Perfectly Safe

My wife’s friend’s pet is a female Pitbull rescued from a dog shelter. Having a 4 year old daughter and two cats I do not approve of pet Pitbulls, or in fact any large dogs bred for attack/defense duty: Rottweilers, German Shepherds, etc. There are other horse-sized dogs capable of grievous harm, but since they were bred for other purposes, like pulling sleds/rescuing people, they are somewhat safer.

But any Pitbull owner will tell you that their dog is “perfectly safe”. No amount of statistics will persuade them that “shnookums” can rip off a toddler’s face or maul a person or kill a cat. I always tell them about “Chekhov’s gun“. The genetic memory of dogs bred for attacking might be dormant most of the time, but you never know what might activate it.

Yet, there are always people out there who underestimate animals, like that woman who had a pet chimp and ended up on the front page of the Post. I’m sure that chimp used to be perfectly reasonable previously. Chimps are seemingly cuddlier than Pitbulls, aren’t they?

Even professionals are sometimes underestimating animals. You probably heard about the tragic death of Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. He made a career out of teasing dangerous animals on camera and yelling “whoa, crikey” when they lunged at him. He was done in by a stingray, a docile and non-threatening creature.

When you take an unorthodox position about safety of something, there’s alway a chance that your death will be tragically ironic.

For instance, if you rail hard against seat belt laws and die in a car accident in which everyone wearing seat belts walked away from, people will talk. Or poor ol’ Dr. Atkins, promoting the high fat diet dies of heart attack (while weighting 258 pounds). To me, these cases, while ironic, are not absolutely moronic. A lot of people became healthier on the Atkins diet, and a small number of people were killed by properly worn seatbelts.

But when it comes to dealing with wild animals, thinking that they are “perfectly safe if you know what you are doing” – there’s no such thing. If you hang out with wild animals long enough, chances are they’ll kill you. Or at least will try to.

A prime example is Roy Horn, and his tiger accident. It’s not like The Simpsons writers did not predict it. While I was not surprised that a tiger could do harm to Roy (even if he was “carrying” Roy offstage to “save” him), I was very much surprised at what level of medical treatment millions of dollars and fame can get you. They performed a decompressive craniectomy, a procedure that involves removing a quarter of a skull top and storing it in an abdominal cavity(!) for a while to relieve pressure in the brain. I doubt that an HMO patient would last long enough after a tiger attack.

The worst tiger story that comes to mind though is from the Soviet times. There was this guy by the name of Berberov, an architect. He kept a lot of animals in his apartment, but really achieved fame when he raised a lion cub. The lion, named King, lived in a city apartment with Berberov, his wife, kids and a host of other animals (including a wildcat). The lion starred in a number of Soviet films and they wrote a book titled “Don’t be afraid, it’s a lion.” The lion was shot by a policeman when it got away and tried to play with some kid’s dog.

Things were about to get worse. Like the Simpsons, the Berberovs decided to raise an new cat. The Simpsons got Snowball II, the Berberovs – King II. Mr. Berberov died of a heart attack, but his wife insisted on keeping the lion in the apartment still. It ended up badly – the lion, provoked or otherwise, attacked the wife. Her son tried to restrain the lion, which in turn, with a swat of a paw killed him by breaking his neck and scalping. Once again, a policeman shot and killed the lion. The puma, which escaped in the melee was also shot and killed.

What’s a worse idea than keeping a lion in a city apartment? Living with grizzly bears, of course. This lunatic tried to do just that and ended up mauled and half-eaten:

“In the Werner Herzog-directed documentary, Treadwell is shown singing and reading poetry to grizzlies, calling them names like Mr. Chocolate, and even petting one on the nose.

Experts say Treadwell was an example of how not to behave around these animals.”

The right to risk ironic death and/or injury, is somewhere in the Declaration of Independence. It falls under liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank you for sticking with my rant. Here’s a song about Pitbull Teriers from one of my favorite movies – “Black Cat White Cat“:

Extraordinary Pigeons

The author and photographer who opened a glorious window into the world of exotic birds with his hugely successful Extraordinary Chickens and its well-received follow-up, Extraordinary Pheasants, continues his startling photographic exploration with another singular and charming book. The striking images in Stephen Green-Armytage’s first book showed that “the world of chickens is a world of wonders” (New York Times Book Review). Now this arresting new volume-a look at pigeon breeds from around the world-captures as we have never seen before the eccentric and often surprising features of these amazing creatures.

