Saturday 29 November 2008

What's this?

Chen from Kunman, the capital city of Yunman in south west China, bought what he thought was a rare dog from a market but later discovered it was just a common breed with stripes painted on by the dodgy vendor. When Chen spotted the dog at the pet market in Jingxing Street, he haggled the vendor down from 120 ($18) yuan to 50. He was delighted with himself for scoring a bargain. He then washed his new pet when he arrived home. He soon noticed the black stripes on the pooch had all disappeared. "I bought the dog because of the stripes - they looked like tigers'," Chen complained to a reporter. A resident living near the market said sellers often painted dogs in order to sell them for better prices

Wednesday 26 November 2008

The Isle of Dogs

The Isle of Dogs is a former island in the East End of London that is surrounded on three sides (east, south and west) by one of the largest meanders in the River Thames.
Why Isle of Dogs? The name was first recorded in 1588, but had been in use for some years before this. Brewer's 1898 Dictionary of Phrase and Fable attributes the name: "So called from being the receptacle of the greyhounds of Edward III." Some say it is a corruption of the Isle of Ducks, and that it is so called in ancient records from the number of wild fowl inhabiting the marshes. Other sources discount this and believe it might come from:
-the presence of Dutch engineers reclaiming the land from a disastrous flood;
-feral dog packs inhabiting the uncultivated marshland;
-the presence of gibbets on the foreshore facing Greenwich;
-a yeoman farmer called Brache, this being an old word for a type of hunting dog;
-Henry VIII kept deer in Greenwich Park. It is thought that his hunting dogs might have been kept in derelict farm buildings on the Island.
The reality is that the origin of the name remains an enigma.

Friday 21 November 2008

Barking mad

Matthew Parris has written this moving tale in The Times:

“This is the story of a dog called Darcy. I met him in the Australian bush, where he was on holiday barking at a piece of barbed wire. Later I found out why. Well, no, not why but how it came about.

Darcy, who is 12, belongs to a breed that the Australians call kelpies. Black and tan, but predominantly black, about the size of a Border collie and lean like a collie, Darcy had in other respects something of the labrador about him, but smaller and packed with vim. Kelpies are a kind of Australian sheepdog, highly intelligent, faithful and trainable, but essentially working dogs that need lots of exercise and should never be cooped up.Darcy's owners know this, so since he was a pup he has been taken for regular runs in the park when they are in town, and when in the country he has grassland and forest to tear around in - which he enjoys. But he is obedient - good on long car journeys, well behaved indoors, you need only say “turn” to him and (however reluctantly) he'll immediately turn back from wherever he was headed. He sits when instructed.You can tell he loves the family that own him and they love him.

Darcy seems comfortable in his own skin. But when he was about 11 weeks old, something happened. Making his first visit to his owners' property in the bush, he leapt from the pick-up truck to find a dead sheep just inside their boundary fence. Some hardwired dog-knowledge stirred deep within him and he was riveted. Fearing that he would roll in it or worry the carcass or try to eat it, his owners heaved the sheep over the fence.

I'd better describe the fence, because it's going to figure prominently in Darcy's life: a fence strung between steel posts, about 4ft high. The bottom half is deer-netted; above are a couple of strands of plain wire, with a strand of barbed wire on top. This will keep in a puppy or a sheep, but a dog or a human can jump over.Seeing the carcass on the other side of (for him) an uncrossable fence did not lessen Darcy's interest. He stood, stared, barked, ran at the fence and started jumping at the wire until his owners brought him in. Whenever released he was back at the fence, lunging, barking.

And when another day the family returned and the sheep was gone, Darcy went straight back to the fence, stared at the very spot where the dead sheep had lain and began again to bark and jump until they took him inside.That was 12 years ago. And since that day he has never stopped. I made quite a study of him last week.I had arrived in the pick-up truck with Darcy's owner. The moment the door opened he made a beeline for the fence. For an hour he ran backwards and forwards behind it - his run has become a channel (“we're down to rock,” the family said) - eyes fixed on a single point on the other side, leaping at the fence, pawing the wires, barking and - and this was weird - snapping his jaws shut with a clack-clack sound, as if snapping at flies. He could easily jump the fence now but he never does.“Darcy, Darcy, it's OK,” the family would shout, sorry for him. “Come back.” But unless commanded - whereupon he obeys, slinking back to the house with many a backward glance, then running back to resume the barking as soon as he is out from under his master's eye - it is there that he wants to be.

Yet the family say there's relief on his face when they tie him up on the veranda - like the grateful obsessive-compulsive shoplifter as the handcuffs click shut or the child-molester begging for castration.

