Thursday, November 30, 2006

PETA Taking Dogs from Shelters to Kill Them

I recently reported on PETA workers in Virginia picking up the dog warden's dog, taking its very expensive electronic tracking collar off of it, and trying to steal away with it down the road.

Now here's how that tale was maybe supposed to end ....

It seems that PETA workers in Virginia (where PETA is headquartered) have been routinely going down to North Carolina to pick up perfectly good dogs from the pound in order to kill them and dump their bodies in dumpsters.

Yeah, I know, I don't believe it either. So here's the link for you to read yourself. Knock yourself out.

Ahoskie police arrested the pair Wednesday night as they disposed of some bags into a dumpster. Police said the bags contained the bodies of 18 dogs; 13 other animals were found dead in a white panel van that’s registered to PETA.

Authorities said the animals were alive with the pair picked them up from animal shelters in Northampton and Bertie counties. The two were picking up animals to be brought back to PETA headquarters for euthanization, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said Thursday.

Police have said that Cook and Hinkle said the dogs would be found good homes.

The arrests came after a month-long investigation where as many as 80 dead animals have been found in dumpsters on four consecutive Wednesday nights. Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said, "It just gets to you after awhile."

A veterinarian told 13News that one of the animals he examined had been healthy and he couldn’t understand why it was killed.

And please hear this -- these are not some run-off lunatic kids doing stuff without supervision. This is PETA's core policy and plan -- to pick up dogs in shelters and kill them before they can be adopted.

"PETA has never made a secret of the fact that most of the animals picked up in North Carolina are euthanized," Newkirk said.

If there is a God, PETA workers will be going to very rough jails for very long stretches of time. Let's hope that Virginia and North Carolina judges are ready to send a message.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Whippet Good

Matt Mullenix and Rina the Whippet, with Rina's first brace of rabbits. The title to this post was stolen from an email from Matt -- a reference to an old Devo song.

One of the unplanned benefits of this blog is that I have met, online, some pretty cool people who, though they may hunt differently than I do, share the same three- and four-species trials, tribulations and thrills of making it all work in the field while hunting.

Along with the folks that hunt with ferrets are the long-doggers and, perhaps most interesting of all, the hawkers and falconers. This last group is, without a doubt, the most literate group of complex-primitive hunters.

The picture, above, is of Matthew Mullenix and his young whippet Rina. There was a hawk in this hunt, of course, but as Matt explains it (quoting Gregg Barrow, another online friend), "The first season belongs to the dog," and these rabbits are purely Rina's.

The first season, of course, refers to the dog's first season -- not the hawk's or the human's. Matt's well-written and insightful journal this season is more about Rina the whippet (at least so far) than his veteran hawk Smash.

It was on Matt's blog that I learned that his old bird, Charlie, is now in stud at the Coulson's down in Louisiana (Tom and Jennifer Coulson are Harris Hawk breeders, fliers and mentors par excellence) and that Charlie had sired the new Harris Hawk that digger and hawker Teddy Moritz is now flying in New Jersey. A small universe, eh? Teddy's new hawk nailed its first bunny back in mid-October -- a development I learned on Matt's blog.

Matt took a long hawking swing around America recently. To read a little about his visit at Steve Bodio's, see the Querencia blog where he and Reid Farmer also blog with Steve.

Steve Bodio and Reid Farmer are another pair of interesting writers I stumbled upon due to this blog -- the kind of people who write about Turkish pigeons (No Dear, not Turkish prisons, Turkish pigeons), and the commonalities found among petroglyphs across the world. Three voices and three interests make for a rich gumbo at Querencia -- with occassional dashes of good stuff from other bloggers, naturalists, hawkers and doggers to spice it all up.

OK, back to dogs -- specifically hawking dogs.

I observe that a very rich and diverse variety of canines are found in the hawking world, and that the choice of dog may have less to do with the hawk than with the countryside being hawked and the collateral game than can be had in non-hawking seasons.

Teddy Mortiz, for example, hawks under a small pack of long-coated miniature dachshunds -- dogs that are useful for busting rabbits out of the tight thick stands of multiflora rose that are found in the East, but which also do double dirt dog duty on groundhog, fox, raccoon and possum.

Steven Bodio, who lives on one of the high flat stretches of upland New Mexico, has a love affair with the type of Turkish long-dog know as a Tazi -- a function of the jack rabbits, coyotes, and vast open spaces he has in his neck of the woods.

Hawker Rebecca O'Connor recently acquired a nice red Brittany. Her first Brittany was so well acclimated it licked the Falcon on the face and the bird actually tolerated it. A small all-pupose bird dog, Brittany's do well in a wide variety of cover -- a good all-rounder for California.

In other parts of the country, Jack Russells and beagles are popular for busting bunnies out of brush, while down in Louisiana, Matt has a fondness for whippets which are good warm-weather dogs for swamp rabbits and cotton rats as well as for busting birds out of tall tropical grasses.

For more on the subject, see >> Rabbit Hawker's Dogs.

A young male Harris Hawk and a longhaired dachshund named Fitz (as in Fitz-in-dens) which has an 11 inch inch chest, both owned and hunted by Teddy Moritz. The young tiercel Harris has been doing the business on eastern cotton tails.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Change of Season and Quarry

Chris peers into the hole.

On the drive out to the farms this morning, the truck thermometer said it was 33 degrees out, and the first frost of the season was evident on the grass. The temperature would climb at least 20 degrees today -- maybe 25 -- but the groundhog season was over, as groundhog hibernation is driven by light, not by temperature. This is true for bird migrations too -- an unseasonal period of warm weather in the Fall does not fool the birds.

Beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing to Christmas -- a period of about a month -- it's hit or miss with quarry, with a very high liklihood of getting hit by skunk, and a better than-average chance of finding possum and raccoon. After Christmas, the raccoon and skunk are generally hibernating (the male raccoon will begin moving around again in early February as they beging looking for mates), and groundhogs will very occassionally exit to defecate and then trundle back down to sleep for a few more weeks. Possum are active all year long, though they will lay up for long periods of really cold weather. After Christmas until the first of March it's fox season, with the peak in late January and running through February.

Chris and I met at the Flint Hill store. I had in mind pulling into a new parking spot close to a creek bed we could walk looking for game, but as I drove by I noticed two SUVs parked right where I wanted to pull in. Deer hunters. It turns out it's the first day of shotgun season. Oh goodie. How many first days of the season are there? First day of early black powder, first day of shot gun, first day of rifle, first day of bow, first day of regular black powder .... No worries -- off to another farm.

I turned around, and Chris followed me back up the road, and we pulled into a nice big place that has a nice creek and a small bog on it. It was going to be a nice clear day -- not too cold or windy -- and I had high hopes. Or should I say I had high hopes until I got out of the truck and walked 100 feet. The fields were soaked. Where did all this water come from? I did not remember too much rain from the week before, but it had clearly come down very hard here just 25 minutes up the road.

We hunted the dogs up the hedge, busting out a fair sized doe and a black-and-white feral cat which managed to get away with its life. We crossed above a boggy area and hunted down the top of a field where there were quite a few holes in a more-or-less dry hedge row. A large new push-pile has been bulldozed up, but nothing was home.

We crossed down the field to a creek bottom and began walking up the high side of the creek. Mountain gave voice for a second, and the dogs and I followed into the hedge, but nothing could be found, and Mountain trotted up from behind us as if she had bolted something into the field. Whatever it was, it was lost now.

