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Posts Tagged ‘Animals’

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Silent Cal

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (1872-1933) served as President from 1923 to 1929. He was born in Vermont on July 4, 1872, the only President born on Independence Day.

Like most politicians, Coolidge was a lawyer who got elected to local office, then proceeded to work his way up. In his case, Coolidge went from mayor to state senator to lieutenant governor to governor to vice president to president.

Scholars do not rank Coolidge very high in terms of accomplishments, but he was considered honest and fair-minded. He was a small-government conservative and an advocate of racial equality, a rare combination of beliefs even then.

In 1923, President Warren Harding died of a heart attack. Vice President Coolidge succeeded him and was elected to a full term in 1924.

But as the 1928 election approached, Coolidge announced that he would not seek a second full term. He said the office “takes a heavy toll on those who occupy it and those who are dear to them.” He and his wife Grace returned to Vermont, where he wrote his memoirs and was fond of cruising the Connecticut River in his motorboat.

Coolidge was an effective public speaker, but a quiet person by nature and rather a loner. By contrast, his wife Grace was vivacious and congenial. Soon, Coolidge was given the nickname “Silent Cal.”

In one supposed incident, which Coolidge said never happened, a man seated next to him at dinner said, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.”

“You lose,” Coolidge replied.

Most historians say Coolidge embraced the Silent Cal nickname and his image of stoicism because he believed presidents should be serious and reserved. Others note that he was genuinely withdrawn and became more so when his son died in 1924.

The Coolidges were animal lovers, and at any given time, the White House was home to several pets. In all, they had nine dogs, four cats, and seven birds.

In addition, foreign countries regularly gave them exotic animals as gifts — a black bear, a wallaby, a miniature antelope, and a raccoon. All were given homes at the National Zoo.

One Easter, they were given a group of 13 white Pekin ducklings, which Mrs. Coolidge tried to raise in a White House bathtub. The ducklings soon grew too large for the space, however, so they were sent to live at the zoo.

The President was a cat person, and his favorite feline was Tige — short for Tiger — an orange tabby brought to Washington from the family farm in Vermont. Coolidge often strolled the White House with Tige draped around his neck.

One night in March 1924, Tige slipped out of the White House and disappeared. The next morning, an alarmed Coolidge ordered the staff to search the building and grounds. No luck. Apparently, Tiger had ventured beyond the gates and into the city.

Coolidge had the DC police issue a bulletin to all officers to be on the lookout for the cat. He also sent a Secret Service agent to a local radio station, where an appeal was broadcast, asking the public for information about the missing cat.

Hundreds of people subsequently called the White House, some with tips, some offering to give Coolidge another cat.

Among those who heard the radio broadcast was Edward Bryant, an employee at the Main Navy Building on Constitution Avenue. Arriving at work, he found an orange tabby cat sleeping in a hallway.

As suggested in the radio broadcast, Bryant called out, “Here, Tige!” and the cat ran to him. Bryant hailed a cab and returned Tige to the White House.

After the incident, Coolidge had a collar made for Tige engraved with the message, “My name is Tiger. I live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

In 1928, Coolidge was succeeded as President by his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover. Coolidge did not have a high opinion of his successor. Once, Coolidge said privately of Hoover, “For six years, that man has given me unsolicited advice, all of it bad.”

Officer Benjamin Fink, a guard at the Main Navy Building, and Tige.

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Tama the Station Master

In January 2007, the manager at the railway station in Kinokawa, Japan, gave the title of Station Master to his cat Tama, with the primary duty of greeting passengers.

At the time, ridership was down. The station was operating with reduced staff, and Wakayama Railway had considered closing the operation. But after Tama was appointed, ridership increased. The company joyfully stepped in, creating a gold name tag for Tama’s collar and designing a special station master’s hat for her.

Thereafter, Tama appeared in the news regularly, usually when she received a promotion or award. Tourists flocked to see her. A ticket booth in the station was converted into her office.

