Category Archives: animals

CDC/FDA Boundary Creep

squire0515

The Center for Disease Prevention (CDC) is raising national alarms about salmonella in backyard flocks of chickens.  It advises a washing hands every time you touch your chickens, and not keeping them in your house or around food.  The CDC goes beyond reasonable with some of its other recommendations, suggesting the bureaucrats who wrote the guidelines know nothing about keeping live chickens.  Salmonellosis is generally a self-limited case of diarrhea that lasts from four to seven days without complications, except in special cases.  Pig ears that are used as dog chew toys are also suspected.

This flies all over me, because the CDC meanwhile is advertising measles vaccines for children, within the same Yahoo article.  The CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/backyardpoultry-05-19/index.html gives the CDC’s version of the salmonella story.

I know something about chickens, having kept them for over 11 years, and I know something about salmonella, having gone to medical school, where I learned it is rampant in the environment.  My medical texts say there are over 1000 strains of salmonella.  It says “salmonellosis” is caused by inadequately cooked food, especially meat, poultry, and eggs.  Fruits and vegetables which are fertilized with animal manure are also implicated.  What the medical texts say that the government agencies don’t tell you, is that processed food is also a source, because the bacteria survives drying.  Incidentally, a dried taco seasoning distributed by Walmart and others has recently been recalled because it is suspected of containing salmonella-contaminated cumin, a spice.

I’ve also been tracking the FDA and its food scares since the E. coli in the spinach scare in 2006.  E. coli usually is considered “normal flora,” in the human gut and aids in digestion.  It only becomes pathological when natural barriers break down.  Antibiotic therapy, which is widely used, not only in human but in animal diseases and as a preventative, wipes out bacteria indiscriminately, but it never completely eliminates the pathogens, giving rise to antibiotic-resistant strains that then proliferate, with nothing able to curb them.  That’s why hospital germs are the most dangerous of all.  Methacillin-resistant Staphlococcus aureus (MRSA) is a universally recognized strain of Staph aureus that requires extreme measures to control, and it can be fatal.

Meanwhile, the CDC is busy promoting the measles vaccine, as a new “epidemic” of measles is sweeping he world, with pockets of outbreaks, we are told, among un-vaccinated children.  The controversy over vaccines comes in tandem with the explosion of patented, prescription vaccines for everything from flu to Zika virus, but the controversy is political, not medical or scientific.  While the medical or scientific institutions take pro-or-con stands, there is little in the news or from “educated” sources giving both pros and cons, and few (maybe none) who understand or want to understand the larger picture.  Or, it may be too early to tell what the ramifications are.

We are all caught in context, and predictions abound, but the past gives more information because we have a sense of the outcomes.  The bubonic plague, which wiped out a third of Europe in the 1340s and 1350s, was blamed on God’s wrath and witchcraft back then, but was later discovered to be carried by fleas on the rats that infested the cities and ships.  We still have rats and fleas, but we don’t hear much about bubonic plague anymore, partly because sanitation and nutrition have improved and partly because centuries if exposure have produced varying degrees of resistance.  Even HIV, which was identified in 1983, has evolved from carrying a quick death sentence to becoming more of a chronic disease.  While the advances of modern medicine have contributed to the long-term survival of HIV and AIDS patients, it’s also possible that the disease itself goes through cycles of infectivity and potency.

The media publishes federal agency press releases as though they are news stories, without question, investigation, or suspicion that they are anything less than gospel.  But federal agencies like the CDC and FDA are increasingly guilty of “boundary creep” by taking on more and greater advocacy roles for patented vaccines and other drugs, or alternatively, against small, independent food producers.  In the years I’ve been monitoring the FDA, it has initiated food scares over spinach, peanuts, eggs, cantaloupes, poultry, and pet foods, to name a few, yet while the scares make national news, precipitate food recalls, and have forced some companies into bankruptcy, the scares generally are hyped-up bluster over limited illness and almost no mortality.

