Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Do not think of a Pit Bull!
Puppy euthanized in Vancouver after three biting incidents
"As a result, the eight-month-old puppy, a Korean breed of hunting dog called a Jindo, had to be euthanized last Friday, after the 30-day appeal period ..."
Read the court record here.
This case is like a Rorschach ink blot test for dogs.
Who or what is to blame for the death of this dog? Various (often conflicting) lines of thought:
- This is a known fighting breed ("There's the problem!" or conversely, "There is no such thing as a known fighting breed, that's just bigotry!")
- This dog may have been mentally ill ("Yes that can happen!" or conversely, "There are no bad dogs")
- This dog was taken to a puppy class ("The canine equivalent of trying to train a 3-year old to drive a car while giving him instruction at an amusement park" or conversely "Well, at least they did that right, because you know you can never start a dog too young, especially a dominant and aggressive breed like a Jindo, which really needs all the socialization it can get."
- This dog was not exercised enough by its 10-year old owner who needed to have his non-English speaking adult Mother with him to take the dog out. ("That's speculative" or conversely "Speculative, but no doubt true as two people can rarely coordinate schedules, and recent immigrants tend to work long hours and rarely jog much as a consequence.")
- The dog trainer at the puppy class was using "harsh methods" to gain the dog's attention ("This shows you the danger of Cesar Millan," or conversely "Cesar Millan would have exercised the hell out of that animal first, and he would not have brought an unknown dominant breed dog like a Jindo into a group of unknown dogs and people.")
- This dog came from a "backyard breeder" ("The best dogs come from commercial puppy mills because they have AKC papers" or conversely "The best breeders are small places and all raise their dogs in backyards, so this phrase is meaningless parrot-talk from a Kennel Club theorist.")
- It was a communication problem because the 10-year old kid was a just kid, and the dog trainer only spoke English, and the adult owner only spoke a little English (Canada needs to make sure every dog trainer and owner speaks both English and French and that only adults are allowed to own dogs).
- I could have fixed it because .... (No dogs are bad, I am a better dog trainer, I would have used a muzzle, after that first bite they should have...)
I would call particular attention to the cast of dog experts here:
- The puppy class trainer without too much of a clue (which is pretty typical of puppy class dog trainer);
- The wannabe "dog whisperer" for whom I can find no reference or credentials;
- The Kennel Club expert with her potted breed histories and colorful phrasing;
- The Animal Control folks who saw a dog far outside the bell curve of normal canine behavior;
- The "dog behaviourist" who the court noted was "not a dog trainer" and who had "never in her career or personal life dealt with the Jindo breed before" and who had "done no reading whatsoever in the literature about characteristics of the Jindo breed" and who "dismissed the stereotyping of dogs based on their breed" but who also said "some dogs are actually hardwired to hunt and chase."
Click to enlarge.
I met the owner, Leonard Brook, at an antique sale in Middleburg, Virginia a while back, and it turns out he bought out the entire dog library of one Francis P. Fretwell who, did indeed, have quite a collection!
Mr. Brook does indeed have some hard to get books and the prices are fair enough. Mr. Brook is also a pretty nice and interesting fellow; he used to train dogs for the stage in New York. Check out his site!
The short story is that toxoplasmosis, a protozoan parasite carried by cats and some other critters (but almost never by dogs), changes rat behavior and makes them more susceptible to predation by domestic cats, which are the parasite's definitive host.
Now it turns out that toxoplasmosis is not the ony parasite that shapes animal behavior, and it also turns out that motorcycles and fast cars are involved.
Yes motorcycles and fast cars.
Watch the video.
This is Stanford primatologist and neurobiologicst Dr. Robert Sopalsky explaining how research about "toxo" has given us (maybe) a new window into human behavior.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
A second edition of Earthdog Ins & Outs by Jo Ann Frier Murza is now available. If you want to do AKC Earthdog trials, this is an excellent resource and reference, complete with earthdog trial history, breed descriptions, practical training and practice techniques, details about exhibiting and sponsoring earthdog tests, and an introduction to natural hunting. Jo An says it has "New pictures, more international trials, updated training and trial information, expanded directions for building earthdog equipment, complete coverage of the new Canadian earthdog testing, and much more." I wrote a review of the first edition, a decade or so ago, which you can read here.
I have written about why predators are careful not to do things that are maladaptive. Here's a nice little video clip about the flip side; how herbivores do things that are adaptive -- and the limits of their adaptive abilities (all things are trade offs).
Monday, June 28, 2010
It's taken me awhile for me to run down my stock of button batteries for my Mark I Deben collar, but I'm about about out, so I went over to EBay and made a purchase -- $8.85 (including shipping!) for 150 AG13 button batteries, which are also commonly sold as LR44 SR44 or L1154.
Compare that to the price of the same battery sold at RadioShack (and also made in China): $5.49 each. Outrageous! And yes, I can get button batteries for about $2.40 a unit at HomeDepot, but why would I do that when they cost me less than 7 cents a unit delivered to my door?
And for the record, button batteries last about 5 years on the shelf, so there's no worries about them going "stale." I generally use the batteries twice (all day each time) and then toss them out so I never worry about losing juice in a locator collar.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Doug came up from North Carolina to go digging. In theory, it was supposed to dip a few degrees under 90 on Thursday, which is my official break off point for digging.
Reality, of course, was something different...
On the way out to the farms, the D.J.'s on all three radio stations I normally listen to could not get off the topic of the heat.
"If you have pets, be sure to let them into the house today ... or at least set out out a kiddie pool full of water in the shade."
"Call your elderly neighbors today, or just stop by to make sure they are all right, as today the heat index is going to shoot over 104 degrees."
"Never leave your dog in a locked car. On a day like this, even with the windows cracked, a dog can die in just a few minutes."
Right. It was going to be a hot one. Got it.
By the fourth of fifth warning, I was starting to laugh. I was doomed.
Doug was exactly where we agreed to meet, and so too was Gordon, his Kill Devil Terrier.
I always laugh to see Gordon, as he is one of those dogs made for Hollywood -- a terrier with a very intelligent face and oversized ears that signal like a sailor on semaphore duty. He loves Doug, and he is both very good-looking and comical at the same time; a nice combination.
