Posts Tagged ‘animals’

The Dog Days of Summer

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

It’s August, and we’re deep in the dog days of summer.

Ever wonder where the term “dog days of summer” comes from? It goes back to ancient times when the Greeks equated the rising of the star Sirius, aka the “dog star,” with the sultriest days of summer.

So let’s just give in, accept that we’re going to sweat through our clothes today, grab a cool drink and spend some time on the internet with dogs!

Let’s start with this adorable puppy picture.

Animal Planet, naturally, has a page dedicated to dogs.

Did you know that NYC has an annual dachshund parade?

Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of literary dogs.

And here are some mythological dogs.

Here’s a picture of the dog star itself, taken from the Hubble Telescope (on the bottom)!

“Dogs in Space” is a 1986 movie from Australia. It doesn’t seem to be about dogs at all.

The New York Times had a hot dog tasting test earlier this year.

In Like a Lion, Out Like Two Lions Outside the Library

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

New York City is famous for citizens both funny and rude, but we also have patience and fortitude – as well as Patience and Fortitude, the lions outside the New York Public Library at the corner of Fifth and 42nd.


“Patience” – photo via

The lions are the work of renowned artists Edward Clark Potter (who designed the sculptures) and the Piccirilli Brothers (who carved them).

The dignified duo weren’t always known as “Patience” and “Fortitude.” At first, they were (nick)named after two of the library’s greatest benefactors: John Jacob Astor (the richest person in the country, who left $400,000 for the creation of a public library) and James Lenox (another multimillionaire philanthropist, who donated even more). During the Great Depression, Mayor LaGuardia renamed the lions Patience and Fortitude, and the name stuck.

And these guys are universally popular with natives and tourists alike – who knows how many cell phones, photo albums, and blogs feature their images? – unlike the bronze panther sculpture in Central Park (“Still Hunt” by Edward Kemeys), which has been known to terrify unsuspecting early-morning joggers.

Theodore Roosevelt – King of Pets

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Theodore Roosevelt was a nature lover who loved animals and loved to hunt them too.  His father was a co-founder of the American Museum of Natural History, and a young Theodore donated his personal collection of specimens to the museum.

The Teddy Bear was named after him.  And his rambunctious children also loved animals.

Roosevelt beat other presidents by a long shot when it came to pets.  The Roosevelts owned nearly 30 animals.

Here’s a partial list:

Jonathan Edwards, a small bear
Bill, a lizard
Admiral Dewey, Dr. Johnson, Bishop Doane, Fighting Bob Evans, and Father O’Grady, guinea pigs
Maude, a pig
Josiah, a badger
Eli Yale, a blue macaw
Baron Spreckle, a hen
a one-legged rooster
a hyena
a barn owl
Peter the rabbit
Tom Quartz and Slippers – cats
Jonathan – a piebald rat
Emily Spinach, daughter Alice’s garter snake (named “because it was as green as spinach and as thin as my Aunt Emily”)
Algonquin, a calico pony

Among their many dogs were Sailor Boy, Jack, Skip, Pete, and a small black Pekingese named Manchu, which Alice received from the last empress of China during a trip to the Far East.

We suspect it was a hard time to be a White House janitor.

Presidential Pets

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

It’s animal month on the PhLog, and today’s post focuses on the pets of U.S. Presidents.

Woodrow Wilson's sheep

The tradition of having an animal companion in the White House goes back to before we had an actual White House, when George Washington was president.  Not only was Washington the father of our nation, he was also the father of the American Foxhound.

No first family is complete without a first pet.  Just as all presidents have to be folksy and love babies and the “common people,” no one would elect a president who didn’t like pets.

There were a few pet-less presidents (Arthur, Pierce, Polk), but one of them, Millard Filmore, gets a pass because he was a founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Benjamin Harrison and his goat "Old Whiskers." Plus his kids and a dog.

Some interesting White House pets:

John Quncy Adams and Herbert Hoover owned alligators.  Adams kept his in the bathtub.

Presidential parrots go back to Martha Washington, and White House parrot owners include Grant, McKinely, and Theodore Roosevelt.  Kennedy had parakeets.

James Buchanan had a herd of wild elephants given to him by the King of Siam.

Abigail Adams had a dog named Satan.  So, yes, Satan has slept in the White House.

Andrew Johnson didn’t have a pet, but during the dark days of the impeachment process, he befriended and fed a family of mice he found in his bedroom.

The last cow to live in the White House was during the Taft administration.  And no, that is not a fat joke.

Pauline Wayne, the last White House cow

Woodrow Wilson had a flock of sheep that grazed on the White House lawn.  Their wool was sold to collect money for the Red Cross in World War I.  The flock included a tobacco-chewing ram named “Old Ike.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy held his son John’s Welsh terrier in his lap during many tense moments, petting him to relax.

