Saturday 22 December 2007

Joyeux Noël

I am wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.

Je vous souhaite à tous de passer un Joyeux Noël.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

I am Legend

A buff and chiseled Will Smith tears through the deserted and apolcalyptic streets of Manhattan in his Mustang Shelby in the striking opening scenes of "I Am Legend." He carries a high-powered rifle by his side, his German shepherd Sam is in the front seat, and he's out hunting galloping herds of deer, which bounce through the midtown streets, now overgrown with weeds and cluttered with deserted cars frozen in permanent gridlock. Smith is playing Robert Neville, the last man alive in New York and perhaps on the planet. A deadly virus, the fatally ironic result of a "cure" for cancer that backfired, has wiped out all but those few who, like Neville, are immune to the virus. Neville has the run of the city during the day, but at night he boards himself up in his Washington Square townhouse. For at night, the Infected come out; they are contaminated humans who have mutated into raging, flesh-eating zombie vampires who cannot tolerate daylight.The screenwriters and Francis Lawrence, the director, have found clever ways to sustain what is, for more than half the movie, a one-man show. It helps, of course, that Smith is that one man; there are few movie stars who can hold the screen with such effortless charisma and who deliver most of their lines to a dog. The reviews are good on the whole but say that the visionary depiction of a postplague world, where a solitary man tries to hold on to his sanity, gives way to an intense but quite conventional night-of-the-living-dead remix and the vampires/zombies are there for cheap thrills. I am told by a sci-fi enthousiast who knows about these things that there is a metaphysical dimension to the film as well.
As for the dog: Abbey is a 3 year old German Shepherd and is called Sam in the film. She was not discovered on the streets of NYC or at a Hollywood casting call but was hand picked and rescued from a California kennel. Experienced trainer, Steve Berens, selected and gave her three weeks of intensive coaching before introducing her to the rest of the cast. While there may have been some "creative differences" at the start -she barked at Will when he first walked up to her- after a short while, the two became friends.
She might be the only reason I would want to see the film.

Friday 14 December 2007

Puppy mills

It was reported a few days ago by the Humane Society of the United States that a pet store in the Bel Air neighbourhood deceived customers, including Hollywood celebrities, about the origin of their puppies, many of which come from unlicensed pet mills. Puppy mills are breeding facilities that produce purebred puppies in large numbers.These puppy mills are often run by farmers who raise soybeans and corn, and this becomes another, more lucrative cash crop for them. It often becomes a dominant source of income because no money is spent on the care of these dogs. The investigation by the HSUS looked at dog breeders, pet auctions and pet stores that form a chain of supply for the expensive dogs that can be found along the streets of Beverly Hills, often in sweaters and rhinestone collars. The tiny toy breeds that sit in wooden baby cribs at the Bel Air store, Pets of Bel Air, sell for upward of $1,000 and are popular among the young Hollywood set. Puppies from these puppy mills are also directly sold to the public via the Internet, newspaper ads, or at the mill itself.The myriad documented problems of puppy mills include: over breeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of human socialization, abuse, overcrowded cages and the killing of unwanted animals.For the unwitting consumer, this situation frequently means buying a puppy facing an array of immediate veterinary problems or harbouring genetic diseases that surface years later.

Have a look at the Humane Society of the United States website and sign the pledge to stop this practice:

Monday 10 December 2007

Doggy hotel

Wag Hotels was designed from the ground up, exclusively for dogs and cats. Their design and services are comparable to what you would expect to find in a five star hotel for yourself. Their motto is “Redefining pet boarding and kennelling”. Accommodation varies on the size of the dog and the owners’ requirements for their dog. The standard care package includes, among other things, two playgroups of 1 hour each. Most of the guests play with others, however if a dog shows unfriendly behaviour towards other dogs, it will not be able to participate in playgroups. To accommodate these guests, an individual play is offered for an additional fee. There are many additional services the dog can benefit from. A swim in the pool at 25 US dollars/session; a 25 minute massage for 25 US dollars; pick up and drop-off service; business walks at 15 US dollars/walk. Guests are fed twice a day and menus are tailored to fit their diet. Rooms are cleaned daily and as often as necessary to assure the guests’ comfort. A luxury suite provides premium beds, sofas, rugs, paintings and a plasma TV at a rate of 72 Us dollars per night.
There are Wag hotels in San Francisco and Sacramento at present.
Have a look on their website:

Thursday 6 December 2007

Which is which?

These two puppies are sisters and were born in the Ardennes on 22nd September. They will be joining the puppy class at the dog club when they are 4 months old.

Kenza is on the left and Patia on the right.

I have written about Patia's owner in a previous post where she is called Mrs Buttercup.

Saturday 1 December 2007

Stop barking

As part of my involvement with dogs, I do a lot of reading and research and this morning before breakfast I was reading a book by Pat Miller about positive dog training. She is an American dog trainer. I came across these few lines in a chapter on barking. I am speechless.
"One of the most disgusting things humans sometimes do to their dogs is debarking. Dogs come with voices; it is up to us to train them not to be chatterboxes. Debarking a dog by severing his vocal cords is an abomination."
First: I did not know this practice existed and I will check with my vet whether this is done here in Belgium. Second: I did not know the word debarking.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

A softie, after all.

Grenier in his book The Difficulty of Being a Dog writes how Napoleon was once surveying a battlefield from which the dead had not yet been removed. He saw a dog beside the body of its master, howling, licking the dead man’s face. Napoleon wrote about this in his memoirs. “No incident, on any of my battlefields (note the use of my battlefields!), ever produced so deep an impression on me.” declares Napoleon who was insistent that the death of millions meant nothing to him.
“ I had, without emotion, ordered battles which were to decide the fate of the army; I beheld, with a dry eye, the execution of those operations, by which numbers of my countrymen were sacrificed; and here I was upset, my feelings roused, by the mournful howling of a dog.”

Saturday 24 November 2007

Sans Collier

Cathy, a charming girl who is on my team as an instructor at the dog club also works as a volunteer in a shelter called Sans Collier about 50 kms outside Brussels. On 15th and 16th December, the shelter is organising a fund raising event and a Christmas party. Everybody is welcome. I know most of my readers do not live in Belgium but I promised I would mention it on my blog to make their plight known.
They do a fantastic job. Old and sick animals are looked after and not systematically put down. Over a period of 10 months 385 dogs and 328 cats were adopted; 152 dogs and 7 cats were reunited with their owners.

“Au fond du vieux refuge, dans une niche en bois,
Depuis deux ans je purge, d’avoir trop cru en toi,
Tous les jours je t’attends, certain que tu viendras,
Tous les soirs je m’endors, sans que tu sois là.

Ton absence me pèse et les jours sont si longs.
Mon corps s’épuise et mon cœur se morfond.
Je n’ai plus goût à rien et je deviens si laid,
Que personne, jamais, ne voudra m’adopté »

Friday 23 November 2007

Clever dog.

