Saturday, May 31, 2008

Digging on the Dogs

Doug P. came up on Memorial Day and we went walking in field and forest a pretty fair distance over a few hours, but dug only just a little. That's the way it goes sometimes. Lots of holes, but not much home.

Mountain eventually found and we dug this fellow out, and I was back home by 2 pm to visit with the Misses at the pool.

This weekend I'm taking off from digging, and instead I am going up today to hit the American Sighthound Field Association's International Invitational at Morven Park about an hour up the road from me. Morven Park also happens to be home to the Museum of Hounds and Hunting (i.e. mounted fox packs).

God bless Virginia, land that I love.


The Constitutional Right to Hunt

I can buy a lifetime hunting license in Virginia. This is available at a pro-rated basis, depending on age. This seems to me to be an excellent idea and some other states have availed themselves of this lifetime licenses option as well, including: AL, CA, FL, IA, IL, KS, LA, ME, MI, MN, MO (small game only), NE, NY, OK, SC (small game only), TX, and WV.

On another note, Virginians have a state-defined constitutional right to hunt and fish (enacted in 2000). Some other states that have embraced similar constitutional rights include:
  • Vermont - enacted in 1777

  • Alabama - enacted in 1996

  • Minnesota - enacted in 1998

  • North Dakota - enacted in 2000

  • Wisconsin - enacted in 2003

  • Louisiana - enacted in 2004

  • Montana - enacted in 2004

  • Georgia - enacted in 2006
Am I missing any?

A Game For Pendejos to Play

A friend who knows of my casual interest in Internet culture sent me an email.

"Guess what?" he wrote. "There's an entire web site devoted to goofing on Internet trolls."

And, believe it or not, there really is.

It's called "Forumwarz."

The long and the short of it is that this is a game with a message. But you have to play it to get it. Oh, go ahead! It's just time -- the one thing you will be begging for more of on your last day on earth.

As I have noted in the past, the Internet is an inspirational place where millions of people reach out to locate kindred souls, share knowledge, and build worthwhile communities and information resources. Most of these people stand up straight, have real names, have real email addresses, do pretty solid research, and can look other folks in the eye.

Ironically, the Internet is also a sad place full of angry, pathetic and lonely losers who who seek to destroy community, sow confusion and spread disinformation. Most of these folks are anonymous cowards who do not have real names, do not have real email addresses, do not do any real research before typing , and who will never look anyone in the eye because they are fakes, fools, pretenders and bullshit artists.

Imagine my surprise to discover that this last group actually has a Wiki entry to describe them!

And yes, they really are called Anonymous Cowards.

Other terms that are apparently used are: "Anonymous Idiot" and "Random Fuckbag."

Lovely. And, of course, there is the old standard: Troll.

Run a blog, forum or web site and you will get such creatures showing up. They are like rats in a barn and they come in several forms: hit and run posters, cyber-bullies, flame-baiters and sock puppets, to name just a few.

Of course the Internet is increasingly international so "Random Fuckbag" has to find its equivalent in other languages.

And so I have recently learned the Spanish phrase: "Pendejo sin nombre," or "nameless asshole."

Cool. Very international.

But what about the other languages? What's the equivalent in French? In German? In Finnish? In Dutch? In Swedish?

A quick run at Google Translator suggested "anonymous coward" in Dutch (anonieme lafaard), French (lâche anonyme), German (anonymer Feigling), Swedish (anonym feg), and Croatian (anonimnih kukavica).

But how to begin to translate "Random Fuckbag"?

I decide "old condom" is about as close as I am likely to get with Google Translator, which obligingly suggests equivalents in Dutch (oud condoom), French (vieux préservatif), German (alte Kondo), Swedish (gamla kondom), and Croatian (stari kondom).

I know these phrases are not quite right and do not carry the necessary sauce for the goose. What is really needed here are foreign-language colloquialisms.

Sadly, however, the Internet has not yet been perfected to that level.

An "anonymous idiot" or "ashole" may work as descriptive insult in any language, but it lacks distinction as a result. "Random fuckbag" is handmade phrasing that is probably unique to the English language. It is idiom with at least a little bit of terroir left in it. It is language with legs.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Lot of Bull

Nope, not photoshop -- a real moo cow that is really that big.

Chilli is an enormous black and white Friesian bull, weighing 1.25 tons and standing at 6 feet 6 inches in height. What's a Friesian? Basically, it's a European-version of the Holstein.

Abandoned in 1999 on the doorstep of the Ferne Animal Sanctuary in Ferne, Somerset, England, when he was just 6 days old, the Guinness Book of Records says he may be the world's tallest cow.

One thing for sure: Chilli is a damn lucky bull. If this animal had gone anywhere else, he'd have been turned into hamburger (or steaks) long ago!

Jacking a Deer

No, not jack lighting ... Jack Russelling. In the worst possible way. Hat tip to the Black Bear Blog

John McCain Wants to Set the Record Straight


Penn & Teller Sell Common Sense

OK, so getting food advice from Penn & Teller is about like getting health care policy advice from Michael Moore ... But you know something? That turned out to be pretty good advice.

So there you go.

Which is not so say that everything you see on TV is true, even on a show called "Bullshit!"

It turns out the National Institute for Health (the authority cited), actually thinks the Atkins Diet is OK. Sure you croak early from clogged arteries, but you may die 10 pounds thinner!

Of course, I am not one to listen too carefully to NIH when it comes to diet -- they have been all over the map for five decades now and probably did thump the Atkins Diet when this video was made. When it comes to diet, maybe the NIH should just be quiet.

The bottom line, of course, is always the same in all things: live in moderation, avoid ideologues (on either side of the aisle), try to eat less and excercise more, and try to be nice to others.

Oh yes, and wash your hands and flush too. And don't litter. That is all.

Obedience Training with Lucky Luciano

"Lucky" Luciano teaching a lakeland terrier a trick. This picture was taken in Italy in about 1949, after Luciano -- one of America's most famous mobsters -- was deported back to Italy. This picture was part of a campaign to humanize Luciano so that the U.S. Government might let him back in. It didn't work.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Missing the Story on Quaggas and Extinction

Click to enlarge. This is a family tree showing how a "quagga"-coated Plains Zebra was created in just four generations. Source

Olivia Judson had a piece in yesterday's New York Times entitled Musings Inspired By a Quagga.

