Academy Award Winning Animals?

by Diane Blankenburg

Growing up in San Diego, both of my parents worked and I was often home alone after school. I frequently watched the Bob Dale movie show to pass the time and keep me company. He presented the best of the movies, and on commercial breaks he passionately discussed behind-the-scenes film making. I quickly became enthralled by the industry and mesmerized by the movies.

One of my all-time favorite films was (and still is) Old Yeller. There isn’t a movie where I cry more, and I was forever affected by the loving bond that existed between young Travis and the stray yellow lab he named Old Yeller. I’m quite sure this launched another true love of mine—animals, especially dogs, especially labs, and especially rescues.

As this Sunday approaches and brings with it the 85th Academy Awards presentation, I couldn’t be more excited. But it made me stop and reflect on other great animal movies and the animal actors that made them successful. There has been debate over the years on whether animals should receive Oscars or not—the rules do not include them but they also don’t exclude them.

Here are some great animal actors that helped make great movies:

–          Terry, the Cairn terrier, who played Toto in The Wizard of Oz (1939), which received six nominations and two Oscars.

–          Orangey, the red tabby cat, who played Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), which received five nominations and two Oscars.

–          The 48 Yorkshire pigs that played Babe in Babe (1995), which received seven nominations and one Oscar.

–          The horse named Popcorn Deelites who played Seabiscuit in Seabiscuit (2003), which received no Oscars even though it had seven nominations.

–          Uggie, a rescued Jack-Russell terrier, who played in The Artist, which won five Oscars last year, including Best Picture.

Oscars or not, animal actors will always hold a special place in my heart. Even though I work surrounded by animals and live with big, loveable labs, I never get tired of watching movies, especially animal movies. So this Sunday, I will curl up on my couch with my three star dogs (Beaumont, Beignet, and Boomer) to celebrate my two favorite pastimes. It just doesn’t get any better than this!

Events that Help Animals

Doggie Palooza March 9, 10 am to 6:30 pm, at the Nevada Humane Society shelter. Dog Marketplace, cool dogs available for adoption, and celebrity guests.  Admission is free. Shelter located at 2825 Longley Lane, between Rock Blvd. and Mira Loma Dr.

Take an Audio Tour of the Animal World Online

By Bonney Brown

This weekend you can sit in your favorite chair with your computer and take an audio tour of the animal world thanks to the amazing collection of recently digitized recordings at The Macaulay Library at  the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

It’s the world’s largest archive of wildlife sounds, over 9,000 species in all, including birds, mammals, insects, amphibians—all available for free online and sure to spark your sense of wonder and imagination. These amazing recordings have been gathered over the past 80 years by scientists and volunteers around the world.

My virtual audio journey started in British Columbia listening to the bizarre tapping and gong-like call of a walrus. Then it was on to a remote lake in the Adirondacks for a recording of the haunting call of the common loon. I listened to the buzz of a katydid in South Carolina and the sounds of a lemur in the forest of Madagascar with just a few stokes of my fingers on a key board.

The dromedary camel in Morocco sounded like he was complaining and a remarkable tui bird from New Zealand was a dead ringer for the famous R2D2. There were recordings of the familiar sounds of the common house cat and the spine-tingling snarl of a cougar.

In some cases, it is the animal’s name that grabs you. I had to hear the spectacled flying fox of  American Samoa, the hammer head fruit bat in Gabon, and Parnell’s moustached bat in Costa Rica. Who could pass up a chance to hear the banded wobbegong― a kind of fish—recorded in Queensland, Australia?

In the frog and toad category  I started with the sounds of toads and insects in Kenya followed by southern chorus frogs in Florida whose unusual pops and whistles were charming. The sound of spring peepers reminded me of earl y spring in New England. The tree frog recordings transported me back to summer days when I was growing up in Massachusetts. The bullfrog recording perfectly captured their sound that resembles a rusty gate.

There is also some fantastic video on the site, from elephants in Central Africa to a garden spider spinning her web, owls in Arizona,  and a vividly colored kingfisher bird.

Check it out for yourself online at You will be in awe of the amazing diversity and richness of the animal kingdom.


Conventions are for Cats Too!

by Diane Blankenburg

In my original professional career, long before I took a major detour into the animal welfare world, I was a software engineer. As such, I regularly attended conventions that featured organizations and products that promoted the growth and advancement of the field.

