Altamont, Jan. 2, 2014

 When people attend the Altamont Fair for the first time, they may be overwhelmed by the large variety of exhibits at their disposal. The more they visit, the better acquainted they become with the people and exhibits that the fair has to offer.

Years ago, the village of Altamont was very active in many areas around the fairgrounds. You could walk around and see many of your friends and neighbors as you strolled among the tents, buildings, and barns.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars had a food booth that was famous for its hot dogs and chili. St. Lucy’s ran a restaurant that it took over from the Reformed Church, and Noah Masonic Lodge had the fastfood booth near the grandstand.

Betty Spadaro could often be found in the one-room schoolhouse that was just like the one she taught in when she first started teaching. She was also active with the planning of the fair when where she was elected as its president.

Fran Ripley could almost always be found in the sheep barn doing something with the wool she had spun and colored.        

Another resident who was active, at the small chapel, was Lucille Hillenbrand. She and her husband, Fred, like many other families spent the entire Fair Week on the grounds.

What most people do not know is that Lucille’s avocation was cats. The cats that we are referring to are the species that are commonly kept as a pet not the musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Cats was based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot.

The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as “the Jellicle choice” and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.

Lucille’s interest was not in just any cat but Siamese cats to be more precise. Not only did she love these pets, she raised them for others to enjoy.

Although many 4-H members, Future Farmers of America members, and farmers from the entire area come to the fair with their farm animals, they almost all have some sort of pet at home.

All about cats

Domestic cats are a small, usually furry, and carnivorous mammals — often called housecats when kept as an indoor pets. Cats are valued by humans for companionship and their ability to hunt mice and other household pests.         

Cats have strong, flexible bodies, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey. Cat senses are very keen compared to humans. They can hear sounds too faint or too high in frequency for human ears, such as those made by mice and other small animals. They can see in near darkness. Like most other mammals, cats have poorer color vision and a better sense of smell than humans.

Cats are a very social species, and cat communication includes the use of a variety of vocalizations (meowing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling ,and grunting) as well as cat pheromones and types of cat-specific body language. A genetic study in 2007 concluded that domestic cats are descended from African wildcats and, according to Scientific American, cats are the most popular pet in the world, and are now found almost every place where people live.

“Man’s best friend”

Many dog lovers will argue against the value of having a cat as a pet. They will probably point to the fact that the dog was the first domesticated animal and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and pet animal in human history.

The Yellow Labrador Retriever is the most registered breed of 2009 with the American Kennel Club.

Dogs perform many roles for people, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting police and military, companionship, and, more recently, aiding handicapped individuals. This impact on human society has given them the nickname “man’s best friend” in the Western world.

There may not be a famous musical about dogs like there is about cats but there are about 60 movies about dogs. Films like Scooby Doo, Marley and Me, 101 Dalmatians and Beverly Hills Chihuahua are just a few that come to mind.

Emigrants from Siberia likely crossed the Bering Strait with dogs in their company, and some experts suggest the use of sled dogs may have been critical to the success of the waves that entered North America roughly 12,000 years ago, although the earliest archaeological evidence of dog in North America dates from about 9,400 years ago.

Dogs were an important part of life for the Athabasca population in North America, and were their only domesticated animal.

Dogs also carried much of the load in the migration of the Apache and Navajo tribes 1,400 years ago. Use of dogs as pack animals in these cultures often persisted after the introduction of the horse to North America.

In 2013, researchers revised the view that dog ancestors came from East Asia and showed using DNA analysis that all dogs living today go back to four genetic lineages, all of which originate in Europe.

Wolves, and their dog descendants, would have derived significant benefits from living in human camps — more safety, more reliable food, lesser caloric needs, and more chance to breed.

They would have benefited from humans’ upright gait that gives them larger range over which to see potential predators and prey, as well as color vision that, at least by day, gives humans better visual discrimination. Camp dogs would also have benefited from human tool use, as in bringing down larger prey and controlling fire for a range of purposes.         

At the same time, humans would have derived enormous benefit from the dogs associated with their camps. For instance, dogs would have improved sanitation by cleaning up food scraps.

Dogs may have provided warmth, as referred to in the Australian Aboriginal expression “three-dog night” (an exceptionally cold night), and they would have alerted the camp to the presence of predators or strangers, using their acute hearing to provide an early warning.         Anthropologists believe the most significant benefit would have been the use of dogs’ sensitive sense of smell to assist with the hunt.

The relationship between the presence of a dog and success in the hunt is often mentioned as a primary reason for the domestication of the wolf, and a 2004 study of hunter groups with and without a dog gives quantitative support to the hypothesis that the benefits of cooperative hunting was an important factor in wolf domestication.

The cohabitation of dogs and humans would have greatly improved the chances of survival for early human groups, and the domestication of dogs may have been one of the key forces that led to human success.

Caring for pets

While researching cats and dogs as pets, we have not ignored the other pets that families have in and around their homes.

Some families have turtles, birds, fish, horses ,and other animals as pets. Many families even have several pets.

Some people have several dogs or cats. Some will have dogs, cats, birds, fish, and even a horse in the backyard.

If you have pets, remember to take care of them and do not let them interfere with other people enjoying life. Keep them clean, and well fed and make sure you see a veterinarian to keep them healthy.

Pets are a responsibility just like children.  If you love them and take care of them, they will return the same feelings and show their affection for you and their appreciation for you caring for them.

Keep yourself and your pets happy and healthy in this new year!

Keep learning

Adults in the Guilderland School District are reminded that it is time to enroll in the Guilderland Continuing Education Winter program.

Interested residents may view the course catalog and download the registration form on the Continuing Education page at          

Registration ends on Jan. 17.  Classes begin Jan. 27.                                                         

School board meets

The Guilderland Board of Education will meet on Tuesday, Jan. 7, in the Guilderland large-group instruction room at 7 p.m.

School re-open

The schools in the Guilderland School District will re-open on Monday, Jan. 6.

Transition Night

Parents of Farnsworth Middle School eighth-grade students with special needs will have a Transition Night on Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Guilderland High School.

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. 


The Farnsworth patent-Teacher Association extends its appreciation to all who supported  its box-tops  collection.

The PTA will receive $400 this month for the previous six months.  The PTA requests that students and parents keep sending in the box tops.                                                    

It’s winter

Parents are reminded to have their children dressed appropriately during the winter season.

The temperatures in the Guilderland district schools will be set at 68 degrees.


Happy-birthday wishes are extended:

— Peter Cure on Jan. 2;

— Bill Johnson, Timothy Rau, Thomas Stevens, and Kate Walton on Jan. 3;

— Michael Gibbons Camardo on Jan. 4;

— Sybil Laraway, Sarah Poczik,  Karsen Rittner, and Joan Romanofski on Jan. 6;

—  Glen Jones, Alfred Parella, and Cassie Snyder on Jan. 7;

— Robert Nopper, Misuk Schiltz, and Jeremy Spohr on Jan. 8; and

— Dana Rose Goodknight,  Colleen McHugh, Luke Meinzer,  and Al Schadow on Jan. 9.