Saturday, December 31, 2011

Then on the other paw . . .

The last post spelled out the new year's resolutions our two cats, Harry and Billy, might make. Now it's every pet's turn to specify the resolutions their people could make.

The list that follows is adapted from one that appeared yesterday at

If they could just talk to us, our pets themselves would be the best indicators of how we could make life better for them. If pets could dictate new year's resolutions for their people to follow, what might they be?

Here's a collection of possible resolutions. We can all resolve to . . .

* protect your pet – from unfriendly animals, over-enthusiastic little kids, harmful plants, other dangers of all kinds. Consider microchipping in addition to a collar and ID tag. Keep accurate medical records and "vet your pet" as needed.

* train her/him. A puppy who jumps on people can be cute; a full grown dog who does that can be a menace. Housetraining isn't an option, it's a necessity. Barking whenever and wherever isn't acceptable. Begging is never so. Start training early and be consistent.

* respect your pet's individuality. With more than one pet, don't announce or play favorites. Cultivate (safe) idiosyncrasies and enjoy differing personalities. Don't expect or build robo-dogs or cats.

* assure daily quality time for each pet. This means your undivided attention to them, not idly petting while doing something else, not giving treats in lieu of caring, not using your cell phone while walking your dog. Give them time and attention, your two most precious gifts.

* feed pets well, on pet food only, on time. Exceptions should be rare and still be safe – so, never chocolate, never raisins. This is harder for you to do than it is for your pets. If they don't learn to know "people food," they won't miss it.

* groom your pet. You like to look your best; let your pet(s) enjoy that feeling too. Bathe, brush, comb and clip nails and claws – are we forgetting anything else?

* remember that friends don't exploit friends. So hold yourself back from dressing your cat or dog in costume, or making them pose in unnatural positions -- or teacups or purses.

* reinforce pets' sense of trust. Don't play tricks or scare or spring new rules on your dog or cat. At all times, you are your pets' protector – never the person they need to watch out for or guard against.

Want to add a resolve or two to this list for a nice round total of 10? Please comment here. Meanwhile, wishes for a healthy and happy new year to all!


Friday, December 30, 2011

Cats' resolutions -- in my dreams

The next post will deal with new year's resolutions our pets might want us to make -- pertaining to them. Today, let's deal with resolutions we wish our pets would make -- pertaining to us.

For me, it's easy. I know exactly what Harry and Billy would resolve . . . if I had my way.

* Each boy would be more demonstrative. Yes, yes, I know they're cats. But. It would be great to have two cats on the bed with us, all night, instead of only one who visits late and leaves early. That would be warm and cozy and dreamy.

* Each boy would meet me, Joe or us at the door when we come home, make welcoming sounds and act glad to see us. (Or am I trying to turn them into dogs? Well, being greeted would be nice.)

* Brushing and combing would become fun activities. They would come running at my approach with tools in hand. And of course, they'd also love to have their claws cut. Uh-huh.

* Next spring, they'd give the halter and leash a good try so we could start taking walks outside. Gradually, they'd come to like actually being in the environment they see so much of through windows.

* They would climb right into their carriers when it's time to go to the vet's. If they were boarding, they would fit right in, never hiding under their bedding or showing any stress. They would work hard to avoid our feeling such guilt at leaving them there.

* They would play more. They'd forget that old saw about cats sleeping much of the day away. They'd get into all kinds of games and toys.

But, in case the Summers boys vote against all this, they're safe. We'll love them no matter . . . while still hoping for occasional tiny moves in some of these directions.

Monday, December 26, 2011

‘Spectacular migrations’ must go on

Try to imagine yourself as a tiny bird, weighing only about as much as a penny. Then think about flying from Canada to Mexico for the winter, and flying back in the spring – a total of 4,000-5,000 miles.

This “spectacular migration” by the calliope hummingbird actually happens, all weather conditions and other hazards to the contrary.

Detailed in a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society, many such long-distance trips are in peril. The report includes 24 terrestrial and 17 aerial migrations, with most of the large-scale migrations taking place in the Western US.

