Monday 28 December 2009

What's in a word?

Ariel Leve, journalist and columnist with The Sunday Times Magazine in a recent article wrote about hybrid words or made up words such as: unfriend, sexting, tramp stamp, frenemy and more. Leve thinks: “Maybe it all started with the labradoodle. A crossbreed of a Labrador retriever and a poodle, these adorable (and hypoallergenic) dogs introduced a whole new area of possibilities for cute word combinations. In my building in New York, there’s a cockerpoo, a shnoodle, a spoodle, a doodle and an eskimoodle. Those are fine but then there’s also a bug. This is a boston terrier and a pug.
And therein lies the problem. No one will ever know what a bug is. It’s far too obtuse. As soon as you start saying you’re dog is a bug, you’re asking for trouble.”

Labradoodles do exist as the picture shows. Hence the word has its meaning even though the computer’s spell-check does not like it. Also you will not find it on the Kennel Club’s list of breeds or in the FCI’s (Fédération Cynologique Internationale ) breed standards.

If you want to read Ariel Leve’s article follow this link:

Friday 25 December 2009


Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.
Mes meilleurs voeux pour un Joyeux Noël à tous.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

NY bikers

I read about the New York bikers in The New York Times.
They met on the local hot rod scene. They saw one another at tattoo conventions around the area, comparing bikes. They looked like heavies, a band of Hells Angels, with nicknames equally tough: Mike Tattoo, Big Ant, Johnny O, Batso, Sal, Angel, Des.
They meant no harm. Clad in leather, inked to the hilt in skulls and dragons, with images of bloodied barbed wire looped about their necks, they shared something else — a peculiar tenderness for animals, and the intensity needed to act on the animals’ behalf when people abuse them.
“I’m a vegetarian,” said Mike Tattoo, a former bodybuilding champion with a shaved head, great arms covered in art and a probing clarity in his blue eyes.
The group became a little larger over the course of about 15 years, with various animal-loving, tattooed bikers in the New York area joining the conversation. One member, Angel Nieves, a 47-year-old retired city police detective, grew up in the projects on West 125th Street and remembered taking in strays from the streets as a boy, as did many of his cohorts. He owns a tiny, white bichon frisé named Cris.
Having run in crowds where animal abuse was rampant, often involving pit bull fights, the men volunteered at shelters and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and they tried to solve cases of missing or abused animals that other organizations had neither the time nor the resources to address.
A man named Robert Missari pulled everything together. Mike Tattoo met Mr. Missari about 18 months ago at a hot rod convention called the Rumbler. Though Mr. Missari is not inked — he works in catering — he loves animals and broached the idea that the bikers should become more than just friends bound by a commitment to a common cause; he wanted them to become an organization. About a year ago, they took up the name Rescue Ink, and now work full time investigating cases of animal abuse.
Mr. Missari is the executive director and the dispatcher for this biker brotherhood, working from his office in Manhattan, where he spends some of his time phoning in leads to the men on the road (“Yo, we got a report of five pit bulls living in 55-gallon drums”). He gets up to 250 calls a day.
The men rescue pedigreed animals sold for a pittance to buy drugs, animals used for fighting and bait, and colonies of feral cats that angry neighbours have tried to shoot or poison. They have received calls from Australia (“Dingoes, I guess,” Angel said) and reports of a serial cat killer in Pennsylvania.
A large man with dark hair and a tidy goatee, Angel is built like a bouncer who might ruin someone’s night. A retired police detective with 20 years on the force, he investigated killings, narcotics and larceny, and speaks with the clipped cadence of a good film noir.
On his way to work, Nick Maccharoli, who goes by the name Batso, chats with Desi Calderon, known as Des, the Cat Man. Batso, 74, who holds a record for power lifting in Connecticut, wore a Fu Manchu moustache and a pointed beard. His head is shaved as bald as a snow globe, except for a skinny black ponytail. Tattooed spider webs creep about the back of his neck, a snake coils over an ear, and where the ponytail begins, the two wings of a huge bat conjoin. On his left calf, Jesus hoists a barbell.
There is, Big Ant, also known as Anthony Missano, waiting, reclining on his Harley, along with Mike Tattoo on a 1959 Honda.
Big Ant, “a little guy,” as the others describe him, is a little more than 6 feet tall and around 320 pounds. He was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and sunglasses with small orange lenses. The tattoo of a red lightning bolt sliced down his enormous arm.
Other members of the squad arrive, among them Johnny O, a former bodyguard who once waded waist deep into a pond near a sewage pipe to rescue a duck; and Biagi, who is to dogs what Des is to cats: a psychic force.
Then there is Biagi, who uses only his last name for security reasons. Batso mentioned that he often took his dog with him to church.
“A lot of people think a pit bull fighting is millions of people sitting in a ring cheering,” Big Ant said. “It’s not. It goes on in an abandoned box truck. A van is perfect. Just two guys. They throw the dog in the back; then one guy goes in there and says which dog is dead. Two teenagers that think they’re tough.”
The men see a lot of pit bull fights in the city, most of it unreported. Mainly, they say, the fighting is organized by teenagers or young men, often in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Sometimes gentler breeds are used as training bait, their mouths duct-taped shut so they cannot fight back.
Rescue Ink works closely with law enforcement agencies, as members are quick to point out when they are accused of vigilantism. While they may get rough, they never break the law. “If Option A doesn’t work, we go to Option B,” Mike Tattoo said. “If that fails, there’s always Option C.”
Since they started doing this work, which takes up more time than most full-time employment, two of the men have lost their construction jobs. They spend their nights researching and making phone calls, and spend fair amounts of money on pet food and vet bills.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Thursday 17 December 2009