Mr. Lincoln “was fond of dumb animals, especially cats. I have seen him fondle one for an hour,” wrote Treasury official Maunsell B. Field.  His son Tad had a pet goat he would drag around the White House.  You can read more about Lincoln’s wide love for animals here.

Calvin Coolidge had a virtual zoo in the white house. Besides a whole slew of dogs, they had birds, cats, raccoons, a donkey, a bobcat, lion cubs, a wallaby, a bear, and a pigmy hippo.

White House pets have not been free from politics.

While running for Vice President, Richard Nixon used the story of his dog Checkers in an important speech.  And FDR, who loved his Scottish Terrier Fala so much he was buried next to him, struck back against Republican criticism with the so-called “Fala Speech.”

And who can forget the national debate about what kind of dog the Obama family was going to get.  The measured, public, thoughtful discussion that captivated the media.  Much more interesting than healthcare.

But one presidential family was the pet champion, and they’ll get their own post on Wednesday.

You can read about these animals and more at the Presidential Pet Museum website. (Yes, there is a Presidential Pet Museum, which is where these photos come from.)

Truman's dog Feller


Jofi Freud: Dog Therapist

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

It’s animal month on the PhLog!

Today – the story of a man named Freud and his dog.

Sigmund Freud became a dog lover late in life when his daughter, and acclaimed psychotherapist, Anna, bought a wolfhound (uncreatively named “Wolf”).  Freud was nearly 70 at the time, and was so taken with the dog that Anna would give Freud poems in Wolf’s honor on his birthdays.

Freud then became the owner of a series of Chow Chows.  The one he had for the longest stretch of time was named Jofi.  Jofi often sat through therapy sessions and Freud noticed that the presence of his dog helped reduce tension in the room.  Patients would open up more when Jofi was there, especially children and adolescents.  Jofi was non-judgmental and a focused and silent observer.  Jofi was also a good gauge of the mental state of Freud’s patients; he would sit farther away from the couch depending on how anxious the patient was.  If a patient was depressed, Jofi would sit close to him or her, available for petting.  Jofi was also a surprisingly accurate timekeeper, yawning and walking to the door at the 50 minute mark.

“Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.”
– Sigmund Freud

Monday Morning Monkey Chase

Monday, March 19th, 2012

It’s animal month on the PhLog, and in that spirit and courtesy of a post we saw on Facebook by artist and author Mark Newgarden, we present a Monday Morning Monkey Chase!

It’s Animal Month – St. Patrick and the Snakes

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Or at least all you Irish people, Catholics, and Americans-who-celebrate-any-holiday!

It’s Animal Month on the PhLog, and no St. Patrick’s Day would be complete without telling the story of St. Patrick and the snakes.

St. Patrick is believed to have converted the Irish to Christianity sometime in the 400s.  One of the legends associated with him is that he banished all snakes from Ireland by throwing them into the sea.

Of course, natural history proves that there have never been snakes in Ireland.  Ireland was under water when snakes evolved.  Plus there was a pesky ice age that would have killed any snakes off that could have crossed a land bridge when it was above water.  Snakes generally don’t like swimming for miles and miles in icy water.  There are also no snakes in Iceland, Greenland, or New Zealand for the same reason.

One way to read the St. Patrick story is that the snakes are symbols for paganism.  (Snakes are pretty evil in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but not in others.  Druids, for example, used serpent imagery.)  Patrick banished the pagan “evil” from Ireland, but rather than tell a story about St. Patrick throwing heretics into the sea, snakes make a nice substitute.

St. Patrick banishes some snakes. And naked people. Who also couldn't survive in Ireland's chilly climate.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, why not hug a snake and hate a heathen?  Snakes, as any ecologist or farmer will tell you, are our friends. Don’t fear the snake – respect it!

And while we’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a question: Do leprechauns exist in other dimensions? Ask a Philosopher!

It’s Animal Month! – Animals and Science

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

It’s Animal Month on the PhLog!

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild offers magnetic finger puppets featuring two animals of science: Schrödinger’s Cat and Pavlov’s Dog.

Schrödinger’s Cat is in fact not a real cat, but a cat used in a thought experiment by physicist Erwin Schrödinger to illustrate one of the principals of quantum mechanics.

The experiment places a cat inside a box along with with a radioactive substance. If a single atom of the substance decays, it triggers a mechanism that kills the cat.  An observer of the closed box has no way of telling if the cat is alive or dead, so the cat exists in a state of being equally alive and dead until someone opens the box.  This is quantum indeterminacy – the observation of a quantum event makes it one thing or another, but without observation it is impossible to know the outcome.

This is of course a greatly oversimplified version of Schrödinger’s experiment, but it points nicely to how unverifiable science gets once it goes quantum.

Why a cat?  Well even a thought experiment about locking a person in a box and possibly murdering him or her is a little repugnant.  And do you really think that Schrödinger’s experiment would have gained traction with a lizard?

