Ah, the rural life. Critters, events, opinions and trivia.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Year of the Spidey

Every year, my friend John says: "This is the year of the [fill in the blank]". He bases this, not on the Chinese calendar, but on the number of dead animals he sees squashed along the roadside.

While his is not a particularly scientific observation, he does tend to be correct regarding which species is vastly overpopulated in a given year.

This year, John declared: "This is the year of the spider". Sure enough, there are about a gazillion spiders in the house and around the house. I have never seen so many different types of spiders. There are days when it is impossible to enter or exit the house or walk through the woods without passing through a web.

I might appreciate this wonder of nature more if I weren't allergic to spider bites, and I've had quite a few this year. Once of out favorite local MD's, was bitten by a spider, ignored the bite, and died a few days later.

You would think that with the increase in the spider population, there would be a corresponding decrease in the insect population, their food source. Maybe that has happened, since another competitor for that food source, the wonderful big warty toads, are notable absent from the garden this year. I really miss those toads.

All in all, this is a long explanation of why my home appears to be so unkempt this year. Of course, the spider webs everywhere are a result of overpopulation, not of my neglecting the dusting.....

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Disney does doggies

Last week, I heard that Disney is going to re-release the Shaggy Dog movie starring Tim Allen, in 2006. Given how much I love Old English Sheepdogs, you might assume that I am delighted about the forthcoming movie.

I am not delighted. When Disney's "101 Dalmatians" was released, it triggered an amazing increase in the number of dalmatian litters produced. In 2003, there were 1,112 dalmatians registered by the AKC. The breed ranked 80th of 151 breeds. After the Disney movie, the breed shot up to #1 or close to it. There were tens of thousands of dalmatians bred and registered with the AKC.

What's the problem? To capitalize on the movie's popularity and the overnight public demand for dalmatian puppies, puppy mills and others began furiously breeding litters, without regard to correct mate selection and genetic testing issues. (Dalmatians have an extremely high rate of deafness, between 20-30% of Dalmatian puppies born are euthanized due to deafness). Pet stores, newspaper and magazine ads were awash with dalmatian puppies. Those puppies went to families largely unfamiliar with the breed. Now, dalmatians are a wonderful breed, but they are absolutely not for everyone.

So once families realized that this "up" puppy was going to be a "up" high energy dog, with issues common to the breed, the dalmatians started being "dumped" into shelters and rescue programs. Even though the Disney movie was released in 1996, the flood of dalmatians going into shelters and rescue progrmas continues today. Those dogs are 6 - 10 years old, and not easy to place.

Old English Sheepdogs are also not for everyone. They have the personalities and traits of a herding breed -- that is their job. They are very large (males 80+ pounds) and even if shorn, their coats are fairly high maintenance. While some can be wonderful with children, they can also be too boisterous and physical for tiny tots.

Oh by the way, I volunteer for New England Old English Sheepdog rescue. We currently place 1 - 2 rescued OES a week and the breed is not all that popular. If Disney popularizes the breed, we can expect that the puppy mills and others will flood the market with OES, and for years after, a good percentage of those dogs will end up in shelters or rescue programs.

What can be done? If I had any way to contact the right folks at Disney, or Tim Allen himself, I would beg them to do either an introduction or trailer for the movie, suggesting that the dogs they see in the movie are not a good choice for everyone, and that individuals interested in the breed should do a little research about the breed, and/or consider acquiring an OES through a rescue program. There are always 20 - 40 Old English Sheepdogs listed on http://www.Petfinder.com This is the OES breed club's website: http://www.oldenglishsheepdogclubofamerica.org/

If you run across this posting, and happen to know anyone at Disney (Director: Brian Robbins Screenwriter: Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley) or in Tim Allen's group, please send them a copy of this note.

Monday, October 04, 2004

' 64 High School Reunion

I really wish I could attend my 40th High School reunion next weekend, but I have a schedule conflict. I tried to help the hard working reunion committee by attempting to find the classmates who have gone "missing" and even with lots of online information available, I only had limited success.

I did discover some interesting trends: a fair number of classmates are living in Florida; there are still lots of classmates in our hometown; quite a few classmates are already retired (at 55); many classmates have been married to their original spouse and a surprising number of classmates have email addresses.

The high school graduating class of 1964 was smack dab in the middle of several social and political revolutions: the Civil Rights movement; the anti-war (Vietnam) movement; the sexual revolution; and women's' liberation. The years from 1964 to 1974 were packed with events that profoundly changed out lives. The cold war was a pressing reality in our youth -- there was a Nike missile installation in our town -- we had civil defense drills where we had to crawl under our desks.

One of our classmates was the first young man to refuse to be inducted into military service, for which he was arrested but eventually he did serve in Vietnam. Another of our classmates enlisted right out of High School and was killed in Vietnam. Somehow, our class transitioned from "Father Knows Best"/"Donna Reed" lives into something quite different. Our musical favorites changed from the Kingston Trio, to Bob Dylan, to the Beatles, to Jimmy Hendricks and Janis Joplin.

Many of us are very fortunate, we are one of the last generation to have a lifestyle better than our parents. I have a sense of amazement when I think of who we were and who we have become. I no longer remember who was "most likely to succeed" but it seems to me that we have all succeeded.

Best wishes to my classmates, have a wonderful time.