Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Coffee and Provocation

How do You Spell Coccidiosis?
The Wall Street Journal reports that some feline owners are fearful of professionally processed cat foods made by big companies that actually have quality control personnel and bank accounts large enough to go after. Their solution is to buy fresh rabbit carcasses that have been ground up whole -- guts, brain, bone, fur and all. Good idea? Maybe not. Here's a tip: look up a few diseases like Cryptosporidium cuniculus, Giardia duodenalis, Toxoplasma gondii, Sarcocystis cuniculi and see if they have a relationship to rabbits and cats. Remember: there's a reason we cook food in restaurants, and why wild animals that eat raw meat are generally dead at age two or three. Eating raw animals (even domestic animals) is not a good idea. Fire was invented for a reason.

Attack of the Killer Water Weed:
The New York Times reports that Caddo Lake in Texas is being eaten alive by Salvina Molesta, a type of South American water weed "with an ability to double in size every two to four days and cover 40 square miles within three months, suffocating all life beneath." No problem there!

Pet Insurance:
With insurance, the big print always seems to provide coverage, but the little print always seems to limit that coverage or void it altogether. Now consider pet insurance. When a pet insurance company denies your claim or pays out only fragmentary coverage, your only option is to hire a $10,000 lawyer in order to litigate a $2,000 claim. Not likely. So what do you do? You pay the vet, walk away bruised, and the Pet Insurance company pockets your premums and laughs all the way to the bank. Don't believe that's what happens most of the time? Then read what people with pet insurance have to say. Has anyone ever had a good experience with pet insurance? If so, tell us in the comments section (and sign it!).

Giant Alien Crabs:
Check out this picture and story over at Tom James Virginia Outdoors. Yow! Just what the Cheseapeake Bay needs -- more alien invaders.

Advice from a Mad Man:
Over at the Black Bear Blog, Tom Remington has sage advice from a mad man in Oklahoma who wrestles live coyotes: “If a coyote bites down" on you this gentleman says, “Don’t panic.” If you jerk your hand back, the coyote’s teeth will rip flesh off the bone. The thing to do is to calmly dig your fingernail into the soft roof of the coyote’s mouth. “When it lets go, grab it by the throat and yank it up. “When you get all four legs off the ground, the fight is over. You’ve won.”

Louisiana Hawking Blog Kicks Up Again:
Good news on the blog-o-sphere: Matt M. is cranking up his hawking blog again. Excellent!

Best Environmental News of the Month:
Sen. Ted Stevens's home has been raided by FBI and IRS agents looking into corruption. Corruption? No! Just because he has pimped out America's wild lands to the oil and gas lobbies, for more than 30 years? Why would you think there might be corruption there? Anyone who thinks getting a warrant for the most powerful U.S. Senator on Capitol Hill (who is also a Republican) does not know how it goes in this town. And yes, he could be as innocent as O.J.

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God Bats Last

For other thought games along this line see:

Mutant Fish in the Frying Pan



The New York Times reports on biotech food developments, such as the Atlantic Salmon pictured above. These two fish are the same age; the smaller one is a "regular," while the larger one has been genetically engineereed with a growth hormone gene from another type of salmon, plus DNA from the tiny ocean pout fish which helps keep the growth hormone active. >> To read more (registration required)

  • As my notes in the comments section suggestion, I am not entirely opposed to genetic modification of plants and animals, but I am cautious, recognizing that we are now capable of certain kinds of modifications that are indeed a Pandora's Box. For those interested in reading about the good to wildlife and wild places that can come from "messing with genes," see Norman Borlaug, I Presume? For those who want to imagine the bad, see The End of the Game


Sunday, July 29, 2007

An Alley Runs Through It

The Yellow Rose Bar in Baltimore is gone now, but it will always have a place in history as the place where the sport of "rat fishing" was borne.

You would think that after the first "rat fishing" contest was held, the City would have gotten the idea and sent an exterminator and a public health official to fix the problem, but No; this contest was held for three years running before the bar finally closed due to a downturn in the economy.

And so, this article is a kind of memoriam not only to that brief shining moment when Baltimore drunks actually invented a new sport, but also to the intransigence of Baltimore politicians to fix anything, ever.



June 26, 1994, Associated Press, by Shawn Donnan

An Alley Runs Through It



Chuck Ochtech knew exactly where he wanted to cast his hook.

"Just down the middle of the alley, near that water," Ochtech said early Sunday.

He wasn't talking about easing a carefully tied fly onto the surface of an inviting pool in a challenging trout stream, or flipping an artificial frog onto a lily pad.

Ochtech was one of nearly 40 contestants who cast hooks baited with bacon smeared with peanut butter, bits of hot dog or raw steak down garbage-strewn alleys for the Yellow Rose Saloon's second annual rat fishing contest.

Junior Difatta, Ochtech's stepson, took first place, reeling in a 12-inch, 1-pound rat.

"Chuck, you catch it honey, and I'll club it," said Ochtech's wife, Shirley Difatta, a red aluminum baseball bat at the ready. "Look, look, look there goes one."

The, uh, anglers paid a $ 3 entrance fee, covering the cost of trophies and a donation to charity, to cast their bait down alleys in the East Baltimore neighborhood. They aimed for puddles that might attract rodents to drink, or particularly pungent piles of household garbage.

"We're sportsmen," said Ochtech, who organized the first tournament last year after reading about the city's rat problem. "There's a lot of technique to it."

No artificial lures, trotlines, bells, whistles or firearms allowed. No stuffing rats with lead or steel shot "or in any other manner in which to increase its weight."

And no chumming. "There's enough stuff in that alley that we don't have to chum," Ochtech said.

The contest actually has a purpose.

"What we're trying to do is bring attention to the problem," Ochtech said. "There's more rats in Baltimore than there are people."

Thanks for the help, but no thanks, say city officials.

"This just does not sound like a responsible way to address a rat problem," said Zack Germroth, a spokesman for the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.

"What this is doing is drawing more rats to the neighborhood than getting rid of them," Germroth said. The department warned the Yellow Rose Saloon to stop holding the contest last year, he said.

"How can you attract something that's already there?" Ochtech responded.

As with any fishing contest, there were tales of the one that got away.

"It must have been that big, Chuck," said one contestant, Bob Lehew, holding his fingers about 8 inches apart.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Pet Economy and the High Cost of Vet Care

The cover story of this week's edition of Business Week is entitled "The Pet Economy," and the teaser copy reads:

"Americans now spend $41 billion a year on their pets — more than the gross domestic product of all but 64 countries in the world.

"That’s double the amount shelled out on pets a decade ago, with annual spending expected to hit $52 billion in the next two years, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer research company based in Rockville, Md. That puts the yearly cost of buying, feeding, and caring for pets in excess of what Americans spend on the movies ($10.8 billion), playing video games ($11.6 billion), and listening to recorded music ($10.6 billion) combined.

"That means hotels instead of kennels, braces to fix crooked teeth, and frilly canine ball gowns. Pet owners are becoming increasingly demanding consumers who won’t put up with substandard products, unstimulating environments, or shoddy service for their animals.

"But the escalating volume and cost of services, especially in the realm of animal medicine, raises ethical issues about how far all this loving should go."


The high cost of veterinary care is something I have written about before. For a few posts on that topic (and a few others about canine costs in general), see:


For some good common-sense tips on how to keep veterinary care costs down, see the Terrierman.com web site for information on:

  • Health Care in the Field
  • Antibiotics for Less
  • Veterinary Care Without the Bite
  • Flea and Tick Remedies and Their Cost
  • Common Dog Diseases
  • Vaccines for Less
  • Microchipping, Tattoos and Slide Tags

Remember: The money you save may be your own!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Root of the Problem


The bar is six feet long, the roots were 12 feet wide and over five feet high.



