Friday, August 31, 2007

The Crazy Man in the Closet Has a Chainsaw



Poor Larry Craig.

And I mean that. Can you imagine leading such a deeply closeted life that you look for sex in public washrooms, proposition Capitol Hill pages (as was alleged in the 1980s, see video at link), and do it all while married with children? There are people who live such lives.

The odd thing is, it's not clear to me what horrific law he broke. Sure Senator Craig appears to have been propositioning a man for sex in a public bathroom, which is dirty, disgusting and (in light of his marriage) immoral, but he was doing it in such a way that if he was propositioning me, I do not think I would even know it was being done. A tapping foot in the stall next door? I would assume someone was listening to an iPod or perhaps had constipation, nothing more.

According to a fellow I talked to yesterday at the local coffee house, however, there are whole Internet sites devoted to letting deeply closeted men know which bathrooms to meet at, and what signals to send.

Who knew?

More importantly, who cares?

It strikes me that Larry Craig is being blasted for signaling dogs with a dog whistle. Sure he may have been signaling his desire for unclean, anonymous, homosexual sex. But he was signaling in a way that only people who are interested in unclean, anonymous, homosexual sex could hear and understand.

Let me hasten to say that I am no friend of Larry Craig's. In fact, I think he is a horrible Member of Congress; one of the worst we have ever had.

But I am not against Larry Craig because he is a pathetic, deeply closeted, self-loathing, hypocrite. I tend to pity such people.

I am against Larry Craig because he is a pillager of our National Forests.

But don't take my word for it. Idaho's own Lewiston Tribune once labeled Craig "timber's errand boy."

As chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Forest Subcommittee, Larry Craig worked to elevate logging above any other use of our national forests -- above hunting, above wildlife habitat, above recreation, and above water quality.

Larry Craig's subcommittee staff director was Mark Rey, who was the former executive director of the American Forest and Paper Association. It was Larry Craig who engineered Mark Rey into a job as Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment -- a bit like putting a termite in charge of the church beams.

Meanwhile, Craig has also gone out of his way to wreck the salmon fishery at the urging of the National Hydropower Association, and he supports gutting the Endangered Species Act as well.

So pardon me, if I do not jump on the bandwagon to beat Larry Craig over the head because he's gay. You see, I already broke my baseball bat over his head because he has always been hell-bent on selling out our national birthright in order to put a little more loose change into the pockets of New York City Fat Cats and timber barons.

Screwing a man? Hell, he has been screwing the entire nation for years.

And not just you and I, but our children and grandchildren to come.

The bottom line is this: If Larry Craig wants to go "Brokeback Mountain," I could care less so long as places like Brokeback Mountain (i.e. the wild public lands of the American West) remain unviolated long after he is gone.

Let's string him up for the right thing, eh? Then we can slap the horse out from under him, shoot the swinging corpse, and bury the body deep.

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Saving the Life of Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus

If you want to save a dog's life in a Howard County, Maryland kill shelter, start by picking a good name.

And then try to find the dog productive employment by placing it with an organization looking for energetic working dogs.

And then hope a nice foster-care person will come along to help make the whole deal work out in terms of timing.

And if it does all works out, then you may get this paragraph from the front page of The Washington Post "style" section:


"The day before Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus was scheduled to die by an injection of pentobarbital, along came the cookie lady. She brought dog biscuits to the Howard County Animal Shelter. When she saw the yellow Labrador -- evicted for feistiness from three homes -- leap to catch a ball, she had an idea. . . "

Yes, that's right: Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus. You want to kill Ricky Bobby? You want to kill Baby Jesus? Not in Howard County, Maryland, you don't!

The short story here is that the dog known as Ricky Bobby Baby Jesus (pictured above, in all his magnificent glory), along with some other dogs that washed out of Guide Dogs for the Blind, have been trained for bomb-sniffing work in Front Royal, Virginia, and are now on their way overseas.

Ricky Bobby, for example, is on his way to Morocco where he will fight on the front lines against al-Qaeda.


"Saluting an ATF instructor in front of a giant American flag, Nabir Chakir told the crowd: 'Long live the collaboration between the United States and Morocco in the common fight against terrorism.'"

You betcha Nabir! And let me hasten to tell our American friends what you and I both know: Morocco was the first country in the world to sign a treaty with the United States. And, for the record, Morocco was coming to the aid of the U.S. whose ships were being plagued by the Barbary Pirates. The signer of the treaty: none other than the dog-loving George Washington.

Some of the failed to-make-the-grade Guide Dogs for the Blind were initially raised and fostered by prisoners, who are only too happy if the dogs that eventually flunk out of the program go on to be employed as bomb-and-gun sniffing dogs in the war against terror.

John Pucci, 62, an inmate serving 25 years to life for his involvement in a 1978 drug-related shooting, threw a party for his "baby girl" when she left to fight al-Qaeda, making her a special meal of "ooganooga meatballs" made of mashed puppy food, olive oil, peanut butter and rice.


"Pucci said, 'I may be a criminal, but I'm an American criminal.' His voice caught. 'A little piece of me goes out to fight for the American way -- to keep the Yankee games going.'"

Excellent on every level. You have to love this country and the dogs.

And, of course, a special hat-tip to the great nation of Morocco which has always remained a friend.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Schutzhund with Jack Russell



This is not only funny, it is actually a very good demonstration of the trainer, because getting a Jack Russell up to this level of command-and-control is not easy. It helps quite a lot that schutzhund channels the dog's natural energy and prey drive, but still ... real applause for the trainer (for both excellent training, great humor, and real imagination), and a couple of milkbones to Mr. Murphy the Jack Russell for the work itself.

A small not about attacking Jacks: most aren't going to bite your padded arm -- they have a habit of removing the lower lip from humans (this is true).

A hat tip to "aky3" who sent this clip to me; I could not reply to you through Youtube because the security on my computer would not allow it, and I am not smart enough to figure out a workaround on it (I would ask my Russells, but they are outside).

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rich Bitch Dies and Not Many Mourn

Leona Helmsely, the billionaire hotel maven made famous as "the Queen of Mean" has left $12 million to her Maltese dog, named "Trouble."

Her assets, at the time of her husband's death, were estimated at $5 billion. Almost all of this money will now go to a foundation named after her and her late husband, Harry.

In recent years, the foundation has given millions to help alzheimer's patients, to aid NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, to help the families of firefighters after 9/11, and to help African-American churches.

That said, her strange bequest to her dog will be what is remembered -- that and the fact that she disinherited two of her four grandchildren.

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A Conformation Champion



In the past, I have compared dog shows to beauty contests.

This little piece of cotton candy is the human equivalent of an Irish Setter, and she won fourth place (third runner up) in the "Miss Teen USA" contest.