In the early 1940's, Swiss engineer and inventor George de Mestral went on a walk with his dog. After arriving home, he saw that his clothes and his dog's coat were covered with cockleburrs. When he looked at the burrs under a microscope, he discovered they have a natural hook-like shape, which became the basis for his invention of a unique, two-sided fastener; one side with stiff "hooks" like the burrs and the other side with the soft "loops" like the fabric of his trousers. De Mestral named his invention VELCRO after the French words "velours" and "crochet." Paradoxically in French the word “scratch” is used for the same product and not “Velcro”. The French prefer to use an onomatopoeic word. He submitted his idea for patent which was granted in 1951. Velcro today is the name of a group of companies and its trademark which make genuine VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners. It is a multi-million dollar industry.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Here comes the bride

Last week the Hindustan Times reported that an Indian man married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony. The man said he chose to do this in an attempt to rid himself of a curse which he believes was inflicted on him after he had stoned two dogs to death. P. Selvakumar's family chose a stray named Selvi as his bride. According to Hindu tradition, she was bathed and clothed for the ceremony which was held at a Hindu temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The 33-year-old Indian talked to reporters and said that fifteen years ago he stoned two dogs to death and hung their bodies from a tree. He had been paralysed ever since and he believes that he was cursed for his deed. "After that my legs and hands got paralysed and I lost hearing in one ear," he told the Indian newspaper. According to the paper, Selvakumar was told by an astrologer that the only way he could be cured was by marrying a dog. The newspaper failed to say whether the man’s condition changed after the ceremony. This case is not unusual in rural India where people are very superstitious. Weddings between humans and other animals have been organised before as locals believe such ceremonies can ward off certain curses.The picture in the paper showed Selvakumar sitting next to the female dog. The bride was wearing an orange sari and a flower garland. After the ceremony, Selvakumar and his relatives had a feast, while the dog received a bun.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Don't leave me - part 2

Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit behaviour problems when they are left alone. The most common of these behaviours are: digging, scratching at doors or furniture, howling, barking, urination and defecation. These behaviours are not an attempt by the dog to punish or seek revenge on his owner for leaving him alone. Nor is it boredom. It is part of a panic response.
His anxiety is the result of the separation from his master not merely the result from being left alone. If your dog is a sufferer, these are some simple tips:

What NOT to do?
-Punish the dog as soon as you come into the house. Punishing will actually increase his separation anxiety.
-Getting another pet as a companion. The dog wants his master as a companion not another animal.
-Putting the dog in a crate. This will not calm him but increase his panic responses.
-Training the dog. This is a paradox. Formal training is, of course, a good idea but in this case the dog is not being disobedient nor does he show lack of training. It is a severe panic response.

What to do then?
-Keep arrivals and departures low-key. Ignore the dog – and this is difficult – for a few minutes when you get home before patting him.
-Leave the dog with an item of that smells of you. An old t-shirt you’ve slept in, for instance.
-Leave the radio or television on when you leave the house.
-Train your dog to stay by himself in the house and not to follow your every step. Leave him in another room whilst you do the ironing, for instance.
-Pretend to go out. Put on your coat and take your car keys and go out of the door. Return within the minute. Repeat this frequently during the day. Once the dog has accepted this, increase the time you have gone. Associate this with reassuring words such as “I’ll be back”.

I am often asked about this problem. Invariably this occurs in puppies or young dogs or adopted dogs and which are left alone whilst there owners are at work or out all day.
I do not take very kindly to this. What is the point of having a dog in such a case?
A dog needs companionship, needs to interact with humans, needs to be walked, needs to be stimulated and needs to be safe in the knowledge his master will return.

Friday 16 November 2007

Don't leave me

I received this picture with the caption : "Please adopt me". Dogs like young children suffer from separation anxiety. Destructive behaviour is a sympton of this.

More later.

Monday 12 November 2007

Unsung hero

In this time of remembrance, let us have a thought for all those brave animals which in their way contributed to the war effort. Here is the story of Stubby who was adopted by the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division, at Yale Field, New Haven, CT, in the spring of 1917. It is not known where he came from or what his pedigree was, but he appeared to be several weeks old at the time of his arrival. Throughout his service, his caretaker was J. Robert Conroy. In July 1917, he was smuggled aboard the S.S. Minnesota at Newport News, VA, and sailed to France with his unit. Following winter training of his unit, Stubby went to the front and by February 1918, he was in the trenches. Fitted with his own gas mask, Stubby underwent several gas attacks and was adept at warning the troops when gas was approaching their positions. On April 20, 1918, he was wounded in the left foreleg by a shell fragment during the Battle of Seicheprey. He earned one wound stripe and three service stripes. He participated in 17 engagements in four World War I offensives. After the Armistice, Stubby met President Woodrow Wilson when the President visited the 102nd Infantry regiment in France on Christmas Day 1918. When Stubby's unit returned to the United States in 1919, the dog was again smuggled aboard ship for the return trip. Upon his return home, he was made a life member of the American Legion, the American Red Cross and the YMCA. Stubby died in 1926, and his remains were preserved with technical assistance from the Smithsonian Institution. A plaster cast was made of his body, his skin was mounted on the cast, and his cremated remains were interred within the cast. For many years, he was on display at the National Red Cross Museum. On May 22, 1956, his master, J. Robert Conroy, presented Stubby to the Smithsonian. Included with the gift were a brass-studded collar, a leather harness, a scrapbook containing the history of Stubby, and a chamois blanket embroidered by women from the village of Chateau Thierry ( Marne region ) with the flags of the Allies and decorated with various badges and medals.
Stubby is one of many heroes.

Friday 9 November 2007

Festival of light

Nepal is celebrating the festival of Tihar, its equivalent of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. It is a five day festival and on the second day of the feast, special honour is bestowed on dogs. Today is the second day and it is called Kukur Puja (Dog Worship). Dogs are traditionally seen as the guardian of people’s house as well as that of Yamaraj's ( the Lord of Death ) underworld. On this day, dogs are worshipped and blessed with red Tika on their forehead and a flower garland around their neck. And they receive a special meal.

Tuesday 6 November 2007


Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, an "artist" from Costa Rica took a dog from the street and used it as an art exhibit and caused it to suffer and starve to death in the name of Art. I shall not post more pictures as they are disturbing and too horrific.

To sign the petition to stop this madman exhibiting, click here:

This is the letter I, as others in the blogworld, shall be writing to the organisers of Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 where Habacuc Vargas is to represent Costa Rica.

Centro Nacional de la Cultura
Antigua Fábrica Nacional de Licores.
Avenida 3, calle 15/17.
San José,
Costa Rica.
Fax: (506) 257 8702

Dear Sirs,
I am writing regarding the horrifying actions of Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, who paid local children to catch a dog on the street and then confined, starved and publicly displayed the dog as an "art" exhibit until the innocent animal died of starvation.
I, along with many people worldwide, am outraged that Guillermo Habacuc Vargas has been selected to represent Costa Rica in "Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008.” This man is by no definition of the word an artist. He is a criminally insane sadist and enjoys inflicting prolonged suffering upon his innocent victims. He is a danger to all of society, as it is well-documented that those with the capacity to intentionally cause harm to an animal have the same capacity to harm humans. To state that this animal would have died eventually of natural causes is unjustifiable and defies logical, rational thought.
To allow Guillermo Habacuc Vargas to represent Costa Rica in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 will in no way benefit Costa Rica. The world is watching, and the actions of this so-called artist have brought many negative assumptions as to the humanity of the people of Costa Rica. The fact that many witnesses of this animal’s suffering did nothing, and that the organizers of this event allowed this to happen, rather than taking action to see that Guillermo Vargas be criminally charged with animal abuse, is sending the world a message that Costa Rica is a cruel, uncivilized society that has no regard for life, but enjoys viewing and contributing to the loss of life.
Each and every person who knew of and witnessed the suffering of this innocent dog is guilty of causing its unnecessary death. To let this crime go unpunished, and instead to reward Guillermo Vargas by choosing him to represent Costa Rica in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 is unacceptable and shameful, not only to Costa Rica but to all participants in this event.
I urge you, do not condone the heinous actions of Guillermo Vargas by allowing him to participate in Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008. He should be jailed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for this animal’s death, and should not be allowed to represent Costa Rica as an artist, for to refer to him as such is an insult to all true artists.
Yours faithfully,


