Thursday, April 26, 2018

Bill Cosby is Dog Show People

Back in February of 2007, I posted this missive on the blog. 

It seems like a good time for a re-post as, luck would have it, I posted a bit about Dandie Dinmonts earlier in the day and Mr. Cosby just got convicted for serial rape.

Fru Fru Fidos In the Terrier Ring at Westminster

The latest news out of the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York City is that a Dandie Dinmont won the terrier class. I cannot help but laugh, as this is a breed so far from it's origins and so far from being a true terrier as to be a joke on four legs.

Of course, this Dandie Dinmont will now get a lot of press coverage since it is co-owned by comedian Bill Cosby. Does anyone else think Bill Cosby's ownership might have been a small (or large) consideration in the judge's mind? What a great way to launch a small ring judge into the spotlight -- and get a picture with a celebrity as well! Plus the folks at Westminster will love you for it -- star power publicity is always good for business.

Cosby has been showing terriers for years, of course. Or, should I say, he has has been paying people to breed dogs and show them for him. He is neither the breeder nor the handler; he is the person with a lot of money, if not much time. Of course, neither Cosby, his handler, nor his breeder has ever heard of a locator collar. Who has in the world of show ring terriers? These folks are involved in a different "sport" -- the sport of writing checks, deciding which dog has sex with which dog, and parading the resulting progeny around a ring. How this is a sport is a bit of a mystery to me, but that's what they call it.

For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you might remember that I wrote about Dandie Dinmont's back in November ("Danger: Market Forces at Work") and that I promptly received emails from two show-ring Dandie Dinmont breeders in the UK (Hilary Cheyne and Paul Keevil) who said their breed of dog was not wrecked by the ring, and of course it still worked.

This is complete hogwash, of course, and everyone who digs on their dogs knows it. And to underscore the point, I extended a small challenge to Ms. Cheyne and Mr. Keevil:

".... to find even one picture of a Kennel Club Dandie Dinmont that was dug to in the last 50 years. I want a photograph of a Dandie (wearing a locator collar) and his fox or badger standing next to a hole freshly dug. No roadkill photos now!"

Three months later and I am still waiting. Mr. Keevil sent me old illustrations of dogs standing in the counryside, etc. but he did not even have an illustration of a Dandie being dug to or working a fox -- an amazing thing since he is in the graphics arts business. I suggested to Mr. Keevil that he might try to get a picture from Alf Rhodes' family, but in truth Rhodes (who is dead) only claimed to have ever dug six foxes with a single Dandie Dinmont he had back in the 1970s. So much for Dandie's as a working breed!

As I have often note, there are more pictures of Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster than there are of most Kennel Club terrier breeds at work, and the Dandie Dinmont is no exception.

A Breed Known as Mustards and Peppers?

Sir Walter Scott was the first person to write about a specific breed of fox-hunting terriers -- "Mustards" and "Peppers" -- which were named based on their coat color.

Walter Scott's novel, Guy Mannering, is a travel novel about fox hunting in the border region which features a minor character named Dandie Dinmont, for which the heavy-bodied, rough-coated, dachshund- or basset-shaped Kennel Club dog is named.

There is no indication that Dandie Dinmont terriers have ever been worked since before the Kennel Club was created in 1873.

As I noted back in 2010:

The Dandie Dinmont is a good example of a dog that has simply failed in the marketplace. Last year, more Pandas were born in captivity than Dandie Dinmonts were registered by the Kennel Club.

Named after a fictional character in a novel, and forced to compete head-to-head with other poodle-coated mops, this dog has found few customers due to its odd-looking sway back, poor movement, and complete uselessness in the field.

Add in the health problems suffered by Dandies -- cushings, hypothyroidism, and a narrow-angle glaucoma that is unique to Dandies -- and you stand at the cusp of a question.

Factor in the fact that more than 40% of dogs are born cesarean, and the case is made for intervention.

The old working terrier from which the modern Dandie claims descent was not a product of the Kennel Club and did not suffer these indignities.

