Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for December, 2007

Losing your house? Don’t lose your pets!

On Dec. 22, Times staff writer John Simerman wrote a story about pets becoming a casualty of the foreclosure epidemic. People who have to move out sometimes don’t or can’t take their animals with them.

Real estate agents who specialize in foreclosed properties now sometimes find themselves also rescuing pets that have been left behind.

Tony La Russa, co-founder of Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), shocked after reading the above story, immediately made the following two Public Service Announcements (PSA) and sent them out to Bay Area radio and TV stations. If you know pet owners in the process of losing their home who could use a little help from their friends with their pets … please have them contact ARF for some assistance. Thanks.

Recently California had more than 39,000 foreclosure filings.
Increasingly, pet owners who lose their homes are abandoning their pets, often with tragic results.
If you face losing your home and pet, or would like to get involved helping others, please contact ARF at 925-256-1ARF (925-256-1273) or visit
If you lose your home, please don’t abandon your pets, please contact ARF.

Household foreclosures are at epidemic levels. Too often homeowners with a pet family member are facing the loss of their homes and pets.
Please don’t abandon your pets. If you need help or to be a part of the solution, contact ARF at 925-256-1ARF (925-256-1273) or

Thanks for caring. /gary

Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2007
Under: Animal welfare, ARF | No Comments »

Tiger attack (continued) …

Seems like an awful lot of fingers are being pointed at the three young men who were attacked — and one of them killed — by the Siberian tiger at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day.

Insinuations are being bandied about that the three men may have “leaped over the wall and taunted the animal.” Reports are also being publicized about the past criminal records of the three men.

So what has all that got to do with being attacked by a tiger?

No matter what those men may or may not have done to provoke that tiger … we must not forget that the bottom line here is that the tiger should NOT have been able to escape from its enclosure.

Taunting, teasing, throwing stuff, yelling, or having a criminal record have NOTHING to do with the fact that the tiger was somehow able to escape from its cage.

That responsibility falls directly on the San Francisco Zoo — and no one else.

Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007
Under: tiger attack, Zoos | No Comments »

Pit bulls maul woman to death

BARSTOW, Calif. — A pack of pit bulls surrounded a woman and mauled her to death, authorities said Wednesday (Dec. 26). Police found Kelly Caldwell, 45, lying on the street around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, and took her to a hospital, where she later died, the San Bernardino County sheriff’s department said.

Is there something in the air?


Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Pit bull attack, tiger attack | No Comments »

Tiger attack at S.F. Zoo

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
— from “The Tiger” by William Blake (1757-1827)

So how is it possible that a female Siberian tiger, the same one that attacked and badly lacerated a keeper’s arm almost exactly a year ago, can escape its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo and kill one zoo visitor and seriously maul and injure two others?

According to our front-page story in today’s Contra Costa Times, the state division of OSHA ruled that the zoo was responsible for the Dec. 2006 attack on the zoo keeper during feeding at the zoo’s Lion House “because of poor training and the way the cages were set up.” The zoo closed the Lion House for renovations and didn’t open it until September of this year.

Of course, all those renovations won’t do any good if the tiger gets out of its cage.

Two critical accidents at the San Francisco Zoo in one year. A keeper is seriously injured in one, and two zoo visitors are critically injured and one zoo visitor is killed in the other.

This isn’t just about adding steel mesh over some cage bars to keep a zoo keeper from being bitten. This time, a 300-pound Siberian tiger escaped from her enclosure and killed someone.

The San Francisco Zoo should be closed until they can guarantee that something like this won’t happen again.

The question of the day now becomes, can they make such a guarantee? /gary

This picture of San Francisco Zoo tigers Tony and Tatiana taken in April 2007 by Flickr user ChadH under Creative Commons license.

Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
Under: tiger attack, Zoos | 16 Comments »

A Christmas Story

I wrote this little Christmas Story 37 years ago and have printed it annually ever since — on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day — in my Contra Costa Times column.

I’ve never printed it in my blog before, but there’s a first time for everything. My wife thought it would make a nice Christmas card for those of you who don’t read my daily newspaper columns.

Be of good cheer!

The little gray mouse lay there on her stomach, panting, gasping, her sides heaving up and down under the terrible strain.

She was fat, not with the fat of food but with the gift of child, or in her case children — the fat of life. The fat of the land.

She lived in the hollow walls of a large house, in a nest made of rug nibbles and chewed-up pieces of the morning news. Outside, it was frosty cold and hazy with rain. Inside, where the people lived, it was toasty and a bit warm.

In between the walls where the little mouse lived, it was just right.

It was nearing her time. She groaned — yes, even a mouse can do that — and her eyes squeezed tightly shut. Her fat little sides pulsed with the living rhythm of new life fighting to escape its confines.

She gave birth to nine this night of nights.

The effort and pain of her actions were almost more than she could stand … but there was no hesitation … and finally, beside her … entangled in carpet swaddling … was a squirming little handful of nine, blind, hairless, rosy little mice.

