Sep. 17th, 2016 03:09 pm
mellowtigger: (wild things)
Keeping with the animal theme, I met chickens (Gallus gallus) today.

This morning was overcast, so I took the opportunity to spend a few hours touching up the deck. I got some decent work done, but I've already spotted yet another section that I've failed to coat at all. I guess I'll be touching up again sometime. It was nearly 1pm before I finally got on the road in my car to do some nearby traveling.

welcome sign Twin Cities Chicken Coop TourI had seen the Chicken Coop Tour invitation, so I visited a few locations in Minneapolis nearest my house. The lady at the end of my block has several chickens in her back yard. She wasn't part of this tour event, but I've already talked with her. She also has several dogs that obviously get along well with the birds. I wanted to compare how other people were raising chickens in the city.

This event seems to be well organized. At least the places I visited had prominent signs in the front yard to welcome visitors and direct them to the back yard. There seems to be a lot of interest, too, because there were several visitors at each place during the short time that I was there.

One owner mentioned that Minneapolis city code says he can't build a permanent structure within 4 foot of the property line, so his chicken coop is that distance from the fence. With that 4-foot tract sitting behind it unused, he decided to just fence it in too and use it as part of the chicken run. It looked very efficient. He didn't even have electricity at the coop, but he had a solar air heater and he said that filling up their fresh water bucket each morning would keep them in water throughout the day without freezing.  During subzero days, he could just run an extension cord to the coop and drop an aquarium heater into their water bucket.

Another house had been participating in this tour for many years. They even had food and drinks and takeaway gifts for people to share. She said that for years, a pair of old women would show up promptly at 10am, and they'd all share a glass of champagne together.  It was maybe too extravagant for a chicken tour, but it certainly leaves a good impression.  I got the refrigerator magnet seen here, and I signed the guest book.

Raising chickens does increase the daily chore routine, though, which I prefer to avoid adding to the load. And chickens do require resources of food, water, shelter, and heat.  It was good to see actual costs calculated and displayed by the chicken coop.

Twin Cities Coop Tour chicken refrigerator magnetchicken coop feed costschicken coop heat lamp costs

So, I don't know if it's for me.  I think I'd like to try it sometime.  I seldom bring meat to the house unless it's prepackaged and/or precooked stuff, so eggs would be a good source of vitamin B12 for me.  Plus, I'd know that the chickens were treated well and fed healthy meals without being dosed with antibiotics.

I'll keep the idea as a definite "maybe".


Sep. 16th, 2016 11:13 pm
mellowtigger: (wild things)
I've pondered today several times if I would like to have a dog at the house. I certainly would feel safer with a living burglar alarm beside me. I'm not sure I want to establish a separate "dog poop space" from garden space, though. Regardless, I'd need to get a fence first, so the dog has a place to run without supervision, especially in winter.

I had pondered getting a Shiba Inu or an old Greyhound, since they're supposed to be "cat like" in their demeanor, with low demands on the human. As I read up on them, however, I see that both breeds tend to aggressively chase smaller animals, which would be bad news for my cat when she darts down the stairs and takes a flying leap onto the floor. It's the sort of activity that might trigger a deadly chase by the dog.

So I went looking for suggestions. Animal Planet had a decent quiz (that I liked better than the more official AKC one). It listed some interesting results for me:

Scottish Deerhound
Scottish Deerhound
(97% match)
I'd never heard of it before. Low energy, which is good. A little big for my space, though, and they rate it low for guard duty.
Great Pyrenees
Great Pyrenees
(96% match)
Beautiful, fluffy, low energy, and good with pets. Those qualities seem great. But "barks a lot"? And other places say it may be a drooler.  Yet other places mention the loud bark, but then also say it's quiet indoors?  Then again, how much time can you keep a giant dog indoors?  So, I don't know.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
(95% match)
I'd never heard of this one either. Cute face, low energy, and some watchdog ability. Maybe this is the kind of dog I need in the house.  Except apparently it's expensive if you can find one, so no.
(95% match)
Good old-fashioned Collie. Very friendly and good protectors. They'd be easy to find here, I think. But barking is the issue again?
Finnish Spitz
Finnish Spitz
(95% match)
Another breed I'd never heard of before. Good with pets and good guard ability, but again with the loud barking.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
(95% match)
Another one I've never heard of. Exceptionally good with pets, great guard dog, low energy. Sounds terrific, what's the catch? Oh, yeah, a big animal that's destructive when bored and may slobber a lot, while being expensive and short-lived. Ok, not for me.

I could just get a tiny Chihuahua and be done with the question. Then spend hours watching it be terrorized by my cat. Some guard dog, eh?

If I ever get a dog, I'm sure I'll just roam the animal shelters for months until I find a mutt that strikes my fancy, and just hope it's not an annoying barker or digger.


Dec. 24th, 2014 09:43 pm
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
The seasons are changing, and not just in the usual sense.

no snow 20141224Minnesota winters have been so reliable for producing a "white Christmas" with snow on the ground like a true winter wonderland. Not this year. I came to Minnesota in 1998.  During my years here, I remember one December or two that was so dry that I wondered if there would be snow for the holidays. This year, though, is a first. It's above freezing. All that snow that we got 2 months ago? Gone. I have never seen this effect until now.

Global warming will bring big changes to Minnesota. They've already had to change the dates of the local ice festivals, or cancel festivals altogether. With "warm" weather like this, however, ice festivals may become stories told by old people to young disbelievers who never knew a climate cool enough for buildings made of ice.