My understanding is that she's already being offered a network anchor slot.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Fake Work for the Glen of Imaal

You can look a long time for someone who has a real working Glen of Imaal terrier and still come up blank.

The reason: the dog is rare all over (there are only about 3,000 worldwide) and always has been, the dog is too large to work most fox dens (it was never used much for hunting, but instead was used for badger baiting which is quite different), and badger digging has been illegal in the UK and Eire for about 40 years.

So what to do? Up to now, the dog has mostly been a show dog, with a few animals being used for occassional bushing or ratting. Now, however, the Irish press in Wicklow reports (on the front page, no less) that the Irish Glen of Imaal Sporting Terrier Club of Ireland believes it can make the dog popular again by ginning up weight-pulling contests for the dog.

In these weight-pulling contests, the dogs are harnessed up a bit like eskimo sled dogs, and are urged to pull a weighted-down sleigh a short distance to showcase their determination.

I have written before about the absence of the Glen of Imaal terrier in the field, and the rise of pulling trials as a way of creating some fake proximity to the "work" of badger baiting; see here and the other links by clicking on the label below.

Now, it seems, the fakery has come home to the Wicklow valley itself. No harm done, of course; the Glen of Imaal was never a true working terrier, and if they invent a new game for the dog in the absence of badger-baiting and turnspits, more power to them.
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Beast of Dartmoor is Caught

Thank God this savage thing was tracked down and finally caught near Hound Tor.

A true Hell Hound and Demon with "large front limbs which would be powerful enough to tear human flesh."

And it was seen just yards from school children who could have been attacked!

Oh did I forget to say what it turned out to be? Silly me. Here's that story.

Of course there are other Beasts of Dartmoor out there. Here's another one that was caught earlier. Please God, let's not let them start breeding!

We are going to catch them all! The Beast of Bodmin is next, and after that we are going after the giant lion-eating chimps of the magic forest.

I always like the descriptions like this one that tell us of the enormous footprints of giant mystery cats with enormous claws. Please tell us more! How big were the claws on that foot print again?

And of course we have them over here too. Chilling!

Other "beast of " stories on this blog:

"Footprint?"

"Footprints."

"A man or a woman's?"

Dr. Moritmer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered: "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound."

. . . -- The Hounds of the Baskervilles, A.C. Doyle

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Phil Drabble Goes to the Big Woods in the Sky




Thanks to the Querencia blog, I learned that Phil Drabble, age 93, has gone to the Big Field and Forest in the Sky. His obituary in The Guardian is a nice read. They refer to him as a "militant naturalist who loved the countryside long before BBC2 made him the 'star' of One Man and His Dog, in which he succeeded in drawing a television audience of six million for a series of sheepdog trials."

"Militant Naturalist." I rather like that! More please.

The obit goes on: "He was distinctly not a man to cross, neither before nor after he learned how publicity could help fight his battles against what he called 'green welly wallies', 'smart-arsed industrial consultants who are the parasites of a get-rich-quick society', 'agri-chemical fat cats', 'parish pump politicians' and 'petty bureaucrats', who all in their way - in his view - spoiled the purity of the countryside to which all decent Englishmen aspired."

Oh geez, that's good. Be sure to read the rest, and the other in The Telegraph as well. Drabble wrote his first article for The Field about Staffordshire bull terriers, and his slim book "Of Pedigree Unknown" is a good read about dogs, with a few pictures and stories about the great terrierman Bert Gripton. May they both meet up with each other, and the dogs, on the other side.


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Family Planning for Dogs Not Bitches

A new birth control implant for dogs is on the market in Australia and New Zealand.

Called Suprelorin, it is basically a kind of male Norplant for dogs, which is to say that a small "microchip" is implanted under the skin between the shoulders and this microchip slowly degrades over time, releasing deslorelin which works to halt testosterone and sperm production for months at a time. Eventually the drug regime runs out, and the male dog's fertility returns.

The cost of an implant: between $52 and $77 for 6 months worth of "protection". A one-year version of the implant is in development.

Suprelorin is expected to gain approval for use in the European Union in a matter of weeks, and steps are being taken to enable the drug to be sold in the United States.

And YES, for those who are wondering, a human version of this device-for-men is in the works: both an implant and a "male pill." For more information on that, see here, but the bottom line is that the human version will require men to get regular testosterone shots in order to maintain male characteristics. Hmmm. Bet it's not a big seller. For a pretty comprehensive list of other methods of human contraception, see my old "Field Guide to Contraception".

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Friday, August 24, 2007

GOP Gun Grabbers vs. Fred Thompson, Shooter?


Rudy the gun grabber.


Romney the gun controller.


Good people can, and do, disagree on levels of gun control. The question remains: Do gun grabbers like Rudy Giuliani (NY) and Mitt Romney (MA) stand a chance in a GOP primary?

The question is not addressed to the merits of gun control (a tired debate), but the political horse race itself: Can a Republican candidate win the GOP primary if they have a long and strong record in support of gun control (and no record at all as hunters or shooters)?

Fred Thompson, the still-undeclared putative rival to Giuliani and Romney, is not only pro-gun and pro-hunting, but he is also not shy about it, and even holds an annual Fred Thompson Celebrity Skeet Shoot to benefit juvenile diabetes.

Will the NRA keep its powder dry in the primary, or will it blast Giuliani and Romney with both barrels?

Time will tell.

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The Continuing Crisis

Global Warming
Over at "Jammie Wearing Fool," they report on the latest global warming crisis: Norway's 120,000 moose are farting and belching too much. It seems that the rocket-science wizards of Norway have calculated that an adult moose can produce 2,100 kilos of methane a year -- equivalent to the CO2 output resulting from a 13,000 kilometer car journey. The good news: this year's moose hunt should kill off 35,000 of the nasty polluting bastards.

Collapsing Bridges
While global warming is caused by moose farts (and for the record, I have always said so), the bridges are not collapsing solely due to poor design and no maintenance whatsoever: it's the pigeon crap that's killing them. The rocket-science wizards of America postulate that "corrosive guano deposited all over the Interstate 35W span's framework helped the steel beams rust faster." Of course, this is all perfectly correct. Which is why it's time to start poisoning the pigeons in the park, just like Tom Lehrer recommended: "So if Sunday you're free ... Why don't you come with me ... And we'll poison the pigeons in the park ... And maybe we'll do in a squirrel or two ... While we're poisoning pigeons in the park."

Breaching Levees
Meanwhile over in New Orleans, a biologist is promoting Vetiver grass as the thing that can cure New Orleans of what it ails it. Not only does the grass put down 6-foot roots to hold back erosion, but it shoots up 6 feet in the air to absorb storm surge. Best of all, it has strong anti-insect properties which may drive out the formosan termites which have been eating the sugar-based caulk used on the levees. Termites were attacking the levees? Has anyone told the Bush Administration, the Mayor, and the Governor? It would seem to me that termites are a perfect scapegoat for Katrina. Clearly, they are the problem; it could not have anything to do with building an entire city several feet under the high tide line, levees contstructed by the lowest bidder, and old broken pumps that did not work.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trapping and the Cull of the Wild


Phil Brown's 1,202 red fox.


Over at Mike Hackenback's blog for Outdoor Life
he posted a picture (above) of 1,202 red foxes caught by Pennsylvania trapper Phil Brown, and wondered if this was a record.

The short answer is, "not quite," but maybe close. I have no idea who actually has the record (or even if there is such a thing for a less-than-60-day trapping season), but one contender would have to be Pete Leggett who used to live in Maryland (he died in 2004 at the age of 79), who took 1,220 fox in a 53-day trapping season in 2003. Mr. Leggett regularly pulled in over 1,000 fox a year. Pete's son, Ron, now runs the business. And yes, this is the Leggett's of the "Leggett's K-9 Exciter" fame. A picture of the fox trapped in the 2003 season can be found below.



Regulated fox trapping does no harm to fox populations, as the fox populations compensate by having slightly larger litters, while mortality due to mange and starvation tends to decrease due to an abundance of food and less back-to-back den occupation.

What's fascinating to me is how many people are horrified when they see the picture of so many dead fox pelts .

Why are you horrified, I ask? Well fox are rare.

They are not. In fact, it's only possible for one person to trap so many fox in less than 60 days because they are so common. The number of red fox in the U.S. is large and growing everywhere except where the coyote population is keeping them down.

But they're just killing them for fur and profit! So? It's not my method of making a living, but killing a wild animal for fur and profit is morally superior to killing them for mere meat. Most people -- including you and I -- are OK with eating meat, aren't we? So too is the fox.

How is killing for fur superior to killing for meat? Well, just think about it for a minute: We raise chickens, cattle and pigs in cages and feed lots for no higher purpose than a few calories and a good bowel movement a few hours later. How is that morally superior to the folks who value the freedom of wild animals and who kill them, in season, for a fur coat that may last 20 years or more? A fur coat may last a lifetime; a hamburger is gone with the flush of a commode.

But killing fox is cruel. Actually, trapping a fox is really no worse than what Mother Nature has in mind for this same animal. The harsh reality is that wild animals do not die in hospital infirmaries with a morphine drip, and soft music playing in the background. Mother Nature and the modern world kill old and adolescent, prime and aged, with almost equal vigor. These "natural" deaths are rarely quick or painless. The real world is not a Disney production. Remember that the alternative to trapping is not immortality; it is often a prolonged and miserable death from disease such as mange (pictured at left) or distemper, starvation, poison, a gut shot, predation by coyote or dog, or (most common of all) vehicle impact (also pictured at left).

But traps are so painful. Again, not really. The modern leghold trap is quite different from the trap used 50 years ago, and the law requires that all traps be checked at least once every 24 hours. A modern leghold trap has offset jaws, and as a result the paw of the animal is caught firmly, but generally with very little serious damage. In fact, leghold traps are routinely used by wildlife biologists to trap, tag, radio-collar, and move wild animals all over America. Every transplanted wolf in the Yellowstone, for example, was first caught in a leghold trap, and the ones that are wearing radio collars today are routinely caught in leghold traps by scientists who have to switch out the batteries in those collars.

Bottom line: Fox trapping does no real harm to fox populations, and may do quite a bit of good in some circumstances where overcrowding might lead to more painful methods of death or culling. Trapping is also a valuable intervention when it comes to the protection of native bird populations; so important, in fact that the National Audubon Society has successfully sued to keep fox trapping legal.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Will Not Work for Food

Back in 1946, Field and Stream's Horace Lytle wrote an article noting that Irish Setters were almost completely absent from the hunting field.

In fact, between 1874 and 1948, Irish Setters produced 760 conformation champions, but only five field champions -- a rather dismal state of affairs.

Lytle proposed that Irish Setters be rescued and returned to their working roots by implementing an outcross program.

Lytle noted that the Irish Setter once had quite a lot of white in its coat, and he thought it would not be too bad a thing for the few remaining working Irish Setters to be outcrossed to working English Setters. Yes, some white might show up in the coats, but So What? The dogs had always had that when they had actually been working dogs.

Sports Afield endorsed the call to rescue the Irish Setter from the show ring, and Ned LaGrange of Pennsylvania took up the challenge of creating a systematic outcrossing program based on breeding the few remaining working Irish Setters that were left, with the best field champion English setters.

The result was the "Red Setter" which was blessed and maintained as a working setter by the Field Dog Stud Book (FDSB), with reciprocal registration with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

The problem, of course, was that nonworking AKC Irish setters found it nearly impossible to compete in AKC field trials against Red Setters.

What to do? Well, eliminate the competition, of course!

In 1975 the Irish Setter Club of America petitioned the AKC to deny reciprocal registration to Field Dog Stud Book-registered dogs, and the AKC obliged.

As a result, the AKC Irish Setter remains, to this day
, the "least likely to succeed" bird-hunting dog to be found in America, while the Red Setter is a dog that is at least sometimes found under a shotgun.

Now rumor has it that the Irish Setter Club of America has indicated it may reverse itself and grant reciprocal registrations to any Field Dog Stud Book or North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association-registered Irish red setter that has a three-generation pedigree and DNA verification for the same. Final approval awaits a vote of the Irish Setter Club of America Field Trial Committee (the same folks who voted to toss them out 27 years ago).

Of course, what the Irish Setter Club of America has to say on the matter may not matter a whit. You see, no breed club in the AKC actually controls its own registry. The American Kennel Club issues the papers and holds the trials. AKC breed clubs are not allowed to exclude pet shop or puppy mill dogs, and they cannot greenlight registerable outcrosses without the AKC’s expressed permission, nor can they agree to have an open registry or allow dual registration, nor can they require field work as a condition of winning a championship, or require OFA or CERF-testing for registration, etc.

In short, the AKC is not a democracy; it is a business and the larger business model always overrides any breed club carping about genetics, work, or canine health.

As to the business side of the Irish Setter vs. Red Setter controversy, there is a new Joker in the card deck, and that is the fact that the AKC has added the "Irish Red and White Setter" to its Foundation Stock Service roles in expectation of bringing this "new" breed into the fold.

Of course, the "Irish Red and White Setter" is not a new breed; it is simply the old generic working Setter that used to exist before the Kennel Club split the Setters into red "Irish" setters and white "English" setters, and black and tan "Gordon" setters.

