Friday, April 30, 2010

Lessons in Failure

The last issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly had a most interesting article about the importance of failure--as in some of the greatest scientific discoveries happened on the way to unraveling something else. Likewise, a recent editorial in the Inquirer cited Greg Mortenson's work building schools in Afghanistan--all of which came about because he got lost on his way back to base camp after failing to climb K2, the second highest mountain in the world.

He was disoriented, exhausted, dehydrated and ultimately rescued by people from a small village in Korphe, Pakistan who taught him the importance of building relationships and projects slowly, one cup of tea at a time. When he set out to build his schools, he did not embark on the ambitious plan to educate the third world. He just wanted to build one school to repay the people who saved his life.

How that one school became his life work is the story of his two books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, an ambitious and successful personal journey that began with failure.

So what is the moral of the story? That while you are searching for the goal you hope to attain, pay attention to the obstacles that trip you up along the way. In each one, may be the beginning of something even more worthwhile than what you set out to achieve.

It takes guts to fail and even more to realize there's a lot to learn from making mistakes.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Derby Doings

So Backtalk is in (post position #18)and Lookin at Lucky drew the #1 spot. As they say, very interesting....

I'm not wild about that inside post position, although according to, it has produced the most wins in the Kentucky Derby along with the #5 post since 1900. Lookin at Lucky is also the 3 to 1 favorite.

Sidney's Candy drew the #20 post (Big Brown won from there in 2008) and was made the 5 to 1 second choice. Three horses are the 10 to 1 third choices: Ice Box (#2), Devil May Care (the filly at #11) and Awesome Act (who LOVES the slop at #16).

My other sentimental choice, Line of David, was given the odds of 30-1 and drew the #5 post--actually a decent position. I also am feeling very good about Backtalk at that 18 position. Assuming he can make it to the middle of the pack around the first turn, he might be better off coming in than being shut in along the rail.

The forecast is for showers so things may continue to change right up until race day. Edgar Prado doesn't have a mount which is surprising and Mike Smith is on the Zito trained Jackson Bend. Don't rule them out although I think you can safely throw out Homeboykris, who truly does not belong in this race.

In other words, it's beginning to look like a horse race!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Talent Show

We interrupt the race for the roses speculation to show you that horses are not the only domesticated animals with talent.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Plot Thickens

And so, as they say, the plot thickens. First Eskandereya bows out with an injury and now Rule follows suit. After consulting with trainer Todd Pletcher, Bill Casner, co-owner of WinStar Farm announced that Rule would not be competing in this year's run for the roses.

According to Casner, there is nothing wrong physically with Rule; they just don't like the way he has been working at Churchill.

In other news, Pletcher confirmed that his filly, Devil May Care, would indeed be entered in the Derby and not the Oaks as previously suspected. So if you are keeping score, Pletcher loses two and gains one.

A couple of observations in no particular order:

First, I think it is a big jump in class for Devil May Care. I think she is a very nice filly but she is moving from a grade II win to a grade I win in an all male division. I wouldn't lose sleep over her chances. (Watch, she will win going way!)

Second, Rule finished a neck ahead of Lenny in the Florida Derby and has been withdrawn from competition in the Derby because he really is not a Derby contender. A nice horse, indeed. But not the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Which means that neither is Lenny--at least not the Lenny who last ran in the Florida Derby. Could he have been if races had materialized when none did and he was able to break his maiden a little earlier in the season? Maybe. He is a late bloomer, like many Dynaformers.

Third, who is sitting on that bubble but none other than Backtalk, son of Smarty Jones?! I would dearly love to see him make the cut and stranger things have happened. His connections are very high on this horse but he will need another defector to get into the big dance.

For sentimental reasons, I like Line of David, if the track clears up between now and then. His last workout in the slop proved he does not like the stuff. And I also like Ice Box because he is a strong closer and with 20 horses in the race, unless you go out in front and stay there--by that I mean pull away at the top of the stretch--the cattle shoot mentality favors a late runner.

