Category Archives: Animal Cruelty

Family Reunions

A friend on Facebook posted about his wild night last night, and one of his other friends, in response, posted a video of a song about the family reunion from hell.  Which I will reproduce for your viewing pleasure at the end of this blog.

I only ever went to one family reunion.  It was in Ravenden, Arkansas.  The fact that it was in Arkansas should be all you ever need to strike fear into your heart, and the fact that the town was named Ravenden?  I don’t know why it’s named that, and I don’t think I want to know.

It was at the country home of Uncle Somebody that I’d never met.  There were several notable events at this reunion.  First, I had a cousin I’d also never met, whose name I can’t remember (that was the only time I ever saw her).  We’ll call her Mary.  Mary was a very stocky person, with very short hair, who was dressed in a very obvious male fashion.  You know, I have never figured this out, but you can have short hair and wear pants and still not be taken for a lesbian, but somehow, Mary could have been wearing a sign.  There was a lot of whispering going on about Mary being a lesbian, and the conclusion was, “Well, she lives in St. Louis”.  That settled that.

Mary was, however, upstaged by my Aunt Ruby, my father’s half-sister.  Ruby was getting ready to retire and had applied for a birth certificate from the state of Arkansas.  She found out she didn’t exist.  What had happened was, while my grandmother was pregnant with Ruby, her husband died.  They had been hoping for a boy, and had already picked out a name, which was Ralph Victor Nelson.  So even though Ruby turned out to be a girl (assuming they can tell the difference in Arkansas), that’s the name that went on the birth certificate.

Ruby had just found out about this, and made the rounds proclaiming that she henceforth would not answer to “Ruby”, but only to “Ralph”. She made an exception for you if you were really her friend, then you could call her “Vicky”.   She eventually made such a scene that she drove my grandmother to tears.  Which was her intention all along.  After that, she backed off.

But meanwhile, Ruby’s husband and I, my Uncle Gus, decided to escape and take a walk down the road.  Uncle Gus had been a Cadillac car salesman all his life, so I foolishly assumed he was a straight-arrow kind of guy.  What was I thinking?  Car salesman?  Really.

We’d been hearing strange noises from the wooded lot next door, and what we found was a sort of roadside zoo.  I don’t remember all the animals they had, but there were two coyotes and a slow loris.  There were no people there, so Uncle Gus starts opening the cages.  I wouldn’t let him open the cage of the slow loris, because I knew it would die in this environment.

So we snuck the cage back to Uncle Somebody’s and hid it in the garage.  Meanwhile, the coyotes went straight to the chickenhouse of the nearest farmer.  He shot them both, and called the Sheriff.  Who was in the next county, so it took a while.

Eventually though, they show up at Uncle Somebody’s and want to know what we know about it.  We are, after all, next door.  By this time of course, everyone there knows about the slow loris in the garage.  (Gus and I had upstaged everyone.)  But nobody talked.  Two things were going on here:  the family thought we had done the right thing.  You may hunt and kill animals for food, but you may not imprison them and mistreat them. Second, it’s Arkansas.  We don’t talk to the Law.

Frankly, we are all a bit warped.  Which is why I liked this song so much.  Although no crystal meth was involved in this story, we maybe could have gone to the lot on the other side and checked it out.


Politically Incorrect: Dog Tethering

I mentioned in a comment on another post that I am on an ad hoc committee to examine our County’s animal control ordinance where it concerns the tethering of dogs.  Six years ago I was involved in a similar discussion, but it was more of a guerilla action.  It was me and one other person (with the encouragement of a couple of County Commission aides who shepherded us through the process), appearing at  County Commission meetings.  Wow, were we ignorant.

But amazingly enough, it resulted in changes to the existing ordinance which were very good.  Apparently we tweaked the consciences of the then existing Commissioners just enough.  Okay, not really.  That would be the Disney version.  What really happened is, they said, can we just get beyond this and get these people out of the room?  Let’s move on to the important issues, like approving a certain development project where I happen to own real estate.

But today, I have become assimilated.  (I am Borg.)  So I’m on this official committee.  Where all four of my fellow committee members think I am the enemy.  (Apparently, I am insufficiently assimilated.)  The issue is that they want a total ban on tethering dogs.  When I say, that won’t work, they say I’m not aiming high enough.  They decided to compromise to the extent that tethering would be allowed only if the owner was present.  I said, that won’t work either.  Many people tether their dogs only when they are NOT present.  Every example I give of why it won’t work is met with…dismay, to be nice.

