Thursday, May 31, 2007

Foot in Mouth Award

I took Pearl to the veterinarian this morning in order to get her spayed.

After filling out all the paperwork, and chatting up the receptionist, I said "OK then, see you tomorrow," and turned and bumped into a seeing eye dog and a blind woman standing right behind me.

True story.

Some days I'm not sure if God is writing a comedy or a tragedy.


Coffee and Provocation

TV Shows Have Screwed Up a Whole Generation of Hunters:
A hat tip to Steve Bodio for pointing to this great little bit by David Petzal at Field and Stream. Entitled "More Sad Tales of Computer-Age Hunters," it describes the collision that occurs when the false expectations of fantasy hunters slam up against the real world of hunting and fishing on open land and open water. Bingo. Excellent and well said.

Like Catching a Shot Put:
The same Dave Petzal, cited above, also wonders about an 11-year old kid shooting a .50 cal eight times at anything. Glad I am not alone in this regard. He writes with some authority: "About the .500 S&W. I can distinctly remember when the .45 ACP was thought of as a veritable cannon, and the .357 magnum was considered so terrifying that only FBI agents were manly enough to shoot it. Yet here is an 11-year-old shooting something with one hand that kicks as hard as a .338. I shot a .500 S&W when it first came out in 2003, and it reminded me of the time when, as a kid, I tried to catch a 12-pound shot put."

Kissing the Sphinx and Other Tricks of Forced Perspective:
Over at Stinky Journalism, they have done a very nice analysis of the new "hogzilla" photo and found it wanting. In fact, their analysis was apparently good enough that The Today Show scraped their invite to Jamison Stone and his father.

Alabama's Inquiring Minds Want to Know:
It seems that Alabama fish and game officials have a few questions about that monster pig as well. They want to know how this huge hog miraculously got into a 150-acre fenced pay-to-shoot hunting place (of all the places for a giant pig to show up on its own), and whether anyone broke Alabama state law prohibiting the transportation and release of live feral swine. They also want to know if the hunt complied with the state's "fair chase" law which requires that animals on hunting plantations have a reasonable chance of escape. I'm sure some interesting stuff is going to reveal itself. So far we've learned this pig was in a 150-acre pen. Hmmm. Stay tuned.

The Number of the Beast:
Jim Stevens Chief Financial Officer of the AKC, has
told the board of that august organization that AKC events (i.e. dogs shows) "lost approximately ten million dollars in 2005." In order to recoup the money lost by holding dog shows the AKC has decided it will continue to register puppies from places like the Hunte Corporation and other commercial breeders (sometimes referred to as "puppy mills"), just as they have done for decades. Since it costs $15 to register a puppy with the AKC, the AKC will have to register 666,666 "misery puppies" a year from these commerical breeders in order to recoup the money lost by the rosette chasers. You can do the math yourself -- I did not make up this equation which gives you the Mark of the Devil and the Number of the Beast.

PayPal Comes Through:
A few weeks back, I got a little over $400 stolen from a PayPal account that was hacked into by someone overseas (the money was converted to U.K. pounds). The folks at PayPal investigated and refunded the whole amount to me in pretty short order and with a great deal of professionalism and assurance that all would be made right. They were true to their word.

Head of FDA Sentenced to Death:
The head of the FDA has been sentenced to death. Unfortunately, it's the head of the FDA in China. He is being sentenced to death for accepting $850,000 in bribes and looking the other way on questionable drug approvals. I certainly hope Members of Congress bring up this story repeatedly the next time the head of the US FDA is called up to testify about toxic dog food, payola to FDA officials from drug companies, and uninspected meat packing houses. As a friend of mine once observed, "the safety coming of a gun has a way of focusing the mind."

Melamine Toxin Added to Animal Feed in America:
It turns out that American companies have been putting Melamine into animal feeds over here all on their own. You see, the Chinese aren't smarter than we are, and people are the same all over! Now, doesn't that make you feel better?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hogzilla II: Terrific Hunting Story or Sad Artifice?

The "pig in a poke" story that is circulating on the internet is that on May 3, 2007, an 11-year old boy by the name of Jamison Stone killed an 1,051 lb. wild feral hog. The pig was supposedly over 10' 7" long and was shot with a .50 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver shooting 350 grain bullets. Killing the hog, we are told, took 3 hours and 8 bullets.

A lot of skepticism was expressed right from the beginning. First of all, the pictures were clearly staged to make the pig look as large as possible -- a common trick done by all hunters and anglers.

Adding fuel to the fire, it turns out no one in authority was actually there when the pig was weighed. You would think that would be required if you were claiming a world record feral hog. Yet, it seems no one thought of that. Hmmm. . . .

Another oddity to the story is that the scale to which the pig was hitched does not actually weigh things by the pound -- it is marked off in 10-pound increments. A weight of 1,051 pounds was technically not possible. The boy's father now says the pig was over 1,050 pounds, and they assumed the little mark above that was for 1 pound. He now says the pig must have weighed 1,060 pounds. OK, but in truth this man aparently had no idea how that scale worked, and neither did anyone else at the weigh-in with him.

That's not a small problem.

Another wrinkle in the story is the gun itself. Who the hell gives a .50 caliber handgun to an 11-year old kid? And does anyone think an 11-year old boy is going to be able to fire off 8 rounds from a .50 caliber and still have a wrist that can work? It might be true, but one wonders . . . .

Here's the most interesting bit: this pig was shot at a pay-to-shoot game farm. If you look at the price list at the entirely fenced Lost Creek Plantation, you find that large boars are priced at $2 a pound on the hoof, while commercially-sold farm hogs are normally sold for about $50 per cwt (i.e. per 100 pounds of pig on the hoof). That means this pig cost about $500 to buy (assuming no major premium was paid for its size) and could be sold for over $2,000 at a canned hunt. So there's the business math for you business majors.

But wait, there's more. Lost Creek Plantation was opened up just one-year ago. Hmmm . . . . Yep, I'm thinking the same thing too. This is a simple artifice. What we might call a "stock and shoot public relations" stunt.

Here's how you do it: Go out and get the biggest dam pig (or deer or elk) you can from a commercial breeder of such things. Raise it up in a pen a little bit more (and maybe feed it steroids), and then release into "the wild" of a large fenced compound. Get the animal used to coming to a scatter-feed bucket so you can be sure where it will be at least twice a day.

A few months after you have placed the pig in the wild, get the animal killed in the most sensationalistic way possible. A kid with a .50 caliber handgun would be great. So too would be a woman archer, or a guy with nothing but a spear and a dog. Ooga-Ooga. The Walter Mitty crowd will go ape-shit on this story, and bingo: Instant clients for your canned-hunt franchise.

Want to bet that this is exactly what happened? There's a reason this pig was not frozen or properly weighed -- it would put a crimp in the story. An examination of the ears and the hide might reveal the absence of the type of rips and gashes you would expect to find on a feral hog that had fought its way to the top in the woods among other wild pigs. An examination of the skull might reveal this "feral hog" to be nothing more than a domestic pig of the type to be found in any slaughter house. A look at the hooves might tell you if this pig once spent a lot of time on concrete. A look at the tusks and teeth might tell you how much of its food came out of the forest, and how much came out of a bucket.