It just doesn't feel much like Christmas this year.

At work, several of us donated food and time to cook and serve dinner at a Ronald McDonald house in the local Children's Hospital.  We heard that our food was good.  People from other floors were coming down to eat after they heard that the meal that night was nice.  That group event was the closest sense of holiday that I've experienced this year, even though I'm not really comfortable doing kitchen stuff with strangers.  It took a long time for me to get comfortable enough cooking meals just for myself in a typical household environment.

The solstice came and went.  I noticed its passing and am looking forward to more daylight hours.  Christmas Eve tonight, though, doesn't feel like much.  Normally, I'd play a marathon of computer games, but I haven't been able to do much of that lately either.  I'm converting my computer from Windows to Linux, and I still don't have everything settled yet.  Not that I've really celebrated Christmas as a holiday in a long time. I think the last winter that I ever did any of the usual stuff was probably the Christmas of 1996, the last time that I dated anyone.

Hope and ChewbaccaEven Hope is low-key tonight.  She can be excused, though, since I was told by my landlords that she had nibbled on some poinsettia earlier today (not normally accessible) while I was out at the movie theater.  She may be feeling a bit nauseous.  She didn't even bother getting annoyed by my Christmas Chewbacca.

The latest Hobbit movie didn't thrill me as much as usual today.  This lack of enthusiasm may be a side effect of breaking my gluten-free diet during the last week.  I've had pizza, burritos, Whopper candy, egg rolls, and lots of other yummy, yummy foods that I've missed in 2014.  I just needed a holiday break, I guess.

I'm already paying for it with a significant resurgence of muscle twitches.  I guess maybe the brain fog is worse too.  Maybe that has something to do with my difficulty in making the switch to Linux in recent days too?  Ah, well.  It was worth it.  I mentioned pepperoni pizza and Whoppers, right?

I suppose it's time to get back on the gluten-free bandwagon, though.  It clearly helps.  A lot.

Oh, and I'm going in for sinus surgery again during the 2nd week in January.  It's the same sinus polyp problem that I had in 1998 during my first sinus surgery.  My ex-boyfriend helped with recovery last time.  This surgery should not be quite as invasive, and I'll be relying on landlords for transportation.  I expect it to go well again.

I'm certain that 2014 was a much better year than 2013.  Then again, though, that was a rather low bar to measure against.  Even with T'Reese dying this summer, 2014 was still a better year.  I hope things finally turn around in the coming months.  Maybe Hope and I will both perk up a bit.  Better days for everyone!
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
I think T'Reese was 16.5 years old when she died today. She was unable to eat or drink, so I called a veterinarian for a home visit for euthanasia. The vet arrived a few minutes before noon. After T'Reese died, I took her body to AHS for cremation.

T'Reese 2013 on bedI first saw this cat at my workplace, the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission. A coworker brought her to the office so I could meet her. He was worried that he would not be able to find a home for this last kitten of the litter because she appeared almost solid black in those early days. He thought that people were avoiding her because of the old story that black cats are bad luck. I liked her, though, so I kept her in my cubicle until the end of the workday when I could bring her home. I'm pretty sure my boss wasn't thrilled with her there, but what could he do? Send me home early with a new kitten? (Oh, the horror and shame.)

I was unable to think of a good name for her right away. I kept thinking "Reese", because her color was black and brown like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Someone suggested feminizing that word, so I went with "T'Reese" instead. Her personality didn't make her much of a lap cat. She enjoyed petting, but only under her own control. She would be the one to rub her head and body against my hand. She knew that sleeping within arm's reach meant that I would pet her, so she crawled into bed with me only down by my ankles, safely out of petting range. She tried to avoid all contact with strangers, so she lived well as an indoor housecat where she was sheltered from the busy civilization of noisy humans.

T'Reese 2013 on pcShe drove up I-35 with me from Austin to Minneapolis, along with a ferret and a 10-gallon bucket of small aquarium fish. She disliked car rides because they usually meant a trip to the veterinarian, but at least she didn't get car sick. She was quite well mannered. She would frequently hiss at approaching cats (or at Hope when that young cat frequently pounced at the older T'Reese) but never struck out at them that I saw.

T'Reese enjoyed playing with the ferret while he was amongst our little household.  She never took much interest, though, in the computer games that I played.  Nevertheless, I funded a Kickstarter campaign back in 2012, and I bought the opportunity to name one of their stars: T'Reese.  Soon, you can look for her name among the stars of the space exploration game Predestination.

She was always picky about food. She seemed to have an allergy to seafood, throwing up most of the seafood meals that I gave to her. For the last year of her life, the problem became worse and she was throwing up frequently. I kept trying different foods from the store. Non-grain foods seemed to be easier for her to tolerate, but she started refusing all meals in her last days. I didn't realize until too late that she was also refusing all water. She would go to her many sources of water, dip her chin down to the water surface... and then freeze. Only with close observation did I notice that she was not actually drinking. She would finally give up her effort then move on to another water source or go back to her bed to lay down. I had only marginal success using cat formula with a syringe and tubing. I think I got only a few milliliters of fluid into her during the whole weekend. Most of it went everywhere else. It was demotivating for us both. She and I were both helpless to do much for her thirst.