Inside the mother was an emptiness she had not known for 16 long, lonely days and nights. Now there was just a limp exhaustion and a little glow that only a mother could really understand.

It was evening now, and all was stark and still. Outside, the frost was forming in little sparks on the grass. Inside, the fire crackled softly and reflected warmly from the little red stockings hanging on the mantle.

On top of the little fir tree was a small glass star that twinkled brightly and lighted the way to a little hole that had been gnawed beneath the bookcase.

And there, in the comfortable darkness in between, it shone down upon the tiny nativity scene.

The mother mouse lay stretched atop the nine little babes, her eyes closed, her body asleep and unmoving, except for nine tiny pulses on her breasts.

And again, like maybe once upon a time, a long time ago …

“Twas the night before Christmas,
“And all through the house,
“Not a creature was stirring,
“Not even a … “

Merry Christmas, everyone! /Gary

Posted on Monday, December 24th, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Jazz benefit is for the birds

This is about a Jazz Benefit for the Birds at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1

WHAT: “Benefit for the Birds” is a benefit concert to raise money for local and international bird rescue efforts. It’s a mostly Jazz program featuring Grammy-nominated pianist Matt Herskowitz; flutists Carol Alban, Nancy Tyler, Antonia David and Ann Licater; guitarists Jack Gates and Jeff Suits; cellist Suellen Primost; vocalists Laurie Antonioli, Alvenson Moore and Mary D’Orazi; upright bassist Dave Lockhart; drummer Greg German; and other surprise guest musicians.

Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008, at 7 p.m.

Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland 94611.

Suggested donation of $10 or more. (More is best!)

Or call 510-542-7517.
This location is wheelchair accessible and there is plenty of free parking.

This is an opportunity to catch world-class Grammy-nominated pianist Matt Herskowitz and friends on New Year’s Day in a rare Bay Area appearance. Juilliard-trained Herskowitz is on the rise as one of the most exciting pianists on the jazz/fusion scene. He recorded a holiday album with Barry Manilow and has recently made several TV appearances.

** For more information about flutist Carol Alban, see

** For more info about jazz pianist Matt Herskowitz, see

Proceeds from this concert will benefit the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), a non-profit that did an amazing job of rescuing and rehabilitating the birds impacted by the recent oil spill in SF Bay. You can learn more about this marvelous organization at

Dear readers:
I’m sure you remember the International Bird Rescue Research Center. I wrote a lot about them both here and in my daily newspaper columns during the cleanup operations from the recent San Francisco Bay oil spill.

A lot of wild birds were killed when they got contaminated with oil from this spill. Fortunately, many of those oiled birds also lived to be released back into the wild because they were cared for and cleaned by the professional staff and caring volunteers at IBRRC.

IBRRC is a nonprofit organization and continues to operate because of the generous support of caring people like you. You can help and have an enjoyable New Year’s Day at the same time by purchasing a ticket and attending this wonderful concert. Thanks a BIG bunch! /Gary

(You can read Gary’s daily newspaper columns at

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2007
Under: Birds, International Bird rescue research Center, Oil Spills | No Comments »

Primal Rant: How can you dump a faithful old pet & replace it with a new one?


Dear Gary: It saddened me to see the news this morning. It seems that somewhere someone put a 5-year-old, 25 pound cat up for adoption. The reason they did this was because they just got a new cat or kitten and were afraid that their old cat would smash the new little guy.

How can any caring person get rid of a faithful old family pet just because they want a new one? Next they will be abandoning the kids for smarter or prettier ones.

Every time we have acquired a new little bundle of fur, we made sure that they had their own space and were introduced slowly to the rest of the family. Over the years with love and patience this has worked.

People like that should not have any pets. These trusting little guys give us love without question. You just don’t throw them out because you want a new model. I wonder how many “Christmas” gifts will be abandoned in the next few months?

Thanks for letting me air my frustrations. A very Happy Holiday to you and all of your family from our family and all of our furry children.
Gloria in cyberspace

Dear readers:
From time to time I’ll print someone’s “Primal Rant” here for your enlightenment. You can respond to these Rants and add your own comments by clicking on “leave a comment” below. If you’re really riled up about something relating to animals or the environment, send me your Primal Rant about it in an e-mail (put Primal Rant in the subject field) or letter.

E-mail me at

Letters can be mailed to: Gary Bogue, Pet & Wildlife Columnist, Contra Costa Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099.

Rants that are submitted may or may not be used. That’s up to me. (At least you’ll feel much better after you write them.) /Gary

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2007
Under: Cats, Primal Rant | No Comments »

Ice stories: Exploratorium webcasts live from Antarctica

Gary: I thought you might be interested in the following information.

