Book Review: Rabid—A Cultural History

Rabid dog

By Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

The full subtitle of this book neatly encapsulates its theme and tone: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus. Note that it identifies itself not as a general or scientific history, but as a “cultural” one. This is an accurate descriptive; for truly, few diseases known to humanity have branded themselves into our collective psyche and culture so widely, so deeply, and for so long; and as something not merely organically deadly but infernally so, and thus profoundly to be feared. (The few others that even come close include leprosy and polio.)

Though shelved in the non-fiction area of your library or bookstore, Rabid spins a series of tales and observations that could have come from the fictional horror story pen of Stephen King. It is at once fascinating and terrifying. The authors, a husband-and-wife team, are eminently qualified to write such a book. Wasik is a magazine editor who writes about science and technology; while Murphy is a veterinarian with a degree in public health. Together they have put together the definitive “biography” of the rabies pathogen. Continue reading “Book Review: Rabid—A Cultural History

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A Brief History of Rabies

Antique natural history book
Rabid: A Cultural History by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

Rabies is a scourge as old as human civilization, and the terror of its manifestation is a fundamental human fear, because it challenges the boundary of humanity itself. That is, it troubles the line where man ends and animal begins—for the rabid bite is the visible symbol of the animal infecting the human, of an illness in a creature metamorphosing demonstrably into that same illness in a person.

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus
By Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy


Ketchum Mfg. Co. 2020 rabies tags on sale
On Sale! Order now and save 20%.

With the release of our line of 2020 Pet Rabies Tags for our customers’ dogs and cats, we at Ketchum Mfg. Inc. thought this would be an appropriate time to present a timeline of notable events in the rise of—and ongoing battle against—a pathogen that has plagued humankind and our domesticated animals since long before the first history book was written: the rabies virus. Continue reading “A Brief History of Rabies”

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Rabies in Popular Culture

Count Dracula

It may seem odd to associate such a horrific and deadly disease as rabies with “popularity.” It is anything but! Yet since prehistoric times that is exactly how humankind has dealt psychologically with our most memorable tragedies and primal fears: by telling stories about them and depicting them in our art. This is the very essence of “whistling past the graveyard,” as the old phrase goes.

In last month’s article about rabies we wrote:

The term rabies comes from a Latin word meaning “madness.” Surely that is one of the reasons this pathogen has always inspired so much fear: for in the process of killing its host, it first destroys the mind, which is the seat of an individual’s personality. Indeed, some of the most familiar and frightening horror creatures in popular culture—vampires, werewolves, and zombies—are derived from mythologies that harken back to the days when a normal, healthy person could be suddenly transformed into a raving, drooling monster just from the bite of a maddened beast.

That inspired us to explore some of the ways that the rabies virus has historically staked a claim in our cultural collective conscious. Continue reading “Rabies in Popular Culture”

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PSA: A New Pet Disease Even Scarier Than Rabies Rears Its Head

Wild marten with rabies

Pet tags on collar clip ringsThose little metal pet rabies tags you attach to your dog or cat’s collar are much more than jingling baubles. Rather, they are shining insignia that represent one of humankind’s great victories over a centuries-old scourge.

The annals of recorded medical history are dotted with numerous spectacularly terrifying diseases and pandemics. Some of the most notable include:

  • The Antonine Plague of 165 A.D., which killed some 5 million people and decimated the Roman army. It is believed to have been a smallpox or measles epidemic, brought back to Italy by soldiers returning from Mesopotamia.
  • Bubonic Plague—better known as the Black Death of the Middle Ages—a deadly bacterial infection, spread by fleas and rats, that ravaged three continents and took an estimated 200 million lives.
  • The Flu Pandemic of 1918, which was a perversely lethal strain of influenza that tore across the globe and struck down an estimated 50 million otherwise healthy, robust young adults.
  • HIV/AIDS, which has racked up a combined death toll of 36 million worldwide since it appeared on the scene in 1981.

Continue reading “PSA: A New Pet Disease Even Scarier Than Rabies Rears Its Head”

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Oscars for Animals

Cat on movie screen

The paparazzi have gone home, the red carpet has been rolled up, and the tuxes and gorgeous gowns have been stowed away till next year. Now that last Sunday’s Academy Awards extravaganza is over, we turn our attention to the films that really matter—the ones about the domesticated animals we share our lives with!