Perhaps now is the time to release this breed from the inbreeding mandated by a tiny gene pool wedded to a closed registry system.

Perhaps now is the time to release this dog from the bondage of contrived show dog standards.

Yes, let us release this dog "back to the wild" of its working roots. It has not done well in "captivity". De-list this dog from the Kennel Club's roles, and move on.

Ready for a New Season

Today’s Amazon box delivered a new root saw (I seem to have lost my old one somewhere in the garage) and 100 new button batteries for my old Mark I Deben collars. Ready for the year ahead!

Dirt Dogs, Circa 1560

Count Jacques du Fouilloux's book La Vernarie (The Art of Hunting), was the first book to accurately describe hunting quarry underground with dogs.

The dogs used were described as "bassetts" and were probably small dachshund-like hounds.

Near the ruins of Hadrian's Wall, archeologists have discovered the remains of two very distinct types of dogs -- a mid-sized coursing dog about the size of a large whippet or small greyhound, and long low-slung dogs with small chests that appear to have been dachshund-like in appearance.

May the Circle Be Unbroken

Rocky's bad habits finally caught up with him, but he was a friend and I'm glad he recycled back into a life of luxury.

Motorized Scooters Then and Now

Life With Terriers Is Always a Circus

Chinese Population Living in Extreme Poverty

  • 1981: Almost all (88%)
  • 2013: Almost no one (2%)

A Life in Icons

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ten Questions About Chickens

This is not a chicken.

Let's start the day with 10 questions about chickens:

1. You just got 25 hatchery hens. What happened to the roosters?

2. You raise 25 roosters. What happens next?

3. Wild chickens still exist in Asia. What are they called?

4. Wild chickens routinely sit on clutches of 10 or more eggs. What does this tell us about chicken mortality?

5. What is wild chicken mortality if we factor out predation?

6. Chicken farmers routinely trim beaks of egg-layers. Why?

7. Chicken farmers never trim the beaks of meat birds. Why?

8. Is beak trimming a modern practice?

9. Is rooster culling a modern practice?

10. What is the best way to kill a chicken?

This is a chicken.

    Here are the answers:

    1. What happened to the roosters? Since you were only ordering hens, you were no doubt ordering chicks of an egg-laying breed, and the rooster chicks of egg-laying breeds are normally killed as soon as they can be sexed (i.e. within the first week after hatching).

    2. What happens when you have 25 adult roosters? Simple: a lot of noise. Depending on the number of hens in the flock, and the room allocated, you can also have fighting that can lead to death. Meat chickens are typically killed between the age of 6 and 16 weeks, before the age when roosters will begin to fight amongst themselves.

    3. Wild chickens are called junglefowl. They come in three basic types: Red Junglefowl, Grey Junglefowl, and Green Junglefowl. The modern chicken seems to be a descendant of both Grey and Red Junglefowl.

    4. Any animal that has a lot of babies is telling you a lot of them die very young.

    5. When junglefowl are raised in an aviary by a professional, over 65% die of disease before the age of three months.

    6. Beak trimming is done because chickens have a tendency to become cannibalistic. Chicken cannibalism occurs in 13-15% of all free range egg-laying birds, and occurs among all breeds. Cannibalism seems to be a learned behavior, and so it is more prevalent in larger flocks than smaller ones, and it is generally triggered at the beginning of egg laying. Too much light can trigger chicken cannibalism (one reason chicken houses have very low-lighting), while pellet food, reduced crowding, and an ability to forage may reduce incidence rates (without ever completely eliminating them).

    7. Meat birds generally do not need beak trimming because they are killed at a young age, before egg laying begins. Individually caged egg-laying birds have less opportunity to engage in cannibalism, and so beak trimming is often omitted. Egg-laying birds in commercial operations that are not individually caged, however, are generally beak-trimmed to reduce feather-plucking and cannibalism.

      Cage-free hens are almost always beak trimmed.

