Sunday, August 19, 2018

Freeze Dry Your Fido

When You See What the World Has To Offer

Coffee and Provocation

Delivering Stimulation to the High Flyers 

A canteen worker hands over a cup of coffee or tea to the pilot of a Sikorsky R-4, the world’s first mass produced helicopter, RAF Helicopter School, Andover, UK, 1945.

Crows Doing a Smoking Good Job
Six crows have been trained to pick up cigarette butts and small piece of trash at French historical theme park.

The Big Business of Religious Fake News
Yuval Noah Harari, a historian and tenured professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind writes in The Guardian: "I am aware that many people might be upset by my equating religion with fake news, but that’s exactly the point. When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month, that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years, that’s a religion, and we are admonished not to call it fake news in order not to hurt the feelings of the faithful (or incur their wrath)."

Give That Clone a Bone
Vanity Fair has an article on The Very Big, Very Controversial Business of Dog Cloning.  Among the dubious achievements of the cloning world: making 49 clones of "Miracle Milly," the world’s smallest Chihuahua.

Foraging for Wolfsbane?
Rodale Books has discontinued publication and is giving a full refund to anyone who bought a copy of Johnna Holmgren's book "Tales From a Forager's Kitchen" as the preparation and cooking of recipes from the publication involving raw mushrooms and elderberries could result in poisoning.

Peer Review Means Very Little
You know why the FDA does not accept "peer review" as the standard for acceptable medicine? Because "peer review" is mostly garbage, as has been proven time and time again. As Forbes notes, “If peer review were a drug, it would never get on the market.” A large proportion of what gets published is either wrong or simply meaningless, and for a simple reason; no one is paid for peer review, the research is not duplicated, and the data sets are not checked.  As the folks at Vox note, Researchers who have examined peer review often find evidence that it works barely better than chance at keeping poor-quality studies out of journals.

Is Urbanization Making Fishing Cats Smarter?
Fishing cats  in Sro Lanka are adapting to urban landscapes just as red fox have adapted to life in London.

Potato Math
If you had 100 pounds of potatoes, and each potato was 99% water, and you dehydrated the potatoes so they were 98% water, how much would the potatoes weigh? Answer here.

Giant Geezer Fish
Whale sharks can live up to 130 years.

Nuking Mississippi
Two nuclear bombs were set off in Mississippi in the 1960s.

Loving It All, All the Time

Sushi, deer poop, kibble, wagyu steak, fallen acorns, pig penises, frozen chicken, cat poop, old pizza, and green beans.... these are some of their favorite things.

Mom With Twin Fawns in the Yard


This doe greeted me on the top of the wall at the end of my driveway. This picture was shot through the car window.  She did not bolt, so I got out of the car without slamming the door and looked away from her.

This was what was behind her; twin fawns. It appears they are still nursing.

History Repeats Itself, Lawyers and All

Friday, August 17, 2018

Canine "Just So" Stories

The Zambian Observor has an article about the Vadoma of Zimbabwe:

The Vadoma people, also known as the Bantwana tribe, which means children/descendants, are a tribe living in the north of Zimbabwe, primarily in the Urungwe and Sipolilo districts on the Zambezi river valley.

They only have two big toes on each foot.

They don’t have middle toes and the two outer ones are turned in. They still can walk but with some difficulty according to the shape, running is also difficult to them. It is said this condition helps them while climbing trees, though. The elders of the Vadoma people claim that their remote ancestors were bird like beings who came from the stars and mixed their DNA with early earth women to produce offspring. The elders state that their ancient ancestors came from the star systems of Sirius and first established colonies on a planet within our solar system that they refer to as Liitolafisi.

A substantial minority of vaDoma has a condition known as ectrodactyly in which the middle three toes are absent and the two outer ones are turned in, resulting in the tribe being known as the “two-toed” or “ostrich-footed” tribe. This is an autosomal dominant condition resulting from a single mutation on chromosome number 7. It is reported that those with the condition are not handicapped and well-integrated into the tribe. While possibly an aid in tree climbing, the condition prevails because of a small genetic pool among the vaDoma and is propagated by the tribal law that forbids members to marry outside the group.

Here, we have a "Just So" story that the Vadoma tell themselves to explain their condition, and some even claim it helps when climbing trees!

If this sounds a bit like the "Just So" story told about the Lundehund, that is exactly the point.

Just So stories refer to the children’s book by Rudyard Kipling. Killing’s stories describe how one animal or another acquires its most distinctive features, such as how the leopard got its spots, or the tiger got its stripes, or why the Cheetah always looks hungry.

In the case of polydactylism (extra toes, as in the Lundehund) or ectrodactylism (fused and distorted toes, as in the Vadoma), the cause is due to genetics. When the condition is common in a population, it is due to inbreeding.

Just So stories are a kind of Post hoc ergo propter hoc in which a reason is reverse-engineered from an observed phenomenon. I.e., if the dogs on a small and isolated island in Norway where puffins are hunted for a few weeks a year have six toes, it must be because those toes are useful to hunting puffins, and if a small and isolated tribe in Zimbabwe have only two giant toes, and occasionally climb trees, it must be because those toes are useful for climbing trees.

No and nope.

It's just bad genetics caused by inbreeding.

Alive or Not?

A friend posted this picture remarking "Just look at the intense LIFE in these eyes."

I did, but I did not see it.

For one, the pupils are identical in size, but one of them appears to be slightly out of line. This is either a cross-eyed lion OR it’s taxidermy in which the glass eye ball has rolled a bit (pretty common).

My guess that this is taxidermy rose a bit when I looked at the mane, which appears combed and fluffed. Another clue is that this shot is an up-close, head-on shot with no background whatsoever.

A final tell is that this is a “white lion” which are now being bred to be shot as high end trophies at canned hunting facilities in South Africa.

Not sure if I am right.  A search for the photo finds it has been used 1,000s of times across the internet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hunting Puffins with Gordon Ramsey

Where to start?

It seems a handful of Lundehund owners and puppy peddlers are terribly upset that I posted on the fact that Lundehunds are a genetic mess due to inbreeding, and that the famed six toes (preserved by inbreeding) of these dogs is actually not necessary for catching puffins.

