Thursday, December 31, 2009

Is 400 Million Pounds of Dead Pit Bull Enough?

As you can see from the graph, above, canine shelter impounds and euthanasias have seen a steady decline for more than 30 years. This trend continues across the nation.

Now for the other math.

Nearly a million Pit Bulls were euthanized in American shelters last year --more dogs than were registered by the American Kennel Club.

Rather than decline, Pit Bull euthanasia rates have been on the rise for 30 years due to the fact that Pit Bill "lovers" continue to breed these dogs, and Pit Bull "lovers" then acquire them as puppies only to abandon them in jaw-dropping numbers that far exceed demand.

More Pit Bulls were killed in shelters this year than the total number of dogs registered this year by the American Kennel Club.

In the last decade, about 800,000 Pit Bulls a year have been killed in shelters (the number is rising, and is now nearly one million).

To put it another way, about 8 million 50-pound Pit Bulls were euthanized in Animal Shelters in the last 10 years.

More than 400 MILLION POUNDS of Pit Bulls were euthanized in American shelters this decade.

How can we assure that more than 400 million pounds Pit Bulls are killed in the decade ahead?

Just follow these steps, which helped this last decade improve on the record Pit Bull kill rates of the 1980s and 1990s:

  1. Be sure to devote 100 times more space to the evils of local and national animal control organizations than you do to the need to spay and neuter Pit Bulls. Remember that it is not enough to stand silent about the need to spay-neuter Pit Bulls -- you need to demonize the people who have one million Pit Bulls a year dumped on their doors. Remember the problem is never Pit Bull breeders or owners. The problem is always with those who have yet to figure out how to cope with the massive Pit Bull mess thrown into their laps. Only by talking about their failures, can the Pit Bull community keep the spotlight off of their own silence and acquiescence to the problem. Make this "Step One," and we are to kill more Pit Bulls in the decade ahead than we did in the decade behind.
  2. Continue to say Pit Bulls are "just like any other dog." If anyone points out that no other breed is abandoned at these rates, that no other breed is euthanized in these numbers, and that no other breed is implicated in so many violent dog attacks, be sure to claim that raising these points is bigotry. No other response is needed. This tactic worked fabulously well in the past decade, and was key to achieving rising Pit Bull kill rates this past decade. Let's keep it up!
  3. Define the problem as being about dog fighting and law enforcement. Ignore the fact that most euthanized Pit Bulls are not fighting dogs, and that there is no law against breeding dogs or dumping poorly placed dogs in local animal shelters. It's enough to say "those people" are the problem and that "animal control" is not doing its job. However, if animal control ever does show up to levy a fine or seize a dog, be sure to scream "Gestapo" as loudly as you can, and never mind if you have any evidence.   When all else fails, divert the conversation to Michael Vick.

There is every reason to believe we will kill more Pit Bulls in 2010 than in 2009.

We have already started the year off with a bang. With the help of Pit Bull breeders and owners who have supplied the dogs and then abandoned them, we can expect more than 2,400 dead dogs to die tomorrow!

Sure, it's just a start, but if the Pit Bull community will continue to follow the three-step program outlined above, I know the numbers will only increase in the decade ahead. Remember: If you keep on doing what you always did, you'll keep on getting what you always got.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pit Bulls and Holocaust Deniers

When told that nearly a million Pit Bulls a year are now being killed at shelters, and that these dogs were bred by Pit Bull "lovers" who then sold them to other Pit Bull "lovers" who then abandoned them to their death a year or so later, most of the folks who have been boiled in the oil of the Pit Bull community are shocked.

You mean Pit Bull "haters" are not the problem? No, they are not. Pit Bull haters are not breeding the dogs. Pit Bulls haters are not abandoning the dogs. Pit Bull haters are not fighting the dogs. Pit Bull haters are not abusing the dogs. That's all on the Pit Bull "lovers".

You can see the tiny mental wheels working .... rationalizing. And, then, as predictable as a squaking parrot, the excuse for abuse kicks in, most of it framed on the same same stage as that used by Holocaust deniers and minimizers.

