Saturday, April 30, 2005

Jethro Chasing Birds & Butterflies



Express & Echo (Exeter), November 10, 2004
I'm All Right Jack!

An Exeter dog owner has praised rescuers for saving her trapped Jack Russell terrier which plunged over 200ft cliffs in Devon. "My dog Jethro is lucky to be alive," said 55-year-old Amelie Stuart.

The two-year-old dog was chasing birds when it fell 30ft over the edge of cliffs between Sandy Bay and Orcombe Point at Exmouth at the weekend.

Jethro landed on a rocky ledge and luckily escaped unhurt just after 9am on Saturday.

Exmouth coastguards responded with their cliff rescue team which lowered a man on the end of a rope to snatch the stranded dog to safety, using a net.

The dog was reunited with its owner about an hour later when it was lifted to the top of the cliff.

German-born Mrs Stuart, of Pennsylvania, Exeter, said: "I was so frightened that Jethro had plunged to his death. He was chasing birds as we walked back from Sandy Bay to Exmouth when he went over the cliff.

"Luckily he landed on a ledge 30ft from the top. Had it not been there he would have fallen 200ft onto the beach below.

"I ran down to Sandy Bay beach and looked up to see Jethro barking on the ledge above me.

"I called for police help using my mobile phone and they then contacted the coastguards who turned up very quickly.

"I cannot praise them enough. All the time I was mindful that my dog would come off the ledge.

"There was another lady with her dogs on the beach and she tried to console and comfort me." Mrs Stuart said she realised now that Jethro should have been on a lead because of the dangers of falling over cliffs along this section of the South West coastal path.

"I will make sure that Jethro is kept on a lead when I walk across the cliffs in the future," she said.

A coastguard spokesman said rescue teams were trained specially to deal with incidents like this.

And he renewed warnings about the dangers of wandering too close to the edge in an area where cliffs have collapsed onto beaches.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Thinking About Species Loss


Eskimo Curlew, which may be extinct.


We often hear about wildlife species loss, but only rarely is such species loss quantified, defined, or given proper causation.

Whenever I hear about species loss, I naturally ask five key questions --and I often find the answers surprising.


1. Do the animals exist at all?

This may sound like an odd question, but it's a pretty important one because a lot of what is written about species extinction is totally unsupported by observed data.

Here's the scoop: Over the course of the last 400 years, only about 820 species of vascular plants and vertebrate animals are listed as having gone extinct by the IUCN Red List. In addition, the IUCN reports several species being "rediscovered" every year after having previously listed them as "lost".

Though the IUCN cannot report on what has not been discovered, we have clearly discovered most of the mammals, birds, fish, snakes, frogs, shrubs, vines, grasses and trees in the world. While new species of wildlife are being discovered every day, there is no evidence to support the notion that even 50 vertebrates and vascular plants are going extinct every year, much less the 20,000 number commonly cited (invertebrates and fungi are very difficult to push into extinction as any farmer can tell you).

As odd as it may sound, even physical evidence of the existence of a species does not necessarily mean that this species has ever existed. Here, I am specifically talking about birds, where it turns out some "extinct" species are based on single skins collected in the 19th or early 20th Century. The cone-billed tanager is a good example (to read more about the hunt for this "extinct species" read "The Ghost With Trembling Wings" by Scott Weidensaul).

The problem with birds is that they hybridize a lot, and bird species are not always very distinct from each other. Along with the cone-billed tanager, for example, there are several species of hummingbirds that we know of only due to single examples collected for the millenary trade. These so-called "Bogotá Skins" (for their central shipping point out of South America to Europe) may in fact represent evidence of a new species of now extinct hummingbirds -- or they could simply represent hybrids of other hummingbirds. With about 10 percent of all bird species known to cross the "species barrier," it's hard to know.


2. Is the animal being described really a species?

In fact a lot of stories about species decline are NOT about the decline of a species, but about the decline of a SUB-species in a very specific area.

A sub-species is, by definition, NOT a species. In fact most subspecies are nothing more than slightly different colored animals that exhibit no other behavior differences and that freely breed with populations of other animals in their species (animals whose populations may in fact be quite large and growing).


Sub-species are an interesting thing. I have always found it ironic that many environmentalists place little value on the prolific creation of thousands of new subspecies of apples, potatoes, pigs, cattle, and chickens, but assign tremendous value to subspecies of cougars, lions and pronghorns (to give just three examples). In fact, many sub-species of wild animals are little more than political artifices designed to boost the careers or egos of the people naming them.


In some cases there is another less vanity-centered reason to name a subspecies -- you can "up list" an animal (and its habitat) for protection by simply singling it out. The Sonoran pronghorn appears to be an example -- an animal made "rare" despite the fact it appears to be little more than a light-colored variant of an animal that actually numbers in the million.