I met up with Chris at a general store in Adamstown, and he had Brick with him, a red fell terrier. I had Mountain and Pearl with me, both in fine shape and anxious for a day in the field.

We crossed the small bridge spanning the creek, and parked behind one of the outbuildings on the farm.

This farm used to raise calfs, but now it's corn on one side of a creek and soybeans on the other, with a narrow pasture down the middle on either side of the creek, and good soil almost everywhere. If there is a more ideal habitat for terrier work, I have not found it.

I did a thorough job of taping up the locator collars, as the dogs would likely be in and out of the water.

Finding holes was not going to be a problem. When the owner of this place first called me, she said she was anxious to reduce the number of groundhog settes along the creek, as they were undermining the bank. I was skeptical of this assertion until I saw the problem, but she did not exagerate or get it wrong; it is groundhogs causing the damage, not muskrats. And there are a lot of holes. Yahoo!

The dogs and I have been doing some abatement work on this farm for the last couple of weeks, and perhaps as a consequence we did not find anything for the first 200 yards or so. At a spot where I had found raccoons on a previous dig, however, Pearl slid into the earth and began baying.

I was surprised this sette was already reoccupied, but not dipleased; I had done a good job rebuilding the den, and I could not tell where I had cut into it before.

Pearl continued to bay, and I collared up Mountain, and then Brick was in another hole and baying, and Pearl came out and I quickly grabbed her and collared her up before she could try another entrance.

Brick was clearly on it, and baying. We boxed her, and then began to bar and dig, but then she stopped baying and came out and tried to get into another hole. I went over and undid Pearl, a more experienced dog, but she too seemed suddenly confused by the sette.

After a few minutes, it became clear that whatever had been there had either bolted off or dug in and bottled itself off with dirt. A bolt was my bet. This sette has an exit over in the ditch somewhere -- one of the coons had bolted out of there a few weeks earlier. I had not bothered to locate the exit then, and now I gave a half-hearted look for it, but still could not locate it. It was not an obvious exit. No mind; there would be other holes this day.

But luck was not waiting for us at the next hole.

We walked down the side of the creek, checking a few settes in the grass, and then Mountain began baying up a storm just slightly behind us. She was in the hedge along the creek, and as we approached a very large Sycamore tree, we heard Pearl open up as well.

Both dogs were in on it, wherever it was.

Coming up to the tree, I realized that what I had initially thought were stones were actually roots (click on pictures to enlarge). These massive roots had fused into each other, creating a solid floor of wood; you could not get a bar into a crack, much less a shovel or post hole digger.

There were two good-sized den holes at the top, rimmed by tree roots as thick as my calf and thigh. This was clearly an ancient sette that had been dug when the tree was young. How long had it been here? A hundred years was not out of the question.

The roots spread across the top of the bank about 10 feet long and four feet wide. Wow! This place was a fortress.

I slid down the bank to see if I could locate another entry hole, or at least get nearer to the location where the dogs were in and baying

As I came down the bank, I realized the roots of this massive tree went straight into the water.

For a second or two I was confused. Were the dogs on this bank or the other? The baying sounded like it was coming from the middle of the water.

I looked at the bank I had just come down. There was a solid wall of fused roots that stretched to my left, forming a solid wall 12 feet long and five feet high. Wow. It looked like something out of Angkor Watt.

I listened carefully, and now I could tell the dogs were clearly baying from within the mass of roots -- the water had been reflecting the sound off the opposite bank.

I listened and it appeared the dogs were baying right at the water line. I felt along the root structure at the water line, and found a very small hole on the far left side that looked like it might have been large enough for a rat to get into. I figured that might have been where Mountain entered. Or perhaps she entered from one of the holes on top. Who knows?

I listened with my ear next to the root mass, and it was clear Mountain was just on the other side, on the far right, but there was a lot of solid wood between us. A felt along the water line where the roots met the water, and there was a small slit there, about as wide as a pencil. I could feel a larger passage behind that slit. That was where Mountain and Pearl were located. Not knowing what kind of critter was up in there -- or exactly where -- I was not anxious to wiggle my finger around in the dark. The slit was too small to get the dogs out of, and rabies is a serious thing and far from uncommon in my part of America. The dogs are innoculated for rabies, but I am not.

Chris and I poked around for about 40 minutes, looking for any way at all into this sette, but there was no place to even start. We each had key-hole pruning saws, but you cannot saw into the middle of a 10-inch thick wall of wood that is backed by dirt if there is not even a starter hole to stick a blade into.

Poking around right at the water line, I located a small chink, in the otherwise impermeable mass of roots, and we managed to open it up to a fist-sized hole by alternatively smashing it with a shovel blade, slamming the cutter head of the bar into it, and sawing. If I lowered myself right into the water, I could just look up and see a bit of Pearl through the hole. She was above the hole and seemed to have plenty of oxygen and she was not anxious to come out. The action was inside! Though she was a bit shy of dry, she was in no danger of drowning.

Mountain was up the pipe in front of her, and though I could not see her, she was clearly face-to-face with the critter and going at it with voice and teeth. Pearl was behind Mountain and waiting her turn. From the sound of it, I was pretty sure the critter was a raccoon.

What to do?

There was no digging this sette, and after about 40 minutes looking for another alternative, I told Chris we should pull off and hunt Brick up the creek. If the dogs could no longer hear us, there was a chance they might come out on their own. Short of an 18-inch chainsaw (Chris suggested a 24-inch chainsaw would be a better idea) we were not going to get these dogs out through our efforts alone. Even if I had a chainsaw, I would be loathe to use it as I would be working blind and with no assurance I could avoid cutting a dog.

We walked up the creek with Brick and found many more holes, but Brick never pinged on a location.

We went quite a ways up the creek, but my terriers did not follow on after us. They were still that damn root sette.

After about a half hour, we crossed the creek at a low spot, and came back down the other bank towards the dogs. It was here that we located the Black Rat snake and a little farther on that we bolted a nice red fox from the brush. Excellent!

Brick followed the fox into the corn a ways, and I continued on, focusing on the opposite bank, and trying to remember exactly where the dogs had gone in.

And then I heard them -- still baying up a storm.

I stood on the creek bank opposite the enormous wall of roots and listened. Mountain and Pearl had swapped out positions, and now it was Pearl baying. Not knowing what else to do, I took out my camera and took a short video of barking roots (and an expectorating Chris). The dogs had already been in the ground about an hour and a half.




Chris and I waded across the creek and tried a new tack. I found a spot on the edge of the root mass about four feet up the bank. I could just get in a post hole digger -- a simple bore straight down, with no possibility of expanding the hole due to the roots. I got down about three feet, and then Chris spelled me and he dropped down another foot or so with a little help from the bar. In the end, he got down as deep as the water and gravel sand of the creek, but we were too far back from the hole and there was no way to improve the angle or expand the pipe due to the enormous roots.

We had bored a hole to nowhere. That said, the hole was not for naught. The pounding on the ground seemed to amp things up down in the root mass, and the critter and the dogs seemed to reach for a resolution beyond a stalemate.

At some point something happened, as Mountain was now suddenly baying higher up the bank and on the opposite side of the tree, while Pearl was still going at it in the location she had always been. This was not one raccoon, but two! Or maybe it was a pair of fox.

Chris and I discussed the possibilities. I did not think groundhogs would be paired up this late in July, and I did not think they were ever going to go into a sette this wet. Groundhogs want a dry sette if they can get it, and with the drought we have been experiencing, there was no reason for them to settle for anything else. But who knows?

A pair of young fox was a very real possibility, but it was a pretty wet sette for them too. Raccoons made all the sense in the world, and nothing else fit this location quite as well.

