Sunday, March 27, 2016


A few weeks ago, Mom went with a couple of her friends to see the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, which is right here in Kansas City.  When this museum first opened in 1982, it was just called the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City.  I'm not sure how it got to be a "national" museum, but it probably took an act of Congress or something like that.

The original collections of toys and miniatures that went into the museum belonged to Mary Harris Francis and Barbara Marshall.  The first building was 7,000 square feet in size.  In 1985 and 2004, the building was expanded until it was 33,000 square feet.  By that time, the collection included over 72,000 objects.

A miniature castle

A capital campaign was started in 2012 to raise money for a new, bigger building, which opened on August 1, 2015.  The museum has the world's largest fine-scale miniature collection and one of the country's biggest antique toy collections.

I wanted to go with Mom to see all the little tiny things in the museum.  I thought that since I am a member of a breed of very small dogs, I would fit right in.  But Mom said dogs are not allowed to go in the museum, even miniature dogs.  Toy breeds are not allowed in the museum either, which does not seem fair.  But there was nothing I could do about the situation except stay home and take a nap.

It's hard to show how small these things are, which is why Mom should have
taken me along for size comparison. This cabinet is only 12" or 14" tall,
and that means the artist had to use a very small brush to paint the scenes in it!

Anyway, Mom took a bunch of pictures for me to put in my blog.  I will show you the pictures of miniatures today, and the pictures of toys another day.  Mom said to apologize because some of the photos are sort of fuzzy.  This was due to the fact that everything was behind plexiglass, and also because she was using her cell phone camera.

A miniature doll and dollhouse, with a miniature dog chewing on a miniature teddy bear.

A very small living room with a tiny wing chair and two little dogs.

There was lots of miniature furniture and miniature dishes. 
The dog in this scene is cuddling with a cat, which is something that never happens at our house!

Two women are chatting in the doorway of this little English cottage.

Those fingers are Mom's.  She was trying to show how little the piano and harpsichord are.

A stringed-instrument maker's shop inside a regular-sized violin.  All the tools and everything are there.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


This year's Irish dog breed that I have chosen to write about is the Kerry Blue Terrier.  It is also sometimes called the Irish Blue Terrier, and if you speak Gaelic, you can call it An Brocaire Gorm.  Like other terriers, the Kerry Blue was originally bred to control vermin such as rats, rabbits, badgers, foxes, otters, and hares.

Over time, the Irish farmers also began to use the terriers for herding cattle and sheep, and as guard dogs.  Today the breed is known around the world and is used both as a working dog and as a companion.  However, even though a Kerry Blue won the famous British dog show, Krufts, in 2000, the breed is still much less common than many other types of terriers.

Philip Doyle with his dog "Terri" at the Killarney Show, 1916.
The breed looks quite different nowadays.

Kerry Blues first made their appearance in the mountains of Kerry in Ireland, which is how they got their name. Their development as a breed may have included some crossing with Portuguese Water Dogs, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, and Bedlington Terriers, with a little Irish Wolfhound or Irish Terrier thrown into the mix.

The characteristic coat of the Kerry Blue is soft and wavy, with no undercoat.  It is fine in texture and continues to grow without shedding.  For this reason, these dogs need to be groomed at least once a week, and they should be clipped every six weeks or so.

 Kerry Blue Puppy

Puppies are born black, and their coats gradually fade to one of several shades of "blue."  By the age of 18 months, they will reach a color ranging from deep slate gray blue to light blue gray.

Male dogs are usually 18-19 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 26 and 33 pounds.  Females are 17-18 inches tall, with a weight of 22-29 pounds.

In temperament, Kerry Blues are energetic, head-strong, and high-spirited.  They are fast, strong, and intelligent, which makes them good at obedience, agility, sheep herding, and tracking.  In Ireland, they have also been used as police dogs.