About this salmonella outbreak that has killed two people and hospitalized over 122 in multiple states so far, any discriminating reader, especially one with a medical background, might naturally question how the CDC arrived at this reported chain of events.  How did they know the salmonella outbreak was “caused” by chickens or pig ears?  How do they know the hospitalized cases are even the result of salmonella toxicity?  The processes involved to isolate a pathogen are time, labor, and financially intensive.  Most cases of infectious disease are treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics.  Salmonella is so widespread in the environment that anyone with low resistance—as from poor nutrition, bad sanitation, antibiotic use (which reduces normal, protective flora), or pre-existing illness–might be susceptible.

If the CDC is truly interested in public health, it might do more to educate the public about the broader aspects of health, instead of pushing the panic button over speculative claims and unverified reports.

In my eleven years of hugging and kissing my chickens—they are very affectionate—I have developed some health problems, but salmonella has never been one of them.  I have minor scars on both arms from being scratched, but the worst is the deformed left wrist, which I broke when I fell chasing the fox that was chasing my Squire.

When I picked Squire up with my dangling left wrist, it was the sweetest, most healing hug I’ve ever experienced.  I didn’t stop to clean the mud off my arm, and neither the “health care professional” who wrapped it, nor the one who set it in a cast, bothered to clean it , either.

This is the institutionalized version of “health care” today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Dog’s Life

bulldog

What is it about dogs?  In my long life, I have lived in too-close proximity to barking dogs, biting dogs, dogs that get in the trash cans, and dogs that poop and dig holes in the yard.  A dog killed my chicken, and another dog killed my cat.

I have been known to drive up a neighbor’s driveway at 3 a.m., blowing my horn and banging on the door until the dog owner answered.  I have yelled loud enough to be heard over the still-barking dog, which had a habit of keeping me awake for hours every night.  Those neighbors soon moved away, but in karmic retaliation, new neurotic neighbors with two barking dogs moved in.  The Yapper and the Woofer have prompted this complaint.

There are advantages to having neighbors who believe you are crazy.  Being crazy is easier than calling the police.  If I called, and police came at all, I imagine they would keep me awake even longer asking questions and filling out forms, and finally, not solving the problem.  No.  Police are worse than useless in situations like this.

From my perspective, there is nothing good about dogs, but other people like them, and they are legal, unlike my roosters.  Before I got roosters who like to crow, I was more likely to call neighbors to complain about their barking dogs.  Now, I have to play nicer, because the roosters are sort of illegal, meaning the county has decided not to enforce the anti-rooster ordinance unless neighbors object.

So, I’ve visited neighbors and asked them to let me know first if the roosters bother them.  Most don’t hear anything.  Those who do say they like the countrified sound of roosters crowing, so we are safe for now, as long as I keep the dogs away.

specscrows0515
Speckles crowing

My most effective dog-control strategy so far has been to bypass dog owners and develop a relationship with the dogs themselves.  When barking has continued too long, I start commiserating, telling the dogs how sorry I feel for them.  Their owners must really hate them, I yell, and I can understand why.  There is nothing good about dogs.  They are obnoxious and have no life.  I’ll bet their owners don’t feed them or give them water.  They are mean, neurotic people.  Poor dogs.

This has been known to quiet the dogs a few minutes.  Then I praise them, saying they are capable of learning something, after all.  They have at least one redeeming feature.  “Good dogs,” I say.  This gets them barking, again, but the barking doesn’t last long.

Then the roosters start crowing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Birdie Told Me

birdscreen050917

I rescued a bird today, a little fella that crashed into the picture window behind the bird feeders.  I saw it happen and ran outside to find him lying on his side on the deck.  He was still alive, panting.  He was identical to the bird that did the same thing yesterday, only yesterday’s bird didn’t survive the crash.  I found him later in the day, dead on the deck.

Today, though, I gathered the little bird in my hands, where he stood, apparently in shock.  He didn’t seem badly hurt.  Eyes were bright, but the left kept closing.  I checked my quickie, laminated bird identifier, then The Sibley Guide to Birds, but couldn’t identify him.  He was about five inches long, with plain greenish-brown body and a yellowish breast with brown spots.  Beak was long, like a warbler.

He sat in my hands for about 15 minutes, slowly becoming more alert, then took off and flew away.