    8. Beak trimming has been done for more than 70 years. While there may be no reason to trim beaks if you have only a dozen back yard birds for personal consumption, commercial egg producers often have 50,000 to 250,000 chickens at a time, and in these kinds of situations beak trimming is automated, and done with a hot cauterizing wire or laser that removes the tip of the top half of the beak when the chick is less than 10 days old. With just the top tip of the beak removed, the chicken can no longer grasp hard enough to pluck feathers or bite a neighbor's flesh.

    9. Rooster culling is a very old practice, though now it tends to be done with chicks under the age of 10 days, rather than with very young birds weighing just 3 pounds -- the proverbial "spring chicken."

    10. The best way to kill a chicken is the best way to kill any animal -- quickly.  The ethical answer has nothing to do with aesthetics.

With world population at almost 7 billion, and most of this population residing in urban areas, we can no longer afford to raise chickens as we did in the Year One.

In Iowa, there are 3 million people, 4 million cattle, 19 million hogs, and 52.4 million chickens producing 13.9 billion eggs a year. 

In the U.S. alone, about 2 billion chickens are in production at any given time, with about 9 billion chickens a year slaughtered. 

Across the globe, there are an estimated 25 billion chickens being raised right now, making Gallus gallus domesticus the most common bird in the world. 

If you think "free-range" chickens or eggs are ethically superior to any other type found at your local grocery store, think again. 

"Free range" chicken eggs are not defined by the USDA, and egg producers can slap that label on the side of any egg carton with complete impunity. 

As for "free range" broilers, USDA only requires that they have theoretical access to the outside world for a few minutes a day. Broilers are never raised in cages, but instead are raised in large sheds, and the "free range" sticker almost always means that a door on the side of the shed was left open for a short period of time so that any chicken that wanted to (often none) could go outside in a narrow fenced area devoid of vegetation, and covered in gravel.

A final bit of trivia:
What happens to all those commercial egg-laying hens after their second egg-laying season?

 A large number end up as dog food
, as these birds are now too old to be of much value as roasting birds.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Shooting the Eagle

This is the distance I am when I am shooting eagle pictures with a Nikon 60X point-and-shoot camera. I am a little below the nest, but relatively high up thanks to the lay of the land, as the nest is in a tree on the slope down to the cliff face along the Potomac river.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Signs of Fox, Not Wolves

I pulled this calf leg and joint out of the entrance to this fox den yesterday. The mole was at the entrance to another hole nearby. No, the fox did not kill a calf! This was most likely a still born calf that was dumped by the farmer (most farms have a location they dump the downers and the entrails).

This hole is at the bottom of a 15-foot gully drop, with a connecting hole at top. The den was dug by groundhogs, and I have taken a few from this location over the last decade or so.  Not a great location for a dog unless is is small and can go all the way through.  This day, of course, the sette was left alone.

The Red Fox Is Very Cat-like

You can see that a fox and a cat are about the same size. They are also built very much the same, as fox bones are much lighter than their normal canid counterparts.

Unlike most dogs, which hunt in packs, fox are solitary hunters, like cats, and like cats they mostly eat mice and other "meals for one".

The two fox you see here are not hunting, but scavenging. I think this is a vixen and her female semi-adult kit from earlier in the year; what I call a "satellite vixen" as she may stay around when the older female pairs up, while the dog fox in the same litter will be driven out to find their own territory. Fox are so dense on the ground around here, however, that territories seem to overlap -- we have some tension between Vulpes in the front yard at times!

Spring has Sprung

The Bluebells were out all along the creek bottom yesterday, and the Redbud was in bloom. Spring is here even if the trees have not yet leafed out.

Dinner In a Box

Dinner was delivered from a local Chinese place last night. The folded, waxed, cardboard Chinese take-out box was invented in Chicago in 1894, and was originally designed to carry oysters. Now you know.

Catching a Tiger By Hand

I hand caught a Six-spotted Tiger Beetle yesterday in the leaf litter along a stream path. They are FAST. I knew it was a Tiger Beetle, but I had to look up the species. My beetle collecting was all done on another continent.  Amazing bright green metallic color.

Night Fox

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Day Time Fox

An Essential for Your Vet Kit

A repost from this blog, circa 2007.

