dogs, Hiccups in History, research, Uncategorized, US history

Old Medicine, Unfortunate Animals, and the Evils of the AMA

Hiccups in HistoryFor a recent freelance project, I found myself reading through scores of old articles about medical advancements. It’s been fascinating to see the discoveries of the latter half of the 19th century, and how the discovery of antiseptics, vaccines, and anesthesia wiped out so many of mankind’s scourges, causing the life expectancy to skyrocket. In fact, from 1900 through 1930, the death rate in the United States was slashed by half. Tuberculosis, Diptheria, and Cholera were some of the greatest killers, and to have them reduced by vaccinations was truly a Godsend.

Just as with today’s medicine, animals were the unfortunate recipients of many procedures that would later be tested on humans. While a necessity, it is still sad. And, in some cases, a bit ridiculous. After all, sometimes you just have to laugh in order not to cry.

One such account was relayed by an old doctor, Lewis A. Sayre, upon his retirement in 1897. In the days before X-rays, rather more inventive methods were employed to determine what was going on in someone’s insides. The good Dr. Sayre spoke of witnessing a remarkable demonstration by a famous surgeon, Dr. Senn, at a meeting of the American Medical Association.

Image from page 315 of “Yours with all my heart : her own story, as told by the beautiful Italian gazelle-hound Fairy” (1904):

With colleagues gathered all around, Dr. Senn proceeded to pull out a gun and shoot a dog. Then he placed a tube into the animal’s rectum, and inflated the dog’s intestines by pumping hydrogen gas into them. Hurrying to the other end of the dog, the doctor held up a lit match to the dog’s lips. The gas ignited the match, and thus demonstrated that the dog’s intestines had not been perforated.

Whereupon Dr. Senn pulled out his gun and shot another dog. Once again, he pumped the creature’s abdomen full of hydrogen gas, and held a match to the dog’s lips. Since no flame resulted from the lit match, it became clear that this dog’s intestines had been perforated. Then,

“Instantly performing laparotomy on both dogs, Dr. Senn demonstrated that his deductions had been correct and that the test could be used by the profession throughout the country as a test of whether laparotomy ought to be performed when men and women are shot through the abdomen.”

Image from page 151 of “First-year nursing : a text-book for pupils during their first year of hospital work” (1916):

So, I suppose that in addition to being shot, victims of gun violence in the abdomen had also to withstand the ignominy of having a tube of gas pumped into them through their rectums.

Lest you think that meetings of the American Medical Association were seldom this scandalous, then consider another tidbit I came across from the 1938 proceedings of the AMA. One of the scientific reports given involved “the effect of politics on the intestinal tract.”

If today’s politics are any indication, the intestinal tract is quite distressed indeed.

dogs, history, research, Uncategorized, US history, writing

Animals in History, Oh My!

If I had unlimited time, I would probably spend several hours a day, every day, learning Latin and perusing old newspaper articles. Alas, I do not have unlimited time, but in my research for various fiction and nonfiction projects I do come across some interesting bits now and again. You may recall my rampaging monkey post. This is another post in the same vein.

First we will start with the wild. Bears! I do believe this has the makings of an American nursery tale.

bears history
Thursday, November 2, 1894. Sturgeon Bay, WI, Vol XXII, The Democrat.

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! Hyenas can be pretty dangerous, too.

Chicago cemeteries hyena

Dogs in danger always pulls at the heartstrings! It seems that Jack London’s Call of the Wild may have inspired some unsavory people:

Dog slavers
June 18, 1910, v. 26 n.25, Sausalito News.

And last, but not least, apparently dogs have been accompanying folks on car rides for quite some time.

dog automobile
March 19, 1905, Omaha Daily Bee.

You will notice that these articles are from around the turn of the 20th century. That’s the setting of my latest project, a quirky romance between a dog musher/postman and a bicycle-riding pastor in 1911 Alaska. Check out my newsletter to keep apprised of its progress and to read free flash fiction while you are at it.

hiking, photography, Uncategorized

Adventure in the Suburbs – Oak Park, California

I’m a firm believer that adventure lies all around us, if we only look. I’m privileged to make my home near the Santa Monica Mountains in southern  California, and the towns that surround it have wonderful parks and hiking trails hidden here, there, and everywhere. Last night the dogs and I went exploring at a nearby dog park that I hadn’t yet visited – Oak Canyon Dog Park.

It is nestled in a valley near the creek. Views of the mountains lie in all directions, as do the sights of happy, rambunctious dogs.

dog park

All three of mine come racing when I call like cowboys on horseback in a classic Western.

dogga wogs

It is such fun when you are leashed all your life to run free. Doesn’t Rudy’s expression say so?

rudy roo 2

rudy roo

To the side of the park, in the cold winter shade, lies a trail. Why not? I thought. Sure, it looks a bit steep, but I can manage it. What followed was twenty steps and a rest. Twenty-five and a rest. Twenty more and a longer rest. You get the picture. At one point I thought of turning back because it was too hard. Then my rebelliousness kicked in. “I’ve already come this far. What’s a little more?” Then up, up, up, and desperate hoping that a trail lay at the very top so that I wouldn’t have to risk tumbling down the hill on descent.