Someone by the name of Pia Suopanki tells me, for starters, that I am using the wrong term for the illness plaguing Lunderhund which she says is "IL /PLE."  She sniffs that "I (unlike you) used correct accurate terms when discussing the illnesses."


Might I suggest she try using "the Google"?   I even provided a link to a simple Google search for Lundehund gastroenteropathy, the term I used in the blog post.

She came back immediately, of course, not bothering to click on anything:

I have lost 3 dogs to said illness, so one could say I know quite a bit about it. Of course I read / heard / discussed it before any unfortunate personal experience of it, as well. IN LAYMAN'S TERMS it is referred to as Lundehund gastroenteropathy, but that is not the proper scientific term for the illnesses. And yes, it does matter. Also for someone who claims to have researched it thoroughly, you seem to have a very poor understanding of it.


She is an expert by dint of repeatedly failing to acquire a healthy pet.  God save us from this kind of "expert"! And she read up on the disease before acquiring this breed?  And she sniffs about "layman's terms" preferring the gibberish of an alphabet soup?  Oh Lord, save us from Finnish puppy peddlers!

I went to the first link on the first article in the Google search I provided to her; an article from VetFolio entitled "Gastroenteropathy in Norwegian Lundehunds" and quoted it back to her:

In the past, this disease has been referred to merely as protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), although it is now well established that gastric abnormalities are present as well. Lundehund syndrome, as described in this article, may include components of gastritis, PLE, intestinal lymphangiectasia, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and malabsorption and has been described in the Lundehund populations of Europe and North America.

In short, Lundehund gastroenteropathy is the correct term, and it is a collection of serious issues, with dogs presenting with diarrhea (76.7%), vomiting (72.1%), ascites (46.5%), edema (44.2%), weight loss (32.6%), and lethargy (20.9%).

To be clear, this was not a new article; it came out in 2007 and so the terms have been quite well defined for over a decade.

Read the article
and you will also see that the history of the breed is pretty well documented, and it is not too complicated.

I am not sure how having three dogs that died from this disease makes Ms. Suopanki an expert. It might make her a slow learner or a lunatic. It certainly makes her a strange person with a diminished sense of empathy.

Who would knowingly encourage the breeding of defective dogs that, in effect, starve to death? This is the kind of psychopathic behavior that is driving the embrace of laws against Torture Breeding.

So what's going on here? What's the kerfuffle all about?

It's a very simple and common thing. People love stories and they love freaks. If you are selling dogs, it pays to combine the two. If you do that, you might end up with a "very special dog for very special people," and never mind if the dog is actually broken and defective, has serious congenital issues, or if the story itself is a near-complete fabrication.

Remember you are NOT selling dogs to people who are actually going to be using them to hunt Puffins!  Good Lord, no!  You think Kennel Club Rhodesian Ridgebacks are sold to hunt lions or Irish Wolf Hounds  are used to hunt wolves?  You think  Kennel Club German Shepherds are used to herd sheep? No, no, and nope!

The business of selling dogs does not have much to do with functional dogs at all. 

It's about selling story to people who are as common as turnip tops but who want to feel special about themselves, and who want to present themselves as interesting and unusual.

And so the all-breed books slather on the icing. 

Did you know that this particular dog has a direct connection to Kings, Vikings, Gypsies, and the battle of whatever?

Did you know this toy poodle was bred to hunt wild boar and crocodiles in Africa

And so it goes, with one fanciful tale after another told and copied from book to book.

Once folks have chosen a storied breed, it now becomes THEIR breed and their story, with their personal identity too often wrapped up in the dog.

And how does it end?  Too often it's that their first [insert name of breed] died early of  [insert disease name]. 

"No problem," say the puppy peddlers; they have another dog just like the last one to sell you. 

Not sure you want to do that again? Well, they patiently go, this breed really does need rescuingHow about you RESCUE THE BREED?  Please buy another dog to help "rescue the breed"!

And so people plop down their credit cards, again and again, buying a noble story, an identity, and perhaps a cause too.

I have mocked the phenomenon in the past with the creation of the Kill Devil Terrier, the Management Shepherd, the North American Pocket Lurcher, and about a dozen other breeds that I have knitted up with "Just So" stories.

So what's the truth about the Lundehund?

It's certainly true it is a genetic and inbred mess, descended from less than a half dozen dogs, and plagued with a serious and too often life-threatening disease called Lundehund gastroenteropathy.

It is also true that you do not need Lundehunds to hunt Puffins, as you can see from the video of Gordon Ramsey doing it old school at the top.

It is also true that Puffins exist in large colonies across the North Atlantic, and are typically hunted with long-poled nets and long-poles with nooses.

The total Atlantic Puffin population is somewhere between 9.5 and 12 MILLION birds. Vast nesting colonies of these birds exist and nowhere does anyone use Lundehunds to hunt them.

Did they ever use Lundehunds to hunt Puffins?

Hard to say.

All we know for certain is that while we have a lot of video tape and pictures of the Lochness Monster and Big Foot, there is a strange paucity of film or pictures of anyone hunting Puffins with Lundehunds. I am not saying it never occurred. What I am saying is that dogs were never necessary, and still aren't, as the film at top makes clear.  The film below illuminates why:

The short story is that Puffins only make land during their nesting season, during which time the adult birds fly off and return, again and again, with small fish to feed themselves, their mate, and their young.

The business of catching Puffins then is about catching adult birds to eat, and that's best done with nets and nooses at crowded communal nesting sites. You do not have to run around too much if you are in the right place; the birds will simply fly into you. And, for the record, the biggest threat to Puffins is not hunting, but non-native rats; a fact true for nesting island birds the world over.

The Lundehund breeders are quite comical in their insistence that I have it ALL wrong, but they are somewhat at a loss as to how I have it all wrong.  They offer no links and no pictures or video tape of Lundehunds hunting puffins.

One Jason Leach sent me an email saying "Please remove your article about the Norwegian Lundehund. It is filled with errors, false hoods, mis-interpretations of the truth," and then he goes on to say he will graciously help me "rewrite the article so it is factual."