  • A million Pit Bulls a year? That's not so bad. That's only 40% of all canine euthanasias.
    "Even if we agree a few million Jews died at Auschwitz, let's remember how many Sioux died from smallpox after Columbus. Also let's remember all those deaths on the Russian front. Besides, people die in wars all the time. So what?"

  • Humane groups are blamed for not doing more to stop "back yard breeders," and its proclaimed that "no one else has the money" to do anything.
    "The Americans could have bombarded the railroad tracks to Auschwitz and the other death camps. If Jews died, it's the Americans fault. The average German could have done nothing."

  • The number must be wrong. After all, they are experts, they had no idea.
    "The mass killing and burning of millions of Jews? It's all a fiction. The towns people at Auschwitz said they smelled nothing. And really, who knew more about what was going on than they did? They were right there!"

  • No one knows what a Pit Bull is, and so no one has any data.
    "The Jewish holocaust numbers are fiction. Everyone looked alike in Germany to the point the Jews had to wear a Star of David. No one really knew who was Jewish. Besides, not everyone who died in Auschwitz was a Jew -- some were dwarfs, or gay, or mental defectives, or Catholics. All the numbers are meaningless."

  • It all has to do with poor people with bad values. As soon as we get rid of all the poor people and all the bad values, everything will be fine.
    "What happened in World War II is not Germany's fault. The Germans should never have been treated so harshly at the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. The Germans were really the first victims here, and the Jews just followed as collateral damage. If you want to assess blame, then blame the countries that wrote the Treat of Versailles."

That's about it, isn't it?

Those are the head-in-the-sand arguments made in defense of doing nothing, saying nothing, and ignoring the over-breeding of Pit Bulls in this country.

It's no big deal, nothing can be done, we had no idea, and besides if anyone is to blame it's those people who framed the Treaty of Versailles."

Of course there is another argument.

This one was heard all the time in the U.S. in the 1930s. It goes like this:

"Every country is independent, and we do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We can try to persuade the Germans not to do bad things to the Jews, but really, it's their people, and we would not want to violate any country's sovereignty. That would violate our principles."


Wouldn't want to violate any "principles." There is no principle against killing a million Pit Bulls a year. No one to blame for that! All perfectly legal. Nothing can be done. Why even talk about it?

Besides, who cares? They're just dogs. Pig-chasing dogs.


Screaming Vixens

It's 2 am, and one of my yard foxes is screaming for a mate in the front yard. This is the mating call of the red fox, and when they do it (in late December through early February), their jaws are so wide they seem unhinged, as in the picture at left.

The sound itself sounds a bit like a cat in distress, or a dying rabbit, My fox was next to the tall ornamental grass right outside my study window and in full view, and I have to say I got a real eye full and it was quite thrilling.

To hear what it sounds like (mine was much closer, as he was screaming just 5 feet from where I now type) click here.

Fox generally give birth around here in mid-March, but they have been know to cub or whelp as early as mid February (rare) or as late as April 1st (rare). For the record, fox offspring are called kits, pups, or cubs -- all three terms are proper and fine, and they are born coal-grey and redden off as they get a bit older and start to tumble out of the den (around mid-April).

Love Is All You Need

On December 7th, 2009 at 1:30 pm GMT Starbucks invited musicians from all over the world to sing together at the same time to raise awareness for AIDS in Africa. In that one moment, musicians from 156 countries played "All You Need is Love" together.

I think John Lennon would definitely approve.

This song, by the way, was the first live global television link, watched by 400 million people in 26 countries, via satellite on June 25, 1967 with John, Paul, George and Ringo on vocals and instruments, and Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Eric Clapton, Pattie Harrison, Jane Asher, Mike McCartney, Graham Nash, Gary Leeds and Hunter Davies singing in the fade out at the end (some on tape). How cool is that?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bo Obama Does Not Have Rabies

Bo Obama does not have rabies, but that hardly matters to the law, which is why he is back at the White House this Christmas vacation, even as Barack, Michelle and the kids jet off to the land of sun, beach, volcanoes and "Dog the Bounty Hunter."

It seems Hawaii has a strict canine quarantine policy, requiring a 5-day isolation and a current blood test (done within the last 120 days) or else there is a 120-day isolation in order to avoid an incidence of rabies ever coming to the island.

