Two cute animals for us to deal with this week. On the right, a Dachshund, better known as a "wiener dog." They were originally bred to get badgers and other burrowing animals out of their burrows and to hunt mice and rabbits (their name literally means "badger dog"). A pretty tall order for a very short dog. I mean, badgers are tough bastards, so they have to be pretty scrappy little guys to put up that kind of a fight. They were brought here in part to deal with prairie dogs.
I worked with a guy who had a couple of long-haired Dachshunds. He really loved them. They come in short-haired, wire-haired, and long-haired varieties, and in three sizes, standard, miniature, and kaninchen, or "rabbit sized."
There was a bizarre cartoon developed in the ’50’s called Clutch Cargo. Clutch was a freelance writer and tough guy, who traveled around the world getting himself involved in other people’s lives and opening a can of whoop-ass on bad guys. He had two travel companions, Spinner (who might or might not be his son) and Paddlefoot, a Dachshund. There wasn’t a lot of movement in these cartoons, except the characters’ mouths, which were provided by live actors using a technique called Syncro-Vox. Observe…
They showed Clutch on the Garfield Goose & Friends afternoon TV show in Chicago. Garfield Goose was a delusional goose who believed he was King of the United States. There are a few episodes of the show on YouTube.
On to the koala, who looks like a bear but isn’t: it’s a marsupial. They come from Australia, which seems to have cornered the market in strange (and occasionally dangerous) animals. They live mostly in eucalyptus trees and hardly ever come down.
A year or two ago, Australia was beset with terrible wildfires that really threatened the koalas, many of whom were traumatized by the fires. They rescued as many as they could and gathered them into preserves, and as I understand it the firefighters, after a hard day of putting out fires, would go to the preserves and cuddle the koalas. Which isn’t that strange: I think lots of people would cuddle with a koala. I know I would.
The koala in the picture looks like a little one, or a joey, which seems to be the name given to all marsupials, like kangaroos, wallabies, and Tasmanian devils. Notice its paws: they all have five digits, two of which are opposable, like thumbs.
Australia’s national airline is Qantas. The name is an acronym for Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Service. When they began international service to the US, they ran commercials that featured a talking koala. The voice was provided by Howard Morris, who was best known for playing Ernest T. Bass, a crazy mountain man on The Andy Griffith Show, but who was also a very talented comedian, actor, director, and voice actor. The koala was none too happy with the airline for bringing so many visitors to the Land Down Under, and ended every commercial by saying "I… HATE… QANTAS."
I spent a week in Australia a few years ago and thought it was a beautiful place. If I ever go again, I’m taking Mary and we ain’t coming back…
Christine Bialczak is the brains behind Simply 6 Minutes.