Right.  Mr Leach is from Delaware and apparently a rug merchant.  He does not use his dogs to hunt anything, I assure you.

Mr. Leach goes on to NOT name a single error, falsehood, or mis-representation of the truth! Instead, he says "DNA tests confirm that the Lundehund is likely the oldest purebred dog, though there may be an argument for Dingos and New Guinea Singing Dogs. If you respond, I can provide data from a DNA study done by the canine genetics lab at UC Davis for your information."

Um... no? I really have no interest in conversing with people who cannot read.

I do not talk about the putative age of the genetic stock of the Lundehund at all.

Spitz dogs (the Lundehund is simply a not-too attractive spitz-type) are among the ancient types.

But so what? It doesn't make the Lundehund healthy, and it doesn't make the dog necessary for catching Puffins. And as for that extra dew claw (see picture here) it really is not much help in climbing.

Mr. Leach then tells me, in another missive on Facebook, that the Puffins were collected for their down, not their meat, and that the dogs on these remote islands were heavily taxed because the down collectors were so rich.

Nope. Taxes on small islands are almost never collected on anything. That's true today, and was more true in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Norwegians on islands and on the mainland dress in wool which keeps you dry when wet, and they did that in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and they still do that today.  Is there a Puffin down business anywhere in the world where they still hunt Puffins?  If not, then that might tell you something about the non-existence of this trade, as tools generally do not go extinct.

Whats funny here is that the very word PUFFIN refers to the cured meat of the bird. It has an an Anglo-Norman origin and the Middle English word is pophyn or poffin  which refers to the cured carcasses.  It's not a deeply hidden bit of information!

I could go on and give other fantastic stories told by Lundehund folks:  that the dogs came to the islands before the last Ice Age, that the dogs are actually a more recent creation that came after the Vikings, that the Vikings sent the dogs to England where they became Corgis, that the Vikings never left southern Norway and Sweden and Denmark and never hunted Puffins or had Lundehunds at all... 

The fables and counter-fables go on and on

In truth, the dog dealers have no idea when six toes showed up in their very common-looking spitz dogs, or how those six toes are actually beneficial to hunting Puffins since not one of them actually hunts Puffins.

The dogs dealers are at a loss to explain why six-toed dogs are not seen elsewhere where Puffins are hunted, or even (it appears) why Puffins were and are hunted.

They would like folks to think that a sea-faring people with a great product never managed to export that product to any other location in the world where Puffins were, and are, being actively hunted

But doesn't that seems odd?

Every other working dog has traveled the world.

We have Mongolian running dogs chasing hares in Montana, English terriers going to ground in Virginia, and Scottish sheep dogs moving flocks in New Zealand.

We have German dachshunds cornering badger in France, Australian sheep dogs gathering wool in California, and Alaskan sled dogs pulling carts in Yorkshire.

We have French dogs used to gather truffles in Italy, American dogs used to bring down feral pigs in Australia, and all kinds of pointers, setters, and retrievers working from one corner of the world to the other. 

But despite the fact that there are 12 million Puffins in the world, no one seems to be using Lundehunds anywhere for anything. They are not even used to ferret out other birds that nest underground (such as the Kea in New Zealand). 

Instead, all we've got are dog dealer stories that circle again and again around inbreeding which results in deformity and crippling defect.

So how to end this?

Let me close with advice I wrote some years back for an article in Dogs Today

Avoid any breed with a disease named after it.  If the breed under consideration has a disease named after it, consider that fair warning! Almost all breeds carry a genetic load of some kind, but some loads are much heavier than others. The last thing you want to discover is that your breed is "really prone" to cancer, hip dysplasia, heart problems, "eye anomaly," epilepsy, or congenital skin conditions.

Bingo. I could not say it better today.

Winking at Abuse in Church and at the Kennel Club

The picture, above, is from today's New York Daily NewsThe New York Times informs us that that over 300 priests have been positively identified as molesting over a 1,000 children in just four (just four!) Pennsylvania diocese.

Pedophilia in the Catholic Church is global and endemic. 

It is not an aberration, but a known feature.

Over on Facebook someone wonders: "How can a person get a calling to be a priest and do these sorts of things to young boys? That is just horrendous. I defies my thinking."

My answer was blunt: "It’s a simple job with boy-f**king benefits. Everyone knows it, which is why boy f**kers join the priesthood."

In short, pedophilia is not an accidental defect of the priesthood, but a known outcome of the celibacy orthodoxy that the hierarchy has decided to maintain knowing full well what it will lead to.

What's this have to do with dogs? A little bit, I would argue.

Back in 2011 I wrote a column for Dogs Today in which I compared folks who are Kennel Club breeders and show dog aficionados to people who tell us they are Catholic. It raises a few... questions.

[H]ow about if we treat everyone who owns a Kennel Club dog a bit like someone who announces they are Catholic?

You are Catholic, eh?

There is a pause. Both sides know what is being thought; now the only question is whether it will actually be said.

“What are your thoughts on the pedophilia?” you might ask. “Have you thought about changing churches, especially now that you have children?

How rude, some may say.


You think it rude to ask how -- in a world where there are a thousand ways to salute God -- someone would choose to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a church hierarchy that winks at child buggery and has shied away from naming the problem and finding solutions for hundreds of years?

I guess we differ there!

But is it any different in the world of dogs?

When pressed about the physical abuse and pain heaped on dogs by extreme standards, and the systematic inbreeding of dogs within a closed registry system, the Kennel Club is quick to blame “the Victorians.” There is little they can do to change things quickly, they explain. It will take time. Reform will be slow. But good news; they have created an advisory committee of show dog breeders to point the way forward!

Right. And the Vatican has also put the question of what to do about pederasty to a group of celibate old men who think it perfectly fine to wear dresses to the office.

What? You are making a parallel between the Kennel Club and the Vatican? That’s outrageous!

Really? Which side have I offended?

And, of course the parallels go on.

When asked about pedophilia, the Catholic Church routinely claims such problems are quite localized. Yes, Saint Anthony’s church had “that problem,” but the Church is in “this world” and “not immune” from “such things.”

