A dog is a seal is a mermaid

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 2, 2012 9:38 PM

I spend a lot of time online as most people do. In the morning, I fire up the Mac, wait the 20 to 30 seconds for it to load all of its goodies, and then open a browser. I open my primary email program, check my other email programs before closing them down, peruse the news and Facebook and then settle in for the day. I open a new browser, I’m guessing, a hundred times a day, give or take a dozen. In my research and with my surfing prowess, I often come across things interesting and funny, heartbreaking and sad, even infuriating.

The internet is a strange and wonderful – a strangely wonderful – place to travel. The world and all of its treasures, weirdness, and creepiness are literally at the stroke of a few keys on the QWERTY. I have journeyed to Germany and France, to Africa in search of color and India in search of ayurvedic oils. I have purchased items from Hong Kong and New Jersey, Alabama and Mexico. I have studied the cultures of Europe and Asia. I monitor-shop (as opposed to window shop) and know I can literally find anything I’m looking for and if I can’t, it quite possibly may not exist.

Today I came upon this meme: Seals are just dog mermaids.

And it got me to thinking. Are seals really just dog mermaids? So armed with a newly opened browser, an open Word document to take notes, my fast-typing fingers and my little brain, I went surfing for the information that might prove or disprove the theory, which incidentally I thought had some possibility. Seals are cute, dogs are cute. Seals have whiskers, dogs have whiskers. Seals have fur, so do dogs. Ergo seals are dogs except that dogs are on land and seals are (mostly) at sea, though seals are sometimes on land and dogs like to swim.

Seals are actually called pinnipeds, from the Latin pinna meaning wing and ped meaning foot; winged foot. They have expressive eyes, a furry appearance and a natural curiosity. If they were in your back yard, they would explore all of the trees and especially the pool, or the puddles. The seals seen in harbors and hanging around coastal towns are earless and called Phocidae. Seals with ears are sometimes called sea lions as well as Otariidae. There are actually 32 different kinds of seals with the biggest being an elephant seal that’s 13 feet long and weighs about two tons. The smallest is the Galapagos fur seal that’s just 4 feet long and weighs only about 65 pounds.

They used to be land animals, probably related to bears or otters, they can be under water for up to two hours because of the hemoglobin in their blood and they are hunted by sharks, whales, polar bears and, unfortunately, people.

Seals are also evidently involved in the Navy and they were part of a 1970s’ singing group with someone named Crofts. Seal without the plural is also quite the singer.

As for dogs, they’re actually canis lupus familiaris, and have been hanging with us for at least 15,000 years though the remains of domesticated dogs have been found in Siberia and Belgium dating to some 33,000 years ago. They can be as smart as a two-year-old child with Border Collies being the smartest followed by poodles, German shepherds, golden retrievers and Dobermans. Some dogs can understand up to 200 words; no word if they can speak that many but no matter. Docile dogs live longer than more aggressive dogs.

Most dogs have fur, either double layered with a coarse coat underneath or single with a topcoat only. Many domestic dogs actually sport natural camouflage or countershading with dark fur on top and lighter fur underneath. Many have a star of white fur on their chest (like my Maguire did). Most have tails.

The biggest dog is usually an English Mastiff, weighing between 300 and 350 pounds. A Great Dane is the tallest, standing as tall as 42 inches at the shoulder. The smallest is usually the Yorkshire Terrier and can weigh as little as four ounces. 

The word dog comes from the Middle English dogge and from the Old English docga. They are often possessed of soulful eyes and a wiggly butt especially because they are usually damned glad to see you. Dog is my co-pilot, dogs rule. Etc.

As for mermaids, well, the US National Ocean Service stated unequivocally in 2012 that no evidence of one has ever been found. The Little Mermaid and Splash notwithstanding.

Evidently they simply weren’t looking in the right place.

A sheep in wolf's clothing

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 25, 2012 9:50 PM

Once upon a time a Wolf resolved to disguise his appearance in order to secure food more easily. Encased in the skin of a sheep, he pastured with the flock deceiving the shepherd by his costume. In the evening he was shut up by the shepherd in the fold; the gate was closed, and the entrance made thoroughly secure. But the shepherd, returning to the fold during the night to obtain meat for the next day, mistakenly caught up the Wolf instead of a sheep, and killed him instantly.

Thus is the 1867 translation of the Aesop’s Fable of the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Aesop, purported to have lived between 620 and 560 BC, was a pre-Christian storyteller who may or may not have been a real person. No actual writings bearing his name have ever been found. The Fables accredited to him were transmitted later by a series of authors, mostly Greek and Latin. Some speculate that there may have been a book by him in the fifth century BC. The Fables were first translated into European languages in 1476, and into English in 1687.

I wondered about this fable today when I came upon a story out of Washington involving marksmen hunting a pack of gray wolves who have evidently been involved in a number of attacks on a rancher’s cattle. The wolves, who have had the audacity to re-establish themselves after near extinction, have also had the audacity to be wolves.

Many believe that wolves are simply killers. What they are is wild. They kill to sustain themselves and their pack because they’re pack animals. Yes, sometimes they exhibit the tendency for overkill. Wildlife experts actually call it surplus killing which is killing more prey than can immediately be consumed. It allows them to secure food; it’s a survival mechanism. Unlike wild animals, cattle don’t have the instinct to flee so when the wolves move in for the kill, they simply run in frantic circles which triggers the predatory instinct in wolves.

Would it be different if they were wearing sheep’s outfits? Maybe, if only in that the cattle wouldn’t run in circles. Wolves are still wolves. Majestic, glorious creatures; hunters who were first wiped out in England in the early 1500s because they were thought to be forces of evil. In North America, they actually served as models for hunting, at least in our earliest history. Native Americans studied how they stalked their prey and mimicked it to the point of actually wearing wolf skins. Wolves became part of their religious ceremonies; they became revered.

And then they weren’t. Early settlers on this continent also tried to wipe out the wolves, using pits, traps and poison. They were hunted for their thick winter fur which provided warmth. By the last half of the 19th century, it was estimated that 1 to 2 million wolves had been killed. By 1900 there weren’t that many left, and in 1919 the government passed a law that called for the extermination of wolves on federally owned lands. The law was abolished in 1942, and the wolf was classified as endangered.

Except on rancher Bill McIrvine’s land in Washington State.

I rewrote the fable this afternoon.

Once upon a time a Sheep resolved to disguise her appearance in order to have a stronger life. Encased in the fur of a wolf, she embraced the pack deceiving the hunter by her costume. In the evening she was shut up by the hunter in the fold; the gate was closed, and the entrance made thoroughly secure. But the hunter, returning to the fold during the night to obtain a warm coat for the coming winter, mistakenly caught up the Sheep instead of a wolf, and upon the discovery, hugged her and kissed her and promised to protect her always.

That’s what happens to a Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing. I think we need to get the wolves some new clothes.  

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