Monday, November 30, 2009

What I Do Not Want for Christmas



I do not want this book for Christmas.

Heartworm In Winter?



If your veterinarian has your dog on year-round heartworm medication, and you live in a state where the birds actually fly south for the winter, you might want to consider changing vets or at least not following his or her advice on this matter.

Here's why: heartworm can only be transmitted to a dog if the heartworm nematode has completed the first part of its lifecycle inside the body of a mosquito. The first part of that lifecycle can only be completed if the temperature stays above 57 degrees for at least 45 days straight, both day and night.

To read more, see "The Billion Dollar Heartworm Scam " and "Year Round Dosing for Big Veterinary Profits."
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Terriers for American Boys and American Girls


July 1921



September 1929
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

AKC Announces It Will Ruin Three More Breeds


This purina ad from the 1960s is targetted at raccoon hunters.

The American Kennel Club has formally announced that it intends to ruin three more breeds of working dogs -- the Redbone Coonhound, the Bluetick Coonhound, and the Boykin Spaniel.

All three dogs will be eligible for AKC conformation shows beginning Dec. 30th. 

  • The Redbone Coonhound, named after 19th Century raccoon hunter and hound breeder Peter Redbone of Tennessee, has existed in fine fettle and without help from the AKC since the mid-19th Century, and has been registered with the United Kennel Club for more than 100 years.   Its rootstock is English Foxhound crossed with Bloodhound.

  • The Bluetick Coonhound, named after its coat color and pattern, was devloped in Louisiana and has existed in fine fettle and without help from the AKC since the early 20th Century.  It has been registered by the United Kennel Club for more than 60 years.  Its rootstock is mostly English Foxhound mixed with Bleu de Gascogne Hound from southwest Franc, Black and Tan Foxhound, and various strains of Louisiana Cur (aka Catahoula Leopard Dog).

  • The Bokykin Spaniel was created by L. Whitaker Boykin in South Carolina around 1900, from a mixture of old-style field Cocker Spaniels, Field Spaniel, Water Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever and Springer Spaniel.  The dog is mostly used as a turkey-hunting dog, and is South Carolina's official state dog.  The Boykin Spaniel has always had a very small gene pool, and as a consequence the dog is plagued with serious health problems, including a very high incidence of hip dysplasia (over 1/3 of all dogs).   Why anyone would want to pull a breed of terminally ill dogs into a closed registry system is beyond me, but the AKC has done it before (and recently) with the Dogue de Bordeaux

Why is the AKC so eager to bring new breeds into their registry? 

Simple:  Their business plan is in free fall and they are desperate to boost numbers.

AKC registrations have fallen 55% over the course of the last 15 years

The AKC's main push, as I have noted before, is to enroll more puppy mill and pet shop dogs, and they have gone so far as to install a special computer program so that more puppy mill dogs can be registered at pet store point of sales.

Their second battle front, however, is to add new breeds to the AKC's roles, especially breeds that already have a devoted  following, such as Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers and various types of Coon Hounds. 

Of course, devotees of true working dogs have pushed back on the AKC, and for a simple reason:  The American Kennel Club has never created a working breed of dog, but they have ruined every working breed they have drawn on to their roles.   

Public Floggings for Anyone Cruel to Animals!


The great Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA.

In late November of 1880,  a meeting was called at Cooper Union in New York City, with a panel of church leaders to explain that the criminal element were "depraved because they were deprived", and if only people would come to the aid of prisoners, things might get turned around.

Only there was one little problem.

It seems that all the folks who were invited to speak failed to appear. The result was a small audience, but no speaker.

What to do?

Well, after chewing up a little time rehashing the principles of the Gilbert Library Prisoners' Aid Society, the host flapped around for something else to say, when who should he spy in the audience but none other than Henry Bergh -- the great protector of animals who had started the SPCA in America, and who had spent 14 years denouncing the flogging of horses and all cruelty to animals.

Surely this Great Man would have something intelligent and extemporaneous to say about the abuse of men in the prison system?

And so that is how it came about that Henry Bergh was roped on to the stage at Coopers Union to speak about Capital Punishment.

Only one problem: Henry Bergh was all for it!

In fact, as The New York Times makes clear, he thought there should be whipping posts for people on every block, and that only a fool would spare the lash.

Hang people? He was all for it, and he would even supply the rope!

And here's the best part -- the audience, which had ostensibly come to hear a talk about how to give aid to prisoners, actually clapped and cheered his conclusions!

Oh dear!

You can read all about it right here (PDF format of the NYT of December 1, 1880.)

WHAT? How could a man denounce cruelty to animals but at the same time be in favor of a return to public flogging of humans?

Isn't cruelty to humans a type of cruelty to animals?

Well, yes and no.

You see, for Bergh and many other Animal Rights advocates, the cause was never so much about animals as it was about looking down their nose at poor people who had rough manners and a rough way of doing business.

Bergh, you see was a high hat, and very much on the cutting edge of the class wars of the Victorian-era.

In Bergh's mind, the wrong class of people abused animals, and the right class of people did not.

This social perspective came straight out of England, where Bergh lifted his idea of creating an American Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals.

As I note in American Working Terriers, not only did this distinction make sense to sniffing social reformers like Bergh, but it also made sense for fundraising, and meshed well with the social climbers and status-seekers attracted to early Kennel Club dog shows.

At the same time that dog shows were roaring into fashion in Victorian England, another movement was beginning to take hold. This movement began with a push to improve the plight of farm stock and cart horses, but was quickly overtaken by those eager to push past the concerns of basic animal welfare in order to strike a blow at the less educated masses coming into cities and towns.

From the beginning, the animal rights movement blurred the line between animal welfare and class warfare. Sensible concerns about the plight of animals kept by the poor were mixed with disdain for the rural poor themselves.

As the Chairman of the SPCA noted in 1824, the objective of the Society was not only “to prevent the exercise of cruelty towards animals, but to spread amongst the lower orders of the people ... a degree of moral feeling which would compel them to think and act like those of a superior class.”

The first animal welfare law in Great Britain was passed in 1822 and was designed to “prevent the cruel and improper treatment of Cattle.” This law — the Martins Act — was interpreted broadly to include all farm animals, but not bulls or pets.