In 2010, Tama’s mother Miiko and sister Chibi were named Assistant Station Masters. In 2012, a deputy named Nitama (“Second Tama”), was appointed.

Tama died in 2015 and was succeeded by Nitama, who remains in office today.

According to a study, Tama generated about one billion yen for the local economy. A newspaper pointed out that she was the only female in a managerial position at Wakayama Railway.

The White Bridge

In 1926 in my adopted town of Jefferson, Georgia, a concrete arch bridge was built across Curry Creek, replacing an old wooden covered bridge. At the time, reinforced concrete was the latest thing in bridges — practical, cheap, and versatile.

Curry Creek Bridge is its official name, but, as I learned when I moved to Jefferson in 2006, the locals call it the White Bridge. I had to accept that description on faith, because the bridge needed a serious cleaning. Like most aging concrete bridges, it was an unsightly, moldy gray. It was, like, the Ugly Bridge.

Finally, late last year, the Highway Department gave the bridge some attention. Structural repairs were made, and the entire thing was sandblasted and stripped of accumulated grime.

When the project was completed and the tarps removed, I drove downtown to see the White Bridge restored to its former glory.

Alas, nine decades of exposure to the elements had taken a toll. Yes, the bridge looks much better, but it isn’t what you’d call white. It’s more the color of a banana (the fruit, not the peel). Or eggnog. Or mayonnaise.

I guess the Mayonnaise Bridge is better than the Ugly Bridge.

Seven Wonders

The ancient Greeks were big on the number seven. To them, seven somehow represented perfection and held the promise of personal enrichment (lucky seven). Hence, when some Greek deep thinkers decided to make a list of the wonders of the world, the list was bound to be seven wonders long.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are/were the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and the statue of Zeus at Olympia.

All seven are located in the Mediterranean region, the back yard of the Greeks. The rest of the world? Meh.

The list isn’t official or binding in any way, of course, and over the centuries, it has been modified regularly. Frequent additions were the Roman Colosseum, Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, etc.

In 1997, in an interesting twist, CNN listed the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Named were the Aurora Borealis (northern lights), Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, Victoria Falls, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro Harbor, and the Paricutin volcano in Mexico.

Regarding the last two: the harbor at Rio de Janeiro is the world’s largest natural harbor. It has 130 islands and is ringed by mountains. Paricutin volcano erupted unexpectedly in 1943 in a farmer’s field, grew to 1,400 feet tall, and went dormant in 1952, leaving a cinder cone that is now a popular tourist attraction.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The national parliament of Iceland is the oldest governing assembly in the world. It dates back to 930 AD, when Viking chieftains gathered in an open field to discuss mutual issues. The field was the site of Icelandic government meetings until 1798, when it was moved to Reykjavik and, finally, indoors.

● In 2007, actor Nicolas Cage won an auction for a dinosaur skull, bidding against, among others, Leonardo DiCaprio. Cage paid $276,000 for the skull. A few years later, evidence surfaced that the skull had been stolen from Mongolia, and Cage had to return it. He didn’t get his $276,000 back.

● The letter e is used three times and pronounced three different ways in the word Mercedes.

● In 2005, remains were found in South Dakota of an extra-large cousin of the Velociraptor popularized by the Jurassic Park films. The new cousin, Dakotaraptor, was about 18 feet long and weighed 500 or so pounds. The largest known cousin so far is Utahraptor at about 23 feet long and 600 pounds.

FYI, Velociraptors actually were about the size of a turkey. Spielberg knew that, but he really liked the name Velociraptor.

● Martin Luther King, Jr. was born Michael King, Jr. When he was five, his father changed both of their names to honor Martin Luther, the German theologian who started the Protestant Church in the days of Columbus.

● In 1920, the “American Professional Football Association” was established in Canton, Ohio. Five of the 16 original teams were based in Cleveland. In 1922, the group changed its name to the “National Football League.”

