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Furry, Feathered and Scaled

Uplifting events focused on the living creatures that share our lives and a cute vacation from current events.

Pets are one of the wonderful things that make life good. Please join me for a little distraction and an infusion of cute—pet and animal days.

How many animal-related events are in LEEP this year? Over 1,000, and I highlight ten below.

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Don't worry; I'm not covering the multiple "Hug your Dog" and "Hug your Cat" days. There are so many of these in LEEP that they are redundant. June includes a week dedicated to pets, including days to bring your cat or dog into the office.

Though many events deal with animal abuse, animal health, and other pertinent issues, they are not in this issue. I needed happy events, so that is what I'm delivering.

Check out my issue on Endangered Species for more animal events.

As always, these are shortened versions of the full text for the event on LEEP Calendar.

Header: My cat Jersey is lying on the windowsill behind me as I work. 

Let's start with a birth by immaculate conception.

  Charlotte the stingray is pregnant, despite no males being in her tank for 8 years—promptography LD Lewis.  

Charlotte the stingray is pregnant, despite no males in her tank for eight years—promptography LD Lewis.

CHARLOTTE, THE STINGRAY, GIVES BIRTH

Date: Late February - Early March 2024

Location: Hendersonville, North Carolina, United States

Champion: Aquarium and Shark Lab

How does a female stingray

Alone in an aquarium in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains

Without access to a male

End up pregnant?

That is the question.

Charlotte, a burnt orange-colored stingray approximately the size of a giant Frisbee, has become pregnant without contact with a male of her species for at least eight years. Her natural habitat is the coast of Southern California. However, her home has been the Aquarium and Shark Lab on Main Street in downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina, for a decade.

Initially, her caretakers believed her plumpness was due to overfeeding. The gestating mother sported a noticeable lump on her back. An ultrasound revealed the stingray's pregnancy, leaving the staff scratching their head.

Parthenogenesis explains Charlotte's condition. It is a form of asexual reproduction where offspring develop from unfertilized eggs, eliminating the need for male genetic contribution. Parthenogenesis involves the fusion of a female's egg with a polar body, a cell produced during egg creation but typically unused, triggering embryo development.

While rare, parthenogenesis has been observed across various species, including insects, fish, amphibians, birds, and reptiles. It does not occur in mammals. Charlotte's case is unique for round stingrays.

Be a part of nature's wonders and watch Charlotte deliver her pups on the live-cam on Facebook.

  A swallow sits on a yucca plant in Southern California—promptography LD Lewis.  

A swallow sits on a yucca plant in Southern California—promptography LD Lewis.

SWALLOWS RETURN TO CAPISTRANO

Date: March 19, 2024

Location: San Juan Capistrano, California, United States

Champion: Mission San Juan Capistrano

I grew up just five miles from the Mission San Juan Capistrano. This is a highly anticipated event each year, and many of my friends are featured in the parade. Swallows are Southern California's "community pet."

Referred to locally as Swallow Day, this day marks the swallows' annual return to San Juan Capistrano, California, each year from their winter migration. The day is part of the Fiesta de las Golondrinas, the Festival of the Swallows, and Saint Joseph's Day.

The swallows' return to Mission San Juan Capistrano in California symbolizes the arrival of spring and has become an annual celebration of renewal, nature, and community spirit. The swallows, specifically the cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota), are small migratory birds known for their long-distance journey from Goya, Argentina, to San Juan Capistrano and other parts of North America. These birds create unique, mud-built, gourd-shaped nests in the eves and walls of man-made structures, including the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

The phenomenon of the swallows returning to the Mission San Juan Capistrano around St. Joseph's Day (March 19) each year has symbolized the changing seasons and the enduring nature of life. This event has been romanticized and popularized through songs, stories, and local lore, turning it into a celebration of hope, faith, and continuity.

The mission, founded in 1776 when California was part of Mexico, has a rich history intertwined with the lives of the Acjachemen people (Native Americans of the region) and Latino cultures.

  Chinchillas are fantastic pets, particularly for single adults in apartments—promptography LD Lewis  

Chinchillas are fantastic pets, particularly for single adults in apartments—promptography LD Lewis

CHINCHILLA DAY

Date: March 23

Location: United States

Champion: Unofficial Event. No Sponsor.

Chinchilla Day celebrates the small rodents native to the Andes mountains in South America. There are two species of chinchillas: Chinchilla chinchilla (formerly known as Chinchilla brevicaudata) and Chinchilla lanigera. They are known for their dense, soft fur. Historically, chinchillas were hunted for their fur, leading to a significant decline in their wild populations. Pet chinchillas are typically bred in captivity.

Chinchillas are native to the Andes of northern Chile, although historically, their range extended through parts of Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. Their natural habitat consists of rocky, arid areas in the mountains. Due to their specific habitat needs and dwindling populations in the wild, chinchillas are considered a species of conservation concern.

