The Legend of Rin Tin Tin

Colorado Woman Who Ran Chihuahua
 Next to Car Faces Animal Cruelty Charges

BOULDER, Colo. — A dog-sitter’s shortcut led to criminal charges for a Colorado woman who ran a Chihuahua alongside her car at 10 to 15 mph.

The Daily Camera reports that 29-year-old Joan Renee Zalk of Boulder faces animal cruelty and felony menacing charges after witnesses confronted her Friday morning for running the pup alongside her Toyota Camry.

The newspaper reports that Zalk told officers the dog, named Cooper, “goes ballistic” if it doesn’t walk 3 miles a day.

Witnesses called police after seeing the leashed dog struggling to keep up with the car. Zalk reportedly said the dog was fine.

Zalk is free on bond. Cooper was uninjured and was taken to a local shelter. The dog was expected to be released to its owner, who was out of town at the time of the incident.

Cat Comes Home 5 Months
After Vilonia Tornado,
Surprising Owners

VILONIA, Ark. — A four-legged victim of the Vilonia tornado has unexpectedly survived.

The Log Cabin Democrat reports that a black tomcat called Black Velvet was spotted on a fence in its owners' backyard late last week — five months after the tornado.

Black Velvet had gone missing after the April 25 tornado that killed five people and destroyed dozens of buildings in the town north of Little Rock.

The cat's owners, Keith and Debra Rorie, were concerned about a family member who lost her home and didn't think anything of Black Velvet's disappearance for almost a week.

Black Velvet appeared to look healthy and well-fed, and Keith Rorie thinks someone might have been looking after the cat.

House Cat With 2 Faces
Lives 12 Years, Sets Record

WORCESTER, Mass. – Frank and Louie the cat was born with two faces, two mouths, two noses, three eyes — and lots of doubts about his future.

Now, 12 years after Marty Stevens rescued him from being euthanized because of his condition, the exotic blue-eyed rag doll cat is not only thriving, but has also made it into the 2012 edition of Guinness World Records as the longest-surviving member of a group known as Janus cats, named for a Roman god with two faces.

"Every day is kind of a blessing; being 12 and normal life expectancy when they have this condition is one to four days," Stevens said, stroking Frank and Louie's soft fur as he sat on her lap purring. "So, he's ahead of the game; every day I just thank God I still have him."

Frank and Louie's breeder had taken him to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where Stevens was working at the time, to be euthanized when he was just a day old. Stevens offered to take him home, but experts told her not to get her hopes up.

Janus cats almost never survive, and most have congenital defects, including a cleft palate that makes it difficult for them to nurse and often causes them to slowly starve or get milk in their lungs and die of pneumonia. The condition is the result of a genetic defect that triggers excessive production of a certain kind of protein.

But Frank and Louie did not suffer from most of the common Janus problems. Stevens used feeding tubes to nourish him for three months, hoping that would also save him from the danger of choking on food going down two mouths.

It turned out she didn't have to worry about him choking, because Frank and Louie used just one of his mouths to eat.

"The condition itself is very rare, and I think that the fact that this cat became an adult, a healthy adult, is remarkable," said Dr. Armelle deLaforcade, an associate professor at Cummings and head of the emergency services section.

Colleagues at the veterinary hospital told Stevens that trying to raise Frank and Louie might not be good for him — or her.

Still, she "stood firm and stood by the cat, and I'm really glad she did because this cat really has fewer problems than many cats that have very normal anatomies," deLaforcade said.

Frank and Louie's two faces have a complicated relationship. Both noses work, but one mouth does not have a lower jaw and isn't connected to his one esophagus, so he can't eat with it. Stevens discovered that only after the cat got an MRI later in life.

The animal can see out of only two of his three eyes. The middle one can't even blink and makes Frank and Louie appear to be staring even when his other eyes are closed.

Frank and Louie does not seem to be bothered by his condition and has developed a friendly personality. The breed is known for its soft and silky fur, docile temperament and penchant for relaxing in a person's arms like a rag doll.

He is "very, very laid back, not afraid of people, very friendly and he's actually more of a dog than a cat," Stevens said. "He walks on a leash, he goes right in the car; he loves car rides."

People often want to touch Frank and Louie's long, luxurious fur while Stevens is out walking him.