In 1824 the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) had its first meeting in a London tavern, with the goal of expanding the 1822 Act to encompass nonfarm animals such as racing and hunting horses, draft horses, and cart dogs. The Society also sought to end dog fighting and the fighting of exotic animals such as monkeys.

Despite having a focused agenda, the Society failed to move legislation for the first 10 years of its existence. In 1835, however, they managed to get a ban on bull baiting, badger baiting and cock fighting through Parliament. The same law also outlawed the rat pits.

In 1839 dog carts were banned in London — a major blow to the economic livelihood of small street vendors.

In 1840, Queen Victoria — a fanatical dog collector — associated herself with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and allowed Royal to be attached to its name. The Royal imprint attracted social and political cache to the SPCA, and strengthened its funding base as well.

From the beginning, the SPCA chose its political battles carefully, going after the sport, entertainment and livelihood of those with little political power. The SPCA (now RSPCA) was careful not to go after the field sports of the wealthy and middle class. Coursing deer, hare and rabbit was given a pass. It was not seen as the least bit ironic for an RSPCA supporter to be seen fox hunting. Angling and bird shooting did not raise an eyebrow. The goal, after all, was not to save wildlife or end hunting per se, but to change the base morality of the poor who were “undisciplined” and of “low breeding”.

A moral and disciplined child might hunt animals, but he did not bait them.

A rich man might spur a horse or whip it with a riding crop, but he did not hit a dust cart horse with a stick.

A quality person might own a dog, but it would not be a crossbred mongrel, but an animal with an established pedigree.

And so it went.

At the top of the RSPCA this kind of highbrow reasoning was focused on the bottom line. The RSPCA needed the support of wealthy patrons to underwrite their literature and campaigns. Only a fool would bite the sporting hand that fed it.

Organizers at the RSPCA were quick to realize that the people who attended dog shows had good educations, nice clothes and steady incomes. These were “the right sort of people” who not only cared about animals, but also understood the importance of social rank, moral discipline and Old Money.

In fact, the dog show world attracted the very kind of social climbers that the RSPCA encouraged — people who were trying to emulate the aristocracy. When people attended dog shows, they wore their finest clothes and talked about the value of Good Breeding. Could anything be more perfect?

Dog show attendees and RSPCA supporters often seemed more focused on the plight of turnspit dogs and cart horses than on the plight of scullery workers and drovers’ children. One was a defenseless animal, after all, the other the progeny of illiteracy and an implied moral weakness.

Show ring terrier owners might brag that their dog or breed was descended from “certified fox killers,” but in fact they did not really understand or feel comfortable around shepherds or the rough men who did pest control in the countryside.

This kind of social stratification was a natural element of the aristocracy and the rapidly growing middle class. Gamekeepers and terriermen were required, of course, but they were not the sort of people you had over for dinner, were they?

In the end, the goals of the Kennel Club and the RSPCA were essentially the same — to improve rough stock by setting new standards. For one, the rough stock included dogs. For both, it included men.

Why Not Name New Breeds After Odd Towns?



Can you name all the dog breeds that are named after places? Make a list and add them in to the comments. 

In the interim, here are some real places to look up on a Google Maps:

  1. Intercourse, Pennsylvania
  2. Middelfart, Denmark
  3. Lizard Lick, North Carolina
  4. Dogswamp, Western Australia
  5. Flushing, New York
  6. Bald Knob, Arkansas
  7. Cockburn, Western Australia
  8. Dead Horse, Alaska
  9. Dogtown, Massachusetts
  10. HooHoo, Virginia
  11. Dildo, Newfoundland
  12. Hellhole, Idaho
  13. Crapo, Maryland
  14. Horneytown, North Carolina
  15. Hell, Michigan
  16. Crapstone, Devon, England
  17. Hicksville, New York
  18. Dismal, Tennessee
  19. Boring, Oregon
  20. Swastika, Ontario
  21. French Lick, Indiana
  22. Cockup, Cumbria, England
  23. Toad Suck, Arkansas
  24. Climax, Missouri
  25. Disappointment, Kentucky
  26. Fleatown, Ohio
  27. Shitterton, Dorset, England
  28. Boogertown, North Carolina
  29. Twatt, Orkney, Shetland Islands, Scotland
  30. Hardup, Utah
  31. Gross, Nebraska
  32. Fucking, Austria
  33. Spread Eagle, Wisconsin
  34. Big Bone Lick, Kentucky
  35. Looneyville, Texas
  36. Titty Hill, Sussex, England
  37. Idiotville, Idaho
  38. Hookersville, West Virginia
  39. Slickpoo, Idaho
  40. Ratsville, Ohio
  41. Wetwang, Yorkshire, England
  42. Blue Ball, Pennsylvania
  43. Goosepimple Junction, Virginia
  44. Downer, Minnesota
  45. Penistone, South Yorkshire, England
  46. Big Ugly, West Virginia
  47. Bastard, Ontario
  48. Peculiar, Missouri
  49. Frog Suck, Wyoming
  50. Loveladies, New Jersey
  51. Slaughter, Texas
  52. Nut Crackers, Devon, England
  53. Monkey's Eyebrow, Kentucky
  54. Mosquitoville, VT
  55. Hot Coffee, Mississippi
Now, let's combine the two lists by naming new breeds of dogs after these very real, if oddly-named locations! 

How about the Penistone Terrier?  The Bald Knob Retriever?  The Titty Hill Spaniel?  The Climax Pointer? 

Various lap dogs could be called the "Downer," "Disappointment" "Boring" and, of course, "Crapo". 

And then, of course, there would be the Fucking Dog, the Toad Suck Cur, the Crapstone Lurcher, and the Slaughter Hound.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Continuing Crisis: Drunken Killer Moose Frames Husband

Drunken Moose, Claiming to be an Elk, Kills Woman and Frames Husband

How Many Terriers Can You Count In this Picture?




This is the S. Kann Sons & Co. Department store on Eighth and D streets at Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., about 1919.

How many "Nipper" RCA logos can you count?  The big version of this picture can be found here.

Want to know more about Nipper?  The full story is here.
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Do These Cigarettes Taste Fishy to You?

An advertising poster, created before 1900, for Allen & Ginter, manufacturers of cigarettes:

"Allen & Ginter, Richmond, Virginia. 50 fish from American waters. You will catch one in each package of Virginia Brights. Richmond Straight Cut No.1 Cigarettes."