We continued down the hedgerow on the high bank above the creek. In the distance I could hear guns blasting away. There was a large metal tree stand -- the type large enough to hold four hunters and a propane grill -- overlooking this field. No one was in it, but I still found myself routinely looking up the hill to make sure I was not being scoped in on.

At the end of the hedge, we crossed over the creek and begn walking up the hill to another long hedge about 100 yards above the water, but Mountain was nowhere to be found. We waited a bit, and I whistled, but after another minute it was pretty clear Mountain had found.

I crossed back over the creek and began boxing some likely settes, but she was not in them. Chris crossed over too and walked up the hill towards the big deer stand but did not find anything. He then crossed back over the creek and began walking down the high hedge where we had been headed, while I continued to call and box a few more possible settes. Chris whistled and said he had found her -- he was walking down the field and pointing to the same hedge I was in, but about halfway back down the course we had just come up. He could hear herfrom up on top, but the acoustics were such that even though I was closer, I could hear nothing.

I gathered up my tools, and Chris did the same, and we headed over to see what Mountain had in the ground. I doubted it was a groundhog -- it would have dug away by now. Probably a possum, maybe a coon. Or a cat. Too warm for fox yet.

Mountain was on the other side of the creek, and we waded over to find her in the middle of a very old and thick multiflora rose jumble. Time to break out the machetes.

This sette had about five eyes, and a quick boxing showed Mountain about three feet down in a mess of old roots and brambles. We hacked away at the vegetation, and then worked with machete and saw on the thick roots twising along the ground. After we had it cleared it out pretty well, I reboxed to locate the dog, found Mountain to be exactly where she had been before, and we began to dig.

This was not a particularly hard dig, but we did pull out some big rocks -- one the size of my upper torso, and the other the size of a small turkey. At one point Mountain came out -- she had been underground working this critter for about an hour, and whatever it was could not go anywhere or dig away.

With Mountain out, Pearl slid in and bayed it up nicely -- a nice deep voice. Mountain, hearing Pearl give voice, turned back around and pushed her way back in down another hole. She winkled past Pearl somehow, and Pearl came out. Pearl's a very young and inexperienced dog yet, but I am very pleased with how readily she is entering and working. This is only her third dig.

Pearl had riled up the critter in the hole, and Mountain was winding it up a little more, and by now, from the sound in the pipe, I was pretty sure we had a raccoon.

At about two and a half feet down we hit dry dirt, and I was pretty sure the dog was only ahout 6 inches deeper. Chris scraped the loose dirt out of the hole, and I carefuly barred and broke through into the den only 6 or 7 inches below. Excellent. Time for the posthole digger.

This last six inches was very dry and seemed to be made up of mostly degraded rock, but the posthole digger is a tough instrument, and it punched through in short order.

We pulled Mountain and tied up the dogs while we opened up the hole to see what we had. Chris dropped Moxie in hole, and she shot up the pipe and engaged -- there was small a roar in the hole and now I was sure it was either a coon or a very loud possum. Moxie has a habit of going for a head grab, but this time she was working in the dark, and I told Chris to let her work it a bit as I doubted she was going to be so brave and foolish wihtout light. After a while, we pulled Moxie, and she seemed to be no worse for the wear. A little dark tunnel work is all Moxie needs. She's a great little dog.

Chris went to tie Moxie up, and I looked in the hole to see the top of a raccoon head poking out. Hello!
The raccoon took one look at my ugly face, turned around, and pushed in as deep as it could. I postholed the pipe a bit to cut away the overhang, and I could see the raccoon's tail now. After a brief pause to see if she would relax, turn around, and bolt out on her own, we brought Mountain back over, and she turned the raccoon in short order.

With the coon turned around, we pulled Mountain and I got a snare over the coon and pulled it tight. We had decided to take picture and let this one go, but as the cable tightened up the coon pulled backwards very quickly and the cable came down on top of its head rather than over its neck. Not good. I tightened up the cable, but the raccoon squirmed free and then bolted. I told Chris to release Mountain, and he did. After a second or two of confusion (What do you mean it's not in the hole?) Mountain was off down the bank, through the water, and up the other creek bank. We let off the other dogs, and they too took to the water. A commotion with a lot of barking and snarling told me Mountain had caught the coon in a brushy jumble on the other side, and I leaped over to sort it you, which was done in short order. This was a female raccoon with an enormous posterior and she weighed 16 pounds.

We tied up the dogs, repaired the sette, and took a few pictures of the raccoon before heading back to work along the hedge. The dogs located nothing more on this farm, and we headed off to Nick's to see if we could find something there.

At Nicks the dogs had a nice run around before we headed over to a high bank above a creek. This is a fairly bad area, as a lot of rubbish has been tipped down this bank -- old pieces of plywood, bits of metal farm equipment, spoiled straw bales, spoiled soybeans, some old rugs, part of a small outbuilding -- but it is riddled with groundhog holes and is a likely spot for possums. We did not go fast through this section -- there were a lot of holes, and it would take the dogs a bit of time to find them.

Mountain was ahead of us down the creek, when Moxie showed interest in a hole. I downed tools and descended the embankment and pulled a few leaves out of the hole and encouraged Moxie to give it another sniff. In she went. Excellent. Chris came down the bank, and I tied up Pearl, and broke out the shovel. Chris was at the hole when he suddenly said, "Oh sh--; it's a skunk." We both began moving very quickly now. Chris began locating and it was not good news. Due to the steepness of the bank, the dog was about 6 feet down. The good news was that the ground was very soft -- wash down loam from the fields above. The diggin would not be hard, but it would not be quick either.

Chris started opening up the entrance hole and calling for Moxie, while I began to dig a hole from the top. I did not think she was as deep as the box said -- or at least I hoped she wasn't.

There was no sound coming from the hole. Minutes went by, and both Chris and I got a very bad feeling. Chris and I switched positions, with him digging on top and me clearing out dirt from the side hole. Suddenly I saw movement -- a white dog coming out. What the hell? It was Mountain. She must have gone to earth here without either of us seeing her. I could have sworn she was up the bank.

Mountain was out now, and she was reeking of skunk but seemed entirely fine from the experience. As I was tying her up, Chris called over -- "Here's Moxie". She had exited from another hole up on top -- a very small hole a few feet behind where Chris was digging. Lucky for us this sette had three or four eyes.

The dogs were fine -- Mountain got the heaviest part of the skunk blast, but Moxie was nailed as well. We gathered up the tools as the stench rolled out of the hole and down into the creek bed. It was pretty bad.

We crossed the creek on a plank bridge and headed up and over to the other side of the forested hill to hunt in the woods. We were not likely to find here, but that was OK -- the dogs needed a bit of time to let the stink drain off of them.

Chris busted a buck -- maybe four or six points -- and we bolted another three does while we were just on the other side of the steep hill that descended down to the Mononcacy River. There were several large brush piles here, but they were empty.

Later on, as we headed back to the cars, Mountain headed up into a field to check a large old sette. She went to ground and stayed, but she did not bay. I think she could smell the groundhog, but it was dug in for winter and it was not moving and there was no way to find it.

We headed back to the trucks where I had a brand-new bottle of Skunk Off (a seasonal precaution). I dosed Pearl first, even though she did not have much (if anything) on her, and then I washed Mountain with Herbal Essence shampoo to get off the dried black mud from the last hole of the day. Now that she was back to almost-white, I dosed her with Skunk Off and crated her.

Chris I worked over Moxie next, rubbing Skunk Off into her coat and paying as much attention as possible to her muzzle, front legs and chest where the spray was most likely to have been concentrated.

