But I Digress

Blog calendar: June 28 | June 26 | June 22 | June 10

posted June 28

But Chinese Cresteds ugly through and through

Miles Egstad didn't think his dog was that hideous, but Pabst, so named for his "bitter beer face," came away with the 2009 title of World's Ugliest Dog.

The boxer mix with a gnarly underbite and built-in scowl was crowned Friday at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, Calif.

But I Digress doesn't believe Pabst was truly the ugliest either. That title should go to any Chinese Crested, which have dominated for the past seven years. It makes sense that the hairless breed wins the peculiar contest, but it's amazing any of them ever win over anybody to continue feeding it. They are ugly. Butt ugly. Ugly personified.

People possible keep them for this contest and the prize money. Or their shock value. Check out Elwood, the 2007 winner. (I still chuckle when I read the cutline to that dog's photo, and I wrote it.)

This year, more than 50 percent of the contestants in the pedigree division were Cresteds, including Rascal, a former world champion who lost to Pabst in the finals.

The crowd chanted Pabst's name as the dog Egstad rescued from a shelter won over spectators, and apparently judges, because of his sweet disposition. They were probably sick of Cresteds winning the dang thing, too. Of course, one did win the pedigree division, 15-year-old and blind Miss Ellie. Pretty.

The judges included Timmy, the guy who Lassie was always saving from the well. Yes, that guy. Jon Provost was a celebrity judge, and he was at the fair signing his book — you guessed it — "Timmy's in the Well." Ya can't make this stuff up.

The Sonoma-Marin Fair web site says Provost, whose checked shirt and jeans he wore for seven years on "Lassie" hang in the Smithsonian, worked past the jokes he's endured for 50 years since the show. His life's work has revolved around dogs.

posted June26

Soda debate has been settled, paws down

Quit with the polls, the annoying pop-up ads and maybe advertising of soft drinks in general.

It's over. The debate has been settled.

Paws down, Pepsi appears to be the drink of choice ... for small fur-bearing animals.

First in Tulsa, Okla., earlier this month, two baby raccoons holed up in a Pepsi machine at an apartment complex. A wildlife worker was called in to extract, and save, the little soda suckers.

Check out this article, and if you have the stomach for such news fluff, this video.

Ok, so Pepsi has the 2-5 month raccoon market locked up.

Now just this week, Pepsi drew the endorsement of a baby opossum in upstate New York. The little guy had to be rescued from a fitness club's soda machine. The soft drink is so favored among the mini mammals that the possum ran inside the Court Jester Athletic Club, no kidding, crawled into the machine and wouldn't come out.

But I Digress quickly picked up on this alarming trend.

So the score is Pepsi 2, Coke 0.

This isn't totally a true reflection of small animal preference. For instance, I know squirrels enjoy Jolt, the high-caffeine stuff. That's why they always seem so wired. But they're too clever to get stuck in a machine. In and out with the loot.

Despite the recent showing of brand choice, a bigger question remains: Regular or diet?

posted June22

Father watches son grow up

Jan Lemieux and son Declan started a Father's Day tradition on Sunday.

Lemieux, who runs Microskiff.com out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., raised his boy around the boating and fishing industry, and it all came together this past weekend. With wife Jennifer's blessing for a boys' day out, Declan swiftly accomplished an inshore slam to his doting dad's delight.

"This trip, to be honest, it was really special," Jan said. "Over the years, teaching him how to cast, how to handle fish, and how to release them and about bait, that day it kind of culminated. He was making casts and when the fish hit, he would pick it up out of the rod holder and reel it in.

"He took all the things I've taught him over the years and it all came together at once. I was thoroughly impressed and really proud of him."

Declan completed an inshore slam of a sea trout, snook and redfish, a nice feat for a boy who won't turn 5 until August.

Jan, who has a captain's license and gets on the water 8-10 times a month, had been looking forward to the outing, especially since Declan was leaving the next day for a month or so with his parents and other relatives.

"I'm going to miss the heck out of him. This father's day trip was sort of a last chance for him and I to do something special before he left for Grammy and Papas," said Jan, who not only did on deadline but had to do it quickly as weather threatened. "It was in about 20 minutes from the time he hit the trout. He literally cast it back out, boom, the redfish was on. I was amazed.

"That was the biggest surprise. An ugly cell was coming, so we had to make the fishing quick and get out of there so Mother Nature didn't release her fury on us."

Declan, "an absolute fishing fanatic," almost got wet anyway.

"It was a nice redfish," Jan said. "I was thinking he was going over the edge. When I saw how big it was, I thought he was just going to go diving in."

The youth held his ground and one snook later was slamming.

Jan said he hopes to make the outings their Father's Day tradition. They already have one treasured dad and son experience.

"It was kind of a pinnacle moment," Jan said. "I thought I was watching him grow up."

posted June10

Easy meal is for the birds
Oh my, it's come to this. The critters are getting lazy. Or maybe just smarter.

During a recent lunch trip, a small bird — a sparrow or a wren or something little and brown — was spotted getting an easy lunch for itself.

Now I've seen the little guys cleaning up crumbs under sidewalk bistro tables, and think great. They're actually providing a service.

I stopped and watched this one. The bird, with a cohort close behind, was hopping up onto a bumper of a parked pickup and picking the dead bugs off the grill. It appeared as if he was grabbing bigger ones and hopping down and sharing with his friend, or mate.

It reminded me of Mad Magazine's Don Larsen, I think, who drew two monkeys in a tree, the male trying to impress the female. She aloofly says, "Get me something to eat." He reaches out and grabs a bug and presents it to her. Turning her face away from him, she replies, "Peel it."

But this guy was doing the dirty work of getting up near the engine heat and plucking off cooked bugs.

Reminded me of other ingenous ways birds find meals, like the golden eagle who tugged small goats off cliffs and dropped them to the rocks below.

Clever monkeys.

I've also heard a number of stories how squirrels have came up with ways to bypass bird feeder security. And how bears have utilized brute strength and determination to get at food.

Researchers are discovering how more animals use tools, not just humans and chimps. I''m curious as to what is the most ingenious thing you've ever seen an animal do to get a meal.

Give me an email. You might find your story right here.

About the author: Mike Suchan has been editor at ESPNOutdoors.com the past three years. He's worked in journalism for 25 years, winning state and regional awards. Email him here.