Monthly Archives: April 2016

Master Wiggles is ready for his primming.

Prepare the parlor.

With Oscar’s Big Haircut this week, we dug up some advice for Francine from fancy dog groomers in the Victorian era.

book of the dog cover

From Chapter III, Grooming:

A great deal in a dog’s appearance depends upon whether his owner has him well groomed or not… Grooming, to be effective, must be constant and thorough. A casual overhauling with a dirty brush once in two or three months does not at all represent our views on the subject… Conspicuous amongst inventions which are really serviceable is the hair-glove, and no breeder of smooth-coated dogs should be without some of these in his kennel. In the case of the long-haired varieties a coarse comb and dandy-brush are about all that are necessary. Very hard brushes, as a rule, are best avoided; they may do no harm to a thoroughly healthy coat, but the skin even of a healthy dog is peculiarly susceptible of irritation, and any undue stimulus may start him scratching till he is almost raw. A hard brush may therefore inflame some pustule on the skin, and before the injury is discovered a dog may have disfigured himself for months to come. A hard short-bristled brush, if constantly used, is also liable to remove more hair than is necessary, and thereby injures the dog’s appearance.

book of the dog sheepdog

Many dogs are very fidgety when they are being groomed, and throw themselves about in a manner which renders the operation a tedious one. There is no remedy for this but patience, and after a dog once becomes accustomed to his morning’s grooming, he soon gets to like it, and seems to look forward to the luxury. It is always desirable to chain him up when grooming is carried on, in case he breaks away and gets into mischief. The modus operandi is very simple, but we have always found it best to let the dog lie down, and do as much of his legs as possible first. The reason of this is that during the grooming of his legs a dog very often lies down and fidgets about, and in this way gets his coat all covered with sawdust or whatever may be laid on the floor of the kennel. This is not so annoying when his back and sides have yet to be groomed, and he can return to his bench neat and tidy. The legs should be thoroughly rubbed with the brush or hair-glove, care being taken to pass the hand in the direction the coat runs, or instead of benefiting the coat it will be injured by being made rougher than it was before. Attention should then be directed to the head and ears; the back must next be done, and the proceedings terminate by brushing out the tail. Under ordinary circumstances the hair-glove is sufficient for smooth-coated dogs, but its bristles are neither long nor stout enough to penetrate the jackets of the long-haired varieties’ When the latter have to be dealt with a dandy-brush will usually suffice, the comb only being resorted to when the coat is knotted and tangled up. In using the comb the operator should be as gentle as he can, for if he drags tufts of hair out he hurts the dog and injures his appearance. A thorough combing-out is an excellent practice before a dog is washed, as it helps to remove all superfluous hairs, but when the coat is wet it is always more or less tangled, and should not be combed. As we have said before, systematic grooming is at the bottom of many a dog’s blooming condition, and no morning should go by without strict attention being paid to his toilet. Careful grooming also assists greatly in the destruction of fleas and other vermin, and renders the coat sweet and clean.

We may remark that these hints on grooming refer solely to general management, and no allusion is made here to any special attention show dogs may require in the course of their preparation for exhibition, as such will be fully gone into in the chapter on exhibiting. A good rub over with a large dry chamois leather after the brushing out is completed is an excellent termination to the grooming, but in ordinary cases is not so essential as the brush or hair-glove.

Hedge maze before maize maze

Plan_du_Labyrinthe_de_VersaillesThe first corn maze didn’t come along until the late twentieth century, but it was inspired by European hedge mazes, which date back centuries. The Labyrinth of Versailles was one of the more famous and elaborate of these hedge mazes, featuring elaborate sculptures and fountains modeled after selections from Aesop’s Fables. Charles Perrault’s Labyrinte de Versailles described the labyrinth in detail. It was first printed in 1675 and was eventually translated into English about a century later. In 1778, Louis XVI replaced the garden with a arboretum.

Of particular interest, in reference to our most recent chapter of Fretter’s Creek, is the description of the entrance. The thread in the maze trick is never straightforward, is it? Poor Henry.

On each side of the entrance into this Labyrinth, which is a very grand and magnificent portal, there stand two brazen Statues, painted in the most elegant manner, after the life, each on a pedestal of rock work: One is the grotesque figure of old Æsop, and the other the soft image of the young Son of Venus [cupid]: The former holds a scroll of paper in his hand; the latter, on the other side, stands in a most agreeable attitude, with his arm extended, and a large ball of of silk between his fingers.

Inscribed at the entrance was a dialog between “old Æsop” and cupid.

Cupid, with the ball of thread in hand: “Yes, I can now close my eyes and laugh: with this thread I’ll find my way.”