3. Was the species ever very common?

Some threatened and endangered species are animals that were always rare and not very successful to begin with. Take the Whooping Crane, for example. DNA analysis suggests Whoopers never numbered more than about 5,000 individuals. The 1850 population of the bird (when most of the American West was still unsettled and very wild) is estimated to have been just 1,500 individuals. There are now 500 Whoopers in the world, with about 350 of them in the wild. I am very glad the Whooper was pulled back from the edge of extinction, but the fact that the bird was never common or genetically successful is not an inconsequential part of its story (though it is rarely told).


The Florida Manatee is another animal that was probably never terribly common. The Manatee population of Florida before there were outboard motors is estimated to have been around 10,000 or so. By the 1980s, the manatee population had declined to about 800, but it has since risen to over 3,000.
Again, bringing the American manatee (Trichechus manatus) back from extirpation in the U.S. is excellent, but we should not expect the population to ever get really huge. Note that the American manatee also exists in many other Caribbean countries south to Brazil, but it is a rare animal there due to hunting by indigenous people .


4. What is the population of the species now?

The point here is that numbers are only meaningful within context. Do I wish there were more pronghorn in America? Sure! But one million pronghorn -- up from just 13,000 individuals at the turn of the 20th Century -- is pretty good news and one we should be celebrating!


5. What has really caused the decline (or increase) of this species?

The death of any species is important, but I also want to know the circumstances of the decline or extinction. I consider the loss of the Passenger Pigeon and the Eskimo Curlew (there were once millions of these birds flying over vast areas of this continent) a much more significant tale than the loss of a species of flightless rail on a small island in the Pacific. One extinction signals the total loss of a once very common species that was successful over a very large area. The other signals the total loss of a very rare species that was NOT successful over a very large area. There are very different lessons to be learned from these very different stories.


Most people are surprised to learn that most extinctions are of the latter type (fairly unsuccessful species in very isolated locations) and not the former (fairly successful species in fairly common locations). They are further amazed to discover that habitat loss is a much rarer cause of species extinction than the introduction of rats, cats, goats and pigs -- or of indiscriminate hunting. If you go through the IUCN Redlist of extinct species, for example, you find zeros for most countries (no known endemic species pushed into extinction), but incredible numbers of extinctions for such tiny islands as Mauritius (41 extinct species), Réunion (16 extinct species), Saint Helena (29 extinct species), French Polynesia (67 extinct species), and the Cook Islands (15 extinct species). In fact, these little spots of land, along with Hawaii, account for about 200 of the 812 species pushed into extinction over the course of the last 400 years.

Is the loss of an "unsuccessful species" a bad thing? I think so. But it may not be quite as horrible or as unprecedented as it is commonly made out to be. In fact it may be part of the order of things. After all, instead of a living at a time when there is a "biodiversity bottleneck," as some texts would have you believe, we are actually living at a time of incredible genetic diversity. As the folks at the World Resources Institute note, "Global biological diversity is now close to its all time high. Floral diversity, for example, reached its highest level ever several tens of thousands of years ago. Similarly, the diversity of marine fauna has risen to a peak in the last few million years." In short, we live in a very bio-diverse time, and with diversity will come a lot of failure which is every bit as much a part of Darwin's evolutionary equation as success (if not more so).


It's also worth remembering that even as we are losing species, we are also gaining them -- new types of chickens, pigs, apples, corn, and trees. New hybrids of canaries, geese, ducks, pigeons, cattle, horses, falcons, eagles, dogs and cats. And we are doing it with wild birds too.


The last time I flipped through a Sibley's Audubon guide to birds, I counted one extinct species of parrot (the Carolina parakeet, since rediscovered in the Caribbean), but 27 new species of introduced parrots that are found in wild flocks in the U.S. (65 species have been encountered in Florida alone). In California and Florida these wild-flocking parrots are already creating new hybrids. Wild parrot colonies are not just found in warm climates by the way -- they are found near my home in suburban Virginia, and in downtown parks in Seattle and Chicago. One hundred and fifty years from now my great grandchildren may find hybridized variations of these same birds listed as entirely new "American" species of parrots (the Sibley guide already notes the presence of many Amazon hybrids in Florida and California).

Food for thought.

.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Lincoln's Feist



Abraham Lincoln had the first Presidential dog ever photographed -- a dog named "Fido" -- and he is surely the first President to have ever written a poem about a hunting terrier.

Before there were pedigree terriers in America there were cross-bred feists (sometimes spelled "fice" or "fyce") -- small, scrappy dogs with a terier genetic base. These dogs were used for everything from ratting to fox hunting, and even bear hunting.

The first know written use of the term feist (written "foist") is found in George Washington's diary in 1770 ("A small foist looking yellow cur.").

Feists were used for squirrel, possum, raccoon, deer and fox hunting, and found particular favor among bear hunters for their fearlessness and ability to worry a bear enough that they would bolt out of thickets.