Hoping to marshal public support and preservation of the corridors wildlife use for their trips, the Society decided to publicize these crucial – and fascinating – migrations, instead of merely declaring, “We need to protect ecological connectivity.”

Keep hummingbirds and Alaskan caribou and arctic terns and bats going. People can understand that.

Take the bats for instance. For their trip to Mexico each year, three species of bats depend on “nectar corridors” to sustain them en route. But land development could rob them of the nectar, pollen and fruit they need.

According to the NYTimes story on this, “Wildlife migrate to seek water or food at different times of the year, or to breed. The ability to freely move across the landscape could become even more important as the climate changes and wildlife need to adapt . . .

“The problem is that corridors are often very long, and many obstacles crop up because migrations have not been recognized or protected.” Natural obstacles, such as river flooding, can also occur.

There are ripple effects when migration corridors aren’t protected. Other animals, including humans, are affected. For instance, because songbird migration is down, so is their consumption of insects, which can then do more damage to crops and forests.



Saturday, December 24, 2011

‘Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. . .’

Yes, it’s definitely a bird. Question is, is it a turkey vulture? It soared around in big circles when I walked today, though happily, not right over me – but what was it?

It’s much bigger than a crow, with different, hulking configuration. It's larger than a raven, which we’ve rarely seen. So, maybe a turkey vulture?

The Birds of New Jersey Field Guide* says they’re here. A conclave of . . . whatever they are seemed to be in session in a tree near the park a week ago. Whatever those large, dark forms were, they were menacing. Not at all like commuter-birds flying over.

With distinctive red heads and legs, these birds can have six-foot wingspans, says the guide. Smaller than the bald eagle, they have two-toned wings (black leading edge; gray trailing edge and tip). Their naked heads are an adaptation to “reduce the risk of feather fouling (picking up diseases) from carcasses.”

Though it may go without saying since they live on carrion, turkey vultures have a “developed sense of smell.”

And oh yes, about migration, the guide says, “Complete, to southern states, Central and South Americas.”

So when are these guys leaving?

* by Stan Tekiela, Adventure Publications, Inc. Cambridge, MN , 2nd printing 2000

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fresh air and rosy cheeks

Taxi! Taxi! It was a blustery day in NYC and near time for the taxi shift. All the yellow cabs streaming by ignored our raised arms . . . so we took a pedicab, powered by a large man on a solid-looking bicycle. He pedaled us (sitting in an open air carriage) to our destination in less time than a taxi might have taken.

His fare was much higher, though.

The whole time we sat behind him, I thought about horse-drawn carriages, and its wrongness. How did that compare with hiring a man to pull us through town?

The man would inhale the same traffic fumes the horses do. Though he wasn’t traveling the city streets in his bare feet – especially undesirable in rain or snow – like the horses, he’d be more vulnerable if an accident occurred. True, he wasn’t bridled and hooked to the bike, and he didn’t have to eat raw carrots.

And, the man did it of his own volition; he chose to pedal a cab instead of working in some other field. He was also handsomely paid.

After our ride, he told us he’s done this for a couple years, with much lighter business in January and February. He’s a university student, so he may make his pedicab hours convenient for his academics.

He was very pleasant and flashed a great smile – especially when I asked if he’s thought about wearing a mask to ward off the toxic fumes. Guess that wouldn’t exactly attract riders.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

in our own backyard

Numbers of posts here have railed against horse-drawn carriages in New York and Philadelphia. Then, just as a dent seems to be made in the mentality permitting this archaic, cruel, involuntary and unnecessary practice (see post for Dec. 12), a local venue offers . . . horse-drawn carriage rides.

Something about winter holidays, with thoughts of snow and sleighs, must suggest: Hey! let’s do horse-drawn carriages. That should attract more (paying) visitors!

Last month, Hamilton Township’s Grounds for Sculpture began radio commercials for its holiday events. (Sculpture used to be enough there, but over the years, the place has become a playground.) The ads included horse drawn carriages -- prompting me to email a couple staffers to express my disappointment.