Gloriously, I made it! And promptly collapsed on a little flat space, catching my breath as the dogs and I surveyed the valley below.


Then down, down, down to an oak grove both beautiful and serene.


As the sweat dried on my back, I enjoyed the exhilaration of summiting another hill with the best companions of all.

What adventure will you find this week?

hiking, travel, Uncategorized

360 Degrees of Beauty – Santa Monica Mountains, CA

If you can ignore the hideously high prices of real estate, food, gas, (and, well, everything else), the geographical disasters – mudslides, earthquakes, wildfires, droughts – and the occasional civil unrest (riots, shootings, muggings, oh my!) then the Los Angeles area has a lot to recommend it. The weather is famous with sunny skies and mild temperatures practically year round. And although the earthquakes are a nuisance sometimes, they do have nice side effects: gigantic mountains. If you’re a hiker like me, that’s a good thing.

Los Angeles also has its fair share of, shall we say, unique individuals. For example, a few months back, this made the news. Some overly muscled young men, one presumes, lugged a piano up to the top of a nearby hill. Witness:

Source: Eddie P.
Source: Eddie P.

My hiking friend Sara and I had to check this out. Which had nothing to do with the prospect of overly muscled young men, I assure you. Is it getting warm in here? Anyhow, early one Sunday morning we set off on a ridgeline path on the Topanga Lookout Trail that ended in views like these:

graffiti two

lookout two


graffiti one

Alas, the piano had disappeared, perhaps pushed over the edge into the brush below? We will never know. We were too busy checking out the colorful graffiti. And the 360 degree view.

The day was a bit warm, but  the breezes are nice up high here, and you’ll seldom find a better view in the round. The three muskateers, Rudy, Kima, and Misha, smiled their approval.

PicMonkey Collage

In case you’re in the area (about 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles), here’s another link for the Topanga Lookout Trail. Recommended!

challenge, hiking, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Dog Day Afternoon – 11-12/100 Camino Photos

I was atop a hill looking at this beautiful view when what did I see?


My first canine Camino hiker:


I only saw one more canine hiker during my Camino, and he had a doggie backpack filled with his food and water. His owner said: “Everyone must pull their own weight on the Camino!”


inspiration, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Listening to The Call of the Wild When You’re Stuck in the Suburbs

Picture this, if you will: a dumpy middle-aged woman with frizzy hair and a distracted look in her eyes. It’s been a hard few years. There’s been sudden death, shocking confessions, unexpected babies, invisible braces, multiplying dogs, grumpy cats, enthusiastic yoga, painful spines, drunk people, depression, doom, gloom, and menopause. What’s a person to do? Especially if that person is me?

Well, she could teach her three dogs to trot alongside her bicycle. You know, for giggles and that other stuff. Check. How about something simple,  then.

Take a walk.

I’ve been a walker for a long time. It makes me feel good to get outside in the sun and fresh air, dogs at my side, meandering route in front of me. The motion, the movement, getting somewhere even though I’m going at a slow pace, is addictive. I live in a valley with hills all around, and I’ve been up and down most of them. There’s something new around that winding corner – blooming monkey flowers, a wary coyote with wizened eyes, a cairn of rocks, a trickling stream. The quiet is holy, and it makes a sound of its own. Like a sleeping baby’s breath. Gentle and alive.

The solution to this funk is a walk, then.

Well, except that there’s just a little more to the story.

The walk is in Spain. And it goes for 500 miles.


Dad has a penchant for philosophical discussions around the dinner table. A thwarted scholar, he can still recite poetry he learned in third grade. As I was growing up, topics of conversation involved politics, religion, regrets, adventures, life, death and the meaning thereof, and more. In the 50’s Dad was in the army for two three-year stints. For him, military service led to European adventures otherwise impossible for a backcountry boy of humble means. His tales of carousing in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and rural France made a lasting impression on me. This, coupled with family cross-country road trips to the summer-lush East Coast cemented my love of travel early on.

Also from him I learned about human nature. Something which hasn’t changed for thousands of years, despite our vaunted technological advances.  But despite the grasping, greedy, lustful, murderous things people do every day, there’s more inside them. Dormant capabilities. Dormant greatness. What brings it to the fore? Usually some catastrophe or another. A disaster, like 9/11. The ugliness of a terrorist attack on US soil was mitigated by the many kindnesses of rescue workers and everyday people toward one another, at least for a while.