Friday 2 November 2007

Can't buy me love

If you live in Tokyo and you don’t have the time, money or space for a pet of your own, you can rent one by the hour. Puppy the World, the rental pet shop in Odaiba, a trendy shopping and entertainment district, has more than 50 breeds of dog, mostly small dogs like toy poodles, Chihuahuas, dachshunds or French bulldogs. Medium size dogs like border collies and Labradors have recently been added to the list. A complete list of dogs is available on the shop’s website and dogs can be booked in advance (see link below). Dogs can be chosen to match your personality.
The hourly charge is 20 € and includes the dog, of course, a lead, some tissue paper and a plastic bag in case the dog soils the squeaky clean pavements. Each person who rents a dog is under strict instructions not to let it off the lead, to keep it in the shade in case of hot weather and to refrain from giving it sweets. Oh yes, and to return it alive! At the end of the rental period, the dog can also be groomed and be taken to the canine café, Puppy’s Dining. For 100 €, the dogs can be rented overnight. Food, drinking bowl and a cage are provided.
To the Japanese with a fondness for animals but who are unable to raise pets because of their cramped living conditions, overcrowded streets and strict housing rules, shops like these are seen as a godsend. The concept started 3 years ago with 17 shops and apparently now Tokyo alone has 115 such shops. Whilst puppy love is booming, vets and animal welfare organisations are very concerned about the dogs well being. It is very traumatic and stressful for dogs to be constantly manipulated like cuddly toys. It is a source of anxiety for them to be walked and pampered by different people. Some react badly to being endlessly kissed and cuddled. Many dogs show severe physical symptoms like stomach upsets. Also dogs can become aggressive which can lead to the dog bearing its teeth and to biting. And then what?

Tuesday 30 October 2007

And the Fido goes to...

Stephen Frears' hugely successful film The Queen has won more than its fair share of top awards, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that even the dogs featured as the monarch's faithful companions have picked up a gong. The five corgis, who played the Queen's pets, were the main winners at the inaugural Fido Film Awards – part of the British Film Institute's 51st London Film Festival, which has decided to emulate the Palm Dog Awards, a popular fixture at Cannes for the last seven years.
And the winners are.... Alice, Poppy, Megan, Anna and Oliver.
At the world's first international awards for canine film stars, given out at a ceremony at the London Film Festival on sunday, the corgis were named as the Best Historical Hounds as well as picking up a Best in the World prize.
The awards are the brainchild of Toby Rose, the creator of the Palm Dog Award, which is part of the Cannes Film Festival.
"Dogs are key, pivotal characters on the big screen, but they never get any recognition for their work," he explained.
The corgis, standing in for the Queen's pets in the film, also won praise from Dame Helen Mirren. She said they were a joy to work with. Their owner and trainer, Liz Smith from Suffolk told reporters that there was a lot of work involved in their performance and further said: "No one was allowed to make a fuss of them because we had to make sure they had no distractions," she said. Despite all the work, however, the corgis enjoyed their stint on camera. According to Smith, the dogs "got on very well" with their on-screen queen, Mirren.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Belgo - Japanese relations

Every day Japanese tourists visit the cathedral in Antwerp. In front of Rubens The Elevation of the Cross many cry. Why? Nobody in Flanders cries. So why do the Japanese? Furthermore at the initial influx of Japanese tourists, city and cathedral officials could not understand why they wanted to visit the cathedral on Christmas Eve and why they all asked about the dog. What dog? Well, it’s all to do with a book. A Dog of Flanders is a novel about a boy Nello and his dog Patrache written in English by Marie Louise de la Ramée under the pseudonym Ouida in 1872. The book is widely read in Japan and has been adapted for Japanese television twice and for the cinema three times. The animation series was broadcast on Japanese national television and was watched by thousands of children and is being shown over and over again. Apparently any Japanese person can sing the theme song in Dutch or can hum or whistle the theme tune. The story is little known in Belgium and has been Flanders’s secret ambassador for more than 100 years. There is a commemorative plaque in front of the Antwerp Cathedral donated by Toyota.The Dutch translation was only published in 1985.

So here is the story: In the 19th century, a boy named Nello became an orphan at the age of two when his mother died in the Ardennes. His grandfather, Johan Daas, who lived in a small village, Hoboken, near the city of Antwerp, took him in. One day, Nello found a dog, who was almost beaten to death, and named him Patrasche. Due to Johan’s good care, the dog recovered from his wounds and from then on Nello and Patrasche were inseparable. Since they were very poor, Nello had to help his grandfather financially by selling milk. Patrasche helped him pull the milk cart which Nello used to sell milk in the town. Nello made friends with, Aloise, the daughter of a well-off man in the village. The father didn't want his daughter to befriend a pauper. Although Nello was illiterate, he was very talented at drawing. He took part in a junior drawing contest in Antwerp, hoping to win the first prize of 200 francs per year. However, the jury selected somebody else. Afterhis grandfather’s death his life became desperate. Being homeless and orphaned, Nello wanted to go to the cathedral of Antwerp and see Rubens The Elevation of the Cross. But he didn't have enough money to enter. On Christmas Eve, he went to the cathedral with Patrasche and, by chance, the door to the church was open, and he found the painting he loved. The next morning the villagers came looking for the boy and found him with his dog frozen to death in front of the triptych.

Sunday 21 October 2007

Nearer, my God, to thee.

First class passengers would have participated in an informal dog show on RMS Titanic on 12th April 1915 if the ship had not gone down. Quite a number of dogs were on board and a few survived.
Since the first lifeboats to be launched were not full, no one objected to dogs being carried in them. It is recorded that a Pomeranian belonging to Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild, 54, wife of leather magnate Martin Rothschild was lucky. Martin went down with the ship but Elizabeth and her pet survived. They were on the lifeboat 6.
Margaret Hays, 24, travelling alone, managed to carry her Pomeranian to Lifeboat 7.
Henry Sleeper Harper of the publishing company, 48, and his Pekinese went to the Lifeboat 3 and managed to escape unharmed.
As for the other dogs they drowned like their owners even though someone took pity on the dogs and let them out of their kennels, unable to bear the thought of them drowning while being trapped in there.
A canary, it would seem, also survived to the sinking!
Ann Isham, 50, refused to enter in the lifeboat without her large Great Dane. She was found in the water two days after the sinking of the ship embracing her dog.
One dog however was a real hero! The first officer's large black Newfoundland, Rigel, stayed behind with the ship. He treaded the icy waters after the sinking, desperate to find his master. At the same time, the SS Carpathia was speeding to the scene to search for survivors. In the darkness, no one saw that a lifeboat was in its path and the passengers were too weak to shout or signal their presence. Reports say Rigel swam between the lifeboat and the SS Carpathia, barking continuously. Finally, the Captain heard Rigel and ordered to stop all engines. The dog swam in front of the lifeboat and guided it to safety. Once on board, Rigel seemed physically unaffected by his ordeal. He stood with paws on the rail barking in futility for his lost master until he was taken below for food and medical attention. Jonas Brigg, one of the Carpathia’s sailors adopted Rigel.

Thursday 18 October 2007

Politicians take note

American Congress bestowed its highest civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal, on the Dalai Lama yesterday in Washington. The award is in recognition of the Dalai Lama's advocacy of religious harmony, non -violence, human rights and for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue.
"If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them"

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Eat your heart out.