So was this pig over 1,000 pounds? Who knows, and more importantly who cares?

The largest pig ever raised was not 1,000 pounds, but a 2,552 pound China Poland monster by the name of "Big Bill." A 1,000 pound pig is a very big pig, but it's not a world record by any stretch.

Bottom line: What you have here is a very nice "pig-in-a-poke" story concocted by a brand new "pay-to-shoot" game farm that (surprise, surprise) managed to get an 11-year old kid to shoot the stocked animal.

Did the kid shoot the pig all by himself? Maybe. But again, who cares? This not a "wild" pig, and this was not hunting.

As for the hog's size, no one will ever know as the photos are designed to obscure the truth, and the pig was never properly measured.

Was it a very big pig? For sure. But if you have the money, you can shoot a pig just as big or even bigger, and you can even call it "Hogzilla III" if you want -- just put your money down, and try to forget that that giant animal now running between the fences was called "Rosie" just 6 months ago and was trained to come to a slop bucket.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Hogzilla II Update #1:
It seems that Alabama Fish and Game officials have a few questions about that monster pig as well. They want to know how this huge hog miraculously got into a 150-acre fenced pay-to-shoot hunting place (of all the places for a giant pig to show up on its own), and whether anyone broke Alabama state law prohibiting the transportation and release of live feral swine. They also want to know if the hunt complied with the state's "fair chase" law which requires that animals on hunting plantations have a reasonable chance of escape. I'm sure some interesting stuff is going to reveal itself. So far we've learned this pig was in a 150-acre pen. Hmmm. . . .

Hogzilla Update #2:

It looks like Hogzilla was not that large. See my analysis based on the pictures of the skull and photos of Jamison Stone holding the same.

Hogzilla Update #3:
OK, it's all over. This was a pet pig, and a hat tip to the always-readable J.R. Absher over at the Outdoor Life Newshound blog who has the story gleaned from The Anniston Star (a pretty good Alabama newspaper). The long and short of it is that "Fred" the pig was a gentle swine that played with the previous owner's grandchildren. Now the story has slid into sick. I hate it when I'm right. Honestly, it's a burden.

  • For more on the limits of ethical hunting, see >> Hunting and Fishing Like Adults, an essay sparked by another pathetic and stupid canned hunt, this time by a country-music star.

Pigs, Etymology, and the World of Small Grifts

Back in the Middle Ages, when baby pigs were being sold at market, they were often placed in bags so they could not escape. It was from this practice that the term "pig in a poke" came about.

Why were you supposed to never buy "a pig in a poke"? Simple: Because sometimes a cheating merchant would not put a baby piglet in the bag, but instead would substitute a live cat. Foiling this practice is how we got the term "to let the cat out of the bag" and why we caution people to make sure they are never "left holding the bag."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Low Impact Hunting

This old truck at Nick's is slowly getting consumed by Virginia Creeper.

Hit a farm today, but after two hours in the field I had only succeeded in finding a lot of empty holes and getting myself soaked from the waist down due to the fact that the vegetation was very high and wet from a thunderstorm the night before. The fields themselves were off-limits as they have been planted in barley right up to the edge and the crop is tall if still green. In three weeks that barely should be gone, and then corn or soy will probably follow.

I decided to pack it in on this wet farm and head over to Nick's place where I knew the fields would be shorter and dryer. Pulling into Nick's I could see that the first cut of hay was already starting to come off. The hay is coming off at MackIntosh's farm too -- big round bales tossed across the fields like pieces of candy on a pool table.

As I was unpacking the tools, the farm manager came up and we chatted a bit. Apparently he knows a lady that wants her groundhogs gotten rid of, and I am only too happy to help. I asked him what the long wide strip of purple flowers was, and he said it's Hairy Vetch -- it fixes nitrogen in the soil, and they are growing it for seed. It's a pretty flower that makes for a pretty field, that's for sure.

I mentioned that corn prices were going up due to the push for more ethanol production. and he said chicken feed was way up too -- he was now charging $3 a pound for free range chicken. While we were talking, the farm manager pointed out two groundhogs on the edge of the woods several hundred yards up the way. Ah good! It might not be a blank day after all.

Mountain had been free while we talked, and as I finished the conversation, she came down from the flinty ridge where she had clearly been to ground in a very dark earth. Follow me, she seemed to be saying, and so I did.

Mountain slid into a rocky pipe about 50 yards up the hedge, and I could hear her moving stones, and then there was a short bay and more moving stones. There was a groundhog in there, but the stones were slipping and she was having a hard time catching up to it. I probed with the bar ahead of Mountain and found the pipe, and sunk a two-foot hole to it. Mountain came out and re-entered the sette where I had sunk the hole, and after about 15 minutes of digging and poking on both our parts, we finally found where the pipe exited the hole I had dug.

The groundhog had filled in the entire pipe with stones, and the only sure sign there was something down there was the fact that even with Mountain out of the hole and tied up, I could hear something moving rocks underground. This damn groundhog was a stone mason!

I pulled more rocks out of the hole until it seemed as if it was more-or-less clear. I then shoved some more rocks up the other side of the pipe so the groundhog could not bolt up into there. I then kicked in my shovel, as best I could, to block a bolt out of the main hole itself. That accomplished, I barred into ground just ahead of the location where I thought the groundhog would be, and I broke through at about two feet.

I had just started to posthole down into the rocky soil, when something hit the shovel blade blocking the main pipe. It thumped it hard again, and then, before I could even set the posthole diggers down, the groundhog had the gap at the top of the shovel opened up, and it was up and out, and running fast down the slope. It was a big one, and I was pleased to see it as I have hunted a little too hard on this farm in the past. Mountain strained against the end of the leash, and I went over to let her off to chase the groundhog to ground again despite the fact that I had already decided to let this one go.

I filled in the holes as best I could (there was less fill than hole), and we headed down to the place where the farm manager had spied two groundhogs on the edge of the forest. Mountain found again in another very rocky sette, but she could not get up to it. Instead of digging up this sette, I decided to call it a day with one bolted, three seen, and none killed.

We'll be back; it's a long summer and there's no hurry to bleed this farm white. Secretly, I'm more than a little happy that groundhogs are back on this farm.

Mountain slides into a pipe near where two groundhogs were spotted.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Making a Coat-Hanger Sparrow Trap

Back in April, I posted a short squib about human-wildlife conflicts and the fact that some people do not see such things as unhappy problems, but as an opportunity to score dinner.

As part of that post, I mentioned that when my brother and I were young and living in North Africa with my parents, we would amuse ourselves by trapping sparrows using a jaw trap made from a weak spring and an old coat hanger wire.

The traps we used were store-bought (and probably Italian made), but I have made a few poor copies since coming to the U.S. and a reader in Japan (an American falconer) wanted to know how to build one. The instructions are below.

Expect a bit of fit-and-fiddle work putting one of these together; it probably will not go together smoothly the first time. That said, it's not quite rocket science, and if you are handy with wire and a little bit patient and willing to try again, you should be able to assemble your own.