As we finished up with Moxie, a couple of deer hunters showed up for twilight shooting -- a father and son. The father looked stoned, and his shotgun had a scope which always looks like an odd fit to me, but is increasingly common. They asked about deer, and we told them that we had seen a few. As we pulled off the farm we stopped to talk to Nick, and Dave the farm manager who were repairing a bailer.

The dogs were a bit stinky, but otherwise this had been a fine day in the field with a bit more experience given to the two young dogs. All in all, not a bad day, but next time we may need to leave Mountain crated to give the young dogs a little more experience on their own.

Pearl climbs a tree to grab a very dead raccoon. She got to work this one a little, as did Moxie.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Giant Rabbit

The BBC reports:

Herman Could Be 'Biggest Bunny'

A man has been showing off his gigantic rabbit named Herman.

The mighty bunny weighs a massive 7.7kg, and his ears are a lengthy 21cm - almost as long as most pet rabbits are tall. And he is almost 1m tall.

The German Giant is even big for his breed, which usually tip the scales at around 6kg.

Herman lives in a specially built solid oak hutch and chomps his way through just over 2kg of food a day. His owner says his favourite snack is lettuce.

The giant bunny, who lives in Berlin with owner Hans Wagner, also takes a vitamin supplement to keep him healthy, and munches through a bale of hay a week.

Bred big

Herman could be the world's biggest rabbit, but Guinness World Records have stopped accepting entries because of fears people were over-feeding their pets.

German Giants do not exist in the wild, and have been developed by breeders.

They can live for as long as 12 years.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Handsome Is as Handsome Does

In his books Modern Dogs, published in 1894 and written over the previous four year period, Rawdon Lee, Kennel Editor of "The Field" magazine for many years, writes of the absence of Devon terriers on the show ring bench:
"There appears a semblance of strangeness that the wire-haired terriers from Devonshire have not been more used for show bench purposes, and by all accounts some of them were as good in looks as they had on many occassions proved in deeds. Those owned by the Rev. John Russell acquired a world-wide reputation, yet we look in vain for many remnants of the strain in the Stud Books, and the county of broad acres [the north] has once again distanced the southern one in the race for money. But, although the generous clerical sportsman occassionally consented to judge terriers at some of the local shows in the West, he was not much of a believer in such exhibitions. So far as dogs, and horses too, were concerned, with him it was "handsome is that handsome does," and so long as it did its work properly, one short leg and three long ones was no eye-sore in any terrier by hte late Rev. John Russell."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Trolls, Whores and Gresham's Law on the Internet

Internet email lists and bulletin boards are not very good mediums for serious communication. Lists quickly get too large and result in a lot of in-box clogging chatter.

Bulletin Boards are, in theory, set pieces and you can skip over sections, authors and topics, but in reality they tend to become dominated by Internet Trolls and Internet Whores, creating a kind of "Gresham's Law" of the Internet in which the bad players tend to drive out the good.

What is an Internet Troll?

An Internet Troll, according to Wikipedia, is someone "who enters an established community such as an online discussion forum and intentionally tries to cause disruption." As a general rule these folks have small pointless lives and are hungry for attention -- any kind of attention. In some cases, they are even plants by opposition groups seeking to disrupt online communities.

Along with internet trolls, you also have Internet Whores who think they have to "click and treat" every comment, picture, joke, or inquiry made by anyone else on the internet. As Wikipedia notes,

"Some forums feature a points system that allows members to add to the points of another member by propping that member. (Alternatively, members can also detract points from another member by negative propping, or (more simply) negging, that member.) Some view the practice as a booster of member contributions, while others view it as unnecessary and a frequent cause of dispute. In any case, on some forums a culture of 'prop-hoing' has developed as some members become increasingly desperate for props."

How can you tell if someone is either an Interet Troll or an Internet Whore? One good indication is by how many posts they have contributed to a forum. If someone is logging thousands of comments on a forum, they are most likely doing little more than hurling insults, posting stupid questions (a common tactic of Internet Trolls), or clapping their hands at every comment, picture and thought (a common tactic of Internet Whores).

I recently ran an experiment on a likely Internet Whore by simply knocking a few points off their "karma rating" to see what would happen. The response was predictable: they signed on to the board as another person and then scurried over to add more "props" next to their name in order to boost their "karma" rating.

Much amused, I knocked a few more points off to see how far this "prop-hoing" would go. The other side scuried to rebuild the lost props -- a bit like a panicked ant protecting its nest after a boot kick had scuffled it flat. In the end, I think this person created at least three or four "sock puppet" registrations on this board solely to boost their own "karma" rating -- the very kind of thing you would expect an Internet Whore to do.

Whores do indeed work hard for the money. Prostitution is a sad thing, however. Imagine having to engage in an elaborate subterfuge in order to create and protect "karma points" on an anonymous bulletin board. Has a human life actually been reduced to this? Apparently. Time to leave the poor creature alone I decided; there is no reason to torture the ants beyond all reason -- that' the work of a Troll.

The Internet Troll is the opposite side of the same coin as the Internet Whore -- someone who hurls invective and raises up division in order to cause as much disruption as possible. Internet trolls count their success in negative karma points -- their goal is to generate as much attention as possible for themselves by creating as much negative energy as possible.

There is often a kind of odd symbiotic relationship between an Internet Troll and an internet forum creator. While the Troll creates disruption and harms community, the people that run internet bulletin boards often count success by the number of "hits" their board tallies up in a day, a week, or a month. The more that personal invective is thrown about and the more that inflamatory topics are broached, the more traffic will come to the board (at least for a time) since some people like to watch fights, while others will be intent on defending their honor, and still others will try (against all odds) to engage in rational discourse.

Board creators often fan the flames of dysfunction by allowing people to sign on to boards anonymously or with fake names and temporary email accounts.

Over time, the dysfunction on poorly moderated internet forums tends to grow and Gresham's Law come into play in full force as fewer and fewer knowledgable and experienced folks continue to post. As you approach a tipping point, Internet Trolls will begin to answer their own abusive missives, while Internet Whores will begin posting puppy pictures and gratuitously congratulating every winner of every show in a 15-state area hoping someone will come back to play the game.

There is probably no salvation for internet bulletin boards as they are currently structured. The reason for this is pretty simple: controversy and fence-fighting are promoted to the top of board discussion where they are given both status and immediacy, while rational discourse and useful tips and advice are quickly buried under the weight of invective, disagreement and mindless chatter.

If you create a system that rewards noise rather than content, you get more noise and less content. Which pretty much describes most internet bulletin boards.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bellman & Flint's New Web Site: Well Worth a Visit

I am a tough sell. I get a lot of links forwarded to me from folks that want to cross link in order to help sell some piece of dog paraphenalia or another, and I generally ignore them.

Consequently, if I give something a thumbs up, it tends to mean something. With that caveat, take a look at Bellman & Flint's new web site. It's not perfect yet, but it's the right stuff and the price seems fair for what appears to be very high quality goods.

This is the right direction for a small business to take -- specialized quality goods sold around the world to those of us who care and look for such things.

In the terrier world, most folks over here in the U.S. have heard of Bellman & Flint because they were the first folks, other than Deben, to make a terrier-dedicated locator collar.

I have used the Bellman and Flint kit, and while it is extremely well made (no complaints there!), I found the locator collar too big for the earths we have here in the Eastern U.S.

