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Answering Googled Questions: Why Are Purebred Livestock Important?

The quick answer to this question is “predictability”. A well-established breed will allow you to make educated guesses about things like milk production, feed efficiency, and even behavior. Nubian dairy goats, for instance, are known for being loud as well as good (but generally not phenomenal) producers of milk. Breeds of livestock selected for meat production build muscle and fat quickly. Leghorn chickens are flighty, spooky bastards but lay eggs like nobody’s business. In short, with purebred livestock you know pretty well what you’re getting.

A close up of a male goat's face, mostly white but with black horns and a black nose and dramatic mahogany brown stripes running from his horns, across his eyes, to the corners of his mouth. He has a short but luxurious beard and he's sticking his tongue out.
Sanglant is the product of a cross between a Nubian doe and a Baylis line Spanish buck.

This leads, of course, to the problem of shrinking gene pools. Closed herd books are a double-edged blade (or, hah, a mixed blessing). As the average coefficient of inbreeding increases in a given breed, individuals become more and more prone to inbreeding depression. You’ll get animals who just don’t thrive, who have weak immune systems. At that point, careful outcrossing may be the only way to save the breed. Done well, it will preserve the breed’s essential characteristics while revitalizing the dying gene pool.

But I digress. Purebred livestock are important because they offer farmers predictability in their stock and when carefully stewarded preserve genetic resources handed down to us by our own ancestors. Pure breeds can offer us a glimpse of what our forebears thought was valuable and important to preserve, and should the major commercial breeds of livestock be endangered by disease or environment, other breeds may step in to save them with a genetic contribution or indeed replace them. The lovely variety of livestock breeds also allows farmers to select animals that will be economical to raise under whatever system the farmer has decided to use, from organic pasture-raised gourmet foods to backyard food sources to industrial production destined for supermarket shelves.

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Answering Googled Questions

“do box turtles bite”

Yes. Yes they do. On the other hand, they are turtles. They don’t move particularly quickly, and if you pick them up by the middle of their shell, between the front and back sets of legs, they can’t reach you with their head to bite. In fact, pretty much the only way you are going to get bitten by a box turtle is by putting your finger right in front of its nose and then waiting patiently for it to unbox, examine your finger, and decide to bite you. It might decide to just wander off, instead. Box turtles are pretty peaceful little guys.

This is by far one of the most popular questions, along with people looking for “why can’t I pet a service dog” or “when can I pet a service dog” (A: because the dog is working and doesn’t need you distracting it and B: never. Stop asking me. The answer is always no.) that gets people to my blog.

Just make very sure that the turtle you’re handling is a box turtle before handling it cavalierly. I do not trust the turtle-identification skills of city slickers and other reptile-naive folks. Snapping turtles look nothing whatsoever like box turtles, and are also incredibly aggressive. A big snapper can bite your finger clean off, and they can in fact reach you with their long snakey necks if you pick them up by the sides of the shell. So be very, very sure what kind of turtle you’re looking at before you touch it.

Last tip: always wash your hands after handling reptiles, wild or domestic, and never, ever lick a turtle or other reptile. You can get salmonella that way.

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Answering Googled Questions

“answer to rude people who want to know what your service dog does for you”

My good friend s.e. smith supplied this answer for me, when I wrestled over the same question: “I don’t discuss my medical record with strangers.”

If you’re feeling polite, you can smile while you say it and tack a “Sorry, but” on the beginning. If this is the fifth person to ask you today and you are all out of patience, practice a flat, matter of fact tone. I don’t explain further, I don’t do a song and dance. I just say “I don’t discuss my medical record with strangers.” and leave it at that. There is pretty much no need to explain further, really, because as soon as I say it the person realizes that they’ve been rude.

The next thing that usually happens is that the person begins apologizing profusely and trying to tell me how they didn’t mean to be offensive. I had a woman follow me down the hallway at school once, telling me all about how she has a friend with a service dog and blah blah blah. I tend to try to deflect the rampaging apologies, because I’m generally not feeling up to reassuring someone that no, really, I don’t think they’re a bad person (just a thoughtless one). If I’m feeling energetic and it’s someone I have to spend time with, I may try to change the subject to something non-dog-related entirely. The weather works well. I can almost always come up with something to say about the weather.

But really, you don’t have to tell people what your service dog does. You don’t. Supercrips aside, those people who have limitless energy for educating other people about disabilities and service dogs (and will often try to get you to do the same, or feel guilty for wanting privacy and setting boundaries), you do not have to discuss your medical issues with every random curious stranger. You are allowed to decide what the world knows about you beyond what is immediately visible, and to defend that boundary against people who think their curiosity is more important than your privacy.

It can be really hard to refuse to answer questions, admittedly, because a lot of us (especially women) have been raised to be nice. Disappointing strangers, or possibly offending them by implying that they’re prying into private matters that are none of their damn business (which is exactly what they’re doing) is not “nice”, and it’s hard for us to overcome the training. Which is why I suggest practicing until that is how you respond automatically.