A quagga? The South Africa zebra? Now there's an interesting story. Surely any "musings" on that animal and its story would be full of insight!

My hopes were dashed, however. Ms. Judson had nothing to say about the quagga, and nothing new to add to the topic of extinction, ostensibly the topic of her piece.

Sadly, her "musings" read like notes of a romantic school girl who has just walked though a natural history museum for the first time. I doubt that is what she intended, but there it is.

For example, Ms. Judson mentions the quagga in her title, but seems unaware that this animal is not really a species of Zebra at all -- it is a subspecies, and a subspecies of the most common and variable type of Zebra, the Plains Zebra.

As an evolutionary biologist, Ms. Judson knows the difference between a species and a subspecies. And it's not like the world has raised the bar very high when it comes to designating a new species. Quite the opposite. When in doubt we split rather than lump species, if for no other reason than we can now sell the naming rights to a new animal or plant for as much as $2 million.

That said, there are limits to all things, and the quagga has crossed them. DNA analysis of old quagga skins by the Smithsonian Institution confirms that the quagga was not a separate species of zebra, but rather a simple color-variant of the Plains Zebra.

This information is not deeply hidden. In fact Lutz Heck (a scientist instrumental to the creation of the German Hunt or Jagt terrier) was the first to suggest in his book, Grosswild im Etoshaland (1955), that careful back breeding of Plains Zebras could produce an animal identical to the "extinct quagga" in a matter of a few generations.

Heck's theory was put into action in 1987 by Reinhold Rau, and quagga-coated zebras were being reproduced in less than 20 years time.

Did I mention that this information is not closely held? In fact, The New York Times has had long articles about it! Yes, the same New York Times in which Ms. Judson writes.

Ms. Judson's paean to wildlife extinction also fails to mention how few plants and animals have actually gone extinct in the last 500 years. The numbers here are quite different from what people think!

In fact, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), only about 800 vertebrate animals and vascular plants have gone extinct in the last 500 years, and of these only 70 were species of mammals (most of them mice, rats and bats), and even here there is some padding, as some of the species listed by the IUCN are demonstrably not extinct, including the quagga and Burchell's Zebra (to name just two). Furthermore, if you study this sort of thing carefully you find that today about as many "extinct" animals are being rediscovered every year as are being listed as "gone for good."

Please do NOT misunderstand what I am saying. I am NOT saying things are all fine -- far from it. A lot of wildlife and wild places are under very serious threat.

I am saying, however, that the situation is a bit more complex than Ms. Judson and some others would have us believe, and in the complexity is a more interesting story than what is now being told to us.

The real story is we have not (yet) destroyed the world, and we are doing quite a lot to protect what remains, and even bring some of it back from the brink.

Today in the U.S. we have more wolves, more buffalo, more bald eagles, more wild turkey, more peregrine falcons, more beaver, more cougar, more white tail deer, more grizzlies, more whales, more coyote, more osprey, more alligators, more red fox, and more raccoon than we did 30 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 100 years ago.

Today more wild land is being set aside in Africa, Asia and Latin America than you can imagine, and wildlife is being re-introduced into some areas where it was once extirpated.

Are things still grim for some species and some locations? Of course. But on land, at least, we are making real progress. In fact, the direction and velocity is astoundingly positive. Only in the oceans are we falling down on the job, and even here change is beginning.

If one is going to talk about lost animal and plant species, I also think we need to mention that we are probably creating more species today than we are actually losing. The fact that these new species are varieties of corn, rice, potatoes, bananas, cattle, pigs, chickens and fish does not make them less important to Mother Nature.

In fact, by any objective standard "miracle" rice and transgenic salmon are more valuable to the natural world (bees, bears, bunnies and barracudas) than any subspecies of Plains Zebra. The reason for this is simple: Only through increased agricultural production can the world decrease pressure on our remaining wild lands and wildlife.

Which brings me, in conclusion, to the most bizarre omission in Ms. Judson's piece: not a word about the speed of human population growth.

This is a odd because Ms. Judson's claim to fame is that she wrote a little book entitled Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex.

All the words are there -- sex, evolution, biology -- but Ms. Judson never seems to connect them up. And it's not like it would be hard to do when talking about the quagga and people. The human population of the world was 1.5 billion the day "the last quaaga went extinct." By 1930 world population had clicked past 2 billion, by 1960 three billion, by 1975 four billion, by 1987 five billion, by 1999 6 billion. When the quagga-coated Plains Zebra last disappeared, Africa had a population of 125 million people; by 2050 it is expected to have a population of 1.75 billion.

This is the big story -- the story that Judson does not even give a nod to. You see, we humans do not wake up every morning intent on fouling our own nest -- that's just what we do when there are too many of us living without income, knowledge, and technological capacity to lighten the load. That is the story of environmental destruction on this planet. This is the BIG story that Ms. Judson missed while wandering about in a museum musing about an extinct species that was, in fact, never a species and is, in fact, not extinct.

And the Harpy Eagle? It is not endangered as Ms. Judson and the museum claim. It is "near threatened" which is the category right next to "least concerned"

Which is to say the Harpy Eagle is "not threatened, but we're keeping an eye on it."

There's your story, and it's really not a bad story or a sad one, is it? Eyes wide open, we are now saving the planet, and almost all of it is still there to be saved if we get right on it.

And we are.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Monongahela National Forest Red Wolves?

That's not an ordinary coyote!

This was taken with a camera trap in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.

The Monongahela National Forest borders the George Washington National Forest and and Jefferson National Forest, and combined these three forests operate as one huge enormous ecological zone covering 2.8 million acres spread over parts of three states -- Virginia, West Virginia and small parts of Kentucky.

The Monongahela by itself is over 919,000 acres. The Jefferson National Forest comprises lands located in Virginia (700,939 Acres), West Virginia (18,530 Acres) and Kentucky (1,083 Acres). The George Washington National Forest is comprised of lands located in Virginia (960,133 Acres) and West Virginia (105,099 Acres).


This Moo Unit is Feeling a Little Horny

Lurch is a Watusi bull owned by Janice Wolf of Arkansas and he is believed to have the world’s largest horns. They weigh more than 100 pounds each and measure 7 ft long and 37.5 inches around, and are still growing! Wow! Lurch lives at the Rocky Ridge Rescue. A Watusi, is the same as an Ankole.