Celeb's dog

There are so many Chihuahuas at shelters in California that they have started shipping the dogs to other states.
Chihuahuas make up 30 per cent or more of the dog populations at many California shelters. And experts say pop culture is to blame, with fans imitating Chihuahua-toting celebrities like Paris Hilton, then abandoning the dogs.
Among the reasons for the glut is the breed's popularity in movies like "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and as celebrity pets and over breeding by backyard breeders and puppy mills.
Chihuahuas are the most popular breed of dog in Los Angeles, so it is understandably the most abandoned breed. The problem is so bad that shelters all over California that were built for big dogs had to remodel to accommodate the little dogs.

Monday 14 December 2009

Swiss rules

I found this on a Swiss website specifically intended for foreign nationals wanting to bring dogs into Switzerland. I have reproduced the text verbatim and have added the specifications for the canton of Geneva because I found some additional sensible requirements. I was very interested to read that every dog owner has to complete a training program with his dog. Here goes:

“A recently passed Swiss Federal Ordinance advises of regulations for the humane treatment and care required for all dogs contained within Swiss borders in order to lessen incidences of animal neglect. Articles 22 and 68 of the Ordinance state that:
• Dogs must have access to human interaction (and interaction with other dogs, if possible) daily.
• Dogs kept in an enclosed space with limited play area must be released and permitted to expel energy daily, in accordance with their unique activity requirements.
• Choker chains are prohibited when tying dogs.
• When tying dogs, enough lead and accessible area must be supplied so that the dog can access a minimum of 20 square meters (24 square yards).
• Outdoor dogs must have access to adequate shelter and a constant water supply.
• The dog must be contained in a way that prevents injury to, or endangerment of, humans and other animals.
• The use of spike collars is forbidden.
• Harsh physical punishment and warning gunshots for the purpose of disciplining dogs are prohibited.

However each Swiss canton (region) has its own specific dog ownership requirements. And for the canton of Geneva:
• All dog owners in Geneva must complete a dog instructional program, designed to ensure that dog owners are aware of the unique needs and behavior of dogs, along with the legislation that they are subjected to. This training is made available by a certified instructor or Geneva veterinarian.
• A policy must be purchased from a private insurance provider to cover the dog under civil-liability insurance.
• Pets’ rabies vaccinations must be updated every 3 years.
• Attention should be paid to signs at park entrances. Some public Geneva parks require that dogs be leashed, and others disallow all dogs.
• Geneva’s veterinary office considers 15 different dog breeds to have the potential to pose threats to humans or other animals. The veterinary office can list these breeds for you and supply you with information needed to request official permission to own one of these marked breeds, along with special training obligations.
• Any of the 15 potentially dangerous dog breeds need to be muzzled when in the public’s access. “

Without wishing to enter into a political discussion, perhaps we should hope for a European directive on this.

Monday 7 December 2009

Deaf dog

For anyone who thought sign language was just for humans, this dog has proved otherwise.
Deaf canine Spot will sit, stay and come at the command of his carers after learning to understand their signs. He even knows when he has been naughty or good.
The Jack Russell cross was handed to the Blue Cross Southampton adoption centre six months ago when his owner discovered he was deaf.
Animal behaviour assistant Tasha Cole said: “Spot had never lived in a home. He came from a man who had bought him and his two litter mates as working dogs and they lived in a stable. But the man discovered he was deaf and didn’t want him.
“When he arrived he didn’t know anything. He was very sociable with dogs and people but in the home he had no concept of how to behave.
“I started taking him with me at the end of the day so he could get used to a home environment and when he first saw the television he nearly fell off the sofa he was so shocked. He got stuck on the stairs too. It was like having a toddler in the house.
“The hardest thing was not being able to communicate with Spot so we worked with him to get him to understand sign language, using food to help his training. For example I would hold food in my hand and turn it into a gesture so he learned ‘come here’. “
Tasha said now that Spot can communicate, he is much happier.
She added: “He used to get really frustrated but we can converse now and he has an understanding of what we want from him.
“He’s a lot more settled now and he’s really quite responsive.”
Now Spot is looking for a loving home with owners who can carry on his training.
Tasha said: “We are really hoping he will find a home. He is one very special boy and it has been amazing to watch him progress. I am so proud of what he has achieved.”
Find out more about Spot.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

New album

Love the dog. Do not know Norah Jones but I think she is big! Click on the link if you want to have a sample of her music.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Eat your dog

The authors of a provocative new book have bad news for animal-lovers: pets are bad for the planet. They consume vast amounts of precious resources and produce mountains of noxious waste.
In their book “Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living”, New Zealand-based architects Robert and Brenda Vale say keeping a medium-sized dog has the same ecological impact as driving 10,000 km a year in a 4.6 litre Land Cruiser. They calculated that the modern dog chows through about 164 kg of meat and 95 kg of cereals a year.
Here are the eco-footprints of the family pet each year as calculated by the Vales: German shepherds: 1.1 hectares, compared with 0.41ha for a large SUV. Cats: 0.15ha (slightly less than a Volkswagen Golf). Hamsters: 0.014ha (two of them equate to a medium-sized plasma TV). Goldfish: 0.00034ha (an eco-finprint equal to two cellphones).
If dogs are irresponsible energy users, I agree with a journalist from The Sunday Times who a few weeks ago wrote: “Then there is the old English sheepdog, perhaps the most environmentally friendly breed of all. If you can get hold of half a dozen or so and train them to lie down for long periods, they make very effective loft insulation.”