One of the members constantly asks to have “experts” speak, which makes my eyes roll up in my head.  We are the committee. Shouldn’t we be able to do this on our own?  Haven’t we already read enough and experienced enough to form an opinion?  If not, why are we here?  We are just making a recommendation, for God’s sake.  But the Chairman (the Director of Animal Control) complied, so we did.  And I’m wondering if she now regrets her request, because all the experts agreed with me.  The Regional Director of the HSUS was the most diplomatic.  She said, there are many reasons why people tether dogs and other animals, so you want to be very careful about this…not to punish everyone.  Most compelling was the Animal Control supervisor who represented the” boots on the ground” view.  He was more blunt.  Please don’t do this, he said.  You will just drive it underground where we can’t see it.  People will still do it, they will just chain them up deep in the woods, or confine them to garages where we can’t see whether they have food and water, or are injured.  In other words, this won’t work.

So in the face of apparently lukewarm response to the ban idea, the ringleader of our group (whom I hasten to add is a very neat and compassionate person) created a Facebook page called Tether-Free Tallahassee. The latest post is an article about a woman from the Tampa area who traveled to Jacksonville to lend support to their consideration of a tethering ban.

The reason is that her 17-month old son was mauled to death by the next-door neighbor’s tethered Rottweiler.   The woman was unloading groceries from the car when the son wandered over to pet the doggie.

It’s a known and well-researched fact that tethered dogs are more dangerous.  If you know anything at all about animals, you completely understand this.  You have removed one of their two options: flight.  The only option left is fight.  And they have to be ready at any second.  They get anxious and paranoid.  Every approach is a threat.

So my reaction was this:  how about the concept of keeping a very close eye on your 17-month old son while you are unloading the groceries?  Especially if you have a tethered Rottweiler next door, without a fence?

But if I had expressed this, which I didn’t, I feel sure I would have been even further ostracized, if that’s possible.   It’s hard being the Enemy.

What I wanted to do was tweak the ordinance to make it safer and more comfortable for the dogs.  I personally think that dogs should live in the house, and be let out into a fenced yard or walked on a leash when the owner is home.  But not everyone is like me.  Imagine that.

Fatal Attraction: Zanesville, Ohio

I’ve spoken before about the Animal Planet TV Show Fatal Attractions.  This past Thursday, they showed two episodes in which people were keeping tigers, perhaps in “honor” of this week’s events in Zanesville.  In one case, the owner was killed by one of his cats; in the other, it was a couple, and only the husband was killed.  I’d say that was inevitable. 

But back to Zanesville.  The information about the events has been jumbled, but here is what happened from the best information I could put together.  A 62 year-old man named Terry Thompson kept 56 exotic animals on his farm near Zanesville.  These included lions, tigers, leopards, bears, monkeys, and wolves. and On Tuesday, he let 50 of them go, opening up the cage doors and cutting the wires on the sides of the cages, making it virtually impossible to capture and re-cage them.  Then he shot himself to death.  Then the Sheriff’s Department shot and killed 49 of the 50 animals.  The missing animal, a monkey, was thought to have been killed and eaten by a lion. 

I was angry at everyone concerned in this incident:  the man, his wife, the State of Ohio for allowing him to keep these animals, and the Sheriff’s Department for killing them all with no apparent attempt to save them.  This is the photo that just inflamed me: 

But then I got real.  Starting with the Sheriff’s Department.  What choice did they have?  Zanesville is a small town of about 20,000.  The nearest zoo is an hour away, in Columbus.  It was getting dark.  They managed to locate one person from a sanctuary or something who unsuccessfully tried to tranquilize one of the tigers, so a Deputy then killed it.  The Sheriff is a guy named Matt Lutz, who in his many news conferences looks pitifully young and out of his league.  But the more times I saw him, the more I developed respect for him.  First, he took full responsibility for the killings.  “I gave the order.”  And the order was to shoot to kill any animal that appeared to be trying to get outside the farm fence.  And again, I ask, what choice did they (did he) have?  (Which brings me to the fact that the above photo is misleading–thank you, Internet.  It appears the poor animals were all massed at the same point of the fence, and were slaughtered like ducks at a shooting gallery.  In fact they were towed there in some fashion in order to be buried.)  Were they supposed to let them out, then hunt them down one by one through miles of open territory, in the dark?  Or wait until morning when they could get a team out from the Columbus zoo?  Meanwhile losing livestock, pets, and maybe people?  As Sheriff Lutz said, My job is to protect the public. 