T'Reese 2005 on staircaseT'Reese 2014 licking condensation

I should have let the vet euthanize her on Friday, but I didn't realize her health condition was so severe. Watching her unquenchable thirst this weekend was unsettling, since there was nothing actually to be done for it. The vet and I assume it was a slow growing cancer in her liver that was affecting her health this past year. It finally became too much for her body to endure.

T'Reese 2014 ill

T'Reese will be missed.

two weeks

May. 30th, 2014 11:41 am
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
It was the vet's opinion that T'Reese is already experiencing pain just on her dehydration state alone.  She is beginning to show some jaundice, so the vet thinks it's possibly a slow growing liver cancer that didn't show up on ultrasound a few months ago.  T'Reese has no fever, so it doesn't seem to be an infection. I've got some more medication to try, but basically I have to get T'Reese hydrated and stop losing weight.

If she doesn't respond and keeps deteriorating, then I'll be scheduling euthanasia for her in 2 weeks.  I was willing to let her expire here in my bedroom as long as she didn't seem in pain to me, but the vet seems to think she's in pain already but just doesn't show it.  The vet said I could be with her in the office during euthanasia, or they can suggest vets who visit the home.

I'm off to buy some chicken broth (for hot hydration) and ice cube trays (for cold hydration) to see which T'Reese will respond to.

edit: 2014 June 01 Sunday
She is deteriorating quickly.  She cannot drink any water on her own.  Today, I've had no luck getting her to swallow any formula from a syringe-and-tube either.  I've already called and left a message with the vet to schedule euthanasia on Monday.  She's clearly unwell and unhappy.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
T'Reese eating seabass and shrimp dinnerI've been going to the pet store and buying one of everything. T'Reese, who has always been a picky eater, has stopped eating much of anything, so I'm offering everything to see what works. She simply ignores all of the things that she used to find especially appetizing. She'll lick at new meals a time or two (if at all) then walk away.

She still nibbles only lightly each time, but at least I found a meal that she'll return to nibble 7 or 8 more times. Seabass and shrimp appetizer is a hit. Mostly, she licks up the soup and leaves the meats, but at least she gets some nutrition into her belly.

T'Reese needs multiple opportunities to lap up a few drinks of her meal, so I have to chase Hope away constantly.  Hope has taken to hissing at me for preventing her from stalking those yummy special dinners.  I make her wait until T'Reese is sound asleep before I set all of the leftovers (most of the dish) down on the floor.

On my way home from work today, I stopped and picked up several more of these meals.  I also stopped at the vet's office to schedule an appointment on Friday which is my next day off of work.  If T'Reese makes it that far, then maybe they can tell me what's going on with her.

To call her skeletal would be an understatement.  She is knobby all over her back and shoulders and haunches now.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
T'Reese has lived a long life for a cat.  I think we first met in January 1998 (or was it December 1997?), and she was already many weeks old.  So she's maybe 16.5 years old now, when most indoor cats live 12-15 years.

I haven't taken her back to the vet again recently, because she doesn't seem to be in any pain at all... and she's just simply old.  She's starting to stumble a bit when she walks.  The main problem, though, is that she has lost far too much weight.  I notice too many bony edges on her body when I pet her.  Her picky eating habits have reached the point where she turns away almost all food now.  One of her medications is flavored, and I've been dosing canned food with it just to get her to eat something... if only a teaspoon a day.

It's annoying that I have to keep the younger cat at bay so the old cat has a chance to nibble on some food in peace.  I feed them separately, but Hope always thinks that T'Reese is getting better food than her.  T'Reese will eat maybe a dozen bites and then wander off to nap again.  At this rate, she can't keep her body going much longer.

At least she seems relatively content, and she does not seem to be feeling any pain.  I could hope for as much luck in my last days.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
My elder cat does not have liver cancer.  Yay!

T'Reese has been confined to my bedroom for most of 2013 because of her puking, pooping, and peeing.  I still have the original plastic wrap on my new bed mattress, and it's been helpful more than once.  I've also laid down patches of carpet and rug over most of the exposed hardwood floor.  She's not shown any pain from this nausea and digestion problem, and the vet confirmed that she was a good kitty during today's ultrasound procedure without complaining of any sore spots.

I originally had my appointment on Monday afternoon at the local vet clinic.  They don't have ultrasound equipment there, so they arranged a visit from a mobile veterinarian to perform the procedure.  Unfortunately, we got fresh snow on Monday, and the mobile lab ended up stuck somewhere and unable to make my appointment.  Instead, I dropped T'Reese off at the clinic this morning where she waited until the mobile lab arrived to perform her ultrasound.  I picked her up this afternoon.  Apparently she didn't eat while stressed at the vet clinic today, so when she got home the first thing she did was eat up lots of canned food.  She is now sleeping beside me at my computer desk.

She has always been a picky eater (throwing up food if it contains fish, for instance), but apparently she may have developed a case of irritable bowel syndrome too.  I'm trying out some special prescription canned food to see if her stomach tolerates it well.  If so, I guess I'll be buying it from now on.  I hope it's not hugely expensive.  The vet also gave me 3 other medications that she needs daily.  We'll see how well that process goes.  They're intended to get her liver and gall bladder inflammation down.  Hopefully all the medications can stop if the new food works well in her system.

I was worried that she was facing her final days after 16 years, but she received a reprieve today.  Maybe 2014 will bring easier days for us both.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
If you can't tell from the trees, then the cats are a sure giveaway. Cold weather has arrived in Minnesota.