More cool old posters to be found here: WPA posters, travel posters, posters from WWI and WWII, fruit crate art, illustrations, etc.

American Coursing 100 Years Ago in Nebraska










A repost from this blog circa June 2005
These are pictures of coursing dogs taken in Kearney, Nebraska around 1908 -- a very different world in some aspects, but very much the same in others.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Only Thing We Have


You are here. You will never be anywhere else. Don't mess it up.

Do we gain perspective, or lose perspective, when we look at the world from a great distance?


We Are Here: The Pale Blue Dot.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Coffee and Provocation




The Dog Show Game:
In the past, people have been able to buy dogs that they did not breed or work themselves, and then pay professional "handlers" to drive these same dogs around the country to compete for ribbons at dog shows.  This is called a "sport."  Now comes the good news:  the "sport" of dog showing has gone the next logical step -- doing away with all those pesky dogs altogether.  At The Show Dog Game you will find "an online game that gives you the chance to manage a kennel of show dogs."  You can choose from any of 180 different breeds and "watch and manage them as they grow from a puppy to a national champion."  You can enter your dogs in all-breed shows, specialty shows, or both, choose the judge you want to compete under, use a handler to show your dog, or show your dog yourself.  As the web site notes, "How well your kennel performs is up to you and the decisions you make." 

South African Hunting Dog Web Site:
Jonathan in South Africa, has produced a nice new web site on Hunting Dogs in Southern Africa.   Check it out! 

Bodio on Darwin's Pigeons:
Steve Bodio has a piece up on the Cornell Lab's Ornithology site about "Darwin's Other Birds", i.e. pigeons.  Check it out. 

Darwin's Dogs:
Much of the real work behind The Origin of Species was actually done at dog, chicken, cattle and pigeon shows, and the information gleaned here was used, by analogy, to make sense of what Darwin had seen on his travels on The Beagle.  For more on all this, see Darwin's Dogs:  How Darwin's Pets Helped Form a World-Changing Theory of Evolution

Monkeying Around With Outside Genes:
It seems that when Mandrils (a type of ape) mate, they have the good sense to seek out genetic diversity.  Opposites really do attract!

Bison and Viral Immuno-Contaception:
There are very few things that worry me, but one of them is viral immuno-contraception, which is what they are now using to control the non-native Bison on Catalina Island.   Bison are not native to Catalina, and only got there due to the movie industry.  They are now breeding like rats and destroying the native plants and landscape.  Moving excess Bison off the island cost $100,000 a year, and is not what is needed.  What is needed are sharp-shooters to clean the herd out once and for all.  Why am I worried about viral immuno-conctraception?  Simple:  We really have no idea where we are going with this stuff, as I explain here.  When you start bio-engineering microbes in order to make animals infertile, it does not take too much imagination to see how this could very easily lead to "the end of the game."

Tales of a Bobolink:
A Bobolink tagged by Dr. Rosalind Renfrew in Bolivia, was rediscovered in Vermont
just 12 miles from her home -- in the mouth of a cat.  The three-year old bird had  logged at least 35,000 miles migrating between South America and North America before succumbing to feline predation.

Fish at Flood:
What happens to fish during floods?  A heck of a lot of them die

The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception:
Once thought lost, it has been refound, and is now available on Amazon, just in time for Christmas.


Camera Trap at an American Badger Sette:
Camera Trap Codger has set up a camera at an American Badger hole, and so far he has filmed a knock-down fight and death that comes from the air.  
James Marchington has set up his own game camera and take a few pics of the local fox.  Excellent all around!

Birds of Prey Mostly Squeeze to Kill Their Small Prey:
How do birds of prey kill with their talons?  Mostly, it turns out, but by strangulation and asphyxiation. 

A Turkey Made To Do the Job



It's my job, this Thanksgiving, to cook the turkey and to do the gravy, and I have been studying up for the task.

My bird is 22.5 pounds, is not frozen, and will be basted, and foil-hatted beginning very early Thursday morning. At a temperature of 325 degrees, it should take about 5 hours to cook the bird.

Since my mother has expressed some concern about my gravy-making abilities, I have carefully culled through the literature to learn a few tricks, and I have purchased a can of cream of chicken soup, two packages of turkey wings, and a small box of instant mashed potatoes as my "secret weapons" for success. We shall see if it is enough to overcome my natural culinary incompetence.

The modern Turkey was bred to be eaten -- it has no wild equivalent. To call it Meleagris gallopavo is an insult to the wild bird, which is both cunning and adaptive, and which can actually fly a bit.

The modern farm-bred bird, the so-called "Broad Breasted White," is a bio-engineered animal with an enormous body and breast, and it can barely waddle. 

In fact, my bird is to large that had it not met its timely end to serve my needs, it probably would have died on its own within a month or two due to the strain on its heart.    This is not a bird bred for health or longevity; it is a bird bred to die young, with a lot of meat on its bones.

Like most turkeys, my bird was almost certainly a product of artificial insemination due to the fact that farm turkeys, like English Bulldogs, are too big to reliably mate on their own. 

Yes, this is a real job; grabbing big Tom turkeys, flipping them over, and stroking their cloaca until a bite of semen is extruded and then aspirated up a vacuum straw afixed to the finger of the worker.  The reverse, of course, is done for female turkeys whose fertile eggs are then wisked off to waiting incubators.  A single insemination is good for a month of fertile eggs,

My bird was probably beak-trimmed within a day of its incubator hatching, and from birth to death it had a steady supply of good grain and clean water.   This is a turkey that never saw cold, flood, fox, coyote, raccoon, or bobcat. It never saw a parasite or a disease.  My turkey is a bird with a health plan, even if that health plan does come with a "death panel" at the end of its life.

The animal rights folks will tell you that farm-bred turkeys have a miserable life, but I am not sure I agree. Sure, they may have their beaks trimmed, but so do a lot of folks in Hollywood.  Funny how it's OK for humans to have nose jobs and tummy tucks, breast implants and face lifts, pierced nipples and tribal-art tattoos, but its a horror to trim a beak on a chicken or dock a tail on a dog. 

