January 28, 2009

Groundhog or hedgehog forecaster?

by winecountrydog

If this week's North American weather is any indication, the appearance of Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Ontario Wee Willie on February 2 will forecast six more weeks of winter.

Wee Willie seems to knows his stuff. His predecessor, Wiarton Willie, passed on great predictive powers, which are attributed to living on the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

There are many pawlific prognosticators, includin' New York's Staten Island Chuck, Georgia's General Beauregard Lee, Alberta's Balzac Billy, Manitoba's Brandon Bob, and Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam.

Best known is Br'er Groundhog Phil, who comes out of his Gobbler's Knob burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to look around after hibernating all winter. He has been doing this same routine for the past 200 years.

handsome groundhog, also known as a woodchuck
If Phil sees his shadow, there'll be six more weeks of winter weather. If he doesn't see his shadow, there'll be an early spring.

The logic here is tricky to follow. If the day is overcast, Phil won't cast a shadow — which would scare him — so he'll stay out to play? . . . Howl's that again? And if the day is fair and sunny, Phil will see his shadow and run back in his burrow to continue hibernating? Woof?

another groundhog buddy
This is quite confusing the way humans interpret it. I wouldn't be surprised if the German settlers who brought the tradition with them to North America were confused too. After all, they'd previously depended upon hedgehogs to do the forecasting.

When the settlers could find no hedgehogs in North America, the Native Americans must've straightened things out by pointing to the groundhog. Native Americans revere the groundhog as the wisest animal, so the groundhog is someone who can do the forecaster's job.

But methinks that the hedgehog has the edge on great forecasting. Nothing pawsonal, Br'er Groundhog.

sweet, smart little hedgehog
I'm just inclined to believe that hedgehog cleverness is the stronger legend.

nice hedgehog
After all, it's a legend going back to ancient Greek texts:

In regard to the instinct of hedgehogs, it has been observed in many places that, when the wind is shifting from north to south, and from south to north, they shift the outlook of their earth-holes, and those that are kept in domestication shift over from one wall to the other. The story goes that a man in Byzantium got into high repute for foretelling a change of weather, all owing to his having noticed this habit of the hedgehog.
Only a slightly different paw-note, it's said that Groundhog Day was, in its earliest incarnation, a human pagan celebration associated with fertility and weather divination. It was called Imbolc in Gaelic, the language of the Celts.

I'll have to paw into this subject more. As you know, we Welsh Corgis have Celtic associations. It's pawbable that Cardigan Welsh Corgis were brought to Wales by the Celts about 1200 B.C.

I'm a Pembroke, not a Cardigan, but maybe I can forecast weather too.

January 19, 2009

Billy Elephant shouldn't have to be alone

by pawlitico

Billy Elephant is 23 years old and he lives alone at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Billy walking around in zoo enclosure
I'd like to ask Billy whether the zoo's claim is true that he receives good care from the staff. He pawbably does. Who wouldn't fall in love with Billy and want to take care of him?

Billy has been the focus recently of a raging argument over his living arrangements. The argument is whether the zoo should build a Pachyderm Forest for Billy or retire Billy to an elephant sanctuary.

You'll find thoughtful comments on both sides of the issue, that's fur sure.

It's not my intention to add to the debate. I know how I feel about zoos and cages. But as a corgi, my area of knowledge doesn't extend to habitat issues and why zoos can't be transformed into humane habitats.

So I paw-write about Billy for one reason, the thing I doo know: Elephants are social creatures and it's a sin to make them live alone.

Billy Elephant
While humans are busy arguing about Billy's future, they should be finding him a furriend right now! He's got decades of life ahead of him, and he needs a buddy.

To see how social elephants are, watch the youtube about elephant furriends at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. It features Tarra, a 30-plus-year-old Burmese elephant who's best furriends with a dog named Bella.

Paw-note: To read some of the debate over Billy, click here to see blog and comments.

January 17, 2009

The litter box rebellion

by winecountrydog

It's a delicate subject, this, especially if you're a cat.

I knew that my buddy Ani Siamese had been avoiding doing her duty in the appointed large rectangle with walls that cats call a litter box. I knew it when I saw Ani veer off her usual course and disappear around the corner.