While Chris continued to plumb our hole to nowhere, I went up top to see if we had missed something where Mountain was now baying. We hadn't. The locator now said Mountain was only two feet down, but she was under at least 18 inches of solid root, and there was not even a crack in which to slip a saw blade.

I leaned back against the trunk of the Sycamore and tried to slow down my breathing. This was going to have to be a waiting game. At my age, you learn to wait things out. This too will pass. The dogs were not in distress, Mountain was a very experienced dog, and Pearl was pretty soft and would probably be fine despite her youth. The dogs could get out if they wanted to, and they would get out in time, of that I had no doubt. This was not a skunk, so no worries there. Except, of course, that I did worry because after a long time underground with two raccoons there was likely to be some damage to the dogs.

An odd noise came from over head, and I looked up to see a blue heron flying overhead squawking, legs trailing out the back. A nice bird, and very common in this area. I noticed a corn cob on the ground -- more sign that this was a raccoon, especially since the corn field was about 100 yards away. I leaned back against the tree trunk, closed my eyes, and tried to focus on my breathing. Time more or less stopped.

I do not know what made me open my eyes, or how long they had been closed, but when I cracked them open, Mountain was just slidding out of the pipe at the top of the sette about four feet in front of me. She was crouched low, trying to sneak out in order to find a new and different way back in, but a word from me and she knew she was busted.

I scooped her up. She was very muddy, and bleeding from her muzzle, but she did not look too bad. When I got her down to the creek and washed her off, I could see she had a good puncture on top of her muzzle, and a smaller one below; a classic raccoon or fox bite. With the cold water on her wound, Mountain began to bleed, but I knew it was mostly colored water, and nothing serious. The bleeding brought on by the cold water would help clean out the wound. I tied out Mountain on the opposite bank, and waited.

Pearl had stopped baying now, and I was pretty sure she would come out soon. And she did -- Chris scooped her up as she exited up top.

Pearl was in considerably worse shape that Mountain, with the right side of her muzzle pretty knackered. I got her down to the creek and checked her out; she was skinned up pretty badly on the right side of her muzzle, and there was at least one decent rip under her right lip. All in all, however, my first impression was that her injuries might look worse than they actually were. There did not appear to be any huge wounds, though it was a mess and a bit hard to tell with all the mud and blood on her. I would have to check her over more carefully at the car.

We packed up the tools and headed back to the vehicles, where I flushed Mountain's puncture with ProvIodine. I decided to glue her puncture shut, since it had been self-cleaning so well. I loaded her up on 500 mg of cephelaxin to obviate any chance of infection.

We washed off Pearl, and I looked her over as best I could, but there was nothing to be done with her wounds but to let time sort them out. There was some damage inside her right lip, and there was going to be a lot of swelling, but there did not appear to be any really deep damage. I pressured 500 mg. of cephelaxin into the back of her throat to obviate any start of infection.

At home, while washing Pearl, I found one good deep canine muzzle gash on the top of her muzzle, which sealed the deal that this was a pair of raccoons. A little ProvIodione, and then a crate was what she needed. And time.

Now, two days later, all seems to be moving forward to a place called fine. Mountain already looks and acts as if nothing happened to her. Glue is a wonder.

Pearl still looks pretty knackered if you look closely at the right side of her face, but you would not know there was a problem from her body language alone. There is still a lot of swelling on the right side of her muzzle, and there is a very large scab over the debraided parts on that side, but it appears to be healing well, and I have continued to load her up on antibiotics as a precaution. She is eating well, if a bit carefully. In fact right now she is in her little bed next to my computer, licking her paw and looking up at me in expectation of a possible Cheerio. Come on Dad, I'm an invalid!

I figure it will be at least three weeks off before Pearl sees the field again, but August is not a bad month for a vacation, even if you are a dog. Mountain can fill in the slack in the interim.

All in all, the dogs did three hours underground and never stopped working the whole time. For a small and young dog, Pearl did well. If we humans could have gotten to them, it would have been a 15-minute thing, but sometimes God tests humans as well as dogs. No one panicked, and each side of the team did his job as it could be done that day. All is well that ends well. More or less.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Black Rat Snake on One of the Farms






Your hero with a Black Rat Snake -- Elaphe obsoleta. It was all I could do not to leap about and yell "What a little ripper," but I managed to contain myself.

This fellow was about five feet long; they get about eight feet according to the books, though seven feet is about the best I have seen. These fellows are constrictors and pretty arboreal, though this one was found in the long grass next to a stream.

As the name suggests, Black Rat Snakes eat rats, mice and chipmunks, as well as eggs and small birds. Black Rat Snakes, in turn, are eaten by Red Fox, Blue Herons and Raccoon (all three of which were encountered this day). Old rotten stumps are a good place to look for them from about the middle of April forward.

This fellow put out a rather noxious smell, as Rat Snakes will when they are handled, and I released it into the water of the creek, about four feet down from the vertical embankment upon which we were standing. Splash! All snakes are great swimmers, and this one was across the creek and into the thick weeds before Brick, the red fell terrier, could dive in after it.
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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Value of Discretion

"A working terrier must have plenty of courage, but it must be tempered with discretion. A hard dog which goes to ground and gets hold of his fox is of little use to anybody. The fox cannot bolt, it is difficult to hear the dog, and he will spend half his time in the hospital."
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Dan Russell (the pen name of the late Gerald Jones, the Exmoor hunt terrier man)

Beyond Flights of Fancy



A repost from 2006 of this blog.


In his book Stormy Nights and Frosty Mornings,
Paul Dooley writes of going to his first field meet with a hawking club.

He had never been to such an event before and was rather apprehensive as there were a couple of 'names' present who always talked a good game. Later he learned that some of these people, particularly one of the organizers of the meet, had never flown a bird free!

When it came time to actually hunt, nobody in this hawking club wanted to fly their own winged charge at fur or feather -- it was deemed to be "too windy" by some, while another said his bird was an ounce or two over weight and another said his bird "wasn't ready yet". It was Paul -- a novice -- who flew his bird and scored on first flight.

Paul writes: "It was quite an eye opener for me that day. The problem with field meetings for these fake falconers was that there was nowhere to hide. Some of them used to turn up without their birds just to watch. Nothing wrong with that, but why pretend that you hunt a bird when you clearly don't?"

Why pretend indeed! Yet people DO, don't they? And it's not just in the world of hawking.

I mention this paragraph, in part to highlight Paul's book, but also to note that we have the same kind of people in the terrier world, and they exist in other arenas too.

In The Survival of the Bark Canoe author John McPhee writes of Henri Vaillancourt, a maker of traditional Indian birch-bark canoes. For years Vaillancourt had been building canoes based on a mixture of book learning, theory, and pure fantasy. It was only when he asked Vaillancourt to go on a canoeing trip with him that McPhee learned an eye-opening truth: Vaillancourt had never actually paddled his own creations for any distance far from home.

His canoes were beautiful to look at, but the crafts themselves represented design choices unburdened by actual field experience. In the end, McPhee's book is not really about birch bark canoes -- it's about the collision between theory and practical knowledge.

Is it much different in the terrier world?

Not from what I can see. Some people have spent years on Internet bulletin boards, but have never actually dug five feet to a critter. They still do not own a decent shovel, and still do not know what to do with a squalling raccoon at the stop-end of a dirt pipe. Their theory of terrier work is entirely unburdened by field experience. When questions are asked, they do not pay close attention to the answers since it's all romantic abstraction. The purpose of a question is not to solicit an informed answer, but to extend idle chatter. Just as Paul Dooley's fake fliers show up at a hawking meets with birds that have never left a creance, so these fake diggers show up at terrier trials and enter their "one and done" dogs in the working terrier ring.