Dog men, construction workers, and midwives know that common off-the-shelf Super Glue works well to close most small flesh wounds.

Super glue was first used by battle-field trauma surgeons in Vietnam to glue the edges of lacerated livers together (ever try to SEW a liver together?), and to stop bleeding in chest wounds that other wise could not be staunched.

Since then, it's been used in hospitals, dental offices and veterinary clinics around the world, and is now so common as to be unremarkable, though most just-plain-folks don't know about it.

Hospitals tend to use a butyl- or methyl-based version of super glue which is FDA-approved, rather than old-fashioned ethyl-based super glue, but I assure you there is no real difference between the stuff.

The only reason that regular old-fashioned super glue is not FDA-approved is that the chemistry for super glue is now off-patent, and so there is no money to made in going through the very expensive FDA-approval process. For a single dollar, you can get 5 decent tubes of super glue at the Dollar Store (more than enough for a year's worth of rips if you dig on your dogs twice a week all year long), while VetBond (on patent and therefore very expensive) will cost you $15 for a tiny blue squeeze bottle that will fix perhaps two small cuts. Go with the super glue -- it's fine, I assure you.

To glue a wound shut, it's not necessary that it be dry. In fact, super glue works a bit better if the edges are wet, as the goal here is to weld living tissue together so that it will mend. For that, you want clean fresh (i.e. wet and bleeding) edges.

To begin with, flush all dirt and grime out of the wound with fresh water in a squeeze bottle. Once the wound is clean and moist, pull or push the wound closed while you "spot weld" the edges together with super glue. You do not want to put the glue inside the wound -- you are closing up the top, not putting in deep sutures. Repeat your application of glue between the spot welds until the entire thing is closed up.

For deeper or longer gashes, you will will have to reapply the glue in about four days. After that, however, the wound should be sufficiently knitted together to stay closed on its own. Common "flap gashes" knit up very fast with super glue, and I have repaired a dog with 50 cents of super glue which a veterinarian otherwise wanted $1,000 to sew up. Obviously, very deep traumatic injuries to tendons, eyes, etc. cannot be fixed with glue, but if it's a simple flesh wound, and is not too deep, it probably can.

Super glue has some anti-microbial properties, and the scarring (if any) will be less than if it were sewn together. The bonding strength of super glue glue is equal to a 5-0 mono filament suture.

Remember When First Families Had Dogs?

The Weather Will Be STORMY

I Was So Much Older Then

This was my first house and my 1957 Chevy Belair.

The wife and I bought this house in 1984 for $115,000, and the car I traded for a Honda 350 that was a used bike when I got it. The car had a cherry interior and a solid straight 6 engine.

That house is listed on Zillow at $973,000.  I wish I still had the car too!

The two dogs, below, were from the same period: Haddie the Border Terrier, and Barney the stray I picked up cold and sick on the streets of Oberlin, Ohio. Barney died of old age at 15. Haddie had heart failure at age 10.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Back When Cameras Had Film

This is my wife in the Renault 4 that we took through Morocco back in 1985. We drove that car south from Marrakech up over Tiznit pass. I remember there was a cliff face on the right, a life-ending plunge to the left, and big African phosphate trucks and herds of goats squeezing us between one or the other.

As it started to snow, the fuse in the dash shorted out and, without stopping, I popped out the dead fuse, wrapped it in chewing gum foil, and popped it back it, and the windshield wipers started to work again. My wife was so tense she burst into tears and I had to turn around.

My wife says, just now “anyone with SENSE would have burst into tears”

A few roadside camels.

A juju (magic shop) in Marrakech. Those are skins of various wild animals hung at top. Marrakech is on the northern end of the Sahara, where black Africa bumps up against the Arab world. The farther south you go, the more juju.

In the dye market in Marrakech about 33 years ago. We had emulsion film back then, dust on the needle, and no cell phones. If you got lost, you were LOST.  When I visited again with my son, things were much the same, but now with digital phones.

The Last of Her Kind

Elizabeth and Susan

The last corgi bred by Queen Elizabeth has died. Willow was almost 15 years old, suffering from cancer, and was put to sleep. The dog belonged to the 14th generation of pups descended from Susan, a corgi that was gifted to the queen in 1944, on her 18th birthday.

Stop Insulting Lap Dogs

The New York Times editorial board opened up a can of kick ass on the sodden head of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency:

Despite stiff competition, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is by common consensus the worst of the ideologues and mediocrities President Trump chose to populate his cabinet. Policies aside — and they’re terrible, from an environmental perspective — Mr. Pruitt’s self-aggrandizing and borderline thuggish behavior has disgraced his office and demoralized his employees. We opposed his nomination because he had spent his career as attorney general of Oklahoma suing the federal department he was being asked to lead on behalf of industries he was being asked to regulate. As it turns out, Mr. Pruitt is not just an industry lap dog but also an arrogant and vengeful bully and small-time grifter, bent on chiseling the taxpayer to suit his lifestyle and warm his ego.

Any other president would have fired him. Mr. Trump praises him.

Read the whole thing.

Scott Pruitt is like a Superfund site:  a toxic poison that contaminates a lot of land, threatens our children, and will take a long time and a lot of money to clean up.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

No More Wok the Dog?

You can’t eat them.
You can’t have sex with them.

What is the world of pets coming to?

Damn lib-rals standing in the way of a 1,000 years of tradition. 

From Reuters come this story about the continuing crisis:

House Panel Considers Ban on Killing Dogs and Cats for Meals

Making a meal out of a dog or a cat may soon land you in jail.

An amendment added Wednesday to a farm bill that was approved by the House Agriculture Committee would bar people from "knowingly slaughtering a dog or cat for human consumption," as well as transporting or participating in other commercial activity related to eating pet meat.

Dog and cat slaughter is extremely rare in the U.S. and already prohibited in commercial slaughterhouses. But consumption of animals commonly considered as pets and companions in American culture still takes place among some immigrant groups. Only a handful of states, including New York, New Jersey and California, ban such small-scale butchering.

Violators would be subject to up to a year of imprisonment, a fine, or both. The proposal would be part of a reauthorization of Agriculture Department programs.

The Black Beast of Inkeberrow?

Back in 2015, a black five-year-old retired female greyhound named Rennie went missing from Crowborough, East Sussex, England.

A few weeks later, a spate of "big cat sightings" from nearby Ashdown Forest began.

Stories of feral "beasts" lurking in the darkness of the English countryside have been around for hundred of years, and were already old when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used such a tale as the basis of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The stories persist, of course.

Here are a few contemporary descriptions of various U.K. beasties:

  • Beast of Muchty: "I was travelling to my work at 04:30 when a cat the size of a Lurcher, jet black, small head, very slim with a long tail ran in front of my car (about fifty yards). The whole incident was over in 2 seconds ... "
  • Beast of Bont: "The main evidence for the existence of these sharp-clawed, but mysterious stalkers has been the death toll among vulnerable herds of sheep."
  • Beast of Barford: "It is twice the size of a dog print and clearly shows three huge claws and a large pad at the back. Wildlife experts believe the print is the most conclusive evidence yet that big cats are roaming Warwickshire."
  • The Beast of Gloucester and The Black Beast of Inkeberrow: "A 'huge black beast' ran in front of Ray Lock's car on the other side of the river near Lydney... one evening near Monmouth where it was described as 'jet black and about the size of a large dog.'"
  • Beast of Burford: "A £5,000 reward has been offered for the capture of a 'big cat' which has been terrorising a farming community ..... Pc Ray Hamilton, wildlife crime officer at Thames Valley Police, admitted there had been several sightings - but said this was not unusual. 'We've had sightings of everything you could imagine - pink flamingos, lions, dingos, wolves and even a giant ant-eater in Pangbourne.'"

The human desire to create imaginary "beasts" seems to have some correlation to the loss of large predators and true wilderness.

With the extinction of the bear and the wolf, the U.K. has lost all large predators and now has to suffice with two rather unimpressive meso-predators, the fox (average weight 15 pounds and living almost entirely off of mice), and the badger (average weight around 25 to 30 pounds and living almost entirely off of worms, beetle grubs, and small bulbs).

