Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Have a Doggone Good Time!

The Dog Days of Summer might be behind us, but here in the mountains of Virginia, it's been unseasonably warm. As the pet sitter extraordinaire, I've enjoyed these last few weeks immensely. The only complaint I might voice is the annual practice by so many of burning leaves. I'm terribly allergic to oak.

But instead of complaining, I'd like to introduce you to Xena and Daisy (aka Xena and Gabrielle, because, really, why would you have a Xena without a Gabrielle?) These warrior princess beagles would like to remind everyone how much fun can be had in a good pile of leaves. Just rake them all into one place, and voila, you've got yourself a doggone good time!

Plus, for all you adult types who feel you need a rational reason for doing this, you can pile them up at the bases of trees and bushes and in your flower beds to serve as a winter mulch. You'll probably find fewer weeds to pull in the spring if you do. Or, if you're like me, you can rake them into the surrounding woods and let the local wildlife bed down in them, too.

Burning leaves really is quite toxic for everyone, not just those of us with allergies. Did you know that leaf burning will actually eat the paint off your house. Here's more information from those who know far more about it than me. So, consider letting nature take it's course. Leaf litter will break down naturally and return all kinds of good nutrients to the soil.

Best of all, you get the added bonus of hours of fun for everyone! Xena and "Gabrielle" sure have been entertaining me daily.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Who is Protected by Protect IP?

Today's spotlight video on Youtube was the fantastic Disney classic animated short Steamboat Willie.

I hope you will enjoy watching it. But, before you do, please realize that the time for watching many of the things you enjoy online may be coming to a rapid, and if your not paying attention, unexpected close. And, if you want to keep your internet freedom so you can enjoy music, television, movies, and art online, not to mention freedom of speech, you will need to read on and consider helping in the fight to keep internet censorship from happening.

So, now that you've had some fun, let me focus you on The Protect IP Act and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) getting ready to come before Congress. Neither act is worded as internet censorship, but trust me, the potential is there. Though, on the surface, they may seem like a good idea, you must look deeper and ask yourself just who is protected by this act, and do we want to hand that kind of power to large corporations like Disney? We would be giving large entertainment corporations, and our government, the power to close internet sights down, and due to the wording of these acts, close them down for a whole lot more than "piracy" of "intellectual property." So, please, take some time to check out Fight for our Future, and then join me in helping to spread the word to others.

Our elected officials need to know that the voting public does not agree! Most of all, please, if you enjoy the internet, things like reading blogs, sharing with your friends on social media, and online entertainment, don't assume this does not effect you, because it does! I promise you won't like the results if you sit back and do nothing, even if you are one of the artists these acts are professing to protect! Fight for the Future website makes it easy for you. Just follow the simple steps over there, and thanks for helping.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Baby Okapi at the Bronx Zoo

The newest arrival at the Bronx Zoo is making her public debut. According to Mongabay.com, the new baby okapi will be on exhibit intermittently, weather permitting. If you don't know what an okapi is, don't worry, you are not alone. Let me show you a couple pictures of Bambesa and her calf Safarani, two out of the thirteen of this rare species that I cared for back at the start of my zoo career. They are often called Forest Giraffes, from the Ituri Forest in the Republic of the Congo. They were not officially described to western science until 1901. Sir Johnston, by then, had spent some ten years trying to see a live one in the Ituri forest. They are a silent, illusive species of the deep jungle. The only sound they make regularly is a chuff, which sounds like a quiet cough. Interestingly, I was part of a team that, with the help of equipment from NASA, recorded and took data on okapi calls, which were discovered to be infrasonic, meaning the majority of the call is too low to be discernable to the human ear, but can travel for miles and penetrate the thickest of jungle foilage. I find this fascinating.

Bambesa was one of my favorite okapis. Why? Well, she was only friendly to certain people, and she liked me. The feeling was entirly mutual. These amazing animals are called Forest Giraffes because they are actually cousins to the giraffe. You might not notice the similarity, but the males have skin-covered horns like a giraffe and they have those long, prehensile blue tongues that can strip a branch of leaves in a heartbeat and are long enough to clean out their own ears and eyes, which is one of those gross things you can't stop watching if you have the chance to see it.

I never expected to fall for these creatures, but they quickly became one of my favorite animals. I feel incredibly honored to have cared for them, to have run my hands over their velvety coats, to have fed them their favorite things - oatmeal and onions, believe it or not. Kawnini, who I am pictured with here, was a complete sucker for onions.

She, like Bambesa, really loved to have her ears cleaned out. They were both kind of like dogs when you had a swab in their ears. They made this funny smile-like face and I fully expected their back legs to start spontaneously kicking. In fact, each okapi I cared for had their own distinct personality. Where Kwanini and Keowe were both laid back and happy to be rubbed, Safarani, the calf above, was prone to rearing up and kicking at you with her front legs if startled, and Katala would run you over for fun if given half a chance. She was a hand full. Bambesa was only friendly if she was in the mood and she liked you. All in all, days getting to know a barn full of these lovely animals was never dull. No, indeed, I can't complain of having led a boring life.

Anyway, in honor of the fabulousness that is okapi, I would like to officially congratulate the Bronx Zoo okapi keepers and the mother okapi, who survived a 14 month gestation to give birth. I hope they both enjoy continued health and a long, happy life. If you live near the Bronx Zoo, I highly recommend you call in advance this time of year before you trek out to see the baby. These are an African rainforest species, after all. They cannot handle much of the New York cold. In the meantime, courtesy of Mongabay.com, here is a recent video of the new baby enjoying her exhibit.