Friday, June 18, 2010

Out of the Office

Muzzy and I will be away from our desks for the next little while. We'll start posting again after the 27th. Stay well and (try to) stay cool. -z

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

They Flea From Me

This week's entries seems to have an animal-kingdom theme going, so I thought I'd keep it rolling with this item. I read about it at Dog Art Today. A full article can be read here, at the Web site for

This is sculptor and artist Vivianne Lee Carey. Her latest installation, "Hair of the Dog," runs between now and June 26 at the Artists' Guild Gallery in lovely Spartanburg, South Carolina. Ms. Carey has spent a year studying real fleas and designing giant artificial ones from wire, metal, and tufts of dog hair.

According to the article, Carey's frustration with "pretty" art, along with the never-ending task of sweeping up shedded dog hair at home, led her to this latest creation. There are 56 giant flea sculptures included in the show, each with its own "personality." Ms. Carey has no reservations about her feelings for fleas. "I love them," she says. She mentions an anecdote in which an infestation of fleas saved a few Holocaust victims from being captured by Nazis. That's a great story, but I think the millions of Europeans, Asians, and North Africans who died horrific deaths caused by flea-transmitted plagues in the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries might beg to differ with Carey's assessment of the little buggers. Still, she agrees that ticks are pretty abhorrent.

Enjoy! -z
Photo credit: Tim Kimsey

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Frankie = Catfish?

Diane was deeply offended the other day when Johnny's cousin, who came to visit from the Valley, said that her dog Frankie looked like a catfish. To be fair, he was referring to a specific kind of catfish at the moment that it is caught, with its mouth open and gasping. What's more, Catfish Cousin explained, the resemblance was clear only when Frankie's ears were set back.

Readers, I leave it to you to decide.

Exhibit A: Frankie, in profile, ears back, mouth open (photo courtesy of Richard):

Exhibit B: "Texas catfish" (Image shamelessly pilfered from the Web)

Exhibit C: Blinkie (Image courtesy of The Simpsons)

Exhibit D:  Catfish, fried. (Image also shamelessly pilfered)

Is there really any question about which of these "catfish" would go best with a beer  you would want to snuggle with?

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Narrow Fellow on the Path

I am so going to have nightmares tonight after spending half an hour trying to find a picture of a snake that looks like the one several of us encountered at Dog Park Sunday night. It looked a good bit like this one. 

The snakes in the pictures are pretty close. They are Texas rat snakes (formal name: elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri), and, frankly, the one I saw was not quite obsolete enough for me. To be fair, it was simply minding its own business, stretched across the trail at the bottom of the center path, not far from the creek. And it did a far better job of playing it cool while everyone else lost their minds. Four humans and six dogs hopped around and yelped (well, only the humans yelped) for the better part of a minute. Most of the dogs didn't even see the snake until it darted into a nearby clump of trees. Only Frankie ran after it. 

The snake was about four feet long. Its skin was a light beige with a darker and beautiful diamond pattern on its back that faded to a blur when the snake scooted away. It also had a head so tiny and pointy that I got the ends mixed up. I thought for a full second that it was moving backwards away from us. It was quite chubby in the middle, which means it is finding plenty to eat in the underbrush.

Here are the facts that I found at this site, which is "assembled and edited" by Jerry Cates, who also took the pictures, I believe.  

Rat snakes are not poisonous, but they do not like to be messed with and will bite, according to Mr. Cates. They mostly eat mice and rats, but will occasionally dine on small birds. They hunt at dawn and dusk. We saw our narrow friend around 8:45 p.m. 

In honor of our new Dog Park neighbor, here's Emily Dickinson's poem "A Narrow Fellow in the Grass." The last few lines capture perfectly how I felt after our encounter.

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides—
You may have met Him—did you not
His notice sudden is

The Grass divides as with a Comb—
A spotted shaft is seen—
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on—

He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn—
Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot—
I more than once at Noon
Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled, and was gone—

Several of Nature's People
I know, and they know me—
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality—

But never met this Fellow
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero at the Bone—

Courtesy of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson (Little Brown & Company, 1960), p. 459.

Watch your step! -z

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Channeling His Inner Hound"

We all wonder what innate talents our dogs are squandering during their lives of air-conditioned comfort in Austin, Texas. Watch as one NYTimes reporter prepares to take his basset Elvis on a scent course outside of Atlanta. It's wabbit season. How does Elvis do? Take a look at the video below.

Here's the link to the article that accompanies the video, by Robbie Brown. (Credit for photo of Elvis and bunny statuette above: Jessica Kourkounis for the NYT.) Enjoy. -z