Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Pet Idea

October 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Okay, maybe not. But watch the video of Mit, the orphaned baby walrus now in residence at the New York Aquarium, and see if you’re not tempted to adopt him yourself.

For more information, read this story from the NYT ten days ago and today’s update (which links to the video above). From the update:

A team of 15 is caring for him around the clock. His favorite toy is a plastic bucket. He has taken swimmingly to a large pool. And on Friday, he had his first taste of solid food — surf clams.


He was describing Mitik, or Mit for short, one of two walrus calves separated from a herd in the Artic Ocean and orphaned in Alaska in July. The Alaska SeaLife Center took them in and found new homes for each. (The other walrus, Pakak, went to the Indianapolis Zoo.) The New York Aquarium, eager for a young companion for its two older walruses, stepped up, flying a staff member, Martha Hiatt, to Alaska to work with Mit for a month.


With his curious, playful personality and expressive eyes, it is tempting, aquarium officials say, to think of Mit as a big, slippery toddler. (The giant bottle of formula does not help.) He still needs — and receives — a lot of human contact. “He likes us to be physical, grab his flippers and roll him over,” Ms. Hiatt said. “And he still really loves to snuggle in close.”

But the veterinarian technicians and keepers caring for Mit are trying to dial that physicality back a bit, both for their safety and his own good. For one thing, he now weighs 242 pounds, a size that could start to pose risks for staff members. More important, Mit must begin to identify with his own species, in preparation for his eventual debut in the walrus exhibit.

“We want to make sure that we don’t give him so much contact that the day he actually meets his buddies he’s more interested in us than the other walruses,” Ms. Hiatt said. “He needs to know he’s a walrus.”

The NYT has a Kids Draw the News program in which parents are invited “to submit drawings their kids have created depicting events in the local news.” Kids were asked to read the initial walrus story and “illustrate any part of the story you wish.” A slide show of eleven drawings can be seen here. Below is six-year-old Roberto’s depiction of his family visiting Mit.

Categories: Animals, Video

Neighborhood Nutria

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s not often that my very own Seattle neighborhood of Madison Park is featured on the home page of the NYT. This is one of those moments, as attested to by the screenshot above.

Well, maybe you don’t see Madison Park. But you see the video titled, “Hi! I’m a Nutria.” That’s the one. (I can’t embed the video. Click here to watch it.) It’s by Drew Christie, whose website I’ve just visited, thereby learning:

I am an animator and an illustrator who lives and works in Seattle, Washington. I create stories through hand-made images. My work has been featured on The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Drawn, Cartoon Brew, Boooooooom! and Juxtapoz among other sites. I make short films, music videos, commercials, cartoons, books, zines and relief prints.

The video stars a nutria who lives down by Lake Washington’s Madison Park Beach. That’s our beach! The beach house is the meeting site for the Madison Park Community Council, over which Gail presides (and where I celebrated a major birthday a decade ago). I lived just north of the beach during my first 5 1/2 years in Seattle.

But the nutria isn’t there to tell you about my life in Madison Park. He has other issues on his mind, like why he’s considered an interloper. How many generations must his kind live here before they get to qualify as native?

Which oddly enough was one theme of a dinner conversation we had last night with other members of the Madison Park Community Council, one of whom decried the loss during his childhood of the orange groves in his native Claremont, California. I couldn’t refrain from asking just how long he thought those groves were around. They’re no more native to southern California than nutria are to the northwest, and probably haven’t been around much longer.

Here’s a partial answer, from the site of the California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside:

In 1873, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forever changed the history of Southern California when it sent two small navel orange trees to Riverside resident Eliza Tibbets. Those trees, growing in near perfect soil and weather conditions, produced an especially sweet and flavorful fruit. Word of this far superior orange quickly spread, and a great agricultural industry was born. An effort to promote citrus ranching in the state brought would-be citrus ranch barons flocking to California. The second “gold rush” was on.

This sounds like an interesting park. Here’s more:

This park preserves some of the rapidly vanishing cultural landscape of the citrus industry and to tell the story of this industry’s role in the history and development of California. The park recaptures the time when “Citrus was King” in California, recognizing the importance of the citrus industry in southern California.

In the early 1900s, an effort to promote citrus ranching in the state brought hundreds of would-be citrus barons to California for the “second Gold Rush.” The lush groves of oranges, lemons and grapefruit gave California another legacy – its lingering image as the Golden State – the land of sunshine and opportunity.

