Monday, 30 April 2012

A piglet's best friend: Animal forms unbreakable bond with boxer dog after being orphaned at one day old

By Paul Milligan
This is the picture that proves a dog really is for life, as Susie the pug dog and Tabitha the piglet cuddle and play as best friends do.
The pair became unlikely pals when Susie’s owner rescued the piglet when she was found abandoned at the side of the road, just days old.

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An unlikely pair: Susie the pug dog and Tabitha the piglet have 
become best of friends
An unlikely pair: Susie the pug dog and Tabitha the piglet have become best of friends
BFF: The pair struck up the unlikely friendship three weeks ago - 
and are now inseparable
BFF: The pair struck up the unlikely friendship three weeks ago - and are now inseparable
The pair were inseparable, and their owners made videos of the pair playing together - which showed Tabitha climbing all over her new mum.
However in just a few months, she’s grown to almost the same size as her adoptive mum.
Susie's owner Wendy Valentine rescued five-week-old Tabitha after 
she was discovered on the side of the road, at just a few hours old
Susie's owner Wendy Valentine rescued five-week-old Tabitha after she was discovered on the side of the road, at just a few hours old

Saved: Susie's owner believes Tabitha the piglet either escaped 
from a local pig farm - or may have fallen through the slats on a lorry 
as her mother gave birth on the way to the slaughterhouse
Saved: Susie's owner believes Tabitha the piglet either escaped from a local pig farm - or may have fallen through the slats on a lorry as her mother gave birth on the way to the slaughterhouse
Susie’s owner, Wendy Valentine, who runs the Hillside Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk, said: 'I think Piggy and Puggy, as we call them, are best friends for life - regardless of how big Tabitha grows.
'Someone brought Tabitha to us just days before Christmas after finding her at the side of the road.
Five-year-old Susie has given Tabitha plenty of TLC and helped 
nurse the piglet back to full health
Five-year-old Susie has given Tabitha plenty of TLC and helped nurse the piglet back to full health

Come here you: Susie gives her friend an affectionate pat on the 
Come here you: Susie gives her friend an affectionate pat on the head
'She was so small her umbilical cord was still attached. There were no pig farms anywhere near where she was found, so we can only assume she fell from the back of a lorry - possibly on her way to slaughter.
'We had to feed her by hand, and I brought her into the house with me so I could keep an eye on her. But Susie immediately took an interest in her, and wouldn’t stay away from the basket she was in.
'I let them play together and it was obvious Tabitha saw Susie as a mother figure. They would nuzzle up together - they didn’t leave each other’s side.
Roll over and play dead: The two unlikely friends enjoy a spot of 
Roll over and play dead: The two unlikely friends enjoy a spot of playtime

Susie's owner Wendy Valentine runs Hillside Animal Sanctuary in 
Norwich, Norfolk, where Tabitha and her new friend can enjoy messing 
Susie's owner Wendy Valentine runs Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norwich, Norfolk, where Tabitha and her new friend can enjoy messing about