● Pistachio nuts are especially dry and high in fat content — so much so that when the nuts are transported, the temperature, humidity, and air pressure must be carefully controlled to prevent them from over-heating and exploding.

● The Clowns’ Gallery-Museum, a display of clown costumes, memorabilia, and reference material, was founded in 1959 in the basement of Holy Trinity Church in London. Due to the growth of the collection, the museum opened a second location in Somerset in 2007.

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The Questions…

1. What breed of dog is the speediest?

2. Which state is the flattest, and which is the most mountainous?

3. The three angles in a triangle always add up to how many degrees?

4. When filmmaker George Lucas was in high school, what career did he plan to pursue?

5. What’s the difference between herbs and spices?

The Answers…

1. The Greyhound. In competitive racing, Greyhounds run at up to 45 mph. From a standing start, they can attain top speed in six strides.

2. Florida is the flattest, followed by Illinois, North Dakota, and Louisiana. West Virginia is, on average, the most mountainous. The mountains of Alaska, California, and Colorado are higher, but the valleys and plains in those states lower the average.

3. 180.

4. Young George was obsessed with motorcycles and fast cars, and he wanted to be a professional race car driver. His mind got changed three days before graduation when he barely survived a car wreck and spent months in a hospital. He went to film school instead.

5. Both come from plants, but herbs are from the fleshy, leafy parts, and spices are from dried, woody parts — root, stalk, seed, etc.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The first ATM went into service on September 2, 1969, at a branch of Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York.

● Most animals have only one heart, but there are exceptions. Squid and octopuses have three hearts, and hagfish have four. In their cases, the extra hearts are smaller and serve as auxiliary pumps. Earthworms have five hearts of equal size that evolved to deal with the worms’ length.

● In Latin, the word onion means “large pearl.”

● In 1989, rock star Billy Idol checked into a hotel in Thailand and threw a party that continued for three weeks. When he and his friends refused to leave, the Thai army was called in. Idol was shot with a tranquilizer dart and carried out unconscious on a stretcher. Damages totaled $150,000.

● When President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou wanted to keep a conversation private, they conversed in Mandarin Chinese. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace, a former teacher at a school for the deaf, maintained their privacy by using sign language.

● By long tradition, horse races in England are run clockwise. In 1788, in defiance of the Brits, the American colonies began conducting their races counter-clockwise. Today in the US, horse and auto races still move counter-clockwise; in England and Germany, still clockwise.

● The full name of actor Richard Gere is Richard Tiffany Gere; his mom was Doris Ann Tiffany.

● Among the mammals, only the platypus and the spiny anteater lay eggs instead of giving live birth. Both are native to Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania.

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Thoughts du Jour

George

A few years before I retired (from the Advertising Department at Lithonia Lighting), the higher-ups hired a neurotic guy in his 40s I shall refer to here as George. He was brought in as an “account manager,” a sort of liaison to the other departments. George was useless, but the job was unnecessary anyway, so the only harm was the money wasted on his salary.

His eccentricities were many. He was nervous, twitchy, and socially awkward. He was a habitual fingernail biter and eventually began wearing false nails.

He also made strange noises. At random times, a sudden squeak, or sometimes a low moan, would erupt from him. He never acknowledged these peculiar sounds, and I’m not aware if anyone was ever bold enough to inquire.

On one occasion, George discovered a cellophane-wrapped Gaines-Burger® in a pocket of his sport jacket. He spent the next week fretting about it, mystified and confused. It never occurred to him that someone simply put it there as a joke. (The someone was Larry Flowers, the Art Director.)

One day, George emerged from his office in distress, complaining of chest pains. Someone called 911. Our department was deep inside the building, so we sat him in a swivel chair, and I rolled him to the nearest exit to meet the ambulance. He was okay and back at work a few days later.

I don’t remember when or under what circumstances George left the department. But I well remember the false nails, the Gaines-Burger®, the baffling noises, and that wild ride in the swivel chair.