Never mind: the Kennel Club split the setters into three breeds of dogs, and now they are hell-bent on splitting them into four. Extending a reciprocal registration to the working "Red Setter" (which frequently presents with white markings adding confusion and diluting the "brand" of the Irish Red and White Setter) may upset the apple cart a little too much.

Or maybe not.

After all, the AKC has not only added the "Parson Russell Terrier" to the AKC roles, but also the the "Russell Terrier" to its Foundation Stock Service. Can the "Irish Jack" be far behind? No doubt it is being penciled in for next year, or the year after that. The 10-year plan for terriers no doubt includes adding the Patterdale Terrrier, the Plummer Terrier, and the Fell Terrier to the mix. Business demands a diversified product, after all, and the business is not canine health or work (things the AKC affirmatively hurts through a closed registry system) but registration money to underwrite the money-loser called dog shows. (For more on that see >> HERE).

One does not need to be a weatherman to guess which way the wind will eventually blow with some breeds. I think it's only a matter of time before the AKC splits the Labrador Retriever into the Black Lab, the Yellow Lab, and the Chocolate Lab, and the various dachshunds into coat types, as well as size. The Parson Russell and Russell Terriers may get split based on coat type as well. Look at what has already been done with bull terriers, collies, and fox terriers, to name just three examples.

Ah well, there's nothing to be done about it. Sleep with dogs, expect fleas. And the Kennel Club is the kind of flea-bitten dog that just keeps giving, and giving and giving in that regard. I expect more breeds to be carved out of old breeds, and working breeds to be continually gobbed up and ruined by the Kennel Club. Some things never change, even if the dogs do.

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- Working Terriers -

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Nonsense on Stilts





"The Irish Red & White Setter is bred primarily for the field. The standard as set out hereunder must be interpreted chiefly from this point of view and all Judges at Bench Shows must be encouraged to judge the exhibits chiefly from the working standpoint."

The above bit of clap trap comes from the AKC's web site, and shows how deeply boiled in the oil of their own nonsense they really are.

Here's a thought: Perhaps a dog named for its COAT COLOR might not really be "bred primarily for the field."

And perhaps a dog bred "primarily for the field" cannot really be judged at a Bench Show?

What's next, judging racing car drivers by hat size, or hiring astronauts based on whether they fit into the space suits?

How about hiring female workers by the size of their front racks? Now there's a business plan . . . for a strip club.

I am reminded of the old adage: "In theory, practice and theory should be the same, but in practice they are not."

True enough, true enough.




This lion read a book of theory just before his first hunt.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

John Muir's Terrier

In 1880, John Muir made his second trip to Alaska, and on this trip he explored Brady Glacier which empties into Taylor Bay in what is now Glacier Bay National Park.

Acompanying him was little cross-bred terrier dog by the name of "Stickeen" which Muir fell in love with.

Muir wrote of Stickeen:

"Nobody could hope to unravel the lines of his ancestry. In all the wonderfully mixed and varied dog-tribe I never saw any creature very much like him, though in some of his sly, soft, gliding motions and gestures he brought the fox to mind. He was short-legged and bunch-bodied, and his hair, though smooth, was long and silky and slightly waved, so that when the wind was at his back it ruffled, making him look shaggy.

At first sight his only noticeable feature was his fine tail, which was about as airy and shady as a squirrel's , and was carried curling forward almost to his nose. On closer inspection you might notice his thin sensitive ears, and sharp eyes with cunning tan-spots above them. Mr. Young told me that when the little fellow was a pup about the size of a woodrat he was presented to his wife by an Irish prospector at Sitka, and that on his arrival at Fort Wrangell he was adopted with enthusiasm by the Stickeen Indians as a sort of new good-luck totem, was named "Stickeen" for the tribe, and became a universal favorite; petted, protected, and admired wherever he went, and regarded as a mysterious fountain of wisdom."

To read the rest of the story of Stickeen >> click here.



John Muir on the left, John Burroughs on the right.
"John of the Woods meets John of the Birds."
To read more about John Burroughs and groundhogs >>
click here

Originally posted to this blog in September of 2004

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Quick History of American Terrier Work



A repost from this blog circa August 20, 2005.


For all practical purposes, the story of American terrier work begins in 1971 with Patricia Adams Lent, who founded the American Working Terrier Association to promote working terriers and dachshunds.

The American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) was, and is, a modest organization with fewer than 100 members. It has no headquarters or paid staff, and produces a simple Xeroxed newsletter four times a year. Its web site (as of 2005) has no information about actual hunting or wildlife, and is focused almost entirely on go-to-ground trials.

That said, AWTA is a very important organization in the history of American working terriers, not only because it was the first "club" devoted to the sport, but also because Ms. Lent invented go-to-ground trials, and the basic set of rules governing them.

Since 1971, go-to-ground trials have served as a kind of "on ramp" for actual field work. The basic AWTA format has been widely copied, first by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (1976) and then by the American Kennel Club (1994).

The origin of the American go-to-ground tunnel can be found in the artificial fox earths first constructed in the UK in the 1920s, but which came into their own in the 1950s and 60s with the collapse of so many ancient rabbit warrens under the onslaught of myxomatosis.

Artificial earths are generally constructed of two parallel rows of brick stacked three bricks high and topped by overlapping slates, or out of 9-inch clay or concrete drainage pipe laid end-to-end. The result is a very spacious and dry fox earth. If sited within 200 feet of a water source (it does not have to be large), far from residences, and on the edge of fields and small woods, the chance of a fox taking up residence is excellent.

The first artificial fox earths were constructed in order to guarantee that a fox could be found on hunt day, and to encourage fox to run along known courses away from roadways. That said, they also found favor because they proved easy locations for a terrier to bolt a fox from. Even an overlarge dog could negotiate the straight or gently curving unobstructed nine-inch pipes of an artificial earth.

The go-to-ground tunnels devised by Patricia Adams Lent were constructed of wood instead of stone, brick or clay pipe, but were equally commodious, measuring 9 inches on each side with a bare dirt floor for drainage and traction.

From the beginning AWTA's goal was to be inclusive. Scottish Terriers with enormous chests were encouraged to join AWTA, as were owners of West Highland Whites, Cairns, Norfolks, Norwiches, Border Terriers, Fox Terriers, Lakelands, Welsh Terriers and Bedlingtons. All were welcome, with the simple goal of having a little fun with the dogs, and perhaps giving American Kennel Club terrier owners some small idea of what actual terrier work was about.

In AWTA trials, wooden den "liners" are sunk into a trench in the ground. The tunnels are up to 35 feet long with a series of right-angle turns, false dens and exits. The “quarry” at the end of the tunnel is a pair of "feeder" lab rats safely protected behind wooden bars and wire mesh. The rats are not only not harmed, but after 100 years of breeding for docility, some lab rats have been know to go to sleep!

Without a doubt, go-to-ground trials have been a huge hit with American terrier owners. The interior dimensions of the den liners -- 81 inches square -- means even over-large terriers are able to negotiate them with ease. With nothing but a caged rat to face as "quarry," the safety of dogs is guaranteed, and since the dogs only have to bay or dig at the quarry for 90-seconds, most dogs end up qualifying for at least an entry-level certificate or ribbon.

Though the die-hard hunter may sneer, the increasing popularity of go-to-ground terrier trials is a welcome thing, for it has brought more people a little closer to real terrier work.

Owners of dogs that do well in go-to-ground trials should take pride in their dog’s achievements. Like all sports that emulate real work (lumber jack contests, bird dog trials, and sheep dog trials, to name a few), a go-to-ground trial is both harder and easier than its real-world cousin.

A dog that will exit a 30-foot tunnel backwards in just 90 seconds and on a single command (a requirement for earning an AKC Senior Earthdog certificate) is a dog that has been trained to a fairly high degree of proficiency.

Having said that, it should be stressed that a go-to-ground trial has little relationship to true hunting. In the field dogs are not rewarded for speed. In fact, if a hunt terrier were to charge down a real earth like it were a go-to-ground tunnel it would quickly run into quarry capable of inflicting real damage.

In addition, in a real hunting situation a dog must do a great deal more than “work” the quarry for 90 seconds. A good working dog will stick to the task for as long as it can hear people moving about overhead – whether that is 15 minutes or three hours.

The real division street between go-to-ground and earthwork, however, is size. And the real problem with a go-to-ground trial is not that it teaches a dog to go too fast down a tunnel (dogs understand the difference between fake liners and real earth), but that it suggests to terrier owners that any dog that can go down a cavernous go-to-ground tunnel is a dog “suitable for work.”

To its credit, the American Working Terrier Association recognizes the difference between a go-to-ground tunnel and real earth work, and implicitly underscores this difference in its rules for earning a Working Certificate.

AWTA rules note that a terrier or dachshund can earn a working certificate on woodchuck, fox, raccoon, badger, or an “aggressive possum” found in a natural earth, but that “this does not include work in a drain or otherwise man-made earth.”

In short, a drain is not a close proxy for a natural earth, and terriers that are too large to work a natural earth do not meet the requirements of a working terrier.

The American Working Terrier Association issues Certificates of Gameness to dogs qualifying at their artificial den trials. Working Certificates are awarded to dogs that work groundhog, fox, raccoon, possum, or badger in a natural den provided that at least one AWTA member is there as a witness. AWTA also issues a Hunting Certificate to a dog that hunts regularly over a period of a year.

Six years after the American Working Terrier Association was created, Mrs. Alisia Crawford, one of the first Jack Russell Terrier breeders in the U.S., founded the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA)

Ms. Crawford and the early founders of the Jack Russell Terrier Club put a lot of thought into structuring the JRTCA so that work remained front and center. Towards that end, the club decided that its highest award -- the "bronze medallion" -- would not go to show dogs, but to working dogs that had demonstrated their ability in the field by working at least three of six types of American quarry -- red fox, Gray fox, raccoon, groundhog, possum, and badger -- in front of a JRTCA-certified field judge.

In the show ring the JRTCA decided to ban professional handlers as it was thought this would keep the shows fun and less important than the essential element of work.

Instead of mandating the kind of narrow conformation ranges demanded by the Kennel Club for their terrier breeds, the JRTCA divided the diverse world of the Jack Russell Terrier into three coat types (smooth, broken and rough), and two sizes (10 inches tall to 12.5 inches tall, and 12.5 inches tall to 15 inches tall).

"Different horses for different courses" became a watch word, with overt recognition that the world of working terriers required dogs able to work different quarry in different earths, and in different climates.

Unlike the Kennel Club the JRTCA also decided to keep their registry an "open" registry so that new blood might be infused at times. At the same time, the Club discouraged inbreeding and eventually restricted line breeding to a set percentage.

To balance off an open-registry with the desire to keep Jack Russell-type dogs looking like Jack Russells, the JRTCA decided not to allow dogs to be registered at birth or to register entire litters. Instead, each dog would be photographed from each side and the front, and admitted to the registry on their own merit, and as an adult. In addition, each dog had to be measured for height and chest span.

What this meant is that at the time of registration, the height and chest measurement of an adult dog could be recorded. Over time, both height and chest size could be tracked through pedigrees -- an essential element of breeding correctly-sized working terriers.

The JRTCA was not shy about their rationale for these rules: they openly and emphatically opposed Kennel Club registration, maintaining that time had show that dogs brought into the Kennel Club quickly grew too big and often lost other essential working attributes such as nose, voice, and prey drive.

Today the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is the largest Jack Russell Terrier club and registry in the world, and its Annual National Trial attracts approximately 1,200 Jack Russell terriers from all over the U.S. and Canada.

The JRTCA's small professional staff cranks out a solid bi-monthly magazine that is 80-100 pages long, holds a regular schedule of dog shows, and sells deben locator collars, fox nets, and a host of other items ranging from hats and jackets to coffee cups.

The web site of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America ( http://www.terrier.com/ is one of the very best dog sites in the United States, packed with well-presented information, high-quality graphics and a user-friendly layout.

Perhaps the most important service work of the JRTCA are the ads that the Club routinely runs in all-breed publications warning people that Jack Russell Terriers are not a dog for everyone, are primarily a hunting dog, and are not like the cute dogs seen on TV.

Sometime in the last 1990s, following the appearance of Jack Russell Terriers in a host of TV and Hollywood productions ranging from "Wishbone" and "Frasier" to "My Dog Skip" and "The Mask," the American Kennel Club decided to add the Jack Russell Terrier to its roles.

As they had previously done with the Border Collie, the AKC ignored the strong opposition of the large existing breed club, and quietly assembled a new club of show-ring breeders to serve as their stalking horse.

The "Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association" (later called the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America, and now called the "Parson Russell Terrier Association of America") petitioned for the admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the Kennel Club and, despite the objections of the JRTCA, the breed was admitted in January of 2001.

The admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the American Kennel Club was a contentious affair, with the JRTCA standing firm on its long-held rule that no dog could be dual-registered.

What this meant is that breeders had to chose whether to remain in the JRTCA or to "get in early" with the AKC before they closed their registry.

Some of the breeders that chose the AKC did so because they thought they could then sell their puppies for more money, others were eager to be the "big fish in a small pond" at the beginning of a new AKC breed registry. Still others were anxious to attend more dog shows,.

