Look At The Tiny Nibbler!

Tiny Baby Rabbit

I can’t believe how tiny this baby bunny is!

And I can’t believe that I said it was OK for my neighbor, Dan, to put Little Baby Rabbit in my yard… because it’s not like we don’t have enough rabbits. In just one patch of our (rather small) front yard last night we had four adult rabbits happily chomping on clover.

Tiny Baby Bunny

How could I say no? He’s adorable. And he needed sanctuary. Who could resist? I mean – just take a look. See that heart-shaped leaf in the upper left hand side of the image? It’s a cloverleaf violet. Now, think about how big a cloverleaf violet’s leaf is. Not very big. So, compare the size of the cloverleaf violet to the size of the bunny, and you’ll get an idea of just how teeny tiny Little Baby Rabbit is! (update: major brain fart in original post – kept thinking violet and writing cloverleaf. At 94F, it’s obviously way too hot for a brain that’s accustomed to -10F to function reliably.)

I know, I know. Baby Bunny is going to grow up fat and sassy from eating my flowers. But it needed a new home, as this little cutie had been discovered by Rudy. A very fast-acting Dan literally pulled it from within Rudy’s jaws. Poor Rudy! You could see him going, “Wadda ya mean, drop it! Dad! I’m a dog! I’m supposed to catch rabbits, right? No way am I gonna drop it. Right? Right? Oh. Wrong. Dang.”

The bunny was fine when Dan got it, which is amazing because this is one little bunny and Rudy is one big dog. After it got over its fright, it was hopping around with nary a problem and… yes… inspecting the yummy flowers. So when Dan asked, what were my options? Give BB a home or… um, well, what options? I mean, just look at those tiny bitty ears! Is there anything cuter than a bitty bunny and its little bitty ears?

*sigh*

I’m a softie. I admit it. Next thing you know, I’ll be planting carrots. For them.

Of Myths and Mosquitoes

Female Anopheles albimanus mosquito, a vector of malaria.  This image is in the public domain, and is #7861 in the U.S. Center for Disease Control's Public Health Image Library (PHIL).

Here’s a question that I was asked this weekend, one which I’ve been asked more than once: how anyone can justify the ban on DDT when millions of people are dying of malaria?

It’s a good question.

Unfortunately, it’s the wrong question. It’s wrong because it’s based on three premises:

  1. DDT has been banned;
  2. In areas where mosquitoes are endemic millions are needlessly suffering and dying from malaria deaths that are preventable if spraying DDT is allowed; and
  3. DDT is a panacea that strikes down mosquitoes without fail.

All three premises are wrong.

First, DDT has not been banned in most areas where malarial illness is endemic. In fact, even in the United States, DDT may be used under a “special use” clause in cases where there is an outbreak of mosquito-borne disease such as malaria.

Second, in areas such as Africa, guess what? Spraying DDT is allowed. So those millions that are dying from malaria (which is indeed happening and is indeed horrible) aren’t dying because DDT is banned. So what’s the deal there? The answer is that in poorer countries, like those in Africa, in order to use DDT (or any other chemical) for insect control correctly, you need the infrastructure in place to actually carry out your plans. That infrastructure simply doesn’t exist in the war-torn and poverty-stricken African (and other) areas where malaria is endemic. Additionally, spraying for insect control is only one piece of a very complex problem when it comes to the control and elimination of malaria. All of those pieces need to be addressed for success.

Third, the world’s mosquito population has became resistant to DDT. That means that the mosquito of today isn’t the mosquito of 1950. Just like germs that are now resistant to certain antibiotics, mosquitoes are resistant to DDT. So countries that have used DDT have found it’s no longer particularly effective at killing mosquitoes.

So what does work?

  1. Where possible, kill mosquitoes when they are still larvae. That is more effective than spraying to kill adult mosquitoes. Use the least toxic method to do so, such as vegetable-based oils added to standing water. The oil suffocates the larvae with minimal negative effect on fish, wildlife or humans, and is cheap, biodegradable and widely available even in poor countries. And because it works based on a mechanical function (it suffocates the larvae), mosquitoes don’t develop resistance to it.
  2. Support organizations that are working to get bed netting to every individual at risk, and trying to especially help countries where poverty-ridden families can’t afford to buy bed netting for themselves. Bed netting is one of the most effective and economical solutions possible for preventing malaria. It works.
  3. Treat individuals who have malaria with drugs that kill the parasite, not the older drugs that control the symptoms. If you eliminate the parasite from humans, then a mosquito can’t bite an infected person and then transmit the parasite it sucks in with the blood to another human. That requires drugs and the actual treatment using those drugs to get to the right places, a daunting task but one that countries like Brazil have successfully undertaken.
  4. Until research provides us with insecticides that aren’t toxic to anything but what they’re aimed at killing, use products that have the least collateral damage to non-target species. Translated: it doesn’t help to kill mosquitoes if you kill the birds that eat the mosquitoes, and seriously harm (or kill) the other wildlife and humans that you’re trying to protect.