The curious rodents have robust bodies with round heads, large black eyes, and large, rounded ears. Their fur is extremely dense and soft, a natural adaptation to prevent parasites in their native, cold mountain habitats. Chinchillas are relatively small rodents, measuring about 9 to 14 inches (23 to 36 cm) in length from the nose to the base of the tail. An adult chinchilla weighs between one and three pounds (450 to 1,360 grams).

  Podencos are hunting dogs that are often abused and discarded when their usefulness wanes. Photo: Galgos del Sol.  

Podencos are hunting dogs that are often abused and discarded when their usefulness wanes. Photo: Galgos del Sol.

INTERNATIONAL PODENCO DAY

Date: May 1, 2024

Location: Worldwide

Champion: Galgos del Sol—Fundraiser

International Podenco Day is a fundraising campaign that brings awareness to the suffering and plight of this much-maligned Spanish hunting breed. They are referred to as the “great forgotten.”

Marches are held in various locations in Spain and the United Kingdom as a fundraising and awareness event. Podencos often hunt with Galgos and are typically discarded once their owners have gotten their use from them. Like Galgos, they are considered hunting tools and do not share the legal protection of home pets. They are identified by their bubblegum pink noses and oversized perked-up ears.

Podencos are primarily used to hunt hares and boar in packs. Known for their endurance and deft agility, it's these very qualities that when hunting in packs of up to 24 dogs, often result in injury or death.

  Hundreds of Golden Retrievers Gather with their owners in Scotland—Photo: Gloden Retriever Club of Scotland.  

Hundreds of Golden Retrievers gather with their owners in Scotland—Photo: Gloden Retriever Club of Scotland.

GUISACHAN RETRIEVER GATHERING

Date: July 10-14, 2023 (Not every year)

Location: Guisachan House in Glen Affric, Scotland, United Kingdom

Champion: Golden Retriever Club of Scotland

Guisachan House Retriever Gathering brings golden retrievers and their owners together for a single day on the Scottish estate that first bred the breed.

The first golden retrievers were born on July 13, 1868, at Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, the Lord of Tweedbank's home Guisachan House in Scotland. The breed was created specifically to thrive as a working and hunting dog in the Scottish Highlands. Today, it is one of the most popular breeds in the world.

Every few years, retriever enthusiasts gather at the breed's birthplace, attempting to break the United Kingdom's record for the most golden retrievers in a single location. In 2023, they did, with 466 dogs in attendance.

  Ninja the Wonder Cat is 100% black catitude—Photo LD Lewis  

Ninja the Wonder Cat is 100% black catitude—Photo LD Lewis

BLACK CAT APPRECIATION DAY

Date: August 17, 2024

Location: United States, Canada

Champion: ASPCA

Black Cat Appreciation Day is an adoption awareness event. Due to superstition, black cats often have a hard time getting adopted. Islamic and Christian faiths (50% of the world's population) historically attribute black cats to witchcraft and evil. Of course, it is silly. They're just black. But the stereotypes endure.

On August 17, the ASPCA and other animal advocates highlight black (and tuxedo) cats with special adoption incentives each year. Let a black cat cross your path and enter your home as part of the family.

SUPERSTITIONS

Black cats have been the subject of myths and superstitions across various cultures and throughout history, often seen as either good luck or bad luck, depending on the region. Here are some common superstitions surrounding black cats:

  1. Bad Luck in Western Cultures: A black cat crossing your path is considered bad luck in many Western cultures, particularly in the United States and parts of Europe. This superstition dates back to the Middle Ages when black cats were often associated with witchcraft and evil.

  2. Good Luck in the UK and Japan: Conversely, black cats symbolize good luck in the United Kingdom and Japan. In the UK, a black cat crossing your path brings good fortune, while in Japan, black cats attract positive relationships and prosperity.

  3. Witches' Familiars: During witch hunts in some parts of Europe, black cats were believed to be familiars of witches or even witches themselves transformed into animal form. Owning a black cat could lead to accusations of witchcraft.

  4. Sailors' Companions: Sailors used to keep black cats on ships as a talisman against bad luck at sea. Families of sailors also kept black cats at home to protect their loved ones while at sea.

  5. Symbol of Prosperity: A strange black cat's arrival at your home signifies prosperity in Scotland.

  6. Financial Fortune: In France, black cats are referred to as "matagots" or "magician cats" and bring good luck and wealth to owners who feed and treat them well.

The superstitions about black cats illustrate how cultural perspectives can vary dramatically from one place to another, with the same animal seen as either a harbinger of good luck or a bad omen.

  Mules are the original hybrid transportation and cannot reproduce—Promptography LD Lewis.  

Mules are the original hybrid transportation and cannot reproduce—Promptography LD Lewis.

MULE DAY

Date: October 26, [1785]

Location: United States

Champion: Historical Anniversary

Mule Day marks the anniversary of the arrival of Spain's King Charles III's unusual gift to America's first President—three donkeys, one of which initiated the adoption of mules in America.

