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.
- Maude McDaniel - Living
Rusty writes about the nature of doghood
I am a dog.
Therefore I bark.
I don’t understand why it is so hard for humans to understand this.
I mean, there are certain things that come with the territory, right?
Free-range reminiscing and occasional nostalgia
When I was in grade school, (many more years ago than when either of you were in grade school) my daily winter (fall, spring) routine included walking to school across a railroad track.
Beatles return us to what might have been
Here’s a a free gift from Goldy (to your left), and it should get us going with a good laugh, that both my readers will approve of. Then, after that (fair warning) I am going to turn a little sour.
What’s missing in TV cooking shows? Lots
As if badmouthing cupcakes isn’t bad enough — I have to go on and say this: I think the plates of food that are winning so many of the prizes on the Food Channel are well — boring.
Only one person doesn’t like cupcakes
Cupcake-wise, the last four or five years have ballooned into a huge plus for almost any bakery that attempts them. (Not to mention the ballooning of many of the individuals involved.) You could call cupcakes the up-cakes of our time. Well, you could, but I guess only I would, and even then only in a column on a very good day, when everything else was go!
Some of us are ‘privy’ to certain information
Outhouses used to be an object of fascination for me. (and in fact I wrote a column about them in 2007. Since we have all forgotten that, I decided to write another one this week.
Just the right thing for very cold weather
Beginning the new year with a tasty recipe always seemed like a good idea to me. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it should be a healthy recipe, and I’m a little short of those. It turns out that the period I learned to cook in (the 40s and 50s) was not noted for its general nutritional values. Although, of course, we thought we were pretty much on course there. Later, the next generation informed us that we were way off track and what did we mean by raising them in such unwholesome habits. (Foodwise, I mean. They arrived at certain other unwholesome habits on their own.)
Who thinks these things up, anyway?
Here are some of the best jokes (of the email world) in 2013. Have a Happy New Year, as I plan to!
How do we compare with rest of the U.S.?
I recently purchased “The World Almanac 2014,” reviewing events of this year, energy, government, science and technology, past and present celebrities, U.S. and world history, nations of the world and sports.
Old houses and furnaces and a different world
Nine houses and four dorms. That’s how many places I have lived in my lifetime, and I remember each of them, well, not vividly but with great fondness. Not a one of them was a bad experience, in fact, good things happened at each place. (Bad things too, but that’s life.)
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