Wednesday, October 31, 2007

They'll Never Find It?

This dog food can is not really dog food, but a supposedly "safe" place where you can hide your valuables.

But what of real value can you hide in a can this small? If you are willing to spend $19.95 plus shipping from Amazon for something this silly, you probably don't have too much money to start with.

Besides, who feeds their dogs canned dog food anymore? That stuff went out with buggy whips -- quite literally.

For more on the history of canned dog food, see this earlier post.


Message Received, But Not Believed

I am a bit fascinated by film shorts on YouTube, which show some powerful minds at work.

In the film, above, we we have two alien life forms discussing what they found when they followed SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) radio signals back to Earth.

In the film below, we have a simple juxtaposition of life and concerns, framed by time and place.

Neither clip has a damn thing to do with dogs or wildlife, but a brief tour of the short film medium will do you no harm, I promise.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hunting Licenses Online

For those looking to renew hunting licenses, a one-stop link is >> (you may need to enable pop-ups on your computer)

Pay by credit card, and the license is yours immediately -- just print out the PDF and keep it with your hunting kit (and one in the glove compartment of the car too, I would recommend).

In-state licenses are still a huge bargain, but out-of-state is something all together different. Crossing the Potomac River to hunt costs me an extra $100 a year for a license! On the other hand, that works out to only $3 a week, and it comes with about 3,000 acres of close-in public lands to hunt (along with private farms I probably do not need a license for).

New $5 Fur Bearer Permit Required in Maryland

Beginning in the 2006-2007 season, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has required that folks that "hunt, chase, trap, or pursue furbearers" have a new "Furbearer Permit". The cost is only $5 in addition to a hunting license, and it appears to be a way a way of keeping track of the number of fox and coon hunters in the state -- a necessary thing if wildlife populations are to be well-managed. Since Maryland has a surplus of both fox and raccoon, I think science is likely to result in an expanded season, not a more restricted one. Note that along with a Fur Bearer permit, you will also have to have a regular hunting license. >> For more information For the record, groundhog, are not considered furbearers, and are specifically exempt from all limits, Sunday hunting restrictions, and seasons. In short, they are treated as a pest and regulated as such.


Badgers Never Try to Sell Cars to a Terrierman

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rowan Goes Owling!

Rowan, age 3, with her first banded Saw-whet Owl. Proud father Steve Huy says she asked lots of questions during the banding and listened intently to all the answers. "She named this one 'Baby Daisy Owl' but there were no tears when it was time to let her go. " Excellent on all counts.

Steve says that the population of Northern Saw-whet owls should be up this year thanks to last year's excellent mast crop in Canada. Owl experts are able to predict these kinds of thing now thanks to dedicated owl trappers, banders, and data-gathers such as Steve and the other folks over at Project Owlnet, who track owl population numbers, as well as their age and sex.

Saw-whet owls are the smallest owls on the East Coast of the U.S., and are about the the size of a robin and weigh just 3 ounces. These little predators migrate down from Canada at about this time every year. Many of them winter over on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where they jungle up during the day in thick evergreen foliage, often surprisingly close to the ground. Their evenings, of course, are spent feeding on white-footed deer mice, voles and shews.

The Saw-whet name comes from the fact that their call is supposed to sound like a saw blade being sharpened. To more modern ears, it sounds a bit like a delivery truck's backing-up beeper. Trapping is done with mist nets and electronic callers.

Other owls to be found in this area include the barn owl, eastern screech owl, great horned owl, barred owl, long-eared owl, short eared owl.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Finally, Rain

We got our first real rain in five months a week ago Friday, and it's rained three days since, bringing in 4 inches of water, so things are looking up a little bit.

Of course, it's too late for the crops, and too late for the Fall leaf color too, but we will take what we can get.

The Washington Post describes the ground as still being as hard as bone (not dry as, but hard as), which I can vouch for. Nonetheless, a little bit of color has come back to my lawn, and the privet hedge along the driveway may yet lose its dusty pallor.

Of course, a little bad always comes with the good. At about 4 in the morning, I was wide awake when the house got very quiet. What was that? Actually, what was the noise before the quiet? To make a long story short, it turns out our electricity went out, and with it the fan my wife runs to help her sleep (I never notice it any more). I got up at 5 am and read a bit by flashlight, before heading off to coffee at 7 am. At 9 am, when I came back, the electricity was still off, and it did not come back until 9 hours later, by which time my wife no longer trusted anything in the refrigerator. So along with no electricity (and no house phone or computer), we also got the expense of restocking the fridge.

A few days of rain will not end the drought in terms of water resources. Communities across five or six that are dependent on reservoirs may still be in for a period of rationing unless we get unusual amounts of rain over the next month or so. The front page of The Washington Post this morning shows Lake Lanier, the Atlanta reservoir, so low that the boat docks now appear to be running out over dry land. Not good.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Coffee and Provocation

Going to Hell in a Handbasket:
The United Nations has put out another report saying the world's environment is going to hell in a handbasket due to rapid and sustained human population growth. That's exactly what I have been saying for 27 years. There's just one little problem with this story board as a policy-making tool: the folks that vote and read United Nations reports are humans, and for the human race (taken as a whole) things are actually better now than they were 20, 50, 100, or 150 years ago based on almost any metric you would like to choose (longevity, neonatal mortality, income, access to clean water, food intake, sanitation, women's rights, etc.). Yes, things are often worse for wildlife (though not always), but wildlife and wild places don't get a vote in this human-dominated world of ours. To bad, we may think, but that's the sum total of the world's environmental problems in a nutshell.

Time to Cull the Badgers:
The British Government's chief scientific advisor, Sir David King, has said culling badgers is the "best option available at the moment to reduce the reservoir of tuberculosis infection in wildlife," and that a cull will start in a few months. I am not sure how this is news: DEFRA, the Department of Environmental and Rural Affairs in the U.K., has been gassing scores of thousands of badgers in TB-plagued areas of the U.K. for years. Nonetheless, the badger population in the U.K. is at historical records, and in fact there are now reported to be more badgers in the U.K. than fox!

Protecting Virginia Wilderness:
The Virginia Ridge and Valley Act, which will permanently protect as wilderness almost 55,000 acres in Virginia's Jefferson National Forest, has passed the House of Representatives. Let us hope the Senate is next. To read more about the region.

National Geographic in Praise of Hunters:
The National Geographic has come out with a piece in praise of hunters! About time they recognized the conservation history here. The article, entitled Hunters: For the Love of the Land, gets it just about right.