I was reminded of this collision between reality and fantasy while reading Matt Mullenix's excellent book, In Season, A Louisiana Falconer's Journal.

Matt is not a fantasy flyer. His book is about the reality of hawking -- keeping his bird at the right weight, finding a bit of pasture that has not been mowed flat, painting a cracked talon with Crazy Glue and nail hardener, and balancing the competing interests of job, hawk, children and wife. Every flight is not a glorious thing ending in a brace of rabbits; sometimes it's a soaking rain and a footed sparrow or worse -- mere indifference from a hawk a little too heavy to focus.

With a sense of confession, Matt explains that though his Harris Hawk nails its fair share of swamp rabbits and doves, there are also lot of cotton rats. They are, for better or worse, a primary quarry in his part of the country.

I get it. It's easy to love a rat if you hawk -- just like it's easy to love bluegill and sunfish if you fly fish. Field action of any type beats fantasy and theory seven days of the week.

Matt writes of the rising tension of a group hunt, when there may be too many birds flying, and as a consequence problems can rise up and spin out of control quickly. The same thing occurs with terriers. A solo man and his dog are under no pressure, but put more than three or four dogs in the field at once, and things can move too quickly for the human to avoid real trouble. It only takes one train wreck to ruin a day.

I do not hawk, but I understand Matt because he is actually hunting and his concerns mirror mine even though we hunt different animals on different game in different parts of the country. Matt talks about a hawk's leg turning blue after a run-in with a tree and the calculated risk that two hawks, diving for the same swamp rabbit, will accidentally grip on to each other as well as the rabbit. Is their a digger that does not understand this problem? I have felt the same rising arpeggio of concern, never mind that it is played on a different stage in a slightly different key.

In a small part of the book Matt writes of a man who "has no time for falconry." In two weeks this novice had flown his young bird only once, and then when the bird was over-matched. When Matt points out that it's pretty hard to work a hawk on a weekend-only basis, the novice replies, "but that's the time I have."

Matt does not comment. He does not need to.

What the hawker wants is interesting, but it's not really part of the equation, is it? There are some things that are required in hawking, and time with the bird is clearly one of them. Mullenix does not have time for falconry either, but it does not matter; he steals the time from family and job, from sleep and rest. He feels guilty about the theft (an honest man would), but he steals it anyway. It is what you have to do if you are serious.

With hawks, it's either all the way in or all the way out.

The dog world is a bit easier, and perhaps for that reason we are surrounded by more fakes, novices, romantics and bored housewives than the people in the world of hawking. I do not know. Perhaps I am wrong. Paul Dooley suggests falconry has its share of preening pretenders too.

All I know for sure is that the hawkers are a pretty literate and interesting lot. A tip of the hat to them, and a recommendation for this book.

I close on a slightly troubling note. In the UK, some of the mounted fox hunts are attempting to exploit a loophole in the law that allows riders and packs of hounds to hunt fox with large raptors. The result is that dozens of mounted fox hunts have gone out to purchase Golden Eagles and Eagle-Owls.

This is insanity on stilts. There is no tradition of hunting fox with golden eagles and owls in the UK. Exmoor is not Kazakhstan or Mongolia, no matter how loose the immigration laws get.

Add a novice hawker to the mix, along with a rioting pack of hounds, a couple of dozen spooked horses, a large dog fox, and a few overhead power lines and roads, and you clearly have winged disaster waiting to happen. Already, I have a report that two Golden Eagles have died from the sheer stupidity of it all.

And yet, perhaps God does have a sense of humor. There may yet be a punch line to this joke.

It turns out that after being extirpated from the UK for more than 100 years, once-native Eagle Owls have mysteriously begun to show up and breed in the wild.

I have little doubt these are captive birds that have escaped and hacked themselves back into prosperity on a diet of pigeon, starling and rabbit.

Excellent.

Mother Nature may yet bat last, and if the stupid anti-fox hunting law is repealed (as I believe it must and will be), then a fair number of captive Golden Eagles and Eagle-Owls may be yet be hacked back to the wild.

What a glorious day that will be!


Friday, July 20, 2007

Jack Attack



A story from Manawautu Standard (New Zealand), circa 2005.

Terrier rips woman's face
12 May 2005 :: By Anna Wallis

A woman whose face was ripped by a jack russell terrier will need a skin graft from the back of her neck to fix her nose.

Yvonne Pettersen can't quite believe such a small dog is capable of causing such injuries.

But the dog tore at her face on Monday afternoon while she was walking along the Manawatu River embankment.

It has since been impounded and police and Palmerston North City Council staff are investigating the incident.

The Palmerston North woman was walking with a friend and a friend's dog on the river bank near Dittmer Drive when they noticed the jack russell wandering around dragging a chain and leash. Thinking the owner may have had an accident, they went to the river and searched as far as the swimming hole and back again.

"We didn't know what to do and the dog came up to us again. He was all happy and we thought maybe we should look after him.

"I just bent down and he lunged at my face. He took two big bites, I think. I started screaming and shoved my jacket over my face to stop the bleeding. The dog just kept going. I lost my glasses."

Miss Pettersen's friend came to her aid, as did a Neighbourhood Watch member.

They got the dog away and Miss Pettersen into a car and to a doctor's surgery. She was later hospitalised and has a multitude of stitches, both internal and external, in her ripped cheek and nose. And a puncture hole in her face had to be "superglued".

"Next Tuesday they are going to do a skin graft on my nose, using skin from the back of my neck which is the best match for colour."

A dog lover, she said the dog she and her friend were walking played no part in the attack.

"The jack russell was interested in him. But Jasper tried to keep out of its way. It seemed friendly enough, yapping about all over the place."

Miss Pettersen said she has not been able to find her glasses and would like anyone who has found them to hand them in to the Manawatu Standard office. They are bifocals with brown rims.

The police have taken photographs of her wounds and she has contacted dog control at the city council.

"The council have been wonderful . . . the Mayor even sent a big bunch of flowers."

She does not want the dog to be destroyed if it can be kept away from people, especially children.

Council animal and parking division head Peter Broughton said the dog is in the pound and both the police and the council are looking into the attack.

The dog's owners have been cooperative but it had been a "nasty incident", he said.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Black and White and Redneck All Over

In Black Rednecks and White Liberals, sociologist Thomas Sowell suggests that the black pathology we see lionized by inner city thugs today is really just a kind of "black redneck" culture adopted from white rednecks in the South.

Sowell has a point. Both cultures embrace easy violence, routine inebriation, monthly government checks, and children born out of wedlock. Both cultures embrace prison tattoos and celebrate machismo posturing. Both cultures have a long love affair with fast vehicles, easy credit and gambling.

Is it really such a shock, then, that a southern black redneck by the name of Michael Vick was caught with a dog fighting arena and a kennel-full of scarred Pit Bulls behind his house in Virginia?

Let's be clear what Vick was doing: He was raising dogs to fight each other to the death for entertainment purposes, and he had been doing it for at least 6 years as part of his "Bad Newz Kennels." The "winning" dog was lucky to survive his wounds, while the loser, if not killed outright in the fight, was shot, hung, or electrocuted.

Sure Vick is a professional football player with a lot of money. So what? And yes, he's black. Big deal.

You see the germane issue here is not Vick's job, or his money, or his skin color. The real deal here is that Michael Vick is a criminal redneck.

Just to clarify: just because you are poor does not make you a redneck. Just because you are rural or Southern does not make you a redneck. There are good people, black and white, who do not have a lot of money or a lot of education and who happen to live in the South and buy their towels (and their deer-hunting ammunition) at WalMart.

Most of these people marry their children's mother, do not routinely get drunk, pay their bills, work hard at their jobs, and go to church. Call these folks "redneck," and you may be picking up your teeth.

A redneck is someone who confuses bad choices for culture. But don't take my word for it. Listen to any of the rappers who feel they have to routinely give a shout-out to their fellow "Niggaz," while singing about drinking their "40s" and shooting their "trey-eights," and cruising for their "hoes."

Better yet listen to country music star Gretchen Wilson celebrate "Redneck Women," whom she defines as those who would "rather drink beer all night, in a tavern or in a honky tonk, or on a 4 wheel drive tailgate."

And if you have a problem with her lifestyle of public drunkeness, she sings, "I don't give a rip, I'll stand barefooted in my own front yard with a baby on my hip, cause I'm a redneck woman."

Is it an accident that there's a Pit Bull in that big picture on her web site? I don't think so.

Great. These folks are glamorizing the folks who keep showing up drunk and shirtless on "COPS." Bad boys, bad boys, who you gonna call when they come for you?"

Now rednecks may come in any skin color, but in America they tend to come from one region and that region is the one in which I live: the South. When rednecks are found anywhere else in America, it is generally due to the southern diaspora to the West, Midwest and North which occurred after the Civil War, and then again after Korea.

Scratch the paint on the trailer trash living in the oil and gas-rigging towns of Wyoming, or the drive-by shooters speeding through Compton, and you'll find a Southerner -- perhaps one or two generations removed, but a Southerner just the same. It is not an accident that Michael Vick is from Virginia.

What is amazing to me is that there are those who think Michael Vick should be defended.

Why? Why would we want to defend this kind of pathology? Because he's black? Please! You know what we do to white people who are engaged in dog fighting operations (and there are plenty of them)? Why should Michael Vick get different?

No civilized person needs to be told that dog fighting is wrong, and no sensible person defends it. Anyone who claims this is a "southern cultural tradition" should be reminded that southern cultural traditions also include rape, slavery and cross burning. Let it go. Let us strive to be better than rednecks. That's good advice regardless of your skin color.

As to the notion that Michael Vick is being "persecuted" because he is famous, I have to say I am much amused. After watching John DeLorean and O.J. Simpson go free, I am not too worried about a multi-millionaire in this country getting too harsh a sentence.

As for persecution, what an odd word to use for someone who has been involved in killing dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of innocent dogs. Were the dogs being persecuted when they were chained out, beaten and electrocuted? Any sympathy for them?

Nor am I worried about too harsh a sentence for Mr. Vick. My bet is that he will get the same sentence former Green Bay Packers football player LeShon Johnson got for the same offense: a five-year deferred sentence. That was it. The dogs, of course, are almost always killed.

Still want to talk about persecution?

Finally, a word about fame. It is not a one-way street. If you are a junky for celebrity, then make sure you do only praise-worthy things that the world can celebrate. If you do stupid, criminal, or crazy things, you will find that these will show up on on ESPN and Entertainment Tonight just as fast as the good. Ask Brittney Spears and Courtney Love. Or better yet, ask Michael Vick. Bad Newz indeed!

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Stain, Stain Go Away

Sooner or later you are likely to get some blood on your clothes, coat or pack, and in all likelihood these stains will be long-dry by the time you get home and are tough to launder out.

One old trick is to presoak anything that is bloodstained in a solution of water with two tablespoons of unseasoned (plain) Adolph's Meat Tenderizer per gallon of water. Presoak for about four hours prior to laundering, and there will be no trace of blood stains remaining when you launder the clothes. This treatment is not harsh to fabrics or colors, and works every time.

Another trick that works with many other stains is to apply a combination of hydrogen peroxide and squirt hand soap -- the same mix used to get rid of skunk odor on a dog. It is almost miraculous on red wine stains.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Good Outcomes



William S. in Pennsylvania sent me a very nice email yesterday:
"Thought you might like to see what your book and some advice has wrought." Excellent!

All credit to Bill, as he did the all-important work of actually finding land to hunt, acquiring a basic set of tools, and getting himself and his dogs out into the field.

As I have said before: The most important element to have in a working terrier is an owner that will take it out in the field and work it. Not too many of those!
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The First Visual Go-to-Ground Set Up?



Scott K. (aka Gangsters Jack Russell Terriers) dropped me a note to say he thought he "might have built the first artificial open sided earth working tunnel back in the JRTNNC hay days of the early 2000's."

Best of all he has the pictures to prove it! As Scott notes, "These pics are from the final [tunnel set up] I built on a double axle boat trailer so I wouldn't have to start from scratch every year."

He notes that "it was purely a spectators sport with each dog getting a ceramic plaque for entering. The plaques had numbers stamped in the back, and then a drawing at the end of the day was done for a terrier lamp I had made. It was $10 to have your dog 'play,' and in the 5 years we ran the tunnel system at the trials we never took in less than $1,000 with it. It was purely a fun event and a money maker for the club. Although I made no claim to having any rights to the idea, many folks from other clubs contacted me to ask permission to build such a system themselves. Of course I had no objections, and many more of these 'tunnels' were built over the years by various JRT clubs for their trials."

Scott says that in the beginning he built the systems on site the day before the trial, and that one tunnel was constructed entirely of hay bales as the fair grounds had them stacked up. Over time, however, Scott began collecting hollow stumps and logs at the ranch and he eventually incorporated them into a spiraling tunnel system mounted on a 30-foot boat trailer which he could leave assembled and then take to the trials; a kind of carnival setup.

Scott notes that "old dogs, Bull Terriers, young dogs, scared dogs, they all went in as their owners reveled in watching them. I had a couple of trap doors for 'extraction' along the way because some dogs would 'lock-up' and stall the system," and that the fired porcelain 'tickets' were new for each trial and that folks got to where they were collecting them and came back to enter trial after trial."

Now what Scott fails to mention is that be made all those porcelain tickets himself, and the lamps too. Scott is truely an artist with clay (to say nothing of what he can do with a welding rig), and in a subsequent email it came out that has had also taxidermied the fox from a salt-cured skin and an excelsior form. The boy has talent in spades!

I mentioned to Scott that variations on the American go-to-ground terrier trials were now being seen all over the world -- Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, France, Canada, Finland.

They had not cropped up in the U.K. however, because of the strange laws in that country that prevent a dog from even barking at a caged rat at the end of a pipe. It might scare the rat! Perish the thought!

It seemed to me that if a Go-to-Ground trial could be set up that used taxidermy as "quarry," even the animal rights lunatics in the U.K. would be hard pressed to oppose it. Did he think an above-ground Go-to-Ground setup like the one he had put together in California might raise a little cash, Cain and consciousness for the fight against the Ban in the U.K., and/or to support the work of the Fell and Moorland Working Terrier Club? His thoughts?

Scott wrote: "The problem in the U.K is that they can't even pick up a road kill badger. They could use a fox head though. The U.K. judges that came over to our trials were all quite impressed with the system from the stand point of watching all the different terriers reacting to the quarry. It was pretty entertaining and many times a bad [taxidermy] handler would get the mounted fox head too close to the bars and the taxidermy piece would lose a nose or worse. Some heads I bought off EBay, as they normally didn't make it through more than two trials. I know this, the animal-head-on-a-stick definitely fires-up a terrier, and a real working terrier will get just as hot for it as a parlor dog."

Scott went on to say that "If you notice in the pics there is a 2" tube that comes through the 'stop end' where the taxidermy head is located, and this was to 'growl' at the terrier if the dog was a little tentative. I got to where I could growl good enough to run some dogs clear back out of the tunnel system."

And knowing Scott not only could he, but he did!