Wednesday 25 November 2009

All in a day's work

Glenn Close on taking her dogs to work:

"When I'm shooting DAMAGES, I always take my dogs, Jake and Bill to work. One reason is because I don't want to spend money for a dog-walker, but the main reason is because I can. I have always taken my dogs to whatever set I'm working on, be it a feature film, a TV set or a theater. (When I was in the musical, SUNSET BOULEVARD, my two dogs actually had their own name plaques on my dressing room door---on their eye-level.) Another reason why I take my dogs to work is that they are incredibly well behaved so I know they will not disrupt or distract the cast and crew.

Actually, in the beginning, they did cause a bit of a disruption. We were shooting a scene in an area of Patty's office where there is no carpeting. I suddenly heard the clicking of what I knew were dog toenails! I realized that Bill and Jake, tied to my chair, were pacing back and forth in their attempt to watch the action, their toenails clicking on the linoleum. We had to stop shooting and re-locate them to a more quietly carpeted place--still within eyesight of the action. Another thing I do to prepare them for the set is to exchange their regular collars, loaded with all their noisy dog tags, with two tag-less collars, embroidered with "Bad To The Bone". They get all excited during the collar exchange--Bill must twirl around at least 10 times-- because they know they will be coming with me to the set.

I also allow both the dogs to come on the set during rehearsal. That's the time they go around greeting all the crew and being patted to their hearts' content. They really add to our quality of life, by putting a smile on everyone's faces, even on the hardest, longest days. They take their job as the DAMAGES mascots very seriously and do an incredible job.

So I salute my canine entourage and look forward to DAMAGES--Season III with them trotting behind me or lying just out of camera-range, always keeping a watchful, loving eye. "

Saturday 21 November 2009

Good old Fred

Frederick II of Prussia or Frederick the Great or nicknamed der alte Fritz ("Old Fritz") loved dogs. Although he was an accomplished rule, he had an artistic temperament. He modernized the Prussian bureaucracy and civil service and promoted religious tolerance throughout his realm. Interested primarily in the arts during his youth, Frederick unsuccessfully attempted to flee from his authoritarian father, Frederick William I, after which he was forced to watch the execution of a childhood friend.
Frederick the Great wrote endless letters to his sister, Wilhelmina, who had gone through those turbulent childhood years with him. He sought the companionship and love of his pet dogs. After the death of his beloved greyhound, Biche, he wrote in one of his letters to his sister:
“I have had a domestic loss which has completely upset my philosophy. I confide all my frailties in you: I have lost Biche, and her death has reawoken in me the loss of all my friends, particularly of him who gave her to me. I was ashamed that a dog could so deeply affect my soul; but the sedentary life I lead and the faithfulness of this poor creature had so strongly attached me to her, her suffering so moved me, that, I confess, I am sad and afflicted. Does one have to be hard? Must one be insensitive? I believe that anyone capable of indifference towards a faithful animal is unable to be grateful towards an equal, and that, if one must choose, it is best to be too sensitive than too hard”.
Frederick and his dogs are buried at Sanssouci, the summer residence he had built in Potsdam.

Friday 13 November 2009

Some good news

Special Forces units make a point of never leaving one of their own behind — and Australia’s Sabi is no exception. The bomb-sniffing black labrador has been found after being declared missing in action, presumed dead, following a gun battle in Afghanistan 14 months ago. Four-year-old Sabi was rescued by American soldiers in the remote mountains of Uruzgan province, deep inside Taleban territory in the south.
After more than a year of eluding the Taleban and living off her wits, Sabi received a celebrity welcome from General Stanley McChrystal, head of Nato troops, and Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister, who saw the dog during an overnight trip to visit his country’s servicemen.
Army vets are testing the dog for diseases, but Brigadier Brian Dawson from the Australian Defence Force, said she appeared in good health despite living wild — suggesting that someone may have been feeding her. Pedigree dogs are prized for fighting in some parts of Afghanistan and can fetch prices of more than $2,000 (£1,200), it is reported.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Self portrait with dog

My niece, LM, drew this picture of Belle and herself last Christmas. She was 6 at the time. Why did she draw herself with 4 eyes?

Monday 2 November 2009

Animal cruelty

Following on from my previous post, I felt some facts were in order. It's a long post but please read on.
We all know about whales being killed or seals being butchered. We know about greyhound racing. We know because we have read about it in the papers or seen something about it on television. But do we really know?

Let’s consider a few facts for the USA alone:
- 5 billion US dollars are poured into animal experiments each year
- Over 70 million animals are tortured and killed in US laboratories every year.
- Over 10 billion animals are slaughtered every year for human consumption
- Approximately 3.5 million fur bearing animals such as raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, lynxes, opossums, nutria, beavers, muskrats, otters and others are killed by trappers.
- 2.7 million animals are harvested on fur farms. Half the production of fur garments comes from trapped animals.
- 50.000 greyhounds are killed every year or sent to experimentation when they are no longer profitable for the racing industry.