We parked our vehicles at the edge of the farm at 8 am and it was already creeping past 80 degrees.
I figured we would hunt the forest between the river and the fields of new corn and ripe, dry wheat. We might do all right. After all, I had not hunted this river bottom area before, but I had scouted it while out foxing this winter, and there were holes.
Of course, this was not winter! The nice trail and sparse forest which had been there in the cold of January had now fallen to thick jungle growth. It was an amazing transformation.
We found a lot of deer trails, but a deer only stands three feet tall at the shoulder and I am 6 feet. With a shovel and pack on my back, and a six-foot digging bar in my hand, it was not always easy going. Doug was carrying a pack full of water as well as the posthole diggers, which weigh 15-pounds. We were both tottering through some pretty thick stuff in some pretty opressive heat. But at least we were in partial shade. Walking the open fields was beyond consideration.
To make a long story short, we went over hill and dale, through dense breaks of multiflora rose, and over and under twisting hawser-thick vines of wild grape and bittersweet. We found a fair number of holes, but nothing at home.
Sweat was pouring out of me. Doug seemed to be fairing a bit better (he is 10-years younger and 20-years fitter and his pack was a little lighter), but he agreed that the heat was a killer, and the forest brush we were wading through was a monster.
We quit the river bottom forest, and hiked up to a field of uncut winter wheat that was brown and dry and probably should have already been cut. We ducked into a small stand of planted pine for a water break. I checked the time. It was only 9 am!
Jesus, it was hot. Sweat was pouring out of me like I was a boat that had sprung a leak. I pulled out an old bandanna and placed it under my hat in an effort to keep the rivulets of sweat out of my eyes. I tried to remember what the newspaper had said this morning. Was it going to be 90 degrees by 9 am? Something like that. I was pretty sure we had already hit that mark!
We walked around the wheat field, checking the forest edge for holes. We found hole after hole but still no one was home.
By now the bandanna on my head was soaked and my own sweat was dripping out of it. My forearms were pretty scratched up from the multiflora, and between the sweat and the blood, I was attracting flies. Nice.
The dogs, of course, were traveling farther than we were, looking into holes, ranging left and right, and having to wiggle through thick brush on eight inch legs. It was not easy, and all three dogs were panting like steam engines, but they kept going.
We watered up a few times, but we kept on slogging forward. We were putting in some miles and finding quite a few holes, but still nothing was home!
Somewhere along the way I lost my hat. It says something that I knew some stray bit of bramble had plucked it off my head only a 100 or 200 feet back, but I could not find it and I was really too hot to care. The bandanna would have to protect my chrome dome.
At last we swung up through a patch of forest I knew, and we descended down into a hedge that I have hunted before.
God it was hot! I was boiling inside, and my feet felt like lead. Doug was doing a bit better, but he too was soaked and starting to feel it.
Of course it was in this hedge that Mountain found. Yahoo! We downed tools and cleaned out a tight pipe where Mountain was digging -- a very solid mark.
This den pipe forked left and right, but Mountain clearly wanted the right fork and she slid in and disappeared. I boxed and marked her only two feet down. Thank you Jesus!
The ground was as hard as concrete, but our enthusiasm was great despite the fact we were both faded as boiled spaghetti.
Doug starts a hole. Mountain is below ground.
Doug started to dig while I supervised from a sitting position while sweat poured off my head. I counted the number of flies I was killing while Doug did the tough work.
After Doug had taken a foot off the top, I used the posthole digger to knock another 6 inches or so into the pipe. Perfect! This was going to be an easy dig.
Famous last words.
We pulled Mountain and bored out the hole a bit more. Mountain went back in and started to dig. We pulled her again to see where the pipe went. Had the groundhog walled itself in? Hard to imagine with the ground this hard!
Doug poked around in the hole, and then I poked around in the hole, and then Doug poked around in the hole, and then I poked around in the hole. What the hell? This pipe went nowhere!
We let Mountain back in. Though she was dead tired and hot as a firecracker, she continued to dig like mad in an area spread over out over just six inches. A solid mark.
I have never won money betting against my own dogs, and Mountain has seen more than a few holes. I would trust her. If she says something is there, it is.
We jammed that bar left and right, up and down. We expanded the hole. We guessed the groundhog might have gone up the left pipe which might have circled around to the right pipe, but never connected. Maybe Mountain was following the sound. It was a theory.
We sank another hole about eight inches back from where Mountain was digging, and barred left and right. Nothing. We excavated the ground between the two holes, making a trench, and still Mountain marked hard . Pearl rolled in the dirt we were excavating. She smelled it, and a couple of times she walked around on top and seemed to give a tentative mark to something below. But we could not find the pipe.
What the hell?
We dug. We gave it all. Our holes did not look like much in the end because the ground was as hard as concrete, and we were soaked with sweat and as weak as old men when we started.
And then we both knew. We were done. We had been beaten.
It was 1 pm and we filled in the hole. We were both very hot, tired, and disappointed.
After we filled in the hole, I looked around for Mountain, but she had abandoned us.
We humped it back in the general direction of the truck, and after we had gone about a football field from the hole we had been digging, we downed tools in a thicket of small trees and tall brush in order to drink a little water and call Mountain to our side.
After about 10 minutes, Mountain trotted back to us from up ahead and to the right. She had been looking for more game while we filled in the last hole. She did not look like she had found.
We shouldered up the tools and headed back to the truck. We finally hit a clear trail about a half mile from the truck. It was only then that I realized Mountain was not with us.
No worries. We had just spent the last five hours walking without finding anything to ground. It was not likely she would find between where we last saw her and the truck. She would catch up with us at the truck.
By the time we go to the truck, I was not sure I could walk another 100 feet. I was smoked.
I put Pearl in a crate with water and tossed the tools into the truck. Doug followed up behind me, but there was no Mountain bringing up the rear.
I whistled and called, and we drank water and waited a few minutes, but sill nothing.
I told Doug to go on home, and I would head back and find Mountain, but he said "don't be ridiculous." He was going back with me.
I soaked a towel with water and laid it out over the top of Pearl's crate to make a "swamp cooler". I partially rolled down the front four windows while leaving the back top half of the tailgate entirely open. Air would draft through the truck and Pearl would be cooler than she had been in the forest.