HSUS Says It's the Ignorant Public's Fault
Read this piece from the folks at the National Animal Interest Alliance about the Humane Society of the U.S. is concerned. Patti Strand of the National Animal Interest Alliance notes that, "HSUS calls itself a mainstream advocacy group, hiding or downplaying the fact that it ... is all about promoting vegan diets - no meat, no dairy - and ending traditional human-animal relationships across the board, from agriculture to biomedical research. . . . Mr. Pacelle [of the HSUS] seems baffled that anyone would go after HSUS for not having shelters because as he stated, 'We never said we run - local animal shelters.' This is vintage HSUS. They call themselves a humane society and then blame the public for being confused. By calling itself the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS rides into every situation on a 'case of mistaken identity' - an identity that, oops, just happens to raise millions of dollars: the mistaken impression for many Americans being that it is a humane society rather than a giant propaganda, lobbying and fundraising machine." Of course, what Strand does not mention is that her organization is a professional apologist for the puppy mill industry and factory farming, while she herself is on the board of the AKC where she works to make sure the Dalmatian registry is kept firmly closed so that the deep (and painful) health problems of that breed are not rectified through outcrossing. Nice! Talk about calling the kettle black!

Drunk and Disorderly in India:
In India, a herd of about 40 wild Asian elephants in Chandan Nukat, in northeast India, got drunk on beer kept outside in casks by local villagers, and then proceeded to run through a nearby paddy field where one of them struck an electrical pole and came in contact with a very powerful electrical wire. Writhing in pain while being juiced by electricity, other elephants tried to come to its aid, and a total of 6 elephants ended up being electrocuted. The report is that there would have been even more elephant deaths had not villagers, awakened by the cries of the animals, not chased them away to protect them. For the record, this was not the first time drunken elephants have rioted in Chandan Nukat -- it happened three years ago. Perhaps now is a good time to suggest leaving the beer kegs inside?

Electrocuting Elephants With Thomas Alva Edison:
In turn out that drunken elephants in India story (see above) is not the first time an elephant has been electrocuted. Believe it or not, the first elephant electrocution was orchestrated as a stunt in 1903 by none other than Thomas Alva Edison who was looking for a shocking (pun intended) publicity ploy to show that the alternating current (AC) system being proposed by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla was dangerous and could kill people, while his direct current (DC) system could not. The gruesome elephant-killing publicity stunt was even filmed, but guess what? It didn't work! We have AC in our houses today, and DC is what runs all those little battery-operated thinga-ma-jigs we get at Best Buy.

Thank You Blowhards!
A special shout-out to the folks at 2Blowhards who gave us a very nice atta-boy for a couple of posts on this blog. Considering the rather stellar and far-reaching content of their blog, I am pleased as punch by their compliments.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is State Farm Deer-Vehicle Impact Data Pure Bunk?

Green is low risk, yellow is medium risk,and orange is high risk for deer-vehicle impact.

State Farm insurance has done the math, and they say that the state where you are most likely to hit a deer is West Virginia.

Since I dig not too far from the West Virginia-Maryland border, I do not find this too shocking.

State Farm estimates the chances of a West Virginia vehicle colliding with a deer over the next 12 months at 1 in 57, which means that it is about three times more likely than an IRS audit.

The average property loss due to deer-vehicle impact was just under $2,900.

The top 10 states in 2007 are as follows:
    1. West Virginia
    2. Michigan
    3. Wisconsin
    4. Pennsylvania
    5. Iowa
    6. Arkansas
    7. Montana
    8. South Dakota
    9. North Dakota
    10. Minnesota
But wait a minute. I think I saw this same list last year, and these are not the same states. Did the world of deer and vehicles change overnight? That seems a bit hard to believe. So I checked the stats put out by State Farm in 2006, and I was right -- not too much overlap, and quite a lot of difference.

The top 10 states in 2006 were as follows:

    1. Pennsylvania
    2. Michigan
    3. Illinois
    4. Ohio
    5. Georgia
    6. Virginia
    7. Minnesota
    8. Texas
    9. Indiana
    10. South Carolina
You will notice that West Virginia does not even make the top 10 list in 2006 (much less top it). Similiarly, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, South Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia are missing from the top 10 list in 2007, while both Dakotas somehow manage to show up, along with Arkansas, and Iowa.

What's going on?

The short story
is that it appears that State Farm puts out different kinds of statistics in different years -- all the better to market their insurance products with, I am sure.

The 2007 list is an index of chance, while the 2006 numbers are an index of absolute impacts. It turns out that in both 2006 and 2007, Pennsylvania leads in absolute number of impacts.

Which, again, is not too surprising to me as I dig very close to the Maryland-Pennsylvania border as well. And yes, these are all the same Maryland farms. Did I mention we have a lot of deer in this area? 'Tis true.

And so, the State Farm data may not be pure bunk. It's just not consistently represented from year to year.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Skim Milk as Cream

In the wonderful libretto of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, there is a pretty good line:

Things are seldom what they seem,
skim milk masquerades as cream,
Highlows pass as patent leathers;
Jackdaws strut in peacock's feathers.

Isn't that the truth!

Am I alone in noting that a lot of people who claim to know a great deal about dogs never seem to actually take their dogs out into the field? Their dogs are always too young or too old, and -- oh! -- their aching back just went out as well.

For these folks, the "too cold" season rolls into the "too wet" season, and then "baby season" followed by "had to go to a dog show," followed by "too hot" and "the ground is too hard," followed by "too wet" and then "too cold" again.

For some of these characters, year after year goes by and there is never a report or picture of an actual dig in the field. Lots of dog shows, of course. Lot of puppies. Lots of talk about pedigrees, and structure, and "movement," and theories of breeding, but apparently no actual digging in the field. Some of these folks can conjugate canine pedigrees as if they were reading out of the "begats" sections of the Bible, but don't ask them for a picture or date of their last dig!

Which would be no big deal, if these folks simply stopped insisting they had workings dogs and were "protecting" a working breed. They do not, and they are not!

And no, work is NOT killing a rat on the breezeway or a possum out by the carport.

Of course skim milk masquerading as cream is not unique to terrier work, is it? I am told there are whole tribes of hawkers who parade their birds around on their first, but have never flown a bird free from its creance.

There are expert sailors that have never left the bar stool, lawyers that have never tried a case in court, architects that have never put up 20 sheets of drywall, and race car drivers that cannot change the oil on their own cars.

Priests and nuns seem to have no compunction at all about lecturing the world about sex and birth control, while politicians who send their own kids to private school seem to be certified experts on how much money it takes to run a public version of the same.

And, in truth, sometimes it makes no difference. A cubic zirconium ring is no worse than a real diamond, as far as I can tell.

Ditto for an expensive-looking bottle of wine that remains uncorked.

Only when something is used, does its true nature reveal itself.


Monday, October 22, 2007

The Hard Way

Connie and Wager, second farm, better earth.

Went out digging with Connie on Sunday. I don't like to hit any one farm too hard, so instead of going back to the farm I'd been digging on Friday with Char, we went to a piece of Pittman-Robertson land (about 2,500 acres) that I hadn't been to since May.

To say this land looked different can hardly do it justice -- everything was quite overgrown, as expected at this time of year, but the ground was also very hard and dry.