Stay tuned. There may yet be more surprises!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Eskendereya Out of Derby

WOW! This changes everything. . .

Todd Pletcher announced yesterday morning at 9:30 that his star pupil and likely Derby favorite, Eskendereya is out of the race due to a "slight filling in his left front leg."

While pundits turn on their speculating meters to determine whether this accumulation of fluid has been there for some time or just recently made its presence known (the jury is divided), others are recalculating their betting strategies. Personally, with Eskendereya out of the race, I think its anybody's guess.

Sidney's Candy deserves some attention although there is that gnawing unknown of never having raced on any surface other than synthetic. Ice Box, the Florida Derby winner, may get some play. And don't forget Super Saver, another Pletcher trained probably entry and the Bob Baffert trained Lookin at Lucky.

There is a lot of buzz about the filly Devil May Care, who may opt to beat the boys at their own game rather than run in the Oaks. At this point, Pletcher notes that she will be entered in both events and the draw may actually determine his strategy.

If you like long shots, my advice would be to pick one. This is anybody's race and anything can happen between now and Saturday. It's a true shame Lentenor did not have the opportunity to win a big race because I do believe he would have had just as much of a shot as some of the horses in the field.

I promise to have my picks by Friday. What about you?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Enchanced Books on the Ipad

You watch this video of Alice in Wonderland digitally enhanced for the ipad and you are not only left drooling for one of these devices but also wondering just how much the technology is indeed going to change the face of books as we know them. At least I am.

We have been in negotiations with our publisher of Lick Your Plate! Celebrity Chefs Cook for their Dogs and Yours about electronic rights and what we learned may surprise you. Yes, we garnered a substantial portion of any proceeds from the sale of a digital version of our book but we also discovered that the sale is not going to take place that quickly. Put simply, publishers are very slow in jumping on the electronic bandwagon--much slower than authors.

For one, each book that is available on the ipad is a separate application. That is you buy the Alice in Wonderland digital version from the App store just like you buy an application for your phone. That's right. One app for each book. And in the beginning, which is now, there are not too many apps.

They are expensive to produce and until the dust settles and publishers determine whether or not they are profitable, the only ones that are going to exist are those that lend themselves naturally to the medium. Which would probably mean picture books with lots of action, a la Alice in Wonderland.

Not that they aren't the wave of the future--they truly are, much more so than the black and white Kindle versions of straight copy--but that they aren't for every book. Books that are mostly words are just as good on a Kindle or a Nook as they are on the ipad--they are basically PDF versions of copy. But books that move, talk, connect to larger things and inspire interactivity on the part of the reader--well those are still in development.

All of which is to say I still am going to get the G3 version of the ipad when it comes out but that I don't think I will be buying many books on it--at least not novels. I will probably use it more as a lap top than an enhanced phone but all of this remains to be seen.

What it does mean, however, is that cool versions of enhanced books are not going to be that plentiful--at least not yet.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Golden Day

So you already know that Sam's and Lucy's birthday parties are the social event of the season but I'm afraid I can't compete with the recent gathering of golden retrievers pictured above. In all 18, yes 18, golden retrievers attended a party in Lafayette Hills, Pa. where a tail wagging time was had by all.

Oh, by the way, everyone was well behaved--humans as well as dogs--and enjoyed the party games, one of which involved the dogs catching pieces of popcorn mid air. The other involved a race to clean ones plate and I would imagine the judges needed eagle eyes, given a Golden's tendency to eat everything in sight!

You can read all about it here.

Hmmm...I wonder why Sam and Phoebe weren't invited?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Many Roles of Vets

So one thing we have been learning while recruiting chefs for our book is that chefs do more than cook in restaurants. Some cook for private clients, some work for food companies, some work for caterers and some run their own catering companies. In other words, a culinary degree often opens a lot of different doors.

So too with veterinary medicine, at least according to the latest issue of Bellwether, the magazine of Penn's vet school. They are trying long and hard to make the case that their state funding should be reinstated because of all the things that vets do.

