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Archive for January 2nd, 2009

Skateboarding bulldogs a hit in Rose Parade

Skateboarding bulldogs Tyson and Tillman, as we suspected back in November, turned out to be a huge hit at the Tournament of Roses Parade.

As Maria Menounos reported for MSNBC, the dogs trained for months, on a track built on a moving truck, in preparation for the parade. For two and a half hours, they circled the track that was part of the Natural Balance float in the New Year’s Day parade.

Womb with a view

National Geographic Channel’s critically acclaimed “In The Womb” series returns this month with two new one-hour specials — including one that follows the fetal journey of four litters of canines.

Featuring some amazing visual images, the show follows the development of litters inside a Neapolitan mastiff, golden retriever, chihuahua and wolf — from fertilization through the remarkable 63-day journey that takes them from a single cell to man’s best friend.

“In the Womb: Dogs” airs Jan. 4 at 8 p.m.; followed by “In the Womb: Cats” at 9 p.m.

I screened the dog special last week, and can report that it’s both a visually riveting hour of TV and a highly informative account of what’s happened in the 15,000 years since wild wolves began making the transition to domesticated dogs — and of what man did to them after that.

The show intersperses dog history with visits inside the womb, showing how all breeds (more than 400 of them) stemmed from wolves, thanks to selective breeding of them by humans. So hunters wouldn’t have to go pick up the birds they shot, we made retrievers. To scare off intruders, we made mastiffs. To rid our land of varmints, we made short-legged dogs that could burrow into holes. It wasn’t always in dogs best interest — sometimes quite the opposite — but as a result, dogs became the most diverse species on earth.

Despite all that diversity, the four canines tracked in the womb are remarkably similar for the first month or so in the womb — both to each other and any other vertebrate, including us. Even then, though, they practice behaviors they will need once born, like running and panting.

After that, they begin to take on distinctive shapes. By day 39, the ears are formed. Floppy ears are a sign of the submission humans have bred into dogs, but erect wolf-like ears persist in a few species, including the Chihuahua. Snouts, too, develop relatively late. After 55 days of development, the wolf, mastiff, golden retriever and Chihuahua all exhibit traits particular to their breeds.

Sixty-three days after the eggs were fertilized, the puppies make their debut, leaving the solace of the womb for the real world. 

For more information, on the series, click here

(Image courtesy of National Geographic Channel)

CSI: My freakin’ back yard

We started the New Year off not with a bang, but with a gun.

My girlfriend, Tamara, went out back to feed the feral cats on New Year’s morning, and there, next to our urban compost heap, buried beneath some rocks, was what appeared to be a gun, or at least piece of one.

Having seen more than our share of television police dramas, we didn’t touch it, but I did — after calling the Baltimore police — take these pictures.

An officer arrived at our home, a rowhouse in South Baltimore, within minutes. He walked through our back yard, through a gate and into the small area where, if we try really hard, we can park our cars. We pointed out the firearm, which was apparently hidden there on New Year’s Eve, and he reached under the rocks and picked it up — without rubber gloves, without using a pencil. (I was sure he was going to use a pencil.)

It was an older looking firearm, made of wood — somewhere between pistol and rifle — with a small grip and a long barrel, not a sawed off shotgun, but resembling that. The officer, saying it looked capable of firing, took it into custody, then walked through the alley with it, rather than back through our house. He didn’t want it to discharge in our house, he said. But maybe he just wanted to avoid Ace, who had jumped up on him a couple of times when he arrived.

Within a few minutes of his departure, the feral cats were back, enjoying a meal.

Three-legged dog finds one-armed infant

A Florida family’s three-legged pit bull-Lab mix returned from playing in a wooded area near their home Monday with an object in his mouth that turned out to be the corpse of a one-armed infant.

Tonya and Henry McGill, of Milton, say they noticed their dog Coco digging. As Tonya went over to see what Coco had found, the dog — who had her left front leg amputated when she was 10 months old — came back out of the woods and “kind of laid the body at my wife’s feet,” Henry McGill said. “At first she didn’t know what it was because it had dirt on it and everything.”

Once the couple realized it was a human baby, Henry McGill, who had been power-washing the house, immediately dialed 911. He said the baby was naked and missing its left arm.

Santa Rosa County Investigators combed the wooded area where the body was found, WKRG-TV reported. An autopsy has been conducted but the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office is not releasing details at this time.