Mountain quickly found a hole she liked quite a lot. The entrance was very tight just a little way in, and then it jogged hard around a tight corner. The exit hole went straight down about four feet, and then it too got very tight at the bottom. We dug and barred to try to find a better entrance to this sette, but the ground was very hard, and the pipe was pretty deep, and neither Mountain nor Wager, Connie's dog, ever got in. After moving a very small amount of dirt for a lot of effort, we decided to see if we could find a better location.

But of course, all the settes were the same way. All the shallower settes seemed to be blank, while the deeper settes had drought-baked earth bunkering over their tops. The dogs found two more good settes they seemed to like, and while they got past the entrance, they never got too much farther due to pipe constrictions, and neither dog opened up to a full "gotcha-now" bay. Our efforts were not much improved by the fact that Wager is not very experienced yet, and Mountain seemed to be off her game as well, perhaps due to Friday's skunking.

I suggested to Connie that we pull out and try another farm, but of course just as we headed back, both dogs disappeared. The good news is that they had found in a rock-hard sette that was only about three feet deep. After about an hour of slamming the bar and the posthole digger into the concrete-colored ground, we finally got a soup-can sized hole in one end of the sette and a larger hole about two feet away, with the groundhog in between. The groundhog seemed to be tucked up inside a pocket, and the dogs had a lot of fun working it, but it was not going anywhere either. A bit more effort on our part, and we finally got it dispatched, but so far this day was the most effort for the least amount of quarry I have ever spent in the field.

We trundled back to the trucks (a bit of a hike now) and had a cold drink. It was about 3:15, and I asked Connie if she was up to digging until it got dark. She said she was, and so off we went to the farm we should have started this day on -- the one I had been digging on Friday.

Coming out of the truck, Connie saw two groundhogs sitting up in the cut-over bean field. Excellent! We went out to the nearest one, and to make a long story short, we dug two more holes and came away blank -- at the first hole because Wager's inexperience and a tight pipe let the groundhog dig in, and at the second hole because I managed to miss the chuck with the snare. Darkness alone ended the day.

That's how it goes sometimes; a lot of effort and not too much to show for it. The sad tally on this day was groundhogs five and humans one. Not a good thing, I suppose, but the dogs came away uninjured, and we got 100% more quarry than anyone sitting on their ass in front of a television set. Plus we got a little exercise, had a decent walk around while doing it, and had a few laughs as well.

Wildlife will humble you. The lowly groundhog den is evolution at work; a stronghold idea arising from a many millennia of predation by wolves, fox, cougar, dogs and man. In drought, when the ground is rock hard, the groundhog starts the poker card game with a full house. We may have gotten a groundhog for all of our efforts, but I have to say that I came away feeling soundly beaten by Mother Nature and Marmota Monax.

Better luck next time!

.Mountain pulls the only one of the day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Digging on the Dogs

Char came down from Illinois to attend the JRTCA's 25th Annual Nationals trial, and I took the day off to go digging with her. The weather called for rain, but I told Char the weather reports did not mean too much around here, and that we'd probably get by with an overcast day before a good evening thunderstorm, which is exactly how it went.

We met up at Stups Market, and then headed a few hundred yards up the road to a little farm where I have been digging in recent months. Pearl is still knitting up from a dig two weeks ago, so I left her in the truck (Char bred her, and she's been a great dog for me), and we took Mountain and Char's Rue up a hedgerow to see what we could see.

Within the first five minutes Rue bolted a nice groundhog up a tree, and Char got a picture. Excellent!

We found the next groundhog where I thought we would -- in a trash-strewn hedgerow in the middle of two recently cut-over bean fields. The dogs bolted this one too (a very BIG groundhog!), and it dashed out and slid under a half dozen coils of old rusty barbed wire and into a cascade of steel and iron car parts, rotting fence posts, old tires, and broken bottles.

Mountain located this groundhog again, but after moving a couple of big rusty barbed wire coils, and seeing what was below that, we decided to give this groundhog best and move on. Why put a dog out of action working barbed wire, broken glass and trash when the day was still so young?

We rolled on across the top of the field, and down the middle. I swear, if we had a dollar for every piece of fox and raccoon crap we saw, Char and I both would have had gas money for a week.

The fox and raccoon are definitely marking every scrap of territory on this farm. And who can blame them with such nice fields of soy and corn bordering a narrow meadow with a stream running down the center? The soil here is pretty friable, and the drainage is very good. There are not too many trees, but the ones standing are often huge. This is about as good a farm as I have found for fox and raccoon. And the groundhogs are thick on the ground too.

We headed down to the edge of the soy field after banging around another recently occupied sette that had a slightly skunky smell to it.

Mountain located in another nice big sette along the fence line. She bayed it up and we downed tools, located, and dug to her. To make a long story short, this sette had two nice groundhogs in it, and both were accounted for, one by Rue and the other by Mountain. Rue did an excellent job of holding her hog while we finished up with Mountain's and could devote our full attention to her end of the pipe. Both dogs came away from this dig without so much as a nick for their efforts.

After the dig, I walked down field for a quick bathroom break, when I saw something white ambling my way -- a skunk. "Lace up the dogs Char," I yelled back to her "We have a skunk coming down the fence line. " The skunk hardly seemed to care about me. I ran back for the camera and took a few quick shots, as this skunk was almost completely white on top. A nice little freak of nature -- the kind of thing that awakes the raging 10-year old bug-collector inside of me.

We repaired the den we had dug up, and had just finished gathering up the tools, when Mountain began poking around a sette about 12 feet away. She slipped underground, and from the sound of it she began to dig on a bit.

No worries. We relaxed, waiting for her to find and open up if she did. In the interim, we took a few pictures of the two hogs, gabbed, and rested a bit.

It was then that Char noticed the white skunk coming back down the fence line, and so I grabbed a heavy board-like piece of bark with the idea of either changing the skunk's trajectory or its perspective on life. I was tossing the chunk of wood at the skunk's head (and missing by about three inches), when Char yelled back to me, "SKUNK in the ground with Mountain."

Oh crap!

I jogged back to the hole, and sure enough there was the faint smell of skunk coming out. Mountain was baying a bit, but then she fell silent.

Oh damn!

We boxed, but the collar seemed to be working intermittently, and so while Char cut away at the entrance hole which seemed to have the most sound coming out of it, I barred down to where I thought the den pipe was.

I think the bar had just popped into the den pipe, but I was not absolutely certain, and was about to bar again three inches over when Mountain began to bay a bit closer to the hole where Char had been cutting away.

Excellent. A baying dog is a living dog with some oyygen.

I ran over to where the sound had been coming out, and Char and I both cut back on the pipe entrance until Char said she could see the skunk, trying to exit, head out.

Mountain was baying a bit more now. I relaxed. No worries. If you can see the skunk and hear the dog, it's probably not going to end bad. This was going to be a bolt.

Char backed away from the hole, and I waited for the skunk to clear the pipe before I tried to nail it with the digging bar. I missed, and the skunk bolted for another pipe with Mountain chasing on after her. Char just managed to grab Mountain before she went to ground a second time, and we collared her up and checked her over for damage. She was stinky, but otherwise fine.