Dogs smell other dogs faeces as a way of learning about them. From this, the dog can tell the sex of the dog who left it. If it’s a male’s it will tell it how masculine he was and if it’s a female’s whether she is coming into season or is on heat. So vital information is passed on this way. However some dogs eat other dogs’ stools which is not so pleasant. This is know as coprophagy from the Greek copros meaning faeces and from phagein meaning to eat.
There are many theories why dogs do this:
-To get attention from their owners.
-From anxiety, stress, or having been punished for bad behaviour.
-From boredom.
-Because puppies taste everything and discover that faeces are edible and, perhaps, tasty.
-Because dogs are, by nature, scavengers, and this is within the range of scavenger behaviour.
-Because the texture and temperature of fresh faeces approximates that of regurgitated food, which is how canine mothers in the wild would provide solid food.
-Because of the protein content of the faeces, or over-feeding, leading to large concentrations of undigested matter in the faeces.
-Due to assorted health problems
-Because they are hungry, such as when eating routines are changed, food is withheld, or nutrients are not properly absorbed.
-Carnivores may sometimes eat or roll in the faeces of their prey to ingest and exude scents which camouflage their own.

Dr Bruce Fogle, a Canadian vet and author of many books, writes that dogs as they grow up may suffer from a lack of digestive enzymes. He recommends feeding dogs enzyme-containing food such as pineapple, pumpkin or papaya fruit. Sounds exotic to me as dogs are basically carnivores.

I could not find an appropriate photograph.

Saturday 13 October 2007

Crystal clear

Rosley’s Rock and Gems, a Chicago based holistic rock and gems shop, now also offers crystals for dogs as they argue animals are able to receive the healing benefits of crystals as well as humans. Various stones produce different effects shown through the animal's behaviour. The extensive line of crystals on offer are artfully wire wrapped with stays for easy attachment to the pet’s collar.
Crystals have been known to have healing powers for centuries. Not only is quartz used in our watches and lodestone for magnets, past cultures show evidence of belief in crystals as far back as Neolithic man, whose remains have been found carrying pieces of amber. Delving into the properties of all the stones of our planet, calming, rejuvenating, and strengthening qualities can be found; a distinct "personality" for each kind of stone. Now dogs, cats, birds, fish and even iguanas, can benefit from stones.
Here is the list of crystals and their healing properties.

AMBER: This soothing stone will calm nerves and enliven the stick-in-the-mud pet to be a bit cheerier, while calming a hyper-active one.
AMETHYST: Amethyst is a powerful all-around healer, improving hearing and the nervous and skeletal systems predominately. It is a great help if your pet must battle arthritis.
AVENTURINE: As it helps to strengthen your blood, lungs, heart and adrenal glands, it will also strengthen your desire to explore and get out.
CARNELIAN: Releases sorrow, envy, fear, apathy, and rage.
JADE: Held to increase one's life-span, and facilitate comfort when the end is near. Assists the immune system, kidneys and heart.
LAPIS: Strengthens the throat, and immune system, also relieves dizziness and occasional insomnia. Lapis is the strongest stone you can find to relieve the pain of leukaemia and bone cancer.
QUARTZ CRYSTAL: An excellent training stone. Quartz crystal amplifies communication between humans and animals, and strengthens mental clarity.
ROSE QUARTZ: Use a rose quartz for your pet when it has been wounded, or recently operated upon. If your pet is aloof, lonely or isolated, the rose quartz will help him learn the powers of love and gentleness..
SMOKY QUARTZ: The powerful smoky quartz helps to heal disorders in paws, claws, and fins. If your pet doesn't always win the fight, the smoky quartz helps heighten survival instincts. This wonderful grounding stone works slowly to eradicate negative energy and hostility..
TURQUOISE: The turquoise stone will protect your pet from the dangers and pollutants of city life. This powerful healing stone is an amazing boost of confidence for your shy pet or new-born litter. Turquoise also offers peace of mind and strong grounding qualities for your somewhat nervous pet.

I quite like the sound of this. For Belle I would need something to calm anxieties. Turquoise or amber perhaps. Is it worth spending 20 US dollars per stone, I wonder?

Thursday 11 October 2007

Love me, love my dog

Now you might find the fact that Leona Helmsley left her fortune to her dog shocking but the act of leaving billions to a dog is less surprising in light of new findings about the importance of the human/dog bond. Relationships between people and their pets can be so strong, in fact, that in some cases they work better than partnerships between two people.A new study led by Lisa Cavanaugh, a researcher at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University ( North Carolina ) is one of the first to apply methods used to analyze human relationships to human/dog pairs and reveals clues as to what makes the best pooch-to-person match. One surprising find is that a dog’s personality helps shape the relationship more than the person's does. Two dog qualities are usually predicted a successful match. "A canine's openness to new experience and agreeableness are the strongest predictors of relationship satisfaction," explained Cavanaugh. She and her team suspect that "dogs' generally trusting, non-judgmental, empathetic and curious nature enables them to blend into their owners' family and home, and bring comfort and enjoyment into their lives."Another, somewhat surprising, find is that while people tend to dislike neuroticism in other people, they frequently like that quality in their dogs.The researchers also noted that while human relationships often falter over time, thereby contributing less to a person's overall well-being, human/dog bonds frequently strengthen over time.Cavanaugh goes on to suggest that some people might be more satisfied with their dog friendships than with their human ones.
"Dogs provide unconditional love. You could be the worst scoundrel in the world and everyone else may hate you, but a loyal dog will always love you."

Sunday 7 October 2007

Queen of Mean

Leona Helmsley died last week at the age of 87. Her dog Trouble will continue to live an opulent life after being left a $12 million (£6m) trust fund in her owner's will. She will eventually be buried with her in the Helmsley mausoleum in Connecticut. Helsmley ordered in her will that: “The mausoleum must be washed or steam-cleaned at least once a year.” She left behind $3 million for the upkeep of her final resting place in Westchester County, where she is buried with her husband Harry.A hatter's daughter from Brooklyn, Leona became the second wife of Harry Helmsley, the "King Kong of Big Apple real estate", in 1972 and upon his death inherited his billion dollar fortune. She became known as a symbol of 1980s greed and earned the nickname "the Queen of Mean" after her 1988 indictment and subsequent conviction for tax evasion. One employee had quoted her as snarling, "Only the little people pay taxes." She left two of her four grand children out of her will but her chauffeur was left $100,000. But no one made out better than Trouble, who once appeared in ads for the Helmsley Hotels, and lived up to her name by biting housekeepers and members of Leona’s staff. Trouble made their lives miserable. One housekeeper quoted : "Leona wanted everybody to love her, but she knew nobody did. This dog replaced that love." Helmsley even shared her double king-size bed with Trouble who was often dressed in pricey outfits and sported a diamond collar. The dog's chef prepared meals of steamed vegetables and steamed or grilled chicken and fish which were served in porcelain bowls on a silver tray. Helmsley had a minimum of 12 pictures of herself with Trouble in every room and she believed her late husband, Harry, communicated with her through the dog.