For instance, there is the monitoring of public health in outbreaks of what are called zoonotic diseases--those that can be transmitted from pets to people. Rabies is the obvious example but lot of parasites are also potentially contagious.

Then there is the role of vets in tending to public servants who are animals--like military and police animals, large and small. And caring for endangered species in and out of zoos, as well as monitoring feed lots where our food is raised and slaughtered. Improving the quality of agricultural practices benefits farmers, the animals they raise as well as the consumers who purchase the products.

Not to mention research--especially in areas that have the potential to benefit humans as well as animals. Dare we mention the rabies vaccination?

In short, a degree in veterinary medicine does not mean you have to spay and neuter cats and dogs for a living. There are lots of ways that vets benefit the members of the population who don't even own animals.

I wish them luck in surviving the reduction in their funds and all of us luck if vets are not able to continue to do all the things they contribute to our society.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Peyton Needs a Home

I don't usually do this but I was forwarded a frantic email today from the son of one of my daughter's colleagues that Peyton, this fabulous black lab mix is due to be put down imminently unless he finds a new home. As you can see from the video, he is K9 trained, walks well on a leash and sits and lies down on command.

He also loves treats--all labs are truly food motivated--and genuinely deserves a forever home after being abandoned by his last family. He is only 2.

If you live in California or know someone who does and is in the market for a fabulous dog, please pass this on.

Everybody deserves better than he has received to date.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Glimpse Of The Future?

This is comedian Chelsea Handler who was very busy signing books at the Philadelphia Free Library Book Festival on Sunday. The line was incredibly long--she probably sold 150 books to those in the line alone--and she was very nice, genuine and grateful to those to bought her book.

Now Chelsea Handler is not one of my favorite authors or comedians but she is on my daughter's radar screen and since it was her birthday last weekend I was happy to accompany her on the Chelsea Handler mission. It was actually eye opening on a few levels.

First, there were many booths occupied by authors who were promoting their own books. A little sad to be sure--they looked pretty lonely trying to be upbeat while surrounded by posters of their book's cover--but at some point it occurred to me that next year it could be me sitting in the cold, hawking copies of Lick Your Plate! I certainly hope not because the general idea is that the chefs in the book sell it, not the author and photographer who simply portrayed their stories.

Last weeks Inquirer had an entire article about the role that local book fairs (as well as Facebook) are playing in the promotion of books and it is all a bit daunting. "Authors today have to face another major paradigm shift: They have to stop being authors and reinvent themselves as celebrities," it reads in part.

Since our book is about celebrities to begin with, we are hoping they are going to be used to hawking themselves. Although I will confess we have already received an invite to appear on Martha Stewart's Sirius radio show with her holistic vet, I am more interested in making sure the book has interesting content, than making ourselves the star attraction.

However, as they say, stay tuned. And if I have to stand shivering in an outdoor tent, you had better believe I will let you know about it!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Purple People Eaters?

So apparently there's grooming and then there's GROOMING. As the photos illustrate, Intergroom, a three day event for dog groomers that must be paramount to the Grooming Olympics, was held last weekend and these are just a handful of the creative coifs participating groomers created for their dogs.

Trust me, nothing was held back--dye, glitter, carving into fur, sculpting dogs to resemble other animals (dragons were big). For the full photo show check out the article from the New York Times.

And lest you worry that all the fuss and fluff was not in the best interests of those being groomed, I offer you this rationalization from the emcee of the event, Teri DiMario: ""All they know is that people are paying attention to them. They love it."

Enough said.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Lot is Riding on Eskandereya

The sale of Eskandereya is one of the keys to Ahmed Zayat's reorganization plan that was filed in New Jersey federal bankruptcy court on April 16. The plan states that 100% of Eskandereya will be sold in 2010 although no projections were given for the income resulting from the sale.