Mountain has been skunked a few times before, and does not seem to be overly sensitive as some dogs are. I checked her over, and she did not have the yellow spray marks on her chest or head that would suggest she got a full-on hit at very close range. I suspect the skunk was three feet ahead of her when it blew its load -- a good thing, I can tell you, as a full load to the skin is a lot of toxin (skunk spray is almost pure sulphuric acid) and stink. I collared her up and tied her to the fence twenty feet away, and in a few minutes she was rolling in the grass trying to get the stink off. She was going to be fine.

We filled in the skunk hole, checked Mountain again (no burning of the corneas), and decided to hit the trucks to swap out dogs and get a cold drink or two for ourselves.

At the truck we ran into the farm owners, and after a nice visit with all the dogs, we left them to hit the other side of the creek with Smudge and Sassy.

Smudge is an older dog that has had the good fortune of finding a home with Char, while Sassy is the one-year old full sister (out of a different litter) to my Pearl.

We walked down the creek bank, and there were a lot of holes over the space of 500 yards, but all of them were blank. I have taken about 30-35 groundhogs out of this creek bed over the last few months, and it seems I have made a some small dent in the population. Still, the stream bank is not completely blank, as I have bolted a few that got away as recently as last week, and the week before that.

From our side of the creek we could see some of the exit holes on the other bank, and so when we saw a really nice sette under a huge old elm tree on the other side, we decided to cross over and check it out.

Smudge waded over ahead of us and noodled up the bank through the thick maze of roots. Char followed directly behind, while I rounded and went up the bank a few yards upstream. By the time I got top side, Smudge was in the ground and baying up a storm.

When I say this was a big elm tree, I'm not kidding -- it was six or seven feet through the middle, with the top broken off about 25 feet up. Smudge sounded like he was inside the trunk . I circled the tree looking for a way in. There was a small soft-looking spot at the back base of the tree, and I started to pull away some matted leaves to see if I could find a hole when a large raccoon stuck its nose out. Yow!

I don't know which of us was more freaked out by what we found on the other side of that thick plug of leaves. The raccoon, of course, was not expecting to see a 200-pound human. On my end, I am hyper-aware that we have a lot of rabid raccoons in our area, so I try to stay away from the business end of raccoon with my bare hands. Yes, yes, any mammal can get rabies, but raccoon are positively dizzy with the stuff around here.

Anyway, the raccoon darted back in the tree, and I now knew what we had inside. I reached into the hollow with Char's scraper and pulled out some dirt and a chunk of rotted wood. The pipe did not appear to be very big and it seemed to jog to the left.

I boxed to locate the dog and the locator said Smudge was about two feet inside the trunk from the left side, but it sounded like he was also a foot or two down in the ground below that. Maybe more.

I barred on the left side of the tree, and cut through some smaller roots until hitting hard massive trunk wood. I tore off some pretty decent chunks of wood, but there did not seem to be any weakness to this side of the tree.

While I was slamming the posthole digger and bar into the roots and trunk with almost total futility (and doing some sawing too, it should be said), Char had stuck her spade into the hole where I had seen the coon nose, and pulled out quite a bit of dirt. After looking into the hollow of the hole, however, she decided she had probably blocked off the pipe as she could not tell which way it went. I checked it out and she was right. Where DID the pipe go? I could not tell either, and poking around inside the trunk, everything felt pretty solid. The coon had tried to exit from here, but where it had gone to was a complete mystery.

About an hour had gone by, and Smudge was still baying up a storm, especially when we banged on the trunk a lot. Smudge clearly had the raccoon cornered, he was not backing off, and the raccoon was business-end out. Air was apparently not a problem, and it sounded like Smudge had a good location to work from. What to do?

I suggested to Char that we pull off about 80 feet, sit down, and see if the dog would come out on his own if he didn't hear us banging about on top with our tools. Some dogs will exit after a while if they do not hear humans digging or talking.

Thirty minutes later, Smudge had not moved and he was still baying up a storm. Hmmmm. We seem to have a dedicated working dog here! A new plan of attack was clearly needed.

I went back to the original hole at the base of the tree, and moved a large trunk and branch that had been serving as a porch over the hole. With the branch and trunk out of the way, I had a better purchase on the hole, and I used Char's scrapper to pull out a big piece of old rotten wood and dirt. I dug a bit more, my arm all the way in, and banged out pieces of old rotten wood that were large enough to make an apple crate out of. I put in the shovel and brought out a lot more dirt too. I was digging and banging around inside the trunk blindly, but I was definitely removing material. If nothing else, I was creating more air space inside, and that could only be good. Plus, I was doing something.

Char got a light, and I shined it up into the pipe, and now I could finally see the top of Smudge's wagging tail peeking out over a piece of rotten timber. He was clearly doing fine.

I pulled out a little more dirt and wood, and shone the light about some more. Now I could see that there was a wall of rotten wood and dirt between the dog and us. I explained the situation to Char, who scooted in to take a look. While she sussed out the situation, I explained our plan of attack in my best Ronald Reagan voice: "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

And so we did.

More wood and dirt came out of the hole, and in the end it was clear Smudge had the raccoon, still unseen, pinned down in a hole somewhere near his feet.

I reached in with the snare pole to pull Smudge out (he was farther in than I could reach), and he got the idea that I was not happy with where he was ensconced, and so he bolted out of the pipe, very hard and very fast.

In truth, when Smudge exploded out of the trunk, I was not sure if it was the dog or the raccoon coming out. And believe me when I say it mattered to me quite a lot at that moment!

When my heart stopped skipping, we got Smudge leashed up, packed up the tools, and decided to leave the raccoon for another day's sport. As a general rule, raccoon and fox do no harm on our farms, and I find it best to let them go. A living fox and raccoon is the promise of another day.

Smudge looked fine coming out of the hole, but in fact he was ripped up a bit at the gum line, and he started to swell up on the walk back to the truck.

Char cleaned him up and loaded him up with Clavamox, but when I saw him at JRTCA Nationals the next day, he was still swollen and tender. None-the-less, he picked up his Bronze Medallion for all of his previous work in the field, and I will say that no one could question that he was a true working dog!

A permanent hat tip to Char who has beautiful small workers, and knows what to do with them! Come down when it's cold, lady, and we'll see if we can put something up.


Strange Wildlife

This little stinker was walking down the fence line while we were digging, and I took this picture with my crappy old point-and-shoot no-telephoto lens digital (the only thing that can survive a dig), which means I was pretty close to her.

The notable thing about this skunk is that she had so much white -- almost entirely white along the top. She hardly cared about me; she knew she had the ultimate defense, and unless I had a gun, she was going to be all right.

More about yesterday's digging later, but suffice it to say we also saw her mate -- a bit larger and with a normal skunk pattern.