And don’t let the Supercrips tell you that you have an obligation to educate everyone in the whole damn world. You don’t. If you don’t have the time and energy for it, that’s fine. You’re not a bad person just because you want to get out, grab some milk and bread, and get home and collapse in front of the TV with a cheesy movie. If other people feel a calling to educate people indiscriminately, I think that’s wonderful that they’re called and able to do so, but they can lay off the rest of us who have limited energy and would like to be able to get some groceries without turning it into an After School Special Episode on disability.

So there you go. If you feel uncomfortable asserting boundaries, like maybe you’re not being nice enough, drop me a comment or an e-mail via the contact form and I will write you a personal permission note to have privacy, seriously. Sometimes it helps to hear it from someone else.

PS: This phrase works for every other mobility aid and assistive item, too. Use it liberally when people ask things like “What’s wrong with you?” (AND YES THEY DO ASK THAT QUESTION and I hate it every time) and “When are you going to get rid of that cane/chair/dog?”

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Answering Googled Questions

“why cant i pet a service dog”
“why ignore service dog”

The short and sweet answer here is because the service dog is working hard to keep his or her person safe. This takes a lot of concentration for dogs, and when you try to pet them, when you coo at them, when you try to get their attention, you are endangering the safety of the dog’s handler.

This is not cool.

If you saw me out with my cane, you wouldn’t try to kick it out from under me, would you? If you saw me out in my wheelchair, you wouldn’t grab the back and try to dump me out? Of course not. Trying to interact with a service dog without permission is pretty much exactly like doing those things. It’s true, Sid is a gorgeous dog and he’s very nice to pet, but he’s also doing a really important job keeping me upright. If you succeed in getting him to swerve towards you suddenly, it’s very likely that I’m going to fall and get hurt, and it will be your fault, just like you’d kicked my cane out from under me or tried to dump me out of my wheelchair.

Use some self-control and courtesy, and let service dogs work. Pretend they aren’t there. If you’re really so desperate to pet a dog right this very second and possibly you’re going to die if you don’t, ask before reaching for a service dog. But be aware that a lot of handlers are going to tell you no, even if it’s killing you to not be able to love up that dog (that doesn’t belong to you, and isn’t there for you, anyway), and you need to accept that and go away without argument.

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Answering Googled Questions

“will a house turtle die if let loose”

Yes. Yes it will. Not only will it die, it will first spread diseases to the local reptile and amphibian population that they may not be able to handle, potentially doing severe damage. Plus, it’s likely a red-eared slider or other invasive species that has a terrible tendency to do damage to the entire local ecosystem.

Do not turn your pet turtles loose, people. Find a local reptile rescue and take them the turtle, along with a donation. In a pinch, take the turtle and the tank and supplies down to your local animal shelter, also with a donation. In a really severe pinch, take your turtle to the vet and have it humanely euthanized rather than sentencing it to a slow and unpleasant death by starvation and dehydration, and possibly having an awful impact on the local turtle population.

But really, no house pet should ever be turned loose. Be responsible with your pets, people.

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Answering Googled Questions

“why do spring peepers sing”

What you’re hearing is male frogs attempting to a) claim territory and b) attract a beautiful lady frog to them for the purpose of procreation. Lady spring peeper frogs apparently find that little “peep? peep!” deeply sexy, and will head for the sexiest and most peepery peeps, whereupon if the gentleman frog has also managed to claim a nice puddle, a stork will arrive and deliver tadpoles.

In other news, the incubator is on lockdown and baby chickens are due to arrive on Tuesday, when I will be at work. Boo hiss. Daniel has been tasked with updating me every hour at least on the status of pips, zips, and chicks in the incubator. It is entirely possible that by the time I get home, the hatching will be all over. Of course, given how contrary baby chickens can be at times, it is also possible that by the time I get home, we will have one pip with a baby chicken staring balefully out at us through the hole. You never know with these guys, really.

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Answering Googled questions

“What happens when a turtle bites you”

Need more data. Please specify type of turtle. But I’ll take a shot at answering for a few types of turtle.
1) If it is a snapping turtle, your finger will fall off. Seriously. They can bite your finger off and they are freaky fast for something that looks like a living fossil. Never, ever get your fingers near a snapping turtle’s mouth.

2) If it is a box turtle, you will spend a suitable amount of time feeling ashamed of yourself for having fallen asleep with your hand right in front of a turtle. They are not freaky fast. Also you will probably bleed some because those little beaks can be sharp, and as always, there’s a risk of infection.

Yes, I know, I’m clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel for posts and it’s only Thursday. Maybe sometime today one of the dogs will be unbearably cute! But you know, I find queries about being bitten by turtles ALL THE TIME in the search terms that lead people here. I find it interesting that people are so deeply concerned about being nommed by a chelonian. The other queries that get people here tend to center around whether or not you are allowed to pet a service dog.

Here is the easy answer to all those: No. Only the service dog’s handler gets to pet the service dog. This is because service dog handlers are cruel people who like to taunt you with their dogs by petting them in public, and not at all because it can be very dangerous for the handler if you are trying to distract the service dog.