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
July gotcha down? Maybe these will help
•In a hospital's Intensive Care Unit, patients always died in the same bed on Sunday morning, at about 11:00 a.m., regardless of their medical condition. This puzzled the doctors and some even thought it had something to do with the super natural. No one could solve the mystery as to why the deaths occurred around 11 a.m. Sunday, so a worldwide team of experts was assembled to investigate the cause of the incidents. The next Sunday morning, a few minutes before 11 a.m. all of the doctors and nurses nervously waited outside the ward to see for themselves what the terrible phenomenon was all about. Some were holding wooden crosses, prayer books, and other holy objects to ward off the evil spirits. Just when the clock struck 11, Pookie Johnson, the part-time Sunday sweeper, entered the ward and unplugged the life support system so he could use the vacuum cleaner.
Hiccup cure you may find hard to swallow
Let’s give a cheer for one of the things in the human experience that the scientific researchers haven’t fully figured out yet: how to cure hiccups! Somehow it kind of restores your faith in the world, doesn’t it?
But don’t think they haven’t tried.
She learned to laugh with relatives’ help
Sometimes there are people in our lives whom we have never credited with all the influence they had on us when we were growing up.And now it is too late to thank them personally. I am about 50 years past due on this one (or two) but maybe somehow, somewhere they will get a hint of it — and — smile. Fondly, I think..
Signs of aging and what comes with it
It’s been awhile since I last informed you of new signs of old age, and meanwhile none of us have gotten any younger. (I’m working on it, I’m working on it.) I find one of the best things I can do to stay young is to read the obituaries. It reminds you that you are still alive and there are times in one’s life when that can be a serious concern. Of course, the trick is to avoid reading the obituaries for people you know, first checking the pictures for familiar faces. But for the folks you never met, they are remarkably invigorating, especially if they were older than you are. It gives you a goal in life — and we all need goals, right?
Torn between failing in two different fields
Which do I like better, singing or writing?
That's a tough question to answer.
Singing's got it all over writing as far as when I started (at about 5 in the church choir) but writing is certainly a close second. I have somewhere a collection of poems that I wrote from about eight on and I have the feeling that they are lost for a reason! As I remember, they were pretty awful, not at all the kind of effort an aspiring writer would be proud to quote 75 years later!
Bad habits are hard to eliminate — but try
Somebody mentioned smoking on these pages recently, so I thought I'd put in my own two cents on the subject. I started smoking in college, during exam week. The problem was that I was too busy during the rest of the year ever to stop and study for my courses — at least that is what I told myself — because I worked almost every night on the college newspaper. So when exam time kicked in, I threw some all-nighters for study. And the best way to stay awake all night (especially if you don't regularly smoke) is to, well, smoke.
Trivial questions you don’t have to answer
Every so often in this life, my mind, all on its own, generates questions that have no real answers. So I have decided to pass them on to you. I’m tired of them. If you come up with any answers, let me know. Remember when TV jealously guarded the time zone before 9 p.m. for wholesome shows that children could watch. My gosh, how many years ago was that? It seems like another world nowadays, when you can see murders, torture and rape, or those implied, every hour on the hour, somewhere on your public screen. It might be comforting then, to remember that most children nowadays are glued to their little machines with whole different worlds on them, that they can access all day long. Except that in these different worlds they also can view murders, torture and rape on demand.
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.
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