These traps live-catch the sparrows -- the wire "jaws" close down around the sparrow's neck, but the spring is very weak (snap it on your thumb to make sure it is not too hard) and the feathers on the bird cushion the blow. The bird is trapped by the neck and unable to fly solely due to the trap's small weight. Note that if a cat is around, it will steal both your birds and your traps, while if a heavier bird or a rat is caught it may be able to fly or crawl away with your trap. Staking a trap with a short piece of fishing line can prevent trap loss.

A Tunisian fellow was over at the house on Saturday repairing a window, and I showed him my trap and asked him if he had used them when he was a kid -- he had. Sadly, kids in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia these days no longer use these traps much -- they have TV now. Ask any middle-aged North African, however, and he will remember the Good Old Days, when kids spent a lot of time shooting marbles, playing with wooden tops, catching sparrows, and saving up money for a real leather soccer ball.

Note small store-bought springs in middle. Use one spring per trap.

  1. The thick blue line sketch is a drawing showing the main "frame" of the trap. The pencil-lead part of the sketch is of the swinging jaw of the trap -- the "C-jaw". Starting with a drawing is a good idea, as you need to make sure that the tongue of the trap (the long extension drawn in blue) will extend past the hinging jaw (outlined in pencil).

  2. All three of the main parts of the trap are made from heavy-duty coat hanger wire and are shown cut and ready to assemble. The very light-wire part of the trigger is not shown, but two inches of any light wire will do the trick. The last photo shows how the trigger assembly works.

  3. The spring has been put on the "frame" of the trap. You use one spring and split it into two parts, with the middle bit of the straightened spring affixed in the gap as shown. You need to put the spring on before you bend over the ends of the coat hanger frame to hold them fast together.

  4. The straight piece of coat hanger wire with the little hook on the end is part of the catch. The hook is affixed to the loop at the end of the long tongue of the trap, and then the bar is pulled over the hinged C-jaw, and the end of the catch is then caught on a small light-wire hook affixed to the straightened part of the spring that is in the gap at the center of the trap frame.

The assembled trap is shown above. This picture shows a professionally-made trap, and not the poorly made one-off affair show at the very top and below. Give me time, a proper jig to bend the wires, and 100 practice runs assembling these things, and my craftsmanship is sure to improve!

The trigger mechanism is show in the close up, above. Note that the brake bar is barely held by the light wire hook in the middle of the trap. The trap is baited by sliding a little piece of bread over the light wire hook.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Germany's Growing Raccoon Problem

Is this 75-pound pet the largest raccoon ever?

The article below is from yesterday's edition of The Washington Post
and covers a topic I have posted on before -- Germany's growing raccoon problem.

Raccoons are not the only non-native species increasing in numbers in Germany -- they also have a growing Raccoon-dog population (aka Tanuki).. The good news is that if you work terriers in certain parts of Germany, you now have four species you can dig on -- fox, badger, raccoon, and raccoon-dog.

The picture at the top of this page is unrelated to the article, and shows what Outdoor Life thinks is the largest raccoon ever -- a 75 pound pet raccoon once owned by Pennsylvania resident Deborah-Klitsch, and which died in 2004 after a remarkably long life (more than 13 years).

For those interested in the U.S. biological history of raccoons, I have written a little about that, as well as answered the question as to what is being done with all those raccoons that are trapped for pelts in the U.S. (no raccoons are fur-farm raised in the U.S.)

From Nazi Past, a Proliferating Pest
By Craig WhitlockWashington Post, May 26, 2007; Page A11

KASSEL, Germany -- In 1934, top Nazi party official Hermann Goering received a seemingly mundane request from the Reich Forestry Service. A fur farm near here was seeking permission to release a batch of exotic bushy-tailed critters into the wild to "enrich the local fauna" and give bored hunters something new to shoot at.

Goering approved the request and unwittingly uncorked an ecological disaster that is still spreading across Europe. The imported North American species, Procyon lotor, or the common raccoon, quickly took a liking to the forests of central Germany. Encountering no natural predators -- and with hunters increasingly called away by World War II -- the woodland creatures fruitfully multiplied and have stymied all attempts to prevent them from overtaking the Continent.

Today, as many as 1 million raccoons are estimated to live in Germany, and their numbers are steadily increasing. In 2005, hunters and speeding cars killed 10 times as many raccoons as a decade earlier, according to official statistics.

Raccoons have crawled across the border to infest each of Germany's neighbors and now range from the Baltic Sea to the Alps. Scientists say they have been spotted as far east as Chechnya. British tabloids have warned that it's only a matter of time until the "Nazi raccoons" cross the English Channel.

For the most part, the raccoons haven't disrupted the natural order of things in the forests, although some people blame them for reducing the number of songbirds by stealing eggs from their nests. Rather, the biggest impact has been on humans. Complaints are soaring about fearless raccoons that penetrate homes and destroy property, saddling owners with expensive repair bills and hard-to-dislodge pests.

The Germans call them Waschbaeren, or "wash bears," because they habitually wash their paws and douse their food in water. And no place in Germany has more of them than Kassel, a city of about 200,000 people in the central state of Hesse.

For the mask-faced mammals, it has plenty of leafy suburban back yards that border large tracts of public forests. The city lies less than 20 miles from the Nazi fur farm that is usually blamed for Germany's raccoon explosion -- wildlife biologists say the problem was aggravated by the release of raccoons from other farms that sustained bomb damage during World War II.

Five years ago, a family of raccoons scratched and munched their way into a house belonging to Ingrid and Dieter Hoffmann of Kassel. The brood settled into the Hoffmanns' chimney and -- despite efforts to smoke them out -- ruined their roof, which cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix. The Hoffmanns also spent about $1,300 to raccoon-proof their residence with electrified gutters and other countermeasures.

"The little ones look cute and have a pretty face," said Ingrid Hoffmann, 70, who like her husband is a retired orthodontist. "But their mother can bite your finger off."

Dieter Hoffmann wagged an accusing finger at a visitor: "We like the United States of America, but we do not like your Waschbaeren!"

Most Europeans are not used to sharing their habitat with wild animals. So while some Germans regard raccoons as a troublemaking alien species that deserves to die out, their neighbors across the backyard fence may see them instead as furry-faced novelties and toss them edible goodies.

"The city of Kassel is divided down the middle," said Theodor Arend, a forestry official based in nearby Wolfhagen, who keeps a stuffed raccoon mounted in his office. "One says, 'How cute, how nice,' so they give them raisins and bananas. The other side would like to shoot them to the moon."

Arend recalled a case involving an 80-year-old Kassel woman who allowed 50 raccoons to colonize her home. Authorities eventually declared a health hazard. "The smell was unbelievable, but the lady was very happy," he said.

Kassel officials have struggled for years to come up with an effective population-control strategy. In the mid-1990s, the city offered bounties to hunters in an effort to reduce the numbers, but the program backfired. Female raccoons had bigger litters to compensate for the losses, said Hartmut Bierwirth, who oversees city hunting licenses.

The challenge has been further clouded by ethical debates over animal rights vs. human rights.

For now, the city limits its efforts to handing out pamphlets urging residents to secure their garbage and compost heaps, two prime feeding areas. Those tormented by the varmints have two options: deal with the problem themselves or call a private trapper such as Frank Becker.

Becker owns a firewood dealership and lumberyard in Kassel but has developed a thriving side business in raccoon removal and prevention. He catches as many as 200 a year in his homemade wooden traps.

