Coyote Ugly

Think the only concern that folks in Destin have is tourists coming into the area and backing up traffic? Think again. There’s another type of outsider who has taken up along the beautiful Emerald Coast and caused fear among the locals. This outsider isn’t here for the sun, sand, or sinful behavior. No, he’s here to attack vulnerable residents. Who is this bad guy? A coyote. He’s out to stuff himself from a buffet of domestic animals.

What the heck is a coyote doing in the Florida Panhandle by the beach? My conception of a coyote is of an animal found in the desert or the prairies out West. Think Wile E. Coyote. He and the Road Runner were never gallivanting about by the seaside. Tumbleweeds and cacti were in the background–not palm trees and sand dunes.

But coyotes are everywhere now, not just in the West. According to the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC), coyotes can currently be found in all states except for Hawaii. But for the intervening Pacific Ocean, I’m sure they’d be in the Aloha State as well. And not only are they in 49 of the 50 states, but coyotes, per the FWC, are in nearly every large city in the U.S. Yes, coyotes are commonly spotted in urban areas. According to National Geographic, coyotes have colonized najor cities such as Los Angeles. The coyotes can have LA as far as I am concerned, but they need to get their paws out of Destin.

The coyote population, unlike many other wild animals, is on the increase. In fact, our country may now have an all time high number of coyotes. They are not just IN Florida, coyotes are EVERYWHERE IN Florida. Coyotes, who have been in Florida since the 1970’s, have been tracked in every single county of the Sunshine State..

While coyotes may have migrated to Florida, they are native to North America. The animal appears in Native American tales as a clever beast. In real life, the coyote has shown just how clever he is by adapting to our country’s changing landscape. Residence in the desert not working out? Well, the coyote just picks up and moves to Florida apparently.

Why is the coyote so adaptable? It is naturally adaptable because it eats a wide variety of foods. It is an omnivore (will eat animals and plants) with an opportunistic diet. Coyotes are scavengers who will eat whatever food is available.The coyote is happy to dine on berries off a bush or pets off of your patio. Coyotes will eat almost anything. Although varied, the coyote’s diet consists mainly of animal meat. Coyotes are in Destin because there are yummy pets for the pilfering.

What’s a caring pet owner (whether in Destin or not) to do? Well, the best advice is what NOT to do. Do NOT leave pet food outside. Coyotes are often attracted to dog food. And while you are at it, don’t leave your pet outside either. Keep your cats indoors and do NOT allow them to roam freely. Fluffy might not like being kept indoors, but cats don’t like much of anything anyway. Better alive and grumpy than dead–cats do not typically survive coyote attacks. Coyotes will also eat out of open garbage cans. Cover and secure your outside garbage cans. And for heaven’s sake, don’t let your cat jump in one. Coyotes also prey on small dogs, so keep Fifi and her jeweled collar inside with you. Don’t get a false sense of security just because you have a fenced back yard. Coyotes are good diggers. Not only can they dig their own dens (sorry, coyote contractors), but they can dig under a fence.

We know that coyotes are looking for pet snacks, but what should pet owners be on the lookout for? A coyote is basically a wild canine. It is related to, but smaller than, a wolf. A typical coyote is one third the size of a wolf and weighs between 18 to 44 pounds if male and 14 to 40 pounds if female. Yes, even female coyotes have to watch their girlish figures. Coyotes generally resemble a small German shepherd. They have long bushy tails, sharp pointed ears, and sharp pointed noses.

Coyotes are largely nocturnal and are most active at dawn and/or dusk. Thus, you are more likely to see a coyote if you are out bar-hopping in Destin at night than you are shopping at the outlet stores in the afternoon. If you do see a coyote, don’t be afraid. (Easier said than done, I know.) Coyotes are normally timid and stay away from people, although coyote attacks on people have occurred. Experts recommend that if a coyote approaches you, don’t run. That would be pointless since a coyote can run up to 40 mph. Instead, frighten the coyote away be making loud noises. No problem. I’m pretty sure I could scream my head off if a coyote was accosting me.