Let’s further consider this:
- cows kept for milk on factory farms live in conditions that cause severe suffering to the animals. They live only about 5 years as opposed to 20 to 25 years in an earlier era. To keep cows at a high level of productivity, dairy farmers keep them pregnant through artificial insemination.
- Laying hens are kept 5 or 6 to a 14 inch square cage and as many as 20% die of stress and disease from those poor living conditions.
- Rabbits are routinely blinded by having products forced into their eyes. This does not guarantee human safety but protects companies from potential lawsuits.
- Every year thousands of animals like elephants, tigers, rhinos and many endangered and protected species are killed by poachers to sell on the black markets around the world.
- Overharvesting of the seas and the oceans has led to the fish and marine mammal populations being threatened.
- More than 40.000 bulls are killed yearly in bloody bullfight spectacles around the world.
- About 100 million animals per annum are used in animal experimentation.
- 55 minks are needed to make one mink coat.
- Animal cruelty has long been an issue in the world of entertainment. Often cruel training techniques are used which inflict serious suffering in the animals. Some Hollywood films receive criticism for allegedly harmful and sometimes lethal treatment of animals. Michael Cimino in his fiasco called Heaven’s Gate had a horse blown up with dynamite while shooting a battle scene in the film to make the blood look more authentic!
- Animal used in snuff films know as crush films which can be found on the internet depict instances of severe animal cruelty and/or severe pornographic acts with animals. The animal always gets killed. The US Government wanted to ban these films but the law was overturned because these films were protected as free speech.
- Animals in wartime as used as living bombs or for military testing such as in the Bikini atomic experiments.
- Killer whales ( orcas ) and dolphins suffer stress-induced diseases and ailments when kept in small pools and forced to perform tricks in amusement parks.
- Consumption of dogs in Korea is widespread. It is believed there that if a dog releases adrenalin into its blood before it dies, the meat tastes better. Especially the meat from Saint Bernards.

Individuals abuse pets through passive cruelty such as neglect, starvation, dehydration, parasite infections, allowing a collar to grow into the animal’s skin, inadequate shelter in extreme weather condition, failure to seek care where medical attention is required. Or through active cruelty which implies malicious intent. Acts of intentional cruelty are often some of the most disturbing and should be considered as signs of serious psychological problems. Studies and FBI reports have shown that cruelty to animals is often an indicator of violent and antisocial behaviour in children and adolescents who grow up to become serial killers.

In the UK, cruelty to animals is a criminal offence for which jail sentences and heavy fines are imposed. Do other civilised countries have such laws? I wonder.

Remember: animals feel pain like we do. They feel stress and anxiety like we do.
I shall leave it at that. The reader of this post can draw his/her own conclusions.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Food for thought

I shall give some thought to Gandhi's quote: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Monday 26 October 2009

Dogs of War

The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History here in Brussels is showing an exhibition on animals in WWI and particularly on their work in the trenches and on the battlefields. Dogs of course played a vital role and many exhibits through magazine and newspaper cuttings, propaganda posters, photographs, stuffed animals, writings and commemorative medals, films, endless stories and diaries, sound effects, … show their involvement. The exhibition is well worth a visit. The Museum is grandiose and I must spend some more time there. ( It’s free!! ).
I particularly liked the story of Bella and Bertha, two cows which had been abandoned on a Flemish battlefield. They became the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards mascot and marched with the regiment in the 1919 London Victory Parade.

Friday 23 October 2009

And so to bed

This Mahogany sleigh bed is for sale from Harrods on-line for a mere 399 pounds sterling. It is designed with curved sweeping arms, has a rich mahogany stain and a royal green pillow with hidden zip and a machine washable cover ( thank goodness for that! ). It looks like a miniature bed but it measures 70 cm x 75 cm ( yes, big! ).
The blurb goes on to say: “Exuding elegance, this mahogany sleigh bed lets your pet relax in complete comfort and style. Using the finest chenille fabrics and distinctive designs, the exquisite range from Beds for Dogs & Cats by Barba promises to complement your home décor”.
My first reaction on reading about this?
- what? 440€ to complement my home décor?
- what else does Barba design?
- would you add this to your shopping basket? If yes, would you click one or two or more in the quantity box?
- why does a Chihuahua need such a big bed?
Belle would not be seen dead in one of those. What about Will Smith’s dogs?

Saturday 17 October 2009

Diwali festival

Today India and Nepal celebrate Diwali or “festival of lights”. It is particularly sacred to Hindus, but followers of other Indian religions also celebrate Diwali. Jainist, Hindu, and Sikh communities all over the world commemorate Diwali with smaller festivals of their own. The timing of this holiday varies, since it is based on the Hindu lunar calendar, but it is generally celebrated in the autumn. Diwali festivities in India involve everyone, not just the religious faithful, and the holiday is a major event in the Indian year.
The festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil; in Hindi, Diwali means “festival of lights,” and people light rows of lights to commemorate heroic figures in Indian mythology who triumphed over the forces of evil. Diwali is also a time for new endeavours, and many people clean their houses and open all their windows and doors to welcome luck and good fortune. The exchange of gifts is also traditional during this holiday, and many people host dinners and Diwali parties.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Talking dog

My American friend, JVS, sent me this joke.
"A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: 'Talking Dog For Sale '. He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.
The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador Retriever sitting there.
'You talk?' he asks.
'Yep,' the Lab replies.
After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says: 'So, what's your story?' The Lab looks up and says,: 'Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired.'
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner how much he wants for the dog.
'Ten dollars,': the guy says.
'Ten dollars? But this dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?'
'Because he's a liar. He never did any of that shit.'"