As for Thompson himself, I ask…Why?  Did he think the animals would somehow make it on their own?  Like people think when they let cats or dogs go in the woods, thinking that at least they’re giving them a fighting chance?  Did he not realize they would all be killed?  Maybe he did, but couldn’t bring himself to kill them himself.  Sort of a Death By Cop By Proxy.  And as I suspected, the animals were starving.  They would have killed and eaten anything they could have gotten their paws on.  The six surviving animals (3 leopards, 2 monkeys, and a baby Grizzly) are now in the Columbus Zoo.  They were emaciated too.  And I ask, Why them?  Why were they the only animals he didn’t release?  Then I realized it’s pointless to try to get inside the mind of a person in that state.  He didn’t leave a suicide note, so we don’t even have clues from that.  But he had recently been released from prison on a gun charge (why am I not surprised?), his wife had left him, he was broke, and there was clearly no way he could take care of these animals.  And who took care of the animals while he was in prison?  His wife. 

And his wife now owns the surviving six animals in the zoo, and she wants them back.  I can’t really say I blame her that much any more.  At least she left her husband, which seems like the only thing she could have done to try to change his behavior since nobody else could do anything. 

That brings me to the State of Ohio.  And I’m not over being angry with them in the least.  Apparently there was a temporary law restricting the ownership of exotic animals which the Governor allowed to expire last year.  (He has now signed an emergency measure putting the law back in force).  And this is the stuff that makes me crazy.  God forbid we should infringe on anyone’s “freedom” to do as they please.  At least until it becomes politically unpopular.  Or there is a disaster. 

Last weekend I did a (prophetic) post saying I’d like to regulate the hell out of how people are allowed to treat their animals.  I’m focused on one small area, which is the law concerning tethering.  We’ve all seen the pictures of dogs chained to trees or poles who have starved, strangled themselves to death, or frozen to death.  All you have to do is look at the literature from the Humane Society of the U.S. (I won’t even open their mail any more).  But when one of those dogs manages to escape, they are hungry, desperate, and aggressive.  If their treatment as dogs (or lions, or tigers) doesn’t move you enough–if it takes danger to people to get you excited, then there it is. 

When something like the Zanesville incident occurs, everybody cries and says “Someone should have done something”.  Well, that Someone is you.

Important News about Trash (Cans)

At least if you live in Tallahassee.  I started to call this post “Excessive Government Regulation” but I figured no one would read it.  Never fear, however, it isn’t really about excessive government regulation, it’s about one tiny regulation having to do with…trash cans. 

Here in Tallahassee and its surrounding county (Leon–as in Ponce de…), Waste Management picks up our trash.  They provide each household with a large gray rolling trash container.  As far as I know, you’ve always been permitted to roll those containers to the street on the evening before the day of pickup, or for an additional fee, they will come get them for you.  The new regulation is related to how long you can leave them there.  Now you must roll them back to wherever you keep them within 24 hours. 

When I read about this in the newspaper, I was like What?  We had to make a law?  What really got me, however, was that one particular woman, a member of a neighborhood association and possibly its president, led the impassioned plea for such a regulation.  She talked primarily about how unsightly they were (I could just hear her saying, “It’s bringing down the property values!”).  Either she or someone else pointed out that they are something of a traffic hazard.  In most cases, the containers are placed in the street, and Waste Management is none too careful about leaving them in an out-of-the-way position after emptying them.  And I can’t say I haven’t noticed this.  Especially on narrow streets or very busily traveled streets, it can sometimes be like negotiating an obstacle course.   But it’s normally short-lived, and in the great scheme of things, a lot less worrisome than being run down by a semi on your commute home. 

What I suspect this woman is really upset about is the riff-raff in her neighborhood (i.e., the dreaded “renters”).  Who are of dubious character and ethnicity.  (I’m reminded of Clint Eastwood’s  great movie Gran Torino).  Like me and Clint, this woman lives in an older neighborhood, the character of which is changing, like older neighborhoods everywhere in the country.  And it’s distressing to her.  The trash container issue is just a symbol. 