Pigeons of all sizes, shapes, and colors parade through these pages-from the Volga Tumbler Pigeons to the Philippine Bleeding Heart Doves (doves are actually pigeons, just small ones), from the flamboyant Jacobins who wear their lavish feathers like a boa, and the Pouters who puff out their chests to absurd proportions, to the Trumpeters who sport floppy crowns reminiscent of moptop 1960s pop groups. The astonishing color photographs, enhanced by a brief, informative text, make this a perfect gift for birders, breeders, animal lovers, and photography buffs alike.

Plant Sitter Automatic Waterer

Busy gardeners love the Plant Sitter system. It delivers water to your plants based on the soil’s dryness. Each Plant Sitter includes a small water tank that hangs on the side of your pot, and one 4-1/4in H x 1-1/2in dia ceramic cone with 18-1/2in siphon tube. Additional cones with watering tubes are also available separately.Water tank is 8 inches across and 6 inches high.

Subwaycat

When I lived in Odessa, Ukraine, I once encountered a most strange cat. Odessa used to have a huge open air book market, right in the middle of the city. Kind of like a much larger and organized version of the street booksellers in front of NYU. Me and my dad spent a lot of our time and money there. On one of our trips, my dad pointed out a cat sitting in a tree near the book market. On a number of our visits there that stretched over weeks and months, the cat was still there. Water and food dishes appeared there. Somebody told us that the cat apparently went a bit crazy and refused to leave the tree (even though it wasn’t a very high one). Kind hearted booksellers started to feed the cat. I am not sure exactly how long the cat stayed in the tree, or if he or she ever left it.

New York has strange cats of its own. Subway cats. The most famous one of those, Schatzie the cat that lives in the Fulton Street station, according to Randy Kennedy’s book “Subwayland : Adventures in the World Beneath New York.” The mice and rat population must make living near the deadly third rail and moving trains possible for cats. Sadly, eating those rodents must be pretty dangerous too, because they are frequently poisoned.

Well, I found a subway cat of my own under the platforms of the Kings Highway station.

Actually I spotted two, a tabby and a tuxedo, but was able to take a picture only of the tabby. She sat there calmly, not bothered by my flash. I hope she’ll stay safe there.

Nautical Nonsense

This ad for a new jellyfish exhibit at Brooklyn Aquarium was on the side of a bus (and the bus was moving when I took the picture). I guess the blurb applies not only to jellyfish, but also to the graphic designer who masterfully placed the Pepsi logo in that corner.

Escape From Petland

It’s well known that Disney is well known for popularizing certain animals. It actually benefits some of these animals, as for instance many kids would not let their fathers hunt “Bambi”. But if there is a potential for the animal to become a pet, then it’s a different story.

My wife told me that there was a huge demand for spotted dogs after “1001 Dalmatians” hit the big screen. And apparently Dalmatians are not low maintenance pets. So after a while there was a whole surplus of abandoned Dalmatians in dog shelters.

And now requests for the “Finding Nemo fish” are driving a pet store employee posting in nuts. Remember, saltwater fish are a maintenance nightmare (as the owners of the Amazing Netscape Fishcam which was once near the Tent of Doom would definitely tell you).

In any case, there will me a massive number of clown fish deaths in the following months. This is doubly ironic because in the cartoon the fish wants to escape from an aquarium.

Did I Mention that Purple is the Official Brooklyn College Color?

I wrote about Monk parakeets before.

Well, it looks like the Brooklyn College Environmental Education Science Masters Program. members are involved in some cutting edge research:

“On the athletic field we saw 5 birds perched on the lamp post on the right side. They were flying back and forth. While we watched their flight we viewed one of the birds relieving themselves. We approached the ramp and examined the droppings. We counted 11 droppings and saw a distinct color change in its appearance. This change was not the same as what we had previously viewed, it was purple in color.”

“On East 23 and Avenue J we saw three birds eating acorns and making a lot of noise. “

This reminded me: