Tuesday, October 31, 2006
About 130 of the 185 hunts in England and Wales have switched to drag hunting in which hounds follow a lure doused in fox urine, but the rest are using hounds to flush foxes from cover to be (theoretically) killed by birds of prey such as Golden Eagles and Eagle Owls.
Terrier work is still allowed, provided the hunting is done on land with the owners written permission and to protect game bird populations. Only two terriers are allowed in the field at a time, and only one dog, with locator collar, is allowed below ground at a time. Only fox can be legally hunted by terriers; badger work remains illegal despite such an abundance of badger that the Government is now using gas to kill thousands every year in an effort to control bovine tuberculosis.
New Bristol University shows that there has been no change in the fox population since the ban. Its two-year nationwide study, to be published early next year, shows the number of adult foxes has remained stable at around 250,000. About 425,000 cubs are born each year, and the same number are killed by disease or cars (most fox mortality in the UK), are shot, or are snared. In short, the ban has not saved a single fox life, it has only meant an alternative death. Prior to the ban fox hunting with hounds accounted for just 20,000 fox deaths a year.
For more information:
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The Cocker Spaniel was once a fine pocket-sized bird dog, but the show ring emphasis on exaggerated coats has created a dog that cannot get through a hedgerow even if its life depended on it.
Mark Derr, the author of Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship wrote the following paragraphs in a March 1990 Atlantic Monthly article entitled "The Politics of Dogs":
The cocker spaniel, along with the poodle, the perennial favorite of American pet buyers, has not competed in field trials since 1965, having lots its ability to hunt. Elizabeth Spalding, a leading breeder of Cavalier King Charles spaniels, says, "Most people don't know it, but up until the 1970s a sentence in the cocker-spaniel standard stated that a dog could be penalized for excessive coat. But for twenty years cockers had been bred for long coats, which brought them championships." The long-haired little hunter has developed a reputation as a foul-tempered, possessive, and nervous creature.
In the 1950s show people turned the German shepherd into a weak-hipped animal with a foul temper and bizarre downward-sloping hindquarters. A few breeders are trying to restore the dog to its former dignity. The Monks of New Skete, a religious order in the Orthodox Catholic Church, near Cambridge, New York, have for twenty-two years worked to produce dogs without those problems. "We stopped using American dogs and turned to German ones, because breeding there is better controlled," says Brother John, a member of the order, which has a waiting list of more than a year for its dogs.
Many of the toy breeds are so small and fragile that they cannot live outside artificial environments. The bulldog and the Boston terrier have difficulty whelping naturally, because of the breeds' exaggeraged heads, and bitches are regularly subjected to cesarean sections. Hetherington says, "The bulldog is a man-made dog, and man has to be responsible for it. The dog hasn't come out perfectly, but that's reason to keep trying to improve the breed , not to abandon it."
The problem exists throughout the world. In Australia the kelpie, which is considered a rival to the border collie in the management of sheep, became the darling of the show ring in the 1930s and within three decades had nearly lost its herding instinct. In the 1960s the Working Kelpie Council of Australia began to rescue the breed, by establishing a registry for working stock. In the United States the Australian kelpie has been in the AKC's miscellaneous class since 1941, and Susan Thorp, the secretary of Working Kelpies, the American breed club, wants to keep it there. "In the AKC," she says, "the dog becomes an object. People get dogs, don't use them, and then selectively breed them for characteristics other than work."
Peter Borchelt, an animal behaviorist in Forest Hills, New York, says that springer spaniels, mostly the males, born of a particular show line frequently develop dominance-related behavioral problems that lead them to become aggressive toward their owners, while those from field stock don't manifest that tendency. Among labrador retrievers there are as many as three distinct varieties with different characteristics--show dogs, somewhat large and slow afoot; dogs adept at AKC field trials, smaller and more high-strung; and working dogs, varying in appearance but bred for their ability to swim and retrieve.
Among other AKC-recognized hunting breeds--including the German shorthaired pointer, the Chesapeake Bay retriever, the pointer, the Brittany, the Gordon setter, and the English setter--are dogs that can point, retrieve, or flush birds as well as any every have. People work hard to preserve those traits, and they don't intend to stop. (Many register their dogs not with the AKC but with American Field, an organization in Chicago devoted to field dogs.) But the trend among people who want breeds unspoiled by an overemphasis on appearance is toward animals the AKC doesn't deign to register, such as the Catahoula leopard dog, Australian and English shepherds, the beauceron, and European pointers (including the English).
The trend has not escaped the notice of the AKC. Kenneth Marden, the AKC's president, says, "We have gotten away from what dogs were originally bred for. In some cases we have paid so much attention to form that we have lost the use of the dog." Marden has supervised the establishment of herding tests, which are scheduled to begin this winter and are subject to a great deal of controversy among people with working stock dogs, who argue that AKC animals like the collie and the Old English sheep dog will prove unable to complete them. Marden has also expressed interest in terrier tests to measure the dogs' ability to flush game from underground dens, and in lure coursing for sight hounds and whippets.
He has publicly recognized the need to emphasize function as well as form, despite strong opposition from the AKC's powerful traditionalists, who argue that he is denigrating shows. They have nothing to fear. In some European countries dogs must excel both in the field and in the ring, and be judged physically sound, before they can become Champions. But an AKC dog can become a Champion in the show ring alone.
The above post is a repeat of a post from this blog from June 4, 2005.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Probably, but it's an association that lives on in a suprising number of beer and wine labels, as I have noted in the past.
Now our crack research team has uncovered a small treasure trove of great dog and beer commercials, including ones featuring both Jack Russell Terriers, Border Terriers and cross bred terriers. We even throw in a cat for garnish. Click here to enjoy.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The purpose of the list was pure science -- an effort to get a handle on the average size of American working terriers, and to see if the size of the dog varied based on the type of quarry worked. It did not. What the list did reveal was a fairly significant bias towards working bitches -- a fact that I think is attributable to their smaller size.
If a new list of working terriers was collected today, would the results be any different? I don't think so. There would be a few more Patterdales, perhaps, but not too many from what I can see. There would be a few cross-bred dogs, I think, but the number would not slide into double digits. A few more working borders might pop up, but they are still a very rare dog to find in the field.
When push come to shove, the Jack Russell remains the dog that is most likely to be dug to in the United States. It's no suprise why that is so; no other pool of dogs is as well documented in terms of size and working ability as the dogs of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. While other registries have tried to put together a working program and registry, such things have proven harder to do in practice than in theory.
The list below are the 2006 Bronze Medallion dogs -- a nice little list of 26 dogs that have worked at least three different kinds of quarry in the field before a JRTCA working judge. Most of these dogs have multiple Bronze Medallion winners in their five-generation pedigrees, and the heights of all of the dogs in the pedigree are likely to be known and recorded by the JRTCA as well.
The protection and preservation of the working terrier is made possible by elevating the status of work within the Club, by encouraging the pursuit of diverse types of quarry, by keeping honest records on the size of the dogs and the types of quarry worked, and doing it for generation after generation.
This focus and dedication is what makes the JRTCA a different kind of registry -- and it has made a world of difference to the sport of working terriers in America.
- Brandwine Punch: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Briar Run Addytude: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Briar Run Wango: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Brockwood Sprint: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Castle Pines Kessa: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Conquest Strike: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- DayDream Bayou Billy: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Firestorm Fever: Raccoon, Groundhog, Red Fox
- Foxton Locks Ted: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Golden Hills Tansy: Red Fox, Groundhog, Opossum
- Little Eden Ovation: Raccoon, Groundhog, Red Fox
- Little Eden Turbo: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Little Eden Maggie: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Natural Instinct Q-T: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Oakwood Brass: Raccoon, Groundhog, Red Fox
- Old Glory Jarrett: Raccoon, Groundhog, Red Fox
- Pheasant Hill Kylee Kaboom: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Pine Hill Reva: Raccoon, Groundhog, Red Fox
- Runaway Farm Mocha: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Skytop Squire: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- The Holow Zeena: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Sallishan Twilght: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Sow's Ear Taltos: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- White Rose Tipple: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Woods End Chase: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Hart Farm Dancer: Raccoon, Groundhog, Opossum
- Salt Valley Wolfman: Raccoon, Groundhog, Red Fox
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
MYTH: Hunting is in decline in the United States.
TRUTH: There are more than three times more hunters in American today than there were 35 years ago.
Today there are about 13 million hunters in the United States, with the number of big game and water fowl hunters steady, but the number of small game hunters and trappers in decline due to the low price of pelts, the easy availability of larger game (there are only so many days to hunt in the year), and some declines in pheasant, quail, rabbit and grouse numbers due to changes in habitat and farming practices (tripple hay harvests, fewer coverts on large farms, etc.).
Hunting is far more popular than most of the elected politicians in America, and not only do most Americans support hunting, the largest Congressional caucus is pro-hunting and angling.
Monday, October 23, 2006
People waiting for a judge in the ring. There are no professional handlers at the JRTCA, and there is no dress up -- a welcome thing in my opinion. It is supposed to be about the dogs, right?
John Broadhurst judges in one of the rings -- a long day of spanning terriers and checking bites. With over 1,200 dogs at the trial, some of the classes were quite large, but John did a nice job of keeping his end of it moving. He kept his sense of humor too!
A few vendor tents selling everything from high-quality leather leashes and custom embroidery to books, sweaters, fox nets, and jack russell-themed crafts.
I stopped by JRTCA Nationals on Saturday -- the one dog show I attend these days.
This was the 30th Anniversary of the JRTCA, and Alisia Crawford was there in honor of that -- she founded the JRTCA and was the guiding force behind the JRTCA's focus on registering dogs, not litters, and giving the highest awards in the Club for field work.
The weather was very good, but it had been windy the day before and I am told that a couple of pop tents took off flying in the 30-mile-per-hour winds, some only wrecking themselves, while others wrecked a car or two. That's what we have home-and-auto insurance for, right? Or let's hope. . . .
I saw a lot of very nice dogs. I also saw some enormous dogs, some odd looking dogs, and some dogs without tails. All in all, however, the quality of the dogs was very high, and there were some real stunners among the more than 1,200 Jack Russells that attended.
JRTCA nationals is a pretty impressive single-breed show.
On the working side, it was nice to see a rather lengthy parade of Bronze Medallion dogs -- dogs that have worked at least three of the six kinds of terrier quarry we have here in the U.S. -- Raccoon, Groundhog, Red Fox, Gray Fox, Badger, Possum -- before a JRTCA field judge.
I think about 50 veteran Bronze Medallion dogs were at Nationals, and 27 new ones were ushered into the ranks of the hundreds that have come before. Such stuff is the tip of the iceberg, of course, There are the dogs like Mountain, who have worked it all and who do not have scrap of paper to show for it, and the dogs like Sailor who got their bronze, and went on to work 400 more critters for the pure fun of it. And then, of course, there are the many people who are unwilling to take off a week from work to drive clear across the country for a dog show -- to say nothing of the many hundreds of wonderful old working dogs that have gone on to the Other Side to meet their maker. Without a doubt, more Jack Russells are being dug to in America -- and around the world -- than any other breed.
Events like JRTCA Nationals are a brain-defying amount of work. For starters, there are the registrations, collecting the trophies, and recruiting the judges. Then you have to make sure the field is mowed before any of the setup begins, you have to stake out the parking rows, assemble the intercom system, and put up the larger tents for awards, rescue, electronic equipment, etc. Then you have to find someone to bring in all the agility equipment and the go-to-ground tunnels, and do the set up for all of the same (to say nothing of taking it all down, taking it home, and putting it all away). On top of all this, you have to network with the small-business vendors, the food concession folks, the port-a-potty people, the folks running the BAER clinic, the Super Earth setup, and the folks that run and maintain Stepping Stone Park. You have to make sure the racing and agiltiy sections are well fenced, and that the show rings are properly measured, staked, and roped. You have to put up signs up for reserved spots, and you have to collect, organize, price, and lay out all the stuff -- shirts, hats, fox nets, locator collars, books, etc. that are to be sold. The work goes on and on and on .... made possible by a small cadre of volunteers who are never thanked enough. I do not know who they all are, but a tip of the hat to each and every one of them. There is a special spot in heaven for those who do thankless work.
And so what is the result of all this?
Well, Nationals seemed to go swimmingly as far as I could tell. Of course, there will always be a few whiners, pouters, ingrates, and misanthropes in any crowd. There is always someone with a Unified Field Theory about How Everything Should Work. For my part, I give simple applause. Nice work, all you nameless, faceless people toiling in private for the common good. And a nod to the front office too -- they make it all possible, and are the main difference between success and failure. Don't believe it? Fine -- look at how the other Clubs and organizations are doing. Compare and contrast. The JRTCA is simply better, and the management and the volunteers are the reason.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Genetic Savings and Clone is not accepting new orders for clones because the company was "unable to develop the technology to the point that cloning pets is commercially viable," according to a letter sent out to its clients.
The company, started by octogenarian billionaire John Sperling, has cloned a total of two cats for sale, including Little Nicky, whose owner paid $50,000 for the duplicate in 2004. The company also charged clients to bank genetic material from pets they intended to clone.
The long-sought goal of replicating John Sperling's husky (or is is border collie?) mix, named Missy, who died in 2002 at the age of 15, has never been achieved.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
The new Deben LRT box is at far right, the collar is in the middle of the three shown.
The JRTCA is now selling Deben Long Range Terrier Finders. These new collars and boxes work well and will locate a dog as much as 40ft away. The collar is fully waterproof, has a battery life of 350 hours and is switched on/off by a magnet in the hand held receiver - there's no reason to remove the batteries after each use. The transmitter is fitted with a top quality leather collar. The new LRT box and collar are sold for $300 box/collar set. >> To order
Friday, October 20, 2006
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006 by BILL MONROE in The Portland Oregonian
Most Americans support hunting and fishing, according to a recent survey of those 18 years and older from across a broad spectrum of the United States.
In a nationwide poll, conducted by Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Va., approximately three of four Americans approve of legal hunting and more than nine of 10 approve of recreational fishing.
Hunting approval has actually increased slightly in the past decade, while that for fishing has fallen a bit, according to Mark Duda, executive director of Responsive Management.
In 1995, Duda said, 73 percent of Americans approved of hunting, a number that climbed to 78 percent this year. Fishing dropped 1.7 percentage points, from 95 to 93.3 percent, but remains high, he said.
Adults surveyed were randomly selected, Duda said. The poll was conducted as part of two larger projects, a book on hunting commissioned by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and a study on the future of hunting and the shooting sports funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
Sunday, October 15, 2006
A pig feels the heat. Part of this fellow has already been carved off, and is being cut down for barbecue just to the right.
I went down to Larry Morrison's yesterday for a pig roast and a general gab fest. Scott K and Jeff McK. were there along with Pam S. and of course the greater Morrison family and friends, as well as Chris J. who got to meet Scott and Jeff.
It turns out that Moxie, Chris' little patterdale, and Spice, my new dog, are exactly the same size, and they look a little bit like a negative exposure of each other. Coal, Scott's little Patterdale was there, and Chris was amazed how small and hard-bodied she is; as tight and well-muscled as a clenched fist. Lots of other great dogs were there too, of course, but because I was dropped on my head as a child I cannot remember them all.
Larry and Linda looked great, and so did Larry Jr., Gail and Dan. A little untaxed water was broken out towards the end, which did no one a bit of harm.
The pig, of course, did not do quite as well, but his contribution to the gathering was very much appreciated by all.
I took the picture, above, two years ago, and it shows the folks that bred my two working dogs -- Char Smith at left, and Larry Morrison to her immediate right. The taller fellow with his hand in his pocket is Ken James, whose book, "Working Jack Russell Terriers in North America," is a really excellent and informative read (see JRTCA web site to order). Back a few generation in my new dog's pedigree is Wills View Ruff, one of Ken's great little dogs. To the right of Ken James is John Broadhurst, author of "Terriermen and Terriers." A pretty nice line up of working terrier experience!
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Oberlin was the first school in the country to admit women and also the first school in the country to admit blacks. It's motto is "Learning and Labor," and the typical Obie (if there is such a thing) grows up in the spirit of service and with an eye to changing the world just a little bit for the better.
All of this is theory, of course. Diversity at Oberlin includes every odd thing imaginable, but it does not often stretch to having a conservative born-again Christian in the classroom. It's not that Oberlin would not welcome such people (they would), but that such people tend to get uncomfortable around blue-haired girls with nose piercings, and inter-racial lesbian couples, and people who talk passionately about the evil that was (and is) the KKK.
Their loss, if you ask me -- there are some fascinating creatures at Oberlin. You do not have to actually wrestle with the bears to watch them and even admire them for their struggle to exist. In fact, most of the people at the school pass for entirely normal; it takes only 50 truely odd people out of 3,000 for it to feel like a parade.
The college and the town have not changed too much in 25 years. A few new buildings, a few new stores in old buildings, one old store in a new building, etc. There was one very odd sign that made even this alumnus pause, scratch his head, and reconsider annual giving. Such is the march of progress.
Tappan Square is a 14-acre park on the edge of campus and it looked pretty much the same, except that the Oberlin Rocks seemed to have grown smaller.
Barney, my late great terrier, was painted on to the side of one of the Rocks for a while, when he was "lost." It turned out he was not lost, but instead had been stolen by the dispatcher for the local Police Department. I marched right over, picked up my dog, and committed no bodily harm only because the police and I had met before.