One effect this has had on me is to make me more aware.  I have sometimes been lax about returning the container, but not often, because frankly, it’s a lot more convenient to have the container near the house than it would be to take your trash to the street.  But I’m not worried about it.  The ordinance only applies to people within the City limits.  I tend to think that we in the County are a little more lenient than folks in the City, which may be my imagination, but certainly it’s true in my neighborhood.  Plus, I don’t have to put my container in the street.  I have a double-wide driveway (not to be confused with a double-wide trailer) and put the container at the end of the driveway.  I still have enough room to get my car out.  But most people in either the City or the County don’t have that “luxury”.

Still my primary reaction was to think, in the face of wars, genocide, natural disasters, and the threat of worldwide economic collapse, etc., this woman is passionate about what time people bring in their trash containers?  Sheesh.  I shake my head in wonder. 

And like I said, we had to make a law?  I guess shunning and harassment haven’t worked. 

And all that said, I don’t really have a problem with regulation of how people must behave in certain instances.  I myself am about to begin serving on a citizen committee to hopefully strengthen one aspect of the Animal Control ordinance.  I’d like to regulate the hell out of how people are permitted to treat their animals.  If that’s Fascism, then so be it.

People of Wal-Mart

This is the name of a website ( which features both photos and videos taken of Wal-Mart shoppers, mostly surreptitiously.  It’s a little mean-spirited, in that it doesn’t seem fair to do this to people who have no idea you’re doing it.  It’s like the paparrazzi who are so fond of taking pictures of sex goddess movie stars without makeup, slimy looking hair, and cellulite. 

On the other hand, here’s my take on it:  if you don’t want someone to take a picture of you looking like that, don’t go out looking like that.  Celebrity or not.  If you don’t care, then you’re home-free.  Go any way you like.  So that would be me–I don’t care. 

Therefore today, I think I might have made a good Person of Wal-Mart.  T-shirt, gym shorts, flip-flops, no makeup.  But not a very good one.  First of all, I would have had to weigh at least double what I do.  But you don’t always have to be fat to be a Person of Wal-Mart.  There was one photo I saw where a woman is walking her poodle in the parking lot, between giant piles of banked-up snow.  You can’t see her face, but she has nice-looking long blonde hair, is thin, and is wearing pajamas and socks and bedroom slippers.  You get the point.  There is a certain mind-set to being a Wal-Mart person. 

So, you might ask, what the hell was I doing at Wal-Mart?  The short answer is, I needed a newspaper.  Today marks exacty the third time I’ve been there since it opened four years ago.  The first two times were for emergency purchases of Ibuprofen.  By my calculations, I’ve now spent around $7.00 there.  It’s an empty protest to be sure, but it makes me happy.   

I do a lot of empty protesting now that I think about it.  Probably it’s because I’m too realistic.  I don’t kid myself that I can change anything substantially.  But I still do believe that I might say something  that plants a seed that might eventually sprout.  Really, it can, and sometimes does.  It’s such a more hopeful way to live than simply giving up and saying nothing you do makes a difference. 

So I tried not to go to Wal-Mart.  I went first to my corner convenience store, where my favorite weekend Rwandan engineering student was on duty, but they were out.  He said, go to Wal-Mart.  So I blame him. 

The reason I needed a paper was that today, an op-ed came out by a former dog rescue person regarding certain changes the County is trying to make to its Animal Control ordinance.  I was there the last time they did it, I will be there again.  You have three minutes to comment before the County Commission.  I need to make it work.  So I needed to see what was already said–no need to repeat it.  The Commissioners all read the paper. 

The big issue is tethering.  The County is proposing minor changes to it which mostly involve the type of tether that can be used.  But there needs to be a sweeping change.  As long as we tolerate dogs being tethered outdoors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, tweaking the kind of tether is like arguing about what color to paint the walls of Hell.  Which I plan to say.

Animal Hoarding

Like “Fatal Attractions”, “Animal Hoarding” is one of those programs on Animal Planet you watch so that you can say, “At least I’m not that bad”.  It’s a bit like slowing down at the scene of a traffic accident to see if you can see any dead bodies on the road.  You don’t want to, you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help yourself. 

Disclaimer:  At the height of my animal ownership I had four dogs and two cats.  I began to sense that I had a certain kinship with these people, and I had to apply the brakes.  I’m now down to two dogs and one cat.  Due to attrition so to speak.  I am not in the same league with these people, however. 