Ice Stories Schedule — Webcasts Live from Antarctica In Celebration of the International Polar Year (2007-2008) The Exploratorium ventures to the bottom of the world on January 4, 11, 12, 18 and 25 in the Exploratorium’s Phyllis C. Wattis Webcast Studio and On-line at:

Made possible by the National Science Foundation.

In celebration of the International Polar Year (2007-2008), the Exploratorium’s webcast crew will be talking with scientists at McMurdo Station and the South Pole about the myriad of research being done there.

Meet scientists pulling giant cores of ice from miles down, watch as penguins dive under the ice, and see scientists reach for the sky with their weather balloons! Learn about the giant trap under the ice that catches the tiniest particles from outer space, and a new 10-meter telescope at the South Pole. These programs and webcasts will be shown at

Go to:
Raphael Rosen, Public Information Department, The Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon St., San Francisco, CA,

Raphael: I’m always interested in the Exploratorium’s programs, but I have an added incentive this year because our son, Karl, is working waaay down there through next March!

In fact, even as we speak, Karl is 200 miles from anywhere, living in a tent at a tiny Western Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS) scientific research camp. He’s helping those same scientists you mention above who are “pulling giant cores of ice from miles down.”

The scientists are drilling holes two miles deep in the ice and bringing up ice cores in the hollow drill bits with 1,000-year-old air bubbles trapped inside so they can analyze the air to see what the weather was like a thousand years ago.

Karl called his mom and me the other night via satellite phone to let us know what was going on … like the 50-60 mph winds … and whiteout conditions … and minus 20 degree temperatures.

He’s definitely going to have a whiteout Christmas this year! /Gary

** Read “Dog & Cat food made with wild game” below.

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007
Under: Antarctica, Ice | No Comments »

Dog & Cat food made with … wild game

I can’t believe I found this press release in my mail this morning!
“Years of domestication have turned your pets from fierce predator to best friends. However, modern science proved that your dog or cat still share the DNA of the wolf or wild cat. Taste of the Wild Brand Dog and Cat food offers your pet a diet dictated by his genes. It provides your pet with the kind of natural, balanced diet he could find ‘in the wild.’

“Now you can satisfy your dog or cat’s instinctual cravings with Taste of the Wild.

“Choose from High Prairie Canine with roasted bison and roasted venison, Pacific Stream Canine with smoked salmon, Wetlands Canine with roasted wild fowl (duck, quail) and Rocky Mountain Feline with roasted venison and smoked salmon.

“Made with real roasted meats … Your pets crave a taste of the wild. Go ahead and give them one. Give your pet the kind of natural, balanced diet that he could find in the wild.”

As if your dog or cat cares. This is designed to appeal to a pet’s carnivorous human provider.

What’s next, California Condor Cat Food? /Gary

** Check out: “Lead bullets: Is it time for a nationwide ban on the use of lead for all hunting and fishing?” just below …

Posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Lead bullets: Time for nationwide ban on use of lead for ALL hunting & fishing?

I received this letter from Eric Mills, coordinator for ACTION FOR ANIMALS in Oakland, California, while I was on vacation last week :

In response to the California Fish & Game Commission’s 12/7/07 commendable action on the lead ammunition issue (banning use of lead ammo in the endangered California Condor refuge), I sent out the following:

“Note that .22-caliber lead ammo is banned, a nice surprise not included in Assemblyman Pedro Nava’s AB 821. The vote was 3:1. High time we got a fifth commissioner, before we end up with any tie votes on other issues. What we REALLY need, of course, is a nationwide ban on the use of lead for ALL hunting and fishing.”


“I agree.”(Huey Johnson, Director, RESOURCE RENEWAL INSTITUTE, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco)

(Mr. Johnson gave me his permission to circulate his reply.)

Might now be the time to attempt state legislation for such a ban? And if not for both hunting and fishing, then perhaps just for upland gamebird hunting? I would like to hear your thoughts on this, pro and con.

The toxic properties of lead have been well documented for decades, even hundreds of years. With good reason we’ve banned its use in gasoline, in paint, in ceramic dishes, etc. And for the hunting of waterfowl some 20 years ago, and the duck hunting community didn’t collapse, as some irrationally feared.

And now we’ve banned lead in condor country, surely a step in the right direction. Nor is it only the condors which are impacted. Scavengers such as eagles, vultures, coyotes, ravens, magpies, badgers, dogs, etc., also suffer and die from ingesting spent lead shot. Recent studies in Missouri have shown that quail, doves and other upland gamebirds also fall victim. And probably a few humans.

It’s time to go the next step, for the sake of the environment and our beleaguered wildlife. Surely this is a matter of common sense, environmental protection, and hunter/fisher ethics.

I would appreciate any comments … regards, and Season’s Greetings,
Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS

Dear Blog readers:
I’m curious to hear what everyone thinks about Eric’s suggestion, as he says, pro or con. Just click on “leave a comment” below and fire away (no lead, please). /Gary

Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2007
Under: Hunting & Fishing, Lead bullets | No Comments »