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Recent Animal Beat columns
by Vicki Croke, Globe Staff

The inner bunny
O.K, not all our old bunny beliefs have been wrong: Rabbits do hop. They eat their veggies. And they are - what shall we say? - fantastically fecund. But it seems as if the rest is up for bunny debunking. The latest thinking by a new breed of bunny activists is that these creatures belong indoors. And that they don't necessarily make good pets for kids.

More dog owners stay home to bond with their new bundle of fur
Call it puppy leave
Call it "pet-ernity" leave - a period of time that new owners take off from work to be with their new bundle of joy. Granted, with animals, it's usually counted in weeks, or weekends, and not months (the injustice!), but there are huge similarities between bringing home a baby and bringing home something with a little more fur.

There is no finer cat
"Snow leopards inhabit some of the most remote and highest ranges on earth," writes George B. Schaller in "Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe." "Their luxuriant smoke-gray coats with black rosettes and their long, lush tails are evocative of snow and immense solitudes."

The little prints
Wary wild things stay out of sight, but leave us notes, written in a language we can read
"On the river ice, most of the snow had been taken by the wind, and the pugmarks were crisp, as if incised in steel. In one place, the tigress had lain down and stretched, leaving behind a ghostly outline even to the big head and long tail, the leg crook, the big floppy paws. All that was missing was the stripes."

Taking a cyber safari
Peering through the dense vegetation, I could clearly make out the distinctive black-and-white markings of the elusive giant panda. Poised in the crook of a tree's low branch, she sat upright, gorging herself on shoots and leaves, using her pseudo-thumb to steady her grip.

In-flight entertainment
Birding is burgeoning, and easy to enjoy, even for beginners
Maybe you can tell a rock dove (pigeon) from a mourning dove. In winter, you've noticed crows gathering in great numbers at dusk. And you might even have spotted a red-tailed hawk as it circles the highway scouting for roadside rodents - its tail feathers practically glowing red as the animal soars, backlit by the sun.

Attorney Wise for the defenseless
Meet Steven Wise. He listens to Mozart. He loves the early Greek and Latin scholars (Homer, Cicero, Euripides), history (Stephen E. Ambrose's take on Lewis and Clark), and anything devoted to his favorites - Abraham Lincoln, the Apostle Paul, and Isaiah Berlin, the British philosopher and author of "Four Essays on Liberty."

Battling owner denial
Your child gets dropped off by the bus at the end of the street every day after school and must walk by your neighbor's house. The big dog behind the fence barks and snarls and charges the slats every time.

The unkindest cuts of all
In US, dog breed clubs still support cropping, docking
Julie Brown stood in the crush and chaos of the benching area at Madison Square Garden, where the dogs were encamped during this week's prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Nearby, in a crate, was her gorgeous white-and-brown Brittany, dual champion Classic's Can Do Andrew. Like all the other Brittanys competing in the show, he had just a short, fur-covered rod of a tail. If his tail were longer, he wouldn't have been here at all. And Brown said she is determined to see things stay this way.

Gorilla in our midst
Willie B.'s remarkable life
There is hardly a better - or bigger - symbol of hope than Willie B. Once called the loneliest gorilla in the world, Willie B. lived through unrelenting adversity for decades and then, in his final years, enjoyed a remarkably rich life. The 41-year-old western lowland gorilla died Wednesday in his sleeping quarters at Zoo Atlanta.

Pets win our vote
We're here. We love pets. Get used to it. If we pet people marched on Washington, that would be our rallying cry. But, of course, we don't need to demonstrate (or rhyme) because we are the majority.

In the mind of beasts
What a millennium this is going to be! Fasten your seat belts, animal lovers, because this thousand years is launching with a boom in books and TV shows concerned with animal minds, emotions, and status.


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