Whatever the reason, the Kennel Club required that the Jack Russell Terrier breed description be narrower than that of the JRTCA. The goal of a Kennel Club breed description is to craft a narrow "standard" -- the wide variance in size, coat and look allowed and encouraged in the world of working terriers would not do.

The American Kennel Club breed standard stipulated that an AKC Jack Russell terrier could not be under 12 inches in height nor over 15 inches in height, and further stipulated that "ideal" dog was 14 inches tall and the ideal bitch was 13" tall.

Ironically, this breed description effectively eliminated about 40% of all the American dogs that had actually worked red fox in the U.S.

More importantly, this narrow standard eliminated the small dogs necessary to "size down" a breed -- something absolutely necessary in order to keep working terriers small enough to work.

Of course the American Kennel Club has never been interested in working terriers and the breed club they created has shown no interest in work either.

Under continuing pressure from the working Jack Russell Terrier community in England and the U.S., the British and American Kennel Clubs decided to jettison the "Jack Russell Terrier" name to more easily identify the non-working show ring dog they favored.

Now called the "Parson Russell Terrier," the AKC dog is quickly getting too big in the chest to work -- though not many dogs are actually taken out into the field to try.

After just three years in the Kennel Club, the "Parson Russell Terrier Club" tried to modify the show ring standard so that the dog no longer had to be spanned. In fact, many Kennel Club judges do not know how to span a terrier and many do not do it as a consequence.

In 2001, the United Kennel Club started an "earth work" program modeled after that of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. The UKC working terrier program remains small, with relatively few judges, and it does not appear to be growing very rapidly.
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Friday, August 17, 2007

Coffee and Provocation

Life Imitates Blog:
Last week I jokingly recommeded a nice starter topic for the editorial pages: Send pound puppies to Asia to be eaten, thereby turning a public liability into a corporate asset. Well, it seems someone in India is either reading this blog or ... uh . . . "great minds think alike." The Daily Telegraph reports that in New Delhi a local councilor -- Mohan Prashad Bharadwaj -- has suggested that Delhi's 300,000 strays should be rounded up and sent to Korea to be made into soup. Editorial writers everywhere can now have a field day. Bonus prize for working in the phrase "dog days of August."

AKC Terriers Work a Fox:
I take back everything I ever said about American Kennel Club terriers being rarely found in the field. Take a look at this fox. Wow!

The AKC is Forming a PAC:
The American Kennel Club is forming a Political Action Committee or PAC. Do we need more of those? Apparently.

Congressmen Hunter Fails Civics 101:
Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has introduced the "Teddy Roosevelt Bring Back our Public Lands Act," which would limit the amount of money that states can charge non-residents who hunt big game exclusively on U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management land. Duncan Hunter seems unaware that this law is unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment, but don't spend too many brain cells thinking about it, as this legislation is not going anywhere. There is not even a Senate version of this bill. Ben Nelson, chaiman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (a bi-partisan group consisting of more than half the members of the Senate and House who support hunting and fishing), is dead-set against this bill, as are such diverse Members of Congress as reliably right-wing Rep. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-ID) and reliably left-wing Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO). So why was this bill even introduced? Simple: Election-year pandering to hunters.

Packing in the Parks:
Speaking of election-year pandering (see post above), wanna-be-President Ron Paul's latest bright idea is to allow folks to pack handguns in our National Parks. Why? For protection. Hmmm. We've gotten along fine for 100 years, but now we need strap-ons to see Old Faithful? When did the U.S. Government lose the right to control the conditions of access to the property that it owns? And does this "anyone, any time, any place, any weapon" theology extend to foreign nationals entering military bases with bazookas? How about angry U.S. citizens with handguns and rifles visiting the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, the White House, and the Supreme Court? This kind of political pandering is chum put into our political waters by politicians seeking to attract sucker fish. It's an insult, that they think they can find them in the hunting community, and a sadness that they so often do.

Invasion of the Invasives:
The newpapers in Florida report that there are about 5,000 pythons in the Everglades now -- a real free-breeding population of snakes that grow to about 20 feet. This population got a foothold when former pets escaped or were cut loose by owners tired of the expense of feeding them rats, rabbits, and chickens. Because so many python owners seem to suddenly "lose" their snakes when they get to a certain size, Florida will now require all pythons to be microchiped and pay a permitting fee of as much as $100 a year. In addition, snake owners must account for where their snake is, and if it is dead it has has to be presented to a vet or some other local authority.
. . . . . Snakes are hardly the only invasive species problem in Florida, of course. Over in in Lee County, Florida, there are so many feral Iguanas running around that local authorities have contracted with a private, Sarasota-based company to kill as many of the estimated 10,000 animals as it can, at a cost of $20 a head.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Blind Spots of the Wine and Cheese Set

In Truck, a Love Story, Michael Perry writes of being "hosted at a wine and cheese party attended by a woman of some academic tenure."

He goes on:

"While I was cruising for cheddar in the kitchen, I could hear her in the drawing room, comparing the attorney general to a pair of Nazis. She was particularly dramatic on the issue of privacy, becoming visibly excercised regarding her confidence that right now someone was preparing to peek in her bedroom and plotting to pull her library card. 'Terrifying!' she kept saying. 'Terrifying to have these people in power.' Fair enough, and pass the brie. But my interest was piqued when five minutes later she declared she didn't understand why -- if people had to own guns -- why they might be loathe to submit that information in written form and accept some 'reasonable government oversight.'

Suddenly Himmler and Goebbels are Andy and Barney."


Well said, and well thought.

This is book that gets a high recommendation. It's about rebuilding a truck, planting a garden, cutting your hair, and finding true love. Not too surprisingly, in the right hands, those are the kinds of topics from which you can riff a pretty good book if you are a very good writer. Perry is up to the task.
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Sunday, August 12, 2007

History of Wound Management

Example

A review of the history of veterinary wound management

  • In 1378, Gaston Phoebus, in his Le Livre de Chasse, devoted two chapters to the care of hounds. Wounds were not sutured and only bite wounds were treated. These were covered with raw wool drenched in olive oil, the dressings changed every day for three days. The wound was then left open to the fresh air and the healing effect of the dog's tongue. This would have been a reasonably effective treatment as lanolin (present in raw wool) and oil have an emollient as well as a light anaesthetic and antiseptic effect.

  • In 1605, Leonard Mascall in his First Booke of Cattell, under the heading of 'Impostumes in beastes to helpe', advised to 'open the place with an yron, and when it is cut, then shall yet crush forth all the ill humour and matter therein'. This is one of the very first mentions of cauterization. Mascall next suggested washing the wound with warm wine to cleanse it and using a mixture of 'Cherpi, tarre and oyle Olive' to 'close the sore therwith'.

  • In 1763, John Reeves advised suturing deep wounds, and suggested that waxed thread was better than silk because it rotted more easily and was not as prone to cutting. He believed that one stitch was sufficient for wounds of two or three inches, but where more were required they should be an inch apart.