Zayat's stable, which consists of more than 200 horses, has been in trouble for a while and one of the biggest creditors on its books is Keeneland, the Lexington sale company that sold him many of the horses in his stable. The question of why and how Keeneland would continue to do business with a man who owed them money is one that remains unanswered although one assumes it is tied up with the loans that Zayat received from Fifth Third Bank to pay for these purchases. It should be noted that Fifth Third, according to, is owed almost $34 million, which should give you an idea of how leveraged Zayat was.

A larger question, at least to me, is why a bank would continue to loan money to a man to purchase race horses, surely one of the most costly and risky investments anyone can make. And yet, ironically, it seems to have almost paid off.

If Eskandereya, who is the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, happens to win the race, he is worth at least as much as Zayat owes Keeneland ($2.4 million), or at least one would hope. His breeding (Giant's Causeway--Aldebaran Light, by Seattle Slew) would certainly suggest a hefty price tag, especially when combined with his impressive victories in the Grade I Wood Memorial and the Grade II Fountain of Youth. To date, the horse has earned $725,700.

Saved by a horse? Amazing but perhaps true that the biggest gamble of all just might pay off, but still an awfully risky roll of the dice to begin with, at least in my opinion.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Outfield Obstacle

Too funny! This video is from a minor league game of the Naturals where this dog was up for adoption. I wonder if he found a home after his escapades here!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Only Two More Weeks!

Today is the last major prep race for the Kentucky Derby the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. True it is only two weeks before the run for the roses and it would be hard to run a horse back so quickly, but stranger things have happened--like Mine that Bird winning last years race at 50 to 1.

I actually don't think that any horse in the field today will be a contender because I still think the horse to beat is Eskendereya, winner of both the Wood Memorial and the Fountain of Youth. He will certainly be the favorite come May 1, and that comes with its own set of superstitions.

Sidney's Candy is undefeated in his last three races, all of them on the polytrack at Santa Anita. Lookin at Lucky ran third in the Arkansas Derby and might be peaking at just the right time. I'm also not ruling out Line of David who is also undefeated since the addition of blinkers or American Lion who won the Illinois Derby on April 3.

In considering this year's Derby, I think it is important to distinguish a potential Derby winner from a potential Triple Crown winner. It is one thing--a huge thing to be sure--to win the Derby and quite another to contend for the Triple Crown. When you are considering your picks, it is always wise to concentrate on the race at hand, rather than consider all three races. True, racing would love the possibility of a Triple Crown to generate some new fans for the sport but it is unfair to any horse competing in any of the races to expect such a feat. I just don't think we are breeding, training or racing such accomplished equine athletes these days.

Which takes nothing away from winning any leg of the endeavor. Its just that winning all three should be left to the Super Horses, one of which would have distinguished himself by now, if he was such an animal. Is Eskendereya such a horse? Perhaps, but so far, he has not given me goose bumps a la Secretariat or Barbaro. Could he? Only time will tell.

Is it anybody's race? Maybe. The Kentucky Derby levels the playing field by being such a large field, and one would like to think that the horse that is best on that day wins. Does that mean he is the best horse? Not necessarily, just the one who gets to the finish line first.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mushroom Ice Cream?

So you probably knew that Kennett Square, Pa is the home of Penn's New Bolton Center, the large animal veterinary facility where Barbaro spent the last 7 months of his life, but did you also know that Kennett Square has recently been voted one of America's 21 Coolest Small Towns?

This honor, bestowed by the Budget Travel magazine's web site in January has placed the adorable little hamlet, home to 5,500 residents, on the radar for those looking to soak up some cutting edge, small town vibes.

There's New Bolton Center, of course, but there is also Talula's Table, a restaurant that US Airways magazine calls one of the 16 "optimal" dining experiences in the country as well as the local YMCA, that was recently named the best Y in the nation.

There is the proximity of world renowned Longwood Gardens and the ever present mushroom. Kennett Square has long been known as the mushroom capital of the world. Even the local ice cream parlor, La Michoacana Ice Cream, recently introduced mushroom as a flavor (they also have corn and avocado).