Thursday 8 October 2009

Ceci n'est pas une pipe

My friend, FRM, is an art historian. I attended a lecture she gave on Magritte followed by a guided tour in the newly opened Magritte museum on the Place Royale here in Brussels. Magritte, it would appear, was not interested in art for the sake of it and was quite happy to see reproductions of paintings in books or magazines or newspapers or postcards and was not eager to travel the world over to see the originals. His wife, Georgette, dragged him to the Uffizi in Florence and Magritte after seeing one Botticelli after another, stormed out of the gallery saying: “J’en ai marre des Botticelli.” ( "I have had enough of Botticellis"). And went off to walk his dog.

Monday 5 October 2009

Paris pet cemetery

The Cimetière des Chiens is believed to be the first zoological necropolis and the world’s oldest public pet cemetery. It opened in 1899 in Asnières-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris. It owes its beginnings to a law passed in 1898, when the Paris city authorities declared that dead pets couldn't just be tossed out with the household rubbish or dumped in the Seine, but had to be buried in hygienic graves at least 100 meters from the nearest dwelling.
This elaborate pet cemetery is the burial site for many dogs but also for a wide variety of pets ranging from horses to monkeys to lions and even fish. Over the years 40 000 animals have been buried there.
The cemetery caters to a very elite clientele. Filled with grand and ornate sculptures, at the entry is the monument to Barry, a Saint Bernard mountain rescue dog who died in 1814. The plaque says that during his lifetime, "Barry" was responsible for saving the lives of 40 people lost or trapped in the mountain snow.
Some of the cemetery's residents are famous in their own right such as Rin Tin Tin, the star of a number of Hollywood films, while others are the beloved pets of the wealthy who could afford this elaborate burial place such as film director Sacha Guitry. Buried here too, is the pet lion of stage actress, feminist, and co-founder of the cemetery, Marguerite Durand and the pet of Camille Saint-Saëns, composer of Carnival of the Animals.
The cemetery today is operated by the city of Asnières and in 1987, the government of France classified the cemetery as a historical monument. However, the cemetery has fallen on hard times and no longer draws very many tourists. Its owners have stated that they may have to close it.
One of the Paris tourist guides I browsed through, advises visitors on the opening times in summer and in winter, on the entrance fee of 3€ for adults and 1€ for children over 6. It goes on to say that : “Unless they're dead and buried, dogs must be kept on a short leash.”

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Stuffed Great Dane

The Andy Warhol Museum, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist. It holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives from the Pittsburgh-born pop art icon Andy Warhol.
The museum, housed in a renovated seven-floor warehouse building, displays more than 500 works of art, drawn from its extensive collections of works by Andy Warhol. Access to the library is guarded by Cecil, the stuffed Great Dane.
Warhol was also a collector of taxidermies. He owned a lion, a peacock, a penguin and a moose head. The most famous animal in his collection, however, was the Great Dane, Cecil, who stood guard at the Factory’s door, Warhol’s original New York studio in the 1960’s before an adequate security system was installed. Many superstar visitors posed with Cecil during visits to the Factory. Cecil also appears in Warhol’s video Factory Diaries.
The dog, whose real name was "Ador Tipp Topp", was born in Germany in 1921. As a puppy, he was purchased by an American, who entered him in many competitions, including Westminster where he won a blue ribbon. After his death in 1929, Ador was sent to a taxidermist who was building a collection of champion dog breeds at Yale’s Peabody Museum. By the 1960s the collection had been relocated to storage and Ador’s remains were sold to a Yale drama student for ten dollars. The dog was eventually passed on to an antiques dealer, who claimed the dog had belonged to filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille. Warhol believed the story and purchased the dog in the late 1960s for 300 dollars. It is believed the antiques dealer made 290 dollars on the deal!.

Friday 25 September 2009

Mum of the year

Katjinga, an eight-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, took on motherly duties for a tiny pot-bellied pig after it was abandoned by its family very soon after it was born. The two animals live together on a 20-acre farm in Hoerstel, Germany, where Katjinga's owners Roland Adam, 54, and his wife Edit, 44, a bank worker, keep a pair of breeding Vietnamese pigs. They named the piglet Paulinchen. Roland Adam said: “ The pigs run wild on our land and the sow had given birth to a litter of five in our forest. I found Paulinchen all alone and when I lifted her up she was really cold. I felt sure some local foxes would have taken the little pig that very night so I took it into my house and gave her to Katjinga. She had just finished with a litter of her own, who are now 10 months, so I thought there was a chance she might take on the duties of looking after her. Katjinga is the best mother you can imagine. She immediately fell in love with the piggy. Straight away she started to clean it like it was one of her own puppies. Days later she started lactating again and giving milk for the piggy. She obviously regards it now as her own baby."