So what are these large feral "beasts" seen in the English countryside, and why is it that they are never actually found?

The short answer is that these "beasts" are nothing more than large escaped lurchers (coursing dog crosses) that have taken to livestock-worrying. As an article on the Beast of Osset notes:

"On a parkland estate in rural Yorkshire a poacher's lurcher (a fast greyhound-like hunting dog) was at large for six months but was sighted only once during that period. The gamekeepers knew it was there because they found the roe deer that it had killed, but it took a concerted effort with volunteers to flush it out of the wood."

In fact, sheep worrying is a serious problem in the U.K., and while any dog can end up attacking sheep, it is the larger dogs such as Lurchers and Bandogs (mastiff crosses) that do the damage that lead some to think a large cat or lion is loose in the English countryside.

Sheep worrying by lurcher.

In fact, a lurcher really does look like a large cat if seen in the dark or fog, and especially if it is seen only briefly from a moving car, as most "big cat" sightings are.

A Bandog (what the Hound of the Baskervilles was) really does look like a lion if seen under the same circumstances.

What is amazing about the "big cat" stories in the U.K., however, is how easy they are disprove, and yet how utterly resistant people are to having their bubbles burst.

Take the issue of "big cat footprints".

Most of these footprints are clearly large dog prints.

How can we be sure? Simple -- all the footprints show claw marks. All the large cats, except the cheetah, however, walk with retracted claws, otherwise they would quickly dull.

This foot print of the "Beast of Barford"
is held up by a young hopeful.

The other issue has to do with hounds -- the U.K. is crawling with fox packs, and yet none has ever chased and cornered a large cat other than the now very rare native Scottish Wildcat, which is not much larger than a tabby.

You can be sure that if the big cats were out there, British fox hounds would have found them by now! In the U.S., small teams of less experienced hounds manage to track down marauding farm-country cougars in only a few hours time.

Finally, we come to the issue of rub strips -- bits of carpet and tacks impregnated with a mixture of catnip and beaver castoreum -- that have failed to turn up any positive large cat hits in the U.K.

Wherever these rub strips are used -- whether in North America, South American, Europe, Africa, or Asia -- they are quickly found and rubbed against by large cats and other predators.

A DNA analysis of fur caught on the hooks of the carpet tacks can not only identify what species of animal has left it behind, it can identify what specific animal has come by in the night.

Rub strips are so accurate they are now routinely used to survey population densities of such elusive large cats as leopard, lynx, cougar, and jaguar, as well as badger, wolverine, bear, wolf, coyote and bobcat.

Of course, "Beast Of" stories are not unique to the U.K.

Here in the United States we have Sasquatch and some local tales of little green men, swamp creatures, and even a werewolf or two (all delivered with a wink to small children).

In truth, however, we have far fewer fantasy "Beast" stories than the U.K. for a simple reason: we have more real top end predators.

In states like Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and North Carolina we really do have wolves prowling the remote sections.

In Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina we really do have 12 foot lizards slithering out of drainage ditches and quite capable of eating an old lady alive.

Mountain lions really do prowl the remote sections of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado and even Texas, and are now being found as far east as Iowa.

Black bears number well over 400,000 in the lower 48 states, and there are over 100,000 more in Alaska, to say nothing of a growing population of grizzlies.

Bobcats are everywhere, as are coyotes -- the later so common that there are local bounties on them, including in my home state of Virginia.

No one living in a large America city today lives more than two hours away from a major top-end predator of some kind.

This is a glorious thing, and something we should count among our greatest national treasures.

But a "Beast of Bondwynn?" No, we don't have that.

In a world in which top-end predators are still common, there is no reason to invent ghost stories.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The San Francisco Apocalypse Dogs and the Plague

Today marks the 112th anniversary
of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In honor of that date, I point readers to two old posts about The Apocalypse Dogs of San Francisco and how the earthquake helped bring the Bubonic Plague to the prairie dog towns of the American West