A war, like World War II, also brings greatness out. Just think of it. If there was no war, would General George S. Patton be remembered with honor? The commander of the European theater, famous for quotes such as, “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” No, probably not. He would be another nameless, faceless soldier. But the times called for a hero. A man to lead others, to do the undoable. So he rose to the occasion. In doing so, he became one of the greatest generals of American history.

Rising to the occasion. I liked the way that sounded. Like a caterpillar, you’re hatched small with a fierce hunger that makes you beeline it for munchy-looking leaves. Or pizza and chocolate. You balloon up, cells zipping around, time passing until just the right moment. You spin that chrysalis, and rest within, waiting quietly. Cogitating. Developing. Looking for that perfect moment when you can split through that chrysalis and unfurl your delicate, colorful wings and fly away.


I don’t have beautiful wings and furious mating awaiting me when I burst out of my shell this time. Those days are gone. But I do have an unwalked road ahead, untrod stairways, a joyfully prodding Spirit within that says, “Go, now. Carpe diem. Seize the day.”

So I seized it.

I booked a round trip ticket to Denmark. From there, I will take another plane to Barcelona, then board a bus or train to reach the beginning of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route of around 500 miles to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compestela. This route has been walked by pilgrims since the Middle Ages. In early April I will join these pilgrims.


Better to ask: why not? Leaps of faith don’t need an explanation to those of us who have learned to act on them, to trust them and gain the hidden and unknowable rewards they bring.

I will post to this blog when I’m on my trip, and before as I prepare. I can’t promise long, thoughtful posts every time. But I can promise reflections, and distances walked, and sights seen, musings, and maybe a laugh or two. It may be messy. It may be wonderful. It may be both at once or neither. Life’s like that, it seems.

At least for one who’s in the process of rising to the occasion.

challenge, photography, Uncategorized

They Grow Up So Fast … Like, in 6 Weeks!

From previous experience with my cockatiels laying clutches of eggs, I was determined not to expect this latest clutch of hatchlings would survive. Whether from disease or parental neglect or some sort of genetic defects, previous clutches have had rather high attrition rates. However, this clutch – all SIX of them – have not only survived, but thrived! And now they’ve grown up and left the nest box, except for one that’s not quite ready yet.

Anyhow, here are pictures of the oldest two babies and then some. Birds are not all that easy to photograph when I need to stick my camera into a cage (they tend to view the camera as an “enemy” and flap around) so even though I fancy myself a bit of a photographer, these aren’t the greatest shots in the world.

Gray and white cockatiel
This little guy is the oldest of the bunch. He’s a lot prettier now than when he was first hatched!
The second to the oldest baby. Isn't she beautiful?
The second to the oldest baby. Isn’t she beautiful?

Cinnamon cockatiel.

Proud Papa. The bird in focus here is a fully grown adult – the babies have shorter tufts at the top of their heads and tailfeathers.

And, since I don’t think I’ve posted a picture of her for a while, here’s my girl dog Kima. She’s quite the hunter of tennis balls – she’s waiting for my husband to throw one as I took this shot. Right now, she’s taking a nap beside my computer and snoring a little.

Kima, my German Shepherd/Basenji mix.
Kima, my German Shepherd/Basenji mix.

Interested in seeing more pictures or in joining fellow animal lovers by posting your own pictures? Click below.



challenge, general wackiness, Uncategorized

Mondo Pet Post – Dogs and Birds and Baby Dinosaurs, oh my!

Yes, I know. I’m supposed to be writing about TRAVEL here. Soon, I promise! I’m hoping to write an absolutely SCINTILLATING treatise on toilets while traveling this weekend. But in the meantime … critters!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Want to know what they sound like in real life? Turn your volume down and watch!

And last but not least my younger dog Rudy, who is of … uncertain parentage. His coat is quite wiry – so much so that I call him Stickerhead. Can you spot why?



Join the fun at Michelle’s Weekly Pet Challenge:


cats, general wackiness, humor, writing

Cats, Cats, Everywhere Cats, Vol. 3

In celebration of my upcoming book release – The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior – I will be spamming you gracing you with various hilarious (to me, anyhow), carefully selected cat videos, pictures, and gifs. Enjoy, my lovelies!

I’ve got stuff to do, stuff to knead, stuff to …. zzzzzz

 photo kitteh-1.gif
 photo Flying_Attack_Cat.jpg
Thought you could lock me out in the cold, did you? I’ll show you …
 photo Hey_I_Want_In.jpg
Whatcha doin’? Huh?
 photo What_Is_This_Device.jpg
This one speaks for itself.
 photo funny-pictures-cat-wants-curtains-f.jpg

Also, I can’t seem to embed any videos here for some odd reason (suggestions, anyone?) but this video of Cats Stealing Dogs’ Beds is most excellent!