Walking the Dog

One Saturday a while back, I took Jake to Jefferson Middle School for our morning walk. It’s one of the places he can go off-leash. At the south end of the parking lot were several teenagers shooting hoops, so I parked at the north end, and we set out in the opposite direction.

As is his habit, Jake executed a few energetic zoomies around the lawn, then settled down to plodding along, sniffing, and marking the bushes, trees, and poles.

Over the next 20 minutes, we walked the perimeter of the school property. Eventually, we came out from behind the school about 50 yards from the teens — who were, we observed, petting a Golden Retriever that also was off-leash.

Jake came to attention and stared intently at the Golden, thrilled as always to encounter another dog. I clipped the leash to his harness, and we approached the group.

The Golden was not alone. Inching along behind him was a man about my age behind the wheel of a silver Honda. The man was, in fact, walking the dog from the comfort of his car.

It was weird, yes, but reasonably safe. The parking lot is nowhere near traffic, and it was empty at the time, except as described. Also, the dog looked fairly old, probably not inclined to run off.

Jake and the Golden met, and both were super-excited. They inspected each other at length, tails wagging furiously. After I exchanged pleasantries with the humans, we walked on.

Walking your dog with a car. That concept never occurred to me.

On the Mend

Alas, our daily morning walks ended abruptly in late July when Jake somehow broke a toe and spent 10 weeks — 10 weeks! — in a cast and under treatment. I took him to the vet when he began limping and favoring a rear paw, and the x-rays showed a fracture.

Only a toe was involved, but the cast covered half his leg.

“Doc,” I said to the vet, “That cast is huge. I broke a toe once, and they just told me to go home and take it easy. They said it would take care of itself.”

“Yeah,” he said, “but I can’t explain to Jake that he needs to take it easy.”

They sent Jake home wearing a cone of shame, but he paid no attention to the cast, so I got rid of the cone the first day.

Anyway, no daily walks, and the dog door was closed. I was supposed to keep him quiet and minimize the activity.

Fortunately, he adjusted well to the situation. He either walked on all fours, the cast making a clop-clop-clop sound on hard surfaces, or he trotted on three legs, holding the cast aloft like an aircraft with retracted landing gear.

On the other hand, if he saw a cat or a squirrel, he was off in vigorous pursuit (cloppity!-cloppity!-cloppity!).

But the fracture healed, and after seven weeks, the hard cast was replaced by a soft bandage. The vet also okayed our daily walks again. After 10 weeks, the bandage came off, and — knock on wood — all is well. On the final visit, they shaved his foot. It looks like a naked mole rat.

Odds are, he fractured the toe while going out the dog door. He exits the dog door like a speeding bullet if something worth chasing appears in the back yard.

When so doing, he lowers his head so his forehead hits the plastic flap, not his nose. Clever boy.

Well, clever except for fracturing a toe.

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My dog Jake leads a full and comfortable life. He eats well, exercises regularly, and naps often. Via a dog door, he has free access to a fenced back yard facing a woods full of critters. Plus, he and I go on daily walks around town, many of which lead to encounters with people, pets, and wildlife.

In addition, I talk to him a lot, probably more than most people would consider normal. (It’s a habit I acquired honestly. After I lost Paco, I lived alone for two years and had no one to talk to. When I adopted Jake, I guess it all came pouring out.)

Jake is a smart pooch anyway, and, for all the above reasons, he has quite an extensive vocabulary. You can tell when he knows a word. He comes to attention and his eyes widen when he hears it.