So there it is, a little history (best to write it down before it gets too old, eh?), a little credit, and perhaps a new idea for those looking to bring in a little money and interest into a terrier club or rescue fund, whether that is here in the U.S. or overseas.
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Coffee and Provocation

God Bless the Nigerian Web Scammers!
I never thought I would say it, but I am starting to really like the Nigerian web scammers who send emails and put up fake web sites to con people out of their money. The reason: It seems they are now attacking both sides of the online puppy equation -- the customers and the dog breeders. Their intent, of course, is simply to make money, but how does that make them any different from the hump and dump breeders who send dogs to people they have never met, and who have web sites that proudly say "We take PayPal." As for that "conference in Nigeria" mentioned in the first link, here's a little more about that. You gotta love it!

PetPAC May Give the Lunatics a Run
The Animal Rights lunatics have overplayed their hand far enough that they have created a new permanent backlash in the form of a Pet Political Action Committee, or PAC, devoted to ending mandatory spay-neuter legislation. PetPAC raised $200,000 to help defeat the recent California law, and it's looking to make itself a new permanent political force.

Madness and Mayhem:
Steve H. sent me an article about a local woman entitled "Kids, Puppy Used As Roadblocks During Fight -- Puppy Dies; Children Not Injured." The kicker in this article is that this woman has already gotten a new puppy -- supplied by her also-insane boyfriend.

Idaho Wolves are Killing Cattle ... or Is It the Farmers?
You never hear farmers, ranchers or sheep men being blamed for killing their own stock from negligence and poor management skills, but that's more common that you can imagine. If you run too much stock on overgrazed country, don't shelter stock from weather, and don't supply clean water, mortality rises fast. In Idaho right now, a drought has set the stage for wolves being blamed for stock losses, but the pictures and a little on-the-ground look-see suggests a different story and a different causality.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Meanwhile, Back in Kentucky . . .


Back in 2000, I was at the Outdoor Writers Association meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina as part of my work. It was the only one of these meetings I have ever attended, but while I was there I had the good fortune of being introduced to Robert Munson who was then head of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

I mentioned that I was a big fan of the RMEF's work since they had just introduced elk into the part of Kentucky where my father is originally from.

While eating good jerky made from caribou, elk, reindeer and musk ox, Munson told me the story of the day elk came back to Kentucky.

It seems the weather was miserable that morning, with a slight rain, a cold win, and overcast skies. Governor Patton made a speech, and then there were one or two other speakers, and then the gate was suppsoed to be dropped to release the Elk out of the truck and into Kentucky. At the exact moment the elk were to be released, the clouds parted, and a powerful ray of sunshine broke through the glooom and landed right on the door as the elk bounded out. "It was awesome," said Munson, "just like a church. A religious experience." I wished I had been there to see it.

Now, just 10 years later, The Appalachia News-Express ("The conscience of Eastern Kentucky") reports more Good News:



After disappearing for nearly 150 years, the elk population in Kentucky is booming, with a current population of about 6,500 animals making up the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi River.

Restoration of Kentucky's elk population began in December 1997, when seven of the animals, captured from Western Kansas, were released at the Cyprus Amax Wildlife Management Area in Eastern Kentucky, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's Web site reports.

Over the next few years, Kentucky's Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources estimates more than 1,500 elk, from states as far away as Kansas, Utah, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon and Arizona, were released into a 16-county restoration zone.

Counties in the elk restoration zone are Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Perry, Pike and Whitley counties.



Bottom Line: One more animal has been returned to its historical range thanks to hunter-conservationists, and 300 elk tags are going to be issued in Kentucky this year.

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World Wide Commerce or World Wide Chaos?

Click on the picture for a larger version. This is what the Rand Corporation said
the computer would look line in 2004. I was not supposed to be able to afford one.



"OK," says the nice man from India. "Now that we have the computer off, disconnect the power supply, and ... uh ... do you have a screw driver?"

Yeah, that's right. I'm still trying to get this new computer to operate as sold.

Never mind that I don't have any any of my old web "favorites," earmarked on this computer, and never mind that I cannot remember all the passwords I have for all the things that ask me for passwords. Never mind that the new computer requires a different USB cord for the printer, which I still haven't acquired. And never mind all the software that I have had to load on and reconfigure for Vista, or download new and pay for too.

I expected all that.

What I did not expect is that the damn computer speakers would not work out of the box. Come on people!

Long story short, after about two hours on my knees, (and did I tell you I have a pulled groin muscle which makes such movement very painful?), and after turning complete control of my computer over to a nameless, faceless man in India (no, I do not even know what city he was in), and after undoing screws and pulling wires out of their sockets inside the computer (I kid you not!), I am told that the problem is that the machine is defective (maybe a defective wire to the front headphone jack, or maybe a defective front headphone jack) and they will call me back after they figure out what to do about it.

Wonderful!

Now I know they will call me back. And I suspect they will send out a guy to fix it. And I am sure he will do a good job.

All the same, right at the moment I would like to "sort it out" in a very primitive way.

Or at least charge them for my time, which is adding up very quickly. And my time is not free, unless I give it. And I did not give it; it is being taken from me. And at the end of the day will I even get an extra free year of service from this? Not a chance.

But what are you going to do? Such is life in the modern world, where global commerce and global chaos are the thinnest wire away from each other.

I could scream at the poor soul in India, but he did not make this defective computer (it was made, do doubt, by some thick-thumbed halfwit in Malaysia or maybe El Salvador). In fact, he is trying to help me. He was very courteous, and I was very patient and we parted on good company.

But I am still not a happy camper. And, just to put a little meringue on the pie, I have not even started on my son's computer which is infected with more viruses than an $8 Tijuana hooker. His computer needs to be completely wiped clean and reformatted.

But that, as they say, is another day.

On the upside, back in 1982, I was part of an organization that spent well over $100,000 buying an IBM Series/1, which is a 386 computer; the kind of thing we toss on the scrap heap now. What global commerce has give us is not just the frustration of computers too complicated to fix, and multi-sourced from 50 countries, but also computers that cost less than a brake job on a Ford Explorer. I suppose every thorn has its rose.
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Books, Books, Books

Rebecca found a nice site called http://www.goodreads.com/ where you can load up the names of books (searchable by author, name of book, etc.) you have read and rate them. I played around with it for a few minutes, loading up about 200 books (not hard if you read the entire output of some authors and every book in some sectors), and then looked over to see what Rebecca and Dr. Hypercube were reading and made a list of what to read next, putting "A River Runs Through It" at the top. This should save some time at the bookstore.

Despite my legendary cheapness, I buy books and do not go to the library for them. Perhaps this is not smart, but I like the comfort of books and I like being able to look things up (though the Internet has made that a lot easier, hasn't it?)

This is not to say that I always buy new books; I have a decided fondness for used book stores, and I am not shy about buying from http://www.abebooks.com/. I especially like the fact that this web site will keep a permanent search on for rare books and send you an email when they find them. Of course even Amazon sells used books now -- a welcome feature, to be sure.

I am not sure how to rate some books. They may be the best on their topic, but sightly tangential to my interests. Or they may be exactly what I want and need to read, but poorly organized and not all that well written. Does it matter if the binding of a book was so poor it started falling apart within 8 weeks of being printed?

Looking over my shelves, I am amazed at how many books I own that are reference books and seem inappropriate for listing. Does anyone really want to know what I think about The Handbook on Drug Abuse Prevention or The Dictionary of Film Quotations? I doubt it, and I left them out. Ditto for general reference books such as the Koran, The Letters of E.B White, and Breeding Zebra Finches. Finally, it seems that I read a fair number of books that are simply too obscure or limited in their print runs to actually be listed on Amazon and I am too lazy to type them in. In truth, a lot of the best stuff in some obscure sectors can best be described as "gray literature," and will never get wide circulation as a consequence. I am not too surprised that Full Revelations of a Professional Rat Catcher by Ike Williams (1889) is not an Amazon best seller, though I am rather shocked that William Vogt's Road to Survival is not listed; it was, after all, one of the largest-circulation and most influential environmental books of the 20th Century.