Thursday 4 October 2007

The Queen

This picture of Princess Elizabeth with her beloved Corgi, Dookie, is just one of a series of never-before-seen snaps which appear in a new book entitled Noble Hounds And Dear Companions, written by Sophie Gordon, Curator of the Royal Photograph Collection. It details the much-loved animals who have shared their lives with the Royal Family. This charming publication celebrates the important role played by dogs in the public and private lives of the Royal Family. It brings together over 200 affectionate, amusing and often poignant images of canine companions – from Dash, Queen Victoria’s beloved King Charles spaniel and Eos, Prince Albert’s elegant greyhound, to the famous corgis of the House of Windsor. Over the 150 years covered by the book, dogs appear centre stage in both formal studio portraits and as part of relaxed family groups. Most of the photographs come from private family albums and have never been published before. Dogs are seen riding in carriages, on board the royal yacht, on guard duty at Windsor Castle and in the arms of monarchs, consorts, princes and princesses.

Her Majesty The Queen is among the world’s leading breeders of Pembroke corgis. The first royal corgis, Dookie and Jane, were bought for the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose by their parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. A series of charming photographs taken at Windsor and in London in 1936 shows Princess Elizabeth’s affectionate relationship with the dogs. All of The Queen's corgis are descendants of Susan, who was given to the Princess as an 18th-birthday present in 1944. Her Majesty currently has nine dogs: five corgis and four dorgis (a dachshund and corgi cross). Photographs reveal the deep devotion shared by generations of dogs and their royal owners. Queen Victoria’s spaniel, Dash, was buried at Windsor with an epitaph that read: "His attachment was without selfishness, His playfulness without malice, His fidelity without deceit. READER, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example of DASH." In a particularly tender image from 1863, Boy, the Queen’s favourite dachshund, is shown a few days before his death, watched over by a concerned housekeeper. King Edward VII’s terrier, Caesar, accompanied his master everywhere. He wore a collar with the inscription ‘I am Caesar. I belong to the King’ and was even immortalised in a tiny sculpture by the famous Russian jeweller, Carl Fabergé. Caesar achieved widespread fame on the King’s death in 1910, when the inconsolable dog walked behind his master’s coffin in the funeral procession.

Thank you Winchester Whisperer for bringing this to my attention.

Monday 1 October 2007

Shocking in pink

This picture was taken at the Milan summer 2008 womenswear week which ended on Saturday. Bold colours, high heels and an artist’s touch were the key themes and predominant colours were jade, yellow, turquoise and of course, pink.One reads about dogs being fashion accessories but this is ridiculous. In a recent survey of 80 dogs the poodle came second after the Border Collie as the most intelligent dog. The Afghan came last!Poodles come in various sizes ( miniature, toy, standard ) and colours. These range from black, white, red, apricot, silver, and brown. They also appear in parti-colour or multi-colours.Their country of origin is France although poodles can be traced to the times of ancient Egyptians. Poodles are retrievers or gun dogs and this explains the complex grooming. Show clips evolved from working clips which provided warmth and protection for major joints during duck hunts in cold water. The rest of the body is shaved for less drag in the water. They are elegant in the show ring, having taken top honours in many shows in Europe and the US. The poodle coat is dense and requires extensive care and a lot of grooming.The name poodle comes from the German word Pudel and is related to the English word puddle. This reflects the breed’s use as a water dog.

Thursday 27 September 2007

Toy Dog

Winchester Whisperer mentioned Peggy Guggenheim’s dogs eating foie gras and not living long because of it. It would seem Peggy saw the light somewhere in 1950 because from then on her dogs lived longer. They lived for 10 to 15 years according the records on the memorial stone in the Nasher Sculpture Garden in her Venetian Palazzo Venier dei Leoni where she is buried next to her beloved dogs. In photographs of her taken with her dogs, they look like Havanese. A Havanse belongs to the Toy Group. Why is this group called Toy Group? When breed associations or kennel clubs divide breeds into groups for the purpose of competition, the Toy Group contains the smallest dog breeds. In this group you find: the Bichon, the Cotton de Tulear, terriers such as the Yorkshire Terrier and Boston Terrier, the Griffon, the Papillon, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles and more similarly sized dogs.
The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs illustrate the main function of this Group: to embody sheer delight. Don't let their tiny stature fool you. Many Toys are tough as nails. The barking of an angry Chihuahua, for example, is something to behold. Toy dogs will always be popular with city dwellers and people without much living space. They make ideal apartment dogs and terrific lap warmers on cold nights.
They are often referred to as “lap dogs” and in French they are called “chiens de compagnie”.
Both very apt.

Sunday 23 September 2007

Have a break

Our four-legged friends can now lap it up in style and be pampered at sea, aboard the luxury liner Queen Mary 2. Guests crossing the Atlantic on the Cunard cruise liner have the luxury of bringing their pets with them.The cruise line has enhanced its Pets on Deck program to include a range of pet-friendly services and amenities, including fresh-baked biscuits at turn-down, a choice of beds and blankets and even a coat with the QM2-logo. Travelling dogs and cats also receive a complimentary gift pack which includes a frisbee, name tag, food dish and scoop, and a complimentary portrait with pet owners. The line's pet-friendly policy dates back to the maiden voyage of the Britannia in 1840, when three cats were on board. Since then, circus elephants, canaries, a monkey and even a boa constrictor have travelled on Cunard. The cruise line also has pampered a number of high profile pets, including Elizabeth Taylor's pet pooches, who travelled with the actress in the 1950s. Kennel fees range from $360 to $600.

Thursday 20 September 2007

Hello Dude

Flowerpotdays has just awarded me this award. Thank you so much. Very much appreciated.
I am quite used to being addressed as "dude". The North Coast of Cornwall is surfers's paradise. The surf can be awesome, I gather. One of my daughters is a surfer and on several occassions this summer I went shopping with her to buy such vital items like a leash, wax, socks, .... When I asked the charming young man who was obviously a confirmed surfer dude with long rastaferian hair and minimal footwear if I could pay by credit card, he replied "Yah! ... Cool, dude." He was reading Hemingway.
I pass the award on to the following 5 other awesome dudes:

Sunday 16 September 2007

What next?

AirPress is a Japanese manufacturer of oxygen tanks, used by athletes and by Michael Jackson for their beauty rejuvenation, anti-aging, anti-wrinkle and generally feel good properties and it has just opened its first oxygen café for pets in Tokyo. Twelve Dogs O2 capsules are available in its OWND ( Oxygen Water Nutrition Dogs) café. Capsules come in three sizes ( 400 mm x 600 mm, 600 mm x 800 mm and 800 mm x 1000 mm ). Air flow is reduced so that sensitive dogs can relax more easily. Treatment lasts for 15 minutes at a charge of about 65 US dollars. Fresh herb teas and additive-free soups are also served. Have you ever seen a dog eat soup? AND what would the treatment do to a Sharpei?

Wednesday 12 September 2007

Poor old thing

Homer tells us Argos's living conditions were less than confortable. He lay "on piles of dung from mules and cattle" and was in a poor state of neglect when Ulysses set eyes on him.
"Infested with ticks, half-dead from neglect,
here lay the hound Argos.
But the moment he sensed Ulysses standing by
he thumped his tail, muzzling low, and his eras dropped,
though he had no strength to drag himself an inch
towards his master. Ulysses glanced to the side
and flicked away a tear..."
Only Poseidon had made Ulysses weep but on his return home, it was his old faithful dog who had the power to make him shed a tear.

