Thursday, June 30, 2016


If you have been paying attention at all, you might have noticed that there is a fad going on called "adult coloring books."  Of course, children have been coloring in coloring books for decades, and sometimes they allowed their parents to color in their books, too.  But mostly, coloring was a thing you did when you were a kid, and then you outgrew it.  Unless you became an artist.

All of the pictures in this blog entry are examples of coloring my mom has done.
She graciously allowed me to use them without paying any royalty fees.

But now, suddenly, adult humans have decided that coloring is something they want to spend time doing.  Dogs do not color, and there are two good reasons for this:  (1) dogs do not have opposable thumbs, and (2) dogs don't want to waste their energy doing something silly like coloring, when they could just take a nap.

Mom likes using colored pencils best.

Unfortunately, Mom has got all caught up in this coloring craze, so now she would rather waste an evening sitting in front of the TV, coloring, than helping me write in my blog.  I resent this.  And the other thing I resent is that although Mom will let me sit on her lap while she's coloring, she does not have any hands free to pet me.

This one is colored with crayons.

However, once Mom gets it into her head to do something, there is no arguing with her.  The best I can do is try to understand why she feels compelled to behave the way she does.  So I did some research, and what I learned was that some psychologists say coloring is a sort of "mindfulness technique" like meditation or yoga.  But the good part about coloring is that you don't have to get into any weird positions, like you do with yoga. 

Mom did this one with felt markers.

Coloring is supposed to slow down your heart rate and respiration and make you feel less stressed.  It loosens muscles and stimulates the brain.  Of course, if you ask me, there's nothing like a nice nap to loosen muscles, and if you dream about chasing squirrels, that is sure to stimulate your brain.  But as usual, nobody asked me.

Mom said she didn't think there were any chihuahuas in her book, so she colored a collie instead.

Here are some other benefits of coloring that people have talked about:  it fulfills a creative urge, it's calming, it lets you think about nothing for a little while, it helps you access parts of your brain that you don't normally use, it's something anybody can do, you're not judged on how you color, and it makes you feel more self-confident and happy.

There are coloring books on almost any subject you can think of.  The ones Mom has are:  Dogs & Cats, Animals, Celtic Designs, Aztec Designs, and Southwest Desert Scenes.  On Amazon, you can get coloring books about Owls, Dogs,Cats, Sea Life, Horses, Elephants, Entangled Dragonflies, Anatomy, Physiology, Mandalas, Tattoos, Star Wars™, and the Supernatural.  Other titles are God Bless America, Cats & Quilts, Grimm Fairy Tales, The Psalms in Color, Art Nouveau Animal Designs, Kaleidoscope Wonders, I Dream of Yarn, Fanciful Fashions, Swear Word Coloring Book: Hilarious Sweary Coloring Book for Fun and Stress Relief, Sit the Fuck Down and Color, and Bullshit: An Adult Coloring Book with 40 Swear Words to Color and Relax.

So anyway, that's what humans are up to these days.  I have to admit that they have a lot of stress to get rid of because of the annoying political campaign that has been going on for months, and which won't be over until November.  Plus bad things are always happening, such as people with guns going into public places and shooting a lot of other people.  If coloring makes a person more relaxed, I guess I shouldn't complain.  Still, it seems like just petting a dog or cat would have the same effect.  Or taking a nice, long nap, like I mentioned before.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


There are lots of fascinating monkeys hanging around out there in the jungles, and I need to get busy writing about more of them during this Year of the Monkey.  Which is why today I am going to tell you about spider monkeys.

These monkeys are New World monkeys, and they live in the tropical forests of Central and South America.  All seven species in the genus are threatened.  The IUCN Red List declares one species to be vulnerable, four species to be endangered, and two species critically endangered.  The black-headed and the brown spider monkeys are in the last category.

Spider monkeys get their common name from their really long arms and their prehensile tails, which can wrap around a branch and support their the entire body weight.  When the monkeys walk, their arms practically drag on the ground. They use their tails for balance, and not their arms.  While in the treetops, the animals are very graceful and nimble.  Their fingers are long and recurved, and their thumbs are quite short.  Their tails serve as a fifth hand as they swing from branch to branch.

Only gibbons are said to be more agile than spider monkeys.  The treetops are where spider monkeys feel at home and spend much of their time.  That's where they forage, and they sleep there at night.  They are highly social animals and generally gather in groups of as many as two or three dozen.  At night, they split up into small sleeping parties of a half dozen or fewer.  Foraging also occurs in smaller groups.