The design of the park is reminiscent of a 1900s city park, complete with an activity center, interpretive structure, amphitheater, picnic area, and demonstration groves. The land contained within the park still continues to produce high-quality fruits.

And check out the photo below.

But I’ve strayed. First listen to the nutria and learn what he’s doing in our neighborhood.

Categories: Animals, Environment, History, Video

Emma Aging

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Phyllis, Southdown Sheep, Age 13

[Isa Leshko]

We took Emma to the vet today for her annual checkup. (No, that’s not her. That’s a sheep. Emma’s a cat. I’ll explain the relevance of the photo in a bit.)

Emma is 15 years old now, 15 and 8 months, and today for a change the visit wasn’t a routine in and out. The time had come at last for a discussion of senior cats and their ailments. Emma has slowed down, of course. She’s not much given to running around the yard anymore. When I start up the stairs, she no longer bounds past me. She still manages to jump up on the bed, but isn’t too keen to get onto the desk when I’m working. And worse, she struggles when she jumps down.

We discussed all this with the vet, as well what appears to be the occasional difficulty Emma has walking. Her rear legs or hips look strained. Last year, Gail explained this to the vet, who examined Emma and saw little cause for alarm. This year, when she (the vet) palpated Emma’s hips, Emma complained. The vet suggested that we could consider an x-ray, and recommended some dental care: a cleaning and perhaps a tooth extraction. If we go through with the dental work, Emma will need to be anesthetized, which would provide the opportunity for an x-ray, should we wish.

I don’t imagine there’s much to do about Emma’s hips if we do find a problem. I’m more concerned with giving her pain relief. But, of course, it’s difficult to gauge what sort of pain a cat is in, an issue we also discussed with the vet.

All of which gave us much to think about, and served as perfect preparation for the article I found on the NYT home page when we returned home with Emma: What We Can Learn from Old Animals.

In an unusual project, Isa Leshko, a fine-art photographer who lives in Philadelphia, set out to capture glimpses of animals at a time when they rarely attract much admiration or media attention — in their twilight years. The photographs, part of “a series called Elderly Animals”, are intimate and at times gripping. In one, a thoroughbred horse named Handsome One, age 33, stands in a stable, his hair wispy and his frame showing signs of time. In another, a pair of Finn sheep at the advanced age of 12 embrace as an elderly couple on a park bench might. And in another, a geriatric chow mix named Red lies with his paw under his chin, the signs of glaucoma apparent in his onyx-colored eyes.

The Times has a slideshow of twelve of Leshko’s photos, and you can see more by following the link above to Leshko’s website. What’s striking is the dignity of the animals, a dignity Emma has acquired as well. As she ages, her feral ferocity turns to sweetness.

Categories: Animals, Cats, Family

Memorial Weekend Addenda

June 1, 2011 Leave a comment

1. In my post last night about A Day in Portland, I mentioned our visit to the Japanese American Historical Plaza along the Willamette River and included a photo I found online. Gail reminded me that she took photos, which I have now put on my computer. Above you can see, in the foreground, one of the sculptural columns made by Jim Gion. In the background are some of the plaza stones with poetry on them.

2. In that same post, I described our visit to Portland’s Japanese Garden and inserted a photo from their website. Below, another photo, taken by Gail on Saturday.

3. I wrote earlier today about the rabbit who paid us a visit Monday during our holiday barbecue dinner and included two photos I took. Below is one that Gail took, with the rabbit sitting under our cherry tree.

4. In that same post, I wrote about the mallard couple that has been paying us regular visits this spring. Below, a photo of Gail’s:

5. My Portland posts covered Friday and Saturday. What about Sunday? We didn’t go anywhere, so there’s not a lot to tell. Our nephew DJ came by the hotel with his two children and we had breakfast downstairs in the Heathman Restaurant. After a leisurely meal, we all went up to our hotel room to chat some more. I can now refer to a couple of photos I took through the hotel room window.

As I explained in my post about the Tony Bennett concert on Friday night, our hotel is next to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The hotel runs north-south along the west side of Broadway. At it south end, again on the west side of Broadway, is the entry to the hall. One heads westward through the entryway/lobby to the hall itself, which proceeds to run northwards parallel to the hotel. So, if one looks down on the block, one sees two parallel structures, the hotel and the hall, with some space in-between. From the room, we look straight out west, over the space, into the facade of the hall. As you can see, it has a huge mural on it to make the view less painful. And at our height on the 8th floor, we could even see over it to the southwest, with hills rising just on the edge of downtown Portland.

