Wednesday, August 17, 2022


Barney.  Gone more than 32 years, but never forgotten, always loved.  Lived to 15 and buried in a stone-lined grave under a cherry tree.

Tracking a Lost iPhone

I took 30 minutes to drive down to a marsh and squeeze off a few pictures… and in the process damn near ruined my day.

While putting a dog back in the vehicle, I apparently put my phone on top of the car… and then drove down a gravel road next to the swamp.

Later, when I got to DC and couldn’t find the phone, I backtracked to a few commercial places I’d been, but no phone.

At home, 55 miles away, I activated my “find phone” app, and it said my phone was on the gravel road next to the swamp, about 40 miles away.

Long story short, I used my wife’s phone to find my lost phone on the gravel road, but in the interim, it had been run over by my car or someone else’s. 

The good news is that while the screen was cracked, the phone still worked, and after depositing $29 and waiting an hour, the local T-Mobile store had me back together as good as new.

Small miracle!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Bestiary of Imagination

In 1663, the partially fossilised skeleton of a woolly rhinoceros was discovered in a cave in Germany and assembled... poorly. 

The “Magdeburg Unicorn" is one of the most humorous “serious” fossil reconstructions ever assembled

Sunday, August 14, 2022

How Do E-Collars ACTUALLY Work?

How do modern e-collars work?

No, not the mechanicals; I've read all the patents and know more about the mechanics than I need to..  

I'm not talking about tech.  

And I'm not talking about techniqueI know how to use a modern  e-collar. I've written on that, and used them with success.

No, my question is more fundamental.  How can the dogs FEEL what I cannot feel?

My dogs operate on a working level of 4-7 on a 100-scale collar.  

I cannot feel a collar at 10, and even then it's a tap so light it feels like a fly landing.

Is this what the dogs feel?  

All I know for sure is the only evidence the dogs "get the message" is that they stop a bad behavior or start paying attention to a command they know. At most, they flick an ear like there’s a flea under their collar. That’s it. 

And yet if you snap a leash on a dog and jerk on a flat collar or a slip chain, that's easily blow off -- why we see so many folks being pulled down the sidewalk by their errant charges.  

But put that same dog on an e-collar and leash, and a tap or two is all that's needed to get that dog paying attention and walking without pulling.  

So how's it work?  How can something I cannot feel get the dog’s attention?

I am not going to say I have an answer, but I have a theory.  

Here's how I explain it, though I do not know if it is true.

When I talk about e-collars to folks, and after they have felt the “fly landing on their arm” touch of a collar, I ask them how it’s able to break through the Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that fogs up and riots through a dog’s brain.

And then I ask if I can do something to them.  It won’t hurt. 

When they say “yes,” I reach out and touch them, as lightly as possible, on the side of their nose.  I ask if they will soon forget it, and if it hurt.  NO to both questions is the universal answer.

I think the light tap of a modern e-collar works like that — a magical tap on the side of the nose, so gentle and yet so abnormal, and without understandable causation, that it brings the dog up short. 

Without being painful, it manages to short-circuit their psyche, same as if I gently  tap on the side of a human’s nose. 

I am not sure I am right about this, but the explanation seems to work for folks.

My theory is that the very light static charge in a collar is not enough for a human to feel, and may not be enough for the dog to feel, but the charge is strong enough to move a few hairs on the dog, and the dog can feel that.

I then ask if I can lighly tough them again -- moving a single hair near their ear.  

Did they feel that?  

They did.

And with that, the gentle action of the e-collar is normalized by presenting a parallel human experience.

Is this what’s actually going on with the dog?  I don’t know, but it fits what I see.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Remembering Martin Deeley

I loved  seeing this award honoring my late friend, dog man, trainer, and writer Martin Deeley.

For nearly 30 years Martin Deeley was the Voice of the CLA Gundog Challenge where teams from England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales competed against each other. 

Pat Trichter writes that Martin’s colleagues in Switzerland, Steve Grütter and Jerry Guénéau, commissioned this trophy to commemorate Martin and his lasting contributions to the gundog world.  It was made specifically for the Annual Gundog Challenge Commentators, and was given out for the first time at this year’s (2022) CLA Game Fair.