We went back down the hedgeline next to the wheat field, with Gordon trailing Doug, and me calling and whistling for Mountain.
A half mile back down the path, I called it quits. This farm was 3,000 acres (more than four square miles). We had last seen Mountain within voice range of where I was now too pooped to stand, and she knew which way we were going.
If she could not hear me, it was because she had found, and she was underground. She would have to come out.
This was a waiting game, and in the shape I was in, I was not up to traveling through the brush listening. Not right then, at least. I felt like I was on the verge of a heat stroke.
Doug was better off than I was, and he roamed left and right up through the thicket of small trees and tall brush that we had come down earlier. Later, when we met up again, he said he knew how cooked I was when he spied me sprawled out like a dead man in the cool weeds, still calling and whistling, but with my head staring straight up at the sky.
Yeah, heat exhaustion will do that to you!
I laid down and tried not to move. I felt like I was going to go to sleep. Flies buzzed all around me, but I did not care. I was just waiting for the vultures!
After about 20 minutes, I got up and looked around. My temperature had dropped a bit. I called for Doug, but he was out of ear shot.
I ranged around, and then I heard a call from Doug. He had found Mountain! I followed his voice, and sure enough, he was just about where we had downed tools waiting for Mountain after that last futile dig.
And yes, Mountain was underground.
It says something about my condition that when I got up to Doug, I did not even look to see where Mountain had gone in. I could hear her baying a bit, and she seemed in fine fettle.
I sat down on the ground, scootched my back against a small tree, and pulled out my locator box. "Now's a good time to practice locating a dog to ground," I said to Doug.
And he did. She was only two feet down. Excellent.
Of course, we had no tools. Bummer.
I tried to call Mountain out, but she was not having any part of it. She had walked a hell of long way to be where she was right now, and she was not going to come off it easily.
We rested (did I mention that it was really hot?) and after about 15 minutes Doug suggested he go back to the truck for the shovel. Capital idea, I said, not offering to make the journey with him. Give me half an our or so, and I might be up for that run, but my internal temperature was still way off the grid, and I knew it.
Doug, the hero, headed off for a shovel. I sat very quietly back from the hole, hoping Mountain would come out on her own. But, of course, she didn't.
I closed my eyes and everything slowed down. I do not think I fell asleep, but I was not all there either. That said, I did hear the clang of metal on metal as Doug came back. I called, and he circled his way up through the jungle growth. He had my entire pack on, and the posthole diggers too. Everything but the bar.
Did I mention this man is a God? True!
The temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees since Doug left, and it was getting a bit overcast as well. I felt better. I could dig now, and so we both took turns doing that.
The ground was rock hard, and it took a half hour to drop a hole that was only 18 inches deep.
By now, Mountain had been underground since 1 pm and it was about 3:30, but she was right where we had bored a hole, and we pulled her out, still eager for battle.
We agreed that for story value we had to get this one.
Mountain had taken a bit of stick while underground -- a puncture just above her eye and another right along the bottom of her cheek. Nothing serious, but this critter was not going gentle into that good night, nor was it going to get away. Game on!
We tied Mountain up, and felt up the pipe with the long trowel until it hit fur. Right. Mountain had been about 6 inches back -- a sensible distance. We put Mountain back in to make sure the critter was still alive, and a massive squall told us it certainly was!
Just then there was thunder.
"Now we have some drama," said Doug, and of course he was right. A few drops of rain began to fall and the sky darkened.
We sank another hole about two feet back trying to get behind the critter, but that was about 6 inches too far, and so we had to expand the hole a bit.
And there it was!
I sat on the ground with the snare at the ready, while Doug poked it in the ass with a stick to get it to bolt out of the first hole that we had drilled on top of Mountain.
And sure enough it did bolt -- and almost into my lap!
It was a raccoon.
I thought I had heard a coon squal, but I still assumed it was a groundhog since raccoons in the ground are not too common in the middle of summer.
We sorted things out, gave Gordon a short "schooling lesson" with the coon, and then filled in the hole.
The raccoon changed the entire tenor of the day. We had fought the weather and, thanks to Mountain and Doug, we had not been beaten (though I certainly was!).
Doug and I got back to the truck where Pearl was fine. We drank water, checked over Mountain, and I told Doug that he was not driving back to North Carolina. He was coming home with me, we would order Chinese and throw down Slurpees on the way home.
We stopped at the nearest 7-Eleven for a cold drink. We were both covered in sweat and had dirt ground into our clothes. Our forearms were scratched and bleeding. I had had my boots off, and I walked into the store with just my socks on my feet. Adding to the picture, was the fact that I had an odd little limp where I had pulled a groin muscle earlier in the day.
With massive cold drinks in our hands, we sat outside the store with our legs splayed out over the sidewalk. I am sure we looked for all the world like homeless mental patients.
A man in a suit came over from the gas pumps.
"Should I ask him for a dollar," I asked. Doug thought not, but he agreed we both looked the part.
Of course, the drive back to my house was a nightmare as it was the middle of rush-hour and we had to negotiate the D.C. Beltway. What had taken thirty minutes at 7 in the morning, now took more than an hour.
But we did, eventually, get back home, and we got all three dogs bathed and bedded, and the Chinese was delivered with the speed of lighting, and there was a lot of it, which was exactly what was needed.
All's well that ends well.
For the record, Thursday was the hottest June 24th in the history. The previous record was set in 1894. The temperature at 2:30 pm was 100 degrees, and at 7 pm, it was still 90 degrees. With the "heat index" (a function of temperature and humidity) it was over 104% in the shade. No wonder we felt completely smoked after eight and a half ours of work in it!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Fun and true.
If your dog is hit by skunk spray underground you may be in very serious trouble! Get your dog out of the ground as fast as possible. If the dog is not breathing when you get it out of the ground, do mouth-to-snout CPR as explained here.
Even if your dog recovers, he or she may still end up having issues. The reason for this is that skunk spray explodes red blood cells, and can cause serious persistent anemia in your dog.