The other odd creature we found yesterday was this very large orange ant-looking thing. It's the size of a bullet ant, with a pumpkin-orange and black-banded body, and a slightly fuzzy skin tone as I recall. It was completely solitary, which made me think it might be a wingless-wasp ant mimic, but whatever it is, I have never seen one before.

Friday, October 19, 2007

25th Annual JRTCA Nationals Trial

The Jack Russell Terrier Association's National Trial starts tomorrow in Havre de Grace, Maryland, just North of Baltimore. Click here for a 9-page PDF of the flyer. The actual location is Stepping Stone Park. Directions are as follows:

  • Take Interstate 95 to Exit 89. Turn onto Route 155 towards Bel Air. Follow 1/2 mile to right on Earlton Road. Follow for 1/2 mile, bear left on Quaker Bottom Road. Follow Quaker Bottom Rd. to Steppingstone Park entrance.

The JRTCA Nationals trial runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I will be there at least part of the day Saturday (the only show I go to all year long), mostly to see a few people, look through a few bits and pieces of dog stuff for sale, and see the Bronze medallions presented to the dogs that have worked three types of quarry in the field before a JRTCA-certified working judge.

A reminder: No dogs other than Jack Russells or working terriers are permitted on the trial grounds for any reason, and pups under the age of four months, and bitches in season, are not permitted on the trial grounds at all.

There is a BAER test (for hearing) clinic for $45, and a CERF clinic for $27, but due to the number of dogs at the trial, it is only open to Jack Russells and to JRTCA members.

If you attend Nationals this year, say something nice to anyone who looks like they are setting up or taking down. These kinds of things are a lot of greasy, hard, thankless work with long hours put in and absolutely no recompense. A little applause costs you nothing and will long be remembered.

Ten Reasons to Join the JRTCA

Ten reasons to join the JRTCA that have nothing to do with showing:

1. You will get a good, and sometimes useful, publication.

Most issues have a story or two, or an article or two, on working terriers. Considering the diversity of the JRTCA, the editors do a pretty good job of speaking to all terrier interests. This is a house organ, not Newsweek, but at 68 pages or so, it's a pretty nice job and often has a health tip or two as well. Research on bronze medallion dogs in True Grit helped me assemble the data on the average size of American working dogs in North America.

2. Picture ads in every major off-the-shelf dog magazine telling people NOT to get a Jack Russell terrier without doing more research. The "unselling" of this breed to "Wishbone" and "Eddie" wannabe owners is a very useful thing if you care about working terriers. I consider this important (and expensive) work worth supporting. No other breed or Club does this; I am very glad the JRTCA does.

3. An excellent web site ( ) that presents the full range of interests in the Jack Russell terrier. A very nice job and full accolades to the web master. Interactive quizzes help make sure people know what they are getting into with a hunting terrier, and a FAQ section provides more information. Again, this is the kind of effort no other breed or Club does, and it is no small effort.

4. Status is given to working terriers in the show-ring-world which, in turn, brings more people in
to the working world. A special page or two at the front of the magazine is always devoted to working terriers, the highest JRTCA awards go to working terriers, and a dog in the field is always featured on the cover. Since the dog-show world is mostly about status, the elevation of the status of real work by the JRTCA encourages more "show people" to hunt at least once or twice. Some of these folks have decided they like hunting better than showing -- a very positive thing, and the way hunting with terriers has actually been established in the U.S. Without the JRTCA there would not be much terrier work in the U.S.
5. A working terrier program that has a full page-and-a-half of working judges complete with addresses and phone numbers listed. It may not be enough, but it's more than exists anywhere else on the planet. It's amazing that so many people have signed up to be working judges considering how thankless a job it is. Going out with a working judge is not the only way to learn how to hunt, of course, but it's how many people actually do.

6. A ready supply of Deben locator boxes, Deben collars, and fox nets that folks can order on the Internet, pay by credit card, and receive in 2-3 days. Break a collar on a Sunday, and another will be in hand by Wednesday or Thursday. The JRTCA will sell locator boxes, collars and nets to anyone, and prices are fair.

7. A registry which discourages inbreeding. Some would argue about the value of this in some situations, but without a doubt it is a good thing for the long-term future of the dogs.

8. JRTCA Rescue which does a highly commendable job of housing and finding homes for dogs that deserve stability and love.

9. A code of ethics and various rules to discourage breeding too young, working too young, etc. Some may sneer at rules, but in fact a code of conduct (think Ten Commandments) is not such a bad thing to have on paper.

10. The past and the future. If terrier work has taken hold in the U.S. it is because of the JRTCA, and if it is going to spread (or be defended) it will be because of the JRTCA. Membership dues is a small thing to pay for all of the above.

A Seasonal Tale of Horror

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Little Blog Maintenance

I have been doing a little fiddling with the blog, mostly in the far right column.

  • I have added a bunch of new blogs I have been meaning to add, including Camera Trap Codger, Prairie Ice, Dog-li-ness, Game Camera Photo Log, Shot-on-Site, EveryDogsBlog, A D.C. Birding Blog, Itchmo, Othmar Vohringer, Natural Patriot, Rigor Vitae, High Country News, 2Blowhards, Working Dogs for Conservation, Art of the Greyhound, James Swann's columns, Red State Update, the new link to Ted William's blog, and a link to a web site listing genetic diseases by dog breed. Check 'em out!

  • I have broken the blogroll into sections, a bit like a restaurant menu, so folks can more easily find the types of topics they are interested in. That said, I encourage people to leave their orbits and wander; that's what life, the web, and a good forest are all about.

  • I have added a blog search box on the right side. Actually I have added it twice to encourage folks to drill a bit. With 1,400 posts now on this blog, there is quite a bit unseen.

  • I have added a widget that shows 80 random covers of good books. I will be adding more books, so there should be a permanently swapping cascade of covers for anyone looking for something decent to read.

  • I have added a widget that shows that names the cities the last 10 blog visitors came from.

  • I have made it easier to find a permanent link to each individual post -- see bottom of post, click on "permanent link," and then copy the URL at top into whatever. I have also added a "social book mark" link (whatever that is).

  • Terrierman's Daily Dose is now available by email. Just type your email address into the little box below the header, "Subscribe to this Blog," in the sidebar at right, and you will receive each new post by email, complete with photos and hyperlinks.

  • The Google folks reconfigured their algorithms about six weeks ago, and in that chaos the web site (and quite a lot of others) got deleted from their index. We are now back on top as the number one listing under "working terriers," with a little over 1,000 visitors a day.