One of the things animal hoarders seem to have in common is the inability to tell you how many animals they have.  That’s the first thing that separates me.  I can’t imagine not knowing where all your animals are and what they’re doing at any one given moment.  Another thing they have in common is the gradual recognition (way too late) that they have crossed a line somewhere.  That instead of “saving” the animals, they have become the very sort of people they hate.  But they don’t know how to get out of it, and how to stop. 

Each episode of Animal Hoarding tells two stories.  One last night was about a guy “Peter” who kept chickens in his house.  Roosters, mostly.  The scene at his house was like bedlam.  The crowing alone was deafening.  And although it wasn’t shown, I suspect there were lots of fights.  (Me:  Chickens?  In the house?  At least I’m not that bad.)  He did not want to give any of them up, for fear they would be killed.  Especially the roosters.  It turns out there are rescue groups, even for chickens.  The one in this episode was called “Backyard Chickens”.  Who knew? 

The other story was about a woman named “Kitten”, which just seems like a cruel joke, because her problem was cat hoarding.  Like “Peter”, she couldn’t tell you how many cats she had.  When asked, both of them said things like “Around 60–maybe 70”.  Well Kitten had a lot fewer cats than she thought she had, because some of them were dead and she didn’t even know it. 

They eventually brought in a team to take away her cats.  The team came in wearing coveralls and respirator masks and carrying shovels.  They literally shoveled out her house, and in the process they moved out all the furniture.  Under one piece of furniture, which looked like a chest of drawers or something similar, they found a live possum.  I guess cat food must be tasty to possums.  Who knew? 

It may seem that I’m making light of this, but I’m not.  Animal Planet shows a disclaimer before and during every episode which says that animal hoarding is being considered as a psychological diagnosis all its own.  Perhaps they mean for inclusion in the DSM. 

At this point, I would have to disagree.  I think animal hoarding is merely a symptom.  A response,a behavioral response, to some underlying problem we already have a name for.  Like depression. 

In Kitten’s case, they made her live cat-free for a certain period of time.  This gave her time to think, and to re-establish relationships with her family.  The carrot was that if she did well, she would get one (ONE) of her cats back.  Her favorite one.  At the end of the program, it shows the cat coming back home, and I was in tears.  Happy for her, and at the same time hoping she’d come far enough not to restart the bad path she had taken.

Reading With Fakename: White Fang

Recently, I reread Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild”, which I first read at about 12 years old, and this week I reread “White Fang”, which I first read at about the same age.  They are more or less companion pieces.  In the introduction to the copy of the combined books I got from  the library, Abraham Rothberg says that White Fang could be called “The Call of the Tame”.  The first book is about a dog named Buck, who is stolen from his comfortable home in California and sent to the Yukon, where, after a series of unfortunate experiences, he reverts to the wild and runs with a wolf pack. 

In White Fang, Fang is a wolf/dog mix…3/4 wolf and 1/4 dog, who is born in the wild.  After a series of…you guessed it…unfortunate experiences, he settles down with the man who rescued him on a big spread…in California.  Fang has a lot to learn there, such as Don’t Eat The Chickens.    Who knew that was wrong? 

As interesting as the books  are, Jack London himself is quite a story.  He was born in 1876 and died in 1916 at the age of 40, possibly by suicide but that is in great dispute now.  Among other things, he was, as the Eagles’ song says, brutally handsome.  In his day, he was considered a great adventurer and a great adventure writer.  I wonder what he would think about the fact that in the library, you can only find his books in the “Youth” section, not in “Adult Fiction”.

“Call” was first published in 1903, and “Fang” in 1906.  They are both very depressing and full of savagery and misunderstandings.  I am amused by the fact, however, that they are considered “suitable” for young readers.  White Fang is beaten half to death, and must fight every minute to survive.  But.  At the end, White Fang is installed in California where a female sheepdog named Collie, already a resident, is his chief torturer.  Only one day, Collie suddenly becomes friendly and draws him into the woods, where they frolic as friends.  Miraculously, Collie ends up with puppies.  (Note to Self:  Spend more time in the woods.)

Where are we going wrong in terms of what we let children read?

It’s astonishing to realize that “Call” was published 107 years ago, and “Fang” 103 years ago.  And yet those books are still mesmerizing and don’t seem outdated at all.  Maybe only to some extent in how more of us treat dogs.  But conditions in that part of the world are much the same, and the lives of men and dogs are still primitive.  All you have to do to recognize that is watch an episode of Ice Road Truckers.