Speaking of noise, coyotes are known for making some. Their scientific name, canis latrens, means “barking dog.” Coyotes have some distinctive vocalizations including howling, barking, and yipping. The cry of the coyote, consisting of a series of high-pitched yelps, can be heard in the early evening. Howling is done to communicate with other coyotes nearby. Of course, inebriated tourists in Destin may also do some howling as they attempt to have a “howl” of a good time, so the coyote doesn’t have the corner on howling.

Why my fascination with the coyote? Unfortunately, the coyote ugly truth is that a coyote may be the reason why my daughter’s cat went out in the backyard and never returned. The cat was chipped and clearly well cared for. Efforts on social media (lost pets and neighborhood group) to find my beloved grandkitty were unsuccessful. I’d like to think that someone took Yuri in and is caring for him, although I wish they’d tried to find his owner by checking for a chip, etc. Sadly, Yuri may have ended up as coyote chow. Hopefully, he gave the coyote the fight of his life and made him howl in pain before succumbing. Coyotes are beautiful animals, but they act ugly towards pets.

JUST WONDER-ing: Have you ever seen a coyote? Is the urbanization of our society forcing animals to move their habitat? Whose fault is it ultimately when coyotes end up in urban areas and must scavenge for pets and garbage to survive?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football Fun For Everyone

 

Sports fan or not, anyone watching the  NFC and AFC championship games played this past Sunday could have scored a good time. Even if you don’t know a blocked punt from a block in the back, there’s lots to enjoy when viewing the NFL playoffs. “How so?” you might ask. Well, there’s lots more to  a football game than plays run on the field. Let’s look a little closer and see why there’s football fun for everyone.

Like music? An NFL playoff game is the place to be. You’re sure to find some music star on the field before the kickoff to sing the national anthem. At least they are singing THEIR version of the national anthem.The violence may start before the game when our country’s beloved song is massacred.

Jimmy Buffett tore himself away from Margaritaville to do the honors before the NFC championship game between the Saints and the Rams. Buffett is a lifelong Saints fan, so he probably did not have to be bribed with a cheeseburger from paradise to get him to appear. Clad in a Saints shirt and without musical accompaniment, Buffett saluted our country with his recognizable voice. At the end of the song, I exclaimed, “Oh, say did you see….” However, I was not verbalizing the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Nope. I was asking if I had seen correctly that Buffett dropped his mike like a hot potato as soon as the song concluded.

Not to be outdone, the AFC Championship game also had a well-known singer (at least to folks my age) on the field to salute our country in song before kickoff. Melissa Etheridge, a big Kansas City Chiefs fan, bundled up and braved the cold to deliver the national anthem. Personally, I would rather have had her sing “Come To My Window” during halftime instead, but no one asked me.

Obviously, I am not the stereotypical woman who would rather be shopping for shoes than watching games on the gridiron. But for those girly girls out there who are more interested in jewelry than jocks and clothing than clothesline tackles, the championship games offered the opportunity to check out rings and coverings. Running back Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints carried more than just a ball on the field. His nose ring was clearly visible under his helmet.If the ring was gold, it coordinated with the gold uniform pants the Saints wore for the big game..

Clothing was a big concern at the AFC Championship game where temperatures were pretty nippy. Anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of scantily clad cheerleaders was sorely disappointed. The Chiefs’  cheer squad was chiefly concerned with staying warm. They were practically dressed in warm-up suits which hopefully lived up to their names. Fans in the stands looked like they were wearing as much clothing as possible to avoid freezing. Perhaps they stood through much of the game because they couldn’t bend all those layers to sit down. Sitting wasn’t an issue for the Patriots owners; the Krafts looked pretty toasty (and coatless) in their swank stadium box. With ownership comes privileges such as staying warm while thousands around you verge on frostbite.

And speaking of clothing, weather played an interesting role in the two championship games. In New Orleans, where fans were shown strolling around the French Quarter in shorts, spectators watched the game sheltered from the elements in the comfort of the Superdome. Over in Kansas City, where the temperature was 19 degrees at kickoff, freezing fans watched the game in Arrowhead Stadium, which is open to the elements. But not to worry. The field was not going to freeze thanks to an underground heating system. The fans? Yup. They were freezing.

Those truly uninterested in the football game itself had the commercial breaks to entertain them. Viewers were given ample opportunity to critique the ads since it seemed there were a limited amount of ads that were run over and over again. I think Progressive’s Flo was experiencing “Groundhog Day” as she and her crew repeatedly showed up to protect neighborhood property.  Hilariously, the McDonald’s commercial featuring Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce dancing at the counter to celebrate a Mix and Match deal as visions of a TD catch danced in his head, appeared within a short time span of Kelce actually scoring a TD. Reality TV fans may have recognized Kelce as the star of the reality show Catching Kelce, where girls from every state vied to become Travis’ girlfriend. The lucky girl may or may not have been taken to McDonald’s to celebrate her catch.

For those who enjoy bloopers, the Saints-Rams match up was a must see. The game ended with controversy over the refs’ failure to call a blatant pass interference in the final two minutes. Just like the commercials, the play was run over and over again. Everyone agreed the refs blew it, but TBSS (too bad so sad) for the Saints. Obviously, no one (particularly a ref) is perfect, but at least the average Joe doesn’t have where he’s dropped the proverbial ball aired on national TV and rerun ad nauseum. The reactions of the various people involved (refs, coaches, players fans) was quite entertaining as the play was under review. If you are a people watcher, football games are for you.

Next up? Football fever reaches a fever pitch with the Super Bowl looming ahead on February 3rd. Even if you don;t care about football stats or are not rooting for a particular team to win (or perhaps, such as in my case, lose), fun awaits you if you watch the game. A football game is an event. There’s plenty going on off and on the field, so there’s something to entertain everyone. Tune in for the clutch plays or for the commercials, tune in to armchair quarterback or to critique the ads, tune in to listen to the commentators or to enjoy the national anthem sung by a star; tune in for injury reports or for a weather report. It’s football fun for everyone!

Just WONDER-ing: Did you watch the conference championship games this past Sunday? Why or why not? What do you enjoy most about watching a football game? The least? If you are a football fan, what non-sports things do you pay attention to while viewing a game?

 

 

 

Diving In To Explore The Gene Pool

Forget astrological signs. These days people are more apt to ask you what your ancestry is than whether you are a Sagittarius or a Gemini. The focus has shifted from what you are to where you’re from.

Although I am not a trendy person, I confess that I have succumbed to the trend to take a DNA test to learn about my ancestry. While I knew that dear old dad HALE‘d from Georgia and my darling mother was born in the Palmetto State, where did my ancestors from way back live? In particular, where did they call home before they arrived in the border wall-less United States? So, I took a DNA test, and I passed. Yes, DNA tests are the science tests I don’t mind taking because I can’t fail–I mean, OF COURSE, I have DNA.

The long-awaited results arrived via e-mail a few days ago. (Hey, this is a scientific test, so it is more scientific to send results electronically than via snail mail.) The test results confirmed what I already believed, but they did give me a bit more detail and at least one surprise. Yes, this red-headed, freckle-faced, fair-complected gal is of Irish descent–well at least 43% Irish and Scotch. I am also 56% English, Welsh, and NW European. Perhaps this explains my fascination with the British royal family. It also confirms what I have been told by family members, i.e., I am descended from famous British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (Think Sherlock Holmes.)

The Irish and English ancestry was no surprise. What did surprise me was that I have a whopping 1% Native American Indian ancestry. I don’t know the tribe, but no matter what the tribe, this contribution to the family gene pool was entirely unexpected. No one EVER mentioned this heritage to me. But I must have it since a scientific test told me so.

DNA testing is the scientific step up for genealogical research. No longer do folks have to pick the cob-webbed brains of elderly family members or search musty old attics for dust-covered family Bibles and records. No worries about paper trails going cold. DNA evidence is always literally right under your nose.