Skunk toxic shock seems, in part, to be genetic, with certain lines more susceptible to this problem than others, perhaps due to overally weaker kidney or liver function. If your dog has been skunked several times underground and lived to tell the tale (all my dogs) count yourself lucky!
After your dog has been sprayed underground, check your dog's gums regularly for at least a two or three hours. If the dog's gums become very pale (almost white), rush your dog to a vet. A pale pink gum is normal, but white is not.
Most dogs that are skunked underground get out of the ground on their own or with help, and most dogs recover from an underground skunking provided they get out quickly. Time is of the essence, however, and a dog can lapse into a comma after only a few minutes if it is unable to exit a tight earth.
If your dog has pale gums or seems to be in shock, rush it to a vet and make sure your dog is seen immediately. Explain that the problem is MORE than stink: skunk-related shock and anemia can kill a dog.
The best course of therapy for a dog suffering from skunk toxic shick is to fully hydrate the dog (an IV will be needed) to speed the flushing of toxins, as well as to dose the dog with Acetycistein (sold as Mucomyst, Fluimucil, Mucolator, or Tixair).
Acetycistein seems to help the dog cough mucous out of the lungs, and it also strengthens blood cells and the vascular system in general, while working to maintain renal function -- a big issue with skunk toxic shock syndrome.
Since acetylcystein is cheap, easily available, and a well-tolerated drug, starting a dog on this drug is always a good idea if skunk toxic shock seems to be setting in.
If your dogs gets out from underground and skunk toxic shock does not seem to be an issue (this is the situation most of the time), your next issue is the stench. What to do about it?
The short story here is that nothing will completely get rid of the smell of skunk spray except time. And yes, I have tried it all.
"Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover" is a commercial product that works well for a few days at a time. I have tried other commercial skunk-odor removers (such as Skunk Off), and I do not think they work quite as well as Nature's Miracle.
You will need a quart of Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover to dose a 12-pound terrier, but buy two quarts (about $10 a bottle) and keep a spare quart in the wheel well of your car or truck for emergenices. The main ingredient in this stuff appears to be alcohol, but the important ingredients are various enzymes that break down the stink.
What about masengill douche, tomato juice, and vinegar? I have tried them all -- forget it.
What about home-made skunk-odor reduction recipies?
The good news is that they work and they will save you a few dollars over time, as you are going to have to wash your dog every four or five days for a month as the skunk stink leaches out.
Here's the recipie for home-made skunk stink remover:
- 1 Quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
- 1/4 cup of Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon of Liquid Soap
Mix it all together in a pan, and wash the dog in in while the mixture is bubbling... let is sit for a few minutes, and then rinse off with tap water.
Do not get the mixture in the dog's eyes!!
The quantities described here are for a small Jack Russell. Scale up as necessary.
Be sure to use FRESH Hydrogen Peroxide... H2O2 will eventually turn into water.
Why does this hydrogen-peroxide, baking soda, and squirt-soap recipie work, and why will your dog have to be rewashed in four or five days all over again?
The short story is that skunk spray contains several kinds of thiols.
The oxygen in the Hydrogen Peroxide releases the Thiols (the odor part) as it foams up, and the detergent removes the oily part that holds the odor in the animal's fur. The baking soda provides a little texture against the fur (thiols are sticky) and also helps deodorize the dog a bit.
The reason that the skunk spray keeps coming back is that the thioacetates absorbed in the skin and fur of the dog, continue to break down over time, turning into stinky thiols. This process is speeded up a bit if your dog gets wet again, but NO, you cannot speed it up too much as it is partially time-released.
If your dog is hit straight-on with skunk spray, either underground or above ground, your dog may get some small blistering around the muzzle and may get some caustic burning of the cornea as well. This occurs because one of the ingredients of skunk spray is hydrochloric acid, created when different skunks two glands mix chemicals together as they exit the skunk's rear end.
It is a myth that skunk spray can cause permanent blindness. When gotten into the eyes the spray often causes temporary blindness, and burns like crazy, but there are no documented cases of skunk spray causing permanent blindness in a dog.
If you dog does end up with ulcerations of the cornea, crate the dog for several days and load it up on antibiotics (cephalexin is fine). The only thing to fear is infection. The important thing is to let the eye rest and heal.
Feed and water your dog well and keep it warm and rested for at least a week after a skunk encounter.
Road flares placed in a skunk den are said to kill the animal, but if your dog has just been sprayed, and stink is pouring out of the hole, you may just want to get the hell out of there and take care of your dog. First thing's first!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
In a world of 6.7 billion people, it seems only a trusted and much-loved member of the Kennel Club could chair the new Advisory Council on Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding in the U.K.
The new chair, Sheila Crispin, is a veterinary opthamologist who has spent decades in dogs and yet has never been vocal in criticizing the Kennel Club about it practices, and never mind the obvious pain and misery caused by those practices.
Is this opthamologist blind? We shall see.
Here's what I suspect will happen: a lot of movement and not much action.
Look for Crispin to tackle everything but the real issues of contrived standards leading to deformed dogs in misery, and inbreeding practices leading to jaw-dropping rates of disease.
Open the registries? Require working dogs to work in order to win rosettes? Those are words that will never pass her lips.
Instead, look for her to launch off on a campaign against puppy mills, and perhaps to initiate a drive to mandate microchipping.
Those are worthy problems deserving attention, but they are not why this Advisory Council was created.
They will be within her comfort zone, however.
Her comfort zone, after all, has always been close to the Kennel Club's hierarchy which has given her an honorary membership and tapped her as a member of its own "Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group" which, you will remember, is the cause of the current mess.
Will I be wrong?
Nothing would make me happier if I am! But when it comes to dogs, I have learned to keep my expectations low, and this is a good example.
Patrick Bateson promised that this new Advisory Council on Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding would be appointed on the Nolan Principles. I am not sure how appointing a Kennel Club member and insider to "reform" the world of dog breeding fits those principles. In fact, let me say quite clearly that I think it does not.
Job One for Crispin, if she is serious (and I hope she is!), is to repudiate the nonsense put out by the Kennel Club which says that "the vast majority of breeds and dogs are healthy." This is demonstrably not true as even the most cursory examination of the Kennel Club's own health surveys make clear.
Truth and reform cannot start with lies and distraction. Let us see which way Crispin heads...