Martin was a writer, editor, and dog trainer who was also founder of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP), which was created in 1999 as an international umbrella for dog training professionals.  See >>

Martin was a daily reader of the blog, and first reached out to me in 2011 to speak at the 2012 IACP conference, despite the fact that I have never put myself out as a dog trainer of any kind.  A kind and charming man, and a true gentleman, he ignored my protest, and I was invited back in 2015.  

Martin passed away in 2019.  

You are not forgotten, my friend! 

Friday, August 12, 2022

We Are As Gods

As Stewart Brand noted, some 53 years ago, “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”

Hunting With Dogs

Hunting with dogs is not controversial in the US.

Hard Living Isn’t Romantic

“Local supply chain” in Appalachia during the Depression meant you might be marrying your cousin, pulled your well water 40 feet from where you shit, and made your skirt from a flour sack. 

“Local supply” meant no books, no movies, no big ideas — just well-circulated ignorance and prejudice. 

My father was the son of the town drunk in the poorest town in Eastern Kentucky. It wasn’t romantic; it was hammered by fear and alcohol, cold and heat, bugs and hunger. It was hard living and it didn’t make you better.

Where’s the Cheese?

You may “win” the rat race, but at the end, you’re still a rat.

Well Socialized Terrorists

Some Things Need Killing

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Living Dog Found Deep In Cave

A group of Missouri cavers found and rescued a missing dog found deep in the Moore Cave system, which is around 22-miles long and reported to be the 23rd longest cave in the U.S. The dog had been missing for about two months.

The cave has running water along with fish and crustaceans inside, but the dog was in total darkness, and it's not clear how the old dog survived.

Rescuers Haley and Gerry Keene managed to maneuver the dog, Abby, out of the cave in a duffel bag through a two-foot opening followed by 500 feet over a "tight, awkward, vertical climb."

To track down the owner, rescuers went door-to-door in the local area with the Biehle Assistant Fire Chief Robert Cahhon. Abby's owner said she hadn't seen her since June 9 and had assumed the dog was gone forever.

The Force of Change

Small towns are dying all over the world, and small farms too.

More people on the planet requires more global efficiency to maintain them, including more mechanization for everything from planting, weeding, and harvest to marketing, transportation, rendering, and packaging.

The result is cheaper foods and cheaper (and often better) products, but also fewer rural jobs and often marginal incomes for the smaller sweat-labor force that remains

The result is that people move from smaller towns to bigger towns or cities. 

A thousand small town bakeries are replaced by one largely-automated bread factory, same as the horse was replaced by the car, and the telegram operator was replaced by email and text messages.

The past cannot imagine the future without it, while the future is barely aware the past ever existed.
Why do these barns stand empty,
The Farmers Lament

On this old family farm,
And when did farming smaller holdings,
Actually do the country harm,

He was happy with his hundred ewes,
Few horses, hens and sows,
And never really saw the need,
To milk more than thirty cows,

Most of what they ate, he grew,
As DEFRA looks to blame,
He didn't need the plastic tags,
He knew his stock by name,

But he finds himself retiring,
Because his joints are stiff with age,
His sons moved to the city,
Where they pay a proper wage,

So he's in the hands of agents,
And their joy is plain to see,
Not a thought about his lifetimes work,
Just a big fat sellers fee,

They split the farm up into lots,
Such is their endeavour,
Without the sickening realisation,
Another farm is lost forever,

When the farmhouse sells at auction,
Should he really mind?
When it's bought by the very people,
Who have robbed his pension blind?

Its sold with tiny paddocks,
Because they'd like to keep a horse,
But they love the look of foxes,
So they'll never hunt, of course,

They won't like crowing cockerels,
Or the smell of muck being spread,
The winter sound of gunfire,
Or the thought of game shot dead,

These barns have stood a century,
Will soon be filled with glass and steel,
Developers will leave some beams in,
So it has that country feel,

All the strangers move in slowly,
And all the country skills are lost,
Do we think just about the value?
But ignore the long term cost,

He sells the farm and wonders,
What all his works been for,
And how will these new folks manage,
If there comes another war,

When Sainsburys shelves are empty,
There's no wheat or livestock reared,
They will look for farms and farmers,
To find that both have disappeared.

Words: Neil Andrew

Your Move, Renault

Humphrey Bogart was a master-level chess player and a tournament director for the United States Chess Federation.  As a kid and as a young man in New York, he would hustle folks at a dollar a game.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Is This the America We Want?