Teddy Roosevelt's favorite dog -- Skip -- was a small feist he obtained from John Goff during a 1905 bear hunt, but Abraham Lincoln was the first President to write a poem mentioning the small purely-American hunting dog.

In the poem below, written in 1844 for his friend Andrew Johnston, Lincoln mocks the bragging hunter while giving a nod to the bravery of the hounds and the need to curb "bears [that] preyed on the swine".

Later on William Faulkner would feature a feist as a prominet component of his short novel, "The Bear"

The Bear Hunt
By Abraham Lincoln

A wild-bear chace, didst never see?
Then hast thou lived in vain.
Thy richest bump of glorious glee,
Lies desert in thy brain.

When first my father settled here,
'Twas then the frontier line:
The panther's scream, filled night with fear
And bears preyed on the swine.

But wo for Bruin's short lived fun,
When rose the squealing cry;
Now man and horse, with dog and gun,
For vengeance, at him fly.

A sound of danger strikes his ear;
He gives the breeze a snuff;
Away he bounds, with little fear,
And seeks the tangled rough.

On press his foes, and reach the ground,
Where's left his half munched meal;
The dogs, in circles, scent around,
And find his fresh made trail.

With instant cry, away they dash,
And men as fast pursue;
O'er logs they leap, through water splash,
And shout the brisk halloo.

Now to elude the eager pack,
Bear shuns the open ground;
Th[r]ough matted vines, he shapes his track
And runs it, round and round.

The tall fleet cur, with deep-mouthed voice,
Now speeds him, as the wind;
While half-grown pup, and short-legged fice,
Are yelping far behind.

And fresh recruits are dropping in
To join the merry corps:
With yelp and yell,--a mingled din--
The woods are in a roar.

And round, and round the chace now goes,
The world's alive with fun;
Nick Carter's horse, his rider throws,
And more, Hill drops his gun.

Now sorely pressed, bear glances back,
And lolls his tired tongue;
When as, to force him from his track,
An ambush on him sprung.

Across the glade he sweeps for flight,
And fully is in view.
The dogs, new-fired, by the sight,
Their cry, and speed, renew.

The foremost ones, now reach his rear,
He turns, they dash away;
And circling now, the wrathful bear,
They have him full at bay.

At top of speed, the horse-men come,
All screaming in a row,
"Whoop! Take him Tiger. Seize him Drum."
Bang,--bang--the rifles go.

And furious now, the dogs he tears,
And crushes in his ire,
Wheels right and left, and upward rears,
With eyes of burning fire.

But leaden death is at his heart,
Vain all the strength he plies.
And, spouting blood from every part,
He reels, and sinks, and dies.

And now a dinsome clamor rose,
'Bout who should have his skin;
Who first draws blood, each hunter knows,
This prize must always win.

But who did this, and how to trace
What's true from what's a lie,
Like lawyers, in a murder case
They stoutly argufy.

Aforesaid fice, of blustering mood,
Behind, and quite forgot,
Just now emerging from the wood,
Arrives upon the spot.

With grinning teeth, and up-turned hair--
Brim full of spunk and wrath,
He growls, and seizes on dead bear,
And shakes for life and death.

And swells as if his skin would tear,
And growls and shakes again;
And swears, as plain as dog can swear,
That he has won the skin.

Conceited whelp! we laugh at thee--
Nor mind, that now a few
Of pompous, two-legged dogs there be,
Conceited quite as you.


Lincoln and Fido


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sunday Possum



The cute little fellow, above, was the first dig on Sunday, and was released to the safety of a nearby tree.

Possums are not too tough as quarry goes -- they have very small brains, are not very speedy, and have relatively small teeth (though they have more of them - 50 - than any other North American animal). The chief "competitive edge" of the possum is that they will eat almost anything and have a phenomenal reproductive rate. A typical female possum will have two litters a year, each with as many as 18 young. The gestation period for a possum is just 13 days -- the shortest gestation period of any furbearer in North America (though "birth" is into a marsupial pouch, not into the great outdoors).

This particular possum was a noisey little bugger -- he growled like a fox, but it was mostly bluff as it so often is with possums.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Fortress Groundhog



A nice day in the field despite the wind and cold. I thought it was supposed to be spring?

Our second groundhog of the day was in the oak fortress pictured above -- a huge oak with only one hole in, and a vast divided space inside. We managed to dig another hole into the sette which gave Pip a little more air, but it was still very warm inside. After a bit of work a fair sized female (at least for this time of year when they have lost one-third of their weight) was accounted for.

The groundhog we took earlier in the day was driven to near an exit in a massive rubble pile of asphalt, and Mountain grabbed it.

A third groundhog was bolted out of one sette and into another, but we lost it when it dug in at the new sette.

Shaken But Not Stirred

Cornish Guardianm, April 7, 2005

Trapped dog rescued from mineshaft by firefighters


Gizmo, a coarse-haired terrier, became stuck after chasing a rabbit down the 30ft shaft near Maidenwell, Cardinham. Retained firefighter Billy Daynes, of Bodmin Community Fire Station, plucked Gizmo to safety after he was lowered by ropes into the 5ft wide shaft at about 7.30pm.

