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  • This article by Betsy Marston originally appeared in the Aug 25, 2011 issue of High Country News.
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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Heard Around the West     Comments: 0


Bear-fighting poodles and Muslim dust storms

News: Aug 25, 2011
by Betsy Marston


Size mattered not a whit during a backyard encounter in the town of Kirkland, in northwest Washington, that pitted a "yapping teacup poodle" against a 200-pound black bear, reports The Week magazine. The tiny dog acted so ferocious that the bear climbed a tree, leaped into an adjoining yard and hightailed it back to the woods. 

And in Everett, Wash., ferocious animals confront the police department every time a uniformed officer tries to leave headquarters and walk to a cruiser. Out of the sky swirls a flock of birds -- of the sort known collectively, and in this case rather aptly, as "a murder of crows" -- which dive-bomb police officers, attacking like "velociraptors," as one beleaguered cop told the Everett Herald. It didn't help matters when one officer used his siren in an attempt to scare off the crows; the birds retaliated by littering his cruiser with droppings, reports Readers who commented offered conflicting advice. One urged the police to just blow the corvids away with a 12-gauge shotgun; another advised a more conciliatory approach. Leave a daily "food offering," "talonshawks" suggested: "Try to work with them, not against them, as you won't win against them." 

In Pullman, Wash., however, all is amity between at least one wild creature and humans. Thanks to doctors at Washington State University's veterinary hospital, a 12-year-old African tortoise is walking again -- on three legs and a caster-style wheel. The 23-pound tortoise had to have one of its front legs amputated and would have been one lopsided creature without some kind of prosthesis. So doctors fitted out the tortoise with the smoothly turning wheel, using epoxy to attach it, reports the Billings Gazette. Gamera, the tortoise, can now plod his way with ease over grass, "is particularly good at moving toward food, and has gained three pounds since the wheel was attached." 


As if back-to-back giant dust storms weren't bad enough for Phoenix residents during early July, they then had to put up with what some people decried as a Muslim word -- "haboob" -- to describe the mile-high sandstorms pushed by 60 mile-per-hour-winds. "Haboob? English, please!" complained one resident on the Weather Channel's Facebook page. Another commenter was suspicious: "The current preference for Arabic in meteorology is curious." Yet calling a sandstorm a haboob is nothing new, says "The Arizona Department of Transportation's website has an entire section on haboobs -- a section that dates back to at least late 2005." Whatever anybody labels them, the roiling clouds of dirt halted air traffic for a while, knocked out electricity, turned day into dusk, and left lots of people coughing, reports The New York Times. The haboobs were caused by drought and severe thunderstorms that agitated the air. By the way, those summer rainstorms may also have a Middle Eastern connection. Locals usually call them "monsoons," a word that some dictionaries link to the Arabic "mausim," meaning "weather." 

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