Around this time last year, I wrote a tribute to my late friend Peter, a wonderful, generous soul with a brilliant, restless mind and a quirky wit. Among the many things Peter taught me was how intelligent rats are. He loved rats, and through his eyes and tutelage, I came to see these “filthy rodents” in a fresh way.
We often see them in airports, sniffing around for drugs and other questionable substances. Now, it seems, dogs are being trained to use their powerful sniffers (aka snouts) to detect the coronavirus.
How about this?
I am severely dog-deprived. I smile at every canine within yards of me and pat any whose companion humans give me permission. Today I accidentally happened upon a blog post by someone who wrote about the loss of her pup and included a video of him, in his prime, singing what she assured us was “Happy Birthday to You.” It made me weep.
My grandnephew and his fiancée have a dog that might well have been a disaster. Much to our dismay, they acquired him from a pet store, where he’d spent the first six months of his life in a crate. But he is now a wonderful, lovable mush, nicely trained, and I would dognap him in a millisecond if I could get away with it.
It’s time we talked about octopuses. I hear you saying: “Annie-the-English-major: Don’t you mean octopi?” That’s the first misconception we must clarify right away. All those years we’ve been talking about octopi? We’ve been wrong. Well, not everyone agrees, but here’s what the Oxford Dictionaries say:
“The standard plural in English of octopus is octopuses. However, the word octopus comes from the Greek, and the Greek plural octopodes is still occasionally used. The plural form octopi, formed according to rules for some Latin plurals, is incorrect.”
So I’m taking the strictly classical position; I dare not intermingle Greek and Latin grammar.
It’s possible, of course, that your more pressing question is: Why is it time we talked about octopuses? I shall explain.
Ken Ramirez, a world-renowned animal trainer, was offered quite the challenge. A botanical specialty group in the United Kingdom had built a large garden in the midst of some tall buildings in London—a garden that was home to thousands of butterflies of varying species, as well as many other types of flora and fauna. Its purpose: to show the “symbiotic relationship between plants and animals,” wrote Ramirez, describing the task ahead.
“The director of the project, Lucinda Bartholomew, had envisioned a fundraising gala presentation that would include an orchestra in the middle of the garden playing beautiful classical music while butterflies flew from one part of the garden to the other.”
They wouldn’t just fly willy-nilly, mind you. The idea was to design and implement a plan to train more than 10,000 butterflies to traverse the garden, on cue, in unison. Now if someone offered me an assignment that seemed like an impossibility, I’d think long and hard about it. But the fact that Ramirez hadn’t ever worked with butterflies before and knew little about their sensory mechanisms didn’t deter him at all. Ensured help from the group’s butterfly experts, he enthusiastically agreed. ”What a unique training opportunity!,” he wrote.
Lessons learned from the serendipitous arrival of an uninvited kitten--a tiny parable for our times?
Cat and dog parable, pet stories,