Monday 10 September 2007

A tale of love and loyalty

In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, Ulysses was the King of the small island of Ithaca. He was married to the beautiful Penelope who gave him a son, Telemachus. At the beginning of their marriage, Greece was beset by war but Ulysses feigned madness in order to stay with his young bride. Unfortunately, his plot was dismantled and he had to go to war. In his absence of 20 years Penelope had many difficulties. She missed her husband. She was uncertain of his fate and was beset with numerous suitors who thought that a young widow and queen of a small but tidy kingdom were a great conquest. They pestered her to declare Ulysses dead and to choose a new husband from among them. Meanwhile, these suitors hung around the palace, ate her food, drank her wine, and consorted with several of her maidservants. Penelope was despondent by her husband's long absence and especially the mystery of his whereabouts. He could come home at any time - or never. Temporizing, she fended the suitors off for years, using stalling tactics that were wearing thin. She remained, however, faithful to Ulysses. Eventually, Ulysses came back to Ithaca. He arrived alone and upon landing, he was disguised as an old beggar. Ulysses’s faithful dog, Argos, was the first to recognize him in his rags. He had waited twenty years to see his master. Age, the bounding joy at seeing his master again and the anxious wait, killed the poor dog. The first human to recognize him was his old wet nurse, Euryclea, who knew him well enough to see through the rags, recognizing him by an old scar on his leg received when hunting boar. And so it goes on….

Sunday 9 September 2007

Surprise visit

This is a picture of the Grand Place in Brussels where I met the charming Winchester Whisperer for a drink yesterday.

Wednesday 5 September 2007

Meet Captain

I promised the owner of Captain, a 4-month old Boxer puppy, that I would publish a picture of him on my blog. The Boxer is a German developed breed but based on recent American Kennel Club statistics, Boxers are the seventh most popular breed of dog in the United States.
During WWI, the Boxer was co-opted for military work, acting as a valuable messenger dog, pack-carrier, attack dog and guard dog.
It was not until after WWII that the Boxer became popular around the world. Boxer mascots, taken home by returning soldiers, introduced the dog to a much wider audience and it soon became a favourite as a companion animal, as a show dog and as a guard dog
Although steeped in controversy, the name "Boxer" is supposedly derived from the breed's tendency to begin a fight by standing on its hind legs and “to box” ( hence boxing and boxer ) with its front paws.
The AKC Boxer Breed Standard of 1938 states that:
"The character of the Boxer is of the greatest importance and demands the most solicitous attention. He is renowned from olden times for his great love and faithfulness to his master and household. He is harmless in the family, but distrustful of strangers, bright and friendly of temperament at play, but brave and determined when aroused. His intelligence and willing tractability, his modesty and cleanliness make him a highly desirable family dog and cheerful companion. He is the soul of honesty and loyalty, and is never false or treacherous even in his old age."
Boxers are a bright, energetic and playful breed and tend to be very good with children and make an ideal family pet. They have a strong personality and it is best if obedience training is started early to channel their energy. Owing to their intelligence and working breed characteristics, training based on the use of corrections often has limited usefulness. Boxers often respond much better to positive reinforcement techniques. It is also true that Boxers have a very long puppyhood and adolescence, and are often called the "Peter Pan" of the dog world. They are not considered fully mature until two to three years of age and thus need early training to channel their energy.
Boxers appear more comfortable with companionship, in either human or canine form. They are very active dogs that need to get a lot of exercise. Like any dog, they do not like to be left alone.
Boxers are friendly, lively companions that are popular as family dogs. Their suspicion of strangers, alertness, agility and strength make them formidable guard dogs. They sometimes appear at agility or obedience trials. These strong and intelligent animals are used as service dogs, guide dogs for the blind, therapy dogs and police dogs in the US ( K9 units ). Occasionally they are used for herding cattle or sheep. This I would love to see!

Sunday 26 August 2007


I shall be without internet connection until 5th september so I am leaving you with a picture of Belle beholding the Celtic Sea at Trevalga, North Cornwall.

Monday 20 August 2007

Life's a b....

I have verbatim reproduced an article by Michael M.Grynbaum which appeared in the New York Times on 7th August under the title It’s a Female Dog, or Worse. Or Endearing. And Illegal? I find it extremely funny, hilarious even and interesting.
The New York City Council, which drew national headlines when it passed a symbolic citywide ban earlier this year on the use of the so-called n-word, has turned its linguistic (and legislative) lance toward a different slur: bitch.
”The term is hateful and deeply sexist”, said Councilwoman Darlene Mealy of Brooklyn, who has introduced a measure against the word, saying it creates “a paradigm of shame and indignity” for all women.But conversations over the last week indicate that the “b-word” (as it is referred to in the legislation) enjoys a surprisingly strong currency — and even some defenders — among many New Yorkers. And Ms. Mealy admitted that the city’s political ruling class can be guilty of its use. As she circulated her proposal, she said, “even council members are saying that they use it to their wives.”
The measure, which 19 of the 51 council members have signed onto, was prompted in part by the frequent use of the word in hip-hop music. Ten rappers were cited in the legislation, along with an excerpt from an 1811 dictionary that defined the word as “A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman.”
While the bill also bans the slang word “ho,” the b-word appears to have acquired more shades of meaning among various groups, ranging from a term of camaraderie to, in a gerund form, an expression of emphatic approval. Ms. Mealy acknowledged that the measure was unenforceable, but she argued that it would carry symbolic power against the pejorative uses of the word. Even so, a number of New Yorkers said they were taken aback by the idea of prohibiting a term that they not only use, but do so with relish and affection.
“Half my conversation would be gone,” said Michael Musto, the Village Voice columnist, whom a reporter encountered on his bicycle on Sunday night on the corner of Seventh Avenue South and Christopher Street. Mr. Musto, widely known for his coverage of celebrity gossip, dismissed the idea as absurd.,“On the downtown club scene,” he said, munching on an apple, the two terms are often used as terms of endearment. “We divest any negative implication from the word and toss it around with love.”.Darris James, 31, an architect from Brooklyn who was outside the Duplex, a piano bar in the West Village, on Sunday night was similarly opposed. “Hell, if I can’t say bitch, I wouldn’t be able to call half my friends.”
They may not have been the kinds of reaction that Ms. Mealy, a Detroit-born former transit worker serving her first term, was expecting. “They buried the n-word, but what about the other words that really affect women, such as ‘b,’ and ‘ho’? That’s a vile attack on our womanhood,” Ms. Mealy said in a telephone interview. “In listening to my other colleagues, that they say that to their wives or their friends, we have gotten really complacent with it.”
The resolution, introduced on July 25, was first reported by The Daily News. It is being considered by the Council’s Civil Rights Committee and is expected to be discussed next month.Many of those interviewed for this article acknowledged that the b-word could be quite vicious — but insisted that context was everything..“I think it’s a description that is used insouciantly in the fashion industry,” said Hamish Bowles, the European editor at large of Vogue, as he ordered a sushi special at the Condé Nast cafeteria last week. “It would only be used in the fashion world with a sense of high irony and camp.”Mr. Bowles, in salmon seersucker and a purple polo, appeared amused by the Council measure. “It’s very ‘Paris Is Burning,’ isn’t it?” he asked, referring to the film that captured the 1980s drag queen scene in New York.
The b-word has been used to refer to female dogs since around 1000 A.D., according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which traces the term’s derogatory application to women to the 15th century; the entry notes that the term is “not now in decent use.”But there is much evidence that the word — for better or worse — is part of the accepted vernacular of the city. The cover of this week’s New York magazine features the word, and syndicated episodes of “Sex and the City,” the chronicle of high-heeled Manhattan singledom, include it, though some obscenities were bleeped for its run on family-friendly TBS. A feminist journal with the word as its title is widely available in bookstores here, displayed in the front rung at Borders at the Time Warner Center.
Robin Lakoff, a Brooklyn-born linguist who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, said that she despised the word, but that enforcing linguistic change through authority “almost never works,” echoing comments from some New Yorkers who believed a ban would only serve to heighten the word’s power..“If what the City Council wants to do is increase civility, it would have to be able to contextualize it,” said Ms. Lakoff, who studies language and gender. “You forbid the uses that drive people apart, but encourage the ones that drive people together. Which is not easy.”
Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr., the Queens Democrat who successfully sponsored a symbolic moratorium on the n-word that was adopted Feb. 28, said he supported Ms. Mealy’s measure, but acknowledged that the term had many uses..“We want to make sure the context that it’s used is not a negative one,” Mr. Comrie said yesterday. Back at the West Village piano bar on Sunday evening, Poppi Kramer had just finished up her cabaret set. She scoffed at the proposal. “I’m a stand-up comic. You may as well just say to me, don’t even use the word ‘the.’ ”.But at least one person with a legitimate reason to use the word saw some merit in cutting down on its use.
“We’d be grandfathered in, I would think,” said David Frei, who has been a host of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York since 1990. The word is a formal canine label that appears on the competition’s official materials. But Mr. Frei said he worried about the word’s impact on some viewers, especially younger ones..