He loads the inside of the trap with sticky bread or something sweet and fastens it to a tripwire. As soon as the raccoon grabs the bait, the side doors slam shut. The trap doesn't harm the animals, but Becker finishes off the captured ones with a rifle shot to the head.

"No one else does it as professionally as I do," he boasted. "I always succeed, always. Raccoons in Germany don't really have any natural enemies -- except me."

Trapping is usually just a temporary fix, however; Becker said it's just a matter of time before more raccoons move into the neighborhood. As a result, he said, he concentrates on selling home-security systems that zap creatures seeking to force their way in.

For a man who has caught thousands of the animals, he's been tempted to eat a raccoon only once. "It's a very intensive taste, a wild animal taste," he said. "But there's just no demand for any part of them, basically." He did keep the pelt, though, and turned it into a coonskin cap.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Animal Rights Terrorist Gets 12 Years

Thanks to Reid Farmer who sent me this little nugget from The Los Angeles Times. Reading this you get a good idea of how confused, mentally defective, and marginal some of these far-out Animal Rights folks are.

Of course, that's also true for the suicide bombers employed by Al Queda and Company, and it's also true for a lot of the psychotic criminals incarcerated in our penitentiaries.

Bottom line: The Animal Liberation Front folks are going to fit in well in the Federal lock up, which is exactly where they belong. Good riddance to bad meat.

Animal rights activist gets 12 years for arsons
From the Associated Press May 25, 2007

EUGENE, ORE. — A federal judge Thursday sentenced Animal Liberation Front arsonist Kevin Tubbs to prison for more than 12 years, rejecting arguments that he was a minor player just trying to save animals and protect the Earth.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken declared that four of the nine fires Tubbs was involved in — at a forest ranger station, a police substation, a dealership selling SUVs and a tree farm — were acts of terrorism intended to influence the conduct of the government or retaliate for government acts.

"Fear and intimidation can play no part in changing the hearts and minds of people in a democracy," Aiken told Tubbs twice before sentencing him to 12 years and seven months in federal prison.

Tubbs is the second of 10 members of the Family, a Eugene-based cell of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, to face sentencing in U.S. District Court after pleading guilty to conspiracy and arson charges connected to a string of 20 arsons in five states that did a total of $40 million in damage.

Tubbs and his fiancee, Michelle Pace, made emotional pleas for mercy, but Aiken said Tubbs was trying to minimize his responsibility and could have been much more effective in helping save wild horses from slaughter by starting a fund to buy them and using them in programs with children.

Aiken said it was "profoundly and palpably sad" that she had eight more people to sentence who had wasted their lives by choosing violence rather than raising public awareness about threats to animals and the environment.

Aiken noted that the torching of SUVs in the Portland area this week was evidence that the misguided motives of radicals like Tubbs lived on. Portland police arrested three people in the fires and said they were not connected to the sentencing of Tubbs and others this week.

Defense attorney Marc Friedman characterized Tubbs as a gentle young man from Nebraska who once worked for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organizing demonstrations against killing livestock and came to Eugene with his girlfriend to work for the Earth First! Journal, but soon found himself living in his car and "Dumpster diving" for food.

Tubbs met Jacob Ferguson, who set the Oakridge fire, at a Eugene park where Ferguson was helping hand out food to street people, and they became friends, Friedman said.

Tubbs became depressed when his girlfriend began an affair with another environmental activist, and felt he needed to get involved in violent acts to win her back, Friedman added. After he fell in love again in 2001, Tubbs told his fellow arsonists he was through and was living a productive life, looking forward to having a family, Friedman said.

Friedman acknowledged that Tubbs had identified the Cavel West Inc. horse slaughterhouse as a target after learning that wild horses were killed there for meat, but said Tubbs had no idea when he drove Ferguson and his girlfriend to Oakridge that they would set the ranger station on fire. Friedman said Tubbs took part in the other fires out of loyalty to Ferguson, his only friend in Eugene.

His voice choked with emotion, Tubbs read from a statement saying he was deeply sorry for causing harm to others, particularly after hearing from the two Oakridge Ranger District employees about the fear and pain he caused them.

Acknowledging that it was no excuse, Tubbs said he was motivated by hopelessness and desperation over cruelty to animals and destruction of the Earth.

"I am disgusted, sickened, saddened, and totally ashamed that I played any part in any of the incidents," he said.

Casanova: Hunting on a Budget -- And It Shows

I know the Brits think we don't have fox hunting, but we do and quite a lot around here. I'm off to the Casanova this morning -- a short history of this broken down place is appended below.

The hounds are the rankest smelling beasts I've ever seen, and they feed them old horses that are butchered up in the woods, where a wicca's dream of old skulls can be found.

This is not a hunt that believes in wasting any money! In fact, they pride themselves on doing everything as cheaply as possible as this article, entitled "Hunting on a Budget" notes:

Fox-Hunting is regarded as a rich man's sport. It need not be. The broad valleys and rolling grasslands of the Piedmont section of Virginia are, perhaps, the finest fox-hunting country in America. There the great hunts of Warrenton, Middleburg, Orange County and Piedmont, famous all over the world, pursue the fox with all pomp and circumstance. Their budgets run as high as $30,000 a year and the subscription fee ranges from $300 up.

But right in the heart of this territory, with a country that borders on that of Warrenton, the little Casanova Hunt furnishes sport as keen as any with a total expenditure of less than $1000 a year. It is an inspiration and an example to all those who would like to pursue this great sport, but who feel that their purses and the resources of their communities are not equal to the strain of supporting it.

How can it be done on such a tiny budget? It is the purpose of this article is to answer that question. Miss Dorothy V. Montgomery, the Master and Miss Charlotte St. George Nourse, the Secretary, of the Casanova Hunt, have kindly placed at the author's disposal their records and accounts. All the facts and figures will be cited in the hope that other communities may profit by the example of Casanova.

First, let us glance at the history of the Hunt. It was organized in 1909 at Creedmore, the home of E. Nelson Fell, and recognized in 1910. Harry L. Edmonds, who still hunts with it, was the first Master. The Hunt occupies an area of farming country in Fauquier County, east of Warrenton. Its territory extends for fifteen miles north and south and a little less east and west. Unlike the countries of the neighboring hunts, there are no great estates in this region. The landowners are mostly real farmers, who derive their livelihood from the soil. A few of the subscribers have somewhat larger means, but there are no rich "angels."

The Casanova Hounds hunted from 1909 until 1925, when the Hunt fell on evil days. For two years it suspended and Warrenton hunted the country. Then it was re-organized with Miss Charlotte Nourse as Master. For eight years more it was continued, Miss Nourse being succeeded first by Harry Lee Smith, James Hibbard and William Sprague as joint Masters, then by J. Chauncey Williams. In 1935 it was again discontinued and Warrenton once more took over.

But the sporting people of Casanova were unhappy without a hunt of their own. A group of landowners came together to take counsel as to how the Hunt might be revived. They realized that the reason for its previous abandonments had been that the establishment had been too elaborate for the means of the community. They had learned their lesson. This time they would go at it as simply as possible. No frills and all for sport.

