Okay, here’s something I have wondered about for a long time.
Why do animals have tails?
I have been blessed with eight dogs in my lifetime, and they all had different temperaments. Among them, Ginger was especially feisty, Spot especially protective, Piper and Lexie especially loving. They all had personalities of their own — but they shared one thing in common — surprise — they all (originally) had tails!
Nowadays, Rusty has to represent all the others, and his tail is hardly up to it. Every one of the other seven had better tails than he does, all because, for some stupid reason, it is required that every small poodle has to have its tail docked. So his is a sorry excuse for a tail — it’s a little hairy knob on his rear end that looks like a big walnut fell off our tree out front and got stuck there. When he’s happy, it trembles a bit, when he’s friendly, it trembles a bit, when he’s mad, it trembles a bit. Now I ask you, what good to a dog is a tail that can’t even let the world know exactly how he feels.
I may have mentioned some other time, Jeep, my cocker spaniel, He also came from a breed that was automatically listed for tail docking, but, bless his heart, this was back during World War II and people were thinking of other things. I got him before the dastardly deed was done, and he lived to nine or ten proudly expressing himself with a long, feathery, eloquent tail. (Poor guy, I let the screen door close on him a mite early one time, and, to my horror, I later found a bloody little slice of tippy tail on the back porch. The wound healed quickly and made not one bit of difference in his general attitude, which was always a bit over the top, bless his furry little heart.)
Anyway, when you consider all the feelings that have to be repressed and all the emotions that have to be imperfectly signaled without a tail, you’ve gotta wonder why dogs are so often deprived of them. How can they be real dogs in every way without them?
Let’s examine for a moment exactly what they (and we) may be missing. Communicating and receiving generalized love and good will to all the world, that’s what. When a dog wags his tail and rubs against you, he’s showing you he loves you. When a cat waves his tail and rubs against you , he’s probably marking you with scent glands announcing that you are, “mine, mine, mine — I have chosen you to do my bidding! Be appropriately proud!” (I read somewhere that dogs have owners, cats have staff.) More than anything else, a dog’s wagging tail offers either full-blown love, or the promise of it.
In a Washington Post article a while ago, Howard J. Bennett gives us an idea about just how important tails are. The world would not be the same without them.
Just so you know, primates (not counting people) have either prehensile tails, that can more or less act as another arm, or non-prehensile ones that are used to swing, climb and jump. Can you imagine how docking tails like that would make a difference? Rattlesnakes have a rattle at the end of their tails that can warn intruders of danger. (I advise against docking this.) It’s made of the same substance as fingernails, which can lead a brain like mine to imagine a rattlesnake who wants to express herself with pink nail polish.
Birds steer with their tail feathers; woodpecker types brace themselves on their strong tails to peck out food from the bark of trees.. Sea creatures use their tails to propel and steer. Bet you didn’t know that fish tails move side to side and sea mammal tails move up and down.
Some deer flash the white undersides of their tails to warn other deer of danger. And then we have elephants, giraffes, and zebras whose long thin tails seem a little inappropriate to the rest of their dignity — with tufts on the end that serve the purpose of — you guessed it — fly swatters! (That’s Mother Nature for you, a laugh a minute.)
Foxes curl their bushy tails up like blankets to stay warm on cold days, and here’s one you’ll like — male hippos use their tails to spread their feces around so that other males stay out of their territory. Can’t imagine why.
All of us humans had tails as embryos, which works well for mermaids. For the rest of us, the tail moves inside by the time we are born where it serves the very useful purpose of balancing us as we sit. This tailbone at the end of the spine is called the coccyx (cok-siks) Or you can call it your tailbone, if you like. When it gets sore, it gets very very sore, so I advise you to put some moxie into your coccyx and keep it happy and healthy all your life.
This is all I know about tails. If it’s more than you wanted to know, stop reading now.
Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears in the Times-News on alternate Sundays.
Okay, here’s something I have wondered about for a long time.
Don’t do it
Temperatures have been moderate recently but are projected to rise to the upper 80s and low 90s later this week, so we want to remind you: Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.
He means well, and this time they spared his life
Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.
It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore
At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.
Sale of quart-sized Mason jars lagging, merchants claim
The opening day of Maryland’s squirrel hunting season is Sept. 6 and I am guessing you will be able to drive a lot of miles on the Green Ridge State Forest and see very few vehicles belonging to hunters of the bushytail. It wasn’t always that way. In the early 1960s, when I was a high school student in Cumberland, there was no Interstate 68. What existed was U.S. Route 40 and in the last couple of hours before daylight on the opening day of squirrel season there was an almost unbroken line of tail lights and brake lights between Cumberland and Polish Mountain.
Columnist, son are range finders, but where are .22 shells?
We feel pretty lucky on this side of the Potomac to have a nice shooting range to utilize for free and within decent driving distance.
Opposition and inclusion understood
Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.
Kicking the can down the road was one of the things American kids did to pass the time in the old days, particularly if they lived in rural areas where there was little traffic to contend with.
Further proof you should never bet on baseball
Had you known in March that ...
Build it now
Anticipated savings from demolition work that will provide ground for a new Allegany High School on Haystack Mountain may allow the addition of an auditorium at the school.
Fronts, highs, lows determine weather
Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.
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