June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:09 PM
"You won't find any of the animals I'm mentioning here at the Island County Fair. I had never particularly thought about the subject of wild animal parenting until recently when, quite by chance, I came across two children's books in Sno-Isle Library on the subject. Definitely, the parenting by animals and humans possesses both similarities and differences. I have slightly rewritten some of the information I gained.Wolves come closer to human parenting behavior and family structure than most wild animals. They may even be a bit better at parenting than we are. Wolves don't divorce. The parents are family oriented, excellent providers and protectors. Mom and dad wolf set a good example of considerate and kind behavior. The family plays together, learns together and stays together.However, male chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, bears, baboons and a few others make dreadful fathers, and have no desire or aptitude for fatherhood. The most dangerous animal in the world is the elephant in musth -- when he goes into a testosterone driven psychosis. Abandoned single mothers live in matriarchal groups for protecting, caring and raising their young and offering support for the pregnant females among them. They do this exceedingly well. Cowbirds are the worse mothers in the animal kingdom. They will lay an egg in whatever nest happens to be handy and then capriciously fly away, leaving their offspring to be hatched and raised by the owner of the nest.Some male animals actually do give birth. The male Darwin frog, obviously named by Charles Darwin, who discovered it in the forests of Argentina and Chile, gives birth in an unusual way. In the spring, lady Darwin frogs lay hundreds of eggs in front of the fathers and then hop off into the sunset, never to return. The fathers, left behind staring at a pile of eggs and not knowing (or caring) which belong to whom, enthusiastically dive in swallowing as many as they can into their special holding pouches. Unable to hop any more, the fathers drag themselves around the forest floor until the eggs have become tadpoles and are ready for birth. Dad then finds a comfortable spot, leans back, opens his big mouth and starts belching-out baby frogs. He will occasionally munch on the little tykes to keep up his strength for this lengthy labor. The gold medal for proud fatherhood goes to the Common Rhea, the big bird that looks like an ostrich. Each spring he gives his all to impressing the girls with his dancing and boisterous love laments until he has 20 to 30 eggs in the nest he has made. Then he shuts up and sits. The girls make a fast get-away. After the chicks hatch, father Rhea struts and parades about with his brood following him. He squats to take them under his feathers when there is danger or the weather is bad; if he senses an enemy nearby, he will loudly shout obscenities until it goes away. Eventually, the kids get fed up with Dad and take off. A perfect revenge for invidious suitors has been devised by the female Giant Water Bug, who mostly resides in ponds in the Midwest. The male water bug hides out in rushes and grasses waiting to grab the innocent female as she swims past. Immediately following this unfitting seduction, the lady jumps on the back of the male and starts laying lots and lots of eggs, adding a special super glue to the process. With hundreds of eggs glued firmly to his back, the male must float for weeks on top of the water trying to evade hungry predators until the eggs hatch.Red fox couples make excellent monogamous parents. Toward the end of her pregnancy, mother fox retires to the den and father does the shopping for meals. After the kids arrive, the parents spend much of their time playing with them and teaching them to get their own meals. A favorite delicacy of the family are long, large night crawlers. The parents show the kids how to carefully pull them out of the ground in one piece. At six months of age, the kids go off on their own, but will find a place to live that's close to mom and dad's.It's a paradise for Prairie Dog children as they grow up getting kissed, groomed, suckled and played with constantly and indiscriminately by all the adults in their group. They are never rebuffed, kicked, bitten or drubbed as they follow the adults everywhere, climbing over them, under them, pestering, teasing, constantly demanding affection and getting it.The animal kingdom doesn't exactly present a Norman Rockwell picture, but then too often we humans don't either. A good book for adults on animal parenting, but more difficult reading than the children's books and with more information than most want to know, is The Emperor's Embrace - Reflections on Animal Families and Fatherhood, by Jeffrey M. Masson.AROUND THE SENIOR CENTER:The Senior Center is located on Highway 525 in Bayview, just across from Casey's. For information or reservations for classes, events, and trips, call 321-1600 or stop by.Wednesday, July 26: Deadline for making reservations to Emerald Downs on Saturday, Aug. 12. Cost, $23 for bus and admission, no host food and betting. Enjoy a day at the races with grandstand seating.October 8-10: Make plans and reservations now for an Indian Summer trip to Lake Chelan and surrounding area. Spend two nights at Campbell's Resort with Mill Bay Casino nearby, enjoy a full day's boat cruise and a stop at Leavenworth. Cost, $139 person (double).November 7-10: Fly to Las Vegas for 3 nights and 4 days, stay at the Golden Nugget with easy access to other casinos, plus shuttle buses and cabs to the Strip. Cost, $349 person (double).SENIOR CENTER ACTIVITY SCHEDULE:Monday, July 24: 8:30 a.m. foot clinic by app't., 9 a.m. bridge, 9 a.m. tai chi, 10 a.m. blood pressure clinic, 10 a.m. stretch & strengthen, 11:45 a.m. lunch.Tuesday, July 25: 8:45 & 9:45 a.m. tai chi, 9 a.m. SHIBA training, 10 a.m. Time Together, 11:45 a.m. lunch, 3:30 p.m. hula.Wednesday, July 26: 10 a.m. quilters, 9 & 11:30 a.m. computer classes, 11:45 a.m. lunch. Thursday, July 27: 10 a.m. stretch & strengthen, 10 a.m. arts & crafts, 11:45 a.m. pinochle, 1:30 p.m. CIRQUE BUS LV. Friday, July 28: 9-12 a.m. SHIBA by app't., 9 a.m. bridge, 10 a.m. Time Together, 10:45 a.m. Sorta Big Band, 11:45 a.m. lunch."