The Hunt subscription was fixed at $25, and the capping fee at $5, so that everyone who had a horse could hunt. The Huntsman Oscar Beach, of whom more later will be discussed, volunteered to serve without pay and to mount himself and his son Thomas, who acted as whip. All the staff were, of course, honorary. Hounds were lent by Beach and Miss Nourse.

On this basis the Hunt was reorganized. A board of Governors, all landowners, was elected, and an Executive Committee consisting of the Master, Secretary, Huntsman, the Chairman of the Board and one other Governor was entrusted with the active management. Miss Montgomery was made Master, and in the Fall of 1937 the Casanova Hunt embarked on its courageous experiment. This is how it worked out. The record speaks for itself.

... Since 1937 the Casanova Hunt has progressed slowly but surely. The expenses have been held down - the second year they were two dollars less than the first - but the fields have grown larger. The high level of sport has been maintained. During the past year there was only one blank day. Throughout the whole three years the Hunt has never failed to meet its expenses; it had never contracted a debt or failed to pay in advance for the keep of hounds.

Such a record presupposes some remarkable personalities in charge of the Hunt. There are. The Master is a tall, young woman, who rides like Diana, and shoulders the heavy burden of keeping the field in touch with hounds, with ease and grace. No one could be lovelier and more charming, but she maintains the discipline of the hunting field with a firm hand.

Miss Charlotte Nourse, the Secretary, deserves a monograph all to herself. She lives with her sister, Miss Constance Nourse, on an old farm in the very core of the country. The ancient, weather beaten house and the big barns blend into the landscape. Thoroughbreds wander unhaltered about the yard. As you cross to the house, the twin War Whoop fillies, which are their owner's pride and joy, thrust their beautiful heads to see what is going on. They are identical twins, of the same flashing chestnut as their granddaddy, Man o' War, and each has a white blaze in her face.

Miss Nourse comes to greet you surrounded by a tumultuous pack of puppies, which next year will hunt with Casanova. Her hair is white and her eyes a steadfast blue. Her chiseled features have the beauty of Greek sculpture and her manner has the gentle absence of pretense that is the hallmark of the true ari

Miss Nourse comes by her love of foxhunting naturally for her great-grandfather, Samuel Morris, founded the first hunt of which there are definite records in America. It was started in 1766 and was called the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club. It is now known as the Rose Tree Hunt, outside of Philadelphia.

In all its history the Casanova Hunt has only had two hunstmen. Oscar Beach now holds that office and everyone agrees that he is the driving force that makes it go. Ruddy and stout with sandy hair, he looks like John Peel himself; and his way with hounds and a fox is uncanny, He seems to be able to sense every move a fox will make. So great is his love of the sport that sometimes on by-days he will slip out with the hounds accompanied only by his sons, Thomas , who is his official whip, and Charles, who, though only fourteen, has inherited his father's sixth sense. Miss Montgomery says that when Charles is with her in the field, she has never a worry of losing hounds.

Oscar Beach's methods are unorthodox. His hounds are vari-colored and of any strain "that will run." He allows them to hunt themselves. They are never forced to pack while hunting. "The American hound," says Beach, "is ruined by whipping in. Once his tail goes down he is of no use. English hounds are different, they will stand for it. But the American should be allowed to hunt for himself." Beach will often take his hounds out at dawn on a by-day and allow them to hunt a cold trail for practice. He doesn't believe in lifting them and making a cast if there is a check, but prefers to let them work out their own salvation. There seems to be what might almost be called a friendship based on mutual understanding and trust. As he rides to covert, he does not make his pack follow closely at his horse's heels, but allows them to roam through the woods, hunting on their own hook. For he knows that, unless they find a fox on the way, the first faint note of his horn will bring them right back to him.

Beach is not a man of independent means. Throughout the summer, he works from dawn until dusk on his farm. In winter he adds to his income by selling the hunters he and his sons raised and made. But he will accept no recompense for his services to the Hunt.

"I've been offered many a good salary to be huntsman for other packs," he said. "But I turned them down. If a man loves hunting he doesn't want to be paid for it."

Because of Beach's system of getting hounds that will hunt and then letting them get on with their work with no unnecessary interference, there are no pretty pictures of hounds closely packed going to covert, though once they are running they might often be covered by the traditional blanket. However, leading figures of the rival hunts will confidentially admit that Casanova had the fastest and most efficient pack in the state. It is worthy of note that every official of the Hunt and most of the field are mounted on Thoroughbreds. They have to be able to keep up with those running hounds.

In addition to its officials, Casanova numbers many sporting characters among its subscribers. J. Chauncey Williams, formerly Master, is one of its most ardent supporters. So is William Gulick, who with his young sister and brother is always out. North Fletcher and Alex Calvert, who live in Warrenton, prefer to hunt with Casanova, and the grand old man of foxhunting, Harry Worchester Smith, often vans over from Middleburg to enjoy a keen day's sport.

The fame of the little hunt is beginning to spread and several newcomers have recently bought places in the Casanova country. That very sporting couple, the E. Gardner Primes, acquired a lovely but rundown old estate for the proverbial song and, by the judicious expenditure of a few thousand dollars, have made it one of the loveliest in Fauquier County. Another recent purchaser of land is Miss Mary Maxwell, who rides hard and well.

So well stocked with foxes is the Casanova country that the Hunt hopes never to adopt the practice of importing foxes and turning them loose. In fact, Miss Nourse is violently opposed to such a policy.

"Its too hard on the farmers," she says. "Too many foxes kill too many chickens. Sport is a fine thing, but it must not interfere with a man's livelihood. Foxes are protected in Fauquier County, but if we take advantage of that fact, there will be protests, protection will be taken away and the next step is a bounty. Then good-bye to the sport."

With all of its natural advantages, its fields of grass tilting toward the sky, its patches of woodland covert, its Thoroughbreds and its running hounds, its picturesque personalities, the thing which makes Casanova so fine is its spirit. Everyone connected with it loves good hunting and, stripped of pomp and ceremony, that is what they get. The unselfish cooperation of the whole community is the fundamental basis of the success of this experiment in hunting on a small budget. In these times, when many a fine tradition is falling by the wayside, it is heartening to see a group of men and women successfully fighting to preserve one of the greatest amenities of country life.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Virginia's Ban on Breed Bans

Virginia is pretty backward in some areas, pretty progressive in others, and dead on the money at least some of the time.

For evidence of this last fact, take a peak at Virginia's dangerous dog law.

Virginia Statute 3.1-796.93 says that any county, city or town can enact an ordinance regulating dangerous and vicious dogs, BUT:

"No canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed, nor is the ownership of a particular breed of canine or canine crossbreed prohibited . . ."

Bingo. Virginia has banned all breed-specific canine bans. Yes, yes -- go ahead and diagram that sentence.

Virginia law demands that every dog be judged on its individual character rather than on knee-jerk prejudices or water-cooler stories.

You would think this law is just common sense, but common sense is not that common when it comes to debates about "dangerous" breeds.

On the one hand you have some people who think every pit bull, rottweiler or doberman should be put to sleep upon identification.

On the other hand you have a few radicalized pit bull, rottweiler and doberman owners who think every badly broken dog should be given an "opportunity" to be loved back to mental health.

Both sides are equally ideological and equally reactionary.