Of course, some folks will say my Turkey lived an "unnatural life" in a massive shed crowded with other Turkeys. Right. But what is a "natural" life for a turkey that is already so far removed from nature? Why am I supposed to feel bad that this bird, and all its incubator brethren, lived to a large size in a secure shed rather than died at the age of one or two-weeks, drowned by flood, or predated on by fox or hawk?  

My bird was born and raised at Plainville Farms in Pennsylvania and was raised on a pure vegetarian diet and without antibiotics. At a weight of 22.5 pounds at the end of its life,it had four or five square feet of room to move about in. No, that's not much. On the other hand, if people delivered me all the ice cream and steak I wanted, I might not venture too far from the couch myself.

To be clear, a turkey farm is not supposed to be Disney World; it's supposed to produce a fat and healthy bird as quickly as possible, and with a minimum of fuss and expense.  

My bird was bred for a purpose, and that purpose is in the oven right now.

There is a lot of talk these days about "Heritage Turkeys."  

A "Heritage Turkey" is nothing but a marketing scam.   This is failed farm stock being raised in a failed farm system, and the price you pay for maintaining this failure is somewhere between $7 and $10 a pound. 

I am not opposed to folks buying Heritage Turkey -- it's still a free country.  But let's be clear that what is being bought here is not meat; it's philosophy.  It's romance.  And in the end, what you get is a dead turkey, and a higher price, and a bird that, by most accounts, is not as tasty as a modern Broad Breasted White.   Is there a win in any of that?  If so, I cannot see it.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pest Management Advice from Planet of the Apes


"Dr. Zira, I must caution you. Experimental brain surgery on these creatures is one thing, and I'm all in favor of it. But to suggest that we can learn anything about the simian nature from a study of man is sheer nonsense. Man is a menace, a walking pestilence. He eats up his food supply in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better. It's a question of simian survival."
. . . - Dr. Zaius, Planet of the Apes

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting Medieval on Them

Terriermen and women have always been an uncommon lot, but at least we have a little bit of history!

The pictures below are from
Count Jacques du Fouilloux's 1560 book entitled La Vernarie (The Art of Hunting), the cover of which is pictured to the left.


This book was ripped off by George Turberville who translated the book and put it out as his own.

Turberville, however, called Fouilloux's dogs "terriers" rather than "bassets". Fouilloux's "bassets" were probably early dachshunds, as terriers were net yet common on the Continent.


Lies about the size of working dogs have always been with us.



Ancient Post Hole Diggers


Want to learn a little more and see more terrier tools from 1560? >> Just click here.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Dog Disorders Related to Breed Standards


T-Shirt Available - Perfect for Crufts and Westminster.

The George Fleming Prize winner for 2009 has been announced, just in time for tomorrow's 150th Anniversary of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. The Fleming prize, which commemorates the founder of The Veterinary Journal, is awarded for the paper of the greatest merit published in the Journal during the previous year.

The winners for 2009 are Lucy Asher, Gillian Diesel, Jennifer F. Summers, Paul D. McGreevy and Lisa M. Collins of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, University of London for their article entitled 'Inherited Defects in Pedigree Dogs. Part 1: Disorders Related to Breed Standards' (VJ, August 2009).

A few excerpts from the paper:

The issue of pedigree dog breeding and its consequences for welfare has recently been brought to the attention of the general public. The main sources of inherited defects are (i) deleterious inherited recessive traits expressed as a consequence of closed stud books and inbreeding practices; and (ii) dog breeders aiming to meet the breed standards for multiple aspects of physical conformation.

We carried out a review of inherited defects in the 50 most popular breeds of dog in the UK, according to Kennel Club registrations .... Every one of the 50 most popular pedigree breeds of dog in the UK were found to have at least one aspect of their physical conformation which predisposes them to a heritable defect. Conformation characteristics such as short heads, short legs, excessive facial skin folds, pendulous ears, long backs and curly tails are likely to predispose, or are genetically linked in presenting breeds, to a range of physical problems such as occipital dysplasia, malocclusion of the jaws, hip dysplasia, eye ulceration, chronic otitis, intervertebral disc disease, and spina bifida, respectively.

In many cases, there is an overlap or interaction between conformation and inherited diseases. For example, the spot colouration specified in the breed standards for Dalmatians has a genetic link with deafness. Certain defects were found to cluster by breed type – e.g. the tendency to develop patellar luxation is particularly common in the Terrier and Toy dog breeds, and the potentially fatal condition of gastric torsion is common to the working dog breeds such as Rottweiler, Dogue de Bordeaux, Doberman and Great Dane. . . .

. . . . This report has shown that every one of the 50 most popular pedigree breeds of dog in the UK were found to have at least one aspect of their physical conformation predisposing it to a heritable defect. Conformational features form a large proportion of these problems. From musculoskeletal diseases, such as hip and elbow dysplasia to brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome, eyelid defects, excessive skin folds and predisposition to gastric dilatation-volvulus in barrel-chested breeds, these defects affect all body systems across a variety of breeds. The association of some of these conditions with official breed standards and the high maintenance implications of some breed features (such as a prolific coat or pendulous ears) makes conformational extremes an important area for consideration when discussing the problems of the purebred dog breeding industry. Also highlighted by this report are the diverse and often severe genetic conditions suffered by dogs of these 50 popular breeds. Inbreeding, population bottlenecks, the use of strictly closed stud-books and breeding towards features genetically linked to deleterious conditions (such as the link between spot size and deafness in Dalmatians) have all contributed to the current situation. . . .

Summary: There are 209 different breeds of pedigree dogs recognised by the UK Kennel Club. In this report, we focused on the top 50 most popular breeds, according to the number of KC registrations in 2007. For these breeds, we found a total of 322 inherited disorders. Of these, 84 were either directly or indirectly associated with conformation.
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Mis-Read Title: Thought It Was "Origin of Feces"



A first edition of Charles Darwin's classic text, "On the Origin of Species," was recently found in a bathroom in a guest house near Oxford, England, where it had been sitting for decades, unnoticed.

Only 1,250 first editions were produced, and this one is to be sold on the 150th Anniversary of its production, on Tuesday (tomorrow) for a sum expected to top $100,000.
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Darwin Walks His Dog and Learns a Lot


Tomorrow is the 150th Anniversary of The Origin of Species.

