Thoughts & Views: Ferreting out the furry facts

This is not a poodle

This is not a poodle



Okay, enough with the serious stuff. It’s time for another column of absurdities, or another absurd column. Your call.

Animals are always good copy so let’s start with the creature pictured to the right. You may already know the story because it broke last month, but in case you didn’t hear about it, I am here to enlighten you. Besides, no matter how many times I look at that photo, I laugh.

This animal is supposed to be a “toy poodle.” That’s what the man who bought it at an Argentine bazaar thought. It turned out to be a ferret on steroids.

Apparently dishonest “dog” breeders in Argentina have been feeding the growth hormones to baby ferrets, bulking them up to resemble (vaguely) a canine. Then the ferret’s fur is fluffed up like a poodle’s.

We do not know how the buyer discovered he had been duped. When his “poodle” wouldn’t bark? When he couldn’t teach it to sit up and beg? When it showed no interest in fire hydrants?

Personally, we would have kept the ferret. It’s adorable.

Looking for other critter-related news, I moused on over to the website of the journal Nature to find out more about a story on fish communicating with each other, and I encountered the following headlines:

“Pyroclastic passage zones in glaciovolcanic sequences”

“Self-sustained oscillations of a torsional SQUID resonator induced by Lorentz-force back-action”

“Genomic deletions disrupt nitrogen metabolism pathways of a cyanobacterial diatom symbiont”

About the only words I understood were “in,” “by,” “of” and “a”. But then, I learned my headline-writing craft at the newspaper that, in 1975, gave the world the classic “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

I can just hear my old copy desk chief growling, “’Glaciovolcanic’ is not a headline word!” “Headline words” refer to short, catchy ones that pack more info into one lline and that will grab readers’ attention.

“Chief Executive to Metropolis: Expire Immediately” would not have had the same punch.

But I digress.

The news about fish is that certain species apparently communicate with each other via head movements to indicate where among the rocks and coral other fish (the ones they feed on) are hiding. Also, I have learned, some fish use eels as helpers: They direct the eels to the hiding places; the eels, being squirmier, can get inside the crevices, chase or pull out the prey, and everyone shares the feast.

And you thought the apes would inherit the planet.

Speaking of headlines. A headline on a story on reads:

“Why Some Poison Frogs Taste Bittersweet When Licked”

Make up your own comment for that one.

– Karen Zautyk

The Observer Staff