pets

Posted by Ellen

Students spotted it first, early on the morning of December 2: a little ball of fur near the door outside a high school in Boca Raton, Florida.

A ball of kittens, of course, two of them, tangled together in a tabby clump and much too tiny to be out on their own. They were lucky little kittens, however; each was rescued and ultimately adopted by an English teacher at the school, and one of those English teachers just happened to be our own Officer Al of the grammar patrol (the alt-write, he tells us). Both little kitties have thrived.

But like all cats, they showed up without names. And like all cats adopted by English teachers, they needed literary names, not to mention all the other fraught sorts of names catalogued by T.S. Eliot.

Allen named his cat Scout, as in To Kill a Mockingbird. But a couple of days later, when he finally got little teeny tiny Scout to the vet for a checkup, there was a surprise: Scout was a male kitty. He would need a different name. Why? We can't know these things, but Allen was very sure of it.

He considered Travis, as in Travis McGee. He considered McGee, as in Travis McGee. But those names weren't right.

He considered Sue, as in Johnny Cash. Nope.

So he settled on Phineas, from A Separate Peace, Phinny for short. And Phinny he was, until within a couple of weeks he wasn't Phinny any longer but Phinn. No, not Phinn: he was Finn. Maybe as in Huckleberry. Or maybe as in Phineas. The ambiguity was delicious.

Meanwhile, the other kitten from the clump outside the school, also a male, was named Dante. In the photo above, Finn at left and Dante on the right are back together again for a recent brotherly meetup and play date.

We might think this name thing is all settled now, but like the poet says, we think that because we're stupid:

When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name

Posted by Ellen

There are two good dogs here, who are paying attention and no doubt salivating over the treats in that plastic bag. But the guy in the back, a young Belgian malinois named Boulder, still needs to get with the program.

Posted by Ellen

According to the good people at Life magazine in 1937, no animals were harmed in the production of this and the many hundreds of similar pictures that comprised the life's work of photographer Harry Whittier Frees, "the most famed U.S. photographer of dressed-up animals."

"No animal protective socities have ever accused him of cruelty to animals," said the Life article. "Some have praised and admired his work." Frees, for one, insisted that gentleness with his models was the secret of his success.

Still and all, in the twenty-first century, we kinda wonder.

It all started one evening in 1906 at the Frees dinner table in Audubon, Pennsylvania. Somebody had brought a silly paper hat to the table, and it was passed around from head to head with plenty of giggles and wisecracks. And then somebody put the hat on the head of the family's pet kitten, Boots, which led to even more giggles but also to an epiphany for Harry Frees: he would take a picture of the cat in the hat and see if he could sell it.

A postcard printer bought it and begged for more; a career was born. Frees spent the next forty years dressing up baby animals that he rented from the neighbors and posing them in human sorts of activities. The postcards and children's books now sell for about $20 each on ebay.

Most of the costumes were sewn by Frees's housekeeper, Mrs. Annie Edelman, who contrived stiffeners to keep the animals posed somewhat upright. In his studio, Frees worked hard to keep his models' attention; bunnies were the easiest to work with, he said, because they were so timid they didn't move much. Piglets were the most difficult to handle; when unhappy, they tended to close their eyes tight and squeal.

But Frees's bread and butter were kittens and puppies doing everyday sorts of things that people do. And for what it's worth, note that the clothespins here are made from a single piece of wood, not the spring-loaded pincer kind of clothespin, which would have been difficult to manipulate without opposable thumbs.

Posted by Ellen

He loves his dog, which we were told weighs 72 pounds. And he loves to ride his dog down the sidewalk on Rodman Street. You got a problem with that? 

Posted by Ellen

Susan Wiggin writes from Portland, Maine:

Miss Vera had 2 little boy puppies on Saturday night. Here they are on Sunday. Everyone is doing great & they are velvety soft & they squeak.

Posted by Ellen

Maggie Stein and Colin Doody write from Rochester, New York:

We have two cats: Mac and Jasper. Mac is this tall, slim, elegant, handsome, smart and funny young man. However, as he has a shiny black coat, he is fairly difficult to photograph. You can see his eyeballs in the top picture above. That's one of his favorite hiding places: behind all of his favorite DVDs. He's got a comprehensive collection ranging from boy meets world and full house to sleepless in Seattle to black hawk down.

Jasper is our chubby, off-white, special little boy. While he is super cuddly and floppy (as you can see in the two pictures above), he is also less adept at normal cat functions. He often gets stuck up on top of our shelving unit, and he struggles with bathing, using the litter box, and controlling his caloric intake. He might also have a thyroid problem (which, as it turns out is a huge problem due to Rochester's soil), as he likes to sleep at least 18 hours a day. One of his favorite pasttimes, when he's not sleeping of course, includes pulling Q-tips and sponges out of drawers. He also enjoys occupying public areas in protest. While he doesn't voice his opposition well, we think he may have something against Ikea (see photo below). 

We hope that our special boys make the Good Morning email. They would be so proud of themselves. Mac might even link to it on his Facebook account. Those interested might consider friending Macbot J. Catson.... he could use a few more friends. (Please don't tell him we said that.)

Posted by Ellen

 

Richard Stein writes from Lower Hutt, New Zealand:
 
Our newest sheep, Little Fluffy Raincloud, at left in photo, was a gift from a friend of ours. We had three previously, Curly, Lari, and Mow, but Lari died recently of old age and is buried on our property, where she lived a full and happy life. Once your sheep have names, you cannot eat them. We need three sheep to keep the grass in our two paddocks. 
 
The photo below is of our dog, Sesame, who immigrated to New Zealand with us (she is almost 12 now), and Trapper, our New Zealand cat. Both animals regularly follow A. and me when I walk to work in the morning.
Posted by Ellen

Tanja Baker writes from Durham, Maine:

I could have sent some cute pictures of our cats; they turned 2 years old yesterday and had a blast with their brand new toys. But I figured our 4 quackers deserve some shine too.

Now that we own a house with a yard and we no longer have to ask a landlord where we can plant a garden or whether we can have some animals, we had to get some egg layers. Everyone can have chickens, which are messy, and we wanted more entertainment. So we got some Indian Runner ducks.

There are no breeders in Maine or New England, so we had to order them from Texas. Little did we know that ducklings do not need any food or water for the first 3 days of their life; they are still nursing on the egg yolk. All they need is heat. So they come in a cardboard box (yes, the one in the picture) with a heating pad, delivered overnight to your post office.

I did not believe this would work without any casualties, but those little birds are tough as nails. They arrived 3 days old  and happy to explore their new world. We had to keep them under a heating lamp and introduce them to water and cracked corn. Since then, they have been growing at an unbelievably fast pace. Now 5 months old and fully grown, they own the backyard, and we are waiting for our first egg. I will keep you posted, can't wait for my first backyard-grown breakfast.