Wikipedia gives the history of the human beauty contest:
In May 1920 promoter C.E. Barfield of Galveston organized a new event known as "Splash Day" on the island. The event featured a "Bathing Girl Revue" competition as the centerpiece of its attractions. The event was the kick-off of the summer tourist season in the city and was carried forward annually. The event quickly became known outside of Texas and, beginning in 1926, the world's first international contest was added, known as the "International Pageant of Pulchritude." This contest is said to have served as a model for modern pageants.
Circus and freak show promoter P.T. Barnum apparently tried to hold a human beauty pageant in 1854, but his beauty contest was closed down by public protest and he substituted dogs instead.
"Fitter Family" beauty contests were started at the 1920 Kansas State Fair, and grew out of a confluence of the dog show world and the eugenic movement, as I note in The Eugenics Man and the Kennel Club.
A formal system of beauty pageants started shortly after that.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
American Badger and Raccoon skulls
One of the questions most frequently asked is whether a groundhog or a raccoon is tougher than a fox?
It is a common question, but how do you compare apples and eggs?
Groundhogs are simply different. For the dog, they can be tough to locate in a large sette with soft earth, as a groundhog can dig away quite rapidly, and tunnel pipes can be very tight.
If a larger dog tries to dig to a groundhog in a tight pipe, the dog can easily bottle itself front and back with an earth plug behind and an earth plug in front. This does not happen too often, but suffocation underground still kills more dogs than anything else.
Groundhogs have no necks and cannot be throttled underground and can only rarely be pulled — and then only if they are very close to the entrance or you have broken away most of the pipe at the end of a dig.
Small Possum and Fox skulls
A groundhog’s teeth are like small chisels, and their bite can leave a kerf of flesh missing from a dog’s lip. A groundhog’s jaws are extremely powerful, and they can crush a dog’s sinuses, but their jaw is not very long, and so they have a hard time getting a good grip. Most groundhog injuries are pretty superficial and will granulate on their own, but if a large dog gets it into its head that it can “horse” a groundhog out of a den pipe, it is likely to take a serious amount of punishment for its efforts.
A fox has canines that can create deep puncture wounds but the bite of a fox is not as powerful as that of a groundhog. Infection and eye damage are the main worry.
I consider groundhogs tough for the totality of the package, raccoons tough for their crushing bite potential, and fox third in line, with possum a distant fourth. Other folks would rank them differently (possum would always be fourth), and I would not argue.
Of course the real truth is that with an experienced dog, the quarry is generally not too tough, even if the ground almost always is!
Friday, June 18, 2010
You might think so.
You see, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) is quoting this blog in the cover story of All Animals magazine, which is HSUS's full-color bimonthly membership magazine which goes out to their 10 million members.
In a long, well-written, and fair piece, author Carrie Allan lays out The Purebred Paradox whose strap line is "Is the quest for the 'perfect dog' driving a genetic health crisis?"
Once upon a time, people believed that purebred dogs were naturally healthier than mixed breeds. How have we arrived at a point where it may be safer to presume the opposite? ....
.... The more limited the number of mates, the greater the chance a dog will be bred with a relative who shares similar genes. Genetic diseases are caused by recessive genes, so a good gene from one parent will trump a bad gene from the other. But if both parents have a bad gene—such as one that predisposes them to hip dysplasia or blindness—the likelihood of a sick puppy increases.
“What happens when you have a small and inbreeding population is that the probability of two negative recessive genes finding each other increases as the gene pool chokes down to a smaller and smaller pool,” says Patrick Burns, a Dogs Today columnist who frequently writes about genetic health issues on his blog, Terrierman’s Daily Dose.
A closed registry that allows no “new blood” into the mix exacerbates the problem, he argues: “In many AKC dogs, the founding gene pool was less than 50 dogs. For some breeds, it was less than 20 dogs.”
This year’s Westminster champion, a Scottish terrier named Sadie, hails from one of these tiny gene pools and is “very heavily inbred,” says Burns. The limited ancestry for AKC-registered Scotties, he adds, helps explain why 45 percent die of cancer.
“We do not need to have a closed registry to keep a breed,” Burns says, pointing out that breeds existed long before there was an organization to track them. “We did not create the dogs we love in a closed registry system—we have only ruined them there.”
Read the whole thing. The HTML version (multiple jump pages) is here, and the PDF version (8 pages) is here.
This is one of the longest and best articles done so far on the American "dog mess" that is a confluence between disease, deformity and defect caused by inbreeding and contrived and twisted breed standards, and the sick internacine economic relationships that exist between puppy mills and the AKC.
This article also details what has been going on in the United Kingdom since the advent of Pedigree Dogs Exposed. As Carrie Allan writes:
[I]in the United Kingdom, at least, there seems to be momentum for change. Whether that momentum will gather steam in the U.S. remains to be seen
Spread this article around!
Remember that if you want the Humane Society of the U.S. to move in the right direction, you need to click and treat.
I assure you this is the right direction. They have not taken any gratuitous swipes at pedigree dogs or dog breeders. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Take this line for example. Anyone think this is not fair and well-said?
At The HSUS, we’re big fans of adoption. By going to a local shelter or rescue group, you stand a good chance of both saving a life and finding a purebred — after all, they make up an estimated 25 percent of dogs in shelters.
When you can’t find the dog you’re looking for, however, responsible breeders are another option; they are devoted to their animals’ well-being and committed to placing them in loving homes. And if every shelter dog were adopted and every puppy mill were shuttered, there would still be a need for good breeders to supply dogs to American households.
Full applause to HSUS for this article, and to author Carrie Allan in particular. This is a big subject, and she has done an extraordinarily good job of wrapping herself around it and presenting it in a cogent and fair manner.
- Related Article:** Who Speaks for Dogs?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
If you came across this paragraph what would you think?
Yesterday at the office, there was a brief discussion about suburban parks among a few of my friends. The story that triggered the discussion was familiar: there was a fight at the park, one parent was redirected towards trying to break it up, the other was unhelpful because the fight was "not her child's fault."
I'm not a fan of parks. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a parent that is.
The idea behind parks is laudable. Who can argue with a place where children can run free and play with each other? Even in suburban areas, space is at a premium and many people lack large fenced-in yards where a child can safely play.