Read more:
Two colliding galaxies.
A Hubble picture shows two large galaxies colliding, scattering material.
Image courtesy ESA/NASA and STScI/AURA
Ker Than
Published April 30, 2012
A huge "structure" of satellite galaxies and star clusters has been found wheeling around the Milky Way, according to a new study.
The discovery surprised scientists, in part because the structure might spell trouble for theories of dark matter, the mysterious, invisible substance that's thought to make up about 23 percent of the mass in the universe.
The finding is only the latest to question dark matter's existence—last week, for instance, astronomers announced that they'd failed to detect dark matter in the sun's neighborhood, even though the substance should be there, according to accepted theory.
In the new study, led by Marcel Pawlowski of the University of Bonn in Germany, astronomers reconstructed the locations of the Milky Way's known satellites using sources ranging from 20th-century photographic plates to recent images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
The team found that the Milky Way's roughly 20 companions—including dwarf galaxies and blobs of stars known as globular clusters—are distributed in a tidy plane that orbits at a right angle to our galactic disk.
(Related: "Dark-Matter Galaxy Detected: Hidden Dwarf Lurks Nearby?")
"This is completely contrary to what we expect from theory," said study co-author Pavel Kroupa, also of the University of Bonn.
"You should be able to look in any direction and still find some satellite galaxies." That's because current models of galaxy formation—which are based on dark matter's existence—predict that the Milky Way's companions originally came from many different directions and so should have settled into a more or less spherical distribution.
"The logical implication of this [discovery] is that there is no dark matter," Kroupa said.
Cosmology in "Shambles"?
According to the standard theory of galaxy formation, dark matter was the gravitational scaffold upon which normal matter coalesced to form galaxies in the early universe.
As larger galaxies such as the Milky Way formed, the theory goes, leftover material amassed into hundreds of smaller satellites spread evenly around their host galaxies.
(Also see "Dark Matter Blob Should Not Exist, But There It Is.")
To explain the odd arrangement of satellites around the Milky Way, the Bonn team proposes that our home galaxy collided with a galactic neighbor about 11 billion years ago, which corresponds with the age of the oldest known satellite dwarf galaxy.
According to this idea, the Milky Way stripped material from the other galaxy, and gravity gathered the debris to form dwarf galaxies and globular clusters, which have remained in a plane around the Milky Way ever since, study leader Pawlowski said.
The team asserts that this model deals a significant blow to dark matter, since it shows that galaxies can form without the theoretical substance.
"It means that we have to completely and utterly rethink cosmology," Kroupa said. "Cosmology is basically in a shambles now."
(Related: "Dark Matter Is an Illusion, New Antigravity Theory Says.")
Dark Matter Still Viable
But other astronomers aren't quite ready to give up on dark matter.
"Although the alignment they find is intriguing, it is very premature to conclude that dark matter is in trouble," said Ken Rines, of Western Washington University in Bellingham.
"Galaxy formation is a very tricky business. We certainly don't understand the details, and these details may ... explain the alignment that they find," Rines said.
"Although dark matter may eventually be proven wrong, the alignment of dwarf galaxies is more likely a puzzle than a fatal flaw."
Sukanya Chakrabarti, an astrophysicist at Florida Atlantic University, is also skeptical that the new study rewrites galaxy formation.
The study team's galaxy-collision scenario can explain the positions of the satellite dwarf galaxies, she concedes.
But that model doesn't explain why the satellites act as if they have more mass than can be explained by their visible matter alone—one of the main reasons scientists think dark matter exists.
Any alternative to dark matter "must not only reproduce where the stuff is but what its mass is as well," Chakrabarti said.
(Related: "Dark Matter Hits the Average Human Once a Minute?")
Study author Kroupa counters that "this is not a problem, because it has already been demonstrated many times with other data that other theories of gravity—such as MOND—describe galaxies excellently, including the satellite galaxies."
Short for Modified Newtonian dynamics, MOND is a tweaked version of Newton's theory of gravity, which proponents say can explain the observed motions of stars and galaxies without resorting to dark matter.
Still, Chakrabarti said, it's also not surprising that current dark matter simulations can't explain the Milky Way satellites' unusual orientation.
While the simulations do a good job of modeling the evolution of large-scale structure in the universe, they're less reliable when it comes to modeling the scale of individual galaxies, which involves interactions between many more variables, she said.
"If you neglect these things and you're trying to do a very detailed analysis—like where all the satellite galaxies are distributed—you're going to come up with some discrepancies,"  Chakrabarti said.
"The current simulations of galaxy formation are incomplete," she continued, "but that doesn't imply that dark matter isn't a viable notion."
The Milky Way's satellite "structure" will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

English Bull Terriers: Proof that God, and perhaps the English, have a sense of humor

White Bull Terrier

I know that as long as I live with Gracie, I'll never be able to say, "Well, now I've seen it all." Bull Terriers have a personality that means they're always finding new ways of interacting with the world. Both their comical expressions and their penchant for antics show me that God at least, must have a sense of humor.
For those of you not yet familiar with the breed, Bull Terriers were deliberately bred by an Englishman, James Hinks, to be a gentleman's companion. Either Mr. Hinks failed to communicate this adequately to the breed, or he actually believed a gentleman required a companion with a strong sense of humor. Bull Terriers are notorious goofballs, commonly compared to clowns and three year olds in dog suits. Bull Terriers don't seem to care about Sir Issac Newton's observation, "For every action their is an opposite and equal reaction."

Hinks originally bred for the white Bully. And note here - properly speaking, this is the "Bully" and a Staffordshire terrier is a "Staffy" -- people who are not particularly familiar with either often confuse the two. The Bull Terrier is sillier than the Staffordshire.