That said, not every place on earth has such tight pipes, and in the U.K. where old badger settes, deep rock fissures and 9 inch drains are more common, the Bellman & Flint kit has its enthusiastic champions. There is no reason in the world that everyone has to embrace the same technology. Different horses for different courses.

Now what else is Bellman and Flint selling on their new web site? For one thing, a wide variety of well-made terrier and hound couples. These appear to be made of top-quality leather and can be custom-assembled in any number of sizes, leather types and bits of gleaming hardware for terrier, beagle, lurcher, and hound alike. Beautiful stuff.

Along with very nice terrier, hound and lurcher couples and leads, there is also a nice collection of digging tools along with some very nice knives that, from their labeling, appear to be made in America. I am a bit of an old stick with my cheap Opinal knife, but I have to say these pretty wooden-handled locking blades are a very tempting acquisition ....

Christmas is just a month away, so for those of you looking to bring a smile on the face of a digger's heart, visit the Bellman and Flint site.

And while you are ordering things, don't forget to give a gift of American Working Terriers to someone you love!

Skunked On Sunday

Mountain got skunked pretty good on Sunday, and Pearl caught the edge of it too, as she was right there at the hole.

Mountain came out OK, and was a bit dazed for a few minutes, walking around with her tail down, but she was back to her old self within a half hour. She had no burning of the eyes or blisters on her face (skunk spray is almost pure sulphuric acid), and was hunting again in short order.

The bad news, of course, is that the skunk stink lasts and lasts and last.

Skunk spray is a mixture of thioacetates and thiols (the stuff that stinks), mercaptans, and almost pure sulphuric acid. Bonded sulfur and hydrogen atoms in thiols attach to the same nose receptors that sniff out hydrogen sulfide ("swamp gas"). Human noses are highly sensitive to thiols and can detect the smell at just 10 parts per billion.

Skunk spray also contains compounds called thioacetates, which slowly break down into thiols. When a skunk sprays a terrier, thioacetates in the spray are absorbed into the skin of the terrier, and these thiocetates slowly break down into new thiols, resulting in the skunk odor reappearing on the dog a day or two or three after it has been well-washed in "Skunk Off".

Water seems to speed the process of thioacetates breaking down into thiols -- one reason that dogs smell skunky after they get wet. Getting a dog wet repeatedly over several days will not "drain off" all the thioacetates, however -- some part of the release is purely time-sensitive.

No matter what you do, it will take about a month or even 6 weeks before skunk odor completely disappears off a well-dosed dog. The best you can do is to invest in a lot of "Skunk Off" or make up your own using a box of baking soda, a quart of hydrogen peroxide (dilute 3%), and a squirt of hand soap.

Pearl at the edge of a skunk den located under fallen branches.

The dogs hunt up a creek bottom a little while later.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Good Writing, Good Reading

Thanks to Querencia -- the excellent blog written by Steve Bodio, Reid Farmer and Matthew Mullenix -- I was steered to Rebecca O'Conner's well-written essay on duck hawking (or falconry if you want to be fancy) in The South Dakota Review (link is to a PDF). It's recommended reading for all.

Rebecca's blog (as well as the Querencia blog previously mentioned) are permanent links in the right-hand margin of this blog.

Rebecca's piece, entitled "Mercy" is about the mixed feelings we all have at the conclusion of a hunt and the need to kill quickly -- far quicker than death naturally occurs in the wild.

Humans have a sense of mercy -- a falcon, a fox, a cat or a coyote do not. And neither does disease or the infirmity of old age.

On a wild animal's last day, the best it can hope for is to find itself in the hands of an experienced hunter.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Dogs Practice Their Vertical Hold

Mountain and Pearl gather ....

... and leap for a very dead groundhog. A little fun in the woods on Sunday.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Strong Dog" Trials: Where Fancy Leads to Fantasy

I received a note this week from a noted dog magazine asking if I would be interested in writing an article about the "Strong Dog" go-to-ground trials that have recently been set up by some of the show ring set here in the U.S.

My short answer was "no." The story here is that these "strong dog" trials were created by a Glen of Imaal terrier owner here in America who was trying to find some fake sport (not true field hunting or even barn hunting) that over-large terriers could do that was parallel to American "earth dog" trials.

It seems that agility, obedience, tracking, etc. were not exclusive enough -- any and every breed of dog could be found in these competitions.

What the large-terrier owners wanted was some type of fake field sport which they could claim was a mimic of some useful thing their breed once did.

Unfortunately, the Glen of Imaal and the other large Irish terrier breeds (such as the Kerry Blue) were never used for hunting. They were farm dogs, fighting dogs, cart dogs or types of turnspit dogs. Some of the Irish breeds, like the Irish Terrier, were cobbled up solely for the show ring.

Today in Ireland badger are still dug, but they are dug with the same dogs used all over -- working Jack Russell Terriers, working Patterdale Terriers, working Border Terriers, and various types of not too-large cross-bred dogs. In Germany and a few other countries, working Dachshunds (teckels) are also used.

The idea behind a "Strong Dog" trial is that a dog is needed to pull a large dead badger down a long length of pipe. Never mind that the goal of digging to a dog is to come down on top of the critter, not 30 feet away. Never mind that if you shot a badger any distance down a pipe you would probably have to shoot through your own dog first. Never mind that you cannot shoot a bullet around corners.

Remember, this "strong dog" stuff is a fanciers fantasty, not a digger's reality. Fanciers have never heard of badger tongs, snares, or locator collars and do not understand that when an animal is killed underground, it is generally an arm's length away.

What follows is a post I wrote in March 19, 2005 for this blog which sets out the origins of the fake work now being called a "strong dog" trial.

n n n n n n n n n n n


No terrier breed is very old.

Depite the fact that all but one or two terrier breeds originated in the last 150 years, most breed histories are so riddled with myth, lies, confusions, disortions, exagerations and fantasies that they are nearly unfathomable.

Part of this has to do with the mythology of show ring aficionados. A coat color variation will pop up in a litter and someone will admire it and attempt to breed more like it. To butter the bread a bit, a short story is invented to explain why the attribute has some imagined import in the world of working terriers ("White dogs are less likely to be mistaken for the fox"). A dog's legs are low to the ground and another attribute is given meaning ("The dachsunds short legs enable it to get to ground with ease"). A dog's nose is lengthened, solely for looks, and we are told this is necessary for work ("The fox terriers long snout keeps its eyes well back from the fox").

In fact, most terrier breeds were never seriously or commonly worked, and even a few of the breeds which many believed were commonly worked never did much outside of one or two owners. The Sealyham terrier -- a great favorite of Sir Jocelyn Lucas -- was such a smash favorite that it was repeatedly said that Lucas "had the only pack of working Sealyhams" in the U.K., and he himself attempted to abandon the breed by crossing it with a Norfolk terrier which, in turn, resulted in such an unimpressive dog that it too passed into the realm of footnotes and fantasy until it was recreated and shoved into the show ring in recent years.

So it is with breed after breed in the terrier world, from Cairn to Norfolk, from Scottie to Irish, from Manchester to Skye, from Yorkie to Kerry Blue. None of these dogs ever saw serious work underground, at least not in anything like their current recognizeable form.

The short and simple truth is that the world of working terriers has changed very little in the last 200 years. The same dogs are being dug to today that were being dug to 100 years ago -- no more and no less. The shovels are the same and the bar is the same. Only the Deben locator is different.

This is not to say that a lot of trumped up histories have not been invented -- from fake paintings of Trump (Jack Russell's dog) to fanciful descriptions of shepherds protecting their flocks from marauding fox the size of wolves, to the creation of mysterious "extinct" breeds of terriers which, a close reading of history reveals, never even existed at all (or still exist, but under a different name).