  • In 1766, Osmer wrote of the the need to drain infected wounds : "In all wounds, where matter lies lower than the orifice of the wound, and cannot flow out, it produces fistulous cavities in the parts ... Now it is always necessary to go to the bottom of such (where the parts will admit of incision) otherwise no cure can be expected."

  • In 1769 J. de Saunier, riding-master and director of the Academy at Leyden, recommended dosing wounds with wine, a primitve kind of disinfectant, which he promoted as "Water proper for all Sorts of Wounds."

  • In 1803, Delabere Blaine was an advocate of suturing, but he believed that "when a wound is much torn, or bruised, stitches are better avoided".

  • In 1817, Francis Clater recommended cleaning wounds with "Tincture of Benzoin" -- the first modern antiseptic.

  • In 1830, William Youatt favoured the application of "lunar caustic" (silver nitrate) to wounds. Silver nitrate is still used on wounds, and is the standard solution to reduce infections after burns.

  • In 1865s, Joseph Lister suggested the germ concept of infection and suggested the use of carbolic acid (phenol, a type of coal-tar derivative), as an antiseptic agent. This worked so well that infection largely disappeared in Lister's operating theatre.

  • In 1904, Mayhew's Illustrated Horse Doctor recommends treating lacerated wounds with a mixture of cantharides, chloride of zinc and water. It is about this time that the use of saline washes first appears in literature as pehaps beneficial to wound management.

  • In 1911, the US Department of Agriculture's Special Report on Diseases of the Horse (1911) lists new wound antiseptics such as bichloride of mercury, carbolic acid, aluminium acetate, borasic acid, creolin, Lysol, iodoform and tannic acid.

  • With the introduction of sulphonamides and then penicillin in the 1930s and 1940s, great advances in wound treatment became possible. In recent years new classes of antibiotics have become available and can be had without prescription from most "vet and pet" supply catalogues -- "Fish-Flex" is cephelaxin, Fish-Mox is Amoxycillin, etc.


Did the old cures work? As The Journal of Veterinary History notes: "Despite the array of unpleasant compounds used in treatment, wound healing generally appears to have been successful. This was probably because the body's natural response to a wound is to heal it in spite of any 'veterinary' intervention." In short, the animal got better despite veterinary attention, not because of it.

We have better veterinary care today, but the determinant elements with most simple flesh wounds are still time and antibiotics. For more on antibiotics see the www.terrierman.com web site.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Please Don't Feed the Rooster-tailed Smarmy

Reid F. sent a link to an article in the Los Angeles Times in which a columnist penned a piece entitled "I Hate Dogs" in which he basically says that because other sports figures have done worse things, we should look the other way as regards Michael Vick and dog fighting.

This is a "two wrongs make a right" kind of argument. Variations on the theme include such bright discourse as: We should ignore heroin and cocaine because alcohol is worse; we should ignore terrorism because look what we did to the Indians, and we should ignore population growth because look at consumption.

Or at least that's the direction I thought the piece was going to take. Then I read the piece more closely, and realized that in fact this was not writing. This was typing.

A writer generally has something to say. This person has nothing to say about the issue at hand; he is simply spouting nonsense for effect and to achieve a reaction and because he thought he was a laugh-riot.

Or at least his mom told him so.

This is the spoor by which you can track a new animal
that has appeared on the American political scene: the young Rooster-tailed Smarmy. They come in male and female form, and can be found in both political parties and appear in a variety of media. They can best be described as "monkey writers" who have very little to say, but can throw feces at a fan and admire the splat on the wall.

These are the folks like Anne Coulter and Michelle Malkin who simply write or talk for reaction. Anyone can do this. All you have to do is pick a topic likely to piss people off and get them OUTRAGED. Try to make sure the sentences have a subject and a verb. And then say it as smirky and snarky as possible. You do not need to know anything or even make sense. After all, you are not in the serious business of trying to pass on information, make public policy, or do good. You are not a carpenter trying to build a barn door, you are the jackass trying to kick one down.

Here's a list of possible "starter topics":




  1. We should let AIDS patients die and kill off all the old and sick people in nursing homes because giving health care to the young and healthy is a far better use of public resources. People have a "duty to die."


  2. We should sell the dogs killed in U.S. shelters to Asian countries, thereby turning a problem into a profit.


  3. We should send nuclear and chemical waste to Burkina Faso, since those people will probably be dead from dysentery before they are dead from radiation and cancer.


  4. We need to put all the Muslims in the U.S. in barbed wire camps, just like we did the Japanese, and for the very same reason.


  5. Catholicism is a stupid religion because it quietly condones pedophilia and openly condones cannibalism.


  6. There is no difference between eating a chicken and eating a child.


  7. The best way to reduce gun violence on college campuses is to encourage kids and teachers to openly carry semi-automatic pistols on campus.


  8. Drunk driving laws are nothing more than nanny-state stupidity, and should be repealed.


  9. Arresting the head of the ACLU in Virginia for buying and trading videos showing the violent rape of little girls is a violation of this man's First Amendment rights.


  10. Who carries how many American soldiers die overseas? These kids signed up for military service voluntarily, and if they are too stupid to stay out of the military and away from a bullet or bomb, then Darwin says they should stay out of the gene pool as well.

Any of these piss you off? Did one or two make you laugh or shock you? Was there one you almost agreed with?

Well there you go! You see, then, why they are good little topic starters.

And it hardly matters whether you are joking or not, whether you can develop the idea, or whether it makes sense. No research is needed to write these pieces; just start typing and keep your eye on the prize.

Remember, you really don't care about the issue. You really have nothing substantive to say. You are not even a liar. You are a bullshit artist flinging poo against the wall in order to admire the pattern. You are like a troll on the Internet, but instead you are a troll on the op-ed page.

A liar actually cares what the truth is, if for no other reason than to stay away from it.

A bullshit artist -- a feces flinger of the Rooster-tailed Smarmy variety, does not care either way. The goal is not to move a policy position, it is to incite and provoke. It is to say: "Look at me. Treat my typing as an equal or deserving of more time than the intelligent and carefully fenced policy positions put out by people that have actually done the research. "

And then, if the cross-fire is too withering, you say, "Hey, I was just joking" or that wonderful all-purpose catch-basin: "It was not really serious; just a piece designed to make you think."

Right.

The Rooster-tailed Smarmy struts like a game cock, but in fact, he or she is mosty closely aligned with another species commonly found in the political forest: the Pander-bear.

While a serious public policy ponderer will be looking to find common ground in order to build a consensus in order to take action to solve a problem, the panderer is looking for cheap laughs and quick applause from one side or the other.