Don’t Mess With an Old Man and His Dog

From Wikipedia:
Cheng Peng (Chinese: 程鹏; 1962 – 25 September 1995) was a Chinese serial killer and dog breeder who killed six people in Yinchuan from 1988 to 1995, occasionally with the help of three accomplices. He is best remembered for fact that he fed some of his victims' remains to his dogs, one of which was featured in the 1993 film An Old Man And His Dog (Chinese: 老人与狗), directed by renowned Chinese director Xie Jin, in which Peng himself was also cast as a body double to lead actor Tian Xie.

Old Wind-damaged Wasp Nest

A blown-down paper wasp nest. Amazing architecture to these.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Nothing Loved Is Ever Lost

My mother and father, Sandra and David Burns.

This is my dad to the bone, but the Isadora Duncan-like scarf was the photographer putting this shot together for a Dupont Circle calendar of some kind. My mother was classy, but not a showoff.  Kansas nice and modestly self-effacing.

Notice the wee terrier in the corner? That's my old working terrier, Pearl, retired to the lap of luxury. Their last terrier, Darwin, now lives with me, and is my TV buddy these days. 

Signs the Water May be a Bit Polluted

Florida Man

If Trump is found to have violated the Presidential Records Act, the violation requires the individual to “forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.'"

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Apparently, I am FINALLY on the Right Dosage

Masters of the Obvious

Breaking Out the Wee Chess Board

We've got a dozen coffee spots a short walk down the street. This morning's spot demanded the smaller chess set, acquired in Morocco a lifetime ago, and made of Thuya wood.  The hand-turned pieces fit inside, where there’s also a backgammon board, backgammon pieces, and a pair of hand-made dice. Folded, the box is a little bigger than my iPhone, and about as thick as a carton of cigarettes.

Photos From the Downtown Creek

Saturday, August 06, 2022

The Problem of Self-reinforcing Behavior

You want to bust a trash-diving and deer-chasing dog off behavior it’s had free reign to do its entire life?

Be prepared to crank up the collar.

No, you do not have to be cruel or mean, but most likely you are going to have to do a little more than "tap on its shoulder" the first few times, and you are going to have to be 100 percent consistent and have it on a long line as well. 

Expect a lot of confusion the first 20 times you give a real correction. Put a long line on that dog so you can gently pull it in the right direction after it gets a mild zap for doing what’s been uncorrected for so long. 

Keep the dog hungry and toss a cookie every once in a while when it walks away from self-rewarding bad behavior. Fade off the rewards, but never fade off the punishment for doing wrong. In time, the punishment may be little more than a very small tap — a reminder of an old punishment and a new way of doing business. 

But right now? You’re probably going to have to put a small sting in that correction.

Let’s be clear: this is not puppy training for uncoded tricks. This is putting a quick stop to long-standing, dangerous, and socially destructive self-rewarding behavior.

You’re not going to change self-rewarding bullshit in an old dog with cookies and toy tugs alone.  

Rewards do not not stop bad behavior -- they get you more of it.  

Someone has been training this dog to engage in bad behavior for a very long time, by either ignoring it, rewarding it, or being very inconsistent and soft when it comes to consequences.

You are here to stop that bad behavior.  Now.  Today.

Sure you can "shoot the dog," but I’m an old softy and I say let’s try discomfort before death. Maybe if the old dog “feels the heat “ with a tapping e-collar and a long line, it'll “see the light”.

And remember: If it’s not working yet, just increase the collar level until the mild discomfort of "Edison Medicine" begins to break through the dog’s natural narcissism, ADD, OCD, and self-seeking. 

Self-will run riot tends to stop when corrective taps are applied and only good behavior is rewarded.

Be consistent.

Don’t talk a lot — don’t argue.

An electric fence does not explain — it teaches by well-timed and always consistent consequences.

Changing long-standing, dangerous, and socially destructive self-rewarding behavior in an old dog is different than teaching a puppy how to do a trick.  

And yes, even a mild correction is going to be seen as “painful" and "scary" to an old dog set in its trash-diving and chicken-stealing ways.  

That’s the point. 

That’s how change works.

No one ever stopped self-rewarding behavior when they were having a "good day".

Bring the "pain" and you bring the change.  

And how much “pain” are we talking about?  Oh, it might be dramatic; you might have to actually put the e-collar on… vibrate!  😀 🤷‍♂️