So for those of you contemplating a visit to Pennsylvania, put Kennett Square on your itineraries. Perhaps not as exciting as Gettysburg or Valley Forge, but certainly worth a look-see.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Seeing Double

In the thoroughbred world, the cloning issue is a non issue. Simply put, a foal must be produced by a live mating between live horses. Not so in many of the other domains across the equine world, where horses may be bred by artificial insemination, opening the door to the creation of clones.

Needless to say, this has ignited a fierce debate among various factions of horse owners. On one side are breeders like Carol Harris, who doesn't oppose cloning in the name of scientific research but does not think that cloned horses should be permitted to compete in sanctioned events. "Breeding is an art," she told the Inquirer. "Cloning is just replication."

On the other are members of the biotechnical companies (of course) as well as some vets who defend cloning as a useful and potentially powerful research tool. ViaGen is one of the leaders in the creation of live clones and has successfully produced clones of a barrel racing champion (Scamper), a show jumper (Gem Twist), a bucking legend (Go Wild) and champion cutting horses. They offer no guarantee that the horse they clone will be a champion.

As to whether or not a clone is an actual duplication of another animal, well the jury is still out. In the old nature vs. nurture debate, it is one thing to duplicate an animals genetic makeup but it is quite another to replicate the exact environment in which the original was raised.

For the time being, the Jockey Club is not budging nor is the American Quarter Horse Association, which recently voted down a proposal that would allow for the registration of clones. The market for clones, at least for the time being, seems to be those owners of beloved animals who cannot abide the thought of living on this earth without some representation of the original.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bo Could have Helped You Perfect That First Pitch

Professor Diana C. Mutz (yes that really is her name!) of the University of Pennsylvania has uncovered an important correlation between politics and pets: they go hand in hand. According to a recent column in the Inquirer, Mutz's research has discovered the fact that Obama is the first person elected president in the history of the United States that was pet-less at the time of his election.

Yes, you read that correctly. According to Mutz, about four hundred assorted animals have lived in the White House ranging from an alligator (belonging to John Quincy Adams) to bear cubs (those would be Thomas Jefferson's) to a parrot (James Madison's).

But somehow, dogs hold a position of high esteem in the minds of the voters. It turns out that about half the households in the U.S. include dogs, and of these, there are about 6% more Republicans than Democrats. Which may explain why more pet owners were attracted to John McCain (at least in June 2008), whose menagerie includes two dogs, a cat, a ferret, three parakeets, turtles and some fish.

"Everything else being equal," says Mutz, "dog ownership does make a difference." In fact, the probability of voting for Obama went down 16% if the person doing the voting owned a dog. Mutz has only theories as to why this is true, one of which is that dog owners simply identify with other dog owners.

Her recommendation for the current president who is battling lowering popularity ratings: Be seen with your pooch. "Get Bo out there in front of the cameras," she advises.

Not to mention the wonders he could do for your pitching arm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Power of a Great Story

I traffic in stories. I make my living from finding interesting ones and telling them well enough so that others pass them on. I am fascinated not only by the stories we create but by the ones we choose to tell.

Inevitably, in my case, these stories involve animals and our relationships to them. Sometimes the animal stories are short, simple interactions. And sometimes they involve heroic and majestic deeds. Sometimes I am the only one paying attention. And sometimes the world watches.

Frank Vespe, over on recently posted a wonderful piece about the role of stories in perpetuating the sport of horse racing. Specifically he was referring to the legend of Barbaro and how the various pieces of the story did more for the sport than any incentive (read wagering) package the TRA has dreamed up.

"Barbaro, it turns out, is the gift that keeps on giving, and racing ought to be trying to figure out what the Barbaro experience--and the continuing passion of his fans--teaches us about ourselves," he writes.

Barbaro, in a combination of supreme athleticism, courage in the face of tragedy and grace and dignity under pressure, attracted legions of fans to the sport who were drawn in by their love for animals, specifically injured animals, and who might have stayed on to cheer other thoroughbreds who often exhibit many of the same characteristics each time they race, if only someone had pointed out the similarities. Or simply let them in to a world that is used to keeping all but the insiders out.