"Is everything connected to terriers?"
a friend of mine once asked me.

"No," I replied. "Everything is connected to everything."

And so it is. Take Charles Darwin, and his treatise on earth worms.

To begin with, young Charles Darwin was a youth of the right sort. He spent so much time with his dog that his father did not think he would ever amount to much. "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and your family," his father lectured.

Which was nearly true.

Darwin entered college planning to be a clergyman (an occupation that promised to leave leave a lot time for chasing butterflies), but there was the little matter of God.

It was not that Darwin did not believe, exactly. It was just that there was not much evidence that God -- as pushed and interpreted by the Church -- actually existed.

And so when young Darwin got a chance to go on a round-the-world cruise as a young unpaid naturalist, he snapped up the opportunity. Ironically, Darwin's five-year voyage was on a ship called the HMS Beagle.

Though Darwin made a great deal of observations on the trip, he did not come up with his theory of evolution while on board ship. That came many years later, and only after observing the rapid transformation of domestic livestock -- including dogs -- that was occurring thanks to the rise of the Enclosure Movement, and the advent of controlled sire selection as practiced by Robert Bakewell and others.

It is worth noting that Darwin (1809-1882) lived during the period when terriers were being "speciated" into breeds, and was a contemporary of the Reverend John Russell, creator of one of the first -- and certainly oldest -- working terrier breeds.

As a grown man Darwin continued to have large numbers of dogs about, and they are featured prominently in his correspondence -- dogs by the name of Dash, Nina, Pincher, Sheilah, Spark and Sappho.

On fact, one of these dogs, Sappho, is mentioned in Darwin's work on The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication:

"The following case has been communicated to me on good authority, and may, I believe, be fully trusted: a pointer-bitch produced seven puppies; four were marked with blue and white, which is so unusual a colour with pointers that she was thought to have played false with one of the greyhounds, and the whole litter was condemned; but the gamekeeper was permitted to save one as a curiosity. Two years afterwards a friend of the owner saw the young dog, and declared that he was the image of his old pointer-bitch Sappho, the only blue and white pointer of pure descent which he had ever seen. This led to close inquiry, and it was proved that he was the great-great-grandson of Sappho; so that, according to the common expression, he had only 1/16th of her blood in his veins."


In fact, the person with the "old pointer-bitch Sappho", was none other than Darwin himself!

Darwin's observation that coat color had a genetic origin and that some characteristics (good, bad and unusual) could pop up in progeny several generations down the line was right on the money. We now attribute this phenomenon to the power of recessive genes -- a power first noted (as far as I know) in Genesis 30:25-43, in which Laban and Jacob work out a deal for wages (to be paid in sheep and goats) which Jacob wins despite Laban's cheating.

Though Charles Darwin had numerous dogs over the course of his life, he was particularly fond of terriers, and counted one of them, a white fox terrier by the name of Polly (what we would now call a Jack Russell terrier), as his closest out-of-doors walking companion at the end of his life.

It was Polly that led, by a circuitous route, to Darwin writing his last great work on earth worms.

When he moved into the house at Downe in Bromley, in the Sussex Region of England, Darwin bought a small adjoining field and created there a "sandwalk" where he could pace in thought with his dog by his side.

Upon purchasing the land for the sandwalk, Darwin had treated a portion of the soil with a layer of broken chalk (probably to knock down soil alkalinity) and another with coal ash (probably to increase phosphorous), and in the middle of the field, he planted a copse of trees. The sandwalk circled the whole.

Darwin counted his turns around the sandwalk by kicking flints to a corner of a turn. When he started out, shortly after the sandwalk's construction, there were a lot of flints in the field since it had been plowed prior to his acquisition of the property. As the years passed, however, Darwin notice that there seemed to be fewer and fewer flints about, and it was only the digging of his terrier, Polly, that told them where they had gone -- they lay just beneath the surface of the soil.

Somewhat perplexed, Darwin discovered that all the flints that had existed on his land all those years before were, in fact, still there -- lying just beneath the soil and covered up, ever so slowly, by the action of millions of worms tossing their castings out of their burrows.

Darwin had workers dig a trench at the location where the broken chalk had been put down some 29 years earlier, and there he found the chalk, now lying seven inches below the surface. Simple arithmetic suggested that worms on his property were building up soil at the rate of about 0.22 inches a year, and that over time, such action could result in entire cities being buried by the actions of worms alone. An excavation at the site where the ash had been layed down showed the worms were similarly employed burying that material, and at about the same rate of speed.

Darwin's observations about worms were turned into his last major work, entitled: "The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms With Observations of Their Habits".

But what of Polly, the dog that helped start this line of inquiry? Polly got old with Darwin and, a few days after Darwin died in April of 1882, she was put down -- fed to the worms if you will. Or gone to ground, if you prefer.

In the picture below of Darwin's study at Down House (spelled differently from the village of Downe where it is located), can be seen a basket in front of the fire place -- Polly's basket.

That basket (or a version of it) is still in Darwin's study to this day -- a small memory of an old man's beloved terrier who, in her own small way, did her bit for science.


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The Ascent (and Descent) of Man

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Origins of the Tea Baggers


From Network, 1976. Gerald Ford was President.

Add in a dollop of racism, a hefty bag of ignorance, four conspiracy theories, and a tax scam. Place in large corporate payola cauldron, and percolate through Fox News. Season with blast email and garnish with a Bible quote, Ayn Rand, or your own theories about economics, law, and the United Nations. Goes well with Stupid on a Stick. Serve with a hot American bottle of whine.
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You Are All on Notis

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sheryl Crow is an Idiot

Sheryl Crow is an idiot.


There is a reason we do not ask rock stars, celebrities and politicians about their theories of wildlife management.

On this, and on so many other issues, we need to be leaving management of our public lands to our wildlife and wild lands professionals.

Ted Willams tells us why in "Horse Sense," an article in Audubon magazine.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

PETA and the Lobster: A Story of FAIL



Stupid-on-a-Stick Meets PeTA, and hillarity ensues:

A company in the United Kingdom is about to lift the lid on a device that zaps lobster with electricity to kill them, and the inventor said Wednesday his humane alternative to boiling is about to give the entire industry a jolt.

