Answer Man: Any old-timer Scouts remember Camp Wangelin?

January 8, 2014 

Q. I enjoyed your recent answer about Camp Vandeventer near Waterloo. I'm almost 85, so it was 70 or 75 years ago that I spent time there and loved it. My children also went to camp there. But there was another in the area: Camp Wangelin. What can you tell me about that one?

-- Bev Hirstein, of Waterloo

A. Not as much as I'd like, so I'm throwing this one out to any veteran Scout who has memories of this camp that disappeared 70 years ago.

You're talking about the days when there were Boy Scout councils in both East St. Louis and Belleville, according to Mike Creagh, director of support services at the Lewis and Clark Council in Belleville. East St. Louis ran Camp Vandeventer while Belleville offered Camp Wangelin.

Creagh thinks the camp was somewhere along Fountain Creek Road near Waterloo, but it closed in the 1940s when Camp Joy opened near Carlyle. Creagh said he hasn't run across any other old-timers for additional information, but I did find a possible camp patch; search for "Wangelin" at http://pedehome.com/BlueBook/Daveneeds.cfm.

Q. I know this is a disgusting question, but after watching my pets for many years, I have to ask: Why do so many dogs seem to enjoy eating the stools of not only other dogs but cats and other animals? How did it start? Why don't they get sick?

-- K.E., of Belleville

A. Talk about spoiler alerts -- if you're currently eating your Wheaties or, worse, some maple sausage links, you may want to delay reading the rest of this column until later.

Now that you have been duly warned, let me give you the cleanest scholarly discourse on coprophagia that I can muster. Yes, they even have a high-falutin' word for what to us is your dogs' base, stomach-turning habit -- "copro" from the Greek "kopros" meaning "dung or excrement" and "phagia" from the Greek "phagein" meaning "to eat."

Just when and why dogs produced the marriage of these two seemingly incompatible words is lost in the history of evolution. One good guess may lie in our pets' immediate ancestor, the wolf, according to Jolanta Benal, a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant.

Speculation is that as some wolves became more accustomed to humans (or simply desperate to survive) they would raid settlements and feast on whatever garbage they could find, including human poop. Eventually, dogs evolved, becoming loyal pets yet keeping their ancestors' rather revolting culinary tastes. In fact, keeping human settlements clean was one of the dogs' important jobs during early domestication some 15,000 years ago.

As it turns out, the habit has its beneficial aspects, says Jacque Lynn Schultz, another certified trainer and companion animal programs adviser. After a mother dog gives birth, she stimulates a pup's defecation reflex by licking its genital region. Not only that, but Mom also will eat the resulting feces to keep the nest clean and, in the wild, keep the smell from reaching potential predators.

Moreover, pups apparently are not unlike human infants in that most everything they encounter usually winds up in their mouths. As a result, it's perfectly common for puppies to chow away on the stuff although often they'll outgrow it by about 6 months or so, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

And just as we like a variety of pork, chicken, beef, etc., dogs will sample the waste of other animals as well. Apparently, that of cats is a particular favorite because store-bought cat food is usually higher in fat and protein, making the end result more tempting. Other dung has questionable nutritional value, but dogs apparently will try just about anything. According to the ASPCA, one study of village dogs in Zimbabwe found that feces made up about 25 percent of a dog's overall diet, with the human variety a large part of the buffet.

You may wonder why these dogs are not keeling over in their tracks, but most experts seem to agree that, while certainly nauseating to us, fresh stool from healthy, domesticated animals is generally safe to eat. But the habit can be dangerous if they find the leftovers of wild animals, say a cat with toxoplasmosis or a dog with the parvovirus.

Sometimes coprophagia can be a sign of an illness in your pet, including malabsorption syndromes in which a dog eats its stool to recover nutrients it couldn't get during the first pass so you may want to have a vet check it out. Otherwise if such behavior alarms you, you might consider the tips you'll find at www.aspca.org.

Fortunately for me, my cats have always preferred Whisker Lickin's to anything they've buried in their litter box.

Today's trivia

According to the U.S. Senate Ethics Manual, what is the maximum number of times a senator's name may appear in a newsletter sent to his or her constituents?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: "I Claudius" fans know that one of the prime gathering spots in ancient Rome was the neighborhood bathhouse. But here's something you may not have known: The nicest thermae (as they were called) had at least three areas of varying temperatures. If you were feeling particularly frisky, you started out with a brisk dip in the cold frigidarium pool. From there, you entered the tepidarium, a warming area that would prepare you for the caldarium, where you would unwind in the spalike hot baths. Many thermae also featured a laconicum, a dry but even hotter sweating room.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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