Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brainy Birds: From Parrots To Chickens

Sweet ... or should I say tweet? A little bird told me it was once assumed only the trachea (windpipe) and syrinx (at the base of the trachea) that allowed parrots to produce speech. We now know some species of parrots also use the tongue to manipulate air and sound to imitate what they hear, disproving the notion that humans are the only species to use the tongue in this way.

Like many species, including humans, parrots also learn to associate words with actions. When offered food, some make the connection between the activity and words such as "thank you". The ability to link words and actions requires a leap of intelligence.

According to a news story, one parrot was clever enough to help save a child's life. When a little girl was choking, the parrot screeched, "Mama baby! Mama baby!”, alerting the babysitter in another room who rushed in and performed the Heimlich maneuver. The parrot had been taught that "mama and baby" related to the child. When it saw the child behave strangely, it was smart enough to utter the associated words. It also appeared to understand that danger was present.

Observers say using words and talking with tongues “humanizes” parrots. However, they are quick to add parrots are not conversing about what is said. Rather, they are mimicking. But humans, too, are mimics. Not only do people love copying one another, they sometimes branch out into copying bird calls.

We creatures communicate through all sorts of signals. Although often hidden so that only the discerning and/or similar species can comprehend, these signals show a great presence of thought. Obviously, a deaf person speaking through hand gestures is not less intelligent than any other human being. Perhaps a horse communicating with a swish of its tail or a chicken clucking is each having meaningful dialogue simply not understood by all.

A documentary The Natural History of the Chicken shows how a chicken can be much more than a packaged meal in the meat section of a grocery store. Although these grounded birds are not equipped to talk like parrots, they have an intelligent, nurturing and heroic side for those willing to see it.

Maybe we humans are a little “too chicken” to discover just how brainy birds and other creatures really are. The final breaking of barriers could likely be between man and animals. When we grasp animals are not unaware, one-dimensional characters but separate, intuitive creations deserving of respect, we truly will put the "e" in human and become more humane.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Let Water Solutions Flow

THE WETTER THE BETTER! How can this site, inspired by a little character named Penelope Puddle who simply thrives on water, not be excited about a new venture by Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberté?

Working to save the planet one drop at a time, it is obvious Laliberté never lost his childlike wonder or extreme creative thinking. He recently launched One Drop Foundation that deals with clean water and poverty issues. AND he did it from space!

The Foundation is poised to break the dam that sustains world water woes. The goal is to raise funds and let knowledge and hands-on solutions flow to all parched corners of the globe.

Canada is one of the highest water users per capita in the world. Due largely to the luck of geography, we take long showers, clean drinking water and frequent hand washing for granted. It is perhaps fitting then that a high-profile and popular Canadian "clown" is determined to quench the thirst of families populating less fortunate parts of the globe.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lunar Hits Missing Sensitivity

We have walked on the moon, left debris on the moon, and now we are pounding the moon in the name of science. Hey! Can we be a little more gentle here? Any child understands the elementary fact that when a ball is bounced, all of it vibrates and is affected, not just the part that hits the ground.

Are these recent methods to search for water on the moon small steps for mankind or baby steps for lunar madness? Let us not behave like lunatics by following past patterns of failing to approach research with respect and caution. Instead, we have escalated studies so that the very ground we walk on has been compromised.

It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that pummeling the planet to test missiles, for example, is a foolhardy exercise frequently followed by earthquakes and floods in different parts of the globe. Fear and curiosity has made us oblivious to the fact that we need to tread lightly. In our zeal, we seem numbed to the fact that our tightly wound and synchronized universe hinges in the balance.

Exploring all facets of the universe is a valid venture that is potentially necessary to our future existence. However, since we seem on track to destroy the earth, let us not play too careless a game with the moon, which could offer our only hope of escape to other worlds should we make uninhabitable the beautiful but fragile and abused planet we call home.

Postscript: Link to a January 2010 photograph at Black Jack’s Carol to see the mesmerizing magic of the moon.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Don't Be Goofy When Traveling To Disneyland With Your Pet

WHEN THE WEATHER cools in BC, it is easy to forget that it's still hot in other places. This is especially true of Disneyland in California where Canadians drive to year-round, sometimes with pets.

Imagine sitting in a car on a warm day. The window is rolled down slightly and cool water is in easy reach.

You have been waiting for your driver to return for mere minutes. You believe all is well … yet you feel more uncomfortable as each second passes. It's as if a thick blanket is coming closer to your face. It's becoming harder to breathe the still and stagnant air.

People who travel with pets usually are not aware of how suffocating a vehicle can become after the engine is shut down … even on days that are not particularly warm. You most likely would be as surprised as I was when I experienced these conditions for myself. I found the situation unbearable in minutes, even without the added burden of the fur coat that my pet wears.

It was not a lack of caring, but lack of knowledge, that led to the sad, true story of a family that drove to Disneyland with their new pet. They were confident that it would be safe to leave their adorable German Shepherd puppy in the car with plenty of water and the windows slightly rolled down. When they came back in over an hour, they were horrified to find that their beloved puppy had died.

Each year, countless animals suffer or die from heatstroke. Sitting in a hot car is the most common way pets experience heatstroke. Temperatures in a parked car can quickly rise to above 100 degrees. Unlike humans, dogs do not cool off through perspiration; their panting mechanism does little to overcome excessive heat conditions.

Labored breathing, warm dry skin, anxious behavior and salivation are early symptoms of heatstroke. In a progressed situation, the animal has a glazed look and is unresponsive to stimulation. The tongue and gums become bright red and the animal’s heartbeat increases.

Should you discover an animal suffering from heatstroke, you can provide immediate emergency care. If possible, place him (or her) in a bathtub of cool, not cold, water. As an alternative, the animal can be hosed down or wrapped in cool damp towels. If the pet is responsive, water should be offered to drink. Once cooled down, he should be taken to the nearest vet; intravenous fluid therapy is generally required.

It might be wise to leave your pet at home with a trusted friend or at a kennel, particularly if your dog jumps on people, barks at strange sounds or doesn’t obey commands. However, if you do bring your pet on your vacation, advance planning is necessary when traveling by motor home or by car.

Your pet must be current on all vaccinations, including Rabies. You can get proof of vaccinations from your vet who can also give added information about the requirements for traveling to your particular destination.

A collar and leash with identification tags is necessary. Tags should have addresses and phone numbers of a friend near home and your veterinarian. A second collar with an additional set of information is a good idea in case the original is lost. You should also carry a current photo of your dog should he get lost.

Make sure you have an adequate supply of medication that your pet may be taking and bring along a copy of the prescription. Keep in mind it is probably easier to purchase your pet’s food before you start traveling, particularly if he is on a prescription diet.

A well-ventilated travel crate could also come in handy at some point in the vacation. It’s also important to keep your dog leashed when outdoors. He will be tempted to explore new surroundings and, depending on the area, he could be exposed to fleas and ticks, insect stings or even snakebite.

You will find that some motels and campsites welcome pets; many more do not. Those that do make room for pets have limited space and are often booked. Make reservations early and check your local Automobile Association for current listings of accommodations that accept pets.

Most importantly, remember that it is never cool to travel with a hot dog.

Copyright by Penenlope Puddlisms