Virginia's position is that every dog should be judged as an individual. That means that while no dog should be doomed to death simply because of the way it looks, a very tough hand is necessary in cases where a dog has attacked a human or (except under specified special circumstances) another dog.

Virginia holds that while all dog owners have rights, they also have responsibilities. Common sense says this is particularly true for owners of large breed dogs historically used for protection or catch-dog purposes.

All breeds, but herding and molosser breeds in particular, contain powerful bits of genetic code within them. That genetic code means that a responsible owner needs to have a large yard with a high fence, or a secure kennel, and the time to give his or her dog excercise and consistent training on a daily basis.

Sadly, there are not enough owners that fit these requirements, and too many large dominant dogs of all types continue to be bred.

The result of this numerical imbalance is that large numbers of hard-to-place molosser breeds (mostly young pit bulls) are ending up in shelters where they are often quickly euthenized.

Pit bull lovers are often outraged when this occurs, yet these same pit bull lovers are often of guilty of glamorizing and romanticizing their dogs as "valiant gladiators" and "loyal guardians" with storied pasts and intricate and important pedigrees.

In fact, most of what is said in these potted histories is complete and utter nonsense.

Yet it is deadly nonsense for the dogs, as it attracts all sort of knuckle-draggers and wanna-be tough guys who too often end up as poor guardians of powerful dogs that can live a dozen years or more.

Bottom line: The pit bull is not a dog that needs a breed ban; it is a dog that needs to be unsold by the people that love it.

You want to help pit bulls? Here's a suggestion: Ask people to take down all the potted romantic histories that litter the internet, and instead replace that nonsense with detailed information about how long these dogs live, how much time an owner will spend picking up huge dog turds in the back yard, how much furniture a single bored dog can chew up, how hard it is to find a landlord that will let you rent a house or apartment with one, how much veterinary care and food for such a dog will cost over its life, and how they attract police attention worse that a Grateful Dead sticker on the back of a purple VW microbus.

Make these dogs uncool, and paint them as being a lot of trouble.

You will not be lying, and you will almost certainly be saving the life of a dog or two.

Other posts along this line from this blog:

Isabelle Dinoire of France had the world's first face transplant
after a dog ripped off her nose, lips and chin. The dog?
Her very own Labrador Retriever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Blue Collar and Green All Over

The Start of Something New
. Pictured left to right are Tom Buffenbarger, President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; Edward Sullivan of the Building & Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, Matt Connolly of the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; Rich Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO (formerly with the United Mine Workers of America), Keith Kirchner of the United Steel Workers of America; Michael Sullivan of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, Bill Hite of the United Association of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters, Donald Rollins of the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Jeff Zack of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Kinsey Robinson of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, & Allied Workers, and Fred Myers of the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

I got a news release the other day
that announced that:

"More than 3 million hunters and anglers in unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO today called on members of Congress to adequately fund key Farm Bill conservation programs and to include a measure that would allow states to establish or expand private land hunting and fishing access programs.

"In a joint letter signed by 17 unions, the unions urge Congress to follow the Farm Bill policy recommendations of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership's Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group (AWWG)."

The unions are specifically joining with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to support the Open Fields part of the Farm Bill.

"In its current form, Open Fields would provide $20 million in federal funding for states to establish and expand private land 'walk-in' access programs for hunters and anglers. Such programs already exist in 20 states and have been extremely successful, opening up 26 million acres to sportsmen. They provide voluntary incentives to private landowners who open their property for public use, primarily for hunting. Remarkably cost-effective, these programs directly address declines in hunter and angler numbers felt across the U.S. in the last decade."

The partnership between the AFL-CIO member unions and the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is a new development that sits under an umbrella called the "Union Sportsmen's Alliance (USA)".

Nice acronym, eh?

I applaud the AFL-CIO for going beyond the lunch pail.

Hunters and anglers are a powerful American tribe and therefore a potentially powerful way to frame a new message about working people that resonates across America.

If unions will defend and support hunting, hunters (who may or may not be union members) may give unions a new look and more support.

Besides, conservation is good for the economy.

Energy conservation means new jobs as buildings are retrofitted, while recycling means more trucks to move things to recycling centers. As America becomes more efficient in terms of energy, labor and materials, more jobs will stay in this country instead of going overseas. It's a win-win for everyone.

Of course at this very early point in its development, this hunter-union alliance is probably mostly window-dressing. That's OK. It's a sign that folks in the unions and in the hunting community are thinking outside the box. Lord knows, we need a little more that!

And for the record, I would not be caught dead in the field without my Ames Pony shovel -- union made (UAW, thank you very much) by one of the oldest tool makers in the United States.

As for my digging bar, it was hand-forged by a union steel worker. You can't get more union-made than that.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Couple of Rocky Holes

Saturday was a very nice day, so Mountain and I hit the farms for a few hours. It was a bit cool and breezy starting out, which means it was going to be perfect T-shirt-and-tools weather.

Mountain located this groundhog in short order in a sette located on the edge of a just-coming-up corn field. The groundhog had found himself a nice location under a large flat rock about four feet down. The rock was too big to pull or smash, necessitating another hole to come in on the side. That done, things were wrapped up in short order.

The next sette was just inside the forest line and was packed with cobble. Mountain was underground for about an hour, but only barked twice, and though I could hear her growl twice, I was pretty sure she never got up on it. I decided not to dig until she opened up to a real bay, but that bay never came. No reason to dig on a sette with nothing in it, especially when you know the dog is fine (I could hear her moving stone underground).

Mountain came out at last and tried another entrace. I pulled a lot of cobbles out of that entrance, but Mountain could only get in as far as I had cleared the stone. More rock farther on stopped her progress. No worries -- we'll visit this sette again when the groundhog is a little larger and perhaps has cleared it out a little more pipe.

We called it a short day and headed home, stopping at a few blank holes in the fields on the way home. All in all a small and relaxing day in the field.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Coffee and Provocation

Immigration and Wildlife:
When Jimmy Carter went to China, he told Deng Xiaoping he wanted the Chinese to allow their political dissidents to leave. Taking a drag on his cigarette, Deng fixed a level look at President Carter. "Fine," he said. "How many million do you want?" The same question is now being debated on Capitol Hill, where our politicians are set to put in motion a plan that will inexorably lead to less access to hunting lands all across the United States as many scores of millions of additional people are added to our population over the next 50 years. Don't believe it? Read this old post which sets out the issues and the numbers. For how all this directly impacts hunting, read this little piece entitled "The Real Threat to Hunting (and Wildlife) in America."

Rachel Carson, Bald Eagles and Osprey:
Rachel Carson was a government public relations hack, and for that reason alone I have a soft spot for her. I am happy to report that The Washington Post has a very nice profile of her in today's paper which details, in some small way, her struggles with breast cancer at the end of her life. What most people don't know is that while DDT is bad for birds and other living things, it was not the reason for bald eagle and osprey decline in the U.S. For more on that topic, read this old post which comes complete with a few links to the Audubon data.

AKC Earthdog Events:
May 26-28 and June 2-3 there will be various Earthdog and Teckel trials at Village Green Farm Earthdog Center, Crosswicks, NJ (i.e. JoAnne Frier-Murza's place). Go to to find details and a calendar of future events.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cover Boy

New Jersey makes good. That's a working dog -- both of 'em.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Virginia's New "Gotcha" Vaccine Database

Is Virginia in the process of creating a new "Gotcha" dog licensing database?

