DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

animals

Sep 8 2015

All Cats, All the Time

by Hope L

kitt

Recently, a person who works behind my library branch found a litter of kittens under his car.  He came to the library to ask for ideas or for help, and naturally the staff directed him to moi, the resident Cat Lady.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love cats. We have four of our own–two senior citizens and two juvenile delinquents that some like to call kittens. But I am not looking to rescue six more cats.  Although, I must admit, I did the math and came up with ten cats and thought to myself, “Hmmm … cheaper by the dozen?”  NOT!

But as I followed the man asking for help and saw the poor little things under the car, and their mother was purring and rubbing up against my legs. I just couldn’t leave them.  After all, the man needed to go somewhere and couldn’t back his car out, now could he?

So, of course, we boxed up the felines and I ended up at the nearby animal shelter and asked if there was room at the inn, and natch, there was not. They offered me medical care for the cats and asked if I would foster the family until they could be adopted. “Why, sure,” I said, wondering to myself how long it would take for my spouse to file for divorce. Yes, we would take the kitties, I planned, and our four could reside upstairs and these wildish six downstairs, which would make 10 cats altogether.

Now, after you wrap your mind around that, keep in mind that Mama cat was quite friendly at our first meeting, even allowing us to place her and her brood into a cat carrier that I just happened to have at-the-ready at the branch, just in case a wandering cat happened along again in the parking lot, as they often do.

Now, Mama was actually purring and rubbing up against my leg at home in our basement when she bit my ankle. It just drew just a bit of blood, which did not concern me too much.  “Just a little love bite,” I said to myself. The next time, though, she sank her fangs into my forearm, leaving a bruise and a full six-teeth mark that bled impressively. “Nope. Not a love bite–this is clearly a warning: ‘Stay away from my children –  or I’ll cut you!'”

Fiercely protective, that one. But she needn’t worry because her kids will be well-taken care of and, more probably, spoiled rotten.  And luckily for you cat lovers out there, DeKalb County Animal Shelter is running a September “Fall in Love” adoption special through September. All dog, cat, kitten and puppy adoptions are free.

Well, I can’t finish now without recommending a few books, too. Check them out at DCPL.

Cat Calls: Wonderful Stories and Practical Advice from a Veteran Cat Sitter by Jeanne Adlon and Susan Logan

The Complete Cat’s Meow: Everything You Need to Know about Caring for Your Cat by Darlene Arden

The Everything Cat Book [eBook]: All You Need to Know about Caring for Your Favorite Feline Friends by Karen Leigh Davis

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Jul 1 2014

Psycho Kitty!

by Hope L

catThings are crazy around our house.  Literally.  For years I have suspected that our aging orange tabby Autumn might be a candidate for the cat psychiatrist.  Then I read Psycho Kitty by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (or, as she is listed on another book, “Feline Behaviorist”).  I learned a lot.

Now, although the author is talking about wool-sucking in the paragraph below, where the cat finds socks, blankets and assorted laundry to abscond with and knead and lick, Autumn actually steals any laundry within reach and slowly plods around meowing, Rawwwr…. rawwwr, while dragging said laundry. I had asked a vet a long time ago what it might mean. The vet told me that Autumn was pretending the laundry was her kitten and wanted to call our attention to what she was bringing us. (Btw, I have tried to get Autumn to then put the laundry in the hamper, to no avail.)

But Johnson-Bennett’s theory is premature weaning, which would make sense because I was given Little Autumn as a wee thing, so small I had to feed her baby formula with an eyedropper. (I was told Autumn’s mommy was hit by a car.)

“Many cat owners have seen it, heard it, and been driven nuts by it–wool sucking.  It’s the strange behavior some cats display that consists of sucking and kneading on anything from the corner of a blanket to the hair on an owner’s head.  This behavior is named wool sucking because many cats focus this activity strictly on wool or wool-like fabrics, such as blankets, sweaters, and socks.

