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January 27th, 2009 - DOG BITES TURTLE!

  If I could do one of those "spinning newspapers" like from the dissolves in an old movie (hmmm, not a bad idea, are you listening Blogger/Google...? Of course you are, why even ask, it's like living in an Orwell novel, tomorrow it will happen and I'll get no credit) anyway if I could do a spinning newspaper, it would stop on your screen with a screaming 72 pt. font headline: DOG BITES TURTLE!
We had a near catastrophic event the other night when Sharon got up from the computer to do something she hadn't planned and found that Happy was "playing with something" that turned out to be Jackie the Turtle.
Somehow, and I really have no idea how she managed this, Jackie had flipped herself over the wall of her habitat, made the four foot drop to the hardwood floor, and found herself being chomped by an overstimulated Happy who (thankfully) obediently dropped her on command, but damage had been done.

Luckily, she just lost one of her larger back scutes along with some edging on her shell and seemingly no tissue damage or blood loss was involved. That white thing is a rib from her backbone that is normally attached to the shell.
I feel bad for not having set up a better containment system. She had never even gotten close to getting out before, but I should have expected it would happen at some point. 
We have her on two different color heat lamps and they had just turned off on the timer, so she may have been seeking a warmer spot. Or just jazzed up and managed to hook into some traction on the plastic wall, who knows, most turtles are pretty good climbers, especially the aquatics.
Ironically, this was on the same night that we had gone out to eat with some friends and they had just told us a horrible story about how they came home from work early one time and found that their dog had crashed through the top of their glass coffee table, and that THEY felt so bad for not foreseeing it. The dog survived fine, BTW. But it was a full horror movie scene, as one might imagine. The dog had limped around to all the windows looking for a way out, losing blood the whole time. Jeez.

I think Jackie will be okay, knock on wood. There seems like no tissue damage, and she's eating. Her shell scutes curling is pretty natural, so that's not dog-related. Hopefully she keeps infection away and the shell grows back or around the area effectively. 
I talked to a couple naturalist friends and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in town, and the verdict's still out on whether the shell will grow back or not. I guess with adult turtles when they are crushed or their shell is cracked, there is still a good chance they can heal. The reptile vet usually gives them a antibiotic injection and they fill or patch the shell with a dental adhesive used by dentists on human teeth. It's designed to slowly disintegrate as the animal grows and mends itself. They pretty much only use it for adult turtles though as their shell and bones stop growing after while. With young turtles everything is still growing, so it would need to grow with them. 
They said there's a chance that over time, some or all of the shell may grow back, it may be deformed, or may encircle the old wound, much like a tree does when growing around a fence or foreign object. Time will tell. Could be months or years though. 
We've had some adult turtles at the nature centers that have lost pieces of shell and we've actually super-glued them back on.
In this case, I guess it's the best case of a bad scenario. She was definitely active and swimming right when we put her back into the habitat, after a few minutes of being as withdrawn into her shell as tightly as possible. No obvious problems with her back legs. 
For the last couple days she's been basking on the rocks and drying herself out. It looked like there was one small raw area near her tail that has scabbed over since "the incident." 
I wasn't sure if she wanted to be in the water so I set up the feeding tray with a rock as an "island" in the middle, and put her down there and dropped in some food so she could take it if she wanted. It was pretty funny. First she stuck her neck out as far as she could, smelling around, and then eased herself into the water with her sore end sticking out, then finally just went for it and starting nomming shrimp voraciously. 
She seems no worse for wear, but has been spending more time out of the water than usual.
Ugh. We'll keep you posted.