Aesop: “Love, that slender thread might get you lost: the slightest shock could break it.”

Perrault summarizes the moral for us:

The lesson of instruction to be drawn from this fiction is this: That tho’ the God of Love is too apt to involve mankind into a thousand petty broils and perplexities, yet he has the secret art of extricating them out of the maze they are thus led into, when he is accompanied by Prudence, to the practice whereof he is here directed by the sage Fables of Æsop.

Hungry boars in the Great Smoky Mountains

For our first “From the Bookshelf” feature, an excerpt from a study of European boars in the Great Smoky Mountains conducted by the NPS in the 1970’s. If you’re interested, I’ve provided some links to the species of boar treats they found.


Acorns of several species were the major portion of the diet in fall, winter, and spring at low elevations. In summer, at high elevations, serviceberries and blueberries ( Vaccinium spp.) were important during short periods. At low elevations in summer, the samples was dominated by one individual’s consumption of Japanese quince (Chanomeles lagenaria), an introduced species found at old homesites.


Green foliage (leaves and stems) composed the bulk of the high elevation spring and summer diet (73.2 and 52.3 percent). Vernal herbs such as spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), great chickweed (Stellaria pubera), Trillium spp. and Viola spp., and aestival herbs such as white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum), wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), and Aster spp. were most important. More than 23 species of herbs were eaten. Grasses, especially sedges (Carex spp.) were found in all seasons in all locations, although they were never a major component (0.6 to 8.3 percent) of the diet.

Roots and Bulbs

This category included woody roots, tubers, bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and other underground bodies. Roots and bulbs, predominantly spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) corms were an important part of spring and summer diet (25.2 and 31.1 percent). Only in summer, at low elevations, were woody roots found to be an important constituent (13.2 percent).


Mushrooms and other fungal material were found only during summer at low elevations (18.6 percent). It is not possible to identify these because of considerable mastication and digestion.


Invertebrates were found in all but two stomachs analyzed, although their percent composition is rather low (0.15 – 8.2 percent). Insects and other arthropods, as well as snails (Gastropoda) and earth worms (Oligochaeta), were found. Walking-stick insects (Phasmatidae) were very important during a period in the fall. Other insects found were helgramite (Corydalidae larvae) , several families of adult and larval beetles (Coleoptera) , caterpillars (Lepidoptera larvae) , fly larvae (Diptera) , and ants (Hymenoptera) . Other arthropods found were millipedes
(Diplopoda), centipedes (Chilopoda), and crayfish (Decapoda). There was no recognizable seasonal trend in types of invertebrates consumed, except that earthworms were only eaten during during warm months and at low elevations. There seems to be a trend in volume, however. Fall is very high compared to others, but this may be due to Cades Cove bias.


Frequency of occurrence for vertebrates was high (45 percent), although percent volume was low (0.0 to 2.3 percent). Salamanders (7 species) were especially common. Best estimates of absolute number of salamanders eaten in summer at high elevations is 1.75 salamanders per stomach, of which 1.33 were the endemic Red-cheeked salamander (Plethodon jordani jordanl) , with as many as 7 of that species of salamander in 1 stomach. Salamanders occurred in 53 percent of all stomachs examined. Small mammals were found, but were generally so severely masticated that identification was not made. Mice (Peromyscus spp.) and a shrew (Sorex spp.) were noted. Portions of 2 reptiles were found and also portions of an identified snake and a shell fragment of Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) . Several small feathers were found but these may have been consumed as litter. Other unidentifiable animal tissue, which may have been eaten as carrion, was also found.

From the bookshelf

For the past couple of months, we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this blog. I thought about the occasional post on our favorite comics or comic book movies or general pop culture stuff, but none of that sounded particularly interesting to write, which means it probably wouldn’t be very interesting to read either. The internet is chock full of pop culture chatter and reflection; there’s not much I can say about Spiderman or Star Wars that a listicle, meme or digital disquisition hasn’t covered somewhere.

From “Lacanian Themes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I spend a lot of my time online browsing archives of old and obscure texts. We thought it might be fun to share snippets of the animal adventures,  research or campfire stories I’ve found relevant to the storyline we’re following on a given week. For example, I have a post lined up this week from an old study on the seasonal eating habits of boars in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to coincide with the last page of “Brother Weird Goes to Market”. We all know Brother Weird’s a connoisseur, but what do his wild cousins eat?

Spoiler: They eat everything. Really.

We also find some really neat stuff on our social media rounds every week so we’ll do a links post every now and then. Plus, look out for sketches and other work that’s in progress. Maybe you’ll appreciate Heather’s work a little more when you see just how bad my “storyboards” are.

Anyway, just a quick note. Look out for the first “From the Bookshelf” post this week.