Underlying all of this, btw, is a fourth false premise: DDT is pretty safe. Everyone knows that Rachel Carson was a wingnut, and the loony-left-granola-crunching-tree-huggers can’t trot out a single bit of evidence that proves DDT is a problem.

Wrong again.

I could list quite a few studies and authorities, but I think I’ll let the United States Fish and Wildlife Service sum it up:

The Service continued to conduct studies on, and to voice its concern over, the effects of DDT on fish and wildlife for more than 25 years. It was not until 1972, and then because of the potential harm to human health, that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of DDT in the United States barring a public health or economic emergency.

And that decision was made before scientists even began to scratch the surface on how DDT is a strong endocrine disruptor, with the potential to cause reproductive, behavioral, immune system and neurological problems.

So, about that ban on DDT which is causing the loss of millions of innocent human lives?

It’s a myth.

If… you’ll be a Man my son!

Sometimes, if you are lucky, you get to see a child you helped raise in a light that tells you that they are, without a doubt, a human being you are proud to know.

Today was that day for us, regarding a young man I’ll call A. We helped A along the path of life when he, his sister and his mother were in the midst of sorting out how to move on after escaping from a brually abusive father and husband. The courts had banned the father from any contact ever with them (yes, it was that bad). We were matched through the county social services agency with them to help give the mom parental support and give A and his sister, who were 10 and 11 years old at the time, the loving support and attention and safety they needed. It worked for all of us, and gave us a sort of semi-blended family that’s been a great blessing for us.

This morning, as they were walking out of the funeral home where A’s grandfather’s memorial service had just been held, Michael and A witnessed an elderly couple, mourners who had attended the funeral, mistakenly pull out in front of another vehicle on a four-lane high-speed highway. The couple was struck broadside, with no chance for the driver of the other vehicle to avoid hitting them at a high rate of speed.

Without pause, Michael and A sprinted full out to the two vehicles, knowing one another so well that they didn’t waste time telling each other what needed to be done, who should do what, or how. A took charge of the occupants of one vehicle while Michael took the other, assessing injuries, directing other volunteers as they arrived, managing traffic around the accident site on this busy major highway and handling 911 information to brief the emergency personnel as to what to expect when they arrived. It was a terrible accident, but I am happy to say that in spite of the seriousness of the situation, everyone survived.

You can’t teach a kid to do what A did today. You can provide an example, you can teach them what you hope is going to get them through life, you can love them to bits, but what A did today? That comes from within. Very few people can handle what Michael and A handled today, much less deal with that kind of situation while they are literally walking out the door from attending the funeral of a beloved family member.

We couldn’t be prouder of A, or happier with the kind of man he has become.

Heeeeere’s Abbey!

As promised, here’s the video of my neighbor’s dog, Abbey, doin’ what I can only call “Abbey Aerobics.”

She’s definitely persistent, no? And check out the hang-dog look of her buddy Rudy, who keeps checking out her progress. You can just see him saying, “Dude, that is so not right… but if you find something yummy, remember — you hafta share!”

BTW, as I recall this video is just an excerpt. Abbey kept this up for the full length the camera was set to record, which I think was at least half an hour!

(P.S. I spelled Abbey’s name wrong in the previous post – forgot the “e.” Oops!)

Look At That Smile!

Abby the buff and white cocker spaniel and her sweet smile

This is Abby, the delightful Cocker Spaniel who lives next door. You’ve already met my neighbor’s dog Rudy, a handsome lad of unknown parentage who would just loooove to catch one of those pesky bunnies that hop about the yard and is sure he’ll succeed in his life ambition. Some day. Maybe. After he gets done playing catch. And snuffling about in the raspberry patch. And racing around at random whimsical intervals. Sure. He’ll look into catching that bunny. Again. Maybe.

Abby is as sweet and well mannered a pooch as you’ll ever meet. I’ve had a life-long love of Cockers, and as a child used to pet-sit for three different Cockers when their owners went on vacation. One was a buff, one a black and white, and the third a deep shiny black. All three had sunny personalities, much like Abby, and seeing her smiling face brings back very good memories of those much-beloved dogs. One of my riding buddies in graduate school also had a Cocker Spaniel, a spectacular buff-colored male she’d named Travis. Travis was a total hoot, as cute as a button and a real pistol. His favorite thing was visiting the barn’s compost/manure pile if he could sneak out there. I’ve never met a dog more devoted to rolling in horse manure than Travis. The riper, the better, I might add – pee-eewww!

Come to think of it, Abby does have one vice that also makes me laugh: she is the world’s most devoted when-her-owners-are-away-it’s-time-to-raid-the-indoor-garbage-can thief. Just ask my neighbor. He set up a remote camera to catch her doing it when they were away, and got some of the most hysterical video I’ve ever seen.

Geez, I wonder if Dan ever put that video up on YouTube… I hope so. If he has, Oh Best Beloved, I’ll post a link later in the week. It’s priceless!