Who knew?

Knut Haugland Has an Obit That Must Be Read

Dead at age 92, he escaped three times from the Germans in WWII, was a major figure in the Norwegian resistance movement, ate a reindeer's stomach, helped lead a daring nuclear raid against the Germans, had his life made into a movie (starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris), and was the last survivor of the Kon Tiki expedition which traversed the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft. >> Read his obituary and wish yours could ever be as good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Florida Coyotes

Coyotes are now found in every state of the Union except Hawaii, and everywhere their numbers are on the rise.

Sean O'Quinn sends me these photos of a coyote he photographed just a few miles outside of Fort Pierce, Florida. He says coyotes have just arrived in his neck of the woods, but clearly they fear little if they are so bold as to be abroad in daylight.

Eastern coyotes are extremely variable in size, with some as large as small wolves, and others sized quite a lot smaller, similar to their western counterpart.

In the East, there is no shortage of food for coyotes, from mice, rats, possums, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, groundhogs, and wild turkey, to gut-shot deer, downed duck, and feral cats. Perhaps the biggest buffet of all is roadkill. Around Ft. Pierce, the menu will be supplemented by snakes, frogs, and lizards (including iguanas), which are all found in abundance.

Ft. Pierce is surrounded by farm land and variable edge habitat combining pine woods, scrub, lush prairie areas, marsh, lake, and shore. Bottom line: It would hard to find a more ideal location in which to grow up as a young coyote.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stewart Brand Looks at the Future

Stewart Brand has good values, and he asks good questions, and looks hard for intelligent answers. He is a national resource unto himself, and someone I have followed, off and on, for about 35 years. The Last Whole Earth Catalogue is still on my shelf -- and I click through it for a few hours every year.

Stewart is an old hippie. He (literally) drove the bus for the Electric Koolaid Acid Test, and if you have ever heard of Wendell Berry, then it is only because of Stewart Brand, who first gave him a platform for his "small is beautiful" theories of farming.

Stewart Brand has spent the last 40 years as a die-hard environmentalist. He has always put the Planet First, and he still does.

Watch this video and learn why Stewart is: 1) pro-city; 2) pro-nuke; 3) pro-genetically modified crops, and; 4) pro-geoengineering.

He is right on every point, whether that makes you happy or not.

Buy a copy of his latest: Whole Earth Discipline.

Fast Facts About Christmas

  • Not in the Bible:
    Christmas is never mentioned in the Bible, and there is no suggestion as to the season, much less the date, of Jesus' birth.

  • Not Celebrated in Early Christianity:
    In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.

  • The Date Was Chosen by a Politician:
    The actual date of Christ's birth was chosen by Constantine I, after his conversion to Christianity, and appears to have been a political act designed to have a holiday in his new religion line up with several holidays celebrated by older competing sun-god-worshiping religions, including Elah-Gabal, a Syrian sun god; Sol, the god of Emperor Aurelian, and Mithras, a soldiers' god that originated in Persia. After Constantine's death, Pope Julius I codified the date of Christ's birth as December 25th. The term Cristes mæsse or "Mass of Christ" is an early English phrase first recorded in 1038, 1,000 years after Jesus' death.

  • Poetic License with the Nativity Scene:
    Despite all the depictions of the nativity scene, the Bible mentions no "stable” nor does it mention animals. A "manger" is mentioned, but a manger is a feeding trough, not a stable.

  • The Pagan Christmas Garland:
    Across Europe, Pagans of every stripe have always celebrated the Winter Solstice by draping doorways and mantels with evergreens (holly, pine, fir, spruce, mistletoe), a tradition embraced by the Romans during Saturnalia and the feast of Sol Invictus. After the conversion of Anglo-Saxon (i.e. Norse) Britain in the very early 7th century, Christmas was referred to as Geol, or Yule, the name of the pre-Christian solstice festival which honored the god Thor.