Let it be said that somewhere in my files at Oberlin is a notation about me and the dog. "The dog is very well behaved, but Mr. Burns is not. It is best to ignore the dog and act as if it is invisible." I have not actually seen this note, but I was told it was there by someone who managed Wilder Hall. In those days, my terrier was (in theory) persona non grata on campus, but I am not one for authority if it makes no sense. At Oberlin, you learn to push back against oppression in any form.
I was, at times, strapped for cash in College, and I well-remember a month when I figured I would save a little money and buy Barney generic dog food. He would not touch the stuff, but I figured that would change when he got hungry enough. At the time I was pinching pennies myself and living off of raw rye (from a feed store bag in the lab) and yeast (also from the lab), and washing it down with a pitcher of beer an evening at the Celler in the basement of Wilder (I was broke, but beer was a prioity). While I was in the Cellar, Barney was tied to a bench in the hall. Generally he slept there and no one paid him a mind.
Weeks went buy and Barney did not seem to be losing weight, but he was not eating that generic dog food either.
All was explained one evening, when I came out to find one of the older woman who worked the grill stroking Barney's head. "Is this your dog?," she asked. "I give him a T-bone steak every night."
Barney just looked up at me and laughed, comfortable in the old lady's lap. I tried to give the dog a reproachful look, but I suspect it came out as grin. Barney and I always admired anything that got by on grace and cleverness alone. I certainly admired that smart little dog.
While going to the book store to look for a few things on my little excursion back to college, I noticed that a huge old tree on Tappan Square was gone, replaced by a small grouping of low shrubs. The tree had been planted by Professor George Jones' kindergarten class -- a fact that Professor Jones himself had told me when he was 92 years old.
George Jones was introduced to me by David Miller, another biology professor, and I remember well the day that Professor Jones and I went mushrooming for morels. This was a big day for me, not only because I was in the hands of an expert (though I was not a complete slouch, which is why Professor Milller had introduced me to Professor Jones), but because mushroom hunters are not ones to show others where the best ones lie, lest they might poach the best grounds. Going out with George Jones was like getting 70 years of local mushroom lore dumped in my lap. Only later did it occur to me that a 92-year old might not worry too much that others might steal his mushroom grounds in future years. At 92, you should be so lucky to live that long. But George Jones was lucky -- he lived to the age of 101.
I walked around Campus and stopped by a couple of places where I used to live. I even went inside Wilder, which seemed more-or-less the same. I drove out to the reservoir, and Spice -- the new dog -- and I walked around it together.
I walked this reservoir I lot when I was in college, as it was just a short walk from Johnson House where I lived my last year -- a huge pink, Queen Anne Style house with an attached farm with land that ran clear to the reservoir. How good was that? I even had an original Picasso in my room that year -- a loaner from Allen Memorial Art Museum. It was not a great and important piece (Picasso sometimes did 75 drawings in a day), but it was a Picasso all the same.
I remembered Reefer -- the large Pit Bull Alan G. had adopted off the streets of Oberlin, just as I had adopted Barney, my little terrier. One cold winter day, Alan and the dogs and I walked the reservoir, which had been frozen for weeks, but had begun to thaw a little after three or four days of warm weather. Water stood on top of the ice, and in the middle of the reservoir someone had hacked a hole for a couple of ducks to bob around in and feed. Reefer took off after those ducks, and in the darkness and moonlight, it was a truely surreal moment, as the massive dog seemed to be walking on water, busting the ducks into flight out over the ice and the bright white snow. More than 25 years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.
At the Ben Franklin, where they sell a better selection of used books than any you will find in most big city book stores, I mentioned that the large organic garden that we used to have at Johnson House was no longer there, and that I found that a little odd considering the huge new Environmental Science building that had been constructed since I left.
"Oh, all the farmers are out at the George Jones Memorial Farm," said the cashier.
Ah! So the giant tree is gone, but Professor Jones lives on in the land forever. All is good and right with the world.
Friday, October 13, 2006
This is the new dog that has just arrived home. Her name is Spice, and she came from Char Smith of Thornbush Working Jack Russell Terriers who, very kindly, drove all the way down from Illinois to meet me in Ohio. I feel very lucky to get this dog, and consider it an act of kindness from Char to have offered her to me.
We picked a random bakery and coffee shop in Perrysburg to meet in, and it turned out to be a great little place with fresh pies and muffins and a very active clientele that consisted mostly of active senior citizens. For a blind toss, we did well.
Char and I hung out for about 4 hours, eating, talking, and just goofing off. When we let the dogs go out to pee, they came within a hair's breath of nailing a rat that was housed in a small bush in a parking lot about a hundred yards from the bakery. Nailing a rat at the hand-off of a working dog would be about perfect.
For the record, the building in the picture, above, is not my house -- it's a building at Oberlin College, where I stopped off on the way back. More about that later.
The wife met me at a local fenced tennis court so the dogs could be introduced to each other on neutral ground. Mountain quickly asserted dominance with two low growls, and the new dog accepted her Omega status immediately. All good, and as planned. I made a big fuss over Mountain and ignored the new dog. Then I fed them both, making sure Mountain was fed first and that she got the most. Both dogs are now playing on the rug behind me as I type, so things appear to be going swimmingly. Was all this necessary? Perhaps not, but first impressions are important, and that is true in the dog world as well as ours. There was going to be a pack order, and the quicker that was sorted out and recognized by me, the better.
Visually, Mountain and Spice make quite a pair, each with one patch eye and bright white bodies. They are a matched set, with Spice about a 1/2 or 3/4 of an inch smaller than Mountain -- a situation that will remain forever, as Spice will be one year old in just 10 days.
The new dog is about a half inch taller than the late great Sailor, but truthfully Sailor was very small, and on cold foxing days and in the staggering heat I sometimes wished for a dog that had just little bit more mass.
