Sunday, 30 April 2017

Are you as fit as a barnacle goose?

Hi folks! Bouncing Bertie Boffin here. It's been too long since I posted about an important scientific matter, hasn't it?

Apropos my recent paw-related infirmities (and nothing whatsoever to do with last week's diet of whisky-laced buttermilk ice cream) I have lately had cause to ponder the relationship between fitness and exercise, in both humans and other animals. For example, my human Gail has been complaining about her being unfit due to my intermittent lameness (yes I know, so selfish, but what can you do?) But as soon as my paws stop hurting, I feel as bouncy as ever, even when I have been doing little but lounging on the sofa for the preceding few weeks.

Well I am delighted to report that scientists have not neglected the puzzling question of how some animals stay super fit despite distinctly couch potato-ish habits. You can read all about recent work on this topic here, or, for those of you who are 'time poor', I have summarised the main points below:

Have you ever thought about how the barnacle goose prepares for its 3000 km migration? No need for tiresome marathon-style training sessions for them, apparently. Rather, according to environmental physiologist Lewis Halsey, "they just basically sit on the water and eat a lot".

Likewise, how fortunate the black or brown bear. Unlike your typical human, whose muscles tend to dissolve into unsightly flab over the months of darkness (in Aberdeen at least), lucky Bruin emerges from hibernation with muscles as ripped as when he stepped into his winter hidey hole.

It seems that migratory birds and hibernating animals have genes which respond to cues like daylight or temperature and these genes act to preserve or enhance their muscle mass. Humans do not possess this useful evolutionary adaptation, due to their different lifestyle, and so have been forced to invent the gym and the exercise bike.

It is not yet clear where dogs and cats sit on this evolutionary 'no pain, no gain' spectrum, although based on my own personal observations, I hypothesise that we pups would be somewhere between the barnacle goose and the human.

I wonder if my friends can contribute any useful data about whether the human or non-human species in their household find it easier to  maintain themselves in tip top condition? If so, do please leave a comment. No detail, however trivial, need be omitted. Who knows, I may even publish a scientific paper on the findings...

[PS On the subject of evolution, Gail has reminded me to tell you about an article she has written on Darwin, recently published in online journal 'Assay' (edited by Tootsie's Mom). Personally, I don't really approve of her writing activities other than helping me with my blog, but you may click here should you actually want to read her piece... ]

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Ice and ice-cream - a discussion

Scene near Gail's workplace, 25 April
Gosh Gail, I am wondering why you decided to whip up some home-made ice cream, the very week when it has been snowing again in Aberdeen? Your timing is not good is it?

Bertie, surely you know that criticising your human is not part of the dog job description! Rather, you are supposed to offer non-judgemental adoration at all times. That said, I will concede you might have a point about the poor timing. 

Yes. Please explain yourself then.

Well Bertie, you know how much we both love reading about the adventures of our PON friends Bob and Sophie and their humans Angus and 'the Font', in Angus's daily blog? The writing is so vivid that for a few minutes each morning we are transported to their warm corner of France profonde, and we forget we live in chilly Aberdeen, don't we? 

Er yes I guess that's true up to a point. Although the fact that I am still waiting to be offered a sliver of croissant for breakfast is something of a give-away, I feel.

Anyway, Angus mentioned at the weekend that 'the Font' was making homemade buttermilk ice cream and it sounded so delicious!  No soon as he had kindly provided the recipe than I hot footed it down to Sainsbury's for the ingredients, and it was all in the freezer before the BBC's Tomasz Schafernaker could say the words: "Cold blast of Arctic air imminent".

Hmmm, so now that I have warmed up from my icy walk around the park, I am thinking perhaps we could try a wee sample of the buttermilk ice cream? After all, it might be another year or so before we enjoy properly hot weather, and Gail, it would be dreadful for all your efforts to go to waste.

OK Bertie, I am persuaded, here it is!  A bowl with raspberries for me and a wee morsel for you too.

Oh my goodness this is utterly heavenly! Although I am thinking it is Scotch whisky and not the prescribed Bourbon you have mixed in with the cream, buttermilk, honey and granulated sugar?

Yes Bertie, in fact the Scotch whisky was your very own 'Sweet Wee Scallywag' blend. I'm so glad you liked the ice cream. I did too.

So when are we getting seconds then?

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Spring, Recovery and Earth Day

It’s been a horrid winter – my paw’s been awfully sore,
But spring’s now in the air and in my step.
So with keen anticipation, I’m standing by the door,
As I was weary, aching, low, now I am full of pep!

A brand new day is dawning here in sunny Aberdeen,
And I see no point in lingering inside.
The world beyond awaits us, unsullied, fresh and green,
And I’m all bushy tailed, bright eyed!

I bounce past granite houses to the gates of Duthie Park,
I greet my pals and savour every smell.
Oh I am truly joyful; life is once again a lark,
So I pause for just a moment to give thanks that all is well!

PS I am so proud to have taken part in Louis Dog Armstong's Earth Day Challenge. Click here to see all the entries.

And finally, with my Boffin hat on, I would like to congratulate these 28 Very Good Dogs who yesterday took part in the March for Science.

Friday, 21 April 2017