The problem is most parks aren't a safe place to play either. What children are going to be there today? Are they going to be Christian children? Did they come with responsible parents? Are they healthy? Are they fully vaccinated? (Probably a better question than it was a few years ago, considering how reexamining vaccination schedules has turned to questioning vaccinations completely.)
The question regarding responsible parents is probably the most important one. I've been to a few parks and what makes me most nervous is how oblivious the people are. It really seems more like a cafe with a playground for kids than anything else. I fall more toward the "risk taker" end on the child/child interaction scale, but...park people can be downright insensate.
Would you think this person should be giving advice to other parents?
Would you think this was a good parent who had properly weighed risks and rewards for his child?
Would you question this person's knowledge base?
Would you wonder if this person really trusted their own child's behavior?
Would you be surprised to find this person sold herbal medicine, nutrition supplements, or aromatherapy?
Would you think "this is what's right with America," or would you think "this is what's wrong with America"?
As some of you guessed in the comments, this was originally written about dogs.
What was funny was that right below it was an article that said we should treat our dogs like kids. All I did was follow that advice and switch around a few nouns.
Did you see the bit about vaccines?
Apparently if other dogs are not vaccinated, and yours is, that puts your dog at risk of catching disease.
Really? That's at odd with everything ever written about vaccination, isn't it?
The author of the piece on dog parks is someone I have never heard of, but with a quick flick of the mouse I discovered that he got his first dog in 2000, and now sells his services as a dog trainer.
The same individual says there is no dominance in wolf packs, and cites David Mech as his authority.
Has this writer actually read Mech? I guess not. If he had, he would have seen that Mech says dominance postures are routine in wolf packs, and it is only because the hierarchies are understood that there is not more to-the-death fighting in wolf packs (though it still occurs).
Mark Johnson, the senior wildlife veterinarian for the Yellowstone Wolf Recovery Project, says the same thing and David Mech even chimes in on the comments to say he gets it right.
Caveat emptor. Anyone can hang out their shingle as a dog trainer, and frequently just about anyone does.
The advice being given here -- that people should be scared of taking their dogs to a dog park-- is exactly the kind of advice that results in dogs getting too little socialization and too little excercise.
Of course, if you are in the dog training business, maybe that passes as a business plan.
After all, poorly socialized dogs that don't get very much excercise are your bread and butter.
Dogs have been around a long time, and a few of us have owned dogs for more than 10 years. Use common sense. Observe. Read. Go slow. Remember that one wrench does not fit every nut.
Would you listen to a self-proclaimed child expert if he or she told you that you should not take your child to a park for fear it might get in a fight or catch a disease?
Would you listen to a dog expert with the same message?
The Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea) is the world's most abundant bird species (excluding domesticated species), with an estimated adult breeding population of 1.5 billion. It is a small passerine bird of the weaver family Ploceidae, native to sub-Saharan Africa.
You will notice the caveat, "excluding domesticated species."
That's in there because chickens are actually the most common bird species on earth, with about 25 billion across the globe.
Before Chris Hansen was catching pedophiles and predators, he was catching puppy mill peddlers, and those who wink at puppy mill misery.
Watch this whole piece, which Chris Hansen put together for NBC's Dateline back in 2000.
Nothing much has changed.
In fact, things are actually a little bit worse, as I will explain.
Because most folks will not take the time to watch the whole 45-minute video, I have appended an excerpt below, which shows the unblinking reaction of Ron DeHaven, the man in charge of puppy mill inspection at the U.S, Department of Agriculture.
Ron DeHaven, of course, is now head of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
As for Petland, puppy mills, and the AKC (see the entire Dateline piece here), they are still in bed with each other right up to their eyeballs.
In fact, the AKC has even created special software for Petland so that Petland's puppy mill dogs can be sold even faster under the auspices of the AKC.
And is the AKC still in bed with puppy mills? Absolutely.
In fact, AKC Chairman Ron Menaker says the AKC has always been in bed with puppy mills, and that it's financial future depends on being in bed with "high volume breeders," because dog shows actually lose money for the AKC.
Yes, that's right, "misery puppies" have to die so that people can go on collecting rosettes and ribbons at dog shows.
This is the American Kennel Club (AKC).
This is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
This is the the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
This is puppy mills.
This is Petland.
And this is dogs in America today.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
SINGLE WHITE FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I'm a very good girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I'll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me. >> Click here if you want a committed relationship
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
This aisle of dog feces did not result in a direct violation from the USDA.
If I told you the current head of the American Veterinary Medical Association had been in charge of puppy mill inspections at the U.S. Department of Agriculture at a time when inspectors rarely issued a citation for even the most horrific situation, would you believe me?
Would you believe me if I told you this same gentleman -- Ron DeHaven -- is now a cheerleader for veterinary bill padding?
The good news is that you do not have to believe me.
I have video tape and records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture itself to prove it.
Let's start with the USDA's "Animal Care" division.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's own Inspector General released a report last month admitting the Agency has done a very poor job of enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, the law designed to make sure that "commercial breeding facilities" for dogs and cats are something less than centers for horror, pain and misery.
You can read the entire report yourself right here [PDF], complete with graphic pictures.
The report starts off noting that:
In our last audit  on animals in research facilities, we found that the agency was not aggressively pursuing enforcement actions against violators of AWA [Animal Welfare Act] and that it assessed minimal monetary penalties against them....
And guess what? Things did not improve!
As The Los Angeles Times summarized in its story on the USDA's Inspector General report:
An internal government report says dogs are dying and living in horrific conditions due to lax government enforcement of large kennels known as puppy mills.
Investigators say the Department of Agriculture agency in charge of enforcing the Animal Welfare Act often ignores repeat violations, waives penalties and doesn't adequately document inhumane treatment of dogs. In one case cited by the department's inspector general, 27 dogs died at an Oklahoma breeding facility after inspectors had visited the facility several times and cited it for violations.
The review, conducted between 2006 and 2008, found that more than half of those who had already been cited for violations flouted the law again. It details grisly conditions at several facilities and includes photos of dogs with gaping wounds, covered in ticks and living among pools of feces.
