A Dog's Tale

On the day before the Sugar Bowl the

Audubon Zoo was virtually deserted due

to heavy rains. We were lucky to tour the

zoo and park for several hours in relative dry

and free from crowds.

The Gottesman Family Endangered Species Carousel

at the Audubon Zoo, New Orleans

The carousel is decorated with oil paintings of zoo animals.

The carousel also features a 60-figure menagerie including traditional horses, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and other vanishing species.

The Four Elephants Fountain

Audubon Zoo, New Orleans

Four Elephants Fountain is a water feature in the center of the Audubon Zoo, New Orleans with sculptures of four elephants and three rhinoceroses. This spectacular feature greets guests at the uptown New Orleans Audubon Zoo which is located in Audubon Park off of St. Charles.

Below: The Elephant Fountain as seen through a thick grove of live oaks.

Fountain of Hygeia

Another spectacular garden at the Audubon Zoo is the off-the-beaten path Fountain of Hygeia.

The fountain is located in a large grove of live oak trees (Quercus virginiana) in what was once the main area of the zoo, but is now mostly out of sight in a back corner not far from the entrance to the World of Primates exhibit.

Hygeia, the Goddess of Health, Cleanliness, and Sanitation is depicted washing two nude boys. This is one of the oldest and most stunning fountains in Audubon Park.

The educational zoo includes great, thoughtful touches like the sign below quoting Walt Whitman from "I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing."

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,

All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,

Without any companion, it grew there uttering joyous

Leaves of dark green,

And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself.

But I wonder'd how it could utter goyous leaves standing alone

Without its friend near, for I knew I could not. . .


When dogs wag their tails, they can convey not just happiness but a wide array of emotions. As Italian researchers reported in 2007, a wag to the left indicates negative emotions; a wag to the right indicates positive ones.

Now the same team of scientists has found that no one knows this better than other dogs.

In a study reported in the journal Current Biology, Marcello Siniscalchi, Rita Lusito, Giorgio Vallortgara, and Angelo Quaranta had dogs watch videos of other dogs wagging their tails. When watching a tail wag to the left, the dogs showed signs of anxiety, like a higher heart rate. When the tail went in the opposite direction, they remained calm.

Taken together, the Italian studies suggest that dogs, like humans, have asymmetrically organized brains, said Dr. Vallortigara, a neuroscientist at the University of Trento “The emotions are associated presumably with activation of either the right or left side of brain,” he said. Left-brain activation produces a wag to the right, and vice versa.

Still, it is unlikely that dogs are wagging their tails to communicate with one another. “This is something that could be explained in quite a mechanistic way,” Dr. Vallortigara said. “It’s simply a byproduct of the asymmetry of the brain,” and dogs learn to recognize the pattern over time.

What Foods are Harmful to Dogs and Cats?

Dogs and cats are commonly poisoned by drugs intended for humans, and several foods are uniquely toxic to dogs. Canine food risks include the artificial sweetener xylitol, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, leeks and chives. Grapes and raisins sometimes pose a threat as well.

As for chocolate, the most commonly associated toxin for dogs, humans seem to be a little more resistant than dogs and cats to stimulants in chocolate that are similar to caffeine, but even humans can get sick after consuming too much. Baking chocolate, cocoa and dark or semisweet chocolates are the most dangerous.

Part of the problem with prescription medication and pets is that cats and most dogs are relatively small, so a human dose is far too much. Some drugs, including acetaminophen in cats and ibuprofen in dogs, are toxic to pets because of dog's and cat's unique metabolisms.

Dogs are often poisoned when they consume spilled medications. Cats do so less frequently, but seem to be attracted to the anti-depressant venlafaxine (Effexor or Trevilor), and Adderall, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

A more complete list of pet poisons can be found on the A.S.P.C.A website's Animal Poison Control page.