Then yesterday, (I say as I take off my reporter's fedora and sling it to a peg on the coat rack) I had to go back to Refuge to return all the snowshoes I had borrowed for the Winter Night Hike on Saturday night that no showed up at. Except me. 
I can't blame anyone, as it was about -3 F with a -15 F windchill, but it was the first time I have been completely "skunked," with no one showing up. I hiked anyway and scared up a large bird I thought at the time was a turkey. 
Hap and I took a hike while we were there Monday however, and scared up what I'm pretty sure was the same bird. It definitely wasn't a turkey. Much smaller and flew with a lot of wing-noise, and gliding something like a grouse or a ???
The other weird thing was that on the path out we had seen a little vole (sort of a big furry mouse/lemming) rummaging around the edge of the path like we weren't even there; like he couldn't see or smell us. Then he turned and started ambling towards us, I was trying to hold Happy behind me and get my camera set up at the same time. I managed to get a couple shots of him before he caught on, but something was up with him.
It was very cold and he was out rambling around, picking up rabbit turds and discarding them, then running stiffly out onto the paved path where he may as well have had a neon sign on his back saying, "FREE LUNCH" to every hawk and raptor that lives nearby.
I scared him back into the weeds again and we continued our hike. After we had completed the loop I wanted to come back around to the spot where we had seen the bird to see if we could scare it up again for another look. No such luck, but as we were heading back to the parking lot, I looked at the last place I had seen the vole run to and noticed what looked like tracks hopping back to the pavement. As I was turning with a puzzled expression thinking, "why would he go that way...?" I saw that Happy was putting the first chomp on him at the end of his leash. I made him spit, but I'm not sure how much he did to the poor little nipper. There was no blood, but the vole was writhing a bit and cleaning his feet, and definitely had some dog drool on his back. 

Ack! Watching animals suffer my domestic pet's instinctive predatory tendencies! Everywhere I look! 
Plus I volunteer at the Refuge, and they tolerate dogs there, but don't encourage them necessarily, so there I go disturbing the natural balance with my damn domestic pet, just like I've told oh so many people why it's not allowed for them to bring their pets into Wood Lake or Springbrook for the same reason. 
I'm Mr. Hypocrite. I ended up picking up the poor little bugger with my mitten and setting him into a "cave" of some tree roots with a nice leafy bed. 
Good luck, little vole. I still can't figure why he'd be all whacked out on such a cold day. After I picked him up he just sat their with his eyes half-open, shivering. That was my thought when we first had seen him was that he had woken up too early for some reason and was snow-blind or something. Dunno.

One more thing, kinda strange. I woke up the other day fro a very vivid dream where I was in a musical instrument store and saw this unique instrument made from beautiful wood that I had never seen before. 
I tried to draw it later that day, something like this:

The weird thing about it was that it was a stringed instrument that reminded me of something like an oversize dulcimer, except it had strings on both sides and two fretboards, that is to say the front and back of the instrument, with two strings on one side and three on the other. 
Strange as well was that the ebony black fretless fretboards ran the entire length of the instrument on both sides. It had a built up base that seemed to lead you to thinking you'd play it standing up like a cello or viola, and it was about viola-sized, but I picked it up and started playing it like a guitar, somehow instinctively knowing the spacing on the fretless board and getting some really nice tones out of it.

I didn't much think about it when I woke up, but later thought it would have to be very thin to be able to have a fretboard on each side, yet it was all acoustic and had F-holes on the both of the "tops."
After telling a friend about it, he suggested that maybe you could have two complementary tunings and rotate it around to play one side, then another. 
I came back with that you could tune one side to one key and the other to another, and play the funky break in the middle of your song and then go back to your original key by rotating to the other side.
It occurs to me after drawing it out that it might do better as an instrument played with a bow, as you could hold down strings on one and/or both sides and if they were tuned complimentarily, the resonance would come through the instrument and create harmonics with the other set of strings, even by playing only one side. 
I looked through some of my guitar collector books and there are some similar looking single-sided instruments; notably lap-steel, and Hawaiian guitars. It also reminded me slightly of McCartney's Hofner bass of Beatles fame. 
So there you go. Makes me want to finish my guitar project that has been sitting in the corner since last March. I may need to go talk to a builder about that.

>> End of newswire. Signing off.


Z said...