So who was running Animal Control during those years?
None other than Ron DeHaven, the current head of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
DeHaven was deputy administrator for Animal Care (AC) from 1996-2001, deputy administrator of APHIS for Veterinary Services from 2002-2004 and head administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from April 2004-July 2007.
In short, if commerial dog breeding facilities in the U.S. are a mess, that mess is parked right at his door.
Ticks on this dog were deemed to not be a direct violation, and so no follow up.
So what's DeHaven's message now? Watch the video below to find out.
Isn't that wonderful? Ron DeHaven is the new face of veterinary bill padding; a pusher for contrived crisis and the "dependency model" of veterinary care.
The current head of the AVMA is the same fellow who gave a "big wink" to the kind of puppy mill abuse the USDA's Inspector General found so shocking only last month.
This is who represents your veterinarian on Capitol Hill.
You know what you won't find the AVMA talking about?
You won't hear them talking about contrived standards in Kennel Club dogs.
You won't hear them talking inbreeding and disease in Kennel Club dogs.
And why would they? For veterinarians, silence has been golden.
- Related Links
** A Business Plan Based on Fencing Out the Truth
** You Can Vaccinate Your Own Dog
** Over Vaccination Is Bad Medicine
** Year Round Dosing for Big Veterinary Profits
** Pearly White Profits From Teeth Cleaning
** Year Round Dosing for Big Veterinary Profits
** The Billion Dollar Heartworm Scam
** The Billion Dollar Lyme Disease Scam
** The Billion Dollar Vaccine Scam
** Vet Pricing Has Nothing To Do With Care
Monday, June 14, 2010
Click to enlarge. Art work by Kevin Brockbank (note dog in a pot at right!)
Out of Africa
A single breed - the Congo Terrier - sums up the history of dogs.
Have you noticed that in the world of dogs, names and places never quite line up?
Look at Welsh Terriers.
I know digging men in Wales, but none that use a Kennel Club Welsh Terrier to hunt fox to ground.
I know digging men in Scotland, but none that use a Scottish terrier.
There are no Kennel Club Afghan dogs coursing in South Central Asia.
Show line German Shepherds?
Not too many of those herding sheep in Germany!
And in central Africa, the locals are not using "Congo Terriers" that have Kennel Club papers.
A Congo terrier?
What on earth is that?
The Kennel Club's Pariah Dog
The “Congo terrier” was discovered by explorer Georg Schweinfurth on an expedition to Africa in 1869.
He called the dogs "Niam-niam dogs," which described the tribal region where they were found, and he noted they were often quite fat, as the Niam-niam people loved dogs so much they thought nothing of tossing them into the stew pot for dinner!
The dogs themselves were spitz-like and barkless, with erect ears and curled tails, as is often the case with primitive dogs. Where the Niam-niam dogs were different was in their relatively small size, their short coat, and the fact that they often featured a white band of fur around their neck.
Though Schweinfurth called them Niam-niam dogs, similar animals were found across a wide belt of central Africa, stretching from Liberia in the West, to Sudan in the East.
Like many other primitive landrace pariah dogs, the Niam-niam dog had only one estrus a year and rarely barked, but instead vocalized with howls, yodels, and whines similar to those of the wolf, coyote, dingo, or jackal.
Of course, a largely silent dog in thick cover is not necessarily an asset. No matter; this deficit was corrected by African hunters who attached a wooden "bell" or clapper to the necks of their dogs so they could more easily drive small game out of thick cover.
In 1895, the Niam-niam dog was displayed at the Crufts dog show as the "Congo terrier."
The name did not last too long.
In the late 1930s, the Congo Terrier was formally brought into the Kennel Club and renamed the "Basenji" -- a Bantu name that meant "village dog."
The first order of Kennel Club business was to craft a narrow appearance-based "standard" for the Basenji. This was not hard to do, as only seven dogs were initially admitted.
Clearly these seven dogs were perfect specimens of their type!
Inbreeding to Failure
Seven dogs, of course, is not much of a gene pool. In fact, the gene pool of the Basenji never grew much bigger than this. Over the course of the next 60 years, no more than 30 dogs comprised the entire founding stock of the breed in the U.K., the U.S., and Europe.
Inbreeding within this small stock of foundation dogs quickly led to a crushing genetic load and a rise in disease.
The first issue to raise its head was Hemolytic Anemia. When testing was started, twenty percent of all Basenjis carried this recessive gene. What to do?
The answer: Cull.
And cull they did, with about 18 percent of Basenjis weeded out of the American Kennel Club gene pool over the course of a decade.
Of course, this deep reduction in an already narrow gene pool sped up the inbreeding merry-go-round.
Within a decade, another health problem had popped up: Fanconi syndrome, a type of kidney failure. A health survey found 10 percent of all American Basenjis had Fanconi syndrome, and of these dogs, 76 percent were being bred.
What to do?
The Outcross Solution
The solution, of course, was an outcross.
The good news was that there were was no shortage of excellent dogs in Africa. After a 1988 visit to the Congo, AKC judge Damara Bolte reported that:
"In five days and 800 kilometers of driving, we saw at least 200 dogs of which only three were not Basenjis."
Could anyone driving down the road see the same number of Welsh Terriers in Wales, or Scottish Terriers in Scotland? Impossible!
In 1990 the Basenji Club of America successfully petitioned the American Kennel Club to open the AKC registry to African dogs, and 12 were admitted.
The addition of 12 African imports helped, but it was not enough. With popular sire selection, inbreeding within the Basenji gene pool continued. And how could it not, with less than a dozen dogs comprising over 95% of the Y chromosomes in Kennel Club dogs across the U.S., Europe and the U.K.?
Form, Function and Fantasy
As noted earlier, Basenjis have always been found across a wide swath of central Africa. The early dogs came from the Sudan, Sierra Leon, Liberia, the Cameroon, and the Congo.
In 1998, an American Peace Corps worker in Benin reported the country was awash in Basenjis, and that they could be acquired for as little as a dollar.
In 2004, an American imported six of these dogs, and they were shown at the 2004 Basenji Club of America Nationals. By then, however, the AKC registry had once again closed.
The Basenji Club petitioned the AKC to reopen the registry. This was done in January 2007, with a new closing scheduled for 2013.
