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Features (Creature Feature)

A rare breed proves it’s still Best in Show

Whiskey was the first wire fox terrier to enter our home. He chased children and adults, pilfered food from the table and ripped the shingles off a hand-built doghouse — even after application of sour apple anti-chew spray. He could open coffee cans and drag leaded food dishes up flights of stairs. This miscreant pup was a terror on four legs.
    He barked, he dug and he obeyed only when convenient.
    After Whiskey, we couldn’t imagine owning another breed.
    Brilliant, insubordinate and hilarious, fox terriers were bred for fox hunting in 17th century England. Smooth and wire-haired terriers (considered the same breed until 1984) rode in pouches on the hunters’ horses until the prey was driven to ground. The terriers were then sent into the fox dens and yanked out by their tails, doomed fox clenched in their teeth.
    By the 1930s, wire fox terriers’ square heads, keen eyes and compact build earned them popularity with the glamorous set, in movies and on the arms of the rich and famous. Actors and heiresses weren’t the only ones smitten. Wire fox terriers have won 14 Best in Show titles at Westminster, more than any other breed. The breed got its latest win this year when five-year-old GCH Afterall Painting the Sky, aka Sky, took the Best in Show prize.
    Now that Sky has showed you that foxies are beautiful, loyal and full of personality, be warned that they aren’t the dog for the faint of heart. These usually bouncy and friendly terriers are too smart for lazy owners. Leave them alone for too long, they’ll empty your trash cans all over the floor. Yell at them, they’ll bark right back. Ignore them, and they’ll force your attention by leaping in your lap or snatching whatever you’re focused on. Mental stimulation and regular exercise are the barrier between you and a household of destroyed items.
    If, however, you can’t resist a dog that believes it’s intellectually superior to you, wire fox terriers are a great addition to your family. With a fox terrier in your house, you’ll have good bad dog stories enough for years.

No need to put out the welcome mat

The mouse stood high in ancient Greece, where the god Apollo took the creature as one of his namesakes, Apollo Smintheus. White mice were kept under the altars in temples to that incarnation.
    Most of us can better relate to the Indo-Aryan Sanskrit tradition wherein musuka means thief or robber.
    Sanskrit may not be familiar to you, but the burglary antics of the common house mouse probably are, especially this time of year.
    Freezing temperatures, like our recent dip into the low teens, send these furry rodents scurrying inside to the warmth of our homes and offices.
    If you have mice, you’re not alone. Each winter, mice and other rodents invade an estimated 21 million homes in the U.S. Mice visit between October and February, looking for food, water and shelter from the cold. Mice build their homes in our homes, near food sources, like our pantries and cupboards.
    Prolific and voracious, they eat more than growing teenagers and breed faster than rabbits. They eat up to 20 times per day and breed year-round, starting at about two months old.
    With a gestation of less than three weeks, a litter of eight to 14 pups and an average of five to 10 litters a year, a single female mouse will give birth to about 120 babies each year.
    That’s a lot of mice. Let two in, and many more will follow.
    Like little Houdinis, mice can squeeze through openings as small as a dime. A small crack or gap on the exterior of your home is an open door — and invitation — for mice.
    Prevent mice from gaining access into your home by sealing any openings on the exterior (such as where utility pipes enter) with a silicone caulk. You can also fill gaps and holes inside your home with steel wool.
    Keeping cats as pets helps, too. Since I rescued my two kitties three years ago, I haven’t seen a single mouse inside.
    Mice are cute and cuddly to some folks who may even keep them as pets, but they can transmit a disease called salmonellosis, a bacterial food poisoning that occurs when food is contaminated with infected mice feces.
    That’s just the beginning. Mice can carry as many as 200 human pathogens.
    No wonder Apollo Smintheus was a god of disease.

Blooms are bigger, badder

The Bay is being overrun by algae. Billions and billions of the tiny creatures are making life harder on the rest of the ecosystem. The three most common algae in the Bay have been blooming more frequently over the last 20 years, according to researchers at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
    Mahogany tide, formally known as Prorocentrum minimum, doubled its average number of annual blooms between 1991 and 2008.
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Run the Freedom Hill People Steeplechase, Kids Canter or Toddler Trot

Horses give humans a lift at Freedom Hill Horse Rescue in Calvert County.
    In species pairings called Equine Assisted Learning, people learn leadership, goal-setting and teamwork.
    In Equine-Based Education, people learn about horses, their proper care and treatment, natural horsemanship and the basics of horseback riding.
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Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center plays Santa to injured critters but needs your help

Dozens of raptors were among the thousands of animals rescued this year by the Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center in Lusby.
    One stands out for her size and the relationship she formed with her rescuers.
    Big Bird, as she was called, was rescued from a farm in southern Maryland. A nesting mother with three babies and a mate in a nearby tree, she had a broken left wing. What caused her injuries was never learned.
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How to get to know our ­regulars and seasonal visitors

At the tip of Thomas Point in Annapolis on a windy November morning, Linda Davis sees buffleheads, horned grebes and a loon diving in the Bay’s chop.
    “I am just learning my birds,” says Davis, of Shady Side. “I had surgery last winter, so I put up feeders outside the window where I sat and saw all these birds I didn’t even know existed. Then I began photographing birds, and now it’s all I want to do.”
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Resources abound online and in nature to help you sharpen your birding skills. Here’s a short list, organized by key questions

Who?
    Find tips on birding basics plus how to identify birds by song and plumage at All About Birds: www.allaboutbirds.org.
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Maryland bears and hunters coexist

Maryland is a pretty wild place, and getting wilder all the time. Foxes are joining deer, groundhogs, opossums, raccoons and squirrels as regular neighborhood families; skunks and coyotes are occasional visitors.
    Lest black bears rejoin the list of wildlife returning to their original statewide range, some 1,100 hunters stalked them, killing 69, in Allegany and Garrett counties from October 20 to 23.
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Species at risk in Maryland are a roll call of birds we know and love

Make room for more.    
    The Vanished Birds of North America, now on exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., features passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets and heath hens.
    But two new reports tell us that list may soon be much longer.
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Cinema worth barking about