  • A Drunken Street Festival:
    By the Middle Ages, Christianity had more-or-less replaced paganism with believers attending church and then decamping to drunken, carnival-like parties in the street generally accompanied by caroling and, in some locations, re-enactment of the nativity scene. Partying and excessive eating was not illogical for this time of year: December was the only real season for fresh meat, as the weather was cold enough that slaughtered animals did not spoil, nor did they have to be salted to preserve them. Late December was also the when the year’s supply of beer or wine (made from grapes, apples, and grain) was now ready to drink. As Stephen Nissenbaum notes in his book The Battle for Christmas (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1996), "From the beginning, the Church’s hold over Christmas was (and remains still) rather tenuous. There were always people for whom Christmas was a time of pious devotion rather than carnival, but such people were always in the minority. It may not be going too far to say that Christmas has always been an extremely difficult holiday to 'Christianize.'"

  • Banned in England and Scotland:
    In Scotland, John Knox tossed out the "multitude of the monuments of idolatry" in 1562 as part of the Protestant Reformation. These included not only the celebration of Mass, but also Romish liturgical ceremonies, Roman bishops, and many Ecclesiastical holidays, including Christmas. When the Puritans took over England in 1645, they sought to rid the Church of England of all qualities for which they could find no biblical source or authorization. Among the holidays tossed out was Christmas, which was derided as a Pagan holiday adopted by Catholics from the Romans and the pagans of earlier times. Christmas was banned until Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, at which point the Puritans were persecuted and fled to America.

  • The Return of "Misrule":
    For the next 150 years or so, Christmas in England was a time of "misrule" i.e., socially permitted drunkenness, promiscuity, and gambling, with direct ties back to the Roman tradition of Saturnalia.

  • The German Christmas Tree:
    Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century when devout Christians began to bring entire evergreen trees indoors -- a kind of one-upmanship on the ancient pagans.

  • Banned in America:
    The Puritans that came to America in 1620 did not celebrate Christmas, and from 1659 to 1681 anyone celebrating Christmas in Boston was fined five shillings.

  • Christmas Was a Weakness of our Enemies:
    On December 25th, 1776, George Washington attacked the Hessian troops outside of Trenton, giving his demoralized forces their first real victory of the war. Washington could be reasonably sure his plan of attack would succeed, as American troops did not celebrate the "German" holiday of Christmas.

  • Not Celebrated by our Founding Fathers:
    Christmas remained out of favor in the U.S., and on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution, Congress sat in session. In fact, Congress sat in session on Christmas until 1870, when Christmas was finally declared a federal holiday.

  • A Turkish Elf:
    St. Nicholas was actually born in modern day Turkey -- an early Christian saint famous for giving away all of his inherited wealth and traveling the countryside helping the poor, the sick and small children. His traditional feast day was December 6th, but it was celebrated on Christmas eve by early Dutch settlers in New York who called him Sinter Klaas.

  • Christmas is Introduced to America:
    The idea of Christmas was introduced to the U.S. by writer Washington Irving who wrote Knickerbocker History, a satire on the transplanted customs of New York's Dutch population, which contained several references to the legendary "Sinter Klaas," who delivered gifts to children on Christmas Eve. Later, in 1921, Irving wrote a Christmas poem called "The Children's Friend," in which the first reference to a sleigh pulled by reindeer is made. Sleigh, reindeer and elves are a cross-over from Scandinavia, where Christmas is celebrated with a jolly elf named Jultomten who is said to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. In Finland, of course, they had much the same story, only there the sleigh was drawn by reindeer.

  • Expanding on Washington Irving:
    In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters. This poem, later retitled, "The Night Before Christmas," was a huge hit and helped establish a picture of "Santa Claus" in people's minds. This picture was crystallized in 1881, when political cartoonist Thomas Nast used Moore's poem as the basis for an illustration showing Santa Claus as a rotund, cheerful man with a big white beard, a red suit trimmed in white, and carrying a sack of toys, and whose base of operations was a North Pole workshop populated by elves.

  • The German Christmas Tree Comes to England:
    Charles' Dickens' book A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 and it played a major role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family and compassion over self-centered excess. In 1846, just a few years after A Christmas Carol was published, Queen Victoria (who was of German descent) put up a Christmas tree. This was an entirely foreign tradition to England and came about because of Queen Victoria's marriage to the German Prince Albert of Coberg. As Queen Victoria was a hugely popular figure, and Christmas was already in the process of being reinvented, everyone quickly rushed out to get a copy the Queen and get their own Christmas tree decorated with glass ornaments made in Germany.