Contraception, Health and Development

More Than 100,000 Active Trappers in the U.S.

While drilling on the Internet for the lastest bobcat trapping statistics for Virginia (I did not find them), I came across a 2005 report that might be of interest to some: "Ownership and Use of Traps by Trappers in the United States in 2004.″

This 121-page report was commission by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and has a lot of information in it, including:

  • In 2003-2004 there were 103,051 active trappers in the US

  • The average trapper used 39 traps per day.

  • The average trapper owned 112 foothold traps, 50 bodygrip traps, 3 padded foothold traps, 3 cage traps and 36 snares

  • The primary species targeted for trapping was raccoon, followed by red fox, coyote, muskrat, beaver, mink, bobcat and grey fox

  • In 2004, 35% of trappers targeted coyote, 35% red fox, 34% muskrat, 25% mink, 17% bobcat, and 14% grey fox.

  • 60% of trappers surveyed had been contacted to trap nuisance wildlife

For the record: fox, raccoon, coyote, and beaver populations are at 100-year record numbers in the U.S., and populations of these animals are continuing to grow as they move out beyong their historical ranges. Trapping at current rates has no impact on state or regional wildlife numbers.

    Steve - append your email address to the comments here -- I have lost your email address!

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    American Heroes vs. American Zeros

    Some of Michael Vick's dogs are finding good homes, as this heart-warming post on the Bad Rap blog notes.

    Read the whole thing, and then go to the link about Michael Keenan (picture at right from the Bad Rap blog) who was a pit bull owner and humanitarian who lost his own life in a fire while trying to rescue a Jack Russell terrier that was not even his.

    Six years earlier Mr. Keenan had dived into San Francisco Bay to save a woman from a fully-submerged car after it went into the water.

    Good heroic people tend to know good heroic people, and so friends and family of Michael Keenan have contributed to a small living memorial to enable some of the the pit bulls rescued from a recent Arizona horror-mill (PDF) to travel to California where they can be adopted.

    Yes, Michael Keenan continue to save lives. If there is a heaven, Michael Keenan will no doubt be there, and the dogs will be too.

    And his friends? They will be there in time. Of this, I have no doubt. In the meantime, hats off to both, and thanks to Bad Rap for telling the story. Donors to their cause are always welcome.

    As for Michael Vick, he is in the Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary. But don't expect him to change much; he is getting instruction in dogs from PETA-moron and canine-killer Ingrid Newkirk (no, I am not making this up), whose own "shelter" kills more than 90 percent of all animals that are surrendered to it, and who believes all pit bulls should be banned and euthanized.

    Getting lessons in dog care from Ingrid Newkirk is like getting cooking lessons from Jeffrey Dahmer.

    If Vick want to set things right, a few hundred grand (as an anonymous gift) to "Bad Rap" might be a place to start. .

    Scottish Beaver?

    Scotland is set to reintroduce the European beaver into the wild in 2009. The animal was extirpated from Scotland more than 400 years ago. The new beavers (species name Castor fiber) are being brought in from Norway and are, for all practical purposes, identical to American beaver (Castor canadensis) though they cannot interbreed due to some chromosome differences. The beaver are expected to be released around five lochs in Argyll in the Spring of 2009 after a six-month period of quarantine. In October of 2005, six beavers were re-introduced to Britain in Lower Mill Estate in Gloucestershire, and in July of 2007 a colony of four was established at Martin Mere in Lancashire. For more information on Scottish beaver reintroduction plans, see >>

    Sunday, May 25, 2008

    Fox in Yard Last Night

    It looks like there were just two fox in the yard last night -- No Neck and Skin Tail.

    Skin Tail is no worse, and may be doing better, as it looks like there might be a little more fur on there now than there was a few months ago. If this is mange, it does not seem to progressing beyond his tail.

    No Neck, as always, is looking fine and her neck is developing a little more tone. She is still a very young vixen.

    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    The "Fighting Irish" Terriers of Notre Dame

    Clashmore Mike trainer Dan Hanley puts the mascot through his paces

    The original Notre Dame mascot was an Irish terrier. A series of dogs played the role, the first being a dog named "Tipperary Terrence" who was presented to Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne in 1924. This dog was replaced by "Brick Top Shuan-Rhu" another Irish terrier, in 1930.

    In 1933, Brick Top was replaced by a dog named "Clashmore Mike" who proved so popular and beloved that all successor dogs were given the same name.

    Clashmore Mike was a splendid mascot as he could be used to great effect if made to do a series of simple tricks. At half time, for example, the handler would run Clashmore Mike around the stadium, and as he made his rounds he would stop and lift his leg on the opposing team's bench to howls of delight from the fans.

    For the famous Navy-Notre Dame game, Clashmore Mike's handlers would announce that they had been feeding the dog goat meat all week long. In addition, the dog was trained to chase and attack any goat he came across, so that when the Navy goat-mascot came on to the field leading the Navy team, Clashmore Mike took after him at top speed, again to great howls of laughter and the embarrassment of Navy football fans.

    Clashmore Mike was replaced as the school's mascot in 1965, when the Leprechaun became Notre Dame's official mascot. It was a great step down, in my opinion -- from reality to fantasy, and from a dog with character to a mere cartoon.

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Sarcoptic Mange


    Sarcoptic mange is a common fox disease caused by a parasitic mite called Sarcoptes scabiei, which burrows into the skin, with infestations of several thousand mites per square inch possible.

    Scabies mites secrete a yellowish waste that hardens into a thick crust on the skin, causing hair loss and (as infestations progress) lacerations and cracking of the skin. Chronic itching can cause the fox to bite and gnaw at itself, and the animal can become dazed from pain and lack of sleep. Weight loss from stress can be quite rapid, and organ failure is common. Death usually follows within six months of infestation.

    One of the chief causes of mange in wild fox populations is too high a fox density. Mange mites can survive a long period of time in a den, which means that effective mange control requires fox dens to be unoccupied at least one year out of every two.

    In areas where fox trapping and hunting is outlawed or discouraged, however, fox population densities will often rise to the point that some dens never lie fallow. In such situations mange mites colonize the den and parasitize generation after generation of foxes who die horrible and grisy deaths.

    Death by mange is a long and nasty torture, and far more cruel than the swift death offered by a hunter's bullet or the swift chop of a working lurcher or hound.