…Wool sucking mimics nursing, including the milk tread, the kneading motion kittens do with their paws to stimulate release of milk from the queen.”

autumn3

Whatever the reason, Autumn is definitely a Psycho Kitty, to use the author’s apt title.  We have five animals (three cats, two dogs) and two humans–and Autumn is far and away the nuttiest in the household.  She hissed and growled at my partner Deb for the first few years of our nine years together.  Autumn still hisses and growls at our lone male kitty Butch, who loves to egg her on by playfully attacking her when he gets bored. When Autumn is sleeping or relaxing next to me on the bed, if I move and accidentally nudge her–or heaven forbid I move her out of my space–you guessed it, again with the growling and hissing. Some might call her cranky or crabby.

Okay. Obviously, I didn’t read Johnson-Bennett’s Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat–NOT a Sour Puss. And, no, I didn’t arrange for quality play dates for my kitties with their peers or enroll them in tap or ballet.

The dragging and rawwwring is definitely in another class.  She will even do it backwards, and I imagine the beeping of the garbage truck as she slowly backs up with the t-shirt, washcloth or sock between her legs.

Now, do you think my firstborn, my sweet, black pedigree Persian, Bella (my favorite, can you guess?), would lower herself to such depths of aggravating and distasteful behavior?  I think not!  And she was raised in the same home as her sister Looney Tuna.

Bella

 

But, hey, I raised Autumn. I bonded with her with the eyedropper and the Similac and episodes of Nancy Grace.  But I bet I know what you’re thinking …

         Crazy Cat Lady, anybody?

 

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Oct 17 2013

Tell me if you’re chicken

by Rebekah B

Robert L.

Right: Mr. Robert Leonard wearing his “My Chicken is Smarter than Your Honor Student” t-shirt

Through a recent misadventure with ten to fifteen thousand tenacious yellow jackets who set up residence in one of the larger plant containers on my porch, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Robert Leonard, a local beekeeper, chicken farmer, gardener, home improvement expert, and bartender, among other occupations.  I found Robert by Google searching for beekeepers in the Decatur area.  Robert was very kind and quickly offered to come and evaluate the situation, happily risking and succumbing to multiple stings and hive destructions before eradicating the problem.scarecrowhives

Left: Scare crow in Mr. Leonard’s vegetable garden. Right: A view of his bee hives.

Back to our chickens!  During my four year tenure at DCPL, I have noticed that a large number of books are devoted to the raising of chickens, the building of artful chicken coops and the designing of gardens specifically for the enjoyment of poultry.  Meet-up groups and books devoted to homesteading, organic gardening, urban farming, and heirloom vegetables abound.  After meeting Robert, my curiosity about chickens was awakened.  I wanted to find out in person why chicken farming is so appealing to the middle class urbanite and suburbanite.  Is it a quasi-romantic or nostalgic desire to experience an attachment to the land, to grow one’s own food?  Is it the environmentalist’s quest for traceability, to know exactly where one’s food is sourced?

[read the rest of this post…]

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Oct 31 2012

Talking Turkey!

by Amanda L

If you have been reading DCPLive for a while, you might have picked up that I love the outdoors and I love to cook. November is a great time to be out enjoying the change of seasons. With Thanksgiving approaching, my thoughts turn to turkeys, both in the great outdoors and for eating.

I’m sure most people know that the turkey might have been our national bird if the bald eagle had not been so majestic. Over the years, I have had a lot of personal experience with turkeys. One year, I was sitting on the ground being real still and quiet when a hen walked up to me within three feet. We startled each other and then she went running off. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the woods close to dark and it sounded like an invasion in the sky. To my delight it was a flock of turkeys going to roost.

The Library has a few books on turkeys. Wild Turkeys by Dorthy Hinshaw Patent is a children’s book that talks about the life cycle, habitat and behavior of these birds. The Turkey: an American Story by Andrew F. Smith is an adult book that looks at the symbolism of the bird, the characteristics and habitat as well as how to cook the turkey. If you ever wanted to call in a turkey while in the woods, you might want to check out Turkey calls and calling: guide to improving your turkey talking skills by Steve Hickoff.