Bull Terriers are either White, or Colored; colors include brindle, red and white, and tri-colored (black, red, white.) Brindle is the most common color but there are many coat variations that occur even amongst brindle Bullies.

Brindle Bull Terriers

Bull Terriers generally love children. Gracie adores my nephews; when they were all younger we had to watch them closely as they would all get too excited playing together and eventually someone would get knocked over. Although not a very large dog - Gracie is just 39 pounds of muscle and bone - this is a very powerful breed. Power and excitement mean that Bullies are often too much dog for very young children, unless there is constant supervision and separation when the excitement level gets too high. A mature Bull Terrier however, is a fantastic companion for kids, as they will tolerate all kinds of playing yet protect the child with their life.

"Why you should never
leave a child alone with a Bull Terrier"

I love this photo, that has been making the rounds for awhile now; this is a White Bull Terrier who is getting a little temporary tattoo work from a friend. Like I said, the breed will put up with a lot of kinds of play. I don't recommend leaving any young child alone with a dog because freak accidents can always happen; I am just as confident allowing Gracie to play with my nephews as any dog I've ever lived with and trained. I know she is more devoted to them than some past canine family members.

This breed however, as I always say, seriously not for everyone.
People who like a quiet, predictable routine will find that a Bull Terrier likes to mix things up too often.
This is also a breed that seems to be wanting to try everything once.

Tri-colored Bull Terrier

The other morning for example I was cleaning in the kitchen when I heard something in the next door dining room. I walked in, in time to catch Gracie standing on the table. She'd never thought to try this before and we had a little talk about how this was a big "NO" and not to be tried again. But hey - how does a girl know until she tries? That's her attitude about most things.
My Dad isn't one of Gracie's biggest fans -- but how did he really know he didn't love her until she leaned up and licked his ear?
How did she know rubber couldn't be digested until she swallowed it?
How did she know she couldn't run off the end of her leash until she tried to?
How did she know the big Wolfhound at the kennel wasn't a playing type of dog until she offered to play?
And isn't the whole wide world a potential best friend?
(Except for my brother, who she really, really doesn't like - probably due to his very deep, booming voice which causes her to bark every time she hears it.)

Wow - 4 Bullies sitting still at once!

Then there are the behaviors that are routine.
Great devotion, often displayed by allowing as little body space between dog and person as possible. Laying on top of or next to people is a cherished activity.
Zooming. Sometimes around a room, sometimes in and out of a room, sometimes at great force into the furniture.
Smiling. This is a very happy breed.

Red and White Bull Terrier
Bull Terriers can be very good with other animals; like all terriers, they do best if they are raised with other animals and trained to respect other animals. Gracie has learned to live with cats and a pet rabbit; her sister who was not raised with other animals had a strong prey drive and wanted to kill the rabbit. She is now living in a happy home as an only animal.

White Bull Terriers may have black markings on their heads
For those who like adventure, training, a little unpredictable activity every day, a little bit of a challenge sometimes, someone to supervise your every activity, a playmate who also likes to curl up and sleep with you, ride in the car with you, walk, run, jog with you - this might be a breed worth considering. IF you are a somewhat flexible person. I can't imagine an inflexible person being happy with a Bull Terrier and vice verse.

I also welcome other people's experiences, stories, and pictures of Bull Terriers they've met or lived with. If you're having trouble posting, or if you have a picture you would like to share, send it to me at

Gracie multi-taksing again:
chewing carpet corners while playing with "approved" toys

Katie, Rehomed through Bully Rescue

Bull Terrier rescue has been fantastic in my experience. They work hard at both assessing the individual dog and giving the dog a head start on training, before sending them into a new home. Each state basically has their own Bull Terrier rescue representative; contact me if you have trouble finding contact information for your nearest breed rescue representative.
Smiling Brindle Bull Terrier

Bull Terrier approx. 1915

One of General Patton's Bull Terriers, circa 1945

Willie, after Patton's death

Modern Bull Terrier
A Good Read

Some really good articles here, too many to replicate here and some a bit above my head but all very interesting.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Big on Biggles