    Anyone who truely cares about animal welfare should favor a return to managed population control of animal species that have overshot their carrying capacity. Death is not an option -- all animals die. The only real question is how an animal will die and under what circumstances. Managing wildlife through regulated hunting is a far more humane alternative that death through disease, starvation and vehicle impact.

    Where Did All the Saber-Toothed Groundhogs Go?

    Sure groundhogs talk ... but they lie.


    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Dog Food Politics

    "The Republican brand is so bad right now that if it were a dog food, they'd take it off the shelf."
    Rep. Tom Davis, (R-Virginia)

    In other new bits and bites
    , I note that John McCain is trying to get America energized with REALLY ugly T-shirts sold at incredibly expensive prices ($50!!).

    Now there's a marketing strategy!

    For some reason, we are supposed to believe that T-shirts made from bamboo are better for the environment than those made from organic cotton.

    And no, I am not sure why.

    On the upside, you can get an
    entire Barack Obama action pack (a great looking T-shirt, a big car magnet, 5 bumper stickers, a rally sign, 5-buttons, and 50 stickers) for just $35.

    Hmmm. What product and price structure says "elite" and which one says "real world?"

    For those who want to make the most direct statement, you can do that by just clicking here.

    As It Is and As It Was at White's Ferry

    White's Ferry as it is today.

    White's Ferry as it once was.

    I've penciled in a trip to Morven Park on the 31st to see the sighthounds run at the American Sighthound Field Association International Invitational -- should be fun, and give me a chance to tuck in to see what little is on display at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting which is in reduced state (never too large, I imagine), due to rehab of the mansion.

    I may also visit a farm up at Purcellville where I used to dig, and visit an antique store or two. One of my favorite antique spots is up the road from Leesburg at Luckett's Store near White's Ferry, which is the last ferry across the Potomac River. After you cross the Potomac to the Maryland side, you are not very far from where I hunt my dogs most Sunday's. One of the places I hunt (now farmland) was formerly where the part of the Battle of Antietam was fought. There used to be 100 ferries operating on the Potomac, but White's is the last one and the barge that carries you across is called the Jubal Early, which gives you some idea you are still on the edge of South.

    How the Evolution of the Show Ring Ends


    A Dog With Problems

    "When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem."
    -- Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Rabies Cases Close to Home

    News reports are that two northern Virginia women are undergoing rabies treatment after being bitten by rabid foxes this month.

    One woman was mowing her lawn in Fredericksburg when a fox latched onto her ankle. The second woman was in Arlington, where I live, when she was bitten while taking out the trash.

    Both of the fox bites were from Gray Fox, and both fox were captured and confirmed as having rabies.

    There were 438 confirmed cases of animal rabies in Virginia and eight confirmed cases in Arlington between January and July of last year, state records show.

    Cursed Poodles

    From a web site that attempts to explain speciation and evolution from a literal-reading of the Bible:

    "[C]reationists do not believe that God made the animals and plants just as we see them today. For instance, when God made dogs, He didn’t make a poodle! After all, dogs like poodles are in fact degenerate mutants, suffering the effects of 6,000 years of the Curse."

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Hummingbird Nest and Babies

    A couple of great pictures of a hummingbird nest and babies from Scott K. in California (i.e. "Gangster Jack Russells and a couple of patterdales").

    Scott thinks it's a Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope).

    Two Calliope Humminbirds weigh the same as one U.S. nickel (5 grams), and they make solo migrations in winter to south and south-central Mexico, making this the smallest breeding bird in North America, and the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world!

    The nest of most hummingbirds are made from spider webs with little bits of moss and lichen tossed in for bulk. Click on the pictures to enlarge. Isn't Scott a great photographer?

    The smallest hummingbird egg is the Bee Bummingbird of Cuba, and you can fit 4,700 Bee Hummingbird eggs inside one Ostrich egg. Another way to think of it, is that 2 dozen chicken eggs are equivalent to one Ostrich egg, which means about 195 Bee Hummingbird eggs are equivalent to one chicken egg.

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    Basketcase: The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

    It's often been said that Kennel Club breeders are trying to "breed to a picture."

    Nowhere is that more true than in the case of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed cobbled up in the 1920s and 30s to "recreate" the type of lap dog seen in the oil paintings of aristocrats painted by Titian, van Dyck, Stubbs, and Gainsborough.

    While owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels like to wrap themselves up in the pretension of having an ancient breed related to British royalty, this particular dog was in fact created in the late 1920s and 30s at the Crufts Dog Show.

    This is not to say that small spaniels did not exist back in Tudor times and even before. They certainly did.

    In fact, lap dogs are among the oldest canine breeds, and the crossing of small terriers and spaniels to make lap dogs has probably been going on right from the beginning.

    What is incontestable is that by the early 20th century, the so-called "King Charles Spaniel" (now known as the English Toy Spaniel in both the U.S. and Canada) no longer resembled the dogs seen in 16th and 17th Century paintings.

    The modern dogs had a shorter face and domed heads.

    Where did these domed heads and flat faces come from? The flat face, it is conjectured, came from mating King Charles Spaniels' with Pugs and Japanese Chins. The domed head, no doubt, is caused by simply breeding the dogs too small, forcing the brain of the dog to push up the skull -- a common feature found in many toy breeds.

    Though most Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed histories claim an old uncorrupted line of the original dog never died out and "was kept at Blenheim Palace, home to the Dukes of Marlborough," this is nonsense. By the turn of the 20th Century, the original-looking dog was so extinct that not a single example of a proper-looking long-faced and flat-skulled "old type" King Charles Spaniel could be found!

    In the 1920s, an American by the name of Roswell Eldridge decided to recreate the dog he saw in the old paintings, and he went so far as to print up a flyer and offer a cash award at Crufts for any King Charles Spaniel "of the old-fashioned type" which had a longer muzzle, a flatter skull, and a spot in the middle of the crown of its head.

    No dog was forthcoming, and the award remained unclaimed for five years before either a "throwback" or an incorrect King Charles Spaniel (depending on who is telling the story) was presented in 1928 to claim the prize.

    This dog was "Ann's Son," a dog owned by Miss Mostyn Walker. Unfortunately Roswell Eldridge had died three months earlier, and so he never saw the object of his desire.

    Nonetheless, energized by the prize and the romance of a dog that "looked like those in the van Dyck paintings," a breed name, standard and a club were formed on the spot.