  • An Ad Man Invents a New Icon:
    In 1938, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store invented the story of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" as part of an advertising campaign. The story that would sell several million copies, before it was turned into a song (1949) which propelled it into permanent orbit.

  • There Is No Public Ban on Celebrations or Public Displays:
    In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled in Lynch v. Donnelly that religious themes in government-funded winter holiday displays were permitted under the First Amendment. In 2001, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in Ganulin v. United States which said that observing a day off on December 25th served a legitimate secular interest. .
    • And now, for a little musical interlude: the incomperable Nat King Cole.

      This is a repost from 2008.


      Wednesday, December 23, 2009

      Pedigree Dogs Exposed Generates Research

      From the Sydney Morning Herald comes this article:

      Hip Pain a Bone of Contention for Pedigree Pooches

      Lissa Chrtopher :: December 24, 2009 .

      THE case for pedigree dog breeders to stop pursuing exaggerated physical traits and focus instead on breeding healthy animals has been strengthened by Australian research published in The Veterinary Journal.

      Dog breeds with relatively long bodies for their height were significantly more prone to hip dysplasia, found Taryn Roberts and Associate Professor Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney faculty of veterinary science. In hip dysplasia the ball joint ''slops'' around in the socket, wearing away cartilage and bone. The condition dooms many dogs to a life of crippling pain and costs owners thousands of dollars in vet bills.

      Treatments include hip replacement, about $6000 per hip, stem cell therapy which costs about $5500, and a lifetime of medication. Many dogs with the condition are euthanased.

      The hip dysplasia research comes after Pedigree Dogs Exposed, a controversial BBC documentary shown in Australia in September, found many dog breeds in Britain were plagued by health problems that were the result of breeding for extreme physical characteristics, and the mating of closely related dogs. Australian pedigree dog breeders employ many of the same practices and breed standards.

      Pedigree dog breeders and show judges had ''inadvertently exacerbated'' the prevalence of hip dysplasia by preferring longer-bodied dogs and enshrining the look in breed standards, Professor McGreevy said. The condition is particularly prevalent in labradors, pugs, dogues de bordeaux, St Bernards, neapolitan mastiffs and basset hounds.

      Taller and more square-shaped dogs were less likely to suffer hip dysplasia, he said.


      Bert Gripton's Dogs & Techniques

      This post recycled from November 2004.

      Bert Gripton is one of the few legendary terriermen who was not known for breeding dogs, but for working them. He had a small pack of working terriers and whippets, and was terrierman to the Albrighton Foxhounds. His father was a gamekeeper on the Aqualate estate in  Staffordshire near the Shropshire border.

      Gripton was a die-hard digger who specialized in badger, but he also hunted otter (he took the last legal otter in the UK), and fox. Phil Drabble, author Of Pedigree Unknown, from which the above picture is lifted, said that Gripton "could, and did, catch Fox with greater certainty than the hounds."

      Bert Gripton appears to have kept a pack of very small dogs. This is not surprising -- the more people dig, the more they seem to value a small dog able to get up to the quarry and to manuever around and with it. Brian Nuttal notes of Gripton's terriers: "No one called them Jack Russells in those days, just white hunt terriers."

      Phil Drabble explained Gripton's technique for removing a fox:

      "Quite often it was the fox's grinning mask which came into view, in which case there is an effective trick that requires supreme confidence and dexterity approaching sleight of hand. Hold a bit of stick, as thick as your thumb, and about a foot long, and wave it rapidly across the fox's mask, within reach of his jaws. The reaction is reflex and certain. He bites the stick in a vice-like grip. That is the exact split second when it is safe to shoot out the other hand to grab him by the scruff of the neck. It takes more cool nerve that I possess, but it was one of Bert Gripton's star performances."

      American Jack Rabbit History

      A repost from this blog circa February 2006.

      A Jack Rabbit is not a rabbit -- it is a hare. The name comes from the fact that early settlers distinguished this animal from the various forms of cotton tail rabbits by comparing the ears of this hare to that of a jack ass. A "jack ass rabbit" became, in time, a "jack rabbit".