Bonnie R. Brown, the park’s director of operations, replied, sounding pretty much like all the carriage drivers who write indignant blog reactions. Check out the factual value and logic here: ”The operators are from area farms – they have the highest regard for their animals’ health and safety,” she began.

She went on to say these “operators” have vetted GFS pathways for safety and they won’t provide rides if pathways or weather are not appropriate. And, “We have every faith and assurance from the owners that their animals are healthy and treated with respect and care.” (Would any other assurance be likely?)

Her response to my 2nd note dealt with Clydesdales’ “need to use those muscles or risk health issues from lack of challenge to their physique.” She sees “much danger in not providing proper muscular activity to a breed” and “a Clydesdale should never be expected to run, but they still need to work their muscular frames or risk severe health issues from inactivity.”

Naturally, the best way to work those frames is pulling carriages full of people who could probably use the exercise much more than the horses!

(; 609-586-0616)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fur-bearing animals need YOU!

(The following message comes from Julie O'Connor, who leads Caring Activists Against Fur. It speaks for itself.)

Dear Caring Activists Against Fur,

This weekend - the weekend before Christmas - is the LARGEST shopping weekend of the year. Fur Free Friday is super-important, but research shows that people wait for deals just before Christmas. So, this weekend is IT! We will be at TWO major shopping locations in the city. We need reinforcements. Remember our electrifying Fur Free Friday? Well, let's keep it going - get motivated to speak up for fur bearing animals this weekend & SAVE LIVES. Very few people can watch the videos or see our posters and find that buying fur is an acceptable choice.

Help change people's minds during this critical time!

Sat.,12-17--Bergdorf Goodman 754 Fifth Avenue (57th and 58th Streets) NYC 1 - 3 Note: We'll reach shoppers from Bergdorf, FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store at this major location. We're bringing out the HUGE video screen and we'll have a sound permit. All we need is YOU! Can't make it to NY? No problem - there is also a fur demo in Red Bank, NJ:

Sun., 12-18-- Macys 151 W. 34th St. NYC 1-3 --The LARGEST department store in the world, need I say more? (At the end of this demo, some activists will be attending the horse carriage protest.) Details below.

I know that life is busy, but please come to at least one event this weekend because you are the last line of defense these animals have. In a world filled with greed and insensitivity, ruled by those who stack the deck against these innocent creatures, you are literally the animals' only voice. Your presence breaks through the haze of indifference and selfishness and MAKES CHANGE. You can give that gift for animals - don't let them down.

Additional Event Sunday (Horse Carriage Protest):

For the animals,
Julie (Caring Activists Against Fur)

P.S. Change is happening - animal rights activists are launching an anti-fur campaign in China this year (ActAsia - No Fur China Campaign)! It's wonderful news! We will prevail!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Beginning of the end?

Horse-drawn carriages. No, we’re not talking 18th century, but 21st. Despite all that’s known about treatment of the horses and dangers to the horses (as well as their cabs and passengers), some people – with more money than brains – still find it charming to ride around cities and towns drawn by horses.

But the times may be a changin’ – at least in Manhattan. A NYTimes story on Dec.7 indicated this “tranquil New York pleasure” is now facing a “growing storm of opposition.” It’s about time.

“Animal rights advocates are gaining support for legislation that would ban the hansom cabs.” That’s the news in brief. It’s not yet a done deal, and no doubt more hurdles will be thrown up along the way, but there’s serious talk about it.

Of course that serious talk springs as much from greed as from altruism. The Times reports that real estate values are rising and “developers covet the stables on the Far West Side where the horses have long been kept.”

Well, we’re not fussy about why horse-drawn carriages may end in NYC – just so it ends.

According to the Times story, “The city’s licensed carriage horse industry – 68 carriages, 216 horses and 182 drivers – brings in roughly $15 million annually. Drivers charge $50 for a 20-minute ride through Central Park, and $20 for each additional 10 minutes. On a good day, they can make 15 trips.”