    The goal was to "preserve" the breed. Of course, the "breed" consisted of just one dog!

    No matter. A course was set, and Ann's Son was soon cross-bred with King Charles Spaniels which, while not perfect examples of the hope-for breed, had faces too long and heads that were too flat to do well in the ring.

    By simply breeding "rejects with the right features" to each other, a back breeding program was created and the gene pool of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was expanded from one to some.

    Slowly, things moved forward, and over several decades the dog's general form was stabilized.

    In 1945 the Kennel Club (UK) granted separate registration for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (the "cavalier" monicker was added to differentiate the dogs from the shorter-faced King Charles Spaniel), and in 1952 the first dogs came to the U.S.

    In 1954, Mrs. W. L. (Sally) Lyons Brown of Kentucky formed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA with the idea of keeping a stud book and eventually getting the dog into the American Kennel Club.

    The AKC admitted the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into its "Miscellaneous" class in 1962, and accepted the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA as the official breed club and registering body at that time.

    The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA applied several times for full Kennel Club recognition, but was rejected each time, and after a number of years the CKCSC-USA simply decided to move forward without the AKC, creating its own stud book, establishing its own show system, and adopting its own code of ethics. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel remained in the "miscellaneous" class of the AKC, but this was mostly done to allow those interested in obedience trials to compete in that venue.

    Members of the the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA developed their own culture outside of that of the American Kennel Club, and that culture put a significant premium on their own lengthy code of ethics, which members had to agree to in order to join the club and register their dogs.

    This code of ethics stated that "the welfare of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed is of paramount importance. It supersedes any other commitment to Cavaliers, whether that be personal, competitive, or financial."

    The code of ethics went on to say that members of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA agreed to not sell dogs to pet shops, agreed to NOT breed bitches before 12 months of age or after age eight, and agreed to never allow a bitch to carry to term and rear more than six litters in her lifetime.

    Finally, the breed club's code of ethics noted that "These exists a constant danger that ignorant or disreputable breeders may, by improper practices, produce physically, mentally or temperamentally unsound specimen to the detriment of the breed" and requested that members of the Club consult with other breeders in the club before a mating and to never breed "from or to any Cavalier known to me to have a disqualifying, or disabling health defect."

    The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA prospered as an independent registry, with slow but steady growth in it membership. In 1992, however, the American Kennel Club decided that it wanted to clear out breeds that had been in the "miscellaneous" class for many years, and they asked the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA to become the breed club.

    There was one caveat, however: The Cavalier King Charles Club Spaniel Club of the USA could NOT make acceptance of a ban on selling dogs to pet stores a prerequisite for dog registration. Nor could they require that breeders avoid knowingly crossing dogs with inheritable disqualifying or disabling defects. If the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA wanted to be the AKC's breed club, they would have to jettison their code of ethics and conform to the AKC's rules which said any dog could and would be registered provided it paid a fee to the AKC and could claim descent from a previously registered AKC dog and dam.

    The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club USA declined to join the AKC as the parent club of their breed, and so the AKC reached out to a small set of breeders who were a little less ethical and a little more rosette- and cash-hungry. These breeders formed the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, and this club was waved into the AKC in 1995.

    What happened next?

    The short story is that Cavalier King Charles Spaniel registrations shot through the roof.

    As the AKC's own web site notes, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were "among the biggest movers" in the last 10 years with a 406% increase in registrations. In fact, Cavalier King Charles spaniel registrations are up 800 percent from what they were 14 years ago, and the Cavalier is now the 25th most popular breed in the AKC (up from 70th 1997) out of a list of 157 breeds in all.

    And what has happened to the quality of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

    As could be predicted, it has fallen through the floor.

    A breed with an already bottle-necked gene pool due to its peculiar history and recent origin, was further choked down in 1995 when the AKC recruited a small subset of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owners to serve as the foundation stock of their new breed club.

    The small number of dogs owned by these breeders is as wide as the gene pool of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is ever going to get in the AKC.

    And because so many small AKC dogs come from puppy mill situations where sires may be used hundreds of time, and dams may be pregnant nearly all their lives, the gene pool of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (never strong to begin with) has contracted very rapidly.

    In fact, a close reading of the excellent web site leaves one concluding that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels has been reduced to a genetic basket case, with every Cavalier bloodline infected with at least one of the following genetic defects:

    • Heart mitral valve disease (MVD) is a terminal illness which afflicts over half of all Cavalier King Charles spaniels by the age of 5 years and nearly all Cavaliers by age 10 years. It is CKCSs' leading cause of death, killing over 50% of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. >> To read more

    • Syringomyelia (SM) is reported to be "very widespread" in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel breed. Syringomyelia is a disorder of the brain and spinal cord, which may cause severe head and neck pain and possible paralysis. >> To read more
    • Hip dysplasia is reported in a significant percentage of Cavalier King Charles spaniels. It is a genetic disease which can cause the dog pain and debilitation, and be expensive to remedy. >> To read more

    • Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS) -- Because the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a short muzzle and a small head, it often has serious breathing problems. Elongated soft palates, stenotic nares, everted laryngeal saccules, and laryngeal collapse are other inherited developmental defects in the breed. >> To read more

    • Luxating Patellas (slipping knees) are are a genetic condition believed to affect 20% to 30% of Cavalier King Charles spaniels. If the condition is not corrected, it can degenerate, with the dog becoming progressively more lame. >> To read more
    • Hereditary eye disease has become widespread in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. A study of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels conducted by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation in 1989 showed that an average of 30% of all Cavaliers evaluated had eye problems. >> To read more

    Beijing Fast Food at the Olympics

    Check out the whole scene here (PDF).

    So which of these delightul appetizers would you try first? Silk worms? Vulture Schnizel? Grilled Snake? Dog liver with vegetables? Goat lung with red peppers? Dug beetles? Scorpions? Cicadas? Lizard legs? Seahorses?

    I think I'd try the goat lungs with red peppers and the snake; I'm just not a sea food kind of guy.

    Bugs? Well I used to ride a motorcycle, so I guess I've had a few.

    Obama in Oregon

    Barack Obama speaks to a record-breaking crowd of 75,000 on the banks of the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. Click on the picture to enlarge.

    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    Vultures Poisoned by Common Veterinary Drug

    A while back, I wrote about how an electronic transmitter attached to a single Swainson's hawk in 1994 was instrumental in discovering that massive numbers of "our" raptors were being accidentally poisoned by farmers in Venezuela after they migrated south for the winter.