Mules are hybrids, half donkey and half horse. Because its hooves are smaller and more upright, mules are suited to the rough terrain and conditions. Unlike horses, mules do not require grain and are less prone to injuries and overeating; mules tend to live longer.

Though mules may be of either sex, they cannot reproduce.

SPAIN'S ROYAL GIFT

In the late 18th century, General George Washington wanted to improve farming methods and livestock at his Mount Vernon estate. Mules seemed like a solution.

Washington's interest in mules led Spain, in 1785, to send him a gift of a jack (male donkey) and two jennets (female donkeys) from King Charles III of Spain. Washington named the jack Royal Gift and began breeding him with his mares (horses) to produce mules. He succeeded. Despite some initial challenges, including the reluctance of American farmers to adopt mules for their work and Royal Gift's initial lack of interest in breeding, the introduction of mules and mule breeding found fertile ground in America.

AGRICULTURE REINVIGORATED

The introduction of mules to American agriculture, facilitated by Washington's efforts, marked a turning point in farming practices. Mules became highly valued for their hardiness and became a common sight on American farms, contributing significantly to the efficiency and productivity of agricultural operations.

Washington's foresight in recognizing the potential of mules for American agriculture and his efforts to breed and promote their use is a testament to his innovative spirit and dedication to improving the country's agricultural practices. The story of George Washington and the mules he was gifted reflects an early example of the global exchange of ideas and resources that has shaped agricultural practices throughout American history.

  Ferrets make fantastic pets and get along well with cats and dogs—Photo: Evgeniya Litovchenko.  

Ferrets make fantastic pets and get along well with cats and dogs—Photo: Evgeniya Litovchenko.

ADOPT A RESCUED FERRET MONTH

Date: April 1-30, 2024

Location: United States, Canada

Champion: Support our Shelters

Adopt a Rescued Ferret Month, created in 2007, urges people to adopt rather than shop. Ferrets are wonderful, curious animals that do well with most cats and dogs.

A ferret is a small, carnivorous mammal from the Mustelidae family, including otters, weasels, badgers, and minks. Ferrets have long, slender bodies, short legs, and a tapered tail. They are known for their playful and inquisitive nature, making them popular pets. Domestic ferrets descend from the European polecat (Mustela putorius), native to Western Eurasia and North Africa. Domestic ferrets are bred for hunting (ferreting) rabbits and rodents. Their slender bodies allow them to enter warrens and burrows, chasing their prey into the open. Ferrets have been kept as pets and work animals for thousands of years.

Adopting a ferret from a rescue or shelter can be rewarding. These adoption-focused initiatives raise awareness about ferrets' needs and encourage responsible pet ownership. To locate a ferret shelter, click here.

  Hermit crabs are one of the more unusual pets people love—Photo: Taryn Elliott.  

Hermit crabs are one of the more unusual pets people love—Photo: Taryn Elliott.

MARTIN Z. MOLLUSK DAY

Date: May 3, 2024

Location: Ocean City, New Jersey, United States

Champion: Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce

Martin Z. Mollusk Day is an actual event based on a character named Martin Z. Mollusk, a hermit crab who serves as the mascot for Ocean City, New Jersey. The character was created by Mark Soifer, the former public relations director of Ocean City, as a part of the city's efforts to promote tourism in a fun and whimsical way.

Martin Z. Mollusk Day features the annual "Creep" on the first Saturday of May, where a hermit crab sits on the beach. According to local lore, summer will come a week early to the shore town if it sees its shadow. Martin Z. Mollusk has become a beloved figure in Ocean City, and many visitors and residents look forward to his appearances and antics throughout the year.

  The Comedy Pet Photography Awards are open to people worldwide—Photo Jeffry Surianto.  

The Comedy Pet Photography Awards are open to people worldwide—Photo Jeffry Surianto.

COMEDY PET PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS

Date: August 9, 2024 (estimated)

Location: Worldwide

Champion: Comedy Pet Photography Awards Limited

Founded in 2019 by professional photographers Paul Joynson-Hicks and Tom Sullam as an offshoot of The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, The Comedy Pet Photography Awards celebrates the humorous and endearing moments of pets worldwide. The contest is not only about laughter and fun; it carries a significant message regarding pet welfare and the humane treatment of animals.

The competition aims to highlight the joy pets bring into people's lives and promote animal welfare. By emphasizing the character and quirks of pets, the awards shed light on the importance of treating animals with kindness and compassion. Professional and amateur photographers submit photos across multiple categories.

Open to participants worldwide, the competition has seen a surge in popularity, with entries from numerous countries. Winning images tickle the funny bone and testify to the bond between pets and their owners.

Accepting entries now for 2024 awards. (Yes, you should enter:)

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As I mentioned, there are over 1,000 animal or pet-related events in 2024 alone. The above barely touches the surface.

Thank you for the gift of your time. My next issue in mid-March will cover key events in April 2024. Please like, share, and subscribe. Oh, and I love comments. Cheers!

Last updated: Feb 26th 2024

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