As I said, I love to watch these birds in their natural surroundings but I also like to eat turkeys. I have eaten a wild turkey once and I have to say that it was much dryer and smaller than those that are raised domestically. The Library has a few cooking books dedicated to this bird. How to Cook a Turkey and all of those trimmings from the editors of Fine Cooking magazine covers dishes for that big Thanksgiving day dinner. Looking for a few recipes to try for your slow cookery? Try the Italian Slow Cooker by Michelle Scicolone. Finally, the Butterball Turkey Cookbook by the Butterball Turkey Company has everything you wanted to know about cooking a turkey all in one book.

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Oct 5 2012

Building Common Ground

by Patricia D

I’m really not accustomed to having culturally important landmarks in my backyard.  We did have the home of Louis Bromfield near where I grew up,  as well as the Ohio State Reformatory, site of the films Tango & Cash (ah yes, such a great film) and the Shawshank Redemption.  OSR is no longer a maximum security prison but it is a terrifying Haunted House.  Folks come from all over the Midwest and Middle Atlantic and pay to get into the place Kurt Russell and Tim Robbins worked so hard to escape.  Even though organizers could get by with just handing over a flashlight and sending you into the abandoned cell block (no joke, that place is seriously creepy, and not in a Scooby Doo  way) they go all out with decorating, actors  and animatronics.  That,  on top of actually being in an old prison (lots of bad energy in those walls), makes for a really good show, if you’re into that sort of thing.  So that’s my hometown’s  claim to cultural significance .  I had to move to Georgia just to up the ante.  Now I can claim all sorts of things,  including the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, part of which is in southeastern DeKalb County.  It is one of only 49 National Heritage Areas in the United States.

There are two huge things that make Arabia Mountain so special, neither of which is that it was one of the locations for the movie Pet Sematary II.   One is the ecosystem on Arabia Mountain itself.  Animals such as lichen grasshoppers, marbled and spotted salamanders, coachwhip and hognose snakes, great- horned owls, deer and bobcats make their home on the monadnock.  It is home to the world’s largest population of  Isoetes melanospora (black spotted quillwort), a Federally protected plant.  It’s also home to the rare Small’s Stonecrop, a plant that makes a living out of almost nothing.  There are also the the less rare, but lovely,  Sunnybells, Sparkleberry, Yellow Daisy, Fringetree and Georgia Oak.

The second reason Arabia Mountain is so special is the people.  The area has been inhabited for thousands of years—Native Americans, Scots immigrants, Trappist Monks—but it is the Flat Rock community, established by freed slaves, that will be the focus of Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion, a series of programs at the DeKalb County Public Library that will celebrate the history, diversity and preservation of the community.

Flat Rock began as a small area south of what would become I-20.  It was an agricultural community  bordered by three small slave-holding farms and grew after the  Civil War into a bustling community of churches, schools, and civic organizations.  It thrived for decades, done in finally by the Great Migration and the Great Depression.  It is also the site of one of the few intact slave cemeteries left in Georgia. Today it provides a glimpse into the lives of freed slaves and their descendants.

Building Common Ground is funded by a grant from the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute.  DCPL’s partners include the Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance, the Flat Rock Archives and Museum and Arabia Mountain High School.  The four programs will be hosted by the amazing staff at the Stonecrest Library. You may also listen to interviews with community members on the Building Common Ground page conducted by StoryCorps.

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Oct 14 2011

Fall into the Woods

by Amanda L

All my life I have loved being outside in the Fall. Watching nature make her last spectacular color push until she falls asleep for the winter is one of my favorite pastimes. When I head into the woods each Fall, I often  have my camera and a variety of books within reach to consult.  If you sit quietly for an hour or more, you never know what animal, bird or insect you might see that you have never seen before.

Over the years, I have seen deer, coyotes, pileated woodpeckers, armadillos, skunks and a screech owl to name a few. Last year, my most memorable moment was when I thought a herd of deer were coming towards me as I sat in the woods. To my shock and surprise, I found two rambunctious armadillos chasing each other through the leaves.  If I’m unsure of the animal, insect or even a tree, I always consult a guide book. The Library has a variety of these guidebooks to help you identify what you have seen. There are also books on nature photography.