I took these photos from the living room window last month. We had a brief period of cold weather that turned all the leaves. One of these days, I really should do a time lapse series from a fixed camera.

foliage 2013-10-26 foliage 2013-11-02

Since then, I saw sleet for about 20 seconds, I saw a dusting of snow, and my car slid twice on icy unsalted bridges during cold days. For the most part, though, we've had above-freezing weather during the days.

My car windshield got a nick a few weeks ago from a rock. I scheduled someone to repair the windshield with their magic resin, but 24 hours before they were due to arrive, the temperature sank down to the -13C/+8F range, and that single spot of damage cracked across the whole width of the windshield. I had the entire glass replaced that day. I see frost on my car windshield this morning, but the temperature is forecast to get almost up to freezing today.

T'Reese on pcThe cats make it obvious that cold weather has arrived. Both cats enjoy sitting on top of my high-airflow computer case. The top panel is made up entirely of airholes (like the metal screen on microwave ovens), so all the heat from the electronics can flow upward and out. Here you see my old cat, T'Reese, enjoying the warmth from the silicon furnace.

A serious design flaw of this case is the top-located power button. You can't see it in this shot, because T'Reese is sitting on it. As the cats step up or down from this perch, they often hit the button and prompt immediate shutdown of my pc. Unhappy me. I've developed the habit of opening a Notepad text document with nothing in it, just so it prompts me briefly if I want to cancel the shutdown or not. It gives me the seconds that I need to halt the shutdown before I lose my pc game or browser window.

Hope under blanketsT'Reese also has the habit (only during cold weather) of laying down in bed at night at my feet. She started doing that again last week. Not to be outdone, Hope has learned to cover herself in blankets by digging and rolling.

I enjoy winters in Minnesota when the snow arrives late.  The problem with snow here is that it lingers on the ground for months.  The snow usually doesn't begin disappearing from the ground until March or April.  If snow first arrives in October, then it makes a very long and dreary winter of the bland, bright, snowy landscape.  It's almost December this year, though, and still no snow pack on the ground.

I keep saying it, but global warming will be good to Minnesota.

a bad week

May. 7th, 2013 01:26 am
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
T'Reese 2013.05.07T'Reese is in pain tonight. She has vomited a few times, and she has pooped on my bed a few times tonight because she can't travel to the litter box. This contingency is why I left the plastic on the new mattress that I bought a few months ago.

I drove one of my landlords to the hospital emergency room yesterday morning. They gave him 2 liters of intravenous fluids to help him recover from dehydration from an apparent norovirus infection. My other landlord had the same infection last week, after getting it from his relatives. So far, I've stayed healthy, still dealing with the blood clot and poor circulation in my left leg.

I would take T'Reese to the vet first thing this morning, except I have to be in Saint Paul for a special phone system upgrade with Integra at 8am. I guess I'll head back home as soon as it's finished. I have no idea how I'm going to move a pet carrier while I'm on crutches. I guess I can push my luck and try a cane. Unless the sick landlord is staying home and is well enough to carry her for me. If so, maybe I can get him to carry my heavy coin bag to the bank for a deposit, so I can afford the vet visit.

T'Reese is old. She is about 15.5 years old, so she's had a good run as a cat. There may not be much that a vet can do for her. Someday, when I'm convinced that she doesn't have any pain-free days left, I'll ask the vet to euthanize her. I'm not looking forward to that day. I'll probably take her body to work so they can cremate her. I figure I can spread her ashes in the front yard where she looks through the big window while sitting on the couch.

We're a pathetic bunch this week. Mortality bites.
mellowtigger: (possum)
People are possum, coon, or some mixture of the two. I'm all possum.

The opossum is a marsupial with three effective methods of deterring predators. They can drop like a corpse, empty their stomach, and empty their bowels. All three behaviors are meant to change their appearance from appetizing meal to unclean filth. Marsupials are very distantly related to apes, and I think the only one of those instincts we share (and not all of us, at that) is the sudden drop in blood pressure that shuts down the central nervous system. In other words, we faint when we detect a threat to our bodies.

injections.20130432My enoxaparin medication needs to be injected into belly fat twice a day. I gave it a good attempt. I laid back in the bathroom so the cool tub on my back and legs could help keep my mind focused. As soon as I smelled a whiff of that sterilizing alcohol, though, the panic immediately set in. I broke out in sweat, got jittery, and probably would have fainted if I wasn't already in a reclining position to help keep blood in my skull. I couldn't bring myself to break my own skin with the very small needle.  I don't remember any nausea or diarrhea (such as an actual opposum would feel) from medical procedures, but I have fainted before... and I've come close to fainting many times.

Luckily, one of my landlords, Michael Vieths, has been able to inject me with my medication each morning and night. We've been following a circle around my belly button with each dose.  I scheduled a visit at a nearby clinic and they showed him how to do it. It's worked out fine. He happens to be studying for a Master's in bioinformatics, so this real-world lab practice might even make him stand out from other students in his field, I don't know.  I lay flat on the sofa, I lightly pinch my belly fat to make a tall enough target to accept the length of the short needle, then he inserts the needle and presses the plunger.  It's gone rather well.  There's far less bruising at the sites than I was expecting.