We had looked out at this view many times since our arrival on Friday. And I had seen as well a little landing to the right, with a stairway leading up to the roof and down below. What I hadn’t seen until we were back in the room with DJ and his family on Sunday was what sat on the landing — a giant crow’s nest. It turns out that as obvious as the nest should have been, it’s a lot more obvious when the mother crow is sitting in it. Sunday morning, I saw the crow sitting on the edge taking care of some sort of business, whether nest construction or baby feeding I couldn’t see. Then she flew away, then she came back and sat down. She’s a bit hard to make out, but she’s in the photo below.

6. Once our guests left, we packed up, checked out, got in our car, and headed north to Seattle. We would have been home in 3 hours, but as we hit Federal Way, Gail suggested I see if Jessica and Joel, whom we understood were planning to see a movie together, were out of the movie and wanted to meet us in Tukwila for a very early dinner. I texted Joel, without even mentioning where we might meet, and he texted back right away suggesting the very place we had in mind, Bahama Breeze. For reasons I can’t explain, I love eating there. Not enough to drive all the way down from home, but enough to think of stopping in when we have business down by the airport or environs. And I hadn’t been since Gail had to go down to adjacent Southcenter Mall last August to pick something up. So that’s what we did.

My affection for Bahama Breeze is part of my larger fascination with the Darden family of restaurants, which I wrote about a long time ago. Red Lobster. Olive Garden. Bahama Breeze. Capital Grille. And then there are two that have yet to make it out this way: LongHorn Steakhouse and Seasons 52. Some day we’ll try them.

7. You may be wondering how the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship ended up. I suspect not. But having described or at least stated the result of every game in the tournament other than Monday’s championship, I should perhaps close the loop. It was an exciting game. Maryland scored first, then Virginia came back with two goals, then Maryland with 2, then Virginia with 2, making the score 4-3 in favor of Viriginia. But then the alternating pattern came to an end, as Virginia scored two more goals to take a 6-3 lead early in the third quarter. They seemed to have the game in hand. Maryland had other ideas though and scored 3 goals of their own while holding Virginia scoreless over the next 15 1/2 minutes to tie the score at 6-6. Virginia came back with goals 1:30 later, about 5 minutes later, and again with just under 2 minutes left in the game, taking an insurmountable 9-6 lead. Maryland scored again with 16 seconds left, but that was it. 9-7 Virginia for their 5th national championship, the 4th under coach Dom Starsia. This after needing a furious comeback for their overtime victory over Bucknell in the first round, and after turning around a season that seemed headed to mediocrity halfway through.

With this, I will bring my discussion of the Portland trip, the neighborhood animals, and 2011 men’s lacrosse to a close.

Categories: Animals, Restaurants, Travel

Spring Visitors

June 1, 2011 Leave a comment

We’ve had some unexpected guests this spring. They’re pretty much in the mainstream as far as wild animals go. They just don’t happen to be the sort of animals that drop in on us.

One morning in mid April, Emma was outside on the back patio, tail twitching, on alert for something. I went around to the kitchen, looked out the window, and there was a mallard couple, just sitting on the lawn. They seemed content, but Emma wasn’t. They soon stood up and waddled around, covering a fair bit of the backyard before flying off. I thought that was that, but they’ve since been regular guests. Above is a video I took on my iPhone one afternoon in late April, after having to drive around them to pull into the driveway. For the next few weeks, they would hang out in the backyard every day.

Thanks to the bird feeder Jessica got me for my birthday, we’ve also had a steady stream of other commonplace birds visiting. Most notable are the Stellar’s Jays, who are too big to sit on the feeder perches. Instead, they hang out in our cherry tree preparing for the attack, then fly over and grab onto the bottom of the feeder, hanging upside down and rocking it to spill seed onto the ground.

Two days ago, after our Memorial Day barbecue, I was stunned to see a rabbit in the backyard. I know, rabbits are as commonplace a mammal as there is. But not in our yard. Squirrels, sure. Raccoons. Coyotes. But not rabbits. Yet, there he was, sitting out there. Gail and I both grabbed cameras. He fled to the edge of the yard. I shuffled out to meet him, one small slide step at a time, taking a sequence of photos in which he got bigger and bigger, culminating in the one below.

Another step and he took off across the yard, back towards our patio, as you can see in the next photo.

Emma was upstairs taking her afternoon doze, so she missed out on all the fun. The rabbit hasn’t returned.