The dog was trapped for an hour before being rescued.

Station officer Robbie Taylor said: "The dog was shaken but not stirred and his female owner was very grateful. All in all it was a very smooth operation."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Reality Comes to the Rally


The 2005 Monetpelier border terrier rally.

I have done the Border Terrier Rally at Montpelier every year for the last 21 years (one of only two organized events I attend) and in recent years they have put me to work as a rat rangler since I do not show, and Trooper has been banned from racing (after he did it only once and ripped through the welded mesh at the front of the racing box, grabbed the fox tail, and would not let go).

This time I decided to do a little education of the show ring set and I very quietly brought along a hard 6-inch tube about 5-feet long. I set up the "Rally Ratting" event so that at one of the eight stations the dog would have to go at least 18-inches or more down a heavy-duty 6-inch tube (staked hard to the ground and totally immoveable) in order to get at the rats which where in another 4-inch PVC tube drilled with air holes.

Not a dog could do it!

After a dog proved that it could not do it, and before the owner started to explain or complain too much, I pulled out the pictures (below) of a December fox.

First I showed them this picture. Many "oooohs and ahhhs" about how big the fox looked (actually it's a pretty small vixen)





Then I showed them this picture and noted that the woman spanning the fox has completely overlapped her thumbs.
Since I dig with this woman quite a lot (I dug this fox with her) I know she is no giant (maybe 5' 6"). This fox was 40 inches from tip of nose to tip of tail, but was only 11.5 inches in the chest.



Then, to put a little icing on the cake, I noted that Camilla Moon (the organizer of the rally) and I had bolted a fine red vixen out of a hole that was no bigger than this pipe just six days earlier.

Almost any vixen in the world can get through a 6-inch pipe if pressed by a dog, but almost no border terrier in America today can negotiate that pipe. People got this lesson one-on-one in a little patch of woods, and I tried to be very relaxed about it and noted (prior to getting to the pipe) that most dogs failed this part of the test. If a dog was anywhere close to being able to get into the pipe (even half its chest!) I said very nice things about it.

Nonetheless, the point was made, and it was a hard landing for some folks who had been on an extended flight of fancy about how they had "working" border terriers even though their dog has never even seen a fox. Some of these folks think a 9" square go-to-ground tunnel is what a fox den looks like!

Was bringing reality to these people a bastardly thing to do? Probably, but if you love the dogs (and I really do love border terriers) someone has to give an occasional lecture in REAL working terrier conformation and a brutal beating about chest size is more than called for at this point.

The fellow in the show ring judging the show dogs, by the way, was a "leading professional handler." Say no more!

I do not breed dogs, but if I did I think my program would depend on two 10-foot sections of 6 inch pipe. The bitch would have to go down the tube to get her food every day. When it came time for breeding, an adult dog (two years of age or over) would have to go down the tube to get to the bitch in order to do the job. No young stud dogs!

I'm absolutely serious about the pipe thing -- it's a tough test but anything too subjective and these breeders will gimmick it to death (as they have).

I am convinced that the human has to be take out of the test, and the fox put back in it. The 6-inch pipe does that job if a fox is not readily about (and how convenient for most breeder that it is not!).



The pipe used at the Border Terrier rally. This is my 12" Jack Russell and she is red-lining for size. I prefer a dog that is a little smaller, as chests tend to spring out and get a little harder in old age. This dog can still get down the pipe at age three and a half, but it is tougher than it used to be.




Same dog pushing through in a shallow field pipe loaded with roots.
The real world is tougher than a smooth pipe, though I had once nice lady trying to tell me otherwise!





Same dog exiting a sette. Fox settes can be quite large or quite small -- sometimes in the same sette! A small dog can get anywhere, while a larger dog is limited to only the largest settes or else has to be dug to at the tight turns. Since prime fox season is only eight weeks long, and there is unlikely to be more than one occupied fox sette in any given 500 acres area, you want to be able to work every fox sette you can find. The goal is to get the dog up to the fox and have the dog have enough room or maneuver. If the dog is getting knackered, it may be because it cannot maneuver!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Veni, Vici, Vidi Bunny: Roman Rabbits Conquer All



This extraordinary picture is from Sue Rothwell in the Outer Hebrides, and shows an enormous take of rabbits that were lamped at night and taken by well-trained lurchers. Though Sue raises Plummer Terriers and has Scottish Wildcats as well (the native wild cat of Scotland, which was nearly driven to extinction), I suspect rabbit is on the menu a few times a week! To read more about Sue's Plummer and Hancock-bred lurchers, see >> here.

