2006-12-13 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Kitcha, Kitcha, Feminism surfaced at the North Pole. There’s been a story circulating on the Internet for the last few years that states that all Santa’s reindeer were girls. It goes something like this: “According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter each year, usually late November to early December. Females retain their antlers until after they give birth.

Therefore, according to this caribou calendar, every member of Santa’s team had to be a girl. We should have known. Only women could be able to drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the world without getting lost.

So, ladies, is this true? Depending on the source you read, male reindeer shed their antlers from November to January which gives them only a week for pulling the sleigh. I consulted the “National Geographic” website which quotes a biologist in Alaska. Here is a paraphrase of what the expert says: “The largest bulls shed their antlers first, almost immediately after the rutting season ends in October. The sparring between males during the rutting season can be very violent. In herds with a lot of mature males, injuries can be the leading cause of death. Young bulls and cows can keep their antlers through April depending on their nutrition, amount of daylight and retention of testosterone.

Maggie, Maggie, By the end of the rutting season, the bulls not only don’t have antlers, but they are so exhausted from fighting that it’s doubtful they’d be hauling any fat man with tons of goodies all around. The people of Lapland who depend on reindeer herds for their livelihoods usually neuter their males. Therefore the evidence leads to the conclusion that Santa’s reindeer are either female, neutered bulls, or immature males.”

The first reference to a reindeer was in 1821 in an obscure children’s book called The Children’s Friend that had a picture of a tiny Santa standing with one reindeer pulling his sleigh. Two years later, the Clement Moore poem, The Night before Christmas was published in an upstate newspaper. He mentioned the 8 reindeer but they didn’t really fly. They just leaped in the illustrations of an 1848 edition. Moore christened the deer for eternity when he w r o t e : “Santa whistled a n d shouted a n d c a l l e d them by n a m e : N o w Dasher! N o w Dancer! N o w , Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet, on, Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!” Think about it. Only Donder, Cupid, and Blitzen sound masculine. Rudolph didn’t go down in history until much later. Montgomery Ward created the “him” as a promotional gimmick in 1939, and Gene Autry’s song immortalized him in 1949. All the other reindeer names could be unisex, with the exception of “Vixen”, a popular name of exotic dancers. Moore probably intended the herd to be co-ed. How else could Santa guarantee baby Blitzens?

Besides pondering the sex of the herd, did anyone ever check St. Nick for a Y chromosome? Maybe it’s Mrs. Claus in disguise leading the transcontinental shuttle every Christmas Eve because, after all, an out of shape man couldn’t get that much done in so little time without an hourly R & R (Rest & Remote) on the couch.

To honor our reindeer girls, this week’s Oyster Bay Shelter (677-5784) poster pets are both female. “Maggie” #1139, a lovable 2 year old St. Bernard, was so accommodating for her antler picture. “Kitcha” #1182 is a 3 year old declawed cat given up because of a child’s allergies. We have a feeling that she may understand Polish, although “kotka” is the word for cat. See more Oyster Bay adoptable pets by visiting the shelter on Miller Place in Syosset or www.petfinder.com/shelters/NY527.html.

Dogs: “Powder” #1129- a female white Boxer; “Pinny”- #1169- a male Australian Terrier; a female Miniature Schnauzer-#1164; “Pluto”- #1161- a 3 yr. Jack Russell.

Cats: “Bob” & “Bobby”- both Bob’s Big Boy tabbies.

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