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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Jack vs. the Groundhog




An office mate found this clip on YouTube, and apparently it was shot just up the road in Sterling, Virginia. The groundhog appears to have been caught above ground in a trash pile by a pretty well-fed and not too experienced Jack Russell who is having a lot of fun. Music by Offspring. For those who find this gruesome, my best advice is to get over it. This is how groundhogs die when caught by coyotes, and how rabbits die when caught by a fox. What, you mean fox and coyote eat . . . meat? I though they were vegans! As for groundhogs, they are an agricultural pest, and are around in such huge numbers that it is open season, unlimited take in this state.
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A Round Number

Sometime yesterday, the counter on this blog rolled past 100,000 visitors from 151 countries since April 5th of this year. See far right "gutter" column for per-country details.

Friday, July 13, 2007

And Now for a Completely Different Perspective

One of the things we all wonder at some point in our lives is "What Lasts"? Most things don't.

Mountains used to last until the advent of mountain top removal by the ever-rapacious coal companies.

Books never lasted too long, but that may change now that Google is digitizing them all and making them searchable and free to all on the internet.

And, of course, a great deal of CHANGE lasts.

Change.

We forget about change, or if we notice it, we tend to put it in negative tems.

Things are more expensive now than they used to be.

The music is worse.

No one has manners anymore.

Everything is so fast and so shallow.



I am guilty of such negative thinking.

When it comes to population, for example, I tend to focus on the number of people added in my lifetime and in the lifetime I have left.

When I think of habitat issues, I tend to focus on the forests and fields I have known that are now subdivisions and parking lots.

I forget that more land is under protection now than ever before.

I forget that by almost any index, human misery is less now than it was 20 years ago, or 40 years ago, or 60 years ago.

With that notion in mind, click on these two links to watch this amazingly well-done presentation by Hans Rosling that will do nothing less than change the way you see the world:

And, for the record, I "bet the planet" a few years ago that things will get better for humans. For wild places and wildlife, however, I am still not so sure.

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Signs of a Bright Future in America

Copies of the June and July issues of Earth Dog - Running Dog magazine arrived in the post yesterday and I got to reading them just before work.

I was in the letters section and came across a delightful letter from 8-year old Morgan Hendley who writes:


"The story starts when I was just a baby. My dad would take me in a backpack when he went out with the dogs. As long as I can remember I have gone out with him and enjoyed the day, even when he dropped me out of the backpack headfirst into the hole he was digging! It's not like he meant it. He was pulling out the terrier, and leaned over a bit too far. I have gone every year, and it gets better and better.

"I love hunting with my dad. I am so happy when I am out hunting. He also hunts almost every week with his friend Greg D. Greg says I am their good luck charm. Last time I was out with them we caught 5 groundhogs! I think that is good luck.

"Now that it is summer, I will be hunting a lot more with my dad. I hope that some of you who read this will take your kids out hunting. My dad says it is important as one day I will need to do the digging. He is proud that I defend hunting to people that don't understand it, and people who say it is wrong. I know better. I have learned so much being outside, and I've seen a lot of things I wouldn't have if my dad didn't take me. I know I will hunt for the rest of my life."


When I got to the reference to Greg D., of course, I checked the byline and realized this was Jo's daughter, growing up fast and being raised right as rain. Congrats to Jo and Mrs. Jo.

I looked closely at the picture of young Morgan in the magazine; a real cutie with what looked to be strawberry blonde hair and two young lurchers by her side.

And then I remembered reading Rebecca O'Connor's "eight random things" post even earlier in the morning in which she said she was raised by her grandparents and that any man coming to woo her could forget about diamonds: come instead with an offering of a good falcon and excellent hawk dog.

An interest in field sports. Red hair. Women. An ability to write. Good parents and grandparents. That rare thing called common-sense values. Is it just me, or can you too see a bit of Morgan in Rebecca, and vice versa? And Morgan could not have a better model as a writer than Rebecca. Check out this story (PDF) of hers from The South Dakota Review.


Bottom Line: The future of America is so bright I may need to get new sunglasses. Is this a great country or what? .

The Nonsense of Pull Dogs

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This is a repost from this blog, circa Feb 2005:


In "The Working Jack Russell Terrier," Eddie Chapman writes:

"Something that makes my blood boil is when I hear terrier men talk about dogs they call Caesar dogs. They will show you a Russell type that has been bred too big and say, 'I use him as a Caesar dog'. If I ask what a Caesar dog is, they say it is a dog which will hold the badger, he won't let go,' they say. I have never heard such rubbish in my life. Besides being unnecessary, it is invariably cruel to the dog and more often than not he will be badly bitten for his pains. Besides that, it is unnecessarily cruel to the badger and the sort of behavior that got badger digging banned. I have tried to explain how to remove badgers from a sett without injury to dog or badger. There is nothing clever about getting a hard dog smashed up by a badger. On the contrary, it shows ignorance and a lack of responsibility and feeling. Bravery in a terrier should never be exploited."


I found it quite refreshing to read this passage, as I have often noted that there is is little reason to own a "pull dog" if you actually know how to handle things at the end of a dig. The use of "pull dogs" damages dogs and quarry alike and is wasteful as it often necessitates time out of the field and expensive veterinary work.

In the U.S., the use of pull dogs (what Chapman and some others call "Caesar" dogs) is to due to the prevalence of too many over-large terriers that cannot go to ground in a real earth. To say you have a "good pull dog," is to say you do not have a dog capable of actually going to ground.

If you have followed the Kennel Club dictates, and embraced a 14 inch tall dog with a 17" or 18" chest (or larger!), you are forced to rationalize a job for it. No matter that it is a stupid job forged in pain. Most people would rather see their dog injured than swallow their pride and admit they have drunk the Koolaid offered up by the Kennel Club know-nothings who think a fox den is as big around as a go-to-ground tunnel.

Another factor is that many people simply have no idea of how to handle quarry and so use the dog to to do the job. Having gotten to the end of a dig, they do not know how to get the animal out of the pipe, nor do they know how to dispatch it. In such a situation, the use of a "pull dog" is ignorance in motion.

The simplest way for a novice to handle quarry is with a snare. You can make your own for about $5, or else buy a pig snare from a feedstore. An alternative is a "coon tong" available from Bill Boatman's raccoon hunting supply catalogue.

Groundhogs can also be tailed out alive -- it is not hard if the groundhog's tail is presented, as it so often is. If very much of the pipe is remaining, however, you may find yourself in a tug-of-war with the groundhog who can jamb up inside a pipe so tightly that even a large man can have difficulty pulling one free.

Always use a snare for raccoons -- they can twist all the way around on their short fat bodies. They can grab you with their hands and have crushing bites. Rabies is not uncommon in raccoons, especially on the East Coast.

If you have entangled a fox in a net, be carefully when extricating the fox. The best advice is to pin the animal to the ground under your boot while removing the net. Work the net off the fox in sections, and then release it to hunt another day.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Honey Pots and Trolls in the Land of Eire

With four web sites, three dogs, and two semi-adult kids getting out of school to fly off to the ends of the earth, my life has been more than a little busy.

Add into the mix a real job (and a wife who has a job too), and close to zero at-home computer function for the last 10 days due to a crashing Internet connection, and I hope I am excused for not checking the anonymous postings on Internet bulletin boards across the pond.

If someone has a question or a suggestion, most people know how to get hold of me easy enough.