The article below was bird-dogged for me by Steve who knows of my interest in such things -- thank you! It turns out that archeologists now think the rabbit was introduced to the UK by the Romans, rather than the Normans, giving new meaning to the old Latin phrase: Veni, vidi, vici ("we came, we saw, we conquered").

For more on the archeology of hunting, see the April 10th post on this topic.

The Daily Telegraph (London), April 14, 2005

Romans Introduced the Rabbit,
By David Sapsted

__________

Years of division among academics over whether the Romans or the Normans introduced rabbits into Britain appears to have been resolved.

An archaeological dig in Norfolk has uncovered the remains of a 2,000-year-old rabbit -- by far the oldest of its kind found on these shores and regarded as final proof that the creatures are now on the list of what the Romans ever did for us.

Many believed that the Normans introduced rabbits for their meat and fur.

However, others have always insisted that the creatures were brought in by the Romans, citing Marcus Terrentius Varro (116-27BC) who wrote that the legions brought rabbits from Spain, where they were reared in walled enclosures and then served up as a gourmet dish.

The remains were found at Lynford, near Thetford.

Jayne Bown, the manager of the Norfolk Archaeological Unit, which is conducting the dig, said yesterday: "We can date the rabbit to the first or second century AD from the pottery fragments found beside it. Some of these fragments included domestic pots which could have been used for cooking. "We could tell the bones had been butchered."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Small Spring Groundhog Soon Released Unharmed



A little catch-and-release hunting is good for the soul, even with groundhogs. This little fellow was snared last year at about this time and was released in fine shape. Between April and October a groundhog will typically increase it's body weight 50 percent, but individuals over 15 pounds are pretty rare.

A Well Written Book With Something to Say



Eddie Chapman's book, The Working Jack Russell Terrier, is one of the best books written on working terriers.

It is a very short book -- just over 100 pages long including 35 illustrations -- but it is enough because Chapman has something to say, and says it plain and without a lot of wind-up.

A key theme of the book is that a useful dog has to be small in the chest. Chapman writes:

"There is one point of a study dog's anatomy which is more important than any other and that is the size of the chest, or rib diameter if you like. The standard states that a Jack Russell should be capable of being spanned by the hands behind the shoulder blades. This, to my mind, is extremely misleading as any adult man and most women have a hand span which is bigger than the chest of an average fox. I am a small man and have reasonably small hands, but in more than 20 years in which I have handled well over 1000 foxes, I have never handled a full grown fox which came anywhere near the span of my hands.... It therefore follows that if I pick up a dog and can only just span him with a squeeze, then the dog cannot get to a fox in a tight place and a dog that cannot get to a fox in a tight place cannot be considered a Jack Russell. Either you are breeding a dog that is suitable to work fox or, if he is too big to get to a fox, you are just breeding for looks. This, of course, is what happened to the pedigree Fox Terrier and look where that has got him!"

Chapman writes later on in the book:

"[The Rev. Jack Russell] hunted the Exmoor area and was master of the North Devon Hounds. I know the country well and have worked my terriers in most of the Exmoor Earths off and on for nearly twenty years and at one time I was there professionally. So I think I can claim to know what sort of terrier is needed to work those earths efficiently. The earths in Exmoor are the same as those in which Mr. Russell worked his dogs. . . .

There are many hunt countries that have earths similar to the Exmoor and so they find it necessary to use the standard, small-chested Russell Terrier. I do not think I would be wrong if I spoke for all their men and said that good small dogs have a definite advantage over good big dogs in their bigger earths. They have more manoeuvreability in the bigger earths and the big dogs are useless in the small earths because of the size of their chests, so they are very limited in their use .... On the working side, I think if we look at the country as a whole, I think we will find that the most used size is between 10 and a half inches and twelve and a half inches."

The Working Jack Russell Terrier can be ordered from Coch-Y-Bonddu Books in Wales. This book is well worth the price, with nice chapters on handling fox, a chapter on locators/bleepers (I find it amazing that so many recent books never even mention them!) and hints on how to breed a proper-sized dog.

For other books on working terriers see Read Country Books. For the only practical book written on American working terriers, go here.
.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Great Moments in Car Repair



Northern Territory News (Australia), March 8, 2005 Tuesday
Trapped Man Lifts Car Off His Head, By Greg McLean


A man told last night how he lifted a half-tonne car off his head with one hand.

Paul Betteley, 28, was trapped underneath his Datsun Stanza when his eight-month-old terrier pup A.D. knocked a jack over and the car fell on top of him.

"I thought my number was up," he said.

Mr Betteley suffered serious head injuries when his jaw and cheekbone were pushed into his skull.

He was changing the car's oil at his property at Adelaide River, 110km south of Darwin, early on Saturday morning when the accident happened.

"I heard the crunch of my face crushing inwards and I knew no one was going to come to rescue me at six in the morning," he said.

"I've heard stories of people pulling cars off themselves before -- it's amazing what adrenaline can do.