      American jack rabbits come in two basic flavors -- white-tailed jack rabbits and black-tailed jack rabbits. There is also the snowshoe hare, but it is uncommon in the U.S. which is the southern terminus of its range.

      Jack rabbits are so common in much of the drier parts of the American west that in most states the law says you can kill as many as you want, any way you want, on your own property.

      Long gunners kill about 2 million jack rabbits in California every year, and the numbers are not in decline as a consequence. Kills by coursing dogs, such as greyhounds, are so rare they do not even register in the statistics.

      Truth be told, it is hard to make a dent on jack rabbit populations because they are as prolific as .... well rabbits. Female jack rabbits breed for about half the year (January to July) and have 3 or 4 litters a year with three or four young on average. Gestation is 41 to 47 days, and the young are born alive and running, straight out of the box -- there is no den or nest.

      The white-tailed jack rabbit is about 8 pounds and a bit larger than its black-tailed cousin. Fox eat almost no jack rabbits (too big and fast for a fox to catch), but coyotes take quite a few. The main enemy of the jack rabbit is tularemia -- an ugly little disease, and not a very nice way to die.

      Jack rabbit hunts are an old tradition in the American West. Hunting them with dogs, however, is certainly less efficient and more sporting than the way it once was done!

      The old-fashioned American jack rabbit hunts that occurred in the West were done with snow fencing that would stretch out for a mile or two in a large funnel. Rabbits would then be driven into the funnel and the rabbits would then be penned at the end of the funnel and clubbed to death.

      The picture above is of an 1893 Fresno, California bunny roundup with snow fence used as a "boma" to corral the rabbits.

      Some jack rabbits were eaten, but the real reason for the jack rabbit roundup was that 15 jack rabbits could supposedly eat about as much as a cow, and while there was a market for cattle hide and salted beef, there was no market for jack rabbit.

      Jack rabbit roundups in the American west were not hunting -- they were a failed attempt at extermination.

      1894 jack rabbit haul from Lamar, Colorado.

      The first greyhound coursing clubs in the U.S.
      were a product of the massive rabbit drives pictured above. The healthiest rabbits taken in a jack rabbit drive were sold to coursing clubs (some are far away as Florida!). Today, the live rabbits that were once used in open fields, have been replaced with race tracks in which a mechanical bunny runs down an elevated track. In less formal "lure coursing" trials, a plastic bag is tied to a moving string run across a motor fly wheel and pulleys.

      20,000 rabbits taken in one Fresno, Califonira Jack Rabbit roundup, 1893

      Around the turn of the 20th Century, the federal government put most of the American West in control of the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, various Indian reservations, and the military. Federal protection of these environmentally marginal lands has meant that jack rabbits have been allowed to breed unfettered by cattlemen for about 100 years now. The cow at McDonald's is probably a feed-lot animal, not a free-range western cow competing head-to-head with jack rabbits. In short, the jack rabbit has never had it so good.

      A few greyhounds are still used to course jack rabbits in the West, but they are not much of a threat to jack rabbit populations. The reason for that is pretty simple: A jack rabbit can hit speeds of 40-45 mph and turn on a dime. The few rabbits that are caught are easily replaced through natural reproduction.

      In fact, getting chopped by a greyhound may be the best of all possible exits for a jack rabbit. The alternative death is not a hospital bed with a morphine drip and soft music in the background, but debilitating disease, vehicle impact, starvation, or being ripped apart by a coyote, owl, and/or the blast of a shotgun or a .22 rifle. In the litany of ways a rabbit can die, a chop by a practiced greyhound is a good way to go.

      Have a Happy Awkward Christmas

      Robert Earl Keene :: Merry Christmas from the Family

      From all your trashy friends, relations and neighbors.

      Meanwhile I am struggling with deep theological questions such as: Is there wireless in heaven?

      Monday, December 21, 2009

      Donald McCaig on Pedigrees and Paranoia Politics

      Donald McCaig

      Donald McCaig is a working sheep dog man from Highland County, Virginia, a noted author of such New York Times best sellers as Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men and Nops Trials, and a true believer in working dogs who has fought tooth and nail to preserve Border Collies as a working breed.