. . . . The animal rights group PETA bought two of the lobster devices and paid for Mr. Buckhaven and his wife to fly to the Arizona event last Saturday to demonstrate the technology.

Unfortunately, the courier service lost the two machines and the animal rights people had to look the other way as volunteers killed hundreds of lobster in boiling water for hungry supporters of the resource centre.


The whole story is here, but you will have to supply your own laugh track.


This jumbo 25 lb. lobster was destined for the President's table in 1933.
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How Much Land is Protected?


This post is recycled from 2005.

There are many different ways to look at how much land is protected in each county. I will start with the technical, but if you read to the end I promise you some pretty impressive data!

The technical: The World Conservation Union (IUCN) defines six management categories of protected areas in two groups.

Group One Lands are totally protected areas that are maintained in a natural state and are closed to extractive uses. They comprise Category I, Strict Nature Reserves/Wilderness Area; Category II, National Park; and Category III, National Monuments.

Group Two Lands are partially protected areas managed for specific uses such as recreation, or to provide optimum conditions for certain species or ecological communities. They comprise Category IV, Habitat/Species Management Areas; Category V, Protected Landscape/Seascapes; and Category VI, Managed resource Protected Areas.

The very easy-to-use "Nation Master" web site at www.NationMaster.com ranks countries by the percentage of land in "protected areas" and by the percentage of land that is still "wild" ("wildness").

On this web site "protected areas" seems to combine both Group One and Group Two IUCN land protection definitions -- a pretty good index of aesthetically, culturally or environmental important lands afforded a significant level of government protection.

The "Wildness" index on the Nation Master site, uses the percent of land in a given country with a "very low anthropogenic impact". In other words, this is land with very, very low population densities and not much evidence of human disturbance (often because it is desert or tundra). The "wildness" data is largely from Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network, with an overlay for human population densities (see footnote on the Nation Master web site).

Now for the really impressive numbers.

The growth in the acreage of formally protected lands in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico is very impressive.

Since 1970, North American acreage off limits to development rose from 247 million to 741 million acres — about 15 percent of the continent's land surface. Almost all of this is due to the naming of new wilderness, near-wilderness, and biological reserves.

On the international front, the same tremendous growth in protected lands we see in North America is also occurring overseas.

In 2004, the United Nations reported that there are now over 102,000 environmentally protected areas around the world totaling over 17 million square kilometers of land (another 1.8 million square kilometers is underwater).

To put it another way, about 11.5 per cent of the Earth's land surface - an area the size of South America - is now protected. For scale, and in comparison, the area of the world's protected areas is now far bigger than the land surface of India and China combined. It is also larger than all land in the world under permanent, arable, crops.

For North American bird lovers, the good news is that Central and South America have the highest percentage of land under protection at more than 25 percent each.

Is all of the protected land in impoverished parts of the world fully protected to eliminate all illegal logging and poaching? Of course not. But as countries climb the economic ladder, and as political and civil service systems in the developing world become more robust, things are likely to improve along this front. The good news is not that the job is done (we are pretty far from that!), but that the direct and velocity are far better than most of us have been lead to believe.
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"The World Is Really, Really Dirty"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

We Can't Afford Health Care Legislation?

"According to the preliminary CBO analysis, the legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $127 billion over the first decade and by $650 billion over the second decade."


If someone tells you we can't afford health care legislation, ask if they got out of grade school, because they sure can't read and they sure can't add.
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When Pit Bulls Go Rogue


First Sarah Palin was a "pit Bull with lipstick. Then she "went rogue."

A couple of days ago, I noted that it's just possible a "Pit Bull might go Pit Bull."

I thought that was a fairly innocuous observation, considering that I provided a link to the dictionary definition of Pit Bull which, along with "American Staffordshire terrier," notes that it is also slang for "One who behaves in a markedly aggressive or ruthless manner."



It's not like we have not heard this definition of Pit Bull before, is it?

It's as current as this morning's orange juice.

But, of course, I got an email from a very nice person who wanted me to remove the reference. A tiger might "go tiger", and a chimpanzee might "go chimpanzee," but it was beyond thought that a Pit Bull might "go Pit Bull," and never mind the daily new stories.

Would I remove the reference? I was told it was absurd to "lump people like me" together with "people who aren't just idiots, but idiots who do incredibly stupid things to wild animals."

Eh?

I had not mentioned this person. I had not mentioned ANY person. I was talking about animals.

In fact, what I was talking about was something elementary: Every animal has a code within it. This code cannot be eliminated, and must be paid homage to.

I wrote back:

I find it very amusing that Pit Bull owners deny the genetic code in their breed. You do not see houndsmen going nuts when someone says "he stayed on the trail like a hound," or a greyhound man going nuts when someone says he "ran like a greyhound," or a terrierman expressing outrage when someone says he is as "tenacious as a terrier," or a bird dog man getting anxious because someone notes they were "bird-dogged to good information."

But Pit Bulls? You cannot say a Pit Bull is likely to go Pit Bull? Nonsense!

Here's a thought -- maybe that sentiment needs to be said more often.

If it was, perhaps nearly a million Pit Bulls a year would not be killed in shelters in this nation, most of then turned over to those shelters by owners who did not know or understand that a "Pit Bull can go Pit Bull."

But those are a minority of dogs, you may say.

Well yes, that's right.

"Only" about a third of all the Pit Bulls in America are killed every year BECAUSE THEY ARE PIT BULLS.

Read that line again.

Those deaths are not caused because someone is "calling" the dog a Pit Bull. Those dogs are dying because they ARE Pit Bulls, and it turns out that when "a Pit Bull goes Pit Bull" most people do not want them in their house. And that sentiment is shared by people who actually owned all those Pit Bulls! Are the folks who acquired Pit Bull all Pit Bull haters? I don't think so!

Now here's the interesting part: Most tigers in this country do not "go tiger" and most chimps do not "go chimp" either. And, as you might point out, neither do most Pit Bulls, in the sense that "only" a third of all Pit Bulls in the U.S. are being killed every year, which leaves 2/3 still "coloring between the lines."

Now here's the funny thing. You know what the lady who owned that Chimp said? She said it was just like a baby. It was her child. The folks who own tigers say the same thing -- go back and look at the Siegfried and Roy tapes of them bottle-feeding their cats, even as adults.