For non-science folks like me, DNA testing seems magical. I spit (and spit and spit) in a cup, and, VOILA, a few weeks later, confirmation is received that my ancestors were ruled by a monarch and likely ate lots of potatoes. For my sister, who received all the science genes in the family along with a PhD in microbiology, the process is likely less magical. A DNA test simply looks at specific locations of a person’s genome to verify genealogical relationships or estimate a person’s ethnic mixture. Huh? As I said, magic!

One of the coolest parts of my doing the testing was mailing off my sample to be analyzed. Sending spit through the mail–Woo hoo! Sadly, I merely dropped the box containing the securely wrapped sample into the postal box outside the post office. I should’ve gone in to hand it to the postal clerk at the counter just so I could be asked, “Does the package contain anything hazardous, liquid, or perishable?” Um, yes. Spit is liquid. It might be hazardous and perishable. I wonder what the clerk would’ve said.

Maybe the postal clerk would have been unfazed. She’s probably handled  umpteen packages of spit recently. In November 2018, AncestryDNA claimed that it had sold more than 14 million DNA kits. Now that’s a lot of spit kits! And there was certainly lots of spitting going on during the Christmas holidays. Over the Black Friday weekend, AncestryDNA sold almost 1.5 million DNA kits Yes, the spit was flowing as freely as the eggnog during Yuletide.

Now that I have scientific proof of my family heritage, what next? Well, of course, I need to see what my dog’s heritage is. Oh, yes. Dog DNA tests are also available. While these tests cannot connect Spot with his four-legged relatives, they can provide his owner with information as to the breeds found in his pet. Think you purchased a purebred? Might want to run a dog DNA test just to be sure your big bucks were well spent.

Dog DNA tests are slightly different from human DNA tests. Your mutt does not have to spit in a cup; you simply swab his cheek. Seems ironic that spit is not used since dogs are usually drooling all over the place and would have no problem filling a spit cup.  But beware; the FDA does not regulate dog DNA tests like they do human DNA tests. Dog check scrapings might be hazardous to your health.

The cost of dog DNA tests is nothing to spit at. The top-rated one is about $200. But all those dog owners who think nothing of dropping money into doggie clothing, doggie birthday parties, and custom doggie houses, will certainly not blink at that cost. Me? I’m going to go for the el cheapo dog DNA test kit which sells for a mere $34. I think $19.99 has a nicer ring to it though. And while dog check scrapings may not be appealing, at least one of the dog DNA kits has a cute name–Embark. (Get it?)

Why would I spend good money to do a DNA test on my dog? Well, I want to make sure that I am labeling her in a PC manner. She is believed to be a mix of a lab and a dachshund. And, no, I have no clue how THAT happened. I lovingly refer to her as my “dab,” a clever mix of breed names (or at least I thought so). But what if she is another breed as well? Am I insulting her by failing to give proper recognition to her breed makeup? Ordering her dog DNA test kit pronto.

Regardless of how my dog’s DNA test turns out, I’ll still love her. Regardless of how your DNA test turns out, I still appreciate your reading (and hopefully liking) my blog posts. Know what the DNA test failed to say about me? I have WRITING in my genes. The proof is in my blog posts; no scientific test is needed.

Just WONDER-ing: Is knowing your ancestry important to you? Have you taken a DNA test? If so, were you surprised at the results? Did they make you look at yourself in a new light?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hitting A Wall On The Wall

With the beginning of 2019, many have made resolutions while others have chosen a word for the year. While I have no inside information, I am fairly certain that President Trump’s word for the year is “wall,” and his resolution is to get one built on our country’s southern border with Mexico. But, as anyone not living under a rock is well aware, the president’s wall goal has hit the proverbial wall.

It’s not just any wall which our country’s 45th president desires to build. He wants a border wall which would run approximately 700 miles to limit the movement of non-citizens across the U.S. border. The structure is not to fence anyone in, but to keep illegal immigrants out. “Without a wall you cannot have border security,” President Trump asserts.

But without money, you cannot build a wall. So the president is seeking a approximately $5.6 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) towards the construction budget. The Democrats are only willing to give him a mere couple billion dollars though. As a result, a stalemate exists resulting in a partial shutdown of our government since December 22nd.