  • I am still depressed that since April I have only had one reader from the countries of Tonga, Surinam, Libya, Vanuatu, Yemen, Samoa, Nepal, Lesotho, Laos, Somalia, Madagascar, Benin, and Paraguay. Where's the love? A hat tip to the freedom-loving people of New Caldedonia and the Faroe Islands, who managed to stop by 3 times and 2 times, respectively. I have mailed you your chickens, as promised, and I have put in a good word for you at USAID. And yes, I will post more dog recipies.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coffee and Provocation

Ellen DeGeneres' Problems Explained:
The news this morning is that TV host-comedienne Ellen DeGeneres adopted a dog from some crazy canine rescue called "Mutts and Moms." The dog did not work out for Ellen due to conflicts with her cats, but she placed it with her good friend and hairdresser whose family was delighted to have a second dog to play with their first. "Hold on," said the Mutts and Moms folks who also run a "canine boutique. " "We are the deciders of what a good home is," and we have very narrow definition of who qualifies. And a hairdresser with 11- and 12-year old daughters does not make the cut no matter what Ellen DeGeneres (a huge donor to animal causes) may say about the matter. And so they are yanking this small dog from its new home where it is well-loved. Whoa! Is someone power-tripping or what? Well yes, but it's actually a bit more than that. Gina Spadafori explains all in this delightful piece that was written several days before the Ellen blow up. This one is strongly recommended reading, and it's not just about dogs, is it? Read it, read it, read it!

Bully Good News I:
Remember Michael Vick's dogs? The good news is that 49 of the 50 dogs are going to be adopted out after temperament testing was done on them. Hmmm. Makes one really wonder about two things: 1) the notion that all pit bulls are dangerous (especially the ones that have been fought), and; 2) that no pit bull is dangerous. Nice to see common sense at work here, and in the end it is common sense that is always a benefit to the dogs. For the record, you might remember that Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Parcelle said "Officials from our organization have examined some of these dogs and, generally speaking, they are some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country." HSUS advocated killing all of the dogs. In fact, no one from HSUS had even seen the dogs. Apparently at HSUS the standing policy is: Kill 'em all, sight unseen. Later HSUS sent out a direct mail letter saying they were raising money to "save" the dogs which, they said, were in their care. In fact, the HSUS never had anything to do with these dogs at all, and they were never in their care for one second. Which is why they are still alive. The FBI is reportedly investigating the Humane Society of the United States for their scam of a fundraising appeal.

Bully Good News II:
The Washington Post reports that a judge has ruled that the Loudoun County, Virginia Animal Shelter cannot euthanize a dog based solely on its breed type. It's amazing that a court had to actually rule on this, since Virginia's Comprehensive Animal Laws specifically states that "No canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed." But never mind the law: the Loudoun County Shelter wants to kill all pit bulls, and they have been killing pit bulls and other dogs even when they have lots of empty cages at hand. The good news it that Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell put a hitch in their giddy-up when he stepped in and issued a nonbinding opinion that publicly funded shelters could not legally euthanize dogs based solely on their breed. Now a judge has said the same thing, while the Animal Rescue League of Tidewater has filed suit to force the Loudoun County shelter to allow adoption (and transfer) of pit bulls.

Virginia's Attorney General Rides Again:
Virginia Attorney General McDonnell is not just stepping in to combat craziness in Loudoun County (see above story), he is also trying to prevent craziness in Norfolk where the City Council, at the behest of PETA, has tried to make it illegal for pet owners to dock puppy dog tails and remove dew claws. Virginia's Attorney General correctly notes that in Virginia the owner of an animal or the owner's employee are exempt from state requirements that they be licensed by the Board of Veterinary Medicine -- a common sense policy in an agricultural state where farmers routinely dock sheep tails and turn bull calves into steers. For more on the general topic, see this previous post from this blog.

I Like Kate Middleton Already:
It seems that Prince William's girlfriend, Kate Middleton, has PETA's underwear in a knot. Her transgression (and I could not make this up) is that she shot a gun at a metal silhouette target. No matter: Kate Middleton looks pretty nice in camouflage and one has to laugh at the idea that the so-called "League Against Cruel Sports" would have the temerity to lecture anyone about deer management considering their own deer herd is starving to death and riddled with disease. Check out that footage!

Deer Management Works in Pennsylvania:
In Pennsylvania the push to shoot more does and allow more bucks to get bigger has had a tremendously positive impact on hunting in that state. The average Pennsylvania buck used to weigh just 100 pounds field-dressed, but deer processors are now complaining that hunters are bringing in such large animals they have to be quartered in order to carry them to the cooler. Meanwhile, the state rack size has jumped an average of more than 7 points. For more on this topic, see this older post from this blog.

Ban Pointy Knives!
"British Medical Experts Campaign for Long, Pointy Knife Control." No, I did not make this headline up. The original editorial in the British Medical Journal concludes "The Home Office is looking for ways to reduce knife crime. We suggest that banning the sale of long pointed knives is a sensible and practical measure that would have this effect." Right. Got it. And no, they are not kidding.

A Siegfried Line for Wildlife?
In Germany, the latest controversy is whether the 400-miles of broken rubble and pill box shelters which are the remains of the "Siegfried Line" of World War II, should be carted off to make it easier for farm machinery to move about and to avoid liability from children playing on the ruins. The push back comes from those who say the ruins are now wildlife habitat. But, as Sebastian Schön of Friends of the Earth International explains, "It's been hard for us to deal with this issue because in Germany you're immediately labeled as some kind of neo-Nazi if you say anything positive about the bunkers." And perhaps with cause: badger, fox, and feral cats hardly need concrete rubble piles to make their way in the landscape -- even in Germany.

First Ida Hurt Memorial Hunt:
Matt Mullenix reports that the First Annual Ida Hurt Memorial Hunt went off without a hitch, with two falconers, one whippet and a Harris hawk in attendance. Somewhere, on the edge of the wind, Ms. Ida is smiling.

Bigger than McDonalds:
A report from the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation says that America's 34 million hunters and anglers spent $76 billion last year on ammunition, land leases, fishing hooks, dogs, guns, and decoys. Some other stats:

  • More people hunt and fish in the U.S. than watch the nightly newscasts of the three major networks - ABC, NBC, and CBS (34 million vs. 27 million).
  • Spending by hunters is greater than the revenues of McDonalds ($23 billion vs. $20 billion).
  • In 2007 hunters and shooters paid $233 million in Pittman-Robertson excise taxes for hunting and fishing land conservation.
  • Eighty percent of sportsmen are "likely voters," and 8 in 10 hunters always vote in presidential elections. Approximately 20% of the entire population of major swing states hold either a hunting or fishing license, or both.
He's Kind to Animals:
Over in Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has managed to combine the dog pound with the prison, to the benefit of both. Prior to Sheriff Joe taking it on, the County was spending approximately $18 million a year on stray animals. Now the Sheriff has the prisoners taking care of the animals which are housed in an older cell block that is no longer used. The result: the price for running the shelter has dropped to $3 million a year. A hat tip to Ann Kim for sending this one.