That's the fear of some, including the Virginia Hunting Dog Association and the Fairfax Privacy Council who point to a new law that requires veterinarians to furnish city and county treasurers with detailed information about every animal receiving a rabies vaccination, including how many dogs a person owns, whether the animal being licensed is spayed or neutered, and the breed of the dog.

Beginning January 1, 2008, County treasurers will use this database to prepare and mail annual dog licensing bills to pet owners, just as they do now with real-estate and personal property taxes.

The purpose of the Virginia legislation appears to be to increase revenue by making sure all dogs are taxed and licensed. This money, in turn, will fund more dog catchers and spay-neuter programs within the state.

The problem is that this Virginia database can also be used for many other purposes, including helping pass and enforce breed-specific bans, mandatory pet sterilization laws, and per-house dog limits.

What is transparently clear is that the types of information being collected goes far beyond what is needed for simple tax collection purposes.

Dog vaccine databases such as this one may be the first step toward mandatory microchipping -- something both the AKC and the veterinarians will support, as both will make money on the deal; the AKC by selling microchips, and the veterinarians by implanting them.

Rest assured that this new "gotcha" dog database will NOT be kept private -- it will be sold to direct mail companies working for animal rights groups, and it will be given to animal control officers who will sort it by zip code, breed, number of dogs, and number of unspayed or unneutered dogs.

Do you have four dogs in a three-dog area? Expect a knock-knock visit from an Animal Control officer no matter how quiet and discreet you are -- and then choose which dog you will give up.

This database will also be attractive to insurance industry executives who will use it to deny coverage or raise insurance rates on folks who own certain "blacklisted" breeds such as Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pitbulls or even Collies.

So what can you do if you live in Virginia and this law passes? Here are five options suggested by VHDOA:

  1. Give your vet the wrong address. This is easy to do, and your vet doesn't need your address anyway.

  2. Get your dog vaccinated outside the state. If you live near Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina or Tennessee, take your dog with you on an outing to a country vet. A rabies vaccine is good for three years, so you will not have to do this very often.

  3. Get your dogs licensed before July 1, 2007 and make sure your vet does not send your contact information to the state. If you have to fill out a form, give your work address and your work phone number.

  4. Find a vet that is willing to ignore this stupid law. The penalty for ignoring the law is only $10 per dog, and there is almost no chance the State will audit a veterinarian. If a vet want to keep you as a customer, he or she should be willing to follow your instructions and preserve your privacy.

  5. Order your rabies vaccines by mail and give your dog the vaccine yourself. The cost of a 10-dose RabVac3 vial of serum that is good for dosing up to 10 dogs is just $12, and it's very easy to do. For more information on "vaccines for less," click here. Be sure to peal off the label on the vaccine bottle and fix it to your dog's paperwork -- it's not legal proof that a vaccine was given, but it should help if your dog ever bites someone. A rabies titer can provide further proof of vaccination if that is every required.

This stupid legislation passed the Virginia legislature by only one vote. If the blow-back from voters and veterinarians is serious enough this week, this law may yet be repealed .

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Race for the Cure

On the way to the hardware store yesteday, I passed a lot of runners going to the "Race for Cure" put on by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to raise cash, cain and consciousness about breast cancer.

A good cause, and that one every person in America is likely to have personal and painful interactions with before it is all over, as we all have either mothers, daughters, wives, friends or co-workers who will -- at some time -- be diagnosed. Something like 200,000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S., and 40,000 of these will die of it.

About a year ago, The New England Journal of Medicine put out a report that Herceptin -- a drug already shown to prolong survival in patients with advanced breast cancer -- can also cut in half the recurrence of a common form of early breast cancer.

You would think every American would applaud such a breakthrough, but you'd be wrong. PETA sneered at the new drug because the company that developed it, Genentech, uses animals in its drug testing.

In fact, animal tests are required for FDA approval of every drug. PETA, in short, disapproves of every new drug coming on to the market. They also oppose giving money to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and a lot of other groups raising money and funding research to cure a wide range of diseases and illnesses.

Next time someone raises the issue of breast cancer, prostate cancer, HIV or almost any another disease or condition, be sure to note that PETA and many other animal rights groups oppose all animal testing.

For reference, here a few of charities that do fund animal research, and the diseases they work on:

  • American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR)

  • Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

  • Alzheimer’s Association

  • Arthritis Foundation

  • March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation

  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

  • Muscular Dystrophy Association

  • Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children

  • United Cerebral Palsy

  • American Heart Association

  • Lions Clubs International Foundation

  • American Red Cross

  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America

  • National Hemophilia Foundation

  • National Kidney Foundation

  • American Cancer Society

  • The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund

  • Children’s National Medical Center

  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society

  • Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

  • National Stroke Foundation

  • American Diabetes Association

  • Epilepsy Foundation of America

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Get Over It: Bagged Dog Food is Fine for Fido

An excellent piece by John R. Moffett, entitled "Are Dogs Carnivores?," is well worth reading.

He goes through the physical evidence that clearly indicates dogs are well-adapted to eat more than meat, from their ability to synthesize taurine to the relative length of their gut. He also looks at their ability to break down plant starches:

"The next issue is amylase, the enzyme that digests starch. Grains are mostly starch, so an animal would need to make amylase if it is going to digest starch. People have amylase in their saliva, so starch digestion begins when you chew your food. Dogs, like cats, don’t have amylase in their saliva. But this ignores the fact that dogs secrete large amounts of amylase from their pancreas. Since meat doesn’t contain starch, why would dogs need to make amylase in their pancreas? Obviously because they are equipped to eat and digest plant-derived starches. Foxes, which are closely related to dogs, eat just about anything in the wild, from bugs to birds, to fruits, grains and berries. They too are very adaptable 'carnivores'."

His conclusion: "Dogs not only can be healthy on a diet consisting of meat, grains and vegetables, they will do exceptionally well on one."

He must be right, as I completey agree with him (now tell the truth, isn't that how we all think?).

Remember, of course, that regardless of what you feed your dog the most important thing not to over-feed it.

Does a Bear Leave Lesses in the Woods?

In a previous posting I have mentioned various words that are applied to groups of animals, from a pride of lions to a mob of kangaroos, to a swarm of bees or locusts.

I even suggested a new word (and a good one I think) for the massive flocks of starlings we see assembled in the Fall (a vulgarity of starlings).

Listening to a comedian on television tonight, I began to wonder if there might be a secret raft of words used to describe specific animal excrement. "Shit" after all has grown just a little too tired from over-use.

I remembered that T.H. White had used the word "Fewmet" as the correct word for the scat of a dragon the Questing Beast. Were there others?

There are!

Below is a small sampling of words I have gleaned without trying too hard.

Apparently there is a book out there by Cyril E. Hare that I really must get -- Language of Field Sports - which is full of such stuff.

Can I really resist knowing a dozen animal-specific words for coppulating? I think not!

In any case, until such a book is ordered and arrived, I offer for your edification a few new words to toss out in casual conversation (note, some of these are Medieval and no longer much in use).