More About Biggles

During the 1960s, Biggles books were removed from libraries and children's reading lists due to the perception of racial prejudice throughout the books.
The publisher Red Fox (a Random House imprint) is reprinting many of the Biggles titles with footnotes that explain slang and military terms used in the books.
Biggles first appeared in 1932 in the first issue of Popular Flying magazine in a story called 'The White Fokker".
James "Biggles" Bigglesworth was born May 1899 in India. He was the second son of an an administrator in the Indian Civil Service and his wife.
Biggles' first encounter with an aircraft was while attending Malton Hall School in Hertbury, England when a Blériot that was forced to land on the school cricket pitch.
A "lost" birth certificate allowed Biggles to join the army as a subaltern in the Rifle Regiment in 1916. In the summer of that year he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and flew in combat in September 1916 with 169 Squadron, RFC.
Between the World Wars, Biggles worked as a charter pilot.
After World War II, Biggles worked for Scotland Yard as head of a new Special Air Police division.
Because of his upbringing in India, Biggles was fluent in Hindi.

by Richard Davies

Biggles - Air Detective Biggles has been fighting off bandits at 2 o’clock since 1932.  He’s legend of children’s literature and one of the great adventure heroes. James Bigglesworth, created by W.E. Johns, starred in almost 100 novels beginning with The Camels are Coming. Johns died while writing Biggles Does Some Homework in 1968 but his hero continues to fascinate readers and collectors more than 40 years after his creator’s death.

The fearless flyer  began his literary life as a World War I fighter pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, the precursor to the Royal Air Force. Johns wrote from firsthand experience as he flew fighter planes in the Great War and was shot down in 1918. After the conflict ended, he remained in the RAF until 1927.

Much like another British hero James Bond, Biggles was a survivor and time never dimmed his ability to fly to the rescue. Johns wrote about the young Biggles, his adventures in WWI, his career as a charter pilot, his WWII heroics, and then his post-war work in the special air police. Villains could shoot him down every now and again, but Biggles was impossible to kill.

Biggles has been translated into many languages and the series is adored by collectors with a love of adventure. It’s common for a rare Biggles book to sell for a four-figure price.


Rather than have Biggles winning World War I aerial dogfights forever, Johns allowed his hero to move through the decades and turned him into an all-round adventurer. His best known companions were the upper class Algernon Lacey, aka his cousin Algy, and the working class Ginger Hebblethwaite. Biggles’ sternest opponent was Germany’s Erich von Stalhein. They clash in various scenarios over the years but eventually become friends after Biggles helps him escape from a communist prison in Biggles Buries a Hatchet.


Biggles’ popularity has waxed and waned over the years. The books have been criticized for clumsy racial stereotyping, old-fashioned attitudes and war-mongering, and been mercilessly parodied by comedians, including Monty Python. The criticism cannot be shrugged off, but Johns began the series in a world completely different to today and that should be considered when revisiting his books. His writing reflects a bygone age, using bygone language and featuring bygone technology - they are old school adventure stories. The World Wars – the two defining events of the 20th century – were the defining events in Biggles’ life and adventure had been the major theme in fiction for boys long before Johns, who was born in 1893, started writing.  Today, Bigglesfirst editions are highly collectible, particularly the early stories complete with dust jackets.


Johns was a prolific writer. He also created the Worrals series of novels about Joan Worralson, a female aviator, the Gimlet books about Captain Lorrington ‘Gimlet’ King, a soldier-adventurer, and a set of astronaut books about Timothy ‘Tiger’ Clinton. Nicknames were clearly a major part of the Johns’ creative process. By Jove, Biggles: The Life of Captain W.E. Johns by Peter Berresford Ellis & Piers Williams is a recommended biography of this author.


AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales of Biggles Books

  1. Biggles in Spain (1939 First Edition) - $3,949
  2. Biggles Defies the Swastika (1941 First Edition) - $3,120
  3. Biggles Sees It Through (1941 First Edition) - $2,229
  4. Biggles Does Some Homework (Johns' unfinished work - one of just 300 printed) - $1,470
  5. Biggles Does Some Homework (Johns' unfinished work - one of just 300 printed) - $1,468
  6. Biggles Does Some Homework (Johns' unfinished work - one of just 300 printed) - $1,295
  7. Biggles and the Deep Blue Sea (1967 First Edition) - $1,202
  8. Biggles in Borneo (1943 First Edition) - $1,178
  9. Biggles in the Baltic (1940 First Reprint) - $1,161
  10. Biggles in Spain (1939 First Edition) - $1,100

AbeBooks' Bestselling Biggles Books