The new dog has a true harsh broken coat that should do well in cold and heat. The new pup is also longer in the back than Sailor and is well-furred all over -- a trait Sailor could not claim. I have not measured the new dog's chest yet (no tape meaure in the truck), but when I touch my thumbs under her chest, my fingers interlace over the top well past the second joint, so my guess is that she has a span of a little less than 14 inches.
It is exciting to have a new dog in the house. I will spend the next two weeks assimilating her into the house, the family, and the routine. First stop tomorrow morning is the yard!
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Until then I will think only pure thoughts on the 470-mile trip up, and only calm thoughts on the 520-mile trip back. The simple goal is to go and come back without incident, but since I will be starting out at 2 in the morning, we do have to light a candle for the Unknown God that protects us from drunks, truckers and drunken truckers. The God of Jinx is always watching.
I will be stopping off at Oberlin on the way back in order to spend the night and have a few quality hours with the dog in a quality little town where I did my undergraduate tenure. Oberlin has only one stop light, one hotel, and perhaps the oddest student body ever collected on one campus.
It has been about 25 years since I was last back, and it will be interesting to see what has changed and what has not.
It was on the streets of Oberlin that I acquired Barney, a wonderful terrier that was to be my beloved friend for more than 15 years. Gone but not forgotten.
Another picture of the hope-to-be-soon New Dog is appended below. A stunner, eh?
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
Two hole dogs. Chris tries to open up the pipe while Mountain tries another way in.
It rained hard all day Friday and drizzled on and off Saturday, but on Sunday Chris and I hit the fields anyway.
The corn is starting to come off now, but the fields are too wet to work with heavy machinery. A corn harvester was stopped dead in its tracks on the edge of a half cut field. It will be at least three days before that machine moves again.
A quick eyeballing of a couple of holes confirmed what I feared on the drive up -- the groundhogs had not moved for a couple of days due to the rain.
Scent was not going to be strong and the ground was going to be very soft and moist. The den pipes would have settled and gotten tighter, while the groundhogs would have an even easier time than normal digging away.
I had a plan, however. Sailor had located a big sette just as I was fixing to leave this farm about a month ago. The sette was pretty deep and it was in the middle of a thick hedge. If that groundhog (or possom or raccoon) was still home, it would be a good dig, and at better than five feet deep in a forested berm, it would likely be dry.
Of course, we make plans and God laughs. When Chris and I got to the hole, the dogs sniffed it twice and let us know nothing was home. Too bad -- now we'd have to hit any hole we could find.
We walked through the hedge to the harvested soybean field on the other side. Mountain pinged on a sette at the edge of the field, but she could not get in very far due to the small size of the muddy pipe. Neither could Moxie, and Moxie is a tiny dog.
The dogs acted like there was something there, however, and so we sunk two quick holes. All we could locate, however, was an underground mouse nest with five baby white-footed deer mice inside. We moved on.
We had not gone far when I looked around for Mountain. She had darted a little way ahead of us, but we were now a little bit farther on than I had last seen her. I whistled and waited for a few minutes, while Chris explored an area a bit farther up that had been bladed clear by the farmer.
"She's found," I said, and turned around and walked back the way I had come about 70 feet.
I listened. Geese honked in the distance, sounding for all the world like a pack of hounds.
And then I heard it -- a short baying somewhere to the right in a dense thicket.
I walked around the corner and tried to enter the thicket, but it was thick stuff, jammed with a mixture of multiflora rose, poke berry and downed timber. I backed out, dropped my tools, and pushed forward again, but there was no going forward through this stuff. I slipped back out and got a machete, and hacked my way up to a hole.
Mountain and Moxie were both there, going in and out of a six-eyed sette like they were model trains running the tunnels for an 8-year old on Christmas morning.
Chris pushed through the thicket behind me, and looked ahead to where the holes were. "You know," he said, "we could have just come in from the other side." Point well taken. We had definitely taken the long and wrong way in.
Mountain was in the ground now, and we grabbed Moxie and staked her far enough away from the hole that I could not pick up her collar. Mountain was baying a little, but she was clearly not up to it yet.
I boxed for location, and we sank a hole about three and a half feet deep. We came into the side of the pipe and found Mountain trying to push past a narrowing constriction point where the pipe took a sharp turn and also plunged downward.
We pulled Mountain and fussed around trying to scrape out the pipe, but we could not manage it due to the turn and the descent. Eventually Chris banged a new bottom into the hole, expanding the walls of the hole and cutting it deeper to about five feet.
We had more of the pipe to work with now. We had staked both dogs while we opend up the hole, and now we decided to probe the hole and see where the critter might be located. I cut a switch, and pushed it up the hole where it was promptly grabbed by a groundhog about 12 inches in. I tried to pull the stick out, but the groundhog was holding on.
"OK," I thought, "I've got a pretty good idea where you are now."
The groundhog was in a deep stop end, in a tight pipe, in very solid earth. These are actually tough locations to extract a groundhog from, as a dog cannot pull a groundhog from such a spot, and any dog that tries to do so is going to get its face chewed up for the effort. On the other hand, at five feet you are deeper than you can reach with your arms, so whatever you do to the groundhog has to be done while hanging head down in the hole. This is not much of a problem if you have a gun at hand, but since I eschew firearms for this kind of work, we were going to have to do this the hard way unless I could get lucky with a small trick.
I pulled a shoelace from my pocket, knotted it into a small snare, and put the bite of the shoe lace snare in a split cut into the end of the same switch I had pushed up the pipe a minute earlier. I pushed the stick and three-inch snare up the pipe, and the groundhog bit the noose. I caught him twice this way, and pulled back hard, but both times he eventually pulled out of the snare as there was nothing for the snare to grab on to but teeth and a smooth nose. A groundhog in a solid and tight pipe like this can easily withstand 70 or 80 pounds of pulling force. If you can get a snare over a leg, you have it done, but in this case pipe was simply too tight to get the noose past the head, and it did not help at all that I was working blind.
Chris tried to snare the groundhog a couple of more times with a length of cable he had in his pack, but he too failed to get the snare past the nose and teeth of the groundhog. A new plan of attack was needed.