According to Wikipedia, “a convention is a gathering of individuals who meet at an arranged place and time in order to discuss or engage in some common interest.” There are three types of conventions—industry, professional, and fan-based. Fan conventions usually feature displays, shows, and sales based on pop culture and guest celebrities.

Today,  February 9,  Nevada Humane Society is holding a “cat fan” convention at the Grand Sierra Resort. This annual celebration of felines is called Cat Convention—All Things Cats. Consistent with the true meaning of conventions, it has a lot to offer for all of you cat-loving fans.

The Cat Marketplace offers cat-themed art, gifts, jewelry, pottery, cat toys, pet supplies, cat food and more. In addition, over 100 adorable cats of all types and personalities, including Mini Panthers, Tiny Tigers, Supersized Older-but-Wiser, Classy and Sassy, and Angel Pets, will be available for adoption. Staff and volunteers will be on hand to help find the best match for anyone hoping to adopt a new feline companion.

Renowned Hollywood animal trainer Joel Silverman, host of the TV show Dog & Cat Training with Joel Silverman, will sign autographs and demonstrate how to train a cat. Brian Crane, cartoonist and creator of Pickles, will be selling and signing books from his Pickles Collection, featuring Muffin the cat and Roscoe the dog.

A tribute to Stewie, a Maine Coon cat and world record holder who recently passed away, will be on display. Stewie lived in Reno for his short eight years with his person Robin Hendrickson and holds Guinness world records for longest domestic cat and longest tail on a domestic cat.

Cats are wonderful, unique creatures, cat fans are very special individuals, and this convention respectfully honors both. If you love cats, you won’t want to miss this cat event of the year!

Events that Help Animals

Cat Convention—All Things Cats, February 9, 10 am to 6 pm, at the Grand Sierra Resort, Summit Pavillion. Cat Marketplace, over 100 cats available for adoption, refreshments, and celebrity guests.  Admission is free.

Furry Speed Dating at Nevada Humane Society on February 14 from 12 noon to 3pm. Pets will put their best paw forward with the goal of falling in love. 2825 Longley Lane, Reno.

My Furry Valentine adoption promotion. Fall in love with a new friend from Nevada Humane Society! February 6 – 14, adopt adult cat for just $14 or adult dog for $41. All are spayed and neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. Call 775-856-2000 or visit for more info.


Pets See the World Differently

by Bonney Brown

Our pets certainly experience the world differently than we do. Their vision is just one of the ways their perceptions differ, but maybe not in the way you think.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs’ and cats’ vision is not like a black-and-white film. They perceive fewer and less vivid colors than we do and while they cannot distinguish red or green they can see yellow and blue. We can see the range of colors we perceive because humans have three types of photoreceptors in our eyes while dogs and cats have two.

What animals lack in color perception they make up for in other ways. Their eyes are perfectly adapted to the life they would live in the wild. Both dogs and cats are superior to us in the detection of movement, which is helpful if you are dependent upon catching small prey for meals.

Ever notice how dogs and cats eyes glow when light hits them at night or in photos taken with a flash? That’s because they have a reflective layer behind the retina called tapetum lucidum, which improves their ability to see in low light. Cats in particular can perceive light seven times lower than humans.

Because of the placement of their eyes, cats have better depth perception than we do, but they have a smaller field of vision. Dogs, on the other hand, have less depth perception, but greater peripheral vision, allowing them to see more of the world at one time.

Cats have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane, a thin cover that closes from the side. If the third eyelid is often visible the cat may be sick and should see a veterinarian.

Just as vision differs by species so does the meaning of eye contact. Dogs often perceive direct eye contact as threatening so it is best not to stare into a dog’s eyes. However, you can train your dog to make eye contact with you by rewarding them for it.

Cats have a special signal they give with their eyes which is reserved for people for whom they feel affection; a slow blink or squint. Try giving your cat the slow blink and see if he or she responds in kind.

If it is true that eyes are the windows of the soul, understanding how our pets see the world can help us better understand and relate to them.

Events that Help Animals

Cat Convention ― All Things Cats, February 9 at the Grand Sierra Resort. Cat marketplace, cats for adoption, refreshments, local celebrities.  Admission is free.

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