Now we know the truth: child buggery in the Catholic Church is a global problem and has gone on for centuries.

In fact, it has been so chronic and systematic that the Vatican has had a “pedophile referee” at the Vatican for decades.

That man is now the Pope.

But again, is any of this different from what we see at the Kennel Club?

The problems associated with extreme exaggeration or “selection for defect” are not new and neither are the diseases and illnesses associated with inbreeding.

These problems are not confined to one breed or one country, but cut across many breeds and many countries.

And who is the new Pope at the Kennel Club? What faces are we to see in the College of Cardinals choosing the way forward for the Church of the Kennel Club?

Why, none other than an unbroken phalanx of show dog breeders!

Was I wrong about the Church in 2011? Am I wrong about the Kennel Club today?

I think a Pennsylvania grand jury just answered part of that question, while the dog-buying public is answering the second part by marching with their feet and their wallet away from the Kennel Club. You can love dogs, and God, and hate the institutions that defile or deform them. In fact, you absolutely must.

But Do We Have It on Tape??

Young Blue Heron

Tools Never Go Extinct

If someone tells you a useful working dog breed has gone extinct, be on alert.

Tools generally don’t go extinct.

The observation that tools almost never go extinct is not my own, but that of Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine and Whole Earth Review.

Robert Krulwich of NPR did not believe the claim, but damn if he could find an exception.

If you listen to our Morning Edition debate, I tried carbon paper (still being made), steam powered car engine parts (still being made), Paleolithic hammers (still being made), 6 pages of agricultural tools from an 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue (every one of them still being made), and to my utter astonishment, I couldn't find a provable example of an technology that has disappeared completely.

So Krulwich being Krulwich went out to the NPR universe and after thousands of people spent scores of thousands of hours pondering and suggesting they could only come up with three:

  • Radium suppositories made by quacks in the 19th century and which caused quick cancer;
  • A Roman "corvus," a military boarding device used in naval warfare in the First Punic War against Carthage, and;
  • The ferrite "core" of a Seeburg Jukebox of the 1950s.

To be fair to Kelly, his original claim was that no species of technology has ever gone extinct, in which case all three of the above items have, in fact, been replaced by better off-the-shelf items that do the exact thing promised in the original, only quicker, cheaper, and without killing you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Doe and Fawn

Picture taken this morning on the C&O Canal.

The Bitter Edge of the Nanny Society

Size Matters

I admire the SIZE of the bowls these dogs bring to the game. Dream big or go home.

Choosing a Dog by William Stafford

“It’s love,” they say. You touch
the right one and a whole half of the universe
wakes up, a new half.

Some people never find
that half, or they neglect it or trade it
for money or success and it dies.

The faces of big dogs tell, over the years,
that size is a burden: you enjoy it for awhile
but then maintenance gets to you.

When I get old I think I’ll keep, not a little
dog, but a serious dog,
for the casual, drop-in criminal —

My kind of dog, unimpressed by
dress or manner, just knowing
what’s really there by the smell.

Your good dogs, some things that they hear
they don’t really want you to know —
it’s too grim or ethereal.

And sometimes when they look in the fire
they see time going on and someone alone,
but they don’t say anything.

Apparently a Sign Was Needed

James Joyce With His Airedale

James Joyce (seated) and family with Airedale, 1938.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Moving Too Fast At the Pill Counter

Fad and Exotic Dog Diets May Have Downside

I'm a fan of the SkepVet blog.

This is her take on Grain-free Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs:

For some years now, grains such as wheat and corn in dog and cat foods have been demonized by many in the alternative medicine world. There has never been any real scientific evidence to support all the hysterical claims about grains as a risk factor for disease, and there is no reason to believe so-called “grain-free” diets have any health benefits at all. Sadly, many pet food companies have chosen to play into this fad by offering such diets and marketing them in ways that suggest they are better for our pets than diets which contain such ingredients. This has led to an increase in potato and taro root and other alternative carbohydrate sources in dog and coat food with no evidence that these are in any way safer or healthier than the much-despised wheat and corn.

I’ve been fairly neutral towards this diet fad. While I have always maintained that the claims about grains are implausible and unsubstantiated, I assumed that as long as the alternative diets met the established nutritional standards for pet foods generally, they were probably no worse than existing diets even if there was no reason to think they were better. I have a natural dislike for pseudoscientific fads, but I still believe in judging claims on the evidence, and without any evidence I refrained from any judgement against such diets.

Earlier this year, however, I saw a couple of golden retrievers with an unusual heart condition, known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This can be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, but these cases were a bit atypical, and after some testing we discovered that these dogs had a deficiency in an amino acid called taurine, which has been associated with DCM. This deficiency is unusual in dogs fed balanced and complete commercial diets, and these dogs were on commercial grain-free diets that supposedly included all necessary nutrients.

Read the whole thing here.

Bottom line: "[T]he idea behind the health claims for grain-free diets is speculative at best and very likely untrue. Extreme diet fads hardly ever turn out to be a good idea in people, and the same is probably true for pets.... The diet you are feeding may be perfectly fine, but it is also probable not any better than any other diet with more conventional ingredients, and there is now some small indication that it may place some dogs at greater risk for this preventable disease."

The Dog Would Not Eat the Food on National TV

I got an email, over the transom, from someone in Ireland by the name of Conor Brady.

I think me and you are very similar. Read your latest blog on vet collusion. This is a big penchant of mine as you will see from my blog and it’s nice to meet someone as mad (if not madder) than me about the whole disgusting situation! Sometimes I feel like a bit of a raving lunatic but as our followers grow and most of us pop up, you know we’re on the right track.


I am not sure how we became a "we" quite so fast, or when he or I developed "followers."

But what piqued my interest is that his URL was a bit too similar to one I have owned for many years:

I mentioned that I owned the URL (it maps to the web site). Clearly he would know this if he had done even the most cursory trademark or brand search?

I got no answer on that other than "It's a great name! I've shared your stuff a few times from my FB page."

Right. Pigeon starts to slide into pigeon hole.

The Irish fellow goes on:

A couple of people were cautious, wondering why, with your loathing of the corrupt veterinary industry, you hadn't tackled the raw / dry controversy, it being one of the biggest health affecting parts of the whole thing? A couple more wondered what your connection to Purina was? I said I'd ask, it'd be disingenuous of me not to. I'm clearly a pro-fresh food guy. Thanks man.

Thanks man?  My, we are chummy now! People are asking about me? In Ireland? And why have I not tackled the "raw/dry controversy"? And what was my connection to Purina?

Right.  Pigeon now firmly in hole. 

You see, I have written quite a bit about the cocked up brands put out by failed movie stars, soda pop and candy salesmen, fantasists, and phony lick-and-stick dog food folks. If you have been to this blog and do not know what I have said about dog food, you are not working too hard. There is a search function, after all.  None-the-less I answered the question straight noting (for perhaps the 100th time) that people are free to feed what they want:

No connection to Purina at all. No connection to any food, vet, or other company. My day job is tackling frauds.... A semi-public person in the fraud fighting arena has to run clean, and I do.

I’m fine with whatever folks want to feed. For 99 percent of all couch potato dogs, it hardly matters. What matters is that about half of all dogs get fed LESS. Obesity is the #1 food health issue for dogs and people. Most working dog folks are feeding dry kibble, and it’s mostly Purina or Pedigree or something cranked out by Diamond. It’s all fine, though Purina and Pedigree have long term suppliers, feed trials, and a name to protect, and Diamond does not.

Raw diets are fine provided the meat is fresh and stored well, but it often it is not. There’s a reason humans don’t eat raw meat! That said, I am a fan of raw frozen chicken wings a few times a week as a tooth cleaner and chew activity.

Skin issues are rarely food and even more rarely grain. Most skin issues are due to fleas and dirt (wash your dog every week with pyrethrin shampoo), and the #1 food allergy is actually beef.

The Irish fellow comes back and says the key to feeding dogs is not less calories but keeping them away from GRAINS.

Right. One of those.  Grains in dog food is evil because... reasons.

Never mind 100 years of fox hounds, gun dogs, sled dogs, coon hounds, running dogs, working terriers, and family pets doing very well on kibble, thank you.  Make way for the man with a theory!

I wished him well, said the science was done on this, and repeated that I was happy with whatever folks wanted to feed their dogs. That said:

It’s like anything with food; fat people with diet theories, folks who smoke and drink whiskey who worry about GMO, folks who believe aromatherapy is a medicine but vaccines are a poison, etc. The good news is that science does not care either way. And mostly the dogs don’t either. I’ve been running dogs at proper weight for 50 years, and so have most of the working dog folks feeding kibble for 100 years. The pet folks are amusing to us. Cheapest entertainment there is! All good. Not much harm done either way. The working dog folks just go ahead and feed the dogs as always, vaccinate on their own, sew and glue as needed, worm without testing, cross out when it looks like it will help, and smile when everyone wonders how we end up having the hard-bodied working dogs that do the jobs talked about in the all-breed books.

Then, on a lark, I googled this fellow's name.

Guess what? He has a dog food company!  Or had one.  More on that in a minute. I emailed back:

Ah. I see you are in the subscription mail order dog dog food business. Good for you! I’m not. Not in any business. But I’m a little unclear as to your background. You list yourself as a Dr.?? A doctor of what? From where? What year? Accredited? By whom? Is Holistic Hound your company? Lots of gibberish on that web site. To tell you the truth it screams 'scam'. Not sure if that was the intent, but as soon as you start using the term 'holistic'.... there it is. Applied Zoopharmacognosy? No such thing. A term invented by a quack.

No quick answer to the Dr. question.  It was a simple question, but it was not answered simply.

On LinkedIn, Mr. Brady seems to list himself as a medical doctor.

It turns out he's not a medical doctor or a veterinarian.  Perhaps "Dr. Conor Brady - MD" is an accident of being in Ireland where the abbreviation "MD" can also mean "managing director"?   Still, it's an odd title since Mr. Brady is actually the founder and sole owner of the company/web site.  Managing Director suggest someone else put him in charge.

So what's the story? It seems Mr. Brady got a PhD in Animal Behavior Science from University College Dublin.  Excellent, but most folks with such degrees do not slap "Dr." in front of their name, at least not in this country.  Mr. Brady's thesis was about what all mammals eat, which sounds a little broad.  Perhaps his work is 2,000 pages long and involves tons of original research?  I would like to read the thesis, but I cannot find it on line.

After getting out of college and working for a few years for Guide Dogs (he would not say what particular outfit he worked for, or what he did for them) Mr. Brady decided that all or most of the Guide Dogs he was working with were in bad health because of their food.

He later realised the cause of their lacklustre coats, obesity and other conditions was due to the highly processed food they were eating.

After experimenting creating healthy cereal-free, meat-based meals for his dogs, he realised that there was a massive market in artisan foods aimed at pet owners who love their dogs and cats....

In or around the same time Dr Brady was suffering constantly from blocked sinuses which left him bunged up all the time.

A friend talked him into going for a food allergy test and to his surprise he was diagnosed as being intolerant of gluten; which meant that beer and cakes and bread was off the menu for good.

"This got me thinking; if I couldn't digest gluten and it was causing me a whole host of problems, how are dogs that are living on it doing? In short, not so well at all! I later did some tests, and got some extremely interesting results."

Mr. Brady discovered dogs did not do well on grains after he discovered that he did not do well on grains himself?

OK.  Not sure what one has to do with the other, but let's plow ahead, shall we?

I asked Mr. Brady if he had been formally diagnosed with Celiac Disease. He ignored the question, no doubt because Celiac Disease is actually a gene-based autoimmune disorder. In short, the food's not the problem -- the breeding is.  That's true for humans, as well as dogs.  The reason West Highland White Terriers have so many skin issues is inbreeding and genetics, not food.

Some of you folks with more than a decade or two in the world of dogs might also note a temporal coincidence. It seems Mr. Brady's dog food epiphany was timed to outside events. Almost no one had ever heard of gluten until the 2007 dog food poisonings and recalls which were initially blamed on "gluten" but which, in fact, were due to a Chinese-origin plasticizer added to boost protein content.

Was it a complete accident that Mr. Brady woke up one day deciding that the guide dogs were in rotten shape, and he had a wheat allergy, and that gluten in dog food was in the news, and that selling gluten-free dog food was going to be his (pun intended) cash cow? 

One thing is for certain:  Back in 2007 or 2008, Mr. Brady could not get Guide Dogs to switch away from kibble. According to Mr. Brady it was not due to bad science and weak persuasion on his part; it was due to cash, conspiracy, and chicanery on the part of whatever Guide Dog outfit he was working for (he will not say which one it was):

"They were bound to the cash donations of large dry food companies. So I gave them an ultimatum, me or the dry food. They chose the dry food. I ran away in a flood of tears and became a research hermit for three years," explains Dr Brady.

However, his years in the wilderness did not go to waste, he emerged with one of the first science reference manuals on fresh canine nutrition for vets, and began conducting seminars for canine professionals before returning home to Ireland.

"I noticed there wasn't a decent fresh dog food product available, so I started trading in 2011 making natural ready-made meals of fresh chicken, duck and salmon with steam- ed veg and herbs.

"Despite the downturn, business took off and we are now booming."

Booming?  Perhaps not. 

Seeking capital to expand from perhaps a few thousand units a month, Mr. Brady went on the Irish television version of "Shark Tank" to seek capital investors.  The video, below, tells part of the tale:

Watch the whole thing.

It's an amusing and illuminating video on several fronts if you pay attention. As I noted to Mr. Brady:

The video of you pitching your dog food on “Dragon's Den” shows an 11-month old Great Dane. That’s a breed that is typically dead at age 6 due to rotten genetics. I assume that’s not your dog, but a loaner or a customer’s?

Normally dogs in dog food commercials are not fed for 24- or 36-hours before the shoot. Wet food, high in fat, is typically hoovered up by the dog. You and I were both amazed when the bowl went down and not a bite was taken up. Sorry about that. Truly, I doubt it reflects on the food. That said, I wonder if it reflects inexperience with dogs? It’s not hard to train or get a dog to eat wet food, even if bottle rockets are getting fired off!

Imagine trying to sell dog food that your hand-picked dog won't touch.  Ouch!

And if you are picking a dog to promote canine health, why a Great Dane?

Also notice the dance on price. The potential investors want to know what it's going to cost the average dog owner to feed their dog on this product?  He says a Euro a day, but that price triples pretty quickly when a specific (and very common) breed is mentioned.

The investors should have smelled trouble by now -- it had crossed their faces at least twice already.  But, as the video makes clear, one of the investors was in a lot of pressure to invest in something after turning down everything on every other show.  He ended up taking the plunge;  perhaps because he was told by the producers that he must.  More on that in a second.

After seeing this video, I went on to ask Mr. Brady more questions, most of which were never answered:

Why did you name your site “dogsfirst?” Surely a for-profit company is profit first? That’s why I registered the URL — because dogs deserve more than profiteers and registries based on failed eugenics theories. Failed genetics is what kills and cripples dogs. Obesity is what kills and cripples dogs. Any part of those two statements you disagree with?

In your “Dragons Den” pitch you say your food is made of “human grade” meat. Is that a legally defined term or just a marketing term? You say you also add organs and herbal supplements. So your food is NOT made from scraps of meat left over from butchering for the human food trade? That’s what most dog food meat is made of; it’s not ground up steak about to be served in a restaurant, but cow neck, udder bags, chicken and pig offal, fat, and meat mechanically separated from bone.

And what were the green peas to be seen on top of the bowl? Peas are typically added to dog food as a low cost filler to boost protein. Nothing wrong with it, but then there’s nothing wrong with corn either. But the peas were not mentioned.

And you also sell “salmon and vegetable” dog food? Starting to sound like every other dog food company now.

I assume you are familiar with two things: the science and the history. The science is here from Science magazine. I assume you know this?

“Dogs had four to 30 copies of the gene for amylase, a protein that starts the breakdown of starch in the intestine. Wolves have only two copies, one on each chromosome. As a result, that gene was 28-fold more active in dogs, the researchers found. More copies means more protein, and test-tube studies indicate that dogs should be fivefold better than wolves at digesting starch, the chief nutrient in agricultural grains such as wheat and rice. The number of copies of this gene also varies in people: Those eating high carbohydrate diets—such as the Japanese and European Americans—have more copies than people with starch-poor diets, such as the Mbuti in Africa. "We have adapted in a very similar way to the dramatic changes that happened when agriculture was developed," Axelsson says.

“Dogs and wolves have the same number of copies of another gene, MGAM, which codes for maltase, another enzyme important in starch digestion. But there are four key differences between the sequence in dogs and wolves. One difference causes dogs to produce longer versions of maltase. That longer protein is also seen in herbivores, such as cows and rabbits, and omnivores, such as mouse lemurs and rats, but not in other mammals, suggesting length is important to plant-eaters. These differences make the dog maltase more efficient, the researchers report.”

In short, dogs are dogs and not wolves. Dogs and wolves communicate differently, mate differently, mark differently, and think differently. They are also different at the level of gut and gene, and provably so. This research has not been closely hidden.

And, of course, wolves (if you insist) eat plenty of plant material as do lions, leopards, bears, and wild dogs the world over. Let me know if you want the links, but I assume you know them?

You know what zoos feed their wolves? Bagged kibble dog food. True stuff.

Genetics and science through a microscope is interesting, but experience trumps anything short of a double blind study.

And, as I am sure you know, there have been no long-term, peer-reviewed, double-blind studies which show that ANY dog food is better than another. And this is a multi-billion dollar industry! Makes you wonder...

The good news is that we have experience, and that has shown us that what dogs eat matters very little, while how much they eat matters a great deal. A billion years of working dog lives have been raised on kibble. Fox hounds, bird dogs, and running dogs raised on whatever was around and easy, and that’s mostly kibble. Imagine having 50 fox hounds and spending 100 Euro a month feeding each one! Not happening.

That said, I am all for people feeding their dogs whatever they want. Huge profits in the dog food business, which is why everyone is trying to break in with a “special” recipe. But no one actually has a better product at a better price, which is why it’s all about story. And, of course, no recipe can be copyrighted or patented.

Your business model seems to be selling a frozen tubed meat product online through the mail. How is it kept frozen while shipped? What’s the delivered cost per pound? If it’s tubed meat, you’re mostly shipping water weight, which is why dry kibble has an advantage.

Here in the US, small producers have had a hard time avoiding salmonella and other contamination. Again, let me know if you want the links to the stories there, as the stories of what the FDA finds when it visits are always illuminating. I have no idea what regulation there is in Ireland, so perhaps there is not as much inspection. That said, the slaughter and grinding up of carcasses is a problematic thing from a sanitary perspective, which is why we cook meats for ourselves and why fired kibble has an advantage.

Who actually produces the dog food for you? Based on your capitalization, you cannot own the machinery for slaughter, grinding, packaging, flash freezing, etc. Are you actually on site everyday when the food is made? This is a real problem in the dog food world where “lick and stick” companies are designing packaging and story boards, but the actual production is contracted out to nameless, faceless folks 200 miles, or more, away. I am always amazed at how little day-to-day oversight of product goes into all these boutique dog foods. Say what you want about Pedigree and Purina, but they own their own equipment, dry-fire their kibble to kill contaminants, and have vertical control of longtime suppliers. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

Mr. Brady fired back, not answering any of my questions, but incredulous that zoos feed kibbled dog food to wolves. Surely that couldn't be true? Prove it he said!

[H]ow about this, tell me one reputable zoo in the US that feeds cereal-based kibble to wolves and I'll verify it?

Do they have the Google in Ireland? I wonder.  I do know they do not have wolves! I wrote back:

You are from a small island without wolves. I’m from a big country with many wolves. So many wolves, some states hunt them to control numbers

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums Nutrition Advisory Group offers the following advice on the feeding of red wolves:

“Feeding requirements of red wolves have generally not been a problem in the RWSSP, as long as good quality commercial (dry) dog food is provided. Because of the number of commercial foods made, their availability, and cost it is difficult to recommend a specific brand. Wolves maintained in Tacoma have done well on food with label guarantees ranging from 22-28% protein, 8-18% fat, and 2-4% fiber. Vitamin supplements for red wolves are normally not required. Adding commercial carnivore log to dry chow may be needed to encourage some wolves to eat, although should not be the primary component of their feed.”

So what do they feed wolves in zoos? Dog food. And what kind? It does not really matter (though Purina ProPlan gets a shout-out here).

And how long do these zoo wolves live? A hell of a lot longer than those in the wild (and with better teeth too).

So feed your dog like a wild wolf (with the diseased rectum of a downer cow) or feed it like a zoo wolf (with Purina), but either way it will be fine.

Mr. Brady then goes on to say it's all a conspiracy of cash and chicanery and that the Association of Zoos & Aquariums "is a heavily INDUSTRY-SPONSORED organization (and thus lose all credibility)" (his capitalization).

Right. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums is, to my knowledge, the largest zoo and wild animal park organization in the world, with thousands of conservation projects all over the world and thousands of books, book chapters, journal articles, conference proceeding papers, posters and theses or dissertations published every year.

And who are their corporate sponsors? Not hard to find. And no, they're not dog food companies.  Go ahead and look.

Mr. Brady challenged me to show him one zoo feeding their wolves kibble. I showed him it was a pretty common occurrence. In fact, I invited him to come to Washington, D.C. to visit the National Zoo, across the river, where the Smithsonian Institution feeds their Grey Wolves kibble.

So, to circle back as I promised I would:  Whatever happened to Mr. Brady's dog food company?

I asked him several times, and he never answered, but it appears to have gone bankrupt.  The closest he came to admitting this was when he said he had "moved it on." 

Right. Nothing wrong with failure -- at least he tried.  But let's not use too many euphemisms in case we lose meaning.

I wish Mr. Brady well. That said, might I offer a few free pointers about the business of food, and especially dog food:

  • Fresh dog food is mostly water weight.  You are mostly selling water, and shipping water, when you are in the ready-made raw food business.
  • Raw food has NOT been proven to be better than kibble (and vice versa).  In fact, as I have noted many times, no dog food has ever been shown to be better than any other dog food.  This is a multi-billion dollar market and folks have tried to prove their claim of having a better product. So far, no one has been able to do it.
  • A fresh dog food company is always going to be a problem because meat spoils rather quickly, and refrigeration is expensive.  If you have never been in the fresh bulk food meat business before, you are going to hit every pole coming into the harbor and every ding is going to be expensive.
  • Dog food manufacturing requires steady suppliers and a known price point from those suppliers.  The meat market is notoriously unstable as trade embargoes are tossed up and let down, as seasons change, and as herds are slaughtered to improve market conditions, reduce debt, or cope with disease.  It's very hard for a small dog food maker to secure a large enough contract, and store enough fixings, to guarantee quantity, quality, and price.
  • Meat slaughter is notoriously filthy, which is why there is a great deal of costs associated with inspection, licensing, and refrigeration.  In the dog food arena, things are liable to fall down, especially if the meat is being bought as "overage" from a slaughter house, and everyone at that slaughter house knows that the excess necks, feet, udders, and mechanically separated meat is "going to the dogs."
  • A single contamination is likely to be stirred into the mass.This is less of an issue with fire-treated kibble or cooked hamburger, but with fresh dog meat things tend to go bad, without obvious cure. There's a reason salami in the supermarket is very expensive.
  • Starting a proper dog food company requires a certain level of capitalization, not only for the food processing equipment (grinders, ovens, storage houses, shipping and distribution services) but also to cover liability insurance costs, inspections costs, staff payroll.  The "short cut" too often used to make dog food is to contract it all out to a third party.  I call this "lick and stick" dog food, as the only thing actually being made by the "dog food company" is the label stuck on the bag and the marketing story stuck on the web site.  The problem with contract dog food is that unless you are actually at the factory when the stuff is being made, there is every reason in the world for the contracting company to substitute inferior stock.  In fact, that is exactly what happens again and again in the world of "boutique" dog food.
  • Not all markets are the same.  Just as a coffee shop can thrive selling a $5 cup of coffee in San Francisco, but go broke with the same business plan in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, so too is the market for  "artisanal" dog food  limited by geography, economy, and common sense.
  • Fresh dog food is not only more expensive, but it also takes up considerable space in the refrigerator and is more difficult to prepare, serve, and keep free of vermin (such as ants). 