I confronted Ani in my corgi way. "Pawdon me, dear one," said I. "Is there something the matter? Aren't you supposed to be headed toward the rectangle?"

Ani darted off without answering.

Later, I caught up with her in the kitchen. I looked up and, as pawlitely as pawsible, woofed the question: "Are you waging a rather strong rebellion, my dear?"

Ani Siamese staring blankly at me
Ani continued to look at me with barely open eyes.

She finally summoned her cat wits and replied, "Never, ever, quoth the Siamese!"

Then she yawned.

Ani Siamese yawning about the whole thing
I decided to look elsewhere fur answers. Fortunately fur all of us, a mewsletter arrived from one of our favorite veterinarians, Dr. Jona Jordan. It contained an article on kitty litter issues!

The solutions were actually easy. We figured out that dog-ma had to change the kind of litter stuff she poured into Ani's special box. We also reassured Ani that Jack Corgi and I wouldn't mess with her box.

We came to see that her rebellion made purrfect sense. She's a Siamese, if you paw-leeze.

Paw-note: Remember to talk to your veterinarian about a pawsible health problem if your dear pussin doesn't return to the litter box after changing litter brands and other things, like the placement of box.

January 8, 2009

Heifer Houdini's final escape

by pawlitico

The April 2002 news headlines said things like "Escaped Cow on the Loose!", "Mad cow? Ha! She's furious.", "The World's Fastest Cow!", "Cow Becomes Local Hero!", and "Cow to Get Key to the City!"

The heifer Houdini on the lam was a snow white Charolais later called Cinci Freedom.

Cinci did what any cow would hope to do to escape slaughter: She jumped a big fence and ran for freedom. For 11 days, she eluded capture, all the while garnering sympathy from the public.

Cinci Freedom
The citizens of Cincinnati pled for her life. Farm Sanctuary wrote:
As she resisted capture time and again, staying hidden in a park where she foraged and rested when she could, the courageous cow demonstrated an unbendable will, and her tremendous fight for survival resonated with the public. By the time of her capture, she had won the hearts of so many that calls for mercy poured into the city from all over the country. In the end, it was a plea from renowned artist Peter Max that brought the brave bovine safely to our New York Shelter, where she was named Cincinnati Freedom and given the liberty she always deserved.

. . . Freedom received a warm reception. When they saw her arrive, the other Farm Sanctuary cows ran to the barn to greet Freedom. The cows mooed hellos to their famous new herd-mate, and gave her cow kisses. Freedom was quickly adopted by the shelter cattle herd. . . .

Since her arrival in April 2002, Cincinnati Freedom has enjoyed all the comforts and joys that every cow deserves. She has made friends with many of the cows in the herd, and is especially close to two other daring escape artists named Annie Dodge and Queenie.
Another famous escapee and good friend of Cinci's is Maxine from Queens (pictured below).

Maxine from Queens
If Maxine were talking to you, I'm afraid she'd have to tell you a sad story. You see, Cinci got sick recently. It was a cancer that spread fast. Everybuddy said their last goodbyes to Cinci this week.

Dear Cinncinati Freedom, we've never had a cow or a steer furriend, but now we sure wish we did. When we read about your final escape, it touched our corgi hearts. We hope the grass is greenest in your new pasture.

Paw-note: You can see Cinci's eulogy & slide show "In Loving Memory: Cinncinati Freedom" at FarmSanctuary.org.

January 3, 2009

Bark and ring in the new!

by winecountrydog and pawlitico

It's a new dog year! We corgis continue to bark and ring it in.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind. . . .

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace. . . .

You've been reading the words of Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who lived from 1809 to 1892 and was UK Poet Laureate.

Cathedral Green sculpture of Alfred, Lord Tennyson and his dog
Tennyson was very fond of dogs. Tennyson had several, one of which was a Siberian Wolfhound called Karenina.

You can see Tennyson's dog in two sculptures of them together. One sculpture is to be found at Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey, England. The other one, shown in the image above, is found at Cathedral Green. This photo was taken by Lincolnian and posted on flickr along with other beautiful photos.

The yappiest of New Year wishes for 2009!