In White Fang, London does an amazing job of speculating what is going on in White Fang’s head as he learns first to protect himself, then to protect his “master”, as well as himself.  He learns that you Do Not Eat The Chickens, which he initially takes as Don’t Eat Things That Are Alive.  Then he learns that jackrabbits don’t count, so he adjusts.  He learns to make subtle distinctions. 

Here is a biography of Jack London on Wiki.  I sort of wish I had known him, then again, I am sort of glad I didn’t.  But I for sure would have liked to know the imaginary White Fang.  I leave you with the brutally handsome and doomed Jack London: 

Fakename’s Lab Animal Planet: Part 1

Back when Fakename was taking biology in the tenth grade, our class was divided into at least three groups.  What I will call Group 3 did the traditional biology thing…dissecting.  Groups 1 and 2 did more “advanced” experiments.  What I will call Group 2 did something with fruit flies.  I remember watching them fly around in their little plexiglas cages and being glad I wasn’t in that group, because how in the hell could you ever keep them straight?  I was also extremely glad I was excluded from the dissecting group. 

Group 1, which I naturally designated as my group, did an experiment with baby chickens.  What we did was, we injected these baby chicks with hormones.  I don’t think male chickens have testosterone, so I think what we injected them with was GnRH–gonadotrophic releasing hormone.    I’m not sure whether or not this turns female chickens into male chickens or what…but the end result was, we ended up with a bunch of little fuzzy yellow chicks with coxcombs.  And they (the chicks, not the coxcombs) crowed all the time. 

One day a few of the pranksters in my class wondered what would happen if they injected the chicks with vodka.  So they did, and the chicks all started staggering around, and everyone thought it was so funny.  I was there, and I laughed bleakly too.   Never mind the nausea I was feeling.  I knew this was wrong, but I never told, because that would have been breaking the Teen Code. 

Our chicks all survived, and then imagine my horror when I discovered that the end of my experiment was that we had to euthanize our chicks and then dissect them.  We had a control group, of course, so we euthanized our experimental subjects and the control group subjects and compared the size of their gonads. 

Imagine my further horror when I found that I was required to personally euthanize one of the chicks.  Which I did by enclosing it in a big glass jar with a cotton patch soaked in formaldehyde until it quit moving.  I was so sick about it that I was on the verge of either collapse or running from the room screaming, but God forbid I should let anyone know that.  That too was part of the Teen Code. 

When you think about it, this was a pretty progressive biology class for a high school in the mountains of North Carolina.  It left a lasting impression on me.  When I entered college two years later, I claimed Concientious Objector status.  That’s Part 2.

How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?

You’d either have to be my age, or a fan of early ’50’s music, or a fan of Patti Page to know this song, I’d guess, but I can tell you that it was my very first favorite song.  Like all little kids, I would sing it all the time until my parents wanted to shoot me. 

Now of course, I know better, and I’d just like to ask…is there any more depressing place than a pet store?  I just returned from my neighborhood pet store, Panhandle Pet Supply, and  feel a need to have my memory scrubbed, a la Arnold in “Total Recall”. 

The pet store business is complete anathema to rescue people, whether they be breed rescues, shelters, or general rescue groups, mainly because pet stores are the retail outlets for puppy mills.  Therefore, some pet stores avoid this association by only selling what they refer to as “small animals”.  No dogs or cats. 

That’s how it is with Panhandle Pet Supply and PetSmart.  They sell birds, rabbits, hamsters, rats, lizards, and fish.  So here is my undercover report on the local Panhandle Pet Supply. 

First of all, when you see animals in these circumstances, you just want to scoop them all up and take them home.  Which, believe it or not, is a sort of marketing ploy in some cases.  They know you don’t want to see little Fido and Fifi confined behind that glass case for the rest of their lives.  You can save them from that horrible fate for around $400 or so. 

So…back to Panhandle Pet Supply.  They have a ton of fish tanks, most of which are empty (hint to management:  this is not good marketing), and all of them are dirty.  The water looked fairly clean, but the outside of the tanks are covered with lime deposits.  I wanted to hug the fish and help them escape.  Of course, they would need to escape somewhere other than my house, because I don’t have a good history with fish. 

In the bird category, we had two glass cases containing parakeets ($14.99 each) and cockatiels ($69.99 each).  Then we had your basic mammals, which consisted of dwarf hamsters (approximately half a million of them divided into two cases); rabbits and guinea pigs, which in two cases were sharing the same glass case; and rats. 