This has happened before.  I’ve rescued other birds.  Most eventually revived, just as this one did.  Others have not been so lucky.  Today, though, I decided this hazard is too dangerous.  The window is so reflective and the feeders so popular that the juxtaposition presents a cruel trap.

So I created a bird safety net.  It consists of two panels of screen material that I made awhile back to hang from doors in warm weather, to keep insects out.  Two of three panels covering a sliding glass door got converted to a screen over the plate glass.  Hopefully it will reduce reflectivity and cushion any birds that fly into it.  It may even dilute the hot summer sun that turns the living room into an oven.

I spend most of the morning on this project, grateful for the tool room that provided the screwdriver, hooks and string necessary for this innovative bird-protective technology.

The experience made me think, once again, about how unpredictable life is.  Who could have anticipated I would have spent the morning making a safety net for birds?

squirebirdscreen050917

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where There Is Love . . .

camftosp0112

Above:  Chicks Toozie and Speckles dirt bathing, January, 2012

I re-read The Four Agreements, (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) over the weekend.  This is one of many spiritual/self-help/philosophy books that I enjoy reading from time to time.  They remind me that all is not what it seems.

The Four Agreements is short and seemingly simple, yet it reinforces concepts I’ve read in other places, albeit in different words.  Ruiz begins by claiming we all live in dream worlds, both individual and planetary dreams.  He relates this to the Indian (Hindu, Buddhist, and others) concept of “maya,” or “illusion.”  He says our planetary dream is a nightmare based on fear.

The remainder of the book describes “four agreements” a person can make to break the grip of fear and create a heaven instead of hell on earth.  These are, “Be impeccable in your word; Don’t take anything personally; Don’t make assumptions; and Always do your best.”

Ruiz cites the “nagual,” which is defined as a person in MesoAmerican culture who is a ‘sorcerer,” who can change shapes.  It also refers to the great unknown, beyond words or description.  Carlos Castaneda also made reference to the “nagual” in the person of his Yaqui Indian mentor in his series of books about don Juan and his teachings. (

Having read widely and extensively about spiritual teachings over the centuries and across cultures, I find a commonality that affirms we are all spiritual beings, although the paths to understanding may be different.  The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975) relates Oriental mystical tradition to modern quantum physics.  Here, time and space are perceived as relative and subservient to the cosmic “qi,” or essence of everything.  Seth, in the Jane Roberts series of channeled books, corroborates this idea and goes beyond it, saying we are limited only by our beliefs.  He emphasizes we create our own realities and that “the point of power is in the present.”

All seem to agree that we change the world by changing ourselves and our personal beliefs.

Ruiz’ claim that the world is ruled by fear struck home.  As I grow older and experience personal health problems, I’ve had to confront head-on a belief system that humbles and challenges me.  It tempts me to give in to fear.  It comes from outside but it also results from beliefs I took on, maybe by osmosis, or by conditioning, as Ruiz asserts.  Everything from advertising, which exploits fear and insecurity to sell products, to media, which uses fear to promote sensationalist agendas, to religion, which uses fear to subdue believers, is based on the notion that this is, and always will be, a world of suffering.

Is it, and must it be that way, I ask myself.  The answer from my inner core and from all the spiritual guidance books I read, is an emphatic “no.”  We can choose to be happy, as Ruiz most recently affirmed.

I watched a red-winged blackbird bathing in the watering dish outside my window yesterday.  As he splashed around, flinging sparkling droplets in a wide arc, I had to smile and admire him for his ability to find such ecstasy in this simple act.  It’s easy for a technologically-gifted human to provide that opportunity, and it makes me happy to see him enjoy it.

I get similar gratification from watching my chickens take their dirt baths.  They roll and loll in the dirt, creating little nest-shaped holes in the ground.

How hard can happiness be, I wondered, when we have no fear?

I’ve heard it said that “Where there is love, there is no fear.”  Google attributes this to John 4:18 in the Bible, specifically “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment . . . .”  I suspect this is not solely a Christian insight, as Ruiz also relates fear to punishment.

Then, I decided, once again, that it all comes down to love.  Even hate and fear are love turned upside down.

