Friday, January 31, 2014


Today is the first day of the Chinese Year of the Horse.  First I want to say that Piper was really looking forward to this year because she was born in 2002, which was the last time the Horse Year galloped by.  But sadly, Piper did not make it to the Chinese New Year, although she almost did, and I guess that is saying quite a bit.

Now I will tell you that I myself was born in the year of the Rat -- at least as nearly as we can figure out, since I don't have a birth certificate or any pedigree papers.  And Tristan was probably born in the year of the Dragon, the same as Mom.

Chinese Horse Year by Cahooodesign

I also want to mention that I am relieved to have the Year of the Snake over with, because I think snakes are extremely creepy and scary, and I'm glad I didn't have to write about them.  However, I also think horses are scary, because they are Really Big, and if a horse stepped on me, I would just be reduced to a little puddle of chihuahua mush.  So even though it is the Year of the Horse, and I will be writing blog entries about horses, I hope you understand that I have good reasons to stay far away from any actual live horses!

Okay, so the Year of the Horse begins today, January 31, and it will last until February 18, 2015, after which, it will be the Year of the Sheep.  But it's much too soon to start thinking about sheep.  First we have to contemplate horses for a whole year and two weeks.

Photo by Diego Azubel/EPA

People who were born in a Horse Year can be energetic, clever, kind to others, fun-loving, cheerful, perceptive, and talented.  They like crowds and parties and being in the limelight.  They are charming, good at communicating, and they have lots of friends.  Horse people expect to succeed, and they don't deal very well with failure.  They are sometimes called Qianli Ma, a horse that can cover a thousand li (500 meters) in a day.

But some of the Horse traits can turn into bad things if they go too far.  Horse people can be so independent, adventurous, and hot-blooded that they do not manage their finances well or focus on their careers the way they should.  They aren't always good about following a budget, and they can be wasteful.  Horses often don't follow advice, and if they fail in a project, they get pessimistic and bad-tempered.

Photo by Jakub Halun

During 2014, Horse people may experience unexpected costs which can cause them a lot of stress.  If this happens, they should talk to other people and follow their advice.  Romance for Horse Year people will only be so-so.  They might have some health issues, but these could possibly be avoided by getting a full physical exam.  Areas of particular concern are the stomach, urinary tract, eyes, and heart.  Also watch out for injuries from sharp things such as knives.

The best matches for Horses are the Tiger, Sheep, and Dog.  Horses should avoid the Rat, Ox, and Rabbit.  Lucky colors are brown, yellow, and purple.  Blue, white, and golden colors are best avoided.

Here are a few famous Horse Year people:  Louisa May Alcott, Davy Crockett, Ella Fitzgerald, Teddy Roosevelt, Barbra Streisand, Oprah Winfrey, Rembrandt, and Genghis Khan.

Okay, so what about the rest of us during this Year of the Wood Horse?  Well, it could be a good time for interesting travels and surprising adventures.  If you are going to take action, you should do it quickly and decisively, because that's how horses move.  There may be a lot of heated conflicts because people will be stubborn and will stick to their principles instead of compromising.

If you have a business that involves wood or fire, such as a lumber company, you will do well.  A business having to do with metal or water, like for instance mining or fishing, will do less well.  Financial companies could be very unstable.  It's not a good year for Rats to do any investment because they might get stepped on by Horses.  (See?  What did I tell you?)  Luckily, I don't have any money to invest, so I'm not too worried.

Besides not investing, I am also planning not to do much traveling, even though it's a good year for that.  Frankly, I'm more of a homebody, like Piper was.  Tristan might be more up for adventure and travel, but I don't think Mom will really let him go anywhere except in the back yard or for a walk on a leash.

So anyway, that's all I have to say about the Year of the Horse right now.  I just hope everybody has a good year, and that they don't make any bad investments or get squished under some big, heavy horse hoof.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Hi, this is Dorrie, the chihuahua.  I have some very sad news for you, which is that Piper had to leave yesterday and go to the Rainbow Bridge.  We kind of thought she might have to go there one of these days, but we didn't think it would be yesterday.  Piper was feeling really lousy, though, and there wasn't any way to make her all better again, so Mom decided to let Piper go ahead and go.

Piper and I posed for this picture last August
in a fancy photography studio.

Maybe you will remember that Piper got pretty sick a few weeks ago, and she had to stay in the hospital for two days.  The doctors said she had pulmonary hypertension, which makes it so that your heart can't get enough blood pumped into your lungs.  After this diagnosis, Mom had to buy a whole bunch of expensive medicine for Piper  But it was worth it because taking the meds made Piper feel better.

Then Piper had a test for her Cushing's Disease, and it showed that her cortisol levels were all screwy.  So the internist, Dr. Grigsby, decided to put Piper on a different medicine for Cushing's.  She told Mom to watch for side effects and to call if any showed up.

Here's Piper yesterday, waiting to go to the Rainbow Bridge.