"The car chassis fell across my chest and face and after a couple of seconds I decided the only way I was going to get out was if I did it myself.

"I used one hand to lift the car and with my free hand I grabbed the side of the house and pulled myself out.

"I was surprised how easily I could do it with the adrenaline pumping, but there was a risk the car would fall on me a second time. Once I was out I went inside the house.

"I thought I was going to collapse on the lounge and die there.

"Even when I knew I wasn't going to die I was worried about a permanent brain injury because I heard the side of my face crack when it happened.

"It just goes to show how bloody lucky people can be.

"I didn't know my head was that hard."

A friend who was asleep inside Mr Betteley's house called an ambulance, which was given a police escort to east Adelaide River. "I thought I might be in trouble when the ambulance officer went 'Oooh' when he first saw me," Mr Betteley said.

"A policeman drove the ambulance back to Darwin so both paramedics could monitor me."

Mr Bettely spent two days in the high-dependency unit at Royal Darwin Hospital under close watch before being shifted to a ward yesterday.

Surgeons will operate on him today to try to repair his cheek and jawbone and insert metal plates into his head.

But Mr Betteley remains optimistic.

"There's no hard feelings against A.D.," he said.

"As soon as I get out of hospital I'm going to buy a lottery ticket."

Heaven By Favor




"Heaven goes by favour. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in."
- Mark Twain

"If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons." -- James Thurber

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Three On a Match




Camilla's border and bedlington show interest in the noise coming out of a pipe
that started about 15 feet away and exited inside this stump (yes animals do plan this stuff out!).

Sailor is a little less interested, because he knows the secret -- what's coming out is Mountain (below).




Sailor bolted a very nice vixen at the first hole of the day -- a surprise as it was just an ordinary groundhog hole without any kickout or bits of food about. The vixen looked to be in fine fettle, and dashed across a small clearing to a nearby hedgerow. Shortly afterwards, two small dark grey kits tumbled out. We scooped them back into the den (Sailor had by now exited), and I cursed that I had left the camera in the car (the pictures above are from later in the day).

Camilla had seen a hole up the field with a groundhog in it, and sure enough it was there. This was a hard hole, however, with a small groundhog in a tight and deep pipe digging away the whole time. We got it, but I was pretty tired after knocking in a few too many holes in a fairly deep sette. My first sun burn of the year too!



Cyna the Border goes in, while Spanner the Bedlington waits for his opporunity.

Kipling: The Power of the Dog



In my email today was a post about a much-loved terrier's passing away. It is something we must brace for from the day a puppy arives in the house. It is never easy, but nothing loved is ever lost. Those with hunting dogs can have the consolation that at least their dogs once lived!


The Power of the Dog, by Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passsion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair --
But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long --
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Critter Control With Terriers




Sadie the terrier helps ferret out critters
4/4/2005, By Cheryl Wade, The Associated Press


MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) - When Sadie the Jack Russell terrier sniffs out a raccoon or a squirrel, the calm, sweet-natured dog turns into what her owner describes as a wild animal.

Sadie, 4 1/2, has ridden in Mike Corlew's Critter Control truck every work day since she was six weeks old. Corlew, who lives in Midland County, figures she's logged more than 200,000 miles as he roams over 9 1/3 counties seeking and catching raccoons, opossums, squirrels and stinging insects that are messing up humans' home lives.

Most of the time, she lies in Corlew's lap, her head on the truck's arm rest, staring out the window. But when she sees a critter, her personality becomes that of an alligator, Corlew said. She grabs onto the pesky animal and won't let go until Corlew says "leave it!"

"As soon as she sees it and identifies it, she's gone," he said.

Corlew has owned his Critter Control franchise almost seven years. He'd wanted a Jack Russell for a long time, but he'd heard they were hyperactive and barked all the time not his speed. Then, he heard of a man in Kalamazoo who raised the animals from English stock. Sadie, whom he bought from the man, proved to be calm, well-behaved and fond of children.

Before Corlew puts Sadie to work at someone's home, he first asks the person if it's OK. Sometimes the person is apprehensive at first. But after doing a few tricks for children if any are around, Sadie's "strictly business" when she's on assignment; she doesn't take time to hang out much with the humans.

Sadie's defining moment came when she was 6 1/2 months old. In one day, she sniffed out two adult raccoons, each with a litter in attics. At the first whiff of the raccoon, she was after it, Corlew said.

Once, she nabbed an opossum behind a washing machine in a home.

Elvis, a Jack Russell who's 2 1/2, and belongs to Corlew's son, comes along for the ride many times. But he's less calm and, although he's good at digging moles out of people's backyards, he's not much good inside customers' homes.

But when Sadie catches a critter, Elvis gets a cheeseburger from Burger King or McDonald's, just like Sadie does.

Corlew's seen some strange situations on his job. Once, he threw a tarpaulin over a snow owl who'd taken up residence among the logs in a woman's fireplace. The woman had had the feeling someone was peering at her from a window, but the eyes turned out to be the owl's.