I also needed his help to pay for the initial batch of syringes.  This one medication costs just shy of $1000 for a 7-day supply.  The hospital mentioned nothing of this cost when they prescribed it (nor did they heed my doubts that I could inject myself).  Now, because my blood serum levels of blood thinner medication suddenly spiked, I'm no longer taking the injections as of this afternoon.  I've got $350 of medication left over that I must not use any more.  That's nearly a month's rent for me... wasted.  Gotta love the American medical system, right?  :(

snow.20130432On the plus side, though, the medication helped.  My pain levels have gone down a lot.  The swelling has gone down almost completely.  I can easily sit upright at this computer terminal for 30 minutes at a time now.  The increased blood pressure in my leg eventually causes enough pain that I move back to my horizontal position on the couch.

I plan to go to work on Wednesday.  Here's the view outside my bedroom window this morning.  We got some more snow last night.  Thankfully, temperatures are rising extraordinarily fast, and almost all the snow has already melted from sidewalks everywhere.  It should be safe for me to use my crutches tomorrow.

Oh, before I forget... I noticed in the bathtub during my attempt to self-inject that merely the whiff of isopropyl alcohol prompts an immediate panic reaction.  Apparently the lifelong experience of clinic injections since infancy has trained my nervous system to recognize that scent as a threat.  I tried on Saturday to do some Pavlovian conditioning on myself.  I took a whiff of the alcohol, ate a spicy dorito, and then repeated again after a few minutes.  I don't think it worked at all.  I still recognize the bloodstream rush of panic when I first scent the disinfectant.  It's a good theory, though.  Maybe it just needs more practice.  Still, though, it's the pain that my nervous system is trying to avoid.  If the process left no tactile sensation at all... I suspect that I could learn to inject myself.

As long as there's pain, though, then the proper autonomic response (for a possum like me) is to reduce blood pressure for an emergency shutdown of the nervous system.  I don't think you can train a possum to be a coon instead.


Mar. 23rd, 2013 06:01 pm
mellowtigger: (twitch)
Well, I'm stuck on crutches for a while.  :(

Three years ago, I attended the Wildlife Rehabilitators Conference here in Minnesota at the main shelter where I work for the Animal Humane Society.  I joined them again today for their weekend conference.  My attendance this year, though, is cut short because I won't be attending tomorrow.  Instead, I expect to stay home so I can nurse a torn ligament in my left leg.

The conference was going well today until our Volunteer department started their own meeting at 1pm in the auditorium nearby.  Their microphone started coming through our speakers too.  I was the only tech staff on site, so I was running around trying to solve the problem.  You'd think I would have snapped a ligament while I was bounding up and down the stairways in a hurry, but no.  After a few phone calls to other staff, I finally just cut power to the speakers in the Wildlife conference so we could continue in peace.  Problem solved.

But I'm a dork; I injure myself just by walking.  I closed a door, pivoted on my left leg, and began taking my first step back to my seat at the conference when *snap/PAIN* happened suddenly.  My first thought was muscle cramp (those used to be common for me), but I soon realized this problem was different.  I sat through the rest of the day fine, then I limped slowly and painfully to my car for the ride home. I discovered that it doesn't hurt nearly as bad if my left foot stays far in front of me at all times, preventing me from flexing my foot and stretching my calf muscle.  My movement was more like a zombie shuffle than a walking gait.

Anyway, I have some new crutches now, so I am more easily mobile again.  Reading online about torn ligaments, I find suggestions for rest, ice, and vitamin B12 (my old friend). I have already finished a pdf for my most recent federal taxes, so I plan to take a copy to a nearby doctor's office that does sliding scale payments for the poor.  I'll see if they recommend anything different to help speed my recovery.


al atabi'a

Nov. 27th, 2012 10:14 am
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
As if from an episode of "Connections", the histories of Rome, Baghdad, USA, and Google collided to give me the story of why my cat is called a "tabby".

Road and Espionage: About 2000 years ago, the Roman Empire enjoyed it's great age of peace. During this time, the famous "Silk Road" was bringing many goods from the far east to Rome. This important trade route passed through many cities, and one of these cities was Baghdad. About 1500 years ago, the Roman Empire was already splintering. The eastern half later became known as the Byzantine. One Byzantine emperor, called Justinian, wanted to reduce costs by producing silk locally instead of paying the expensive transport fees added by the many middlemen along the famous trade route. Justinian sent two Christian monks to Asia, and they learned how silk was made. They also stole silkworm eggs hidden in bamboo, and so China lost its monopoly while production began around the Mediterranean.

Prince and District: About 1200 years ago, while Europe was in the midst of its "Dark Ages", other cultures still flourished. As one example, the second major Islamic caliphate stretched across the middle east and northern Africa. This empire was the "Umayyad caliphate", named after "sons of Umayya". Among Umayya's grandsons was a prince named "Attab". (citation needed)  A part of Baghdad became associated with the prince.  (another citation needed)  Modern Baghdad still has a neighborhood called "Al Atabi'a", but I can't confirm that it is the same district from antiquity.

wateredsilk.moireSilk and Branding: Silk cloth was produced in many cities along the Mediterranean, but the Al Atabi'a district in Baghdad became famous for making a beautiful watered silk. Their silk produced a pattern of light-vs-dark shade, giving the appearance of colored stripes where there are none. This remarkable effect on the already beautiful silk cloth earned great attention. The Al Atabi'a cloth was desired by the wealthy in many countries.

Marriage and Biography: About 300 years ago, Mary Ball married Augustine Washington. Together they raised many children. Among them were a son named George (who would eventually lead the Revolutionary War and become the first president of the United States) and a daughter named Betty. Betty's marriage was a grand event, literally one for the history books. She was given away by her 18-year-old brother George. About 100 years ago, while the Civil War was still a living memory for a Confederate woman named Sara, Sara wrote a book about the life of Mary Ball. The book was titled, "The Mother of Washington And Her Times". Included in her book was an account of Betty's marriage ceremony and the watered silk clothing that was worn.