Re: the vole - Do some googling about 'manipulation of host behavior' - we are just scratching the surface in our understanding of the many ways in which various parasites induce their hosts to act in ways that benefit the parasite - often very much at cross purposes to what would be good for the organism it inhabits! A common theme is a multi-host parasite making its host act or look in ways that make it much more likely to get ingested by the next animal in the parasite's chain of living ecosystems ...

dignature said...

Wowser! I hadn't thought of that.
VERY interesting stuff.
It's like we're living in "The Matrix!"

So in a related topic, this question came up the other day: Could a baby be considered "a parasite?"

BTW, re: vole - My wife Sharon's first thought was along the lines of rabies. I hadn't thought of that either.

Thanks for the thought-provoking comment. I LIKE it when that happens.

Zap Z said...

YOur wife and I were actually on similar threads - the behavioral changes induced by rabies seem to be exactly the kinds of manipulation I was talking about! ie by making the host more aggressive, it helps ensure its own spread to new hosts (via a foamy bite) ... however many parasites simply make their hosts more likely to be eaten - check out a decent overview at, and check youtube for the crazy snail parasite that makes snail eyes look like worms ... fascinating stuff! These are good too: /

dignature said...

VERY interesting links. It reminds me of a program I've attended concerning Mustilidae (weasel families), who are known to pick up species of nematodes that infest their sinuses and eventually lead to behavior modifications of widely varying degrees.

Here's a snippet and link:

It has been reported that a polecat heavily infested with Troglotrema acutum can
nevertheless be in good physical condition (MONIEZ, 1890). This male was in good condition when
it was captured in a live-trap. The symptoms associated with Troglotrema acutuminfestation
can range from sneezing (RAJSKÝ, 2001) to exophthalmos and jaw twitching(MONIEZ, 1890). Furthermore, SPREHN (1931) describes severe epistaxis and encephalitis from farmed Mustela vison infested with the trematode.
An ”in-pushing” of the inner table of the frontal into the cranial cavity, which was observed radiographically, may be assumed to exert an abnormal pressure on the frontal region of the brain.
A similar conclusion was already drawn by LEWIS (1967)
Vet. arhiv 76 (Suppl.), S101-S109, 2006
U. Kierdorf et al.: Remarks on cranial lesions in the European polecat (Mustela putorius) caused by helminth parasites S108
who observed corresponding changes in Mustela nivalis infested with Skrjabingylus nasicola.
Behavioral alterations may occur as a consequence of this abnormal pressure.
Further investigations, including histological studies on the brains of infested animals and behavioral studies on living animals, are needed to evaluate the effects of the cranial deformations caused by the parasites on brain structure and behavior in mustelids.

Makes me wonder about my sinus headaches sometimes...

Z said...

watch out for Toxoplasma gondii! :)

dignature said...

And just think, this is only ONE species of parasite that we know exists in humans.
For all we know, we could be a complex ball of parasites, with each parasite trying to affect the other's behavior to gain the upper hand. Hence, my Matrix comment.
No wonder I'm so tired some days for seemingly no reason...

dignature said...

And all this time I thought Gondii was more peace-loving than that.

Zap Z said...

well, you know what they say - "in an infinite universe ..."


There's actually a book out about just how intrinsic to human development parasites have been, I think called "Riddled With Life," dunno if it's any good or not though.

dignature said...

In a possibly related story...

February 13, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor

The Maggots in Your Mushrooms


THE Georgia peanut company at the center of one of our nation’s worst food-contamination scares has officially reached a revolting new low: a recent inspection by the Food and Drug Administration discovered that the salmonella-tainted plant was also home to mold and roaches.

You may be grossed out, but insects and mold in our food are not new. The F.D.A. actually condones a certain percentage of “natural contaminants” in our food supply — meaning, among other things, bugs, mold, rodent hairs and maggots.

In its (falsely) reassuringly subtitled booklet “The Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of Natural or Unavoidable Defects in Foods That Present No Health Hazards for Humans,” the F.D.A.’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition establishes acceptable levels of such “defects” for a range of foods products, from allspice to peanut butter.