"It's funny because people walk up to him thinking it's a nice, fluffy white cat and they're walking up with a big smile on their face to pat him, like, 'Oh, what a beautiful cat' and I see a look of horror come over their faces when they actually see his face," Stevens said, laughing.

Thirty years ago, a cat like Frank and Louie might not have been given a chance to live.

Said deLaforcade: "You can look at a cat like this as either a very strange and bad omen, or you can look at this cat as a miracle."

Queen Nefer-Kitty:
Expert Makes Dead Pets into Mummies,
Pyramids Sold Separately
BY Katie Nelson - NY DAILY NEWS

Cagliastro said her mummification practice is "art" and "scientific."

Professional mummy-maker Sorceress Cagliastro cradles puppies alive and dead with the same tender care.

An avid animal lover who has four dogs and a bird, the Brooklyn native will mummify pets - cats, bunnies, birds, frogs, whatever - that weigh up to 100 pounds.

Her past projects include racing pigeons, a macaw, a millipede, a peacock, a caiman, guinea pigs and even an armadillo.

Cagliastro knows her services - which cost between $800 and $4,000 - aren't for everyone. But the upstate Kingston resident says a growing number of grieving pet owners are eager to seek her out.

"To me, mummification is the ultimate honor because there is nothing that would keep your loved one around longer," she said.

"When people tell me they want to do this thing, the first thing I am is impressed. You must have really loved that animal," she continued. "I have an enormous amount of respect for the animals entrusted into my care."

Cagliastro grew up in Flatbush and is a married to an exterminator, David, and is mom to 11-year-old Maghdalen. Prior to full-time mummy work, she did forensic reconstruction for the chief medical examiner's office, and served as an embalmer for funeral homes.

"All in all, I have seemed to spend my life in service of the deceased," Cagliastro said. "This seemed like a logical next step for me."

Cagliastro got started studying mummies after she was in a "horrific" out-of-state car accident about 15 years ago. While recovering at her then-home in Park Slope, she started studying Egyptian texts at the Brooklyn Museum. That led to experimenting with salts, and over five or so years, working with three chemists to develop a complex salt formula that she considers a "trade secret."

Cagliastro initially practiced on chicken wings bought at a supermarket, but now mummifies pets brought to her by grieving owners from New York and beyond. Eventually, she also intends to mummify humans.

"People choose all kinds of postmortem processes, and this is just one of them," she said recently, in between doting on her daughter and puppy, Rue.

With help from an assistant and an intern, Cagliastro takes on about 10 projects at a time. When the Daily News visited her laboratory, she had two cats, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, a stillborn puppy, two squirrels and a kitten.

Each mummy can be finished any number of ways, ranging from a "simple linen wrap all the way up to painted with semi-precious metals, decorated with heirloom jewelry or, say, a scrolled up piece of parchment put inside."

For those wanting to learn how it works first-hand, Cagliastro teaches classes - using bullfrogs bought at a wholesale Chinese grocery - at the Observatory in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The next limited-seating session is slated for Oct. 9.

"I'm fascinated by this thing called death," Cagliastro said. "It's sort of the only thing that everyone experiences."

Angry Fish Inhabit Most
Home Aquariums Analysis
by Jennifer Viegas -

Home fish tanks and aquariums may at first appear to be tranquil environments, but look closely and you might see a glaring goldfish or a ticked off tetra.

A new study has found that ornamental fish across the U.S. -- all 182.9 million of them -- are at risk of becoming aggressive due to cramped, barren housing.

In other words, fish can turn mean when their home sucks, according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

"The welfare of aquarium fishes may not seem important, but with that many of them in captivity, they become a big deal," project leader Ronald Oldfield, an instructor of biology at Case Western Reserve University, said in a press release.

Oldfield's paper is the first to scientifically study how the environment of home aquariums affects the aggressive behavior of ornamental fishes. The findings are in keeping with related research, though. For example, earlier this year I reported on how cramped tank conditions are turning sea urchins into cannibals.

For this latest study, Oldfield compared the behavior of Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) in a variety of environments: within their native range in a crater lake in Nicaragua, in a large artificial stream in a zoo, and in small tanks of the sizes typically used to by pet owners.

The study looked at just juvenile fish in order to remove the possibility of aggressive behavior related to mating. The experiments were also set up so that the fish weren't competing for food and shelter.