Getting Rich at the Dog Pound:
While doing a little background research on animal control in Maricopa County, Arizona (see story, above) I came across a 2001 article in the Phoenix New Times entitled Pet Peeves, in which Maricopa County, Arizona Humane Society Director Ken White is reported to have stubbornly refused, for more than a year, to sign off on to efforts to obtain a $10 million grant that would have ended the euthanasia of dogs and cats in Maricopa County, Arizona. What the hell? Curious, I looked up Ken White to see what he's doing now. It turns out he is President of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA in San Mateo County, California where he makes ... wait for it ... $303,000 a year for killing dogs and cats. For those who have not yet read Nathan Winograd's excellent book Redemption (review and summary at link), the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, California is the place that killed five cats and three dogs on television -- a public execution that was applauded by Ingrid Newkirk of PETA who said, "We're hoping that this sort of approach is going to catch on." Uhhhh, right. No need to even try to adopt out any of those dogs and cat, eh? Kill them all! A close reading of the Peninsula Humane Society web site finds that the shelter has a policy of killing all unweaned kittens and puppies, and also kills any dogs or cats it deems to have "behavior" problems. No numbers are given as to how many dogs and cats that actually is, but since the Humane Society and SPCA have, in the past, routinely said that 60 percent of all dogs and cats are "unadoptable," that could be a very high number indeed. What we know for sure is that the Peninsula Humane Society takes in only about 15,000 animals a year, according to their own web site. What that means is that Ken White's salary works out to his personally getting $200 for every dog and cat "handled" by the shelter. But wait, there's more. It seems Mr. White also lives rent-free in a $1.5 million house paid for by the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA. Unbelievable. But true.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Devastating News

Greg D. digs deep.

Dave Harcombe sends devastating news this morning that Greg Donnell died on Friday. My thoughts go out to his family and friends (of whom I will always be one) at this very sad time.

Greg was never one to salute nonsense. The signature on his email was: "Seek the truth and avoid dealings with those that don't, and you will avoid disappointment in the long run."

Wise words from someone who earned his opinions about dogs the old-fashioned way: With a shovel in his hand, a dog in the pipe, and sweat on his brow.

Greg loved to dig on the dogs, and he was always a solid voice of reason and experience. There is never much of that going around, and now there will be a little less. .


Electronics for Dogs: All's Well That Ends Well

Mountain slide into a den on the walk back to the truck. She said somebody was home, but we did not have time to dig, and so we left it for another day.

I am frugal. Or, as my daughter describes it: Cheap, cheap, cheap.

I take pride in it, and so when something goes wrong that could cost me money, I tend to get vexated.

Such was the case on Friday, when I brought in the dogs for the night and counted three dogs and only two Invisible Fence collars. Where was Pearl's collar?

For the record, these collars are not cheap -- $300 a unit -- and I live in fear of having one of them come off and disappear into the half acre of ivy in the back yard. There was nothing to do about it on Friday night, as it was already dark. On Saturday morning, however, I swept the yard and found nothing, but on a second go-over I located the collar sitting on the top of an ivy-free mulched bed. A small miracle!

The other bit of electronic vexation this weekend was that I lost my Deben locator box on the farm last weekend. These old Deben boxes are no longer made, and though I have a spare, I do not like the loose feeling on that particular box's dial . I wanted my old Deben box back!

And so, even though I did not have time to hunt, it was back out to the farm yesterday for a bit of "locating the locator." I was pretty sure I had left the locator box at the last hole of the day, but I was afraid I might have accidentally buried it.

The good news is that I did not bury it, and I did find it. The case on the box was cracked, and there was a huge pile of poop on it. I mean a HUGE pile. It was hard to tell what it was -- it looked a bit like raccoon scat, but it was such an enormous pile that I think it must be coyote scat.

No matter; I got my locator box back, and with a little piece of hard plastic cut from a CD-rom case, and a little black PC-7 epoxy to bind it to the side, I have repaired the box and it is in fine working order again, if considerably uglier. All is well.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kickout at Den Hole

This groundog excavated a lot of small stones to dig this pipe. The den entrance itself is a classic -- on a fence line, with the old wire grid fallen down over half the hole in order to make it harder for a predator to follow the groundhog to earth and/or dig it up.

Any fox, dog or coyote chasing this groundhog is going to have to slow down and pull up at the den entrace; something the groundog will not have to do due to its familiarity with the entrance.
These kinds of obstructions at den entrances are so common they are clearly an intentional design feature. To read more observations about den construction, see >> The Architecture of Burrows

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Bit of Trivia

Yesterday's trivial pursuit question: How is the tune "It's All In the Game" relevant to Al Gore and the Nobel Prize?

No one answered it, so here it is: Charles G. Dawes, Vice President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge and also a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, was also big in show business. Sort of.

While Gore got an Oscar for his movie, Dawes had a #1 tune that is still being recorded today.

Dawes was a banker, a solider, a musician, a bureaucrat, a diplomat, a politician, and a statesman. In addition to being a Vice President of the United States, he was also the first Director of the U.S. Budget Office, a Comptroller of the Currency, and an Ambassador to Great Britain. He got the Nobel Prize for being one of the architects of the Dawes Plan for World War I reparations. Like Al Gore he had four children, but unlike Al Gore, he adopted two of them,

Dawes wrote the music for All in the Game in 1912 and called it "Melody in A Major." In 1951, Carl Sigman added lyrics and retitled the already-popular tune, and it went to #1 in the U.S. and in the U.K. in 1958 thanks to Tommy Edwards' masterful rendition.

Since then, the song has been recorded by Johnny Mathis (a great version), Barry Manilow, Danny Kaye, Dinah Shore, Louis Armstrong (my favorite version), Engelbert Humperdinck, Keith Jarrett, The Four Tops (video below), Van Morrison (the most unrecognizable version), Merle Haggard, Art Garfunkle, and even Elton John.

To hear a little more about the tune from the sages at NPR (as well as various snippets from a wide variety of artists), click here.

The Four Tops - It's All In The Game

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Charles Dickens-era Dog Show

Believe it or not, Charles Dickens was editor of a magazine that wrote one of the first descriptions of a dog show back in 1844.

The squib below appeared in Bentley's Miscellany. Bentley's was a literary magazine started by Richard Bentley, and it was published between 1836 and 1868. Charles Dickens was its first editor. The author of this particular contribution was a fellow by the name of John Fisher Murray in a section he called The Physiology of London Life.

As you can tell from the description, dog shows were a very novel idea at the time. In fact, the first formal dog show was not held until 1859. My guess is that this dog show was a tented side-line to a larger generalized stock show.

Apparently the push was already on to create freakishly odd dogs -- in this case a miniature or "tea cup" breed.