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Take a closer look

Winchester Whisperer in her comment in the previous post wondered if the shepherds would have worn smocks. In this picture taken in 1876 at the First International sheepdog trials at Alexandra Palace in London, you can see that the attire was not very different from 1973 or today for that matter. The hats have been replaced by flat hats/caps it would seem.
The picture is a bit small. Click on it to enlarge it slightly.

Monday 13 August 2007

Sheepdog trials

It is almost certain that there were sheepdogtrials held in Britain as long as there have been agricultural shows, but the "earliest recorded" sheepdog trials, and the ones considered most important because they spawned the first glimmering of an idea of an International Sheep Dog Society, were the trials held on October 9, 1873 in Bala, Wales. Arising out of these trials and the ones that followed was the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS), formed in 1906, its purpose to "improve the breed of the collie with a view to the better management of stock". Sometime after World War I, incidentally, the term "Border Collie" was coined to distinguish it from the show collie.
The ISDS is still the only registry of working sheepdogs in Britain and Ireland. Each year it puts on four prestigious National Sheep Dog Trials (the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh), which determine the four teams that will compete in the International Sheep Dog Trials. Only the winners of the National trials for each country, the crème de la crème in dogs and handlers can take part in the International Sheep Dog Trials. People flock from all over Britain and indeed the world to see this trial.
The picture was taken on the occasion of the Centenary Trial in 1973 organised by the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) at Bala in Wales to commemorate the "first recorded sheepdog trials in Britain", held on the very same spot 100 years before.

Saturday 11 August 2007

Great honour

Flowerpotdays awarded me the Inspirational Blogger Award. I thank her very much for this great honour.
It is my turn to nominate five others. I read them every day without fail and they are:
Sicily Scene/Welshcake Limoncello
Nobody Important/jmb
Winchester Whisperer
Violets Vintage

Thursday 9 August 2007

Der Untergang

A discovery of hundreds of Hitler’s gramophone records in the attic of a former Soviet intelligence officer who died earlier this summer sheds new light on the Nazi leader’s musical tastes. His favourite records and most scratched from frequent playing were: Beethoven Piano Sonatas Opus 78 and 90, Wagner’s Ouverture to the Flying Dutchman, Mussorgsky Boris Godunov, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Mozart Piano Sonata n°8. It is astonishing to find Russian music in his collection. He dismissed Russians as “Untermenschen” and was contemptuous of their contribution to world culture. Most astonishing is the presence of Jewish performers. This is rather perverse. There he was listening to music performed by relatives and blood-brothers of the Jews whom he was daily sending to their deaths. The evidence that he was a music connoisseur does not make him a less hateful person. This brings me to the story of his beloved dog, Blondie, a German Shepherd. Shortly before her death, Traudl Junge, his private secretary revealed Hitler’s pride and affection for Blondie. Hitler bragged on the tricks she could perform and kept her by his side most of the time. She even slept in his bedroom in the Berlin bunker. Then, as the Russians closed in, Hitler fed Blondie cyanide. He killed her not to spare her from any of the ravages which might follow defeat, not to spare her from hunger or deprivation or disease. Rather, he had begun to suspect that the cyanide Himmler had supplied for his own suicide might be fake. So the Führer killed his dog to make sure that his supply of suicide tablets would work when the time came. Traudl Junge claims that Eva Braun was jealous of Blondie. She hated her and sometimes kicked her.

Saturday 4 August 2007

Let the dogs out!

France's national rail company announced yesterday it had taken several sleeper carriages out of service to deal with an infestation of bedbugs. "Some passengers told us they were bitten " an SNCF official announced, adding that the parasites had been found on a night train from Nice to Metz last week.
SNCF is obviously unaware that dogs can be trained to detect bedbugs as I reported in my post of 20th June. Here is the link should you wish to read it again:

Wednesday 1 August 2007

In memoriam Phil Drabble

While driving through Yorkshire in the 1970’s, a BBC producer noticed two men rounding up sheep with a dog. It gave him the idea that perhaps this activity could be brought to television. He approached the renowned country gentleman, Phil Drabble, telling him about his plans to devise a programme about sheepdog trials and suggested he should host the show. Drabble was not impressed. “I told him not to be so daft. I said the viewers would fall off their perches with boredom” and “It’s boring watching dogs chase stroppy sheep”. One Man and his Dog was launched as a series in 1976 and was exported to European countries and the United States. The urban audience was not initially convinced by the show. Some viewers were so astounded at the skill with which the sheep were commanded that they suspected the sheep of being clandestinely trained. The unlikely audience was soon won over. The programme appealed to many city dwellers’ idyllic conception of the countryside: a pastoral idyll of bright summer mornings and brisk walks across rural England with wellies, walking stick and dog. At its peak, it was watched by eight million BBC2 viewers and Phil Drabble became the face of this surprisingly popular show for 17 years. In the programme, three shepherds, each with their own sheepdog, would whistle and “come by” their way through the show. The dogs and the shepherds faced a series of obstacles, such as guiding sheep through a gate, into a ring and then into a pen. Drabble would provide the commentary, telling the viewers: “It’s going to be a close-run thing” or “The dog’s getting a little excited”. Although the programme lacked drama, it hit the right spot. It was set in beautiful rural surroundings and it was presented by the comfortable commanding Drabble who for many viewers was the quintessence of the rugged rustic, clad in Wellington boots, tweed jacket and cap. His background was very different from this image. He spent the first half of his life in a factory in West Bromwich. Drabble was appointed OBE in 1993 and died on 29th July aged 93.