At its heart, the Pander-bear is simply a show-off. They may be a smart person, but they have allowed their smartness to devolve into mere cleverness.

And so they pick a side and play the fool for it, thereby forcing greater division and making public policy consensus more difficult.

It is fashionable to belabor the poor quality of political discourse in this nation and to bemoan the lack of political action. But if you insist on feeding Pander-bears and Rooster-tailed Smarmies, you are likely to get a lot more of them.

Remember that point as we head into the election season.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Why Am I Not Hunting?

Why am I not hunting right now? Simple: Because I am crazy, not stupid.

I have rules, and one of those rules is that I do not dig on the dogs when it is over 90 degrees out. It hit 104 the other day, and was 92 at 10 oclock at night.

And no, it's not a dry heat. It's like being inside the lungs of a dragon, but with a great deal less romanticism than that image implies.

Booking It

For the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love I read The Electric Koolaid Acid Test. A bummer; there are much better books. Still, I think Stewart Brand is a small God, and that Wavy Gravy is a very good ice cream, and that Cherry Garcia is the best damn ice cream in the world. For the record, Jerry Greenfield (of Ben & Jerry's) went to Oberlin College (me too). Owsley Stanley attended my high school (Unlike Owsley, I actually graduated from there). Mountain Girl is the name of my dog. Pearl is named after Janis. 'Nuff said.

Better books recently finished: Two by Annie Proulx (Close Range and Bad Dirt) and Norman Mcleans' A River Runs Through It. All very good, and highly recommended. Proulx is an inspiration and a find. Yes, I realize I am late to this fair.

Better books recently started and liking very much: Truck, a Love Story by Michael Perry. Another of his books: Population 485 is next. Perry is a smoking writer, and funny-smart. Another good find.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Dog Fight: Rights vs. Responsibilities



Prairie Mary writes in her blog:


"When it comes to domestic pets, a terrible thing has happened which I should have foreseen and which has unforeseeable consequences itself. The extreme end of the humane movement has been matched by the development of growing organization at the other extreme which has no name yet but an equally militant and intransigent nature. Similar to the gun-owner’s lobby and often overlapping, these people defend their right to own large, possibly aggressive, unregistered and intact dogs. . . ."

". . . . The worst part of this present polarization is that both ends of the spectrum increasingly take out their feelings in hatred of the government, humane folks feeling that they are not doing enough and dog-defenders feeling that they are doing far too much. If there’s anything we don’t need now, it’s further erosion of our civic trust and integrity. In fact, our only hope of resolving this development is through governmental and non-governmental democratic consideration and action, sometimes called “animal control.” But both ends of the spectrum habitually attack animal control."



Bingo! Read the whole post. She is (sadly) right.

I have posted on the need to deal with dangerous dogs and the millions of strays that are euthanized every year, and I have proposed a few ideas that would, I think, take the steam out of the "Breed Ban" and "Mandatory Spay and Neuter" debates.

I have gone on to ask if anyone else has better ideas or suggestions? Not much response to that question, but quite a lot of heat from some regarding the idea that we should do anything at all. No problems here -- full steam ahead!

Now I for one, think there are a LOT of major problems in the world, and that too many dogs being euthanized and too many serious dog bites makes the short list on the importance scale. That said, this is my dog blog and not my public policy blog. And within the world of dogs, I think that scores of thousands of Americans being mauled every year, and millions of perfectly good dogs are being killed ever year, counts as a real problem. But maybe that's just me.

Fundamentally,the dog debate is a collision between rights and responsibilities.

The dog-owning community screams that they have RIGHTS. And YES, they do.

But do they have responsibilities as well?

Well sure, but . . . well . . . we don't need to articulate those too well right now, do we? After all, weren't we talking about RIGHTS?

This kind of dance occurs in a lot of debates, and folks on both the Far Right and the Far Left are equally guilty.

People claim (sometime simultaneously) that they have a right to guns, and a right to be free from gun violence.

People claim they have a right to shoot heroin, and a right to free drug treatment.

People claim they have a right to smoke, and a right to be free of cigarette smoke.

And now these same "rights rhetoric" people have come to the issue of dogs.

What an odd thing this nation is! It took 169 years -- from Jamestown to Philadelphia -- to develop America's greatest product, the Bill of Rights, but it seems that today Americans are discovering a new set of rights every 15 minutes.

We have grandparents rights, computer rights, and animal rights. We have the right to know the sex of a fetus, the right to own AK-47s, the right not to be tested for AIDS, the right to die, and (if we are a damaged fetus) the "right not to be born."

Airline pilots have a right not to be tested randomly for alcohol or drugs. Mentally ill persons have the right to treatment, and when they are dumped on the streets, they have the right to no treatment and, therefore, the right to die unhelped in alleys.

What too few people seem to be asking is whether a society as crowded and diverse as ours can work if every personal desire is elevated to the status of an inflexible, unyielding right?

Can America work if our defense of individual rights is unmatched by our commitment to individual and social responsibility?

And if we give a small nod to that idea, what does it really mean? How do we encourage, enable and, if need be, force the shouldering of personal responsibility?

Of course, good people will come up with different answers. Right now one side denies there is a problem. The other side, perhaps too easily, marches in with authoritarian answers like Breed Bans and Mandatory Spay-Neuter laws.

But is there a Third Way? Can we encourage responsibility and/or mandate it?

Dogs live a long time -- 15 years is common. How big a deal is it to require that every dog owner take a Canine Safety and Responsibility course, once in their life, as a condition of owning a dog?

We require a once-per-lifetime hunter safety course for a hunting license, and we require an up-to-date driver's license to drive a car.

Swimming pool owners are required to fence their yards in order to own a pool, and falconers are required to take an intensive and extensive apprenticeship program in order to own and fly a bird.

I will let others hash out who teaches the course and what is in it. A few quick answers off the top of my head . . .


  • No, the course is not for the dog, but for the owner.

  • The course might involve three hours of classroom instruction and a multiple-guess test at the end. A small booklet about dog training, feeding and health would be the "take away."

  • Folks who already own a registered and/or licensed dog would probably be "grand-fathered" in.

  • The course would stress the need for socialization, training and proper communication.

In short, this course is not a big deal in terms of time and money.

That said, it's a hell of a lot better than doing nothing, which is what we are doing now.

How many folks would rethink dog ownership if they were told what fencing their property would cost, how much fixing a dysplastic hip might cost, and how few landlords are OK with dog ownership?

As a result, how many fewer dogs would end up in shelters?

Would a Canine Safety and Responsibility course solve every dog problem in the world?

Of course not. The goal is progress, not perfection.

But if progress is going to occur, it will require more responsibility injected into the ownership equation.

Responsibility remains the "R-word" no one wants to talk about.

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