    Now, it turns out that a 97% decline in Oriental white-backed (Gyps bengalensis), long-billed (Gyps indicus), and slender-billed (Gyps tenuirostris) vultures In India can be traced to a another accidental poisoning, this time from a livestock anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac, which is consumed by vultures when they eat a carcass.

    The good news is that diclofenac has now been banned in India.

    The bad news it that the vulture population in India is now so low, that it will take a long time to recover (and a captive breeding program) to bring them back. In the interim, the population of wild dogs -- which can carry rabies -- is on the rise.

    The worst news is that diclofenac is now a generic drug, and is being marketed in Africa where it may quickly push the Cape vulture (Gyps coprotheres) into extinction and further threaten Rueppell's Griffon vulture (Gyps rueppellii) the African white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus) and and Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus).

    For the record, American vultures are not closely related to their African and Asian counterparts; out vultures and condors (family Cathartidae) may be more closely related to the stork, heron or ibis. In any case, they do not seem to be impacted by diclofenac; a small blessing.

    Saturday, May 17, 2008

    Homeland Security and Joseph Goebbels

    Chris Mathews has fun with a screaming right-wing talking parrot.

    Kevin James is typical of the genre you find on Fox News and right-wing talk radio these days: bubble-gum airheads who can repeat the GOP talking points that were faxed or emailed to them that morning, but God help them if they actually have to know what happened in the Sudetenland in 1938 and 1939, or why the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and got into World War II.

    They have no idea.

    What happened to the Dust Bowl? They have no idea.

    Where did the money go during the Great Depression? They have no idea.

    What started World War I? They have no idea.

    How did we get into the war in Vietnam? They have no idea.

    Korea? They have no idea.

    The first Iraq War? They have no idea.

    And, as Chris Mathews notes, the White House press secretary did not even know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was all about.

    This is what comes from "truth-i-ness" -- which is always pretty darn far from the truth.

    Truth-i-ness is what you get when folks do no research on anything, but simply spout off and say whatever "sounds right" to the audience they seek to cultivate at that moment. Never mind if it actually is right!

    Listen to Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Kevin James, or Joe Scarborough, and you will hear the calliope organ of authoritarian regimes everywhere fanning the flames of ignorance and hate.

    These are the book-burners of 1933. These are the thugs that brought the world Kristallnacht in 1939. These are the folks who think nothing of justifying a war on the basis of lies. These are the folks who tell us, in the Newspeak of Orwell, that we can only be free if we give up our liberty. These are the folks who think they are being clever and amusing by suggesting our national problems can be solved with concertina wire and detention without trial.

    In the deepest trenches of Hell, Joseph Goebbels is smiling. This is the kind of propaganda machine he only dreamed about.

    And isn't it just delicious that these American right-wing liars for hire ignore the fact that Neville Chamberlain was a conservative, while the FDR and Truman were liberals.

    "Wonderful. Must tell the Führer," says Goebbels.

    "And he will love that phrase 'Heimatland Sicherheit' -- Homeland Security.

    "Nice. Very nice."


    The Blind Leading the Deaf to PetSmart and Back

    This post from April, 2005

    The following verbiage
    comes from the the web site of the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America (PRTAA) whose membership can best be described as having learned all they know about working terriers by talking to each other at ring side -- a kind of "blind leading the deaf" to PetSmart and back.

    "The PRTAA is the Parent Club for the Parson Russell Terrier in America. Members of the club maintain the breed standard and in doing so protect the future of their terrier. Membership in the Association is open to those who support its goals and its ideal for the breed, and who honor the important height disqualifications incorporated in the Breed Standard to preserve the working abilities of the Parson. Those who feel that the Parson is primarily a small terrier suitable for hunting woodchuck in the United States should seek membership elsewhere. The PRTAA operates in full acknowledgment of the original purpose of the traditional Parson Russell Terrier as it was in Rev. Russell's day: to hunt red fox above and below ground; and to promote the distinctive type terrier bred by Rev. Russell."

    Ah! So the AKC folks must be real fox hunters, eh? Well no, actually. No one in the AKC Club seems to have actually worked a red fox last winter.

    So much for theory!

    What makes the nonsense on the AKC web site particularly funny is that anyone who have ever worked fox, raccoon or groundhog in the United States can tell you that an adult groundhog is likely to have a larger chest than a fox. The table below is from Ken James' excellent book on working terriers in North America.

    Anyone who had ever dug on red fox in the Eastern U.S. or Midwest knows that most fox dens are old groundhog burrows. It is almost impossible to find a sette that is not a groundhog burrow, and many burrows are entirely unimproved, leading to occasional accidental digs on fox settes in late March, April and into May.

    To not know that groundhog settes and fox settes are interchangeable is to "out" yourself as having never done much -- if any -- work in the field.

    Welcome to the AKC! If you want to know about pet toys and ribbons, retractable string leashes, circus-like agility courses, and doggie costumes, the AKC is the Club for you.

    If you're interested in the type of dog the Reverend Jack Russell worked, you will find that dog in the field and not in the show ring. Since no in the AKC hunts groundhogs (according to the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America's own web site), and since no one actually hunts fox either, you are sh*t out of luck if you are looking for a genuine Jack Russell Terrier in that forum.

    This fellow was released unharmed.


    Friday, May 16, 2008

    McCain on Guns: He Would Rather Cut Bait

    From today's NYT:

    "Senator John McCain and a clutch of camera crews dropped by a gun shop here on Friday, but the presumptive Republican nominee completely avoided the guns.

    Instead, Mr. McCain and his wife, Cindy, looked for a scale to weigh catfish – the St. Albans Gun & Archery shop didn’t have one – and bought a $40 fishing rod, plus bobbers, hooks, sinkers and bait.

    The trip was an aperitif to Mr. McCain’s appearance before the annual convention of the National Rifle Association in Louisville, Ky., later today. Mr. McCain, who favors background checks for firearm sales at gun shows and pushed through campaign finance regulations that restricted political advertising by groups like the N.R.A., was once branded by the gun lobby as “one of the premier flag-carriers for enemies of the Second Amendment.’’

    Meanwhile, at the NRA convention, the Reverend Mike Huckabee thought it would be a laugh-riot to joke about NRA members pointing a gun at Barack Obama. Don't believe it? Check out the video tape ... and listen to the laughter. Sorry, but the audience did not "fall silent," as some right-wing Fox News apologists have reported.