Here are some of the words and phrases he understands

Jake, Dude, Bubba (He knows all refer to him.)
Treat
Stay
Stay here
No
Okay
Come here
Sit
Wait
Off
Gimme a kiss
Go outside
Go for a ride
Go bye-bye
Check the mail
You ready?
I’ll be back (Translation: the human is leaving me at home.)
Eat
You hungry?
Breakfast, supper (Translation: it’s food time.)
All gone
Water
Peanuts
Popcorn
Banana
Dog
Cat
Squirrel
Deer
Donkeys (A herd lives a few blocks from our house.)
Bird
Duck (The City Park has a duck pond.)
Car
Ride
Walk
Leash
Poop
Deanna (my ex)
Celeste (her dog)

There are certain other words and phrases he hears regularly, but probably doesn’t know what they mean. However, I’m sure he understands from my tone that all are meant affectionately

Good boy
Pretty boy
Ol’ buddy
Knucklehead
Hairball
Dillweed
Doofus
Goober
Look at that beautiful tail
How’d you get to be so handsome?

In one way or another, I tell him he’s a good dog 50 times a day.

Jake doesn’t know the word horse yet, but if we go walking at the Heritage Farm a few more times, he probably will.

Heritage-1

Heritage-2

 

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My day usually begins when my dog Jake decides it’s time to get up, and he bounds onto the bed to roust me out.

The ritual is always the same. He briefly presents himself to be petted, then dives in to give my face a proper licking. Jake deploys his tongue with surgical precision. He alternates between the nose and whichever ear is closest, snuffling and wiggling joyfully.

Eventually, when I relent, he hops down and waits next to the bed, aquiver with anticipation. I roll out of bed, and we proceed to the back door so he can go outside.

One morning last week, as I stumbled into the living room and turned on the light, this sight greeted me.

Bridge-1

That banana was supposed to be my breakfast. Sometime during the night, Jake had swiped it from the kitchen counter.

Scowling, I pointed at the banana. “Did you do that?” I demanded. His hangdog look was a clear admission of guilt.

I opened the back door, let him out, and picked up the banana. It was perfectly intact. Not a single tooth mark.

I wasn’t too surprised. Jake has stolen several things recently and not harmed them.

A few minutes later, as I was seated in my recliner watching the news, a glass of milk at my side, I shared the banana with Jake and pondered his recent penchant for counter-surfing.

When I first got him, we had a lengthy period of adjustment in which he had to learn the rules of the house.

Rules such as no shredding of books.

Bridge-2

No stealing clothes from the hamper.

Bridge-3

No swiping things from the bathroom trash cans, no absconding with kitchen towels, no digging holes in the back yard.

Over time, he learned what is acceptable and what isn’t. He became, I’m pleased to report, a very good boy who rarely gets into trouble.

Then, a few months ago, the counter-surfing thing started.

The first time it happened was understandable.

As I was about to reheat a plate of leftover meatloaf, the clothes dryer beeped. I took a moment to deal with that, but, foolishly, left the plate of meatloaf unattended on the kitchen counter.

When I returned, the plate was not only empty, but wiped clean. Not a spot of grease remained.

And it was totally my fault. No dog should be expected to resist unattended meatloaf. I looked out the window. Jake was patrolling the back yard as usual. I let the matter go and found something else for supper.

A week or so later, I found a kitchen towel on my bedroom floor near the dog door. Jake was in the back yard on patrol again. At least he didn’t take the towel with him. I returned it to its hook in the kitchen.

A few days after that, I made a trip to the grocery store and, as usual, unloaded the bags and put everything away in the pantry and fridge. At least, I thought it was everything.

When I finished, I went into the bedroom and found this.

Bridge-4

Stealing the flour tortillas was especially gutsy. He snatched it from the kitchen counter while my back was turned.

Still, the package was intact. Undamaged. He could have ripped it open and gorged on those soft, delicious tortillas, but he didn’t.

What in the world was going through his mind? Did he steal the things, then suddenly think, Uh-oh! What have I done? and decide to scram before I found out?

Did he realize that eating the tortillas, or the banana, would be a serious breach of house rules? A bridge too far?

I’ll never know.

Jake and I communicate very well, as do most humans and their dogs. But, man, the limitations are maddening.

Bridge-5

P.S. One notable and rather amusing feature of Jake’s fur is the presence of a distinct letter “C” on top of his head. A while back, I decided it stands for canine, but counter-surfer works, too.

 

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