After breakfast, when the front door is opened and he can slip out, he leaves the house with a dutiful expression - almost as if to say: “Mustn't tarry. Work to do at the fence. See you later.” Left to himself he will do it all day until his front paws bleed from continual jumping at the wire. Nor is it simply an excess of energy: Darcy can be taken on a long walk, come home tired and hot - and pad wearily back to his Sisyphean labour at the fence.”

Sunday 16 November 2008

Is this the one?

The pet allergy problem in the U.S. is considerable; about 10 percent of the U.S. population is allergic to animals, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. For those persons afflicted with asthma, the rate is even higher - approximately 25%. Allergic reactions to pets can range from unconfortable (itchy or watery eyes) to downright dangerous, such as asthma attacks that constrict breathing.
Dog allergens are very small, sticky, and lightweight. Originating in a dog’s skin, saliva, and urine, the dander and saliva allergens are able to drift about the home, contaminating everything. All dog allergen is not the same, however, which is good news for allergy sufferers. Some pet allergens are breed-specific, so some breeds produce less than others such as poodles, airedales, and schnauzers. These breeds shed their skin about every 21 days. Compare this to cocker spaniels, Alsatians and Irish setters, which shed their skin every three to four days.
So logically, the hairless dog should be the one to get for all sufferers. But that is not the case because it is the dander (skin scales) that causes the most significant allergic reactions and not the length or amount of hair on the pet.
Words like “hypoallergenic dogs, non-allergic breeds, reduced allergic reaction” are highly searched terms on the internet but let’s face it if you are allergic, it is much wiser not to acquire a pet which will make you suffer and which eventually will have to be put up for adoption.

Friday 14 November 2008

First dog

Among the offices Barack Obama has yet to fill, one has a special importance to his family: first dog. At his first post-election news conference, the president-elect said that the issue of a "first dog" for daughters Malia and Sasha had generated more interest on his website than any other topic. "We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic," he said. "On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me."
I ask myself the following two questions?
1. Can someone explains to me what a “hypoallergenic” dog is?
2. Are Afghan Hounds still banned from the White House?

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Remember - N'oublions jamais

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae (1872-1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Goddess of the hunt

At the age of ten, Marie-Adelaïde de Savoie (born 1685), daughter of Anne-Marie d’Orléans and Victor Amedée de Savoie, was betrothed to Louis XIV’s grandson, Louis, Duke of Burgundy. She was sent to Versailles so as to learn her proper role as the future Dauphine and Queen. Louis XIV declared that she was to be the First Lady of Versailles, and he loved his granddaughter-in- law dearly. She reinvigorated the life of the aging king and enchanted the court. She was doll-like; some courtiers referred to her as a "walking doll". It was said that Louis XIV has not loved anyone as much as he loved Marie-Adelaide. Other members of the court called her a plaything. Adélaïde was taught well on how to please the King and did her best to amuse him at all times. In her letters to her family, she frequently wrote of her love for the King and his kindness to her. Her marriage to the Duc de Bourgogne, took place on 7 th December 1697. She was twelve ( legal age of marriage ) and he fifteen. The two were very much in love, a rarity at the court of Versailles. On 14th April 1711, her father-in-law died. Her husband became the Dauphin and she his Dauphine. Both she and her husband fell ill in early 1712 and died within six days of each other from an illness, thought to be smallpox. Her second son died the same year from the same disease. Her son, Louis, became King Louis V. The marble sculpture in the picture shows her as a light hearted goddess of the hunt. Note the just as light hearted little dog! The sculptor, Antoine Coysevox, enjoyed the patronage of Louis XIV and produced a great many the sculptures, fountains and garden statues for the vast gardens at the Chateau of Versailles. His Winged Horses, at the entrance to the Tuileries Gardens, as well as his portraits and memorial sculptures are all part of his extensive work.

Monday 3 November 2008

This dog does not bark

The basenji is a hunting dog that originated in central Africa. Basenjis are generally quiet dogs and their pecularity is that they do not bark. However, they produce a wide variety of sounds including yodels, crows, chortles, howls, growls, and some which are simply beyond description. Each dog has it's own repertoire and it is rare to find two that sound alike. Hence the nickname “voiceless or barkless dog”.
The basenji is one of the most ancient dog breeds and has been venerated by humans for thousands of years. Basenjis can be seen on steles in the tombs of pharaohs, sitting at the feet of their masters, looking just as they do today, with pricked ears and tightly curled tails. Anubis, often seen sitting atop of a tomb to protect it, is the Egyptian God associated with the burial of kings, the dead and mummification, definitely bears the basenji’s features.
The breed had almost totally disappeared from the West when Europeans came across it in the Congo in 1895. However, attempts to breed basenjis failed due to litters being wiped out by distemper. In the 1940’s, a succesful litter in Boston ensured the survival of the breed.