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Nov 17 2010

Backyard Birds

by Dea Anne M

A few years ago my mom gave us a gorgeous ceramic bird feeder that wound up sitting in its box for several months while we tried to decide where to put it. Finally, we figured out a way to suspend it right outside of one of the kitchen windows. It’s the perfect spot for watching the birds as we wash dishes or cook and, for the cats, it has become like television (all birds, all the time!).

Of course, once you start noticing birds, you want to know more about them, particularly what it is you’re actually looking at. Some of  the birds I see are the ones most of us know—robins, cardinals, and, in my neighborhood, lots of red-headed woodpeckers. A few of these larger birds visit the feeder, but most of the birds I see feasting there are the smaller varieties that I don’t know as much about. One in particular has interested me lately—a cute, lively, little gray guy with a crest at the top of its head. What kind of bird is that?

If you find yourself posing the same sort of question to yourself, then DCPL has abundant resources to help.

If you like using books, you might try these two well-regarded birding guides.

The Audubon Society field guide to North American birds. Eastern region

A field guide to the birds by Roger Tory Peterson.  

For information that’s more specific to home try Common Birds of Atlanta by Jim Wilson and Anselm Atkins.

Kids like to bird watch too. Younger birders can try:

Simon &  Schuster Children’s guide to birds

or

Crinkleroot’s 25 birds every child should know by Jim Arnosky.

Want to pop in a DVD? Try

So many feathers (bird watching without binoculars!)

Finally, there are some really handy tools online that you can use to identify your bird. My favorite of these is National Geographic’s Backyard Bird Identifier. It’s easy to use. You input your region and state, then specify the current month. Next, you click on your bird’s color(s) and submit. Pictures of likely candidates pop up making it easy to identify the bird that interests you. I love leafing through bird books, but using this tool helped me to quickly peg the identity of my little gray guy.

What is he? He’s a Tufted Titmouse. Check him out in the picture below.

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Aug 2 2010

The Last One

by Veronica W

I can’t remember a time when I did not have a pet. Sometimes it was a cat, sometimes it was a dog, occasionally one or two of both. Brandy was a slobbery Saint Bernard with a long, impressive pedigree, while Toughie Tom was found scrounging around in a garbage can. I even ventured into the world of birds, at one time living with two parakeets. Butter was all yellow and Green Sleeves was yellow with green wings.  If I left the cage door open, they would fly across the room and sit on my finger or shoulder. Each one was special and each left a hole when I had to say goodbye.

Pets add a dimension to your life which is sometimes difficult to articulate.  Dogs offer unconditional devotion while cats present the life-long challenge of trying to teach them to fetch your slippers- or to just come when they’d rather not. It’s no wonder almost every child, at some point, wants a puppy or a kitten. It’s also no surprise that, when properly trained, animals can be used to aid and comfort the distressed and physically challenged.

I love stories about or with animals.  There are too many to name so I will  give you only a few of my favorites.You may have  some of your own. At the top of my list is always The Incredible Journey. When the old dog comes limping home at the end, it’s always tissue time for me. Call of the Wild, Lassie Come Home and Sounder are all on the list. Cat lovers devour Lillian Braun’s series featuring the detecting Siamese cats Koko and Yum-yum, as well as Rita Mae Brown’s Squeaky Pie stories. Those folks more into dogs can try the Virginia Lanier series beginning with Death in Bloodhound Red. Jo Beth Siddens, who raises bloodhounds for search and rescue missions in the Okefenokee Swamp, must use those sensitive noses to get herself out of trouble. Even folks who don’t want pets often enjoy reading about them.

Snickers was a sweet Maine Coon who asked for nothing more than to sit next to me, with her front paws on my lap, whenever she could; well, maybe getting some treats now and then. A few months ago, after 13 years, I had to say goodbye to her. In my head I dubbed her “the ABSOLUTELY last one.”  No more pets for me!  However everyone knows that the heart rules these decisions. Perhaps one day I’ll want to hear the patter of little paws again. We’ll see.

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