Kerry Blue Terrier during a dog show in Katowice, Poland;
Photographer: Pleple2000

Although Kerry Blues have always been loyal and affectionate with their owners, they can be mean towards other animals, including other dogs.  This has sometimes made them difficult to control in the show ring.  Modern breeders have worked to breed out this aggressive tendency while keeping the high-spirited nature of the breed. 

Frisbee, anyone?

Owners of Kerry Blues need to socialize their dogs early, give them obedience training, and provide them with daily exercise.  It helps if owners are fair, energetic, fun-loving, and have a good sense of humor.  The breed is not a good choice for everyone, but an active family who is prepared to spend lots of time with their dog and groom it regularly just might love having a Kerry Blue.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


There are more than 260 different varieties of monkeys, and they live in many parts of the world.  They can be divided into two groups: Old World monkeys and New World monkeys.  Old World monkeys live in Africa and Asia.  There are fossils that show they also lived in Europe at one time, but they don't live there now.  New World monkeys are native to Central and South America.

Even if you don't know where a particular monkey lives, you can still tell if it is Old World or New World by some other features.  Most Old World monkeys have opposable thumbs, like humans do, so they can use tools and drive cars.  They also have fingernails and toenails.  Some have tails, but others have no tail at all.  And their tails, if they have them, are not prehensile, which means they can't use them to hang onto things like branches.  Old World monkeys have special pouches in their cheeks for storing food.  They also have rump pads, which New World monkeys lack.

Buttocks pads in Celebes macaques (Old World monkeys)
Photo by Radu Xplorator

The nostrils of Old World monkeys are small and curved and are set close together.  Most New World monkeys have round nostrils that are set far apart.

Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins, New World monkeys from Brazil
Photo by Bjorn Christian Torrissen

New World monkeys live almost exclusively in trees, but Old World monkeys have a range of habitats that includes savannas, shrubland, rain forests, and mountainous terrain.  Many Old World monkeys spend most of their day on the ground rather than in the trees.  Some of the most famous types of monkeys from the Old World are baboons and macaques.

The smallest species of monkey is the pygmy marmoset, which can be as small as 4.6" with a 6.8" tail and a weight of 3.5 ounces.

Pygmy Marmoset

A male mandrill is the largest monkey, at about 3.3' long and with a weight of 79 pounds.

Male Mandrill at San Francisco Zoo, Photo by ((brian)) of Sebastopol, CA

Monkey diets differ with various species, but monkeys are omnivores.  In addition to fruit, leaves, seeds, nuts, and flowers, they sometimes also eat eggs, small lizards, insects, and spiders.

Monkeys are very social animals.  A group of them can be called a mission, tribe, troop, or cartload.  The group will work together to take care of all the young.  They also like to groom each other, play, cuddle, and protect each other.

Baboons grooming each other; Old World monkeys

Humans have varied relationships with monkeys.  Some people keep monkeys as pets.  Others use them in laboratories for experimentation.  Monkeys have also been trained as service animals for the disabled. 
Some farmers consider monkeys to be pests because of the damage they cause to crops.  In these places, monkeys might be killed in "monkey drives."  Monkeys can also pester and attack tourists.

Monkey brains are eaten as a delicacy in parts of South Asia, Africa, and China.  In parts of Africa, monkeys may be sold and eaten as "bushmeat."  Muslims, however, are forbidden by Islamic dietary law from eating monkeys. 

New World monkey with prehensile tail

Many species of monkeys have serious conservation issues, and some are in danger of becoming extinct.  One big reason for this is loss of forest habitat as humans clear land to grow food and produce charcoal and firewood.  Monkeys are also captured for the exotic pet trade, killed for bushmeat, and used for traditional medicine.  In some villages, bushmeat is a major source of food.

Crested Black Macacque, Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Photo by Benedictus Givarto

Conservation efforts involve teaching people to grow food in ways that don't involve constantly clearing more land.  Some groups are providing sanctuaries for endangered monkeys and are then reintroducing them to the wild.

Maybe, if we are lucky, these methods will work, and none of the monkeys will go extinct!