Friday 27 July 2007

Let us not forget

Laika was a Russian space dog which became the first living creature from earth to enter orbit. At one time a stray wandering the streets of Moscow, she was selected from an animal shelter. A good-natured 3 year old mongrel stray of calm disposition from the streets of Moscow, there is much speculation regarding Laika's ancestry. Some reports describe her as a Husky-mix or Samoyed-mix, almost certainly with strains of Spitz and Terrier in her bloodline, and it has even been suggested that one of her parents may have been a Beagle. After undergoing training with two other dogs, she was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 and was launched into space on 3rd November 1957. Although Laika did not survive the trip, the experiment proved that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure weightlessness. It paved the way for human spaceflight and provided scientists with some of the first data on how living organisms react to spaceflight environments.
There is sufficient evidence to suggest that she suffered a horrible death both from stress and overheating. Her death was not made public until decades after the event. Her death would have been seen as a failure.
Her pressurized cabin within the spacecraft resembled an elongated ellipsoidal nest. The high walls were covered with soft padded material and there were intricate life support instruments positioned everywhere. Laika was secured in place with a special harness and had access to both water and food (a special high-nutrition gel) during the flight.
According to a NASA document, Laika was actually placed in the satellite on October 31, 1957, three days prior to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (located NorthEast of the Aral Sea). She was carefully groomed...her coat sponged with a weak alcohol solution and then finely combed. Areas of her body where electrodes would be attached were painted with iodine and powdered with a streptocide. It was reported that Laika suffered no extreme ill-effects during the ascent and insertion into orbit since the electrodes recorded relatively normal vital signs under the circumstances, although she did seem somewhat agitated and her pulse rate did rise to three times its resting level. While weightless, she was able to take food and water from the onboard dispenser, bark and move around...although her movements were restricted by the harness she was wearing.
Originally, it was uncertain how long Laika had survived in space, with initial estimates ranging from twenty-four hours to one week and the possible speculation that she had lived for as many as ten days. The method of Laika's death was also unknown initially. One rumor suggested that the last of the food in her dispenser contained a poison which put her to sleep just before her life-support batteries ran down...another that her chamber was eventually filled with gas for painless euthanasia after a few days in orbit...or that she may have expired when her oxygen suppy depleted...or that she succumbed to extreme cold. In 1999, several Russian sources stated that Laika had died after four days in space when the cabin overheated. However, in October of 2002, during a gathering of the World Space Congress in Houston, Texas, it was revealed by Dr. Dimitri Malashenkov of the Institute for Biological Problems in Moscow, that after five to seven hours following the launch of Sputnik-2, no lifesigns were being received from Laika. By the fourth orbit, it was apparent that the little dog had passed away from overheating and stress...undoubtedly an exceedingly painful and distressful death. According to Gyorgi Grechko, a cosmonaut who previously worked as an engineer at the Korolev Design Bureau, it seems likely that when Sputnik-2 bounced off the atmosphere, it failed to separate from the booster rocket and thereby rendered the thermal control system inoperative.
Sputnik-2, which weighed half a ton and was reportedly launched to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, continued to circle the earth for 163 days. Laika is the only creature knowingly sent into space to die. Her death sparked animal rights debates across the planet. In Russia, Laika and all the other creatures that made space flight possible are remembered as heroes.
In November of 1997, a plaque commemorating the contributions of Laika and other animals that were studied in the space program was unveiled at the Institute for Aviation and Space Medicine at Star City, just outside Moscow. The monument itself pays tribute to the fallen Russian cosmonauts, but in a corner is the image of a small mongrel dog...ears standing straight. A year later, one of the former lead scientists who had worked on the Soviet "animals-in-space" program expressed his deep regrets regarding Laika:
"The more time passes, the more I'm sorry....We shouldn't have done it....We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog."

Friday 20 July 2007

Poor dogs

A rising star of American football has been charged with breeding dozens of pitbull terriers for often fatal dogfights in a case that exposes an underworld of cruelty to animals.
Michael Vick, a celebrated quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, is accused of raising dogs at his Bad Newz Kennels in Virginia to take part in fights with purses as high as $26,000 (£13,000).
Eight dogs that underperformed in test bouts were killed “by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground”, the indictment says.
A raid on one of his properties specifically bought for dogfighting was part of an apparent network of dogfighting kennels. Police searched the property and found 54 pitbulls with chains attached to car axles in the ground.
Also on the property were an electronic treadmill to exercise the dogs, a “break” stick to pry open their jaws during fights and a “rape stand” in which a bitch is strapped for breeding when she is too aggressive
After one fight, it is alleged that the losing female pitbull was executed by wetting her down with water and electrocuting her.
Mr Vick is obviously not a nice person. The animal cruelty indictment is the most dramatic charge against him but he has in been involved in drug and sex cases. But that is not the point. How can anybody treat dogs this way? Dogs entrust their lives in our hands. They depend on us and give us their unconditional trust and love. I do hope maximum penalty and imprisonment is imposed in cases such as this one. Such behaviour is unacceptable, brutal and unforgivable. Furthermore seeing the commotion David Beckman’s arrival in America has caused, how are adolescents or anybody enjoying fooball going to react to this sort of behaviour from this rising star who has become a role model to some?
I read a comment which said: “ Put him in jail and throw away the key.”

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Rabies in China

You might find this reply to jmb's comment of interest. Rabies is on the rise in China with 2 000 people dying of the disease each year. Recently, a county in south western China has killed 50 000 dogs after 3 people died of rabies.

Good news from China

This photograph was sent to me from China. Living proof that not all Chinese strays are rabied !

Thursday 12 July 2007

Designer food.

American food safety regulators have been allowed into China to investigate how a chemical made from coal found its way into pet food that killed dogs and cats in the United States. Workers in Zangqiu, a heavily polluted northern city openly admit that melamine, a cheap substance which looks like protein in tests is routinely added to animal feed as a fake protein. Melamine is at the centre of a recall of 60 million packages of pet food, after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked last month to the deaths of at least 16 pets in the United States.
The manager of an animal feed factory admitted: “If you add it in small quantities, it won’t hurt pets .” He further added casually: “Pets are not like pigs or chickens.” He explained that they can afford to eat less protein because “they don’t need to grow fast ".
In recent years China’s food safety scandals have involved everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair to instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their colour and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim. Oil extracted from human corpses in the manufacture of instant noodles, dye in salted duck eggs to make the yolks unusually red, a sign of high quality. Counterfeit and substandard goods, from fake liquor and medicines to face creams, toothpaste and so on.
Things are getting better though. Yesterday Zeng Xiaoya, formerly the man responsible for ensuring the safety of China’s foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals was executed. This was done either by shooting or by lethal injection. Probably the latter which is used in high-profile cases. So a word of caution, when buying pet food, please use known brands.

Sunday 8 July 2007

Bloodhound/Saint Hubert hound

The Bloodhound or Saint Hubert hound finds its origins in Belgium. Saint Hubert is a historic town of 6 000 habitants in the Belgian Ardennes. It is famous for its hound but also for its patron saint.The legend of St. Hubert and the crucifix-bearing deer emerged probably in the 12th -13th century. There is no historical record on Hubert's youth but the tradition says he was born around 656 as the son of the Duke of Guyenne with Merovingian royal blood. He is said to have been a relative of Charles Martel. He married Floribanne, King Dagobert's daughter, and became famous as a pagan jet-setter.Hubert enjoyed hunting in the forest of Ardenne. On a Holy Friday, in a very isolated part of the forest, he spotted a white deer bigger and nicer than usual with a crucifix between its antlers and heard a voice asking him to repent, which caused his conversion to the Christian religion. The place where Hubert met the deer was a matter of controversy but it was likely to be in a chapel close to the former St Hubert abbey ( now the Sts Peter and Paul’s basilica ). St. Hubert, celebrated on 3rd November, is the patron saint of hunters, furriers and trappers. He is also invoked against rabies. The medieval tradition says that Hubert was given a stole by the Blessed Virgin and that placing a thread of the stole on a small incision made in the forehead skin would cure rabies. The Saint-Hubert hound was bred by the monks of the St. Hubert's abbey. The dog was introduced under the name of Bloodhound in England by William the Conqueror in the XIth century. The Saint-Hubert was initially used for hunting big game, such as boars but because of its ability to follow a scent hours or even days old over long distances combined with a tenaciously strong tracking instinct, it is now used by authorities to track escaped prisoners or missing persons.