We decided to cut back the hole a foot or so in order to snare the groundhog. Now this sounds like an easy thing to do, and something we should have done right off, but in fact the ground was very hard and we needed to cut down the side of the hole about five feet.
I am happy to report that Chris is an enthusiastic digger, and with only a little assistance from me, he soon had the the job done. Excellent. God bless enthusiasm. In my defense, let it be noted that I carried the bar and posthole digger all day long.
With the hole cut back, we could now see the groundhog, and he was not big. Chris snared him, and we quickly dispatched it. He was a small one -- this year's litter for sure.
We let Moxie rag the carcass for a few minutes while we watched a red tail hawk get mobbed by a flock of crows, the hawk screaming out its frustration right over our head. Is this a great country or what?
We pulled Moxie off the groundhog and put it in the fork of a small tree so we could turn our attention to repairing the sette.
I was gathering large sticks and breaking up a rotten stump to help repair the den pipe when Chris said, "Oh Jeez" and I turned around to see Moxie, whom we had let run loose, working a second groundhog in the hole.
Two in a hole and this late in the season? Unheard of. But there it was as plain as day.
We eventually got Moxie off the groundhog, though she had some cuts to her lips for her troubles.
We snared this second groundhog and repaired the sette well before deciding to call it a day and go back to the truck to glue up Moxie.
We had not wanted to use Moxie in an open-to-daylight pipe as she has a habit of grabbing groundhogs head first, which causes more lip damage than is necessary. In the dark, she seems to bay and work with courage tempered with discretion, but in daylight at the end of a dig, she gets as wound up as a drunken Irishman. Chris and I had discussed it, and we had decided to only use her in a dark pipe and put in the shovel and pull her after we had broken through. You have to do this with some dogs, and it was a good plan. ... but aren't they all?
This plan was jacknifed into the ditch by a second groundhog found in a sette in October. You cannot plan for the entirely unexpected. No serious harm done, in any case. A week or two of rest, and Moxie will be at it again -- hopefully joined by another small white dog in the field.
More on that last point later.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
One of the most famous terriermen of all times was from Shropshire of course -- the late great Bert Gripton.
The Masters of Foxhounds Association of America is located in Millwood, Virginia.
New to ... Piedmont Foxhounds by: Betsy Parker, 10/03/2006
UPPERVILLE - Richard Roberts steps atop a low flat rock at the center of the grassy pasture. A perfect perch. Relaxing in the warm September sun, he lets the long leather thong of his hunt whip flop casually: curled around his right fist that lightly holds a sturdy hunt crop, the whip beats a rhythm: "flap, flap, flap" against one thigh as he gazes at the three dozen cavorting foxhounds below. They gambol about the meadow, bowling each other over in their enthusiasm, occasionally stopping to lift their eyes to Roberts for approval - and their legs on the fenceposts - before pawing in the lush grass, others flopping in a nearby puddle for a morning splash.
"C'mon-n-n-n-n, boy-y-y-y-s-s-s-s." Roberts draws out both words, pitch rising at the end, thick English accent tucked deftly under the universal language of the dog. "C'me along. C'mon-n-n-n-n." Flap, flap. Roberts taps his thigh to get everybody's attention as he turns to walk up the hill. The pulsing group of hounds bounds ahead. Roberts smiles.
Though he's been in America barely two years, 33-year-old Roberts says he feels strangely at home in Virginia's Piedmont. He says he felt it from the start.
"It's a lot like home," Roberts said, comparing his native Shropshire in the English Midlands on the Welsh border. Growing up hunting the rural, rolling farmland gave him a taste for open country and sport with horse and hound. As new huntsman for the Piedmont Foxhounds, Roberts says he finds Virginia's hunt country - in particular Piedmont's of northern Fauquier and southwest Loudoun - much like England.
"Look, over there. See that hedgerow?" He waves toward a honeysuckle-covered fencerow - probably a rusted American wire to pped with sagging barbed wire holding up the tangle of weedy growth - lining the field where the hounds frolic "at walk," Roberts' term for morning exercise. "I call that 'Piedmont hedge.' All bramble and briar. Just like at home. Those type hedges are all over."
Roberts takes the reins from outgoing Piedmont huntsman Butch Gray, who he whipped in to last season. "The hounds had to get used to me not being a whip," Roberts said, explaining that a pack of highly trained hunting hounds looks to the whip, or assistant to the huntsman, for guidance and direction when out hunting, but that they see the huntsman as their true master. "They had to learn to look at me as huntsman. But the transition was pretty seamless."
New Piedmont whipper-in Spencer Allen feels that Roberts' voice has a lot to do with the easy switch. "Hunting behind Richard has shown me a lot of the particulars and finesse" of handling a forward thrusting, highly tuned pack of hounds. Allen filled the vac ant whip's position left open when Roberts stepped into Gray's shoes for the 2006-'07 season. "I love working in an 'English-run' kennels. I want to be a huntsman someday, and I really like learning from Richard. The hounds respect him. You can see he knows their language."
Roberts learned the language of hounds and hunting growing up on the family farm in rural Shropshire, England. When not following hounds, he, along with four sisters (three older, one younger) helped their father tend the family's cattle and sheep and "a bit of arable" cropland. In addition to farming, the senior Roberts trained a few hunter 'chasers and occasionally whipped in to the local South Shropshire Hunt.
"All I wanted to do was go hunting," Roberts said, smiling as he recalled his youth. "I remember being a little squat of a kid, doting on (South Shropshire huntsman) Michael Rowson when he'd come into our house after a day's hunting. He was a grand old chara cter, with an old-fashioned huntsman's voice. A booming voice. He always promoted kids' hunting, though, and he sometimes invited me to come up front with him.
"I remember one day he sent me to the far side of a covert to holler if the fox went away. Dammit if Charlie didn't pop out right there! Well, I pushed the fox back in (accidentally) and of course Michael wasn't very happy and gave me a dressing down. I was meant to let the fox go on. That was my first telling off by a huntsman. Oh, golly, I still remember it."