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Animal cruelty

A horribly burned and disfigured young dog, Mambo, will have a rare opportunity to face his alleged tormentors in open court in December. Set on fire and left for dead on August 10 in a small French Pyrenees village, the dog suffered third-degree burns to 50 percent of his body.
A local police spokesman said: “Mambo was clearly looking for help when he went missing. He approached the pair because he is extremely friendly, but they showed him nothing but cruelty. He was held down by the woman, and then the man poured petrol over him, and set him alight. He was left for dead, but animal aid workers were alerted and managed to save him. He has made an amazing recovery.”
The 17-year-old man and 22-year-old woman who burned the small chocolate brown mixed-breed dog are charged with extreme animal cruelty. They face a prison sentence of up to six months in jail; fines up to $3,300 USD and a lifetime ban from keeping any animal.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Dog figurines

These figurines from Royal Copenhagen are from their Dog range. Each dog figurine is modeled in clay from the artist’s own living model.
Royal Copenhagen was founded in 1775. The unique Royal Copenhagen brand is held in deep respect by customers, artists, designers and employees alike. It is known worldwide for being Danish, and it is famous for maintaining and renewing the traditions of classic, hand-made, hand-painted porcelain in blue and white.
Dog figurines cost between 50€ and 150€. They can be bought on-line and they are shipped world wide.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Royal Copenhagen

Evita, the 11-year-old dachshund of Prince Henrik of Denmark, has bitten a royal bodyguard, leaving the man in hospital needing stitches and a tetanus shot. The incident occurred when the guard was walking Evita around the gardens of the Danish royal summer residence, Fredensborg Palace. This latest occurrence has caused Danish opposition members to call for Evita to be put down claiming that: “There is no difference between a royal dog and any other”. They also want Evita to be examined by a dog psychologist.
A couple of years ago, a palace gardener was bitten by another of Prince Henrik’s dachshunds. Apparently he had to take three weeks off, on doctor’s orders, to recover from his injuries.
Either the Danish newspapers have no news to report or the palace staff does not know much about dogs.

Friday 11 September 2009


9/11 is a day which is forged in our memories. It is important to take a moment to remember those who lost their lives. But we should also pay tribute to the brave and heroic search and rescue dogs who risked their lives to help save the victims of the WTC attacks.
"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog." General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday 28 August 2009

Sunday 23 August 2009

Beware of the toad!

Toads are a common cause of poisoning in dogs.
Toads do not attack or bite or spit or squirt venom but exude a milky white toxin from poison glands behind their eyes. These glands are quite visible. They squeeze this liquid over their skin when they feel threatened. Dogs are poisoned when they try to catch a toad in their mouth. Due to its corrosive and irritant nature, the poison will cause profuse salivation, followed by vomiting. It can cause seizures or convulsions, possibly cardiac arrest.
If a dog shows signs of having eaten a toad or has been seen licking a toad, the immediate thing to do is prevent more toxins being absorbed by thoroughly wiping out the dog’s mouth with a wet cloth or thoroughly rinsing the dog’s mouth from the side with a water hose, making sure water does not go down the throat or nose. Then get the dog to a vet as quickly as possible so that the appropriate treatment can be administered. Untreated toad poisoning can be deadly.
Knowledge about the toxicity of toad venom comes from the past when the venom was used by different people for various purposes. Roman women used toad secretion to poison their husbands. South American Indians, especially from the Amazon region, used the venom on the tip of their arrows for hunting and fighting. In Japan and in China, dried toad venom was used as an expectorant, anti-hemorrhagic, diuretic, and cardiac stimulant.
While most European toads are relatively harmless, some species such as the cane toad in Australia and the US are very venomous and their venom can be deadly.
PS: this picture was taken by me on one of the rare occasions when we were having lunch in our Cornish garden. I have spotted more than one toad but I cannot make out if it is the same one in different disguises.

Monday 17 August 2009

Chien Blanc/White Dog

Chien Blanc, is an autobiographical novel written by Romain Gary. It is a fictionalised memoir set in both the United States and France during the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. Chien Blanc focuses on the events that occur after Gary and his then-wife Jean Seberg, an actress and an activist, find a seemingly lovable stray German Shepherd dog they name Batka. At first, the dog is an ideal new member of the family: intelligent, devoted, and quickly befriending the couple's assortment of other animals. To their dismay, they discover that the dog, a former Alabama police dog, was trained to attack African Americans on sight. Although they are told the dog is too old to be retrained, they take him to a black dog trainer in an attempt to retrain him. The man trains the dog to attack white people, including Gary himself. White Dog quickly became a bestseller in the United States after its release in English. The story was purchased for use by Paramount in 1975, with Curtis Hanson ( LA Confidential, entre autres ) selected to write the screenplay and Roman Polanski hired to direct. However, Polanski was charged with statutory rape and fled the country, leaving the production in limbo. White Dog became a 1982 American drama film directed by Samuel Fuller.
I have not read the book and have not seen the film. Hence I do not know how it ends. Somehow , I feel the dog does not fare well.
Does anybody know?

Thursday 13 August 2009

Did you know? Part 2.