Internet: About 10 years ago, the internet search giant known as Google began scanning old books, and some people cross-posted those texts to the Internet Archives. Among those books was Sara's biography of Mary. Since the entire text was available to the computerized search engine, I recently stumbled across the following story about Betty's marriage while pondering why my cat is called a tabby.

They wore stately garments, paduasoy, from sole de Padua where the strong, lustrous silk so much worn by men and women was manufactured, or "tabby" velvet and silk, the rich watered oriental fabric manufactured in Attabya, a quarter in Bagdad. These were the grandest, the most sumptuous fabrics known. The wife of Goldsmith's Vicar was proud of her crimson paduasoy (the silk had given its name to a garment). Samuel Pepys could not afford the genuine article, but he boasted a "wastecoat of false tabby." Of course, a majestic woman wore these rich materials, "silk gowns wad stand on end" like the gowns of Dumbiedike's grandmother. Who could be majestic in clinging, willowy chiffon ? Elizabeth Washington, known by the diminutive "Betty," undoubtedly enhanced her majesty by one or more of these gowns made in the fashion invented by the artist Watteau.
- "The Mother of Washington And Her Times", by Mrs. Roger A. Pryor , (c) 1903

Hope: That long story of faded human empires and corporate-religious espionage brings me back to my young cat, Hope. I have long used the phrase "American alley cat" for any cat with the traditional grey and black stripes. I eventually wondered why her appearance was called "tabby" by other people, so I went googling and found the history detailed above. At some point, "tabby cloth" became a term for any fabric that had stripes of two or more colors, and "tabby" became the description for cats with similar appearance. The characteristic "M" on the forehead of tabby cats also nicely matches the moire pattern of watered silk. Now you know the whole story.  Here to illustrate the tabby appearance is my cat, Hope... perhaps Hope Al Atabi'a?


Hope has the traditional "M" forehead pattern of a tabby, but she also has a white locket in the shape of an upside-down-T on her chest.
mellowtigger: (schrodinger's cat)
Hope sleepsOn Thursday morning (just 3 days away), I return Hope to the shelter.  She'll have her spay surgery, recover (quickly, for a kitten), and then probably reach the adoption floor on the weekend.  I don't have long to decide whether to adopt her.

Reasons for and against have emotional components, and it's not at all clear which side will win.

  • CUTE!  Hope is watching the cursor move on the screen as I type this sentence.
  • The animal comfort of physical contact.  Hope gives every indication that she'll actually be a "lap cat", unlike T'Reese.  She's already settled onto my lap now, as I near the end of my blog editing session.
  • The relief of ensuring that she doesn't stay in a home where roughhousing is encouraged.  She's prone to biting/kicking (time spent in the wild?).  I've seen what becomes of cats who are indulged as simply being "playful", and I want Hope to avoid that personality.
  • I'd lose any opportunity at Remaking myself, if I commit to another decade+ of time spent responsible feeding another mouth.  That option is "a lot" to give up.  It's my main concern against adopting Hope.
  • Yes, I'd be responsible for feeding another mouth.  I expect economic times ahead to be even worse than now.  I have no idea what to expect long-term from my nerve issues.  Can I keep up with the responsibility?
  • I'd face household warfare as I spend weeks/months negotiating the peace with T'Reese and Hope.  Even now, playful Hope bounds into T'Reese which prompts a very hissy encounter from both.
  • I'd have to maintain a solution (other than declawing) to scratching for the next decade.  Very annoying problem.
Here's a random houseguest of my landlords on the couch.  Everyone is Hope's friend, which is very unlike my scaredy cat T'Reese.

*sigh*  Decisions, decisions.

lap cat

Aug. 28th, 2010 09:51 am
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
Jose in my lapIf I were able to make plans for a domestic future, I think I would be using this time to find another cat. T'Reese is old, and it would be good for me to find "backup support" for myself during the inevitable loss of my longest companion. Not knowing my current condition or projected future, though, leaves me hesitant to make any long term commitment to any plan.

Still, life is not without its temptations.

Jose tempting meI found a wonderful lap cat at work this week. I should have already placed an "employee hold" on this animal so I could begin adoption paperwork and preparations at home.

Jose has dark orange eyes that just captivate me. Soft fur, tolerant of petting, growing tolerance of the other cats in the group room, instinct for laying down in my lap... I should be taking Jose home with me already.

Jose also seems to enjoy tilting backwards to look up at me, tempting me to lower my face to scratch my fuzzy chin against Jose's furry forehead.  We've already repeated this silly ritual many times this week.  Jose purrs very softly against my jaw as my reward for following the obvious protocol.

I hope Jose gets adopted this weekend, so the temptation isn't there on Monday.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
Some special kinds of stupidity deserve lots of attention as an example of how NOT to behave.

frightened donkey on parasailHoping to attract tourists to their private beach, some entrepreneurs in Russia tied a donkey to a parasail and launched it into the air above the Sea of Azov.  The screaming animal (nearly drowned upon landing in the water) did garner attention, but probably not the kind the owners were hoping to achieve.

"It was put up so high into the sky that the children on the beach cried and asked their parents: 'Why did they tie a doggy to a parachute?'" Taman newspaper reported last week.