  • Billitting: Fox scat

  • Bodewash: Dried cow or buffalo dung

  • Buttons: Sheep dung

  • Coprolite: Fossilized excrement from a dinosaur

  • Crotiles or Crotisings: Hare poop

  • Fewmets: Deer pellets

  • Fuants: The squat of various vermin

  • Lesses: Boar, Bear or Wolf turds

  • Guano: Seafowl offerings used as fertilizer

  • Mutes: Hawk chalk

  • Scumber: Dog crap

  • Spraints: Otter calling cards

  • Tath: Cattle patties

  • Wormcast: Earthworm vermidung

Does anyone have any more? I know they're out there!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Coffee and Provocation

Fantasy and Fable Obscures Human Error:
Let's start the story by telling what really happened: Some idiot let two Pit Bulls off the leash in New Zealand, and some other idiot sent five children out with a Jack Russell who was similarly off-lead. The predictable result when the canine protagonists met: The Jack Russell told the pair of Pit Bulls to go screw themselves, and the pair of Pit Bulls told the Jack Russell likewise. Pretty soon all hell broke loose and the Jack Russell ended up dead. Now the parents of the children are trying to dress up this disaster by saying the Jack Russell terrier was trying to "protect" the kids from the "killer Pit Bulls." Nice try, but I'm not having any of it. The Pit Bulls are not likely to have been psychotic child-killers, and the Jack Russell was not likely to have been Lassie. Let's tell our kids the truth for once. This was a sad and preventable dog fight set in motion by negligent humans. There are leash laws for a reason.

Nice Hat Queenie, and I Loved Your Movie:
The Queen is over here in Virginia this week, touring the lands that were lost because of a terrier.
For those unfamiliar with the story, see >> here.

Tony Blair -- Good Riddance to Bad Meat:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is stepping down, only 8 years too late. It's hard to remember the enthusiasm with which Blair was welcomed into office 10 years ago -- a real landslide election. Since then he has worked tirelessly to unite Britain against his policies. George Bush, of course, is following the same play book, and both politicians are at a nadir of public opinion. Prime Minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown is seen as more arrogant and even less in touch with voters then Tony Blair, while Conservative leader David Cameron has said he wants to bring back fox hunting.

Glad to Be an American:
Virginia is one of several states (Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, Alabama) where there is a state-constitution-guaranteed
right to hunt and fish. Tenneessee is about to be the latest addition.

Wildlife in the Driveway:
In Homer, Alaska, a fellow looked out his back window to see a 500-pound grizzly killing a moose in the back yard. And yes, there's video of it >> here.

Hillbilly Heaven:
I want a bigger version of this Airstream that has been pimped out by Ralph Lauren. Go ahead and call me names. At least Dr. Hypercube gets it.

God Loves a Redhead:
A shout out to hawker
Rebecca O'Conner who recently lost her Brittany, but may have found true love with a rescue. Good on 'ya and the Fates that Move All Things.

Saving Big Foot?:
A petition has been introduced into Canada’s House of Commons seeking legislation to protect Big Foot as an endangered species, never mind the lack of evidence it exists. Folks on the political right will see this as a down-zoning land-grab by some sort of wacko tree hugger. Folks on the left will see this as a total trivialization of the Endangered Species Act. Both sides are completlely right, and for the record a similar appeal has been made to the U.S. Congress. Insanity without borders.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Working Terrier Year Book: A Box Full of Jewels

The compilation volume entitled The Working Terrier Year Book, 1987-1991 is a box of small jewels, and a good read for the dedicated working terrier enthusiast.

The book is eclectic and full of short pieces on a wide variety of themes related to working terriers, but if there is a central thread that holds these pearls together, it is that the sand is always slipping steadily through the glass. Some of what what has gone before will never come back, and some of what what exists now may soon be lost forever.

The passage of time is not entirely unexpected as a theme in a Year Book, least of all one on working terriers in the U.K.

It was during during this five-year period, after all, when the political pressures to ban fox hunting really began their ascendency, and when the last vestiges of legal badger work had only recently gone the way of the buggy whip.

At the same time, the push was on to pull the Jack Russell Terrier into the Kennel Club, while some of the legendary greats of the terrier world from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, were getting long in the tooth and passing on to the Great Hunting Ground in the sky.

Add to this mix one of the constant beats in the terrier world: the loss of great dogs before their time, coupled with the rise of young know-nothings and fools who continue to give the sport a bad name.

So is the book grim, then?

Suprisingly, not at all, for the central voice is that of the diggers that have endured and will always endure, not the least of whom is editor David Harcombe himself.

A short section bemoaning "Which way for the Jack Russell Terrier?" is also somewhat bemused that otherwise intelligent people are going down the road to Kennel Club oblivion thinking this old road must now lead to somewhere else.

A piece entitled "The Spirit is Willing," is a celebration of an old dog who nearly loses his life due to the mistake of his owner.

A piece entitled "Respect for the Quarry" reminds us all that we safeguard our own self-respect when we treat dogs and wildlife with some reverance.

Again and again in this book we get quick profiles of notable characters, famous names, and unique voices in the world of digging. We also get a regular peppering of concern and amazement about about how terrier work is presented in the press.

I have to say I do not wonder why terrier work is often misrepresented: the world seems to be full of young fools only too happy to do it all wrong and present the ugly side up. This last week, for example, I was rather alarmed to read one person on a semi-public forum who suggested that a ban on fighting dogs was a threat to terrier work (it is not, and to equate the two is pure nonsense and an insult), while on another semi-public board a young digger posted pictures of the ugliest kind of fox culling. Did we need to see that?

Of coure the young who have done very little have to show all they have ever done, no matter how pathetic. And if some people waited for knowledge before they spoke, we would still not know they existed.

As an antidote to the poseurs, this Working Terrier Year Book gives us the varied voices of experience -- of those who observe that a mute dog was never valued in the old days, and who note that a really hard dog cannot stick with it over the several hours (or more) that it may take to dig deep.

My favorite line, is stolen from Napoleon Bonaparte, and is used to describe why show rings are incapable of judging the invisible but not emphemeral, qualities of a true working terrier: "The spirit is to the material as three is to one." Excellent!

Some book reviews are also included: a very nice (and well deserved) review of David MacDonald's Running With the Foxes, and an excoriating (and equally well-deserved) review of the awful novel Trog by D. Brian Plummer.

And, of course, there are stories of digs and dogs and men. The murky pedigrees of some famous terriers are debated as if they are important, while a well-thought out piece on Jocelyn Lucas wonders whether his dogs were really any good and whether Lucas himself was more of a writer than a digger (good question, good question!) Short profiles are given of such "names" in the world of working terriers as Bert Gripton, Arthur Nixon, John Park, Ken Smith, and Ken Gould.

All in all, this book was an easy and quite enjoyable read, as it presents a varied set of topics in easy-to-digest bits and pieces that are perfect for consumption between coffee and work, dinner and bed. A very worthy addition to any working terrier book collection.

4Hard cover, 425 pages, edited (and often written) by David Harcombe

4Available from: Fieldfare, P.O. Box 2, Llandro SA19 6EW at cost of £25 pounds including postage and shipping within the U.K. and £27 pounds to Europe and Ireland, and £29 pounds to the U.S.A.

4To order via credit card (PayPal), >> CLICK HERE