I’m not sure about the protocol for housing rabbits and guinea pigs together; as far as I know, they’re both pretty peaceful creatures and aren’t likely to try to eat each other (especially being vegetarians), but it just seems like they would be more comfortable being imprisoned with a member of their own species.  My guess is that the female guinea pig was housed with the male rabbit, and the male guinea pig was housed with the female rabbit, if you catch my drift. 

But the big deal was the rats.  All the prices were marked in grease pencil on the cages (Large Male Rat $6.99) along with other information such as the fact that female rats are not for sale.  (Further hint to management:  grease pencil is not a current advertising strategy.)  Another case specified that nursing female rats were not for sale.  So which is it? 

The first case I stopped at, there was a female nursing rat with five little red, eyeless, squirming babies.  She left them and crept toward the water bowl, where she did not appear to have the energy to lift her front half up to actually drink.  Another rat in the same case was nibbling on a piece of what was either food or bedding.  Not that rats particularly care, I think, but it was definitely hard to tell which was which, even for me.  In the rabbit/guinea pig cages, there was a distinct separation between food and bedding…for one thing, the food was in a bowl.  In the rat cages, the food was dumped in a corner and the difference was that the food was brown as opposed to gray.  It looked like the bedding was just old food. 

It may seem odd to have sympathy for rats.  But…it was hard.  Finally an employee came over and asked if she could help, and I wanted to say, Yes, bring me a trash can because I think I’m going to throw up.  Of course what I said was, No, I’m just looking.  And what I wanted to say is, I’m just looking at this mother rat who can’t even work up the energy to drink water, while her little naked babies are over in the corner freezing to death without her.  And furthermore, I’m not buying any damn dog food from you either, which is why I even came into this godforsaken place.

Famous People In History: Ivan Pavlov

There’s a certain logic to why I’ve chosen this particular person to highlight, but I would not recommend you try to follow that logic since it exposes you to the danger of thinking like Fakename does.

However, it started with my thinking about eating dogs, which I posted about yesterday, and progressed to thinking about dog behavior, particularly my own, whom I will never eat.  Well, unless I find myself in some post-apocalyptic situation, then all bets are off.  I was thinking about the concept of what I call “accidental learning”, where dogs learn stuff you wish they hadn’t. 

In my case, the dogs have learned to associate my shutting down the computer with food.  First, the computer makes that Windows sound…”Dah dah dah…dah dah” (fade….).  This means that I will likely be standing up, and if I’m standing up, there is a greater chance that I will be somewhere near the food container, and that some of that food will end up in their bowls.  Thus, when they hear the Windows sound, they start dancing.  Very, very annoying. 

This led me to think about Pavlov and his bell.  See?  I warned you not to try to follow this. 

I admit that the only thing I could remember about Pavlov had to do with bells and dogs, but there is so much more to him, as I learned from the Wikipedia entry about Pavlov’s life.

First, it seems there was some controversy about whether or not he actually ever used a bell.  (And you thought Fakename spends too much time contemplating subjects from the Who Cares? category.) 

So the judgement of history is this:  Yes, he did use a bell, but he also used a variety of stimuli including “electric shocks, whistles, metronomes, tuning forks, and a variety of visual stimuli”.  If only Pavlov had had Windows.  It would have saved him a lot of time. 

Pavlov won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1904 for his work on how the digestive system functions.  This came from his observation that dogs begin to salivate before they actually have access to food.  This “reflexive” response led him to further experiments, such as an investigation into the response to stress and pain.  I guess I don’t have to tell you how you study that.  The answer is, you have to induce it. 

Which brings us at last to the larger philosophical question, which is, Is this something we really needed to know?  And was it worth causing suffering to helpless creatures to find it out?  Fakename says no, because we already knew it.  Even in Pavlov’s lifetime, anybody with a dog could have told you about that reflexive response thing, even without Windows.  But there was (and possibly still is) a mindset among certain scientists, who believe that a phenomenon isn’t “true” unless it’s described under “controlled conditions”.

There was a time when cosmetics were routinely tested on rabbits, followed by a time when cosmetic companies prominently noted that their products were never tested on animals.  Now you never see those disclaimers, because it’s understood that it doesn’t happen.  If there is a value to inducing pain and stress in other animals, what would that value be? 

Fakename thinks that Pavlov would be perfectly comfortable in today’s world, where we can have an apparently serious national debate about the effectivenes of waterboarding, without regard to its moral implications.