"The donkey landed in an atrocious manner: it was dragged several metres along the water, after which the animal was pulled out half-alive onto the shore," the paper reported.

Studies continue to show that human-animal bonding is a fertile training ground to improve the human-human social experience.  Pets have become a legitimate part of our extended family.

Today, it is socially acceptable to grieve the loss of a pet, to carry pet pictures in your wallet or purse, to celebrate your pet's birthday with a party, to have pet medical insurance, and to buy special food. The newest trend is to buy special clothes for pets. Today in the US, we own over 120 million dogs and cats and a total of 1.2 billion animals of many species as pets.

Human-animal bonding is also a stress-reducing experience that boosts human health.

Why is friendly dog presence stress-reducing?  One possibility is that such presence functions as an "attachment figure" to convey security and safety.  This suggests that attachment theory may be a broad enough "tent" to encompass animals as attachment figures for humans, and vice versa.  A second line of research provides evidence that animal presence (not only dogs but also rabbits and other small furry creatures) facilitates human social approach and interaction for children and adults, both with (Mader, Hart, & Bergin, 1989) and without disabilities (Hunt, Hunt, & Gomulkiewicz, 1992).  Together, these research directions suggest that human interactions with animals, particularly pets, affect human well being and functioning.

People who are aggressive to animals are also aggressive to humans.  In contrast, people who learn to love a less threatening animal are more likely to treat fellow humans with respect and care.  To state it bluntly, there is a direct correlation between those who abuse animals and those who abuse people.

Animal abuse and interpersonal violence toward humans share common characteristics: both types of victime are living creatures, have a capacity for experiencing pain and distress, can display physical signs of their pain and distress (with which humans could empathize), and may die as a result of inflicted injuries.  Given these commonalities, it is not surprising that early research in this area, much of it using retrospective assessment, examined the relation between childhood histories of animal abuse and later violent offending.

Emotional bonding with animals should be encouraged.  It moulds humans into better creatures.
mellowtigger: (dna mouse)
They say that man's best friend is the dog, but another creature has suffered on our behalf and contributed more to our well being than all the canines ever have. The lowly mouse is so very similar to us in genes and health and disease. This similarity costs it a great deal of ill treatment. I'm not opposed to learning from animal experimentation, but I would like to believe that the usefulness of a particular animal test has been appropriately reviewed and validated.

In 2006, Daniel Hackam of the University of Toronto looked at how many animal-based experiments had been later verified by successful human trials. Out of 76 studies published between 1980 and 2000, 28 were successfully replicated in human randomised trials, 14 were contradicted in trials, and 34 remained untested. ... None of this should put a negative spin, however, on the importance of mice in research. So far, 26 Nobel prizes have gone to discoveries where research on mice has been key, including work on vitamins, the discovery of penicillin, the development of numerous vaccines and understanding the role of viruses.

So, we use them.

We freeze them for 16 years, thaw their carcass, then extract cells to clone them into new mice. (Japanese or English)
To A Mouse;
On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough
by Robert Burns in November 1785

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

We inspire creativity by encouraging people to build a better mouse trap.

We use them as hosts for our parasitic additions to their bodies, like this cow cartilage shaped into a human ear configuration.

In the interest of science, of course, we even levitate them by lifting magnetically every molecule of water in their body.

And yet... and yet... every once in a while, this timid relative of ours (who looks more like the first mammal than we ourselves do) can surprise us when it's driven by bravery or curiosity or plain old-fashioned hunger.

I hope that we can accumulate sufficient knowledge to eventually make live animal testing unnecessary. I hope we reach a point where we can turn the animals loose and thank them for their generations of service. Although they'd likely not understand the gesture (Rats of NIMH excepted?), perhaps we could still hold a small ceremony to commemorate that their descendants are finally free from such poor treatment. I hope we can keep an accounting and someday provide to them the same medical benefits that they have provided to us.

It was 5 years ago (2004 September 13) that I found a story about researchers at Columbia University (City of New York) producing mice with autistic behaviors by injecting them with thimerosal.   I suspected that the mice in such experiments would be killed in order to examine their brains post mortem. Just in case, though, I emailed the researcher to offer my services to coordinate a "mouse relocation program". If any mice survived their experiments and were no longer of use to the scientists, I would pay to ship them to new adoptive homes. I was willing to adopt the autistic mice similar to the way that used greyhound dogs are rescued from their industries too. Patricia Clark offered to adopt a pair of them, if I ever got my relocation program running. I never heard back from the researcher, unfortunately.

I make no apologies for myself having descended from omnivores. My diet already leaves me short of appropriate B12 resources. I will continue to eat animals, although I'd rather pick genetically engineered berries that alone can meet all of my nutritional needs. Even if someone finally engineers such a plant, how will we determine the safety of these berries in the human diet?

Before any human, of course, we will feed such berries to a mouse.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
waterbowlI have more photos from my Saturday trip to the Minnesota Zoo. I'm just not feeling very motivated to post them, though. Instead, I'm wondering what leads cats to do these two things...

T'Reese has never caught a mouse or bird that I know of, so I don't know if she'd leave it on my bed for me as a treat. She does, however, take her small toys and drop them into her water bowl for safe keeping. Why is that?

Whenever I've lost a hair tie, there's a 50/50 chance that it will at some point end up in the water bowl. Either I eventually find it on my own, or she finds it first and deposits it into her stash. Here's a photo with 3 of them in there already.