As noted in previous posts, most terriers breeds evolved (or devolved as the case may be) from cross-bred farm terriers with little or no particular function. Most of these dogs were all-purpose pets and chore companions who, it was hoped, would score an occassional rat, bush a rabbit, and perhaps discourage a fox from entering the farm yard and stealing a chicken. In truth, their chief "job" then -- as now -- was to sleep, clean off kitchen plates, trot at their owner's side, and greet guests and family members with enthusiasm.

Some of these all-purpose terriers found honest work as cart dogs, riding high on the cart and protecting the horse-drawn "trucks" of the 19th Century from petty thieves. Every bread man had a cart dog, and so too did most fishmongers, butcher boys, and fruit merchants.

A few terriers found work as "turnspit" dogs. The job of the turnspit dog was to walk around an endless wooden "rat race" wheel turning meats that were being roasted -- or else churning butter, pumping water or even washing clothes.

Turnpsit dogs had to be short since they had to fit within half a turning wheel housed inside a small kitchen or out building, but they also had to be very strong, as their jobs frequently lasted many hours without rest.

What ever happened to these "turnspit" dogs? Most simply vanished, but one Irish type -- the Glen of Imaal Terrier -- was declared a "breed," though in truth it never much caught on with the public.

The Glen of Imaal Terrier stands about 14 inches tall, but it has a massive head and chest and weighs in at around 35 pounds -- more than twice the weight of the average vixen. These dogs were never designed to go down a fox den -- they are simply too big. This is a short strong dog designed to turn a spit. They also found some use in another arena -- badger baiting and dog fighting.

Small strong dogs were often used in the cruel-practice of badger-baiting which, it should be said, has nothing to do with badger hunting despite the rather obvious effort to confuse the two by animal rights lunatics.

Badger baiting is a betting game in which captive badgers are loaded into barrels, pipes or artificial earths so that humans can bet on dogs that are timed as they draw them out. A baited badger may face several dogs over an extended period of time and there is no larger point to it than to win sums of money or bragging rights, while considerable stress (and sometimes injury) is inflicted on the badger and the dog.

Badger hunting, on the other hand, is a legitimate form of pest control in which the badger is terminated as quickly and painlessly as possible, or else sacked to be moved to another earth. There is no betting, and the badger is not likely to suffer damage from the dog, though the converse cannot always be said.

The Glen of Imaal Terrier, which started out as a turnspit dog, found some popularity with Irish badger baiters and dog fighters. This was a dog that was large enough to pull a large badger out of a barrel -- something beyond the abilities of most 15-pound fox-working dogs.

The use of Glen of Imaal Terrier by badger baiters led some to believe this dog was often used for badger hunting. In fact, this was not so. Arthur Heinemann's Badger Digging Club, which later became the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain, used Jack Russell Terriers to do the job. Sir Jocelyn Lucas used a pack of very small Sealyham terriers. Bert Gripton used very small cross-bred Jack Russells, etc.

When badger baiting was banned, a small group of Glen of Imaal Terrier owners invented a "test" in an attempt to give their breed continued purpose in a changing world. Thus was born the "Teastas Beg" and the "Teastas Mor" -- gaelic words meaning "Little Test" and "Big Test"

The Teastas Beg was a pretty modest affair and was really nothing more that artificial ratting and rabbit bushing.

"A Teastas Beag consisted of flinging rats into a large pond and allowing the dogs competing to swim and hunt one at a time. The inexperienced handlers of the rats created much merriment and a large proportion of the rats survived to tell the tale. In the case of the rabbits, each one was released from a marked spot on the fresh ground. As soon as it had taken cover the dog was released at the spot where the rabbit had been set free. He was required to run the trail accurately and to hunt well through briars and undergrowth. The actual catching and killing of the rabbit was immaterial as any untrained dog will often do that. Often to save time, the judges would call up a dog once he had satisfied them as to his capabilities."

The Teastas Mor was simply an attempt to bring back badger baiting, albeit under the cover of a "club" activity. Only a handful of Teastas Mor events were ever held, as the authorities quickly ruled them illegal and in violation of the badger baiting laws. As one observor noted of a 1926 Teastas Mor event:

"On the first and second occasions the badger chute was defined as, (rule A4) 'A natural shore at least fifteen feet long, not more than sixteen inches wide with a bed ten feet from the mouth. A well about twelve inches square to contain the badger must be at least eight inches below the level of the shore and at right angles to it.' It is obvious that such an exact arrangement could not have been natural. It was artificial, the sides and top being of timber. This rule cause the Committee's undoing at the subsequent State Prosecutions. The Court held that the baiting of a captive animal had been proved which is contrary to the law and the defendant members of the Committee were fined."

Later the "earth," while still artificial, was constructed of earth and stones
and sodded over with grass. The end effect was a bit like a cross between an AKC earthdog set up and an artificial earth for fox.

Unfortunately, a twising den earth in real earth proved too difficult for over-large Glen of Imaal Terriers to negotiate!

"Natural badger work still appeared unwieldy to the Committee and the Teastas Mor on that occasion consisted of an artificial earth constructed of stones and covered over with sods some time previously. The growth of grass made it, in the absence of direct evidence, almost impossible to prove the construction artificial. The badger was put in early that morning before the possible arrival of any police inspectors. It was one captured by a small Blue Bitch of mine, 'Emer,' the previous week. These preparations defeated their own object, for the earth was too long and too narrow and too twisty for the dogs, and none of them succeeded in drawing the badger while some were severely mauled in the attempt. I never saw that particular earth, but it was feelingly pointed out that the members who constructed it had not entered any of their own dogs! After that it was a case of 'back to nature' - a decision both welcome and sound."

In fact, there was no "back to nature" with the Glen of Imaal; very few of the dogs ever worked historically, and almost none are found in the field today even in those countries where legal and illegal badger digging is common.

This is hardly surprising -- a dog designed to be mute and to fight anything it sees head-on is a dog that is hard to locate and likely to be wrecked in short order by a badger. Badger diggers at the turn of the century --as today -- prefer a smaller dog with more discretion and more voice. Unsurprisingly, they use the same terriers for badger work today that they did 100 and more year s ago -- Jack Russells, Fells, Patterdales, and various crosses in between.

For more see:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pheasant Heaven, But Ethanol Threatens

April 2006 headline in the Aberdeen (South Dakota) American News.

On the front page of the The Wall Street Journal yesterday was an article entitled "New Game: A Pheasant Boom Lifts Farm Fortunes on Great Plains." The article noted that the Conservation Reserve Program (see previous post on this topic), "the once-decimated pheasant is making a comeback," and that "one result is an unexpected boom that is raising land values, propping up farms and generating new businesses in many parts of the Great Plains."

South Dakota land that used to sell for between $350 and $400 an acre 10 years ago is now selling for $1,000 an acre or more, and in South Dakota nonresident pheasant hunters now provide more than $108 million a year to the state, which works out to be about $140 for every man, woman and child in South Dakota.

Last year South Dakota alone counted a population of nearly 10 million pheasants, its highest pheasant population since 1963, and it also licensed a record 95,000 out-of-state hunters.

But something threatens all this good news: corn. High oil prices have created intense interest in corn-fueled ethanol production, which the boom-and bust water cycle of the Dakota is ill-suited for in the long-term. Steam-belching new ethanol plants are replacing grain elevators as the tallest structures on the plains, and the palnts are sucking up not only corn and investor money, but also underground water reserves as well.

