, bags bursting with candy, and hordes of kids roaming the streets in cute costumes. They also imagine witches, ghosts, ghouls, and all manner of creepy, crawly things guaranteed to make one’s hair stand on end.
This darker side of Halloween stems from its earliest pagan roots, particularly the ancient Celtic festival of Samain. That word in Old Irish literally means “summer’s end,” the season which ushers in the darker half of the year, with its longer, colder nights and gray, lifeless landscapes. For our pagan ancestors, this was a transitional time of year, full of magic and mystery, when the boundary between the world of the living and that of the fearful spirit world was at its thinnest. Thus, occasionally, those creatures of the gloomy Otherworld—deities and demons, ghosts and fairies—would more easily be able to cross over and dwell among us.
Over the centuries other folklores and superstitions attached themselves to present-day Halloween customs, so that now we have quite a menagerie of seemingly monstrous beings to contend with when October 31 rolls around—including certain real-world animals.
Granted, all animals are beautiful in their own way. However, the appearance and behavior of some of these animals lend themselves perfectly to the eerie atmosphere that Halloween inspires. Here are the most popular ones, with a little explanation as to why and how they became associated with Halloween. Continue reading