Monday, November 28, 2011


Helpful Buckeye hopes that all of our readers had a wonderful time with their families and loved ones over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Unless your family has an organized reunion some other time during the year, this was probably your "reunion" for the year.  Hope it was a rewarding one....

Helpful Buckeye also would like to thank Holly, from Pennsylvania, for her very gracious comment at the end of last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, "The Rising Costs of Pet Companionship" case you missed it:


I stopped by today specifically to let you know I include you and your work here as one of the things for which I am thankful. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

One other thing that my Vet does which helps is that he offers a multiple pet discount. If I bring Rory & Fiona in at the same time for visits, I get a small break. And, (you're only the first person to know this bit,) with a new puppy Scottie arriving in December, it will really help us keep the medical maintenance in line. I really, really like my vet. It's one of the only things that I can say I've liked in my move from Baltimore! (Please say the following, "Geeze Holly, get over it, you've lived in Greensburg seven years now!")

November 21, 2011 7:11 AM

Thank you, Holly, for taking the time to share your experience and for the very kind words!

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye will be out of the loop for a couple of days over the, Helpful Buckeye is offering a couple of fun and interesting accounts of animals other than dogs and cats for your enjoyment.

Agriculture commissioner talks invasive species with CBS

The threat of invasive species has become familiar to Floridians, especially those living near the Everglades.

Invasive species — which are those that have been imported from other parts of the world, often by accident — can be extremely dangerous to local ecosystems. Some estimate their costs to the U.S. economy to be about $120 billion annually. Though species like kudzu and Asian carp are problematic to areas across the country, few places are as plagued with invasives as South Florida.

Trade, international tourism and international cargo all contribute to the proliferation of invasives in Florida, which is home to one of the highest numbers of exotic plant and animal species in the world. In South Florida, approximately 26 percent of all fish, reptiles, birds and mammals are exotic.

Speaking to CBS News, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said that the giant African land snail, which can grow up to eight inches long and lay 1,200 eggs a year, is the invasive species currently on his radar.

“With something like the snails we’ve got the trifecta,” said Putnam. “It carries human Meningitis, so people are concerned. It eats 500 different plants, so agriculture’s concerned. And it eats houses, so homeowners are very concerned.”

The snails, which can eat stucco, have brought together a team of 70, all engaged in the fight against it.

A simple Google search turns up dozens of results for the sale of the snails, though most seem to be in the U.K. But access to exotic pets, which owners often can’t properly take care of, is part of the problem.

Though the African land snail has gained notoriety in recent months, perhaps Florida’s most infamous invasive species is the Burmese python. Pythons can be purchased at a relatively inexpensive price, but, as is the case with many exotics, they can grow to incredible sizes — in some cases, more than 20 feet long. Those who are ill-equipped to deal with a 20-foot snake might set them loose, as many pet owners in South Florida have done, where they make their mark on a local ecosystem. Last Thursday, workers from the South Florida Water Management District captured and killed a 16-foot-long Burmese Python that had ingested a 76-pound female deer.
(For more on this story, along with a great photo, go to: )

The key to keeping a lid on the problem, Putnam told CBS, is educating Floridians about the dangers of invasive species. ”Wherever you’re coming from, leave all that stuff behind,” he said, “because any one of those things can carry the larvae that’s going to become the fly that’s going to wipe out a $100 billion industry in our state.”

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, the last reported outbreak (and eradication) of the Giant African land snail in Florida occurred in 1966, when a boy smuggled three Giant African land snails into Miami as pets. Seven years after the boy’s grandmother released the snails into her garden, more than 18,000 snails were found, which cost the state more than $1 million and took an additional 10 years to successfully eradicate.

Adapted from:

OK, now I'm asking you to name what you think are the 5 smartest non-primates.  Take a few moments to think about this one...I'll give you a hint: neither dogs nor cats made the short list.  Check out this list and see if you agree with the conclusions:

The 5 Smartest Non-Primates on the Planet

#5 Pigs

As it turns out, being piggy is actually a pretty smart tactic — pigs are probably the most intelligent domesticated animal on the planet. Although their raw intelligence is most likely commensurate with a dog or cat, their problem-solving abilities top those of felines and canine pals.