Steeplechasing evolved as another of Roberts' passions. Even when his father died when he was just 15 and they sold the family farm, Roberts continued to pursue a life in racing.
He earned an equine degree from Walford College of Agriculture in Shropshire, and exercised jumpers, hoping to make race riding a career.
"I had a schoolmaster," Roberts said, recalling the talented and experienced hunter 'chaser he point-to-pointed. "But it was al ways a struggle with weight." Featherweights assigned to young or inexperienced horses beginning jockeys are often assigned to ride did not suit Roberts' 5 foot, 8 inch frame. Reluctantly, he gave up the jockey dream.
After a brief stint in forestry, Roberts found his way back into horses via the bloodstock industry, prepping yearlings for the blue-blooded Doncaster and Newmarket sales while learning from fellow foxhunter and bloodstock agent Robert Purcellville.
"He told me that was the road I should take," selling bloodstock, Roberts said.
Breeding sales were over for the year, 1996, and one day Roberts was casually flipping through "Horse and Hound" - a weekly magazine that is the English standard for equestrian news. "I saw an ad for kennelman-second whip for a hunt in Cheshire."
And, just like that, he was off and running.
After three seasons with the Sir Watkin William Wyn Hunt, Roberts moved to the Oakley Foxhounds i n Bedfordshire, hunting two seasons as first whip to huntsman Paul Bellamy. Next he went to the Berkeley Hunt in Gloucestershire near Bristol, where he rode as first whip to huntsman Chris Maiden.
"I loved it," Roberts said of the open, galloping terrain of the Berkeley. There, small farm holdings were criss-crossed with hedgerows much like established Piedmont farmland. "It was lovely grass country."
After five years, Roberts said he was ready to move on, but his wanderlust collided with the "hunting with hounds" ban in Britain. Parliament outlawed all hunting with hounds, including, naturally, foxhunting, in 2004; the ban took effect in February, 2005.
"I was at the point that I wanted to move up to huntsman, but I wanted to fox hunt, not drag hunt," one of few forms of hunting - one without live quarry -- that remained legal under the new code.
"People had said 'what about the U.S.?" Roberts said. "So I rang up a few people and was on a plane to Virgi nia" to take an open slot as first whip to the Piedmont.
Roberts hunted behind Gray last season, fall 2005 through spring 2006, taking over the huntsman's position when Gray decided to retire from hunt service to work with show hunters.
"Butch built a nice pack of hounds" at Piedmont, one of Virginia's oldest packs, Roberts said. "I hope I can carry it on."
Assisting Roberts are Spencer Allen as first whip and yard manager, and Molly Forlano as second whip and horse trainer. Don Yovanovich occasionally whips, as does Sarah Waterman, daughter of longtime Piedmont master and huntsman Randy Waterman.
"There's a ton of tradition here," Roberts said. "It's a lot like hunting at home, but with an American flavor. At home in England we catch more foxes, but the countryside and the sport is the same. Even the hounds are the same." Piedmont hunts a primarily Crossbred pack, with a few pure English hounds mixed in. "I've got to adapt to the American way, but hones tly, we provide the same sport."
Part of the English way Roberts has brought to Piedmont is the distinctive use of voice when cheering his hounds. Many huntsman rely more on the small, brass hunting horn to communicate to the hounds; others use primarily voice. Others combine the two.
"It's different hunting with an English huntsman," said whipper-in Spencer Allen, who previously worked for American-born Greg Schwartz and Billy Frederick at Bull Run. "Richard brings a lot of the English formality with him. It's all in his voice."
For his part, Roberts does not claim ownership of the low-toned, drawn-out voice he uses to direct his hounds, words and commands that to the human ear sound muddled and sing-song but to a hunting hound are clear.
"Even today hunting I remember (South Shropshire huntsman) Michael Rowson's voice," Roberts said, again flapping his hunt whip on his thigh, peering through time as he gazes across the foreign yet familiar Virginia hil ls. Across decades, he said, "I can still hear him. It gives me a tingle to just talk about it."
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
More on the Piedmont
* Established: 1840
* Recognized: 1899
* Kennels: Upperville
* Country: 20 by 12 miles in northern Fauquier and southwest Loudoun
* Hounds: Primarily Crossbred
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
If it is a mammal, it can get rabies. For some reason, probably low body temperature, possums almost never have rabies.
How common is rabies? Every once in a while, simply go to Google News and type in the word "rabies" and see how many states -- and which ones -- are reporting that week. It's generally pretty sobering.
As the coyote has come east, rabies has begun to infect this animal too. Though rabid coyote attacks on people are still very uncommon, this qualifies as a true wildlife nightmare.
The good news is that rabies infection rates are likely to spiral down in the new few years due to aerial innoculation (through bait) of wildlife populations. Though the effectiveness of oral vaccine is not nearly as high as that administered via a shot or jab, it is high enough that it is expected to break the back (at least for a while) of the widespread rabies pandemics we have had sweep through the eastern U.S. especially among raccoon populations.
Woman Slams Door on Aggressive Coyote -- from the Associated Press, Sep 29, 2006
SINKING SPRINGS, Pa. - When a man and his dog dashed into the house with a rabid coyote on their heels, his wife slammed the door on the coyote's neck.
Craig S. Luckenbill said Thursday that he ran to get his 12-gauge shotgun, and his wife managed to close the door, but the coyote continued biting at the door and the front of the house.
The coyote was in the front yard when Luckenbill went out and killed it with the shotgun, he said. "I'm a hunter but I've never seen anything like that."
The Pennsylvania Game Commission confirmed Wednesday that the 40-pound eastern coyote Luckenbill shot on Sept. 21 had rabies, the first coyote to test positive for rabies in the state.
Luckenbill said he had heard one of his dogs barking, found it fighting with the coyote near his patio and tried to pull the dog away, but the coyote followed until his wife trapped it in the door. "When it tried to come into the house, my other dog Annie got involved to protect my wife," he said.