In addition to tank size, he tested the complexity of an environment and the effects of the number of fish within tanks. "Complexity" in this case refers to the addition of obstacles and hiding places, such as rocks, plants, and other objects. Tanks with more complexity, and of a larger size, helped to reduce aggressive behaviors.

Tempers were observed to literally flare, however, in the less desirable aquariums, with perturbed fish flaring their fins. But that was on the low end of the anger spectrum. Very ticked off fish nipped, chased, charged, and even murdered each other. (Similar attacks and killings have been observed before among captive great white sharks.

Oldfield suspects cramped, barren environments for humans may also serve as breeding grounds for comparable negative behaviors.

"This study might help us to better understand how human behavior changes when people are placed in different social environments," he said, suggesting that prisons fall into that extreme "different" category.

From the fish's perspective, life in a too-small and dreary tank might even feel like a jail cell does to us.

So if you do have a fish tank at home, give it the once over to see if a replacement or remodeling job is needed. If you plan to set up a new aquarium, don't select the cheap, stagnant water models that will have you flushing your pet investment down the toilet soon.

Do Birds See in Color?
By Margaret A. Wissman,

A bird's eyes are unique in many ways. A bird can see in color as well as near the ultraviolet range.

A bird that is active during the day has great color vision.

Birds do see in color. Birds that are active during daylight hours have the best color vision and, conversely, birds active at night usually have very good night vision. I find it fascinating that diving birds, such as kingfishers, have eyes adapted to aerial and aquatic vision due to some unique adaptations to the deeper structures of the eye. Water birds and birds that live on open plains have a specialized area in the eye that allows them to fix the horizon accurately as a reference point.

Birds also have brightly colored oil droplets within the eye that are involved with interpretation of color vision. It is thought that the different colored oil droplets enhance contrast by acting as in-the-eye light filters. For example, the yellow oil droplets would remove much of the blue color from the background, which would increase the contrast between an object and the blue sky. The red oil droplet would remove much of the green from the background, which would greatly improve the contrast between an object and trees. The enhanced contrast would considerably increase visual acuity.

Some pet birds seem to have color preferences and aversions. I always try to avoid wearing red when working on pet birds, especially African parrots, including African grey parrots and members of the Poicephalus genus. If anyone walks into a nursery of baby African parrots wearing a bright red shirt, it is almost guaranteed to elicit quite a response from the babies! Adult African greys seem to react badly to red clothing, as well. I find this especially interesting, as the Congo African greys have gorgeous, bright red tail feathers. Red fingernail polish and toenail polish also seem to disconcert some parrots.

Birds are also thought to be able to see light into the near ultraviolet range. This might be why they can identify individual birds that look exactly the same to us, due to the secretions of the uropygial gland that have been spread onto the feathers during preening.

Birds are also known to be able to better detect and follow movement. While a bird and a person might both be able to see a mouse from a height of 250 feet, a person can only do so if his attention was accurately directed to the mouse, but the bird can see it without even directly looking at it. Moreover, the bird is able to see all the mice in a field in a single glance, but we could only do that by scanning the area meticulously. A bird’s vision is truly special and remarkable.

A Man and His Dog Create Enduring Legend
Rick Kogan -

How a puppy named Rin Tin Tin grew up to be a cultural hero

1924: Rin Tin Tin, the Warner dog star, comforting his master, William Collier, in a scene from the film, 'The Lighthouse By The Sea'. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images) (General Photographic Agency, Getty Images / September 23, 2011)

Born on a battlefield in France during World War I and rescued by a U.S. soldier named Lee Duncan, a terrified German shepherd puppy would become the most famous dog in the world.

Named Rin Tin Tin, after a popular French doll of the time, the dog would be as big a star as the movies and television have ever known. (Sorry, Lassie.)

In "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend," Susan Orlean has fashioned a masterpiece of reporting and storytelling, some of it quite personal and all of it compelling. Animal-related books have always peppered best-seller lists — "Seabiscuit" comes quickly to mind — and this one will top such lists. It deserves to, and also to work its way into millions of hearts and minds.