There is a good environmental reason to leave Conservation Reserve Program land idle and in use for hunters; a return to corn production in the Dakotas and much of the plains is not sustainable in the long run. This is the land of the Dust Bowl, where old fence lines sill lie buried in the dust and the only salvation to be gound was in finding a little ground water and leaving the plow alone entirely. Corn production will drain off the ground water and turn the plow again, leading to an environmental disaster only one of whose consequences will be a rapdily plummeting pheasant population.

Dust bowl or sustainable pheasant-hunting bounty? Chose or lose. This land is your land, and both heritage's and histories are available for recycle.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"Cute ' Utes" as Dog Cars

Syndicated "Pet Connection" columnist Gina Spadafori (Universal Press Syndicate) has been testing out the small SUV's as "dog cars."

Her reviews are in on the Toyota FJ Cruiser, Ford Explorer, Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Kia Sedona, Infiniti QX56, Honda Element, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Nissan Murano, Volvo XC90, RAV-4, and Acura RDX.

Reviews of the Ford Edge, Chrysler Aspen, Nissan Quest, and Land Rover L2 are ahead.

Check it all out at >> Pet Connection and click on the bottom link to go to the next page for more vehicles

Some Animals Need Protection; Some Need Control

From the Memphis, Tennessee Commercial Appeal:

Loving hunting, animals not mutually exclusive -- by Bryan Brasher

During the past 18 months, I've written checks to several organizations who are working hard to restore North America's free-roaming wolf population.

I've contributed to conservation funds for orangutans, Siberian tigers, whales and blue-footed boobies (my all-time favorite bird).

But on Nov. 4 -- the opening day of Tennessee's muzzleloader season -- I'll probably shoot the first mature doe that wanders within range of my tree stand after sunrise.

Might even kill another one that evening.

Those of you who don't hunt might be wondering why anyone would pay money to protect some animals while buying a license to kill others?

I'll tell you why.

Some animals need protection. Others need management.

Some animals are too rare to be killed for human consumption. Others are so common their numbers need to be thinned.

Some people are animal lovers. Some people are hunters. I happen to be both.

The crackpot animal nuts who spend more time howling at the moon than they do actually trying to help animals will insist you can't be both.

Those same people have accused me of murder and torture because I hunt. In one of the most ridiculous e-mails I've ever received, a man I'll refer to only as "Char-Broiled Charlie" actually compared me to the ruthless Nazi doctor, Joseph Mengele.

I won't waste my time arguing with people who are so laughably irrational. I'll just say it in plain, simple English: They're wrong.

You can be both a hunter and an animal lover. In fact, some of the most animal-crazy people I've ever known never miss a weekend of hunting season.

At one point my grandfather, Clifford Brasher, kept nine blue tick hound dogs for deer hunting. He never ate supper before they did. If one was missing, he never rested until the dog was back home.

It doesn't matter how many Vegan meals you've had or how many rallies you've attended to protest the opening of a new fried chicken joint. I promise you, Clifford Brasher loved animals every bit as much as you do.

The same can be said for David Carrington -- an avid waterfowl hunter from Memphis-based Avery Outdoors who never goes anywhere without his white Labrador retriever, Hatchet.

Also for Dr. Allan Houston -- the president of Ames Plantation Hunting Club who drove to Memphis for a radio interview last year on no sleep after staying up all night to help his golden retriever deliver a litter of puppies.

Every time I drive to Wilson Lake, I see a sign that reads "Coon Dog Cemetery." I've heard that gray-bearded men with tobacco-stained lips often go there to weep openly and unabashedly for dogs that died decades ago.

Those men were hunters long before people with nothing better to do coined the phrase "anti-hunting." The men were also animal lovers long before the geniuses from PETA began scaring kids at youth hunting events.

You can be both -- and I suspect I will be long after the animal nuts find another "cause" to help get their names in the paper.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

America Wastes a Second Chance

We have a great deal of wildlife in America today -- a situation far different from 100 years ago when our Eastern forests were all but gone, and wild game was entirely shot out by market hunters.

We were given a second chance.

Not everyone else has. Take Scotland.

The Romans called Scotland "Caledonia," a term that means wooded heights. But the forests of Scotland were cut down for pasture, and with the loss of forest came the loss of soil. Short-term profits led to long-term environmental destruction -- destruction that continues to grind the Highlands to this day. With the trees went the soil, and with the soil went any hope and all memory of what once had been.

In the U.S., we were headed down this same road until the Weeks Act -- the first huge Government bail out -- resulted in the U.S. Government buying up all of our denuded eastern slopes in 1911. In time this land reforested itself and become the backbone of the National Forest system in the eastern United States.

Less we pat ourselves on the back too much, however, let's remember that we can quickly lose what we have regained. Today in Appalachia, we are once again ripping up and ruining vast swaths of wild lands.

Just take a look at the Mountaintop removal efforts going on in Kentucky and West Virginia.

Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining in which entire mountains are blown up and the overburden is pushed into creeks and hollows, poisoning and suffocating the headwaters of rivers and creeks.

The land is inexorably and permanently altered. Once you have lost a mountain, you have lost it forever.

So far, more than 450 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining, and more mountains are being targeted every day. The short-term economics of mountaintop removal benefit a small cadre of people who generally live far from the mines.

Almost none of the money stays in the states where it is made -- this is robber baron economics at its worst.

Due to the use of massive machines, automation, and explosive charges, very few jobs are created. This is mining without miners and with almost no economic benefit to the poor people of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.

Along with massive environmental destruction and the loss of the mountain top itself, the forest too is generally lost. Mountaintop removal sites are "reclaimed" by simply pushing a thin layer of soil over the top of hard rock and rubble and then sprinkling a little nonnative grass seed so that it "hairs over" in a few weeks.

For more information about how we are ruining Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and parts of Tennessee, and what you can do to help stop it, see >> Appalachian Voices or their sister web site >>

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

PETA Is Now Stealing Dogs

The article below is from Hampton Roads, Virginia and it's pretty clear that these two employees of PETA were stealing a coon dog that had on a working locator collar which they ditched on the side of the road.

The judge should give these two fools hard time in the Virginia penitentiary for at least a year. Ironically, the person that busted these punks was the owner of the dog -- and also the local animal control officer. He had the good sense to turn the case over to another officer. The judge should be able to figure out who did the right thing here -- and who is a bald-faced thieving liar.

Two PETA workers charged with abducting hunting dog
By MATTHEW JONES, The Virginian-Pilot, October 27, 2006

NORFOLK - Two employees from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been charged with abducting a hunting dog in Southampton County.

About 10 a.m. Wednesday, a witness reported seeing two women in a vehicle with PETA markings take the dog from the side of Meherrin Road, said Detective Cpl. Richard Morris of the Southampton County Sheriff's Office.

A witness alerted the county animal control officer - who happened to own the dog. The officer stopped the vehicle soon after and, finding his dog inside, turned the case over to a colleague, Morris said.

The dog's radio tracking collar had been removed and was found near where the women reportedly picked up the animal, Morris added.

The two women were released and not charged at the time, Morris said. Arrest warrants were issued later.

Morris identified the two as Carrie Beth Edwards, 26, of Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk, and Andrea Florence Benoit, 25, of Henwick Court, Chesapeake.

Each has been charged with grand larceny and petit larceny for taking the dog and radio collar, respectively.

The two women are expected to surrender at the sheriff's office today, Morris said.