Lizards: greatly under-appreciated by physicists.

Click here to play an interactive online version of the experiment.  And yes, it is just as exciting to play as you imagine!

Our Schrödinger's Cat puppet. Note the expression – this cat is equally alive and dead!

Our Pavlov’s dog represents the many dogs Russian scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov worked with over the course of his career.

Pavlov studied the mechanisms underlying animals’ digestive systems, which lead to his Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1904.  But he’s most remembered for his work in the study of animal reflexes, now known as “classical conditioning.”  Pavlov noted that dogs would automatically salivate when presented with food.  Through a series of experiments, Pavlov would ring a bell every time he fed a dog, and eventually, once the dog associated the sound of the bell with food, the dog would drool at the sound of the bell whether or not food was present.

There’s a Pavlov’s Dog game you can play on the Nobel Prize website of all places.

Here’s our dog in puppet form. Note the felt bell around his neck - he must be constantly salivating.

In addition to these great animals of science there have been so many more.  From Dolly the sheep to Able and Baker the space monkeys to the unknown lab rat, scientist have worked with animals for centuries.

What is your favorite animal of science?  Post in the comments below.

Nietzsche and the Horse

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

The deeper minds of all ages have had pity for animals.
       – Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s animal month at the Philosophers Guild, and this entry is about Friedrich Nietzsche and a horse.

Friedrich Nietzsche suffered a long mental decline, believed to have been brought on by syphilis.

His final break with sanity occurred on January 3rd, 1889, when Nietzsche collapsed in a square in Turin. According to legend – first told in an Italian newspaper upon Nietzsche’s death in 1900 and elaborated in another article years later – Nietzsche saw a coachman abusing a horse, and, in tears, rushed to the horse and threw his arms around its neck in an attempt to stop the beating.

There is evidence from correspondence that Nietzsche had previously dreamed of throwing his arms around a mistreated horse, and he had also read Crime and Punishment, in which the lead character also dreams of throwing his arms around a mistreated horse. So even if this event was true, was it genuine or staged by Nietzsche?

The site of Nietzsche's breakdown. Note the (unrelated) horse statue.

We think this would make a great children’s book – Nietzsche and the horse! Someone out there please write it and we’ll sell it on our website.

(There is already a movie about what happened to the horse after it met Nietzsche.)

In a photo staged by Nietzsche, he pulls a horse cart, while Lou von Salomé, the woman he loved, holds a whip. Her boyfriend (and Nietzsche's friend) Paul Ree looks ahead, oblivious.

I fear animals regard man as a creature of their own kind which has in a highly dangerous fashion lost its healthy animal reason — as the mad animal, as the laughing animal, as the weeping animal, as the unhappy animal. – (from “The Gay Science”)

It’s Animal Month! – Transcendentalists

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

The transcendentalists were a uniquely American group of philosophers, and as early-to-mid 19th century Americans coming out of the Romantic tradition, they had a strong connection to nature and the natural world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature is one of the movement’s seminal tracts, and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is one of the first “back to nature” books.

Emerson and Thoreau: animal lovers

Animals served symbolic purposes for transcendentalists and were also studied by the transcendentalists in great detail as only amateur nature-lovers can.


Henry David Thoreau is is an inspirational figure for the American animal rights movement.  He wrote such sentiments as “the squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest,” and “no human older than an adolescent would wantonly murder any creature which reveres its own life as much as the killer.”  Thoreau argued on moral grounds against eating meat although he occasionally ate meat, especially while living in the woods.  (He also wrote: “the hunter is the greatest friend of the animal which is hunted.”)

Thoreau wrote down observations of animal behavior in Walden, including a whole section about his non-human “neighbors”.  This section includes a fascinating battle between red and black ants.  The bulk of Thoreau’s animal descriptions can be found in the section “Winter Animals”, where, among other things, he passes moral judgment on blue jays as opposed to squirrels:

At length the jays arrive, whose discordant screams were heard long before, as they were warily making their approach an eighth of a mile off, and in a stealthy and sneaking manner they flit from tree to tree, nearer and nearer, and pick up the kernels which the squirrels have dropped. Then, sitting on a pitch pine bough, they attempt to swallow in their haste a kernel which is too big for their throats and chokes them; and after great labor they disgorge it, and spend an hour in the endeavor to crack it by repeated blows with their bills. They were manifestly thieves, and I had not much respect for them; but the squirrels, though at first shy, went to work as if they were taking what was their own.

(Just to speak on behalf of the Jays, perhaps Thoreau was unfamiliar with the famous phrase coined by Proudhon over 10 years earlier.)

Jay and Squirrel - which is morally superior?

Given the love of animals that Emerson and Thoreau expressed, is it a coincidence that there are Emerson animal hospitals in TexasNew Jersey, and a Thoreau one in Virginia?