Both dogs had been immunized for rabies and received booster shots after the attack, he said.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
Chris watches Mountain get nowhere on the last hole of the day. This pipe was constricted by rock just 8 inches up. Solution: Dig a hole just past the rock.
Since it was supposed to rain on Sunday, Chris and I agreed to meet up on Saturday to go hunting. As I rode up to the 2,000-acre DNR tract we intended to work, however, I notice a variety of 4-wheel drive vehicles pulled off to the side of the road.
Upon arrival at my destination, three guys with long guns confirmed that it was the start of early muzzleloader season. There was no reason to get the dogs accidentally shot, or to ruin the day for these deer hunters, so I called Chris, who was still about two miles back on the road, and I told him to stay where he was. We would be hunting a nice farm near where he was -- a place I had not taken him to before.
I found Chris parked in a small graveyard next to the intersection we had agreed to meet at, and I chuckled -- the back side of that graveyard was riddled with holes, but who was going to dig them? Not me. There are some things you cannot explain, and digging in a graveyard is one of them.
Chris followed me, and we turned into a large farm about 500 yards from the graveyard and on the other side of the road. This is a big property with year-round water on it, but there are not as many dens here as you would imagine. That said, at one time or another, I have pulled everything off this farm -- fox, groundhog, raccoon and possum. It had been about a year since I had last visited.
The dogs were a bit giddy coming out of the truck, and were running around playing and not hunting.
Mountain settled down after a short while, and began to hunt up the hedge. Moxie was interested in the holes, but she has not yet kicked into that hard-hunting maniac mode that she will in just a few more months.
Moxie is just 10 months old, and I know she is going to be a demon. A better sized dog or one more game at this age, you will never see.
I knew where we were likely to find quarry, and we headed there on a ramble. As luck would have it, I was right about where the critters would be located
Mountain slid in to the first good den we found, and snuffled about. She was not baying, and after a few minutes I began to box for location. I was not getting a strong signal, but it turned out it did not matter -- I saw a groundhog crown out of the hole and then -- almost as quickly -- it was pulled back into the den rather forcefully. No wonder Mountain was not baying -- she had a mouthful of groundhog ass.
The groundhog was back underground now. I could just see its nose, and I could hear Mountain pulling it hard. I got a snare ready, expecting Mountain to let go of the groundhog at some point, but she never did. After about 15 minutes of waiting, Chris and I decided to drop a hole on the dog and the groundhog. When we did, we found the groundhog with Mountain still firmly attached. After attempts to snare the groundhog failed (because Mountain would not let go and I could not get the snare around a front leg of the groundhog), I used the tip of the digging bar to dispatch the groundog with a powerful blow to its cranium. It was over now, and it never even left the hole.
I pulled out the now lifeless groundhog, and it looked fair-sized. We weighed it at 11 pounds, but Chris and I both agreed that this one looked a bit bigger than that.
We repaired this sette well, as it has held fox for me in the past, and we gathered up the dogs and tools and hit a high dry ridge, but there was nothing there. We headed over to a few holes on a hedge point, but they were blank as well.
I told Chris we would find in the dry hummocks on the other side of the creek in the next hedge down, so we went there. After crossing the creek, we found the hummocks and a couple of good settes, but they were blank. We headed down to the other end of the hedge line and crossed back over the creek. At that point, I realized we had been missing Mountain for a few minutes, and I told Chris I was pretty sure she had found somewhere behind us. About 45 seconds later we heard a furious barking -- bingo.
With Moxie leading the way, Chris and I headed back across the creek to where Mountain was hard at it. Moxie took a flying Mark Spitz leap into the creek -- she looked like a miniature labrador going for a duck.
I scrambled up the bank and into the multiflora rose where Mountain and Moxie were trying to wrestle a very large groundhog into submission. Mountain had apparently bolted it out of its den and then caught it above ground. I put in the boot as quick as I could, and dispatched the groundog with a blow to the head. The dogs came away from it with only a few small nicks for their troubles. All good.
This groundhog was an enormous pot-bellied female that weighed 15 pounds on the scale. A very nice hog!
We packed up the tools and, with the dogs following, we crossed back over the creek. I saw Mountain enter the hedge just on the other side of the creek, but then she disappeared. I whistled, but there was nothing. "She's found again," I said, and we began to look for her in the hedge.
"Game on" Chris said from inside the hedge, and I pushed past the multiflora rose to his voice and found him at a nice little sette under a small black cherry tree.
Excellent. This was a very tight and rocky one-eye sette, and neither dog could get in very far due to rock constrictions. We tried to clear away the brush and poison ivy, but the angle of the cherry tree was going to be a small problem for digging. The good news was this was a very shalow pipe. When the dogs came out (they could only get in about 18 inches), we poked a stick up the pipe, and sunk a hole past the obstruction. Mountain went back in and made contact. We pulled her, felt again for location, and then sank another hole where we thought the groundhog would be. We were off by about 6 inches, and came in on the side of the pipe. The groundhog was right there.
This groundhog was not bolting, and it was not presenting its tail for a manual grab either.
We decided to let Moxie get a bit of work under her belt, so we tied up Mountain and put Moxie in the hole in order to drive the groundhog out. Moxie went in and grabbed the groundhog head-first. Oops -- she's a young dog and is still in her "all-teeth" mode, especially if she can see the critter. No problem. We got Moxie off the groundhog and pulled her out to avoid unnecessary injury to this young dog. With Moxie out of the pipe, the groundhog took the opportunity to run past where she had been. We could work with that! We put Moxie behind the groundhog now, and she pushed it hard to a bolt, at which point the groundhog was quickly snared and dispatched. This groundhog had a dark coat and weighed about 10 pounds.
It was raining lightly now, so we decided to call it a day and we headed back to the truck.
At only a little past noon we headed home. A short day in the field, but a good one all the same.
Chris with Moxie and Mountain.