And you know what? Most of the time it works out. Tigers and Chimps kill or maul very few people in America -- far fewer than (well, you know) despite the fact that there are a LOT of private tigers and lions (about 30,000 big cats) and chimps (about 3,000 great apes) in America.

As to the notion that Siegfried and Roy's Tiger or that Chimpanzee were "wild" animals, or that the owners were "idiots who did incredibly stupid things" to their charges, you might want to go back and read about these animals and their owners.

None of these animals were wild -- they were all born and raised in captivity, bottle-raised, and well-trained. They were not abused in the slightest.

But does a Tiger have a genetic code? Yes it does. Does a Chimpanzee? Yes it does. Does a dog -- especially a Pit Bill? Yes it does.

And so we come to the point: A tiger just *might* go tiger someday, and a chimpanzee just *might* go chimpanzee someday, and a Pit Bull just *might* go Pit Bull someday. It's the genetic potential of the beast -- the reason "Pit Bull" is in the dictionary as an adjective that means: "One who behaves in a markedly aggressive or ruthless manner."

And NO, I do not think you are an idiot, or your dogs are a problem in the slightest. Surely you do not think the post was directed to you?

But do I think most "Pet Bull" owners have thought very much about the genetic code that exists in game bred animals? No, I do not. Too many folks believe that all animals can be "loved into being wonderful all the time." Siegfried and Roy thought that and still think that. So too does that woman who owned that mauling Chimp. And you know what? They are right most of the time. But the code can explode, can't it? And the code is not the same for all animals, is it? A "Tiger going Tiger" is well within the bounds of normal. So too is a "Pit Bull going Pit Bull."

And admitting that is Step One to saving the Pit Bull; accepting the Pit Bull for what it is, which is too often a serious problem for its owner.


I had barely fired off this little missive when Retrieverman sent me a link to this page from the Villalobos Pit Bull Rescue Center, the largest Pit Bull Rescue Center in the country, which is working hard to rehome Pit Bulls that have been dumped in shelters, even as they try to educate prospective owners of these dogs that a Pit Bull is not a Poodle or a Pug. The folks at Villalobos write:

You will learn here that while Pit Bulls make great family companions while in the right hands and living situation, they require intelligent, responsible and dedicated ownership.

Unfortunately too many people obtain these dogs for the wrong reasons or have little understanding on the inherent traits this breed possesses. It is unfortunate that one of the original purposes of the APBT was (and still is for many) dog-to-dog combat, but it’s a fact that can’t be denied or ignored. It’s very important that every potential Pit Bull owner, understands the selective breeding that took place to make these dogs of today and the inherited characteristics that are potentially within this wonderful breed.

. . . . We can’t blame specialized breeds for behaving like they were bred to do what they do. Certain specific traits were selectively bred into the dogs and are now a part of the breed’s character. It’s like the digging instinct of many Terriers, the herding behavior in Shelties, the compulsion to run in a Greyhound, etc. Your Pointer may have never spent a day on a real “hunt”, but he may still point and flush out a bird as his ancestors were bred to do so. We don’t have to condone or glorify it, but dog aggression is not uncommon with Pit Bull type dogs. Owners must recognize and accept this fact or they won’t be able to provide competent ownership and have fun with their dogs. It’s a mistake to think the fighting gene can be easily trained or loved out of a dog. Or that early socialization will guarantee your Pit Bull will always get along with other animals. Even though PBRC does not in anyway condone animal fighting, it does acknowledge the importance of understanding the special traits of this breed and advocates education about proper and responsible Pit Bull ownership. You can have all the dog experience in the world, but it’s also essential to understand the distinctive features of the type of dog you own or work with. In this case, a dog with an important fighting background who requires extra vigilance around other pets.

There are precautions to take when owning a Pit Bull, especially in a multiple-dog environment. Unfortunately these precautions are often viewed as an acceptance for the sport of dog fighting when nothing could be further from the truth. PBRC believes that knowing how to avoid a fight, as well as how to break up a fight, can be a matter of life or death for your dog and the “other” dog.

Take note that a fight can strike suddenly and for no apparent reason. Warning signs can be very subtle with Pit Bulls and even completely absent in certain cases. Two dogs may be best friends for years, sleep together, cuddle, play and even eat from the same bowl. Then one day something triggers one of them and BOOM! Often the dogs act like best friends as soon as the fight is over. They might even lick each other’s wounds. You have been warned though. They will do it again and get better at it every time.

. . . . It is not necessarily a hate of other dogs that will cause Pit Bulls to fight, but rather an “urge” to do so that has been bred into the breed for many generations. Pit Bulls may fight over hierarchic status, but external stimulus or excitement can also trigger a fight. Remember that any canine can fight, but Pit Bulls were bred specifically for it and will therefore do it with more drive and intensity than most other breeds.

Pit Bull owners must also be aware of the remarkable fighting abilities of this breed and always keep in mind that they have the potential to inflict serious injuries to other animals.


Bingo.

This is Step One: Admission that even the nicest "PET Bulls" come with a certain amount of Pit Bull genetic code pulsing through their system. Though it may be invisible, it should always be assumed to be there.

Remember the cost of denial: Nearly a million dead Pit Bulls a year, most of them acquired in haste and abandoned in leisure by people who did not understand the prolems and responsibilities that come with all dogs, with big dogs in particular, and with Pit Bulls most of all.

What has happened to the Pit Bull is a breed specific problem.

No other breed is so over-bred.

No other dog is more likely to be bred by a fool, and acquired and abandoned by an ignorant.

No other breed is more likely to die in a shelter, abandoned by its owner.

Talking about the problems that come with Pit Bull ownership is not a violence to the dog; it is salvation for the dog.

What this dog does not NOT need is more "surprised" owners who blame the dog for the genetic code coursing through its veins -- the genetic code they never bothered to learn about, or may have once denied existed.

Yes, let's place all the rescue Pit Bulls we can in loving homes.

And let's turn to shutting down the Pit Bull breeders who are the real problem for both dog and community alike.

And, above all, let's learn to appreciate and understand each dog breed for what it is -- not for what we want them to be.



Want to see how many Pit Bulls are killed every day in America? Click here.

Dogs Made by the Hand of Man


A repost from August 2005.