Among the booklet’s list of allowable defects are “insect filth,” “rodent filth” (both hair and excreta pellets), “mold,” “insects,” “mammalian excreta,” “rot,” “insects and larvae” (which is to say, maggots), “insects and mites,” “insects and insect eggs,” “drosophila fly,” “sand and grit,” “parasites,” “mildew” and “foreign matter” (which includes “objectionable” items like “sticks, stones, burlap bagging, cigarette butts, etc.”).

Tomato juice, for example, may average “10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams [the equivalent of a small juice glass] or five or more fly eggs and one or more maggots.” Tomato paste and other pizza sauces are allowed a denser infestation — 30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams or 15 or more fly eggs and one or more maggots per 100 grams.

Canned mushrooms may have “over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams of drained mushrooms and proportionate liquid” or “five or more maggots two millimeters or longer per 100 grams of drained mushrooms and proportionate liquid” or an “average of 75 mites” before provoking action by the F.D.A.

The sauerkraut on your hot dog may average up to 50 thrips. And when washing down those tiny, slender, winged bugs with a sip of beer, you might consider that just 10 grams of hops could have as many as 2,500 plant lice. Yum.

Giving new meaning to the idea of spicing up one’s food, curry powder is allowed 100 or more bug bits per 25 grams; ground thyme up to 925 insect fragments per 10 grams; ground pepper up to 475 insect parts per 50 grams. One small shaker of cinnamon could have more than 20 rodent hairs before being considered defective.

Peanut butter — that culinary cause célèbre — may contain approximately 145 bug parts for an 18-ounce jar; or five or more rodent hairs for that same jar; or more than 125 milligrams of grit.

In case you’re curious: you’re probably ingesting one to two pounds of flies, maggots and mites each year without knowing it, a quantity of insects that clearly does not cut the mustard, even as insects may well be in the mustard.

The F.D.A. considers the significance of these defects to be “aesthetic” or “offensive to the senses,” which is to say, merely icky as opposed to the “mouth/tooth injury” one risks with, for example, insufficiently pitted prunes. This policy is justified on economic grounds, stating that it is “impractical to grow, harvest or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects.”

The most recent edition of the booklet (it has been revised and edited six times since first being issued in May 1995) states that “the defect levels do not represent an average of the defects that occur in any of the products — the averages are actually much lower.” Instead, it says, “The levels represent limits at which F.D.A. will regard the food product ‘adulterated’ and subject to enforcement action.”

Bugs in our food may not be so bad — many people in the world practice entomophagy — but these harmless hazards are a reminder of the less harmless risks we run with casual regulation of our food supply. For good reason, the F.D.A. is focused on peanut butter, which the agency is considering reclassifying as high risk, like seafood, and subjecting it to special safety regulations. But the unsettling reality is that despite food’s cheery packaging and nutritional labeling, we don’t really know what we’re putting into our mouths.

Soup merits little mention among the products listed in the F.D.A.’s booklet. But, given the acceptable levels for contaminants in other foods, one imagines that the disgruntled diner’s cri de coeur — “Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!” — would be, to the F.D.A., no cause for complaint.

E. J. Levy is a professor of creative writing at the University of Missouri.

Ed. Note: Wait a minute... Is that EUGENE Levy...?

Anonymous said...

Yes. Thank you. rabies, perfect example. fetus as parasite? That's what I teach in Repro/embryology. My students get used to me referring as fetuses as parasites. They rob the mother of any nutrients they can get a hold of, leaving the mother quite depleted. Their hemoglobin binds oxygen more tightly than adult Hb does. The placenta makes a hormone called HPL, which has an effect (there are several) of blocking the maternal insulin receptors, so who gets all the sugar in their cells? Sometimes these babies weigh 20 lbs and leave the mother with gestational diabetes, which often persists.

Jaded? Who me?

Anonymous said...

;-) We usually also have a good laugh about the parasitism continuing until the "child" is 40 and living in the garage...