That was on Friday, and on Sunday night while we were sleeping, Piper made a loud BAROO! sound like basenjis do sometimes, and Mom rushed downstairs to let Piper outside.  Anyway, Piper kept having diarrhea after that, which was one of the side effects Mom was supposed to watch for.  So she called Dr. Grigsby's office on Monday.  But that was Dr. Grigsby's day off, so the nurse said just to stop giving Piper the medicine, and Dr. Grigsby would call on Tuesday.

What ended up happening yesterday was that Mom took Piper over to the hospital, and they kept her most of the day.  Dr. Grigsby said she couldn't get the diarrhea to stop, and she thought maybe it wasn't even because of the medicine.  Mom talked to both Dr. Grigsby and Dr. Patricia about maybe putting Piper to sleep, and they both said they wouldn't blame Mom if she decided it was time to do that.  Dr. Patricia said that Piper's body was sort of "unraveling," which you might call ironic, because "unraveling" was what Piper liked to do to dog beds and toys and stuff like that.

Originally, we thought Piper would be able to write a goodbye entry in her blog, but that didn't happen.  Anyway, Piper told me yesterday morning that, in case she didn't come home again, I should thank all her faithful readers for being so faithful.  And she said that people should keep on reading her blog, even if it wasn't quite as good as when a basenji was writing it.  Also, she added that if her readers didn't keep reading the blog, she would find a way to come back from the Rainbow Bridge and bite them on the ankle.  I believe she was quite serious about this.

Piper also told me that after she arrived at the Rainbow Bridge, she would feel all young and happy and full of energy again.  She would be able to run and play and wrestle with the other dogs, just like she did when she was a puppy.  She would see Gabe and Nicky and Mel again, and she would meet lots of other wonderful dogs.  And best of all, she could eat all the cicadas and blankets she wanted to without getting sick!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

FELIX THE CAT, by Charlie the cat

Piper asked me to write her blog entry today because I am a black-and-white cat, just like Felix.  And of course, black-and-white is the best color to be, as Piper has probably told you already.  Also, being a cat is way better than being a dog, but that's just my opinion, not Piper's!

Here's a picture of me, just so you know I am telling the truth when I say I look a lot like Felix.  It's just that his eyes are bigger than mine. And also, he doesn't have any whiskers, which is kind of strange in a cat.

Anyway, Felix is a cartoon character who has been around a long time.  He made his debut appearance in 1919 in a short film called Feline Follies.  He was called Master Tom originally, and he didn't have any lines to learn because this was back in the days of silent films.  The studio that produced Feline Follies was owned by a man named Pat Sullivan, who was originally from Australia.  The cartoonist who animated Master Tom was Otto Messmer.  Later on, Mr. Sullivan would claim that he invented Felix, and Mr. Messmer would make the same claim.  But nowadays, Mr. Messmer is basically considered to have been the true creator of the popular feline.

By his third film, the cat had assumed the name Felix, which was probably a combination of the Latin words felis for "cat" and felix for "lucky."  During a 1925 interview in Australia, Mr. Sullivan said his inspiration for Felix came "from the sight of a cat which my wife brought to the studio one day."  Other times, he claimed that Rudyard Kipling's story, The Cat that Walked by Himself was where he got the idea for Felix.  So who knows where his true inspiration came from.

Felix was the first animated character to be popular enough to draw movie audiences to the theater.  They loved his clever antics, big grin, witty personality, and extremely expressive tail.  And they enjoyed the surrealistic situations the feline usually found himself in.

Besides being in short films, Felix also appeared in a comic strip, beginning in 1923.  Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Messmer, and a man named Joe Oriolo drew the comic strip.  Soon there was lots of merchandise with Felix's image, including ceramics, toys, postcards, and clocks.  He was also featured as the first giant balloon ever in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

By the late 1920s, people started making films with sound in them, including those that featured the new animation star, Mickey Mouse.  Sullivan and Messmer were unwilling at first to do productions with sound.  Then when they decided to do some, their films basically flopped.  The whole operation ended in 1932, and Mr. Sullivan died in 1933.

That might have been the end of Felix the Cat, except for the fact that Joe Oriolo brought him back in the 1950s.  The redesigned Felix had longer legs, and his cartoons featured a cast of new characters.  The shows started airing on American TV in 1953.  Mr. Oriolo also gave Felix a Magic Bag of Tricks that would make itself into all sorts of useful shapes whenever Felix wanted it to.

The TV series had almost nothing in common with the original Felix films, but they made the cat into a pop-culture icon.  In 2002, TV Guide ranked Felix the Cat at number 28 on the "50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time" list.  Besides starring in two feature films, Felix has also appeared on a variety of TV programs and merchandise.  Creative control of the feline has now been assumed by Mr. Oriolo's son, Don.  Felix has his own website, and many of his cartoons are available to watch on YouTube.