(Note: Countless wonderful films featuring animals have been made over the years. The following nominees and winners were selected in an entirely subjective manner involving no voting or independent tabulation whatsoever.)

Continue reading “Oscars for Animals”
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Getting a Pet Goat: What You Need to Know

Pet Pygmy Goat

Oh gentle friend, I know not what
Your age may be,
But of my years I’d give the lot
Yet left to me,
To chew a thistle and not choke,
But bright of eye
Gaze at the old world-weary bloke
Who hobbles by.

Alas! though bards make verse sublime,
And lines to quote,
It takes a fool like me to rhyme
About a goat.

— Robert William Service, “The Goat and I”


For thousands of years humans around the world have kept domesticated goats as livestock for many practical uses, primarily for their meat, milk, wool, and hides. We typically think of them strictly as farm creatures, best suited for animal husbandry and agricultural production. In developed countries like the United States, however, there is a growing trend among non-farmers to keep goats as family pets.

This concept is not as crazy as it sounds. Keeping a pet goat has often been compared to having a dog. And while it is true that goats are fun, funny, affectionate, highly intelligent, and even trainable to leash—not to mention possessing distinct and appealing personalities—there are a number of major differences to consider before taking the leap and purchasing a goat as a pet.

If you have been contemplating adding a new hircine member to your family menagerie, here are a few things you need to know. Continue reading “Getting a Pet Goat: What You Need to Know”

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Ring in the New Year with These Five Simple Pet Owner Resolutions [Infographic]

Two dogs celebrating New Year's

Life is (or should be) a constant, lifelong process of improvement. As 2018 comes to a close, it is that time of year to re-examine our routines and decide which ones should be changed. This means finding ways to make ourselves better persons, mentally and physically. And for pet owners, it is the perfect opportunity to make our animals’ lives better as well! In that spirit, we present this list of five simple New Year’s resolutions for 2019 that all pet owners should review and put into practice.

Happy New Year from Ketchum Mfg. Co.!

Continue reading “Ring in the New Year with These Five Simple Pet Owner Resolutions [Infographic]”

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Pets Bring the Spirit of Christmas Alive—All Year Round

Dogs and cat in front of Christmas tree

If the “meaning” and spirit of the Christmas holiday season could be summed up in a single word, that word would be Love. We give and receive it in abundance among our friends and family members…and then, after New Year’s Day, all that good cheer subsides a bit as we return to our daily routines. But when it comes to our pets, somehow that feeling lasts all year long. They never get tired of us; they always love us; and when they wake up, every day for them is like Christmas morning all over again. Continue reading “Pets Bring the Spirit of Christmas Alive—All Year Round”

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5 Halloween Pet Safety Tips [Infographic]

Dog playing with pumpkin

Festive Halloween “nightmares” can be fun for children and grownups alike. For dogs and cats, however, they can just be—well, nightmares. All the loud, unfamiliar activities associated with the holiday are sure to put your pet on high alert, potentially making for an unpleasant experience. Minimize the stress (and worse!) by heeding the advice contained in this infographic. Continue reading “5 Halloween Pet Safety Tips [Infographic]”

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When Disaster Strikes: Don’t Forget to Include Pets in Your Planning!

Space Station view of Hurricane Florence

“We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.”
~ Petra Němcová
Co-founder and vice chair of All Hands And Hearts—Smart Response

The recent Hurricane Florence—whose tragically disruptive effects are still being felt in the Carolinas weeks after it made landfall on September 14, 2018—is a stark reminder of the importance of emergency preparedness, not just for the personal safety of ourselves and family members, but also for the animals in our care. After all, dogs, cats, and other types of pets with whom we share our homes are very much considered “family”; and, as such, they deserve to be included in our disaster planning.

The biggest challenge, of course, lies in the fact that the term disaster planning is an oxymoron: disasters, almost by definition, are never planned. Whether fire or flood, blizzard or hurricane, tornado or terrorist attack, they tend to occur unexpectedly, creep up on us with little warning, and create a whole host of possible life-threatening scenarios we can never fully anticipate. The best one can do, then, is try and prepare for the most likely of those scenarios.

Here are three steps you can take to help integrate your animals’ needs into your family’s overall emergency preparedness strategies. The rule of thumb is: what’s best for you generally is what will be best for your pet(s).
Continue reading “When Disaster Strikes: Don’t Forget to Include Pets in Your Planning!”

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