Orlean, a stylish staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1992 and the author of seven previous books, including the 2000 best-seller "The Orchid Thief," is well-connected in the literary scene, and many of her writer friends and some reviewers have already plundered the thesaurus for words of praise for her latest book: "hugely entertaining and unforgettable" (Walter Isaacson), "fascinating and big-hearted" (Ann Patchett), "spectacularly compelling" (Donna Seaman).

To those, I will merely add "dazzling."

Orlean writes, "Rin Tin Tin has always been more than a dog. He was an idea and an ideal — a hero who was also a friend, a fighter who was also a caretaker, a mute genius, a companionable loner. He was one dog and many dogs, a real animal and an invented character, a pet as well as an international celebrity. He was born in 1918, and he never died."

Well, he did die, of course, in 1932, but he has carried on through all manner of ups and downs and careful breeding for 11 generations and counting. "I believe that there will always be a Rin Tin Tin because there will always be stories," Orlean writes — and she has written a definitive and spectacular one.

The seed of this book was a small plastic figurine of the dog that sat on the desk of Orlean's grandfather, "maddeningly out of reach … (a) mysterious and eternal figure." This personal connection infuses the book, and Orlean is not at all loath to participate in the narrative.

She does so with admirable sensitivity, skill and energy, even visiting the Meuse Valley battlefield where the dog was born. Later, she delivers a puppy with the Rin Tin Tin pedigree to a family in Boston and imagines that it might remain with her for keeps. Ultimately she hands the dog over: "I had no right to cry about it, but I couldn't help it. For that moment (on the plane), at least, after a lifetime of imagining it, that shy, worried, tender, heroic, brave, loyal, gallant puppy had been mine."

This may seem a bit over the top, but in context it is nothing but refreshingly honest. Almost everyone who has come into contact with Rin Tin Tin has been moved to love bordering on obsession.

Duncan was an orphan, and his love of animals was tied to his lonely childhood. He believed that his puppy's survival was a miracle, and it was a combination of his training skills, the dog's talent and a considerable amount of luck that turned "Rinty" into a star. Duncan and the dog (dogs) would ride that wave and suffer its crash, until TV came calling and fame returned.

It came in the form of Bert Leonard, a child of New York's Hell's Kitchen who grew up "bold and brash, carnal, concrete," and produced "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" series that first aired in 1954. When that run ended five years later, Leonard made several stabs at reviving Rin Tin Tin's career and spent his fortune on a series of squabbles and lawsuits that ruined him.

We meet, more pleasantly, Daphne Hereford, the owner of the current Rin Tin Tin at her El Rancho Rin Tin Tin in Texas. We meet, disturbingly, a middle-aged man named Paul Klein who for years visited conventions and other Rin Tin Tin-related gatherings pretending to be former child actor Lee Aaker from the TV series.

The dogs' story is embellished by thoughtful excursions into larger but important related matters such as the growth and oddities of the film and television industries, the rise of American pet culture, dogs and war, and the bond between dogs and people.

There is, I am sorry and shocked to tell you, one glaring error in the book. In writing about the early reactions to Rin Tin Tin's film career, Orlean quotes the first movie critic of the Chicago Daily News, a not-yet-world-famous poet named Carl Sandburg, who gushingly wrote, "A beautiful animal, (Rin Tin Tin) has the power of expression in his every movement that makes him one of the leading pantomimists of the screen." Orlean spells his name Sandberg, but that will certainly be corrected in future editions.

Sandburg called Rin Tin Tin "thrillingly intelligent" and "phenomenal."

The same can be said for this remarkable book.

A canine career

Movies:He debuted playing a wolf in "The Man From Hell's River" in 1922, and went on to star in more than 20 films, including:

•"Where the North Begins," 1923

•"Clash of the Wolves," 1925

•"A Dog of the Regiment," 1927

•"Rinty of the Desert," 1929

•"The Million Dollar Collar," 1929

Radio: He had three radio shows:

•"The Wonder Dog," quickly changed to "Rin Tin Rin," a 15-minute program on the NBC Blue Network co-starring Don Ameche, 1930-33

•"Rin Tin Tin," on CBS radio, 1933-34

•"Rin Tin Tin," on the Mutual network, January-December 1955

"The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," on ABC, co-starring James Brown as Lt. Ripley "Rip" Masters and Lee Aaker as Rusty, October 1954-May 1959


"Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend"
By Susan Orlean
Simon & Schuster, 324 pages, $26.99

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