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Apr 15

Cat hair is for the birds

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 in animals

When I was growing up I sometimes found birds nests made of horse hair. It seems to be an excellent building material. Now that the cat is shedding I thought I’d see if birds ever make their nests out of cat hair. There are two nests in the bushes in front of my house, so empirical evidence suggests that they do not. However, Cornell University’s All About Birds site says that they do.

Cornell suggests putting out any of the following:

  • Dead twigs [check: got plenty of these]
  • Dead leaves [check: too lazy to ever rake]
  • Dry grass [nope: dug up entire yard years ago]
  • Yarn or string—cut into 4- to 8-inch pieces [hmm, what colors?]
  • Human or animal hair (especially horse hair) [Hab Moo keeps his hair too short, but the cats and I have plenty]
  • Fur (e.g. dog or cat fur) [um, isn’t animal hair and fur the same thing?]
  • Sheep’s wool [nope: might have a sweater I could cut up]
  • Feathers [don’t they have their own?]
  • Plant fluff or down (e.g. cattail fluff, cottonwood down) [nope, no fluffy plants]
  • Kapok, cotton batting, or other stuffing material [Kapok? Nope, I don’t live in Mexico or further south.]

Cotton batting? I now know how to get rid of the old futon in our bedroom! Ripping into it will be a fun project. Once Hab Moo sees me collecting my hair and pulling stuffing from a mattress, he’s sure to be impressed. He’s a bird watcher, after all.

You can actually buy kapok pods for a couple a bucks a piece if you don’t have any other option because you’re a bald and petless person with allergies to natural fibers living in a parking lot or something. And who still has birds around.

I think birds will really try just about anything. As much as I’d like to forget, I still vividly remember seeing a baby bird swinging out of its nest with plastic from a cassette tape wrapped around its neck. It swung for days until it was just bones. I’m glad the days of cassette tapes are over for just that reason. I’ve also seen nests with tinsel from Xmas, and pieces of plastic bags.

I’m not sure that it’s quite time yet for the birds to start building nests. There certainly isn’t any mud around for the robins to use to build theirs. My bird bath has been very popular with them in the last few days. Perhaps I should make a mud pit for them.

Do you think the neighbors will think I’m a little odd?

Feb 18

Dogs I have known

Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 in animals

My first dog must have been Sugar, who I do not remember. But I’ve heard so many stories of how after she died, the neighbor dog would come every morning and wait at the back door for her. It’s too bad that dogs don’t get to run around with their friends any longer. It was often fun to see a few dogs playing in a field together. But I also recall riding my bike or pony past loose dogs and being terrified that they were going to chase me. And often they did.

The neighbors had a German shepherd I was particularly scared of. When I was maybe five years old, I went outside one morning and saw part of a kitten on one side of the sidewalk and it’s leg and thigh on the other. That dog had torn my kitten apart. He also got loose once and left a trail of baby rabbits (we raised bunnies) across our yard and the neighbor’s. And once, while riding my pony, Pokey, on the sidewalk on our way home with my sister, that dog ran out and jumped up high enough to get its front legs on Pokey’s back. I fell to the ground. Pokey was such a good pony that while she did step on my chest, she only left a bruise.

Mostly I think dogs are good for you. I miss taking Judd out walking during the winter. The colder it was, the happier he was to be outside and running. I’m sure he was responsible for most of my vitamin D intake during those months. I loved feeding off his emotions and élan. He’d rather run than eat.

Although when he did eat he didn’t always make the best choices. He once ate baking soda that my sister had in her barn to use on the goats. It was during the winter. His poor little tummy make all sorts of racket and he left large foaming piles out in the yard.

Dogs seem to be easily confused. My sister, Everbelly, had an Irish setter named Casey. Casey was a very good and well-behaved dog, but she thought she was a cat. This didn’t pose much of a problem until both she and the cat had babies. Casey chose to nurse the cats rather than her puppies. Even after the cat had weaned her kittens, Casey would nurse them. My sister used to find her with bloody nipples and have to kick her and one persistent kitten apart. Casey managed to raise only one of her own puppies and each time the cat had kittens, she lactated. Later Everbelly had another dog, a border terrier, who would nurse baby goats.

Perhaps female dogs are simply very maternal. I remember my father talking about how every time they brought my oldest sister home, and several time during the day, they would have to unwrap her and show her to the dog. She was very protective of the baby and would frequently need to check on her. It gives a new meaning to the word bitch.

Weird/interesting dog facts:

  • Teddy Roosevelt’s dog, Pete, ripped a French ambassador’s pants off at the White House.
  • Basset Hounds cannot swim.
  • Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic—a Newfoundland, a Pomeranian, and a Pekingese
  • Up until the late 1800s, Collies were known as Scottish Sheepdogs