How to apply this understanding in a practical way remains a challenge for the “warrior” in the spiritual realm.

 

 

I Smell a Rat

September 8, 2016

by Dr. Kathorkian
an alter ego of katharineotto.wordpress.com

rat090616I am a murderer.  In defiance of my lifelong aversion to killing–war, capital punishment, abortion for me or by me (others have their own choices to make), physician-assisted suicide–I starved a rat this week by trapping him in the pantry.  I had already protected my edibles in a large metal trash can, because of the rat/mouse infestation that has plagued me for more than a year.

I’m the type of person who apologizes to blood-sucking mosquitoes before swatting them, but I’m absolutely opposed to the government spraying the marsh with malathion to kill mosquitoes at large, or the farming industry spreading pesticides willy-nilly over farmland.

I eat so little meat that I might as well be a vegetarian.  I like bacon but couldn’t kill a hog, even if I knew how, so that makes me a hypocrite. I have been known  to kill shrimp.  Blue crabs, too, but they are too much work to eat. Fish?  I’d rather not and don’t know how to fish.  Since I got chickens eight years ago, I have not eaten chicken.  I wonder these days how many people have even seen a live chicken, and if they had, could they kill and eat them?

squirecrowinghouse0815

S. Squire Rooster, Attorney, for the Law of the Land

As methods of murder go, poison exists in the same category as bombs, because they are generally non-specific.  I actually bought poison to control the rodents but took it back.  My intention was to feed the river with rat remains, thereby alleviating my guilt, but poison would have made that rat’s body dangerous for the wildlife I like.  Traps are messy, unreliable and non-specific, too. I have a cat and rooster to protect.  The main reason I have rats is because my rooster, Squire, lives in the house and the cat lives outside.  Rats really like chicken food, I discovered, especially sunflower seeds, and they leave husks, shreds of clothing, mouse turds, and urine wherever they go.

In the past couple of years, rats have eaten through refrigerator wiring, a washing machine drain hose, sofa bedding, clothes, walls, packages of food, drapes, and even through a hard plastic cat food container.  They have taken up residence behind the stove and eaten through and urinated on the insulation at the bottom.  Like the human rats in government, I’ve learned that if there is something you have that they want, they will find a way to get it or destroy it, and leave the stink behind.

socksie052316

Socksie by the marsh

Rat stink was making me sick, I decided, and cleaning up after them was pushing me to re-evaluate my excessively high moral standards.  I had visions of getting hemorrhagic fever from rat urine, bubonic plague from rat fleas, death by asphyxiation.  I bribed and threatened my cat, who watched the rats while they ate her food, then moved outdoors and refused to come back in.

I looked into getting a rat snake.  I discovered the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has outlawed selling native snakes. (The DNR is another blog, another day.) The local reptile dealer says he could be fined $20,000 and shut down if he sold one.

I prayed for a rat snake, and about two months ago, a black kingsnake dropped from heaven (actually out of the attic when I let the stairs down). He may be a cotton mouth moccasin, but he disappeared behind book shelves before I could fully identify him.   He didn’t reappear until my birthday in August, then showed briefly on the bathroom floor that night.  I almost stepped on him, but as before, he began to charge at me then disappeared again behind a cabinet, not to be seen again.  I saw traces of rat-blood on the floor and was grateful for the surprise birthday present.

rughole090816

The last straw

It took that rat about six days to starve to death while I deliberated about what to do.  The pantry became death row when I discovered a new three-inch hole, made by one of his friends, in a favorite antique wool rug. This sealed his fate, a scapegoat for my pent-up rage. I checked in on the prisoner every day or so, and usually didn’t see him.  The day before he died, or maybe the day he died, he was sniffing around the bottom of the door and seemed weak.  When I opened the door Tuesday and smelled dead animal, I knew he was gone.  I searched and found him inside an open box of plastic garbage bags, looking as though he were sleeping peacefully.  That was comforting, in a macabre way.  I took him outside and showed him to Socksie the cat.  She took a couple of whiffs and walked away.  I deposited him by river’s edge, and Wednesday morning he was gone.  I figure a racoon got him, thereby concluding the latest of my many scientific experiments on human and animal behavior.