Am I surprised Mr. Brady's dog food company was... "moved on?"  Nope.  It's a tough business, and without proper capitalization and distribution partners, it was not likely to succeed.

So what's Mr. Brady doing now?  He seem to give a lecture or two, and he's available for telephone dog food "consultations" at 25 pounds a pop.  His web site sells a lot of woo-woo products that are strangely at odds with his thesis.  Apparently the pure meat eating wolf-dogs that he imagines live among us also need seaweed to "assist in the fight against cancer." They also seem to needs a litany of flower petals, seeds, and oils when they get upset stomachs. His web site notes a host of ills which my own dogs have never had and which, according to him, are all due to the wrong food.  Not too surprisingly some essential oil, flower petal, or magical additive that he is selling is the cure.

Your results may differ, of course.

In conclusion, as I have said, before, feed your dog whatever you want and whatever makes you and your dog happy.  That said, my advice is always to look for:

  1. Companies that have been in business longer than two decades; these are companies with a name to protect and with stable suppliers.

  2. Companies that actually make their own dog food directly, and do not contract it out. Good food will never be made by nameless faceless people in factories that do not have an address.

  3. Fired kibble. Fire takes care of a lot of problems in the production chain, which is why we ourselves eat cooked chicken and beef, and not raw flesh.

  4. A food that has passed an AAFCO feed trial.  Yes, it's a very minimal standard, but don't your dogs deserve at least the minimal standard?

  5. Stay away from any company that uses the word holistic, homeopathy, or essential oils. Nothing good starts with a lie or an insult to your intelligence. 

Want to know my other four rules for dog food?  Read those here.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Just a Drop of Knowledge

Coffee and Provocation

PETA Attacks Company That Makes Meatless Burger
The direct mail mill called PETA is now attacking the Silicon Valley company behind the Impossible Burger and other meatless products that actually taste like meat. Their crime? It seems that in order to get FDA approval for their ingredients, some 188 rats lost their life. Outrageous says PETA! We agree. Kill more cows, chickens, and pigs. Carry on as before!

Mexican Corn That Gets Nitrogen From the Air?
A slow-growing indigenous corn found in Mexico has aerial roots—necklaces that drip with a thick, clear, mucus that’s loaded with bacteria which pull nitrogen directly from the surrounding air.

Is Earth Gaining More Trees Than Losing?
Maybe, according to the latest research. The first 30-year look at global forest cover found "global tree cover area increased by 870,000 square miles (2.25 million square kilometers), a 7.1 percent change from 1982. Most of the gain came from subtropical, temperate and boreal climate areas."

The Sudden Collapse of the Internet in the UK
When UK regulators banned lies in Internet Service Provider ads, advertised speeds drop by 41%.

The Green Party is a Russian Fraud Factory
The latest: "A man who registered as a Green Party candidate for Montana’s U.S. Senate race was on the state Republican Party’s payroll and heads a newly formed anti-tax group, according to a review of election documents."

He Died as He Lived
Man who jumped out of freezer and died was cold-case suspect.

Service Dog Registry to Weed Out FakesThe era of liars and mental and emotional defectives passing off their pets as "service dogs" may soon be over.

Replay Today for Amazement

Return of Swamp Thing Wayne Pacelle

Over at The Washington Times the notorious Ric Berman reports that:

Former Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle, who resigned in February after a number of women accused him of sexual harassment, reemerged on Washington’s lobbying scene last month.

Mr. Pacelle is aligned with a new political action committee called “Animal Wellness Action” that will focus on federal affairs related to animal agriculture.

Apparently Animal Wellness Action is a political action committee (PAC) which means it is in the direct-bribery game. The PAC says Mr. Pacelle is not a paid employee but a volunteer.

The new political action committee, which was registered in May by David Harvilicz, a lawyer and entrepreneur, is affiliated with a small nonprofit called the Animal Wellness Foundation, whose president is his sister, Dr. Annie Harvilicz. Dr. Harvilicz is the founder and chief medical officer of a veterinary clinic and pet care company called Animal Wellness Centers, based in Los Angeles. Marty Irby, a former executive at the Humane Society who oversaw its equine protection and rural outreach departments, is the PAC’s executive director....

...By joining a PAC to work on animal welfare issues, Pacelle could be violating a non-compete clause in his contract with HSUS, which operates its own political action committee. The two PACs are likely to compete for donations. By email, West said: “There is a non-compete in his (Pacelle’s) employment contract and the board leadership is aware of the situation and will be considering our options.”

Saturday, August 11, 2018

We're All Being Over-served

Digging on the Dogs


A big entrance disguised a pipe as small as a soup can inside.  Last shot is den repair; sticks cover over the hole that's been dug, and the dirt is then piled on top to preserve the pipe.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

New Tick May Mean New Danger

An invasive new tick is spreading in the U.S.

The Asian long-horned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis is the first new tick to show up in the US in the last 50 years. It is spreading rapidly, and has already been found in seven states and in the heavily populated suburbs of New York City.

Though the tick has not yet been found carrying diseases in the U.S., in Asia the species carries a virus that kills 15 percent of its victims.

The New York Time reports that the tick is known in Australia as a bush tick and in New Zealand as a cattle tick and that "long-horned ticks can multiply rapidly and suck so much blood from a young animal that it dies. The ticks bloat up like fat raisins until their tiny legs are barely able to support them."

Though the ticks can carry a number of diseases, the biggest threat is a phlebovirus that causes S.F.T.S. which stands for "severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome" in which abnormally low levels of blood platelets triggers internal bleeding and organ failure.

Tell It To Red Cloud, Blondie

Laura Ingraham says: "The America we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don't like ... this is related to both illegal and legal immigration".