"People could follow [the Barbaro story], practically in real time, every twist and turn in the tale. Barbaro's fans could feel as if they were in the trenches with the horse's connections, willing him to recover," writes Vespe. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the roller coaster ride of Barbaro's recovery is no different from that experienced by any family when any family member falls seriously ill. We will our loved ones to recover, even as we try to prepare ourselves in case they don't. One day is good; the next is not. Who hasn't been on that ride? Who can fail to see the human condition in the animal one?

Racing, that's who. By not embracing with open arms, those Fans of Barbaro who brought passion, excitement and a love of animals to a sport that needs all the love it can get. By not telling the stories of other horses, owners and trainers who do the right thing each and every day, caring for their horses and putting them in the best situations possible to help them win. By not re-telling the stories of the greats, equine and human, who overcame great obstacles, ran with the wind at their backs and made our hearts stop.

By not pointing out that Barbaro was one in a trajectory of equine heroes that had the ability to make us tell and re-tell their stories. And that his brothers are writing their own even if they can't be bothered to pay attention.

Monday, April 12, 2010

That's Why They Call it Horse Racing

The Kentucky Derby picture became slightly blurry over the weekend when two long shots won the last two major Derby preps. Line of David went wire to wire to win the Arkansas Derby by a neck and Stately Victor ran away with the Blue Grass Stakes on the poly track at Keeneland. Both horses punched their respective tickets to the Derby.

Line of David went off at 17 to 1 and ran in front for the entire race. He actually set a fast pace, putting up some pretty impressive early fractions, and hung in there down the stretch when he was challenged for the lead by closing Super Saver and Dublin. Yes, he beat some impressive horses, even though the colt had never run in a stakes race. The time was 1:49.37.

Stately Victor went off at 40 to 1 and beat an impressive looking Paddy O'Prado by 4 1/2 lengths. The time on the poly track for the 1 1/8 mile race was 1:48.69. He was a last minute addition to the field and the early fractions in this race were fairly slow.

So what do we make of these winners? I'm not sure. Conventional wisdom would suggest they would not be factors in the run for the roses (perhaps they are just one shot wonders) but I have to admit, I was impressed by Line of David's grit in the stretch and the apparent ease with which he set the pace. He is a big horse with a loping stride and he clearly likes to be in the lead. I wouldn't rule out the fact that he might set the early pace in the Derby and depending on post position might just have enough in the tank to hang in there down the stretch. He won this race coming off two prior turf races and it is clear he doesn't mind the switch in surfaces.

Stately Victor's victory on the poly track leads to all sorts of questions about surface as well as the fast time. It remains to be seen not only whether or not this horse likes the dirt as much as the synthetic as well as if he beat any other true contenders.

Can anyone beat Eskendereya is the question, of course, but I think it is also safe to say that we shouldn't rule out Dublin or Super Saver so fast. Sidney's Candy remains in the running (depending on whether or not he likes having dirt kicked in his face) as well as Lookin at Lucky.

Basically from where I sit, it is anybody's race and that is why they call is horse racing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nicky's a Close Fifth

Here is the video from Nicanor's four year old debut at Keeneland at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf on Thursday. He finished a close fifth, which is actually an impressive showing after such a long lay off. The second, third, fourth and fifth horses were just separated by a length--all bunched together at the wire.

There is no denying the fact that Nicky got tired down the stretch--to be expected after such a long layoff, but he showed composure and determination as he lay second for practically the entire race. There was no second gear as they turned for home and the horses that caught him all had a little bit more left in their tanks.

All of this will come and the fact that Nicky settled down nicely after fighting for his head at the start is a very positive sign. He needed to remember how to run a race and like Lenny, I think he is a fast learner. Give him a race or two and he should prove to be a big, strong grass horse this summer.

All in all, a very positive return to the track for Nicanor. Look for his next race at Churchill Downs in about five weeks.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eskendereya Derby Favorite

At this point, Eskendereya (Egyptian for a type of belly dance) is the favorite for the Derby and it is going to take some kind of miracle performance by another contender this weekend to move him out of that position. His impressive victory in the Wood Memorial last weekend clinched his current status, regardless of whether that bodes well for the running of the roses.