A friend of our's is a dog fancier and we accompanied him one evening to of all things in the world a DOG SHOW We had heard of agricultural shows horticultural shows tulip shows dahlia shows and fifty other shows but we never dreamt of a dog show However there it was on a printed paper pulled by our friend out of his waistcoat pocket in black and white with a long list of presidents vice presidents secretaiies treasurer committee men judges conditions prizes and so forth On entering the show room whose proximity was audibly made known to us by the reiterated barking of the competitors and the howling which followed the application of the whips of their owners we could hardly avoid laughing not less at the assembled bipeds who crowded the room than at their quadrupedal friends upon the table One old gentleman with a white waistcoat and black silk smalls relieved by a huge bunch of gold seals depending from the most prominent part of his person held a pug under each arm while he criticized the points of a remarkably beautiful little terrier then upon the table A tall thin sickly looking man who as I was informed was a peer of the realm was busily engaged in discussing the comparative beauties of a black and tan and a red and white spaniel of the King Charles breed who to do them no less than justice appeared to enter completely into the spirit of the thing and growled and barked and flashed fire at each other from their large round antelope eyes with all the apparent jealousy of two contending beauties at an assize ball Running about our feet were all sorts and sizes of the canine race bloodhounds Irish greyhounds terriers wiry and short haired silky legged spaniels but not a cur of low degree all had their pedigrees and well attested certificates approved their honourable birth Notwithstanding the ludicrous nature to us at least of the exhi
hitlon not a muscle either of the dogs or their generous protectors was discomposed all was conducted in a business like English manner with true John Bullish gravity and decorum nor when a very fat man with a red carbunculated nose uncovering a quart pot which he had hitherto concealed with a silk handkerchief placed it on the table with a little stunted dog peering out was there a single countenance in the room irresistibly disposed to laughter save our own The little stunted dog himself to all appearance a puppy of three weeks old but who was in fact arrived at the respectable age of two years having recovered his liberty scrambled over the edge of the quart pot and with great gravity waddled round the table paying his respects as he went to other little stunted dogs who ho ever not being quite so stunted as himself appeared to regard hi with no great cordiality
Bentley's Miscellany By Charles Dickens, William Harrison Ainsworth, Albert Smith

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Coffee and Provocation

Nice Blogging
Luisa over at the Lassie Get Help blog has a great piece on Don McCaig's book and another about Nathan Wingograd's take on the "kill all Pitbulls" routine that is so common in many shelters. Check 'em out!

Gina Says No Thanks
I love this post on PETA. Love it, love it.

Only Made in America

  • A mountain lion attacked some new-to-the-area idiot's dog near Boulder (he left it chained out all night). Result: one dead mountain lion and a lot of controversy. The only question I would be asking after a mountain lion attacked my dog is "how do you reload this damn thing?" On the other hand, I have more common sense than to leave a dog chained out all night in mountain lion territory.
  • A couple of Texas Good Ol' Boys go gator fishing and get an 880-pound, 13 feet 10.5 inch long alligator on their industrial-strength trot line.
  • The Camera Trap Codger explains that possums have two vaginas, which may be useful information next time you are making bar bets.

Some Bone!
A dachshund walking on a beach near Suffolk, U.K. came aross a mammoth leg bone in the surf. The picture is terrific. A hat tip the the Shot on Sight blog for this one.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Digging on the Dogs

First one of the day, quickly and humanely dispatched.

There was a fog out early this morning, and on the back roads I notice that both the Poison Ivy and the Sumac are starting to turn red. Fall in not quite here yet, but it's coming.

I do not expect this will be much of a year for leaf color -- the drought has been too fierce. When it gets this bad, the leaves just give up the ghost and come down in great brown drifts.

In drought, there is never much of a color guard to welcome in winter.

Things are beyond dry. The Potomac River is so low that the rocky gorge at Great Falls look like a foreign river. In the smaller creeks you can find dust on the stones where a pool should be. Not good.

The corn is all burned up, but still standing, while the soybeans have already come off, or are in the process.

I visited Nick's Farm last weekend, but the dogs found nothing in two hours of walking around. I have hunted this farm for a long time, and taken several hundred groundhogs off of this 250-acres, but I think Dave's aggressive plowing and ripping of dens has been what has really pushed things to a low level.

Dave has a number of free-range chickens, and he tells me he has just added a pen of turkeys. He says he lost 30 chickens to a raccoon which he trapped and shot, and I told him about two raccoons I had taken out of an old feed bunk some time back. Raccoons up near the house and the chicken pens will not last long with Dave's traps in action. He says he also took out a skunk with 6 babies. I tell him next time to drown them rather than shoot through the trap. Less stink that way. There are a few small things I know about.

Dave gave my name to a farm owner up the road (Call him, he'll get rid of your groundhogs), and I really like this new farm and appreciate the referral. I notice that the soybeans have already come off. A harvest transport truck is still in the fields, and it looks like there might still be some standing beans above the ridge, but with the fog we had, it's still too early for anyone to be cranking up the machine.

I tape up the locator collars really well, as the dogs will be in and out of water today. We check out a few dens in the bean fields, but the groundhogs have left. Who can blame them? There is not much left to eat in these fields. These dens might hold fox in a few months, however, and I will make their acquittance now.

The dogs and I go down to the creek, where it is still green, and the dogs are in and out of a den, but it's hard to tell if they are interested or just playing grab-ass, when -- BAM-- a groundhog bolts out of one of the holes and runs up a tree. Man that was a fast bolt! Smart groundhog. Good for him -- we'll be back later and see how he fares next time.

The dogs settle down and start working, and a bit later they locate again. It's a pretty shallow dig in a tough thicket of tree roots. After a bit of a saw job, we catch up to the groundhog who is not too enormous. He is quickly terminated and recycled for fox food. That's the deal on this farm -- clean out all the groundhogs along the creek where they are wrecking the stream banks. "Yes, ma'am right on it."

Mountain finds another occupied sette and bays it up good, and it sounds like a raccoon. I try to locate. From the sound, Mountain is staying and baying in one location, but the locator is a little shy about exactly where that location is. The box seems to read equally well in a four foot radius. Not good. I bar down to locate a pipe, and hit one, but after digging down to it, I realize it's the wrong one. Or the wrong bit of the right one. As it turns out, there are several den pipes here that are very close together thanks to the intersecting tree roots which keep the ground solid despite all the tunneling.

I eventually hit the right pipe, pull Mountain, and swap Pearl in. Pearl skits up the tube, digs through some dirt and starts to bay. The critter is making a noise that can best be described as "furniture-being-dragged-across-the-floor." I am pretty sure it is a raccoon, as this is the sound I expect from them. I posthole down between the roots for a foot or two, but hit an obstruction and cannot get in enough to figure out what it is. There's not enough room to cut it or remove it. Lots and lots of roots -- always a problem when digging alone.

I cut another hole in the wrong location, but at least I can get into the pipe here, and I reach in and grab Pearl who has a cut lip. I tie her up, and I am turning around to snare whatever's in the den pipe when a large, dark-colored groundhog crowns out of the den entrance. A groundhog? It tries to bolt, but it doesn't make it very far despite my considerable surprise. Damn if I have ever heard a groundhog make the sounds this one did!

Two down (and one bolted), but I am dead from the heat, and the dogs and I head back to the truck.

The day started off with a promise of Fall, but shook that off pretty quickly. Now it's 90 degrees in the shade -- not that we found any shade.

I am cooked, but we'll be back. Hopefully, it will be a little cooler.