BABY. PORCUPINE.

SQUEEEEEE!!

Julie Larsen Maher_1650_North American Porcupine Porcupette_CZ _BZ_08 07 15

Photos by Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

Julie Larsen Maher_1646_North American Porcupine Porcupette_CZ _BZ_08 07 15A baby North American porcupine was born at WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) Bronx Zoo and is on exhibit with its family in the newly renovated Children’s Zoo.

The young male porcupine was born on July 28 to mother, Alice, and father, Patrick. This is the pair’s third offspring.

The porcupine’s most recognizable physical characteristic is its spiky quills. They can have as many as 30,000 quills covering their bodies and use them as a defense against predators. Despite popular belief, porcupines cannot shoot their quills. The quills of the North American porcupine have a tiny barb on the tip that, when hooked in flesh, pull the quill from the porcupine’s skin and painfully imbed it in a predator’s face, paws or body.

At birth, the quills are very soft. They begin to harden a few hours after birth and continue to harden and grow as the baby matures.

Young porcupines begin eating solid food as early as three weeks old, but will continue to nurse for about three months.

For more information or to speak with a WCS expert, contact Max Pulsinelli at 718-220-5182 or mpulsinelli@wcs.org.

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My dog is dying.

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Skunky & I went on a long, 2.5 hour walk the other day. Yes, I brought water with us. He’s not the quick walker he once was, but I think he enjoyed walking along the Hudson River from the other side. Some of his best years were spent walking along the Hudson from the Washington Heights/Harlem side.

My dog is ill. He is dying, and I think it might be time to let him go.

Last month, when I found out the tumor on the roof of Skunky’s mouth was malignant (with hemangiosarcoma, a cancer that most often affects dogs), I felt numb to the news, in part, because, aside from being a little less active (he is 14, after all), he seemed fine. He was still eating normally and happy as ever to get out of the house and go for a walk.

The vet, who told me he would advise his own mother against putting the dog through chemo, radiation, or cryosurgery, told me to spoil him rotten, make him comfortable, and to monitor his quality of life as I’d know when it was time to let him go.

As a kid, if a horse or dog had to be put down in a book I was reading or a movie I watched, I never understood it. Why couldn’t the doctor patch them up?

But in the vet’s office that day, I recalled a time when I took Skunky to Inwood Hill Park when we lived in northern Manhattan some years ago. It was late fall, an absolute beautiful time in that park, and during our walk, we passed by a man wheeling his German Shepherd-mix around the trail on a dolly as, presumably, his elderly dog could no longer walk. That was no life for the animal, I thought to myself. That’s selfish. That’s keeping the dog around for the owner, and I won’t ever do that, I thought.

And now, I find myself at that fork in the road. Yesterday, one side of his snout began to swell. Again, he is still eating and will go on a walk, but the swelling looks pretty bad. And he knows that I know something is up. When I look at him, or pet him gently, he starts to wag and gives me that look of shame he so often gave me as a pup if he thought he did something wrong.

I think it’s time to have him put to sleep. I know I will miss how he greets me when I get in. I will miss his extreme loyalty that ensures he never leaves my side. He’s part of the family, and that’s why my mom, brother, brother’s girlfriend, and the other pet living in the house (a shorkie!), don’t seem quite ready for him to go.  (This is partly why I feel guilty about having to make this decision.)

I spoke with a colleague about this a few weeks ago, as he worked at a veterinary technician many years ago, and he said, more often than not, owners wait too long. It’s not like a pet can tell us if they’re really suffering, right? He assured me the dog wouldn’t feel a thing when being euthanized. That gave me some comfort.

But it’s still tough.

You see, this is happening at a time when my own father is nearing the end of his life. A very strong man who never had any health problems aside from his Parkinson’s disease, he’s been living in a nursing home for the past seven months. My father is not suffering, per se, but I wouldn’t say he has a great quality of life.

He is incontinent. His limbs are contracting. He is fed through a peg tube. He relies on nurse’s aides to reposition him every two hours. His ability to speak is pretty much gone. He does attempt to let us know when he is in pain. Sometimes, it’s not that, but it’s tough to understand what he is trying to tell us.

The best we can all do is make sure he’s as comfortable as possible. I thank the staff at the nursing home for doing that as best they can.

In many ways, it feels like he is already gone. I always loved talking to my father (he’s a very jovial and funny man) and I haven’t been able to do that in a long while. But, he’s not gone, and this is why 2015 has been a limbo year for me. I am constantly waiting for a shoe to drop. I cannot, I will not, enjoy myself. Being social is the last thing on my mind because it doesn’t feel right.

I control that, and I know I can make a better effort to “live my life” while my dad is at the nursing home, and while Skunky lives his last doggie days. But right now, I can’t seem to find my footing.

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I miss Barcelona

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Riding with the wind

My father has been doing somewhat better. He continues to stay free of any infections, and I’ve been sitting him up whenever I visit. It’s tough, his arm and leg muscles seem to get more contracted as he’s been bedridden for six months now, but I don’t care; I see him more alert and awake when I help him sit up.

In the meantime, a hobby that my father enjoyed in his 20s is something I’ve picked up: cycling. I use a Giant Sedona CX (2005) for riding around Jersey City, and various New Jersey parks. I had a great two and a half hour ride along the Hudson waterfront, from Newport in Jersey City to Weehawken this past weekend.

I also have a a Citizen Tokyo folding bike for shopping at the produce market nearby. It’s ideal for short trips only.

And I just bought a 2011 Jamis commuter 3 bike for CITY riding! I rode an hour through Central Park today, up to 110th street and back to the Columbus Circle area. It was hot today, but that doesn’t stop the action in Central Park, which was full of runners, cyclers, roller bladers, and more.