Okay, well, thanks for reading Piper's blog today, even though it was written by a cat instead of by a dog.  I hope I have done a good enough job of telling you about Felix the Cat, because he really is one of my idols.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Lots of people have heard the story of the Garden of Eden and about how there was a nasty serpent there that tempted Eve to do a bad thing.  But just in case you don't know the story, I will remind you how it goes.  But Mom told me not to make any comments about whether I think the story is true or not because we do not want to start any arguments.  So I will just tell the story.

The Tree of Knowledge
Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530

It starts out with God making the earth and the sky and the oceans and the planets.  And then he makes all the plants and animals, and finally he makes humans.  The first two humans were named Adam and Eve.  God gave them a really nice place to live, which was called the Garden of Eden.  He told them they could eat any fruit that grew there except for fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He said that if they ate that fruit, they would die.

Fall of Man
Mikael Toppelius, 1774

So Adam and Eve were innocent and happy, and everything was fine for a while.  But then one day, Eve got to talking to a serpent, and he said she wouldn't die if she ate the forbidden fruit.  Instead, she would be lots wiser.  So she decided to try the fruit, and she liked it, and she gave some to Adam to eat.  After which, they noticed that they were naked, which made them feel ashamed, so they sewed some clothes out of fig leaves.  And the next time God came around, they hid from him.

The Temptation of Eve
Cath├ędrale Saint Lazare-Autun, c. 1130

But God was even smarter than Adam and Eve, so he knew right away what they had done.  Eve blamed the serpent for tempting her, and Adam blamed Eve for giving him some of the fruit.  God told the serpent that he would have to slither around on his belly forever and ever after that.  Eve was condemned to having lots of pain during childbirth, and Adam would always have to work for a living.  Then they got kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

The Fall of Man
Jacob Jordaens, 17th century

So that's the story, and it's a story that is meant to explain a lot of things, including why people in the Western tradition tend to think of snakes as creepy and evil.  But it was also a good story for artists to make paintings and sculptures out of.  So today I am going to show you some of that artwork, starting with a famous one that Michelangelo painted in the Sistine Chapel.

The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Paradise
Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican, 1508-12

Fall of Man
Luther Brosamer, 1550

Adam and Eve
(Hans) Sebald Beham, 16th century

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Illuminated Parchment, Spain, 950-955 C.E.

The Temptation of Eve
William Blake, 1808

You might have noticed that in some of this artwork, the serpent has a woman's head.  There are people who think this means the serpent is Lilith, who was a female demon in Jewish mythology.  I don't know if this is true of not.  I did not see a single piece of art that showed the serpent as a man.  Personally, I think the reason for this is because all the artists were men, and they were tired of their wives or mothers telling them to go out and get a real job instead of sitting around painting pictures all the time.  But when I told you the Garden of Eden story, I called the serpent "he" because I am a female, and I don't like to think of females as demons.  So there.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


One other time I wrote a blog entry about dyeing pets, and if you want to read it, you can find it here:  After I posted that entry, I learned that some people have strong opinions about whether dogs and cats should be dyed, and they yelled at each other in their comments on my blog entry.  I don't like it when people write nasty things to each other on my blog,  so if you want to say what you think about today's entry, just please be polite about it. Otherwise, I will have to come find you and bite you on the ankle.  Hahahaha!

Anyway, I have kind of changed my own opinion about dyeing pets, and I have decided that maybe it's not such a terrible thing to do, if the dye is safe, and if the animal doesn't mind it.  Of course, I personally would not want to be dyed because it means you have to GET WET, which I might have mentioned that I hate to do.

When I was doing in-depth research for my blog entry about poodles, which I published on Friday, I discovered that poodles seem to get dyed more often than other breeds of dogs.  I guess this is because they have fluffy hair that can be groomed into lots of different shapes before you even dye it.  And poodles seem to be nice enough to put up with all the fussing and humiliation.

There is actually an organization for people who like to groom their dogs in weird and different ways, and this group is called The National Association of Professional Creative Groomers.  They have webinars and hold contests and do stuff like that.  Also, they try to figure out the safest way to dye animals.  You can go to their website if you want more information or want to see more pictures.

Before I start showing you some photos I found, I will just say that dyeing poodles is not a totally new thing to do.  Back in the 1950s, when poodles were first becoming really popular, they were sometimes dyed.  Here's Doris Day with a pack of pastel poodles, promoting her new movie April in Paris.

Pink seems to be about the most popular color to dye poodles.  Here are a few pink poodles to prove my point.

But blue is good, too, especially for a boy dog.

Photo: jillbeninato

And yellow is very cheerful.

Photo:  Farang Noi

One way to dye a dog is to use food coloring.  Here is a very wet poodle who just got soaked in food coloring.  When you put it on, it looks much darker than when it is dry.

You can also use sidewalk chalk to color a dog.  That way the dog doesn't have to get wet, but the chalk probably doesn't stay on as long as dye does.

Now I will show you some poodles that were dyed in really fancy ways so they could enter contests.

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

®Ren Netherland/Barcroft Media

Okay, so that's my report on dyed poodles.  Feel free to make comments, but remember to be nice about it!