"I reached down and grabbed him above the talons, so he couldn't sink them into my hand," Corlew said. "We just took him outside and released him."

Another time, while Corlew was lying on his side checking a fireplace, a red squirrel jumped off the damper and landed inside his shirt. A very startled Corlew let out a yell, jumped up and ran outside. But he still took care to hold the top of his shirt closed so the animal wouldn't escape.

"He never bit me, but he scratched me up pretty good," he said

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Marketing the Message



Why is this logo not available on T-shirts, hats and roll-sticker?
Simple: the folks on the other side of the Atlantic are still figuring out how to run a political campaign American-style. The good news is that they are catching up fast.

The Countryside Alliance posters have been a disaster, but this logo is pretty good and should see more circulation.

A suggestion for the folks at fighttheban.com: Go to http://www.cafepress.com and turn this thing into T-shirts, hats, frisbees, bags, cups, bumper stickers, and a dozen other things that people can buy. This can be done for FREE, with nice profits reinvested back in the cause.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"The Ban" So Far: 800 Fox in 1000 Hunt Days



THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK), March 25, 2005
800 foxes killed since hunt ban

Fox-hunters across England and Wales have tallied up more than a thousand days of hunting between them and killed around 800 foxes since the pursuit was banned last month.

Despite the implementation of the Hunting Act on February 18, which has outlawed the use of hounds, other methods have included flushing out foxes to waiting guns and terrier work to protect game birds.

Although hunting in the North-East has been largely slowed by the weather since the ban came into force, last night the Countryside Alliance said the figures showed the controversial legislation did not protect foxes.

Chief executive Simon Hart said: "It is a huge morale boost to see hunts determined to retain their infrastructure until this temporary ban is repealed.

"Hunts around the country have shown just how impossible it would be for already overstretched police forces to enforce the legislation.

"The support for hunting in the wake of the ban has been outstanding, and hunts will be looking forward to next season with increased determination." Martin Claxton, huntsman with the Percy Hunt in Alnwick, said last night: "This legislation has never been about protecting wildlife."

Mr Hart added that the Hunting Handbook, produced by the Alliance in conjunction with the Council of Hunting Associations, had been instrumental in providing a way forward for the hunting community until the Hunting Act is erased from the Statute Book.

A new edition will be published soon, as will a strategy for hunting in the future. He added: "We are confident of both of our legal challenges, which return to the courts later this year."

Northumbria Chief Constable Crispian Strachan is due to say the hunting ban is difficult to enforce this weekend. In a television interview to be broadcast on Sunday, he adds: "It's not a high priority because it is not a recordable offence.

"There are no human victims and I'm sorry, there will be people watching this who feel very strongly but I am bound to put human victims before animal victims and then deal according to resources."

Monday, April 04, 2005

Return of the Bald Eagle


Bald Eagles near Wilson Bridge, Washington, D.C.

An article in today's paper notes that Bald Eagles in Homer, Alaska are known to attack white cats and small white dogs, such as Jack Russell's. Apparently, the eagles, which flock in large numbers on the outskirts of the town due to a nearby fish canning operation, think anything small and white and running around must be a rabbit and assume it is fair game.

Closer to home, it turns out that Rosalie Island, a small man-made spit of land at one end of Wilson Bridge outside of Washington, D.C is one of the best places in the lower-48 to spot Bald Eagles.

The reason for this appears to be the profuse amount of fish in the river, drawn to this particular spot by algae blooms and "nutrients" pumped into the river from the nearby Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant. Despite the 200,000 cars that pass by the bridge daily, somewhere between 12 and 20 Bald Eagles call the Maryland side of the bridge home.

Bald Eagles have made a spectacular return in the last 30 years, and there are now more than 7,000 nesting pairs in the lower-48, with an additional 25,000 nesting pairs in Alaska, and even more in Canada.

Though DDT is often blamed as the sole cause of Bald Eagle decline, the truth is that the birds were nearly wiped out by shooting and leghold traps mounted on poles for "chicken hawks".

DDT did not arrive on the scene until after World War II, and was banned by 1972. Yet, a close look at the National Audubon Society's own Christmas Bird Count data shows that Bald Eagles were very rare as far back as 1900, and that their number rose (albeit slowly) during the years DDT was being sprayed in the U.S. The same is true for Osprey -- another bird hard to misidentify, but which was decimated both by shooting and by pole-net fishing weirs. It turns out that the decline of Ospreys had more to do with the large birds breaking their necks stooping on fish caught in pole-mounted weirs than it did with the rise of DDT.

This is not to say the DDT had no effect on bird populations (it most certainly did), simply that it was not the determinant variable in the decline (or rise) in Bald Eagle, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon and Golden Eagle populations, as is commonly believed (and reported by organizations such as Audubon).