Which is what a friend did yesterday.

Where was I, he wanted to know? Apparently some anonymous Irish kid was raising a kerfuffle because I had said something bad about Irish dogs?

I did? Really? When was that?

I looked through my old posts, and apparently, it's not this post, in which I defend Eire's honor, but this one, which is more than two years old and which speaks of the old Irish "strong dog" tests and the potted histories that you commonly find for all Kennel Club dogs, including the Glen of Imaal terrier.

A two year old post? Did someone just get their first dog, or did they just get their first computer?

No mind.

Now here's the funny thing about this kerfuffle -- the "strong dog" tests once given by the Irish Kennel Club have not been done since 1968!

And when they were given, they weren't much of a test of a working dog were they? The Teastas Mor lasted for all of 5-minutes.

Five minutes? Five minutes.

In this Kennel Club test the dog was not required to find the quarry at all, and if the terrier bayed it was summarily disqualified.

Since the Kennel Club rules for this "test" were knitted up prior to the invention of locator collars, one has to wonder how the dog was supposed to be found underground. Telepathy? Dowsing rod?

But of course the dog did not need to be located, did it? The Teastas Mor was nothing more than a timed badger-baiting trial in a short artificial earth made to look "natural."

In fact this 5-minute "trial" with its fancy name was nothing more than a bit of nonsense cocked up by the folks at the Irish Kennel Club who were looking for a historical rationale for their over-large terriers.

Truth be told, even in the 1920s, the native terriers of Ireland were not seen too often in the field. The Teastas trials were designed as a promotion tool for dogs which needed a rationale to exist. Think American Kennel Club Earthdog trials, and you have the right idea.

So that's the background.

The new development is that some fellow I have never heard of before now wants to create a Sturm und Drang about the prowess of Kennel Club dogs at Irish Kennel Club badger-baiting trials that were last held nearly 40 years ago.

He does? Well God bless him for being so helpful to the cause of field sports at this critical time in the political debate.

Badger baiting trials; now there's a thing to be proud of and drag into the current world as if it's a practice as current as this morning's milk!

Now, if some anonymous person in Ireland wants to claim his country has the best badger-baiting dogs in the world, whom am I to deny the claim? After all, I suppose somebody has to "elect to receive" in the javelin throw. Why not the Irish?

That said, I think it's an insult to Irish diggers to tar them with this artificial five-minute "test" cocked up more than 80 years ago by the Irish Kennel Club which banned it almost 40 years ago. It surely does the Irish no favors that this trial was a "test" designed not to emulate real hunting but badger-baiting. There are real diggers in Ireland today. Let us celebrate them, eh?

Now if some folks are too stupid to see that a celebration of the old Teastas tests is a very bad thing, then I will not point it out to them. I try to extend charity to the truely retarded, not abuse them for their lack of insight.

The funny thing about my post on the Irish "strong dog" tests is that the quotes I set into the piece were written by none other than Henry B. Fottrell, who actually supplied the badgers used for the first Teastas Mor trials.

Fottrell held office in the Irish Kennel Club from 1936 to 1978 -- the entire era of the Teastas Mor trials. The article from which I quoted in my original post first appeared in the December 1926 edition of Dogdom magazine. For the record, this is not secret knowledge, and the article I quoted from is not hard to find on the Internet.

As for the over-large native terriers of Ireland, I do not need to say one word about them, as the Irish diggers vote with their wallets on that one, don't they?

Look at the sort of dog that is standing behind most Irish diggers today, and it's the same sort of dog you find everywhere else in the world: Patterdales, Russells, Border Terriers, Fells, and some crosses of the aforementioned.

Take a looks here for example. What's that dog that Seamus Erwin is holding? It's a Patterdale you say? Named after a small village in County Cork is it? I had no idea. His first dog was descended from those used in the Lake District of Dundalk? I must visit that area. The Cheviot Hills are just outside of Dublin are they? That smooth coated white dog is a Glen of Imaal is it? Ah! Pour me a drink, and I will swear to it.

Pour me a second drink and I will raise a glass to Reverend John Russell who was vicar in Kilkenny. And while we're tossing back a pint, let's drink a round to Tommy Dobson who was a Leprechaun if there ever was one. And let's pour a shot for that great Irish poet Ossian. Ossian knew his dogs! If you want to know about Irish dogs, every true word on the subject was first penned by Ossian!

Now I am having a bit of fun, of course, but it's not like the original post was written to actually solicit genuine information was it? As for Kennel Club Glen's, they are about as common in the field today as Chihuahuas.

So what was the point of this fellow's post?

Well, it could be a simple matter of another Internet Troll on the boards. Such people are common enough, and I have written about them before.

But perhaps in this case it is something else. Think about it -- a person with an anonymous name shows up less than a year ago on a working terrier board, and now he wants to talk about badger baiting in a country where that practice is quite illegal?

Hmmmm. Sounds like a honey pot operation to me.

What's a honey pot? A honey pot is an old trick. You put down bait (preferably under cover of dark) and then stand back and shoot anything that comes in to feed on it.

I have written before about how these Internet bulletin boards might be a problem in this regard, and more people should probably be aware of how these honey pot schemes work if they want to stand clear of real trouble themselves, especially in the U.K.

In the old days, law enforcement "honey pots" were store-front fencing operations manned by the police, or a buy-and-bust drug corners where undercover cops replaced the local dealers which had been rounded up a half hour before.

Nowdays, thanks to the Internet, cops never have to leave their chair to make a bust -- they just go online to find the folks they want to arrest. Whether they are looking for wildlife poachers or illegal aliens, terrorists or pedophiles, neo-Nazis or stolen property, the Internet is the new hunting ground for law enforcement.

Are wildlife officials and animal rights lunatics using the Internet this way?

Believe it. It has been tried on me (though I do nothing illegal with my dogs), and it has been tried on others.

Right now the Roller Pigeon community is in a bit of a pinch and a bulletin board had to be closed down for a week so that it could be scrubbed of all mention of hawk and falcon killing. Falconers have similarly been nailed for illegal bird sales overseas.

Heads up and fair warning.

Those in the U.K. who ignore this caution can go to page 30 of the June issue of Earth Dog-Running Dog magazine to find the telephone number of the Hunting Lawyer they may soon need. Those who want to see what the working terriers of Ireland actually look like, however, can go to page 29 of that same magazine. A little irony there, eh?

The best advice, of course, is to do nothing illegal. That's what I do, but of course that's an easy course of action here in the U.S.A. which still remains the Land of the Free.

My genuine sympathies to the folks in the U.K. who are being persecuted by lunatics. All I can offer is immigration advice.

Terrier work is still legal over there, of course, and I suppose if you mind yourself you can stay clear of the law. For God's sake, however, stay away from young thugs that want to talk about badger-baiting anywhere.

Nowdays mere possession of a historical book about badger digging is enough to raise an indictment in the press. And you will note how freely this recent press account confuses hunting badgers with badger baiting and how much genuine fiction is slipped in as well.

This is the slippery slope I was warning about in my original post -- the same slippery slope that the animal rights lunatics in the U.K. would love for folks to slide down.

A word to the wise in this regard should be sufficient.

As for Honey Pot Poseurs and Internet Trolls, the best course of action is to ignore them and delete them.

A genuine digger has nothing to prove, and throws his or her dirt with a shovel and not a keyboard. He has a real name and a real address and does not play games with the law or foment negative discussion, especially in a public space like an online bulletin board.

Anyone who wants to drop me an email with a genuine question, a correction or to offer a different point of view, my internet connection is back up again, and my email address is in the top right margin, as always.
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Honest working dogs do not need a Kennel Club test to prove their worth;
they simply need an owner with a shovel who is willing to take them out and use it.

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