I can see why my dad loved to ride his bike. (I remember he rode a Gazelle.) Like running, it clears the mind, but it’s much more relaxing. Something about that wind hitting your face. (I imagine it’s what people who ride motorcycles love, too.)

And, of course, I’m doing something I know my father loved.

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All hands on deck, but not really

Screen shot 2015-06-14 at 11.31.48 PMThis weekend was supposed to have been an all-hands on deck situation.

I surprised my mother with a trip to Miami to visit her mother last month, and the trip was this weekend. I had to surprise her because had I waited for her blessing to buy the airline ticket, it would have never happened. Her mother — my grandmother — is 97, and has suffered from Alzheimer’s for many years, and last month, after a stroke, doctors told my aunt — her caregiver — to start planning for end-of-life.

Somehow my grandmother got better, though she is now living in a nursing home, but I still thought my mom should go see her. It had been two years, because, as I’ve explained before, she is my father’s caretaker (Parkinson’s.)

So, of course, my mom’s main concern is who would be there to visit my dad in the nursing home in her absence. That the man is confined to a bed is bad enough; that the bed is not in his own home is the part that we struggle with on a daily basis. Of course, I imagined it would be me, but asked my brothers to support, which I assumed they’d do. I told them they didn’t need to stay there for hours but just drop in.

They didn’t. I had to beg one to go today, and still went to visit him myself later, of course. I can’t not go, and that part is fine.

I am constantly reading up about how to deal with change, or deal with anger when situations are out of your control. I know I have to just deal with it, but it still sucks.

It wasn’t just about visiting my dad. I noticed my mother was low on basic essentials she needed in the house. It’s not a money thing; it’s a time thing, so I did one massive grocery shop. I did absolutely nothing social this weekend (unlike them) and that part is fine, but it still sucks.

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I don’t care if you don’t like me; I love me *wink*

'... don’t be too pushy … because you have to be likeable. And I say that is bullshit.' PREACH, Chimamanda. Preach!

‘… don’t be too pushy … because you have to be likeable. And I say that is bullshit.’ PREACH, Chimamanda. Preach!

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who first came to my attention when her novel, Americanah, became a New York Times best-seller, and when audio of a speech of hers ended up in the Beyonce song, “Flawless,” is, as Blavity puts it, *everything.*

I’m such a fan of her feminist views. And, of course, the excerpt in Flawless is the kind of thing that should be required reading in the 5th grade:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls,
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man.”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes”

I can’t help but think of my five-year-old niece when I read her views. This latest one, which, in a perfect world, is taught to every little girl in the world, is from a speech she gave at the 2015 Girls Write Now Awards in New York City, where she was named the groundbreaker honoree.

Via Blavity:

During her speech, Adichie spoke less about her stellar accomplishments and more about why young girls and women shouldn’t care about being liked when trying to pave their paths as writers and storytellers.

“Forget about likability,” the 37-year-old exclaimed. “I think that what our society teaches young girls — and I think that it’s something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists, to shrug off — is this idea that likeability is an essential part of the space you occupy in the world. That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes to make yourself likeable. That you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back. Don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy … because you have to be likeable. And I say that is bullshit.”

And, with that, I’ll leave you with one of the best little girls to ever grace Vine:

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A damn shame FIFA’s Sepp Blatter wasn’t arrested …

Sepp Blatter is living that 5-star hotel life.

Sepp Blatter is living that 5-star hotel life.

Upon hearing about the arrest of several top FIFA officials this morning, I couldn’t help but think of this profile of Sepp Blatter in the April 30 edition of Bloomberg Businessweek, which details some shadiness of the governing body:

The headquarters of FIFA takes up about 11 acres on a wooded hill above Zurich. Two soccer fields abut a main building that’s wrapped in aluminum webbing, allowing light to stream into a welcoming atrium. Blatter oversaw the construction of the compound, which was finished in 2007 and cost about 240 million Swiss francs ($255 million), and has pointed to its transparent design as an expression of FIFA’s values. Maybe, but FIFA’s legal department demands that some visitors sign nondisclosure agreements for otherwise routine meetings, and five of the building’s eight levels are underground. On a recent visit, cell phones were rendered useless in the depths, sheathed as they are in black, Brazilian granite. In a Strangelovian lair on the third subterranean level, Blatter holds executive committee meetings in a conference room with a floor of lapis lazuli. The room is lit by a round, crystal chandelier meant to evoke a soccer stadium.

FIFA’s money doesn’t always result in much more than new office space for local soccer officials. The organization has sent more than $2 million to the Caymans since 2002 to build a headquarters and world-class soccer fields as a base for its national teams; ­the men’s team is ranked 191st in the world. Blatter flew in for the groundbreaking ceremony in 2009. “Cayman has not yet qualified for the World Cup,” he told the assembled dignitaries, according to a local press account. “But I’m sure that one day you will make it. We can help.” The headquarters has been built, along with one field, but the land was too salty to grow grass, so the Caymans association is replacing it with artificial turf.

Although the men’s team from the Caymans usually loses—in March, its first international match in more than three years resulted in a goalless tie with Belize (rank: 159)—the Cayman Islands Football Association is one of the biggest powers at FIFA. Webb’s regional confederation nominated the Caymans’ treasurer, Canover Watson, to FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, the panel that’s supposed to be international soccer’s bulwark against corruption. In November, Caymanian authorities charged Watson with money laundering and fraud related to his role as chairman of the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority; he allegedly steered contracts to a business in which he had a financial interest. FIFA has temporarily suspended Watson from the audit committee. Watson declined to comment but has denied the charges.

It’s worth a read. I guess I can’t be surprised Blatter wasn’t arrested. He seems super well-protected.

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