    Here's a heads up: If anything happens to Obama, this is guaranteed to be the most-seen video in the history of television, and it will come with the NRA-branded logo in the back and Christian minister and former GOP Presidential candidate giving the soundbite. Nice.


    Annals of the Law

    From: The New Yorker, August 28, 1954, p. 30, "DOGGY" by E. J. Kahn

    Out in Kalamazoo, there has existed since 1898 the United Kennel Club, which registers some 15,000 dogs annually & with which, over the years the A.K.C.s relations have been less than cordial.

    In 1927 the U.K.C., a privately run concern, tried to get an injunction in a federal court to restrain the A.K.C. from taking disciplinary action against individuals who participated in U.K.C.-sponsored shows. While this squabble was in progress the A.K.C., which had had reservations about the reliability of the pedigrees issued by U.K.C., asked the National Better Business Bureau to look into the matter. The Bureau prankishly invented two terriers, gave them spurious ancestors, and submitted them to U.K.C. for registration. The U.K.C. fell into the trap and certified both without question, whereupon the A. K. C. triumphantly made the deception public.

    The U. K. C. dropped its suit soon afterward.

    This post is perhaps a little too "inside baseball" for anyone not boiled in the oil of the politics of the terrier world (something I try to stay clear of myself), but suffice it to say that in October of 2002, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America was sued over its policy of excluding folks who attempted to register their dogs with the American Kennel Club.

    The JRTCA's position was that a closed registry system, such as that embraced by the American Kennel Club, is antithetical to the long term best interests of working terriers. The suit was defeated in October of 2002, and in May of 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed.

    Today, the Jack Russell Terrier remains a working terrier, while the American Kennel Club dog (which decided to change the name of its dog to the "Parson Russell Terrier") is almost never found working in the field.

    As for registration standards, the JRTCA will only register adult dogs as individuals (entire litters of puppies cannot be registered), and color pictures of the dog from the front and sides must be submitted with each application, along with a four-generation pedigree, a veterinary certificate (the vet must sign the photos), and precise measurements of the adult dog (height, length, and chest size).

    In contrast, the American Kennel Club now allows folks to register entire litters of dogs on line, no photos required, no veterinary checks required, and no measurements required. So long as the check clear, your litter will probably be registered!

    Has stringent recording criteria and a broader conformation standard hurt the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America? Not apparently: the JRTCA remains the largest Jack Russell registry in the world, while the Parson Russell Terrier has fallen from the 65th ranking (2002) to the 75th ranking (2007) in the AKC. What's the 75th ranking in the AKC mean? It means fewer Parson Russell Terriers were registered last year than Silky Terriers, Japanese Chins, or Brussels Griffons.

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    Selecting a Dog: Rules of Thumb

    A predictive chart of America's purebred dogs would give any consumer pause, as 40% of the dogs carrying AKC papers today have genetic defects of one kind or another -- hip dysplasia, heart murmurs, deafness, cataracts, spinal problems, glaucoma, Cushings disease, autoimmune disorders, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, congenital skin conditions, polyarthritis, and progressive renal atrophy, and genetic predispositions to cancer, to name a few

    Yet, when most people decide on what dog to get, they seldom give any thought to the long-term financial and emotional cost of buying into an expensive and hear-wrenching canine health care problem.

    Some basic rules of thumb:

    • Go With GOD (Good Orderly Design):
      As a general rule, God doesn't make too much junk (man does that), and so one of the rules of thumb is to stay within the size world we see among natural dogs in the real world, and to stay away from any canine gene pool that has become too "evolved" through human intervention.

      Yes, what I am saying is think about adopting a small to mid-sized mutt. First of all, you may get real hybrid vigor. You may not too. That said, a dog from a pound is as likely to be as healthy or healthier than any raised in a closed-registry system. Second, a dog that weighs more than 15 pounds is going to be tough enough to "take it" at the dog park and in the back yard for a half hour on a cold day, while a dog under 40 pounds is far less likely to have expensive hip and ligament issues, and will also be cheaper to raise in terms of crates, travel, and food. Hotels and apartments generally green-light dogs under 40 pounds. When God made the Pye dog, He knew what He was doing!

    • Avoid Really Massive Dogs:
      Dogs at the extreme end of the size scale generally have more expensive health issues and generally do not live long, to say nothing of the costs of fencing, crates, food, and boarding.

      Massive dogs tend to have serious joint and heart problems, as well as gastro-torsion issues.

      In addition to hip and heart problems, dogs with massive heads and overly long necks tends to get "the wobbles" -- a kind of neck problem in which the spinal vertebrae compresses on the spinal cord.

      Some massive breeds such as St. Bernards and Great Danes are also prone to bone cancer, perhaps due to too much pressure being put on their weight-stressed frames.

      Finally, massive dogs tend to over-heat in summer, and as a consequence you may find your massive dog spending a large huge portion of the year panting in the shade.

    • Avoid Really Tiny Dogs:
      The rising popularity of super-small toy breeds is particularly unfortunate, as these dogs tend to be genetic wrecks with jaws that are over-crowded with teeth and bones so small and brittle than they may break if the dog so much as jumps off the couch.

      Some tiny breeds, such as toy poodles, may haves badly luxating patellas (slipping knees) which leave the dog three-legged much of the time.

      A common problem among some very small dogs is hydrocephaly (water on the brain)caused by too much cerebellum crammed into too-tiny skulls, leading to domed-shaped head and skull plates that may not completely close over, leaving a soft gap at the top called a "molera." And far from being rare, these bulging heads and molera are actually being bred for!! The AKC breed club for the the Chihuahua calls a molera a "mark of purity," sniffing that not all dogs with molera actually have hydrocephaly, which is true. That said, when your dog does have hydrocephally, you have a dog that is mentally retarded. And hydrocephally and the molera are being caused by the exact same thing: breeding dogs too small.

    • Avoid Dogs That are Really Out of Proportion:
      Dogs that are really out of proportion tend to have higher-than-normal healthy case issues, whether these dogs have massive heads (like English Bulldogs), or tiny legs (like Dachshunds and Basset Hounds). A lot of the dogs that are out of proportion suffer from a kind of dwarfism called "achondroplasia" which not only stresses joints, but also tends to be associated with serious back and heart problems.