For want of a nail, a kingdom may have been lost. In our case, for want of a wall, government services have been lost. Currently about 800,000 government workers are either furloughed or working without pay. Nine out of fifteen federal departments are closed. Although I’m all for reducing the fat in our bloated government, I do feel sorry for those federal workers taking a hit in their wallets.  Hey, you can’t spell “wallet” without a “wall,” y’all!

And speaking of being hit in the wallet, yes, the IRS is affected by this impasse. 12% of IRS workers are toiling without pay. No refunds are being issued, and most of the IRS customer “service” support staff is furloughed. Considering how long you have to wait on hold to ever speak to an IRS “service” support person on the phone, I wonder if anyone would even notice the ongoing furlough. On the bright side, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief that those scam IRS calls threatening you with jail will be put on hold because no one will fall for them given the circumstances.

But safety first, folks. Around 420,000 employees of the FBI, DEA, BATFE, Coast Guard, and various correctional and law enforcement officers are on the job without pay. Makes me a tad nervous, I’ll admit. Are we going to get what we are paying for from these employees? Yikes!

As the wall impasse drags on, various suggestions have been floated as to how to resolve the situation. For example, erecting steel barriers rather than constructing a masonry wall might be less expensive. But are steel barriers really a “wall?” Not according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary which clearly identifies a wall as a “masonry structure.” Perhaps a wall is in the eyes of the beholder.

Another solution President Trump has mentioned is declaring a national emergency and having the military erect the wall. This idea is superficially appealing. Wouldn’t any military family rather have their loved one recalled from deployment to Afghanistan in order to help build a wall? I’m no military expert, but I’m fairly certain bricks are less dangerous than bombs and the Taliban. Moreover, having a military member learn a skill such as masonry would certainly aid in finding a job when transitioning to civilian life one military service has ended.

All this back and forth talk about how to build a wall and how to pay for it overlooks a basic question–Are border walls effective? Let’s consider the history of border walls. The Great Wall of China is a border wall which was erected to protect the Empire of China from powers to the north. Well, that wall is still standing and China still exists. At least that item made in China has worked and lasted. On the other hand, there’s the Berlin Wall. My younger readers may say, “What Berlin Wall?” My point exactly. That wall, constructed by the Soviet Union to divide Berlin into NATO and Warsaw Pact zones, is no longer in existence.

But that was then and this is now. Will a wall on our southern border actually solve the illegal immigrant problem? My educated guess is that the answer is a resounding “no.” Whether or not we need to make American great again, in the eyes of those making a run for our border, America is great. Sure, our country has its problems, but it is a heck of a lot safer and offers many more opportunities for those living in countries located to the south of us.

While I in no way condone taking illegal actions to get into the U.S., I can understand why people are doing so. If the choice is Door A where you or your children are slaughtered by violence in your home country or Door B, illegally enter the U.S. and perhaps be caught and detained, I’m positive I’d choose Door A too. The wall may make entry more difficult, but people are still going to try.

The wall may be akin to a “Keep Off The Grass” sign. We all know that we aren’t supposed to step on the green stuff, but there are compelling reasons for doing so. If our toddler slips our grip and runs onto the forbidden grassy area, are we going to obey the sign? I hope your answer is, “Of course not!” If a citizen of a Central American country is trying to remove his/her child from life-threatening violence, will the wall’s command “Do Not Enter” trump (no pun intended) the will to save one’s family? Probably not.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a brilliant solution to the current wall dilemma. There is no simple answer, and there are pros and cons to having/not having a wall. All I can say is a variation of a line from “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, they will still come.

Just WONDER-ing: Have you been following the news about President Trump’s attempt to build the wall? Do you think building a wall will solve the immigration problem? Is breaking the law ever justified?

 

 

 

 

Dropping The Ball On New Year’s Resolutions

Faster than the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, our New Year’s resolutions drop by the wayside. Making resolutions at the beginning of a new year is traditional, and failing to keep them is the norm. Our resolve to turn over a new leaf in the new year quickly dissolves. Follow through is sadly lacking.