Black Spider Monkeys 
Photographer: Eric Baccega/Getty Images

The monkeys' preferred diet consists of fruits and nuts, but they will also eat leaves, bark, bird eggs, insects, and honey, if their usual fare is not available.  Spider monkeys can be quite noisy.  They communicate with many calls, screeches, barks, screams, whinnies, and other sounds.

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Costa Rica 
Photographer:  Arturo de Frias Marques

A troop of monkeys usually spends most of the night sleeping in carefully selected trees.  Groups are thought to be led by an alpha female.  Her job is to plan an efficient feeding route each day.  Most of the foraging is done between dawn and 10:00 a.m.  After that, the adults rest while the young monkeys play.  More feeding may take place from time to time during the day until about 10:00 at night.  Spider monkeys do not spend much time grooming, possibly because their short thumbs make the activity difficult.

These monkeys are among the largest of those in the New World, with the biggest males weighing 24 pounds. This means that they yield enough meat to make it worthwhile for indigenous people to hunt them.  Because of their size, spider monkeys need a habitat consisting of large tracts of moist, evergreen forest and undisturbed primary rainforest.  Sadly, much of this type of habitat is being lost to logging and farming.

Captive White-Bellied Spider Monkey

Female spider monkeys only give birth to a single baby every two to five years.  For the first ten weeks after birth, the baby is totally dependent on its mother.  After that, it begins to explore on its own and play with other young monkeys.  Mothers continue to care for their offspring for the first year of their lives and often move about with the babies clinging to their backs.

Red-faced spider monkey

Young monkeys are very cute, of course, and you may be thinking that it would be nice to have one as a pet.  But if you think this, you are WRONG!  First of all, spider monkeys can never be potty-trained.  The baby ones will wear diapers, but older monkeys will just rip their diapers off.  So you will need to keep your monkey in an enclosure where you can clean up after it.

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Belize Zoo   Photographer Michael Schamis

Besides which, it's a long-term commitment to have a pet monkey because their can live 30 years or so.  They require social interaction and attention, plus you have to spend a lot of money on feeding and taking care of them.  In some places, it is illegal to have a wild animal as a pet.  And that's what monkeys are.  They are wild animals who should have the best place possible to live.  If they can't be in the rainforest, they at least deserve to live in a zoo or wildlife reserve.

So don't go out and buy yourself a monkey.  It's bad for the monkey, and it's bad for you, too.  That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it!

Monday, June 6, 2016


Lots of people have never heard of an American Curl cat, and even more people have never owned one.  But even though this is a fairly new breed, it is gradually becoming more popular, and you can now find a few American Curls in non-American places such as France and Japan.

The way the breed got started was kind of by accident.  In June of 1981, a black, longhaired stray kitty showed up at the home of Joe and Grace Ruga in Lakewood, California.  This cat had funny-looking ears that sort of bent backward instead of sticking straight up like normal cat ears do.  The Rugas adopted the cat and named her Shulamith.  Six months later, she had kittens which also had curled ears.  And this was the beginning of the American Curl breed.

In 1983, cat fanciers began selective breeding to produce cats with curled ears.  They found out that it was pretty easy to do this because the curled-ear gene is dominant.  Any cat with even one copy of the gene will show the trait.

In 1986 an American Curl was exhibited at a cat show for the first time, and in 1992 the longhaired American Curl was given championship status by The International Cat Association.  In 1999, the breed became the first one to be admitted to the Cat Fanciers' Association Championship Class with both longhaired and shorthaired divisions.

American Curl kittens are born with straight ears which begin to curl back within 3 to 5 days.  The small rosebud ears then gradually uncurl until they are "set" after about 16 weeks.  This is the point at which a breeder decides whether a kitten is show quality or pet quality.  The ideal curl should form an arc between 90º and 180º.  If the ears are too straight or if they curl so far that the tips touch the head, the cat cannot be shown.  But of course these kitties still make wonderful pets.

Any color of coat is acceptable for an American Curl.  Both the longhaired and shorthaired cats have soft, silky coats that lie flat against their bodies.  Because there is no undercoat, these cats don't shed much and don't need much grooming.

American Curls are very friendly and people-oriented.  They are not especially talkative, but they make trill-like cooing sounds.  Intelligent, playful, and curious, they keep their kitten-like personalities well into adulthood.

Because it was bred so much with non-pedigree cats while the breed was being established, the American Curl is generally a healthy breed.  Their average lifespan is more than 13 years.