Although basset hounds will jump up at people or steel food off the table or jump into the sofa, they cannot swim. Their crocked legs are too short to keep their long heavy bodies afloat.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Did you know?

Hush Puppies is a division of Wolverine World Wide, the world's leading maker of casual, work, and outdoor footwear. Hush Puppies is headquartered in Rockford, Michigan. The brand was founded in 1958. It’s name and mascot were coined by the brand's first sales manager, James Gaylord Muir. On a selling trip to the southeast, Mr. Muir dined with one of his regional salesmen and the meal included hush puppies, traditional fried southern cornballs. When Mr. Muir asked about the origin of the name, he was told that farmers threw hush puppies at the hounds to "quiet their barking dogs." Mr. Muir saw a connection to his new product. "Barking dogs" in the vernacular of the day was an idiom for sore feet. Mr. Muir reasoned that his new shoes were so comfortable that they could "quiet barking dogs."

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Dogs in Cornwall

We should not forget that Cornwall is a rural and agricultural county. Surfing comes second.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Cliff walk

I found this paw print on a most beautiful cliff walk on the North Cornish Coast. It does not belong to Belle. Sadly, she could not come with us as her arthritic hind legs could not have managed the steep climbs and descents.

Saturday 25 July 2009

Coco, the lost dog

Coco Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. The young Chanel worked as a seamstress during the day and at night she performed in a café singing “Qui qu’a vu Coco dans l’Trocadero”, a song about a lost dog. She adopted the name Coco and became Coco Chanel. Her cabaret career ended when, for a while, she became “une grande horizontale”, a wonderful French euphemism for high-class kept women. The rest is history.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

A little imagination

This picture was taken at Tintagel, Cornwall and I was told by one of my daughters that this formation of rocks looks like Belle's front paw.

Thursday 16 July 2009

What's in a name?

Every Sunday morning, I help JP with Koumis, his dog. We meet come rain or shine on a field surrounded by woodland. I was asked to meet Koumis because she pulled on the lead and she was too friendly with other dogs which did not please the other dogs’ owners and which made her pull even more. We do basic obedience exercises and Koumis is really responding fast. She is very receptive and keen to learn although it takes her 20 minutes or so before she starts concentrating. She is walking to heel on the lead without pulling even when there is another dog nearby. We have just started walking to heel off the lead and she is doing really well. We also let her run off the lead. She loves that because she feels free. She does not realise it’s an obedience exercise like any other. She’s off the lead so she has to come back when JP calls her. And she does. He just has to call her name twice and she comes back. She runs up to other dogs and comes back straightaway when called for. Mind you, we have not yet come across the cows which graze on the field! I am really pleased with her – she is 6 after all - and so is JP. Koumis was very suspicious of me at first and nervous around me. She would bite my ankles as sheepdogs do when rounding up sheep or cattle. But by projecting a calm energy, she accepted me. She is so pleased to see me every Sunday morning that she jumps up with her four paws off the ground. She has an unusual name and this is what JP’s wife has to say about it: “Notre chienne berger allemand de 6 ans s'appelle Koumis, nom d'une boisson très répandue et appréciée par les nomades d'Asie centrale et de Mongolie, soit du lait de jument fermenté faiblement alcoolisé. Nous lui avons donné ce nom en souvenir de nos voyages dans ces beaux pays ».
Koumis is pronounced ku-miss. JP and Koumis live in Brussels.

Saturday 11 July 2009

Swimming with dolphins

Researchers have found that swimming with dolphins appears to help alleviate mild to moderate depression. They say dolphins' friendly appearance and the emotions raised by the experience may have healing properties. Some have speculated that the ultrasound emitted by dolphins as part of their echolocation system may have a beneficial effect. Dolphins are highly intelligent animals who are capable of complex interactions, and regard humans positively. What about dogs?

Friday 3 July 2009

Dogs die in hot car

Two police dogs died in the heatwave after being left in a car by their handler.
The German Shepherds, which had been donated to Nottinghamshire Police, were found dead outside the force's headquarters.
It is believed their handler was not on duty and called into the offices leaving the dogs to over-heat. It is unclear how long the animals had been left in the car in Sherwood Lodge, Arnold, on Tuesday where temperatures reached 28C. The RSPCA said temperatures inside the car could have been 47C.
The dogs were donated to carry out police work, including tracking down criminals and providing security. The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it received a referral from the force and is deciding whether to launch an inquiry. The RSPCA is investigating.
The maximum sentence for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal is six months in jail and a £20,000 fine.
The handler has not been suspended.

I will not say what I really feel about this but I must admit it is just unbelievable. Police dog handlers are trained to work with dogs, to live with dogs and to look after them. These dogs are highly trained and do fantastic work. They love their work and only do it to please their handler. That’s how a dog works. When you teach a dog anything from a simple trick such as responding to the command “sit” to retrieving game or finding drugs in suitcases or tracking for missing people or finding avalanche victims or guiding the blind, the dog does it to please his handler, the person he is working with and the person he trusts with his life.
As a dog trainer, I do warn people about leaving dogs in cars. I find it unacceptable that a person who has had training and whose job it to work with dogs, is guilty of negligence and unprofessional behaviour.

PS: I find it strange that this incident is not widely reported in the British press.

Tuesday 30 June 2009

Medieval wall

All I know about this medieval wall is that it is located somewhere in Wales and that it looks like a dog.
Any suggestions anyone?