The morphological variation within dogs is pretty extreme.

The picture, above, is of an English Bulldog, a breed with such an overlarge head that almost 100% of all dogs are born caesarian.

This is a breed that would be extinct in 10 years were it not for the regular intervention of veterinarians.

Most people do not realize that almost all dog species, as we know them today, are very recent creations.

In the last 1790s, a farmer by the name of Robert Bakewell realized that by separating males from females -- made easy by the rising number of enclosed fields -- a farmer could choose which stock was allowed to breed. By deliberately inbreeding livestock, and selecting for desirable traits, Bakewell rapidly created new and "improved" breeds of sheep and transformed modern agriculture forever. Bakewell's experiments with sheep quickly spilled over into other farm stock, such as cattle, pigs, and chickens, and eventually into pet stock such as dogs and pigeons.

In 1800, there were only 15 designated breeds of dogs, but by 1865 that number had grown to more than 50 and it exploded fantastically over the course of the next 60 years as Victorian-era dog breeders produced a dizzying array of dogs, most with invented histories and elaborate (and entirely fictional) rationales for their taxonomic differences. To see how rapidly the shape of the Bull Terrier was changed by the Kennel Club show ring >> click here.



Border Collie Skull (above)


Dachshund Skull (above)


Pug Skull (above)



Poodle Skull (above)



Saint Bernard Skull (above)



Schnauzer Skull
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Rats and Extinctions


A repost from this blog circa August 2004.

Believe it or not, rats have been responsible for more species extinctions than anything else. The reason for this is that so many of the animals that have been pushed into extinction have been indigenous ground-nesting birds living on small islands. Once rats are introduced in these locations, eggs and hatchlings are predated upon, bird populations plummet, and extinction often follows.

Rats have been eradicated from islands only a few times, and in all occasions, it has involved a tremendous amount of poison bait used for a long time.

It's worth remembering that the rat is a survivor -- they survived the nuclear blasts on Pacific atolls and actually prospered under those conditions, living on dead creatures and plant life that washed up on the beach.

One of the few examples of successful rat eradication on an island is Campbell Island, south of New Zealand. Rats got to the island via whaling ships, and destroyed the nesting grounds of the flightless teal and wading duck.

In 2002 the government of New Zealand used 120 TONS of rat poison on the island (over 240,000 pounds), delivered by boat and helicopter. About 200,000 rats died, but not without some mishap. A tanker carrying 18 tons of rat poison sank in a whale breeding ground, and there was some mild (and probably temporary) contamination of the local mussel population.

In any case, the rats are now gone, the whales are OK, and so too are the mussels. The teal and ducks are set to be re-introduced from captive populations. This is a very rare example of success in the war against rats.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Visualizing Empire

Visualizing empires decline from Pedro M Cruz on Vimeo. He explains:

"The data refers to the evolution of the top 4 maritime empires of the XIX and XX centuries by extent. The visual emphasis is on their decline."


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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dogs and Other Pets on Bicycles and Motorcycles


Miss Almira Gulch in the Wizard of Oz had a pretty nice rig!

  • My bicycle has been collecting dust for too long. Maybe what I need to do is add a decent terrier box off of the back. Of course, if you have money or can weld, you can carry a lot more than a terrier on a bike -- I think a Great Dane is well within the bounds of possible! Check out these extended- frame bicycles. For those with terriers, the options are simpler, from jury-rigged plastic milk crates to fancier rigs like this, or this, or a well-mounted wicker basket like that in the Wizard of Oz.

  • For those who motorcycle, check out these options, from dogs to cats, and from monkey to sheep. Back when rocks were soft (and so was my head), I occasionally commuted to work at a Maryland boat yard (we built big cruising sailboats) with another fellow and his massive Labrador-cross named Kilgore. Rich would drive, I would sit behind Rich, and Kilgore would lay cross-wise between us, with his front paws on the right and his back paws on the left. We never had a problem.


Photo out of China. Amazing!
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Digging on the Dogs



Doug and his dog Gordon came up for a short day of digging, and after taping up the collars we hit a nearby farm.

Gordon found first -- a nest of mice in a tree tube!

Mountain was second, locating something in a nice sette at the top of a tall creek bank. Pearl pinged on it too, but neither dog could get to it from either end of the pipe.

We dropped a hole where it appeared they were stuck, and bingo -- there was the pipe and the dog too, but it appeared to be a dead-end of solid earth. This den went nowhere.

The dogs continued to dig, however, and I poked the solid wall looking for a soft spot, but there was none. This was not backfill.

Mountain and Pearl were both quite adamant that it was there, however, and so out come the scrapper and the long-handled trowel. After three inches of scrapping and digging through hard soil, I was pretty sure nothing was there, but I have learned to trust the dogs and after six inches of excavation, I suddenly broke through. Amazing!

I slipped in Pearl and she bayed it up for a while, and then Doug dropped a hole behind the groundhog and I tailed it out, and we quickly dispatched it and repaired the sette. Job done.

We crossed the creek and watched a couple of warring belted kingfishers go at it. I had never heard a kingfisher vocalize before, and neither had Doug who, it must be said, has much better eyes than I do. Three deer ran up off onto another farm, three turkey vultures flew directly over our heads, and at least three red tails and a red shouldered hawk were spotted. This country is thick with wildlife.

The dogs half-pinged on a spot on the other side of the creek, but they did not give a strong mark, and so I suggested we walk up to towards a tree about 200 yard away, as I thought we might find up that way.

Sure enough, we were half-way there when Mountain pinged on another hole. Once again, it became pretty clear that while there was something underground, it was pretty well dug in.

That's the way it is this time of year -- the groundhogs are starting to lay up for the winter, and are closing in their holes and building water barriers inside their pipes so as to make comfortable hibernation possible.

Mountain entered and stayed underground. I boxed her and Doug dropped a hole right on top of her nose. The pipe made a hard and unexpected turn right at this point, and the groundhog had pushed dirt behind him as well.

After clearing a little dirt with the scraper and widening the hole to give Mountain a little more room, she was straight up the pipe and face to face with the groundhog. Nice!

We dropped a second hole right behind the groundhog, and snared it out and dispatched it for Mr. Fox to recycle.

With two down, we decided to call it a day, as Doug had a long drive back down to North Carolina.