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Digging With the Dogs Last Year

Rain on the River



This is Great Falls on the Potomac, just up the river from my house. After the heavy rains yesterday, this is what the river will look like -- a mad rushing torrent.

The Potomac at Great Falls offers hardcore white water riffs for experienced kayakers. A lot of America's best Olympic kayakers live in Washington, D.C. just to work this stretch of white water which is easily accessible to all.

Steep cliffs on each side of the river protect a wooded flood plain which offers a 200-mile long stretch of "accessible wilderness" for anyone that care to walk it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Rescuer Becomes Rescued



This may sound like a funny tale, but I assure you it's not if you have been in this situation. It is very easy to get stuck -- head down and feet up -- in a hole, and it is an especially dangerous situation if you dig alone. In this position your entire weight is driving you down and there is very little to grab on to.

Terriers by Bryan Kidd
The Countrymans Weekly
April 26, 2002

I HAVE been a rescue rep for the North Yorks Moors Working Terrier Club since 1979 and have also worked terriers with the Goathland and Glaisdale Foxhounds. I have kept a diary of many rescues over the years and one that comes to mind is the time I got stuck, as well as the terrier!

This incident occurred on Monday, January 9, 1984. I had received a phone call from Paul Prouse, terrierman to the Farndale Foxhounds, on the Sunday night. He had two terriers stuck in a rock hole. They had been entered at noon on Saturday when a fox was run to ground by hounds.

When Monday morning dawned, I found we had a fair covering of snow overnight. I picked up one of the lads and we struggled to get to the dig in Farndale, high on the Yorkshire moors. Eight members were already at the dig. They had a tunnel into the side of the hill and three men were out of sight up the hole.

This hole seemed to be an old stream bed that narrowed down to about two feet wide, with a steep drop at the end. The walls were solid rock at the end, so we couldn't make it any wider without heavy drills. We could hear a dog whining but couldn't look over the drop as it was out of reach and too tight. While we were considering our options, the farmer came and told us he had spoken to the old, retired keeper who'd had a dog stuck in this same spot 14-years earlier. He told the farmer they had dug in from the top and, when they backfilled, they filled the hole with a big rock at the bottom and railway sleepers and soil.

We opened a big area up to the depth of three feet and found loose soil and rocks that had been out before. We then found the old rotten sleepers and bigger rocks. After four hours we were down to a big rock and, after getting a rope round it, we pulled it out to reveal a large hole.

A lad crawled in and said he could see a dog about ten feet below, I said I would try and crawl down the crack to the dog. I was going down at a very steep angle and was quite near the dog who had been bitten and was curled up on a rock with a drop below her. I coaxed her to me and grabbed her.

She stood up on her back legs and I passed her out over my body. She was very tired and cold. Soil began to fall on me from above as I shone the torch up the crack, to see the other terrier, about eight feet above me. I scrambled about and got within inches of the dog, but he backed off. I sent the word back to the lads behind me: "Send me a sandwich." Ron Hodgson proclaimed: "He's having his bloody dinner down there!"

I got a chocolate biscuit and, as the dog came to take it, I grabbed him by the locator collar. I couldn't pass him over me because of the roof so I eased down a bit - big mistake!

As I gave the dog to the man behind me, I slipped down the crack and got wedged tight. I was nearly stood on my head and had one hand on a ledge stopping me going down any further.

I was stuck fast and couldn't move at all. The lad behind tried pulling my legs, but to no avail. Paul Prouse got in and secured a rope around my ankles and told the lads to pull. They nearly pulled my feet off, but still I was stuck.

After 40-minutes they were talking about calling out the cave rescue team. I was aching from being twisted and my wrist was aching from taking my weight. Paul got a knife and cut off my wax overtrousers and pulled off my wellies. This gave me a bit of room and I tried to shuffle out of my thick cardigan, but couldn't manoeuvre.

I was getting very frightened by this time, as I couldn't see how I was going to get out.

Frank Glasper suggested giving me a rope to pull on with my free hand, I tried and got a bit more movement. I summoned all my strength and pulled as hard as I could.

I began to raise so I spread my elbows, took a breather and pulled again. I got to a level where I could back up and the lads pulled me free.

I turned around and crawled out and collapsed, lying in the snow on my belly - I was exhausted.

After some hot soup I recovered, while the lads backfilled that terrible place. One of the lads said that the club should order a 16-inch terrier collar with a bleeper on to put on 'Kiddo the rescue rep,' to much laughter.

Both dogs and man made a full recovery.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Indiana Terrier in Rescue







The Tippecanoe County Humane Society in Lafayette, Indiana is extremely full and has this cute fellow looking for placement -- he was found as a stray. This dog needs a home -- please forward this post to anyone you know that is looking for a dog that is within a state or two of Indiania. To adopt this dog, call Brittany or Amanda at the Tippecanoe County Humane Society: 765-474-2196.

For more information about Russell Rescue and rescue dogs in general, see >> HERE