It’s worth pulling up the print story* to see the photo of the horse pulling a carriage, squeezed in among cars and other vehicles, having to inhale noxious fumes and endure traffic noise all around, while walking on uneven and/or wet and/or frozen road surfaces.

May this “storm of opposition” become a perfect storm – for horse welfare.

*“Push to ban New York carriage horses gains steam,” by Emily B. Hager, Dec.7, 2011


(note: the photo shows a horse and driver in Philadelphia -- also a problem scene -- in February, 2010)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Creatures small and great

Lucky little coquis. These tiny tree frogs, recently encountered (only by ear) again in Puerto Rico, are small enough to avoid the attention of humans – or mostly so, anyway.

Animals who can live on unnoticed by people are the lucky ones. They’re not hunted, eaten, used in laboratories. They can live life as they should – free and doing what comes naturally.

For coquis, the natural inclination for males is to sing from dusk to dawn, reportedly making “ko-kee” sounds. (I’ve never heard that in their sharp chirpy sounds, but nevertheless love hearing them, especially in coqui choruses.)

One of many internet sites for info on coquis,, indicates that their genera, “Eleutherodactylus,” is Greek for “free toes.” In other words, they don’t have the membrane between digits/toes common in some other amphibians.

However, the disks or pads on the tips of their toes help them adhere to such surfaces as moistened leaves. For more on coqui reproduction – for instance, how a tiny fully functional froglet emerges from a terrestrial egg – visit the site above.

Vieques, or “little girl island,” is off Puerto Rico, but, happily, it has its fair share of coquis too. That’s where I heard them last week.

While appreciating the coqui sounds after sunset, I found a wonderful distraction during the day: wild horses. The island is known for them, I don’t know since when or for how long. But it was thrilling one morning to find nine of them in front of the villa where we stayed, peacefully grazing and ignoring the two gringos exclaiming over them.

Friday, December 2, 2011

NJ's black bear hunt starts Monday

Earlier this week, the court ruled against the lawsuit to stop the NJ bear hunt and in favor of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. The bear hunt, scheduled to run next Monday, Dec. 5 through Saturday, Dec. 10, will go on.

Last year's hunt resulted in the deaths of nearly 600 black bears of all ages, including cubs, yearlings and nursing mothers. (That doesn't sound like Category 1 bears, does it?)

Last year's hunt was marked by horror stories and heinous quotable quotes from hunters about their rugs-to-be and their right to murder innocent animals. DFW fostered it all.

What can we do now? Animal Protection League of NJ plans demonstrations next week and vows not to give up on this issue. The organization will appeal the court's decision; however, that could take much of the next year.

Those who want to continue the fight for the bears can write letters to the editor, phone the governor and take part in APLNJ's activities planned for next week.

Check the websites where specifics will be available as they become final: and/or

(Sorry, still can't convert to active links here, but they appear to the right of this post. Please click there.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Doomed dogs flown to new lives

From North Carolina to Philadelphia: that's just one life-saving route for dogs who were scheduled to die – but were saved. They flew to life and freedom because a Virginia college prof and his network of helpers in the air and on the ground all pitched in.

“Pilots N Paws” is the name of Michael Young’s avocation – plucking adoptable dogs from high-kill shelters and flying them to pet-rescue agencies. In the last year, he has completed more than 20 rescue flights, according to a December issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The dogs fly away from the death chamber in a four-seat Columbia 400 plane owned by Young and a few friends. He can remove seats if he’s transporting a number of dogs, and he counts on help of student volunteers from his aviation club at George Mason University, in Virginia, where he teaches engineering.

Young made his first flight in 2010, after his family dog, suffering from cancer, had to be put to sleep. A friend asked him to help with a mass airlift of dogs abandoned during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and that was the beginning.

Volunteers on the ground start the process by visiting high-kill shelters to line up canine candidates for rescue flights. The receiving groups get photos and information on the dogs coming to them, and can make plans for their future.

Young has diverted two dogs bound for rescue to his own home. “Molly” and “Biff” missed their flights but gained new lives.


(Alert to readers: For more information and opinions about pets, try