PETA issued a statement Thursday saying the two had done nothing wrong.

"They found a dog alongside a busy highway and picked her up for her own safety," the statement read. "That's what we tell everyone to do when they encounter strays - stop and assist."

The statement said the women were calling in the dog's tag numbers to the PETA office to help find the owner when they were approached by the officer who owned the dog, which they immediately turned over.

There is no leash law in Southampton County, Morris said, so dogs are allowed to run free. PETA said its workers did not know this, adding that this law "needs to be changed for the animals' own safety."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pearl With Another Groundhog from Sunday

Pearl kept this one bottled at the bolt hole, but Mountain located it. That said, the penny has clearly dropped for Pearl. She says this is fun!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bears in the Backyard

Bearskins in Alaska, 1906 -- One Grizzly (brown bear) and several Black Bear.

The newest wildlife species to see a starling population explosion in the U.S. is the black bear.

The black bear population of the United States is estimated to have grown by up to 35 percent between 1988 and 1995, from a population range of 253,000 to 375,000 bears in 1988, to a population of 339,000 to 465,000 bears by the mid-1990s and to over 500,000 today.

Since the mid-1990s, the black bear population in the U.S. has continued to grow very rapidly, and its range is extending into areas where it had once been extirpated (such as Ohio and North Dakota).

All of this is good news!

A sustained black bear population growth of 3 percent per year (which seems to be occurring despite legal bear hunting in 27 states) could mean that the U.S. black bear population might rise to nearly one million bears by 2025.

States with the largest black bear populations include Alaska (which has about 100,000 black bears), Maine, Idaho, California, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia.

As an "indicator species," the dramatic increase in the black bear population of the U.S. suggests that wildlife and habitat management is improving in much of the U.S., and that there are still quite a few large blocks of relatively unspoiled habitat left.

Depending on the type of land (wetland, dry forest, riparian area, etc.) and climate conditions, individual black bears typically have a home range of 5,000 to 30,000 acres, while bear biologists estimate that a healthy
reproducing population of black bears requires a minimum of 500,000 acres of land.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


The big green prickly seed pods are Datura

Datura is sometimes called Jimson Weed, Mad Apple, or Devil's Weed, but whatever you call in, it's a common enough plant on disturbed farm land. The picture above shows Datura growing on the edge of a field on Sunday.

Datura is a very powerful poison, and also one of the most powerful psychotropic plants found anywhere in the world. No one should ever experiment with this drug -- it makes 1500 mics of LSD look like a short beer, and it is not a "nice high" but a nightmare on two legs.

The following description describes the symptoms of Datura ingestion -- something once practiced by native American shammans, but now given a pass even by them:

Stimulation and/or anxiety.

Extreme nausea. Dilated pupils. Blurred or fixed-focus vision. Rapid heartbeat.

Extreme disorientation. Loss of memory. Loss of time. Delirium.

Profound sensitivity to light and noise. Seamless crossover into a variety of realistic dream states.

Extreme uncoordination, loss of body control, and vertigo. Extreme audio, visual, and tactile hallucinations.

Apparent astral travel to familiar places. Interaction with friends, relatives, and other random people who are not physically present.

Extreme drying and irritation of the mouth, throat, eyes, urinary tract, and other mucous membranes.

Potential for uncontrollably emotional or violent activity. Inability to recall anything -- even that you are under the effects of a drug -- for quite some time.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pearl's First Day in the Field

After a bit of trying to work with it, we have decided to change Spice's name to Pearl. It's still girly, but sounds a little less odd coming off my lips and yet it also still fits her -- a small white treasure. Pearl is a clever little dog and is already coming to her new name.

Sunday was Pearl's first day out in the field, and she did very well, going down a den pipe, digging to scent, holding a bolting groundhog at bay, and otherwise getting the lay of the land while coming to no harm whatsoever. I was pretty thrilled to see her slide into a pipe without a moment's hesitation, and to hear her bay up a storm as well. She has a bit of fire in her, I think, and she should have a lot of fun in the year ahead..

Part of the farm I was hunting, with the edge of a small mountain in the distance.

Pearl, Deben collar on, staked at a bolt hole.

Pearl, hearing Mountain below ground, strains to get down the bolt hole.

After the dig, Pearl is let in to the hole, and she digs into a small side pipe following the scent.

Dogs, tools, and groundhog in a corn field that has been put away for winter.

Friday, November 03, 2006

More on Dandie Dinmonts -- and a Small Challenge

In yesterday's post, I noted that the Dandie Dinmont was sliding over the abyss of extinction with more Giant Pandas born last year than these once-upon-a-time working dogs.

I suggested that the cause for the demise of this dog was that market forces were at work: the Dandie Dinmont was no longer a working dog and no longer satisfied a need, and so had lost whatever constituency it once had.

Forced to compete head-to-head with other poodle-coated mops, this dog found few customers due to a high initial expense, an odd-looking sway back, and poor movement. If the Dandie had ever been bred for work in the last 100 years, it might have a client base today; it would certainly have much better structure. Instead, one of the oldest terrier breeds is about to go all the way throught the fanciers pipe and into the dustbin of extinction. Or at least that is the fear of some.

In short order I was inundated by lengthy emails ... from two people (a small joke). The first post was from Hilary Cheyne (quoted in the first article) who runs the Caledonian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club. She wrote to say they were not trying to market the dog -- did I get that impression from their press release?

She went on to say that there were almost no Dandie puppies being born and that in her Club they were now running coefficients of inbreeding on the remaining dogs "so hopefully we will realise that what we call 'linebreeding' is just another name for 'inbreeding'." She then went on to say that "Outcrossing has and will be considered but it isn't needed at the moment" and then, a few sentences later, she observed that "Everyone now knows that Dandies can have Cushings, Glaucoma and Hypothyroidism" and that the dog also sometimes has "narrow angle glaucoma that is unique to Dandies."

OK. Good to know. A very small gene pool with serious health problems and even unique health problems? No reason to outcross then! Carry on!

Ms. Cheyne then went on to let me know that there were a lot of working Dandies -- look at all those American earthdog trials. At this point, I have to tell you, I started to chortle a little bit. So it's come down to this, has it -- fake work against a caged rat in a foreign country (and not many Dandies showing up even for that). Nothing wrong with earthdog trials (I have a section on the web site and in the book on earthdog trials, and I have written articles for magazines in favor of them), but let's not confuse a go-to-ground trial with real work, please.

The next letter in the email box was from Paul Keevil who wanted me to know that "it is actually against the law to hunt with dogs here in the United Kingdom, just as it is against the law to own firearms," so I was completely off the mark to suggest the Dandie might yet be saved if it ever saw a bit of honest work underground.

Of course, Paul is simply wrong. It's NOT illegal to hunt with terriers in the UK -- many thousands of fox are being dug to legally every year under the brand-new Hunting Act thanks to the exception for fox abatement on private bird-shooting lands.

And, ironically, the new law requires that any fox that is dug be shot with a gun -- you cannot move it to a new location as before.

In fact, guns and hunting fox with terriers is regulated in the UK, but neither is banned, as anyone who hunts with terriers in the UK can affirm. BASC alone has 120,000 gun-toting members, and somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 fox a year are being dug to today.

The funny thing here is that the Hunting Act is just one year old and the Dandie Dinmont has been sliding into the abyss for 100 years due to the fact that the shape of the dog has been seriously distorted by show ring breeders.

Mr. Keevil and Ms. Cheyne were not digging on the dogs when it was wide-open to them; and neither was almost anyone else in the incredible shrinking Dandie Dinmont community.