    • Avoid Dogs With Very Flat Faces:
      Dogs that are bred to be very flat-faced (brachycephalic) typically have a hard time breathing, get winded easily, and often have soft palate issues which further complicate air intake. In addition, due to the flatness of the face, dogs such as English Bulldogs, Pugs, and Pekingese are also prone to eye injuries.

    • Avoid Dogs With Any Seriously Exaggerated Feature:
      Dogs with deep wrinkles, such as Shar Peis, and long pendulous ears such as Bloodhounds and Bassets, tend to have a lot of smaller problems, ranging from cherry eye (Bloodhounds and Bassets) to skin and ear infections (Shar Peis and Bassets). I would also avoid any dog with incredibly long coats. "Hair dresser breeds" may seem fine while flipping through an all-breed dog book, but living with them for 10-15 years is not for everyone.

    • Avoid Any Dog Breed With a Disease Named After It:
      Almost all breeds carry a genetic load of some kind, but some loads are heavier than others. At the very least go into any dog acquisition with your eyes wide open, and research the health issues that are most likely to come up with your breed or type of dog. The last thing you want to discover is that your breed is "really prone to cancer" ... or hip dysplasia .... or heart conditions ... or "eye anomaly" ... or congenital skin conditions ... or epilepsy or .... and the list goes on and on.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Baby Groundhogs Resemble Squirrels for a Reason

    Very young groundhogs are commonly found on April and May digs. On some farms I hunt, they are dispatched at the request of the farmer, and others they are let go because the farmer does not particularly care if they are about (a corn crop is not much affected by groundhogs, while soybeans can be chewed up, especially on the edge of fields).

    What's the difference between a groundhog and a woodchuck? Not a thing; just different names for the same animal.

    Baby groundhogs remind us that the adult animals are actually members of the squirrel family (Sciuridae) of the genus Marmota.

    The Eastern chipmunk is the groundhog's closest relative. Woodchucks are the largest members of the squirrel family and the only solitary-living marmot.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Good Leash Design With Low-Cost Materials

    Over at the Regal Vizsla blog, Andrew talks about liking his new European-style hunting leash available from Hogan Leather.

    I too like Euro-leads, but I do not think I will ever shell out $42 for a leash -- I am simply too cheap, and too disorganized. And yes, I have lost leashes in the field while hunting, and done it more than once.

    In my defense, I think terrier work may be a little more chaotic that bird-shooting -- we have hedgerows to machete, anywhere from two to four dogs to cope with, ten or more tools to keep up with (shovel, bar, machete, posthole digger, root saw, yoho trowel, den scraper, critter snare, two packs, dog tie-outs), the physical work of digging, live quarry that can take a finger off, and the mound of dirt that has been taken out of the hole, which has to go back into the hole. In the ballet of it all, it's easy to overlook a single leash tethered to a small tree 15 feet from the dig.

    The good news is that a pretty nice 6-foot "Eurolead" leash can be had for $18 plus shipping. These are made by Hamilton, and are pretty-fair quality as I recall (my folks still use the one that I gave them some years back).

    A couple of years ago, however, I decided to experiment, and I came up with a very simple $7 do-it-yourself leash that has worked well for me. And though my leashes are ugly, they are also useful, simple, and cheap.

    As a consequence, if a visiting dog chews through one, or if I leave one dangling from a tree in the forest, or if they are ground into the dirt during a dig, I do not feel too bad about it

    Here's how I make them:

    • Start with a 30-foot long black cotton training lead, and nine brass trigger snaps. If you prefer stainless or some another kind of snap, use that.

    • Cut the lead into three nine-foot sections.

    • Slip a brass clip into the bite in the middle (see far right, at picture below).

    • Dip each of the slightly frayed ends of the cotton leash into a bit of black plasti-dip which is sold at most hardware stores for covering tool handles. The plasti-dip effectively seals the cotton ends so they do not unravel.

    • When the ends are dry, use a single overhand hitch to tie a brass clip on to each end of the two leash ends (see the two clips on the left).

    Believe it or not, that's all there is to it -- no real knots or sewing is needed.

    The cotton is soft enough that it crushes on itself and holds well. I have never had a dog come off a leash (granted my dogs are small working terriers and not wolfhounds), and I can adjust the clip length any time I want.

    The elegance here is not in the materials or the manufacturing, but in the simple design and its myriad uses in the field.

    The finished leash should look very much like a brace couple with each side from the center clip approximately 4.5 feet long.

    In fact, that's one way to use this leash -- to tie out two dogs at once at a dig, or to walk two dogs at once when the center clip is affixed to a belt or a rucksack's shoulder strap ring.

    You can also affix the center clip to a low-hanging shrub or tree branch and tie out two dogs in the shade -- the branch will give some spring, and if you pick the right shrub, they cannot get entangled.

    Perhaps the best way to use this leash is to simply take one side of the leash and hook it to the center strap, and then slip that over your shoulder and across your chest. The loose end, of course, is clipped to a dog (or dogs if a very short brace-couple is used there). Now you can walk hands-free, no matter how hard the dog lunges.

    This same set up can be used to tie a dog to a fat tree, or to clip two dogs to a cyclone fence.

    Put two of these leashes together, and you have a no-hands, over-the-shoulder leash with 4.5 feet of leash that you can affix to the middle section of the second leash which you used as a kind of long brace-hitch. Now you can walk two dogs hands-free, with the dogs free to roam as far as 10 feet in front of you. Or, if you prefer, you can hook the second leash to where the first leash is hooked at the shoulder, and now you can walk three dogs at once, hands-free.

    Other than price, why do I think my do-it-yourself version is a little bit better than the off-the-shelf design commonly sold?

    The short answer is length. A 9 foot-long leash is simply a lot more useful than a 6-foot long leash, especially if you are walking two dogs at once, or if you are looping a 4.5 foot section of the leash around your shoulder in order to walk one dog hands-free. In the field, I am more than willing to trade a little ugliness for a little utility.

    Of course, these 9-foot leashes could be from leather by simply cutting down a really long long set of reins and putting in some rivets, or they could be made from nylon webbing. However, if I used either of these materials, cost would go up and loss and replacement of a leash would then be a bigger deal than I ever want it to be. So I race to the basement, sacrificing looks for utility, and the dogs do not really seem to mind.
    . .