Will opening the AKC Basenji registry a second time really matter?
Yes and no.
It will not matter to the Basenjis in Africa, which have never needed saving.
The hunting dogs of Africa are protected by those who hunt them. In this regard, they are no different from the working terriers of Wales and Scotland, the coursing dogs of South Central Asia, or bird dogs the world over.
But the Basenji community will not be dissuaded. They insist they are "saving" a breed.
But what is it that they saving, and who are they saving it from?
One thing is clear: Basenji enthusiasts are not trying to save hunting dogs in Africa.
You cannot save dogs in Africa by removing them from the continent, and you cannot save a hunting breed by not hunting them at all.
So what are the Kennel Club enthusiasts really trying to save?
Mostly, they are working to preserve a romantic notion of their own making.
For their breed to be special, a Basenji has to be more than another village dog, even if the word "Basenji" means just that in the Lingala language of the Congo.
And so, Basenji owners tighten down on what they see as the “special essentials” of their breed.
They insist no Basenji should ever bark, and never mind if some always have, and that a barkless dog is such a liability that the Africans themselves bell their dogs when they hunt.
And, of course, all Basenjis must have a tightly curled tail, and no matter that a tightly curled tail serves no function in the field.
Function? The American and European Basenji is not about function! This dog is about form and fantasy.
Hunting? What does hunting have to do with the Basenji? Nothing!
Why should Basenjis be held to a working standard when the Kennel Club Welsh Terrier and Scotty are not? This is the Kennel Club, not the African bush. Form trumps function; everyone knows that. And form is maintained by inbreeding right up to the edge of genetic failure. Why should the Basenji be any different in this regard?
And so Kennel Club Basenji enthusiasts hold tightly to a breed standard invented in England based on seven dogs. And when shown pictures of small hunting dogs in central Africa that do not quite conform to every aspect of "the standard,” they sniff disdainfully.
“Those aren’t Basenjis. Those are nothing more than village hunting dogs."
Right. No irony there!
Just ask any Welshman with mud on his boots, calluses on his hands, and a terrier at his heels. What does he know of Welsh terriers? Not a thing!
And so we come to the ultimate irony: What are Basenji enthusiasts trying to protect their American and European dog from?
Why inbreeding within the closed registry system of the Kennel Club, of course!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Prince Charles has called for greater investments in family planning in order to slow the rate of global environmental destruction, even as he has hailed the success of family planning investments in many developing countries around the world.
Not too big a deal, right?
And yet Martin Beckford, The Daily Telegraph's "Religious Affairs Correspondent" seems to think it is:
[Prince Charles] said more needs to be done because of the “monumental” problems that face the environment as population numbers “rocket” and traditional societies become more consumerist. There needed to be more “honesty” about the fact the “cultural” pressures keep the global birth rate high.
The Prince also said the traditional religious views of the sanctity of life, which are often used to oppose the use of condoms and other contraceptives, must be balanced with the imperative to live within the limits of nature.
His comments, made in an important speech on Islam and the environment, will be seen as controversial within both the green lobby and some religious circles.
Although the heir to the throne is a long-standing champion of ecological causes and the benefits of faith, some believe that Western commentators do not have the right to tell residents of less wealthy nations that they should have fewer children or consume less in order to keep carbon emissions down. Many of the world’s great religions, meanwhile, oppose the widespread use of contraception.
Astute readers will notice that Martin Beckford does not quote a single person from any faith community anywhere in the world, nor does he quote anyone from "the green lobby".
Yes, that's right, he quotes no one.
Zero. Nada. Empty Set.
This is a reporter???
Nope. Not in my book.
Here are the facts:
- Examples of dramatic fertility decline exist on every continent around the world, regardless of faith or culture.
- Roman Catholic countries have the lowest fertility rates in the world. Italy has one of lowest Total Fertility Rates in the world and has had legal abortion since 1978.
- Iran, the center of Shia Islam, has a Total Fertility Rate below replacement, and lower than that of the United States. The local condom factories are endorsed by the Imams.
- Fertility declines in Asia and Latin America have been jaw-dropping, from China, Chile, Brazil, Japan and Korea (below replacement TFR) to Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico and Argentina (within striking distance of achieving replacement-level TFR).
In fact, the most important determinant of family planning is not religion, but mandatory public school enrollment combined with expressed and active support of family planning programs by local and national government officials, and widespread access to a full array of modern, low-cost, contraceptive methods.
The good news, as the graph below suggests, is that the world has moved beyond contrived controversy about the population and environment connection.
In a world where forest is falling to field, and field is falling to freeway, the world has come to see family planning as a gift that keeps on giving,
That is as true in South Africa as it is in Spain, as true in China as it is in El Salvador. Too bad The Daily Telegraph did not send a real reporter to spread the news.
I live a short walk to the cliffs on the other side of the river from Georgetown, between Key Bridge and Chain Bridge. This picture is taken from the other side of the river, from the docks of the Potomac Boat Club.
I cross Key Bridge every day to get to work. The bridge was built in 1923. Between my house and the bridge is a bald eagle nest.
This is the Potomac Boat Club, located at the foot of Key Bridge. I rowed crew out of here in high school under the auspices of the legendary Charlie Butt. I was not much of an oarsman, but he was a good coach.
All the shells and oars are fiberglass now. In my day, all the boats and oars were wood. The first fiberglass boat showed up in my Junior year. This is the storage "bone yard" under the last remaining arches of the old Aqueduct Bridge, which was othewise torn down in 1933.
Still green and white. This particular version of the boat house dates to 1908. The Potomac Boat Club was actually founded in 1869.
The docks. I carried many a boat down these.
Jacques Cousteau would have been 100 yesterday. He was not just "the guy on TV" showing us the sea (in 120 films); he was also a decorated war hero, the co-inventor (with Émile Gagnan) of the first commercially available aqualung, an author of 50 books, pioneer photographer, and a voice for the environment that still lives in the 50,000 member Cousteau Society, which is headquartered in Hampton, Virginia.
My son got his dog spayed, and they put on this absurdly large cone of shame. She looks like a radar dish! I have a cloth cone around here somewhere, if I can find it....