It may indeed be a curse rather than a blessing to be pegged as the Kentucky Derby favorite but I don't think anyone is going to take that title away from the Todd Pletcher trained colt. Could this indeed be his year to break that awful record of 0 for 24? Apparently, even he is beginning to believe in his chances.

"We've never had a horse we knew could handle the mile-and-a-quarter and we've never had one put together a couple of preps like this one," Pletcher admitted.

At this point serious contenders include Lookin at Lucky, who runs on Saturday in the Rebel, Sidney's Candy (Jenny Craig's horse) who won the Santa Anita Derby and Ice Box (winner of the Florida Derby). Keep your eye on Odysseus who runs this weekend at Keeneland (on synthetic) in the Blue Grass and don't rule out Dublin who will run in the Arkansas Derby on dirt.

We're getting close to that magical day when one horse will achieve what every owner dreams about (and pays the bills toward): winning the Kentucky Derby. Do you have your Derby horse yet?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rabbit Season

It is rabbit season once again in the wilds of my backyard and Sam and Amos are on high alert. It is not unusual for me to begin and end my day with a rabbit siting. My fearless rabbit greets me when I get the paper in the early morning--he sits on the driveway and watches me without so much as flinching. And usually two rabbits romp across the back yard while we eat dinner. Sitings at dusk are especially common.

According to a recent article in the Inquirer, even though the rabbits are busy munching on my grass and waiting patiently for me to plant my tomatoes, their presence is a good thing. "It's when you don't see them that out there that we begin to worry about what's going on," says Susan Littlefield, the National Gardening Association's horticulture editor.

Maybe, but if you do garden you know that it is a constant battle against those hungry nibblers. Littlefield suggests a two foot high fence--pushed about a foot into the ground--to try and deter them, but admits that often it is a losing proposition. Rabbits are great eaters, multipliers and escape artists. "Like any herbivore there are preferred foods and less preferred foods," she admits. If you can plant something they don't like and you do, well you've got half the battle conquered!

In the meantime, she also suggests that having a dog around isn't a bad idea.I can attest that mine are quick to pick up the scent, even quicker to chase it out of the yard but neither activity (usually accompanied by a lot of noise) seems to deter the cottontails from hopping back in each and every day.

It may help to adopt Littlefield's stance: "Basically, we've just come to the conclusion that we're all in this together," she says. "Maybe we can share a little better."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Diver Dan Anyone?

It has been warm enough here the last couple of days--well into the 80's--to prompt thoughts of summer and swimming. You know my guys are ready, whenever, to take the plunge but nothing like the pets of scuba enthusiast Gene Alba, in the video above.

I wonder how Sammy would look in a bell helmet?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Racing Brothers

Nicanor makes his four year old debut on Thursday at Keeneland in the seventh race, a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. Julien Leparoux will be in the irons and hopes are high for the brother of Barbaro who has filled out and up since his three year old season.

If he does well, according to Michael Matz, they will look for something for him at Churchill, perhaps a stake. All indications are that Nicanor will be a turf horse and lots of interesting possibilities may line up for the summer on the grass.

As for Lentenor, well he is still in Florida, had a light workout last week and seems to be headed for an allowance race as well, although it remains to be seen where. Matz hinted that he is pointing Lenny toward the Travers at Saratoga this summer, which means he has high hopes for him.

Look for Lenny in some graded stakes closer to his home base of Fair Hill come June and July, at Delaware Park, Philadelphia Park, Monmouth and maybe even Belmont before all racing moves to Saratoga.

It looks to be an exciting and fun summer with both boys racing so lets hope they both stay healthy!

Good luck to Nicky on his four year old season!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bunny College

Yes, I know Easter has come and gone but at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, California, every day includes bunny sitings. The college, it seems, has become a sanctuary for about 300 bunnies, many of whom were originally dumped there after they had outlived their careers as cute Easter bunnies.