Categories: Animals, House

Bird House

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I know a bird in hand is better than two in the bush. But what value do we put on a bird flying around in the house? An outdoor sparrow, that is, not an indoor pet. Joel shouted to me from upstairs an hour ago, a shout that made me think flood. Or leak. Not a good shout. I ran to the stairway and shouted, “What?” “There’s a bird in my room.” I told him to open the window, figured he had it under control, and went back to get the two copies I was printing of tomorrow’s NYT crossword, one for each of us.

Now, I forgot to say that we had our first snow of the year this morning, and an unexpected one at that. It was supposed to snow to the south of us, and well north, but here in Seattle, as the temperatures dropped, we weren’t supposed to have enough moisture to bring snow. Around 6:30 this morning, there were traces. I figured that was that. What I didn’t realize is that it was just beginning. An hour later, there was an accumulation on the grass, on our outdoor table, and on assorted other surfaces, though not the road yet. A couple of hours later, Gail drove me to campus. I figured I’d rather hitch a ride with her all-wheel drive and walk home. The snow started and stopped through the day, just passing snow showers, nothing big. But when I started walking home, it was blowing right into my face. The wind has picked up tonight, the temperatures have dropped, and the snow continues to fall.

When I got up to Joel’s room, crosswords in hand, it was snowing there too. He had the window wide open, and the sparrow was having none of it. There might be a reason he had chosen to fly in and take up residence. I sure wouldn’t want to go out that window. And there was Emma, pacing around, meowing away. We got her out the door, leaving just us and the bird, but no plan.

Joel reminded me that we had wild bird seed. He went down to get some. We chased the bird around a bit. I went down and did the crossword. I came back just as the bird landed on the window ledge, by the seed, but he showed no interest in either the food or the stormy outdoors.

We resorted to trying to get a towel or blanket over him. I succeeded once, but next thing I knew, he ran out the side. Many minutes later, Joel and I got him covered on the floor, we slid a piece of cardboard under him, Joel got a box over the blanket, we got him wedged in-between, Joel carried him down, I opened the back door, and Joel placed the ensemble on the ground. Released, the sparrow flew right off.

I hope he manages out there. We’ll be sure to spread some of the wild bird seed on the back patio in the morning.

Alas, I took no photos of the snow or the bird. I’ll content myself with the generic image above.

Categories: Animals, House

Soggy Doggy

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Despite having moved to Seattle 29 years ago, I still have moments when I feel like a stranger in a strange land. One such moment occurred this afternoon. We drove down to University Place, a suburb of Tacoma some 40 miles from here, where our friends Fred and Jeni live, so we could join them and their family for a barbecue. Their house is on a main street in a residential area that lies just past a commercial district. As we passed through the commercial strip, I noticed one of the store signs in a mini-mall to our left: Soggy Doggy.

Momentarily, I thought that was an odd name. Then I realized, “Oh, I get it, they rhyme!”

What a soggy doggy store does is a matter to which I gave no attention. I was too focused on the apparent rhyme, and on how out of place it made me feel. My vowels have shifted a bit over the years, but not to the point where ‘soggy’ and ‘doggy’ come even close to rhyming. Indeed, my pronunciation of ‘dog’ is the primary evidence for Gail of the continued existence of my New York accent, and I’m fairly confident that no store in New York would name itself “Soggy Doggy.” For a moment this afternoon, I just wanted to go back to the land where people talk normally.

This issue is not new territory for Ron’s View. Two Septembers ago, in one of my very first posts, I wrote about the apparent rhyme of ‘chocolate’ and ‘mockolate’, concluding that “maybe some day I will be able to see the rhyme immediately. And maybe some day, when [Gail] suggests that I take a walk, I won’t take a wok out of the cabinet.” I don’t think that day is going to come.

What is Soggy Doggy? From their webiste, I’ve learned that it’s self-service doggy wash with doggy boutique, doggy bakery, and washmatic hydromassage. “The Washmatic is the easiest way to get your pet clean. In only 5-6 minutes The Washmatic can wash and rinse your dog or cat and give it a soft and shiny coat. After the final rinse is completed you may either remove your pet and be on your way or allow The Washmatic 25 minutes to gently and easily dry your pet.” I can’t imagine Emma going for that. Would any cat?

Categories: Animals, Language, Life

New Residents

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Pictured above is our latest house remodel, the addition of a bedroom up against the downspout that runs outside our dining room south wall. And we paid nothing for it, thanks to the efforts of two local finches. In fact, to my astonishment, I’m looking at them right now. Moments after I started the first sentence, one burst out of the nest and swooped down to the ground below our cherry tree. As I finished the sentence, the other landed on the back of one of our outdoor dining chairs (I’m sitting on another and typing on the table) before moving to the cherry tree.