Mr. Keevil upbraided me for only quoting Rawdon Lee, asking me if that was "the best terrier book you have?" Well, no, I have quite a few more books. So let's quote a few of the ones that are actually about working terriers and are not all-breed books or historical novels:

  • Mark Giles in "Working Terriers" (1988): "I don't know anyone who has a Dandie Dinmont that works."

  • Jocelyn Lucas in "Hunt and Working Terriers" (1931) does not mention the breed as a worker.

  • David Harcombe in "The World of the Working Terrier" (1989): Mentions Dandie Dinmonts in a single sentence list of 20 Kennel Club breeds, which is followed by "There, I have mentioned them and now we can forget about them. All, for various reasons, including size and temperament are not suitable to be considered for earth work. Any working terrierman who outcrosses his stock to such animals, and hopes to improve the working qualities, quite simply needs his head examined."

  • Brian Plummer in "The Working Terrier" (1978): "[T]he Dandie can scarcely be regarded as a force to be reckoned with as a working terrier. I find them far too slow to suit my requirements, and their very shape indicates a fundamental lack of agility that is essential in working terriers...."

  • John Broadhurst, et. al. in "Terriers and Terriermen" (2002): Not one of the 51 terriermen interviewed works this type of dog or even mentions the breed.

  • Sean Frain in "The Traditional Working Terrier" (2001): Does not mention the breed at all.

And, of course, there are two books on American working terriers, neither one of which mentions the breed as a worker.

In a friendly exchange of emails, I extended a challenge to Mr. Keevil who says he has no interest in working his terriers but is very well-connected in the picture world (he runs a canine graphics-art business).

My challenge is for him 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! I noted that "It's very easy for show ring fanciers to drift into fantasy and spend their days mooning over paintings and standards. The end result is what you have with the Dandie Dinmont today -- a dog teetering on the edge of extinction and as far from its roots as a (theoretical) working dog can get."

The challenge is not yet very old yet (made yesterday), and I hope a photograph of a working Dandie will arrive and I can post it. That said, I am not all that hopeful. The first flurry of activity from Mr. Keevil produced five illustrations of Dandie Dinmont's (none of the illustrations showing a dog working fox or badger). I am confident we can do better than this. Even the Loch Ness monster and Sasquatch have real action photographs of themselves!

Perhaps we shall yet get an old picture of Alf Rhodes who the Caledonian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club itself describes as "the last man going to ground with Dandies." Rhodes went to the Great Hunting Ground in the Sky in 2003 at the age of 81 or so. He did not work his dogs in his later years, but he did have a working Dandie or two in the mid-1970s. Since that's only 30 years ago, and well within my 50-year challenge, we may yet see a picture of a working Dandie.

A picture, of course, will not save the dog anymore than will pets-and-rosettes promotion of the breed. The last Dandie Dinmont owner on earth will talk of the "3rd Duke of Buccleuch" on the day he or she slides that last dog into the ground, but in fact, if past is prologue (and it so often is) the grave is the first and last hole that that Dandie Dinmont will have ever seen. There is some irony in that. Perhaps that will be the Last Great Dandie Dinmont Story. Sadly, I may yet be around to hear it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Danger for Dandies: Market Forces at Work

A Dandie Dinmont: Sway-backed, expensive, and now generally too big to go to ground.

In a shocking turn of events, it turns out that market forces work ... even in the world of dogs.

Two once-working terrier breeds (at least according to history) are now teetering on the edge of extinction.

The UK Kennel Club has officially designated the Dandie Dinmont a "vulnerable native breed" after it figured out that more giant pandas were born last year than Dandie Dinmonts. In the last three years, fewer than 100 Dandie Dinmonts were born in the UK - the lowest number since records began.

Hilary Cheyne, a committee member of the Caledonian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club, says urgent action is required to reverse the decline. "These are difficult times for the Dandie Dinmont terrier," she said. "Although our breed is steeped in history, we need to tackle the breed's survival and revival in a modern and progressive way, which I believe we are doing."

Of course "urgent action" does not mean actually working the dog (that would not be very "modern and progressive," would it?).

No, the urgent action required is to -- wait for it -- hold a special show to encourage more people to own the breed and "raise awareness of its plight."

In short, the "urgent action" is going to be more rosettes, pets and puppy peddling.

Don't improve the product -- double the advertising budget. Talk about the hair of the dog that bit 'ya!

Only 33 Dandie puppies were registered with the UK Kennel Club in the first half of 2006. In the United States, only 51 Dandie Dinmont terriers were registered with the American Kennel Club during 2005.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Skye terrier, the dog immortalized in the story of Greyfriars Bobby, is also facing possible extinction, with only 30 born in Britain in the past 12 months.

A Skye Terrier: A dog for hair dressers and frustrated Barbie Doll collectors.

The Dandie Dinmont was named after a fictional character in Sir Walter Scott's 1815 novel Guy Mannering.

It appears the Dandie Dinmont was never very popular as a working dog (there is no record of it being much used by anyone, anywhere, ever).

Rawdon Lee, writing in 1893, describes the dog as:

"[P]perhaps the most crooked legged of any of our terriers; he is not an active dog, and is little use for work in a 'stone wall country,' nor is his 'crook' the slightest advantage in any way."

Rawdon Lee goes on to note that the best working dogs, even in his day, were not found in the Kennel Club:

"As a matter of fact, those [terriers] best adapted for hard work either with foxhounds or otterhounds are cross-bred, hardy dogs, specially trained for the purpose, although many of the 'pedigree' animals will do similar duty to the best of their ability, but their 'pedigree' and no doubt inbreeding to a certain extent, has made them constitutionally and generally weaker than their less blue-blooded cousins."

Yes indeed. Is it an accident that most American working terriers are found in a Club that prohibits high levels of inbreeding? I think not.

In America the Kennel Club (the largest in the world) is stumbling financially as the fog has lifted and dog owners have begun to realize that not only are AKC dogs not higher quality than other dogs (including so-called "mutts"), they are frequently lower quality due to long histories of inbreeding within a closed registry system.

As a result, the American people are beginning to turn to dogs registered in more open registries or planned hybrids.

Show ring snobs refer to planned hybrids as "designer dogs" under the mistaken belief that show ring dogs (with their cookie-cutter standards) are something else.

In fact, while most AKC breeds are bred by design for no higher purpose other than snobbery, some planned hybrids (such as the "labra-doodle") are being bred for a specific reason -- tractability, to avoid problems within a deeply inbred show ring gene pool, or to decrease shedding or improve coat quality.

The AKC response to people voting with their pocket books, of course, has NOT been to jettison the closed registry system which has resulted in sicker dogs that are more expensive to own -- it has been to strengthen it's long-term relationships with puppy mill operators and Pet Stores, and to enter into the crooked business of selling pet insurance and recommending veterinarians (is there a kickback to the AKC?), while working to require mandatory micro-chipping (the AKC sells the most popular brand).

In addition, the AKC continues to try to sweep non-AKC breeds into their folds in order to boost numbers -- dogs like the Jack Russell Terrier, the Border Collie, the Coton de Tulear, the Argentine Dogo, the Bluetick Coonhound, and Black and Tan Coonhound, the Catahoula Leopard Dog, the Cesky Terrier, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Leonberger, the Plott Hound, the Tosa and the Treeing Walker Coonhound.

Can the Patterdale Terrier and the Fell Terrier be far behind? Only a fool cannot see it coming.