ABC News has the entire story, but suffice it to say that volunteers have been hard at work rounding up the little critters, spaying or neutering them and then domesticating them so that they could ultimately be readopted by rabbit loving families.

The college even has a nickname among the local schoolchildren: bunny college.

Check out the above link and watch the news clip. The bunnies are adorable and certainly have given the school a bunch of tale(s) that help set it apart from its competitors. Who wouldn't want to go to school with those cuddly critters?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Basket

Your Easter basket should include a daily dose of the offerings from Draw a Dog. Hop to it and sign up for their daily feed.

It will wag your cottontail long after you have eaten all the jelly beans.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

March of the Peabody Ducks

So It's almost Easter and it looks like Sabina Pierce (Barbaro's photographer) and I are going to be hitting the road soon to scout out chefs who cook for their dogs. One of our stops is Orlando, and while looking for a place to stay, I stumbled upon the video above.

While the Peabody is a bit too pricey for our meager budget, you can bet one of us will make it to the march of the ducks. I wonder who cooks for them?

Friday, April 2, 2010

May I See Your Insurance Policy Please?

Is Big Brother soon going to be monitoring the pups of Britain? Perhaps, if the proposed plan by the government to require dog owners in the UK to microchip their pets and purchase insurance goes through.

The impetus for such requirements apparently stems from a rash of attacks by aggressive dogs that have recently made headlines across the pond. These include the attack on 4 year old John-Paul Massey, who was mauled to his death by a pit bull in his grandmother's house, as well as the run of the mill (relatively speaking) dog-bites-postman scenarios that are not unique to English soil.

The belief is that microchips would help trace the owners of dogs that were involved in attacks and the insurance (most plans offer third party liability), would help compensate victims. It is believed that the extra "tax" on pet owners would discourage those from breeding and keeping dogs primarily for "protective" reasons.

There is a version of this bill already in place in Southern London, where, apparently those who refuse to comply, face the very real possibility of being evicted from rental properties. No mention of the penalties associated with noncompliance with the new bill.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is apparently behind the concept, stating that the number of dog attacks in the last four years has soared, although the exact figures were unavailable.

You can be sure the measure will be subject to the heartiest of debates. In a country where cameras routinely film street corners, one would think that pets were off limits, but apparently not.

Late breaking news: The Brits decided not to force the issue and the concept is off the table at least for now. Apparently lots of backlash from what they call "responsible owners" who did not want to have to finance the irresponsible ones. Sound familiar?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Toad Patrol

Here in Pennsylvania, the toads are making their way out of hibernation to the nearest body of water to mate. And since many have to cross roads to get there, there are legions of volunteers to help them.

Apparently there are toad patrols in other parts of the country, so we are not unique but you have to admit it takes a special person to rescue a toad. The toads make these pilgrimages at night, over a period of a few weeks in late March so volunteers spend their evenings guiding hopping critters by the light of their flashlights.

Things get a little hectic both in terms of noise and quantities of toads. According to science teacher Kathy Leber, who brought her students along to help shepherd the toads, "Their voices were an amazing cacophony of trill, grunts and croaks."

Amphibians need our protection not only to cross the road, but also to survive in their native wetlands, many of which have been fouled by pesticides and often eliminated entirely by shifting climate patterns. In addition, the thinning ozone layer can actually scorch their skin.

All of this toad protecting happened because of a Danish study in which researchers counted the number of toads that became literal road kill in one day. What they discovered was that an amphibian crossing the road had a one in three chance of being run over. In the U. S., researchers calculated that if more than 10% of the salamander population in any given location was smashed, the local population might suffer irrevocably.

Hence toad patrols which seem to have grown more and more popular here and elsewhere. Once at the water, the toads engage in a mating frenzy, leaving behind tens of thousands of fertilized eggs. And everyone knows what will happen when those eggs hatch, grow up and face their first winter hibernation.

They will need escorts to re-cross the road.

For real. This is no April fool