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
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.)
Things to watch out for as you get older
Time goes so fast these days that I have been known to put a couple of years on in less than six months. And it doesn’t even make sense, because theoretically time should go more slowly the older you get. Everything else does — why not time? But it doesn’t seem to work like that. Can someone explain to me please how yesterday got finished while I was still getting up.
Maude needs a rest, no bones about it
Mom couldn’t think of anything to write this week so I tried to be helpful. I suggested a column about bones, and one about sniffing versus licking, and one about the delightful appeal of female dogs compared to that of male dogs. (Even if you’re what Mom calls fixed, whatever that is.)
Age brings wisdom ... or strong opinions
Some places, I tell you, I will never go!
Mostly, I’m not talking places on the map, but places of expression, or position, or opinion. For instance, as you already know, I will never, never, never in my life say “Oh My God.” Unless, of course, OMG stands for Oh My Goodness, which I have used for years — hey, then I’m with you!
This will really fix whatever’s ailing you
Testosterone! That’s what I’m talkin’ about right now. And, you can’t stop me. I feel as if I’ve had a shot of the stuff and I’m rarin’ to fight. Because that’s what testosterone often does — makes you want to fight.
Wear hearing aids; you won’t be sorry
For 40 or 50 years I have worn hearing aids, and all I can say is, God bless whoever invented them! According to Google, it was in the 17th century, but you’d never know it to look at them. Ear trumpets are not what I’m talkin’ about!
Little decisions can make life difficult
Life is so full of Little Ethical Decisions.
Nothing that will change the world, you understand. Nothing like whether to use the atomic bomb on our next military adventure (Dumbfoundingly, some do consider it.)
At times, you want to stay in the jungle
And while I’m drumming away in 2013, here’s a column from 2010:
Funny how the memory works. The other day I was putzing around watching a kind neighbor snowblow my driveway. (Thank you, Steve). In the very midst of the storm, while I was checking the progress of a 2-yard icicle hanging from my roof (gorgeous!), these words gradually filtered into my consciousness:
Here’s a memory nobody could forget
Here’s hoping you don’t remember that I wrote about this many years ago. But I doubt if you were one of my two readers then. So I feel safe telling you that every year about this time I think back to one of the most memorable experiences of my life — apart from personal milestones, THE most memorable experience of my life. And I have to smile.
The worse they get, the better they are
If you are like most people, you should avert your eyes and pretend you didn’t see this column. It is full of bad jokes and worse puns. (The worst part of it is that my computer is confused and may have included some jokes you have seen before. I apologize for that.)
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