I’m not overly pleased with this addition. I first noticed one of the finches a few weeks ago. It would sit for unusually long periods of time on top of the hedge that borders the patio. I had also noticed some debris at the base of the downspout, but didn’t think much of it. A week later, Joel asked me why I thought the bird was hanging out on the hedge. I remembered that the day before, the debris pile on the patio had looked quite large, and that’s when Joel and I took a closer look and put the pieces together. What we were looking at on the ground was a collapsed nest. Above, wedged between the downspout and the outdoor lighting, was a small amount of nest residue. And the bird we were looking at had some material in his mouth, perhaps eager to continue rebuilding.

My guess was that the bird would give up. Alas, I was wrong. Yesterday was a beautiful day, sunny with temperatures around 70. I sat outside in the late afternoon, maybe 10 feet from the downspout. Emma (our cat) came out too and was sitting nearby when one of the birds landed on the top of the open door that leads from the house to the patio. It’s an odd perch for a bird, who had drawn Emma’s attention as well as mine. Only after 20 seconds did I think to look over to the old nest site, with which the bird was even in elevation, but about six feet away. I beheld a completed nest. Our presence must have distracted the bird on his return to the nest. Emma eventually lost interest and wandered farther out into the yard. The bird flew onto the back of one of the dining chairs, perched there for a while, then disappeared.

Tonight was something of a repeat, with Emma and me coming out to enjoy the lovely evening, interrupting the bird at work. But this time, once Emma moved on, I saw the bird fly into the nest, my first confirmation that the nest was indeed just that. I got my camera, took some photos, and began this post. As I already noted, just as I started typing, the bird flew out of the nest.

I have no idea if the nest holds any eggs yet. If so, they surely haven’t hatched. I don’t hear anything or see any feeding activity. I’m thinking, if there are to be babies, once they move on, so does the nest. I’m willing to leave it for now, but I don’t want a permanent addition.

As for Emma, whose 14th birthday is just a week away, I suspect her hunting days are in the past. She has slowed down a lot in the last year. The birds are presumably at the height of vigilance. I don’t think I need to worry about orphans.

You know, I might be wrong about the lack of feeding activity. One of the birds, the one I’m thinking is the male, just flew into the yard from afar, landed on the chair across from me for a moment — with a little stringy object in his beak — then continued on to the nest. His partner followed three seconds later, landing on the house trim just outside the nest before joining him on the nest. I don’t hear babies, but it sure looks like the couple is in the process of feeding them. Either that or the nest is still under construction.

I’ll keep watching.

Categories: Animals, Birds, House

Mystery Bird

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

A mystery to me anyway. Two months ago to the day a big bird landed high up on the pictured tree, which sits just past the southwest corner of our property in the out-of-bounds area of the 9th fairway. I raced to get our camera and replace the wide-angle lens with the telescopic lens. Fortunately, the bird was patient, allowing me time to take a series of photos, though I didn’t dare get closer and risk scaring him (her?) off.

You can see the bird better in the second photo, below. Can you identify her?

Categories: Animals

Empathy, Compassion, Sympathy, Pity

September 29, 2009 Leave a comment


That’s a mouthful. So here’s a question. How do you use these words? Do you carefully distinguish different shades of meaning? If so, can you express what these shades are, or can you give examples of each that delineate these shades?

Language is an especially powerful tool when we can wield it to separate closely-related concepts. Of course, this only works if the community within which we employ the tool has a shared understanding of the subtle differences at stake and the words that articulate the differences. I always wonder, when I read about wine, if there really is a community that uses the same words to distinguish among the subtle flavors that their trained palates allow them to recognize. My point is, each wine sophisticate may well be noticing a certain set of flavors, and may well employ a rich vocabulary in a consistent way to describe these differences. But are these sophisticates really talking to each other? Do they make the same distinctions and express them with the same words? Beats me. Same goes for colors. Mauve? Ecru? If it weren’t for crosswords, I wouldn’t use these words at all. Vermilion. Ochre. And on and on. So many words. But is there actually a community of users that shares an understanding of how the words match up with actual colors?

Which brings me to the title of this post. These four words can’t mean the same thing. If they did, that would be a wasted opportunity. Better to reserve each one for its own purpose. But do we agree on what these purposes are?

This question arose when I read the review by Andrew Stark in today’s Wall Street Journal of Frans de Waal’s new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. Read more…

Categories: Animals, Books, Language