Thursday 25 June 2009

Brave dogs

The War Dog Memorial, " Always Faithful.", located on Guam, honours the Dobermans that served with the Marines in 1944 and played a crucial role in recapturing the island.
Less than twenty-four hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded Guam, a small Pacific island and an American possession. For two and a half years, the brave people of Guam endured a horrible occupation.
On 21st July 1944, the Americans struck back and secured the island. American Marine, Army, and Navy casualties exceeded 7,000. An estimated 18,500 Japanese were killed, and another 8,000 Japanese remained hidden in the jungle refusing to surrender.
Among the dead were 25 dogs, specially trained by the U.S. Marines to search out the enemy hiding in the bush, detect mines and booby traps, alert troops in foxholes at night to approaching Japanese, and to carry messages, ammunition and medical supplies. They were buried in a small section of the Marine Cemetery, in a rice paddy on the landing beach at Asan that became known as the War Dog Cemetery.

Interestingly enough, most of the young Marines were assigned to the war dog program only by a twist of fate. Some had never owned a dog in their lives, and some were even afraid of them. But trained as dog handlers, they were expected to scout far forward of US lines, in treacherous jungle terrain, searching for Japanese soldiers hidden in caves or impenetrable thickets. Under these circumstances, the rifles we carried were often useless; a handler's most reliable weapons were his dog's highly developed senses of smell and hearing, which could alert him far in advance of an enemy ambush or attack, or the presence of a deadly mine, so he could warn in turn the Marines who followed behind at a safer distance. It was one of the most dangerous jobs in World War II, and more dogs were employed by the 2nd and 3rd Platoons on Guam than in all of the other battles in the Pacific.

In these battles, as in their training, the men learned to depend on their dogs and to trust their dogs' instincts with their lives. William W. Putney says that when he returned home from overseas, he found that rather than spend the time and expense to detrain the dogs, the military had begun to destroy them. The dogs, primarily Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds, had been recruited from the civilian population with the promise that they be returned, intact, when the war ended. Army and political officials argued that these dogs suffered from the "junkyard dog" syndrome ie: they were killers. Putney thought they were wrong and lobbied for the right to detrain these dogs and won. The program of de-indoctrination was overwhelmingly successful: out of the 549 dogs that returned from the war, only 4 could not be detrained and returned to civilian life. Household pets once, the dogs became household pets again. In many cases, in fact, because the original civilian owners were unable or unwilling to take the dogs back, the dogs went home with the handlers that they had served so well during the war.

William Putney enlisted in the Marines in 1943 at the age of 23 in search of military glory. Instead, Putney, a licensed veterinarian, was relegated to the Dog Corps.
Putney became the Commanding Officer of the 3rd War Dog Platoon, and later the chief veterinarian and C.O. of the War Dog Training School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
His book, Always Faithful, is the story of the dogs that fought in Guam and across the islands of the Pacific, a celebration of the four-legged soldiers that Putney both commanded and followed. It is a tale of immense courage, but also of incredible sacrifice.

Sunday 21 June 2009


There is an exhibition of Serge van de Put’s work in Antwerp, the city were he was born. Actually so was I! He is a contemporary artist who is fascinated by the relics of our consumer society and uses trash and bits and pieces chosen for their colour and their shape. In his present work, he uses car tyres and uses them to produce figurative and explicit images of our society. He is fascinated by the human face and especially its expression of personality and temperament. He obviously likes animals. The exhibition features dogs, elephants, polar bears, monkeys, giraffes, tigers, all made out of the same grey and dull material. Rubber from tyres. Van de Put feels colour distracts and seduces the eye. The emphasis is on shape. His work was presented at the recent Venice Biennale where he exhibited an elephant.

Friday 19 June 2009

In my thoughts

Aung San Sun Kyi is in my thoughts today on her 64th Birthday which, sadly, she will not be celebrating with friends and family.

"The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government". FD Roosevelt

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Belgian braces!

I was happily (sic) driving along a major road the other day and saw the above message on the back of a bus the other day: "Le chien s'échappa, Lucas voulut le rattra...". The word "chien" caught my eye so I tried to get closer to the bus to see what it was all about. This was during rush hour so some risk-taking was involved. Straining my eyes to focus on the text, wondering what was being advertised or what the message meant, if anything. I should have been focusing on the road and the other road users which is advisable in Belgium more so than anywhere else. I never caught up with the bus and had to wait for another occasion. I saw the same text for a second time a couple of days later in equally difficult driving conditions. I still could not make out what it meant and asked myself a series of questions. What has the dog got to do with it? Who is Lucas? Why is the word "rattraper" shortened to "rattra...". I decided to check it out on the internet. Well, it seems the message is supposed to encourage drivers not to exceed the speedlimit of 50km/h. Is this new? Any Belgians out there who know more about this? Your comments are most welcome.
The IBSR, the Belgian Road Safety Institute, is behind the advertising campaign. Their aim is to improve road safety and this is how they want to get their message across: I quote: "through a clear message which should be specific and one-dimensional, short, convincing, credible, clear, catchy, concrete, realistic". Talk of missing the point! And yet, the IBSR is quite capable of getting the message across. See picture of motorway billboard on the right. The caption says: " What about your belt?". How dangerous is that?