According to research by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. The average New Year’s resolution is reportedly kept for a mere six weeks. Thus, the beginning of the year is the time to avoid going to the gym. Until mid-February the gym will be crowded; thereafter, you can have your pick of exercise equipment to use.

The most common New Year’s resolution made is to lose weight. Well, it’s easy to see why that goal probably won’t be met. Most resolvers will crash and burn on New Year’s Day. It’s a holiday with a gazillion bowl games on TV to watch. (OK, I exaggerate; there were six.) And what’s a bowl game without a bowl of chips and some dip to consume as we couch potatoes are glued to our TVs?

Scientists tell us that the very act of making a resolution improves your odds of success. Well, duh! There’s no goal to be met if you don’t set one. My mother would agree with the scientists on this one. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” she’d undoubtedly remark.

But setting a goal is where we typically set ourselves up for failure. While aiming high might be great for the U.S. Air Force, setting unrealistic goals is a poor strategy for those making New Year’s resolutions. Let’s get real. What can you honestly achieve? Face it. You will NOT lose twenty pounds in the first week of 2019 and likely not even in the month of January.

So what’s realistic? Let’s think baby steps and not running a marathon. A saying that has resonated with me is: “Yard by yard, life is hard. Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.” While we are not inchworms, the concept is applicable and appropriate. Start out with a small, achievable goal. You’ll be uplifted by your success and encouraged to continue on your resolution journey.

The concept sounds good, but what does that look like? Consider this example. While my dog Oryo would love for me to take her for a walk every day, the weather and the obligations of life make that goal pie in the sky. Walking her twice a week is a more achievable goal; and if I meet that goal I will be pumped up to walk her even more than that.

It might also be time to expand our resolution horizons. Losing weight, eating healthier, quitting smoking, and exercising more are pretty common resolutions. But are these the only ways to improve ourselves and our lives? No. And saying “no” is a great resolution. Author/chef (and wife of pro basketball player Stephen Curry) Ayesha Currry has a resolution to say “no” more during the coming year.

Women especially have a hard time saying no. We think we are superwomen and take on more than we should. It is not a crime to realize that there are limits to our time and energy, and choose to say “no” so as not to overextend ourselves. And we are more likely to succeed with a resolution such as this one. Saying “no” more means we have met this goal even if we only do it once. I’m thinking when we’ve done it once, it empowers us to do it again.

A year is a long time, although the years seem to pass more quickly the older I get. Another way to manage our resolutions to ensure success is to break down the time for accomplishing our goals. I may not be able to diet for 365 days, but I could certainly do it for one. Why do we feel we have to commit ourselves to an entire year when making a resolution? Sure, it’s a new year with blank pages on each day of the 2019 calendar. But every day is a new day giving us a fresh start. Perhaps we should consider starting small and set a goal for each day. A day is an inch, while a year is a yard. A year is hard; a day may not be a cinch, but it is doable.

While resolutions seem to be a big deal, they really aren’t if you stop to think about them for a moment. Resolutions require that you think about what you are going to do and have a plan for acting. Believe me, advance planning is an alien concept for some folks, but the concept is simple one. My dearly departed mother would sum the idea up like this:  “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

And perhaps a good resolution for 2019 is to jettison the all or nothing concept for resolutions. While it is helpful to have specific and measurable goals, failing to attain the exact goal set doesn’t necessarily make you a failure. It simply means you did not reach the bar you set. For example, if you resolve to lose 20 pounds, but you only manage to take off 15, I’d hardly call this performance a failure. You are 15 pounds lighter and no doubt healthier. You are still better off than you were prior to setting the resolution. Isn’t progress a success in itself?

My New Year’s resolution is to think small. Rather than set a global goal for the year, I aim to set a daily goal. That’s more achievable and more practical. I’ve achieved my goal for today by posting this blog post. Yea me! I didn’t drop the ball on my New Year’s resolution–well, at least not today. There’s always tomorrow…

Just WONDER-ing: Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2019? Have you had success keeping resolutions in years past? Do you expect success with your resolutions for this year? Why or why not?