If they were living creatures, they'd just go rancid in the water and ruin her water supply. I'd think that evolution would have programmed her to avoid doing something like that. I have a hard time imagining what biological compulsion makes her do this with non-living items.

sleeping tiger with tongueOver the years, I've seen different cats stick out their tongue while they sleep. I don't know what causes that effect either. And, sure enough, even the big cats do it too. I got this photo through some very dirty glass at the zoo.

I'd think that a dried out tongue would be a bad thing. So why do they get into this configuration while they sleep but not while they're awake?

Strange kitty.

mellowtigger: (Default)
My organization (AHS) made local news a few weeks ago when it received 120 cats from a hoarder in a mobile home.  Shortly afterwards, we again made news after the community was informed that all of those cats were euthanized.

I can't speak for AHS, and I don't work directly with animals so I don't have access to information about the details of this case.  This case, though, still bothered me.   It may be that something good will come of this experience....

Once again, my coworkers impress me with their commitment to the care of animals under our roof.  I went in for an early meeting today in which we discussed and brainstormed ways to improve in 3 areas of performance.  One topic of discussion was our euthanasia rates.  Our organization is committed to being an open-door facility.  That means we do not turn away any animal that someone brings to us.  I agree with that policy wholeheartedly.  It also means, though, that some animals brought through our doors will not be adoptable because of health or temperament.  What to do in these cases is where all the emotion and concern become apparent.  The limits of our budget and facilities come face to face with the consequences of handing an animal over to an eager "parent" at our adoption desk. 

Can we accept the ethical responsibility of placing an aggressive animal with a person who thinks they can train the animal to better behavior?  Even if they have children in the house too?  Can the human community around us trust us if we release to a new owner an animal that we consider dangerous?  Can the person afford the medical procedures that we know an animal will require?  What if the animal will always be a carrier of disease, then does the health of the animal population outweigh the life of the individual animal?  Can we trust ourselves to test a dog for food aggression when it's obviously been malnourished?  Wouldn't we get aggressive at our first few real meals in a long while?

There are lots of good questions that I don't have good personal answers for.  I really like the idea of spay/neuter-then-release programs that some cities have.  They take stray cats, "fix" them so they can't reproduce, then return them to their alleyways.  Seems like a decent idea at first, since it reduces the overpopulation problem that brings animals to our doorsteps.  Then I look around our adoption floor and notice far too many cats with missing ear parts.  I assume that some of them have been lost to frostbite.  Who knows how many other cats died in the freezing weather here.  Maybe spay/neuter-then-release isn't such a humanitarian procedure when we live in this very cold climate.  I can't decide where I stand on this issue any more.

Still, I want AHS to remain an open-door facility.  Change can still happen here.  We do believe that there is room for improvement.  I'm convinced that staff are completely dedicated to reducing euthanasia rates.  Apparently, we keep bringing up the issue with management whenever we are given the opportunity (like staff surveys and all-site retreat).  I'm convinced that we will find ways to give these animals other opportunities, even if AHS decides that euthanasia is the least-painful outcome in the future of an animal.  Now it's just a matter of ensuring that actual changes come into existence after all of these frank discussions.

As I drove into work today in -2F/-19C (-25F/-32C windchill), I considered applying for a job I saw posted in "Nowhere", Arizona.  It'd be desert, but it'd be warm at least.  But then I got to the early morning meeting, and I realized that change at AHS will happen as long as all these dedicated people stay to ensure that change happens.  I want to help play a part in bringing about that change.

MN Zoo

Feb. 28th, 2009 07:15 pm
mellowtigger: (Default)
The weather at 9:30am today was still at 0F/-18C (subzero windchill) but clear skies.  I hadn't been to the zoo in a long while, so I decided to make a long trip to the south metro area to visit the meerkats.  Usually, in cold weather, humans don't bother leaving the main complex.  The meerkats had their own little winter building, so I could sit in there for an hour (me looking at them, them looking at me) without ever being bothered with the clamor of other humans.

It's been so long since I've been to the zoo that I didn't even know the meerkats had been taken off of exhibition in September!  The zoo is building them a new home that should open in 2012.  *sigh*  On the plus side, though, earlier construction was now completed and they had an excellent place for viewing coyotes and river otters.  Both animals seem to tolerate the Minnesota cold and snow pretty well.  They even had an American bald eagle there.  The dolphins are also not on exhibition, because they're trying to raise (breed) a larger pod.   Even the sharks were conspicuously missing from the salt tank next to the dolphins.

The only animal I've seen at the MN Zoo that ever seemed to be unhappy in its surroundings has been the Fishing Cat.  Consistently, over many years, it is always pacing in its enclosure when I see it.  :(  I have written the zoo before now to let them know.

I'm not great at photography.  Some unlikely photos (like the night shot of the ever-pacing Fishing Cat) turned out well, while others in full daylight didn't work at all.  I ran out of spare memory on this old camera really fast too, but here's the best of what I shot.

coyoteriver otterriver otterasian otter
CoyoteNorth American River OtterAsian Small-clawed otter
clouded leopardFishing Catbatsleopard shark
Clouded LeopardFishing CatGreater Indian Fruit Bats
Leopard Shark
visayan warty pigsred ruffed lemurcotton top tamarinchilean pudu
Visayan Warty PigsRed Ruffed LemurCotton-Top TamarinChilean Pudu

Click images for bigger versions (and click again for original size photo).  Click the names to read the zoo's webpage about the animal.


mellowtigger: (Default)

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