One study showed that domestic pigs can quickly learn how mirrors work and will use their understanding of reflected images to scope out their surroundings for food. The researchers cannot yet say whether the animals realize that the eyes in the mirror are their own, or whether pigs might rank with apes, dolphins and other species that have passed the famed “mirror self-recognition test” thought to be a marker of self-awareness and advanced intelligence.

Neat human trick: In a 1990s experiment, pigs were trained to move a cursor on a video screen with their snouts and used the cursor to distinguish between scribbles they knew and those they were seeing for the first time. They learned the task as quickly as chimpanzees.

#4 Octopuses  (or is it "Octopi?")

If pigs are the most intelligent of the domesticated species, octopuses take the cake for invertebrates. Experiments in maze and problem-solving have shown that they have both short-term and long-term memory. Octopuses can open jars, squeeze through tiny openings, and hop from cage to cage for a snack. They can also be trained to distinguish between different shapes and patterns. In a kind of play-like activity — one of the hallmarks of higher intelligence species — octopuses have been observed repeatedly releasing bottles or toys into a circular current in their aquariums and then catching them.

Neat human trick: The octopus is the only invertebrate which has been shown to use tools. At least four specimens have been witnessed retrieving discarded coconut shells, manipulating them, and then reassembling them to use as shelter.  (Did someone mention coconut?)

#3 Crows

In many branches of mythology, the crow plays a shrewd trickster, and in the real world, crows are proving to be quite a clever species. Crows have been found to engage in feats such as tool use, the ability to hide and store food from season to season, episodic-like memory, and the ability to use personal experience to predict future conditions.

One species, the New Caledonian Crow, has been witnessed using knife-like tools cut from stiff leaves, and it will drop tough nuts onto streets busy with cars to smash them open. Crows in Queensland, Australia, have even learned how to safely eat a species of toxic cane toad. They flip the frog on its back and stab its throat, where its poisonous skin is the thinnest, in order to munch on the non-toxic innards.

Neat human trick: Recent research suggests that crows have the ability to recognize one individual human from another by facial features, and that they can remember human faces for years. So be careful when you cross a crow.

#2 Dolphins

Dolphins are among the smartest of the animal kingdom, partly because they live such social lives. They're also thought to have a sophisticated "language," though humans have only begun to unravel it. Dolphins use tools in their natural environment and can learn an impressive array of behavioral commands from human trainers. Like many of the most intelligent animals on Earth, female dolphins remain with their young for several years, teaching them all the tricks of the dolphin trade. Recent tests show that dolphins understand numbers of things, and they have displayed self-recognition — a feat reserved for animals of the highest smarts.

Neat human trick: As of 2005, scientists have observed groups of bottlenose dolphins around the Pacific Ocean using a basic tool. When searching for food on the sea floor, many of these dolphins were seen tearing off pieces of sea sponge and wrapping them around their "bottle nose" to prevent abrasions.

#1 Elephants

Elephants top our list of the wisest non-primates. They live in close-knit societies with an intricate social hierarchy. Elephants also exhibit altruism toward other animals, and pregnant females have learned how to eat particular leaves to induce labor.

They can also use tools and quickly adapt to new situations — elephants have also been known to drop very large rocks onto an electric fence either to ruin the fence or to cut off the electricity. A 2010 experiment revealed that in order to reach food, "elephants can learn to coordinate with a partner in a task requiring two individuals to simultaneously pull two ends of the same rope to obtain a reward", putting them on an equal footing with chimpanzees in terms of their level of cooperative skills.

But what really sets elephants apart is their complex death rituals; other than elephants, humans and Neanderthals are the only animals known to pay respects to the dead. Often, elephants will gently investigate the bones of the newly deceased with their trunks and feet while staying very quiet. Sometimes elephants that are completely unrelated to the deceased will still visit their graves.

Neat human trick: In the recent study, the elephants even figured out ways that the researchers hadn't previously considered to obtain food rewards. Outsmarting the humans? Not just for the apes anymore.

Adapted from:

If you're interested in looking for the book, Life's Little Mysteries, this list came from, it is available at:

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

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