      In an earlier post on this blog, I gave a long review of Dog Wars, which detailed the battles he and others fought against the American Kennel Club on behalf of the Border Collie.

      Donald has recently sent me two missives (gotta love email!) which he has posted on a Border Collie list-serv, and both are so good, I thought I would post them here.


      Letter One

      Dear Trainers,

      Forgive me if I don't answer Dan's jibes. God rest ye Merry Gentlemen. Although the BBC tried to reach me during the show's making - probably because of the Dog Wars - we never did connect and I had not seen the show until last night. A friend watching with me was so distressed he had to go home.

      I was in the UK a month or so after the show aired and before the show's full consequences had become apparent. The shock and dismay of ordinary Brits was palpable. Now I see why.

      Before its airing here, when I spoke with Patrick Burns (aka Terrierman) about the show, I told him I had read breeding books in the Kennel Club library, from the 1930's, that knew perfectly well the dangers of incestuous breeding (though none objected to the worse practice of breeding to a (highly mutable and exaggerated) conformation standard.

      "Patrick," I said, "We've known about this for years."

      "Yes," he said, "But for the first time ordinary citizens can SEE it."

      The KC, and in this country the AKC have, for years depended on an undeserved high reputation. Until the 90's, in this country at least, they were able to quell and/or marginalize dissent. I experienced first hand some of their attempts (which were more articulate than Dan's but boasted similar content). Until a few brave souls - Mark Derr was the first in this country - started exposing the Kennel Clubs, ordinary doggy folk like you and me were afraid of them. People whispered, "The AKC can put you out of dogs."

      Well, the climate has changed and the Internet has nourished dissent.

      I have some concerns about this expose.

      The Dog Fancy Mythos: The Kennel Clubs have produced a web of lies within which most decent, intelligent intensively-doggy people have spent their lives. Many on this list literally grew up inside the Kennel Clubs, have shown in conformation (some still do) and the structure of their doggy lives has been set by the KC's bizarre zoology, submission to ignorant authority and acceptance of dubious quasi-religious beliefs. It is unsurprising many don't rebel - indeed, it is surprising when some do.

      The glue that is holding the Dog Fancy together is no longer the claim that pedigreed dogs are somehow better, that AKC breeders are dog experts, that dog show judges are actually judging SOMETHING important. The glue is no longer respect for the AKC.

      It is PETA. Without a wildly exaggerated but very real terror of the power, influence and malevolence of Animal Rights adherents, the Dog Fancy would implode tomorrow.

      And if it did? If the KC and AKC were to become the remnant organizations they deserve to be? It's easy to picture a future when a few gray haired folk get together to reminisce about the good old days when they could cut off dogs' ears and tails because, by God they WANTED to. A future when dog showers are reduced to the status of today's dog fighters.

      Can it happen? In 1956 when I started smoking we called cigarettes "cancer sticks". We kids recited the doggerel: "Pell-Mell, Pell Mell/ the only thing worse than the taste is the smell/ Surely they'll kill you but they won't say when . . ."

      So, like Dog Fanciers we knew that our habits were built on lies but we had the tobacco companies resolutely, powerfully and litigaciously feeding us guff: "Eight out of ten doctors agree: smoke Camels" and that lie buttressed us enough to keep on puffing.

      Dog Fanciers, those who like Dan disagree with me, are intelligent, dog savvy, dog-dedicated individuals. And they lean on the same sort of reassurance-mantras we smokers needed.

      Until 1964 and the surgeon general's report. It took decades and determined litigation for the tobacco company's guff to collapse and when it did, the effects were unpredictable and powerful. Small tobacco farmers once could make a middle class living, magazines depended on cigarette advertising and smokers? They were and are treated like sick pariahs. Next time you're in the Atlanta airport, inspect the "Smoking Areas". Would you walk your dog through that?

      As you know, I despise the Kennel Clubs. But when citizens have been fed guff for a hundred sixty years and the guff is revealed as not merely eccentric silly guff (c.f. poodle show cuts), but guff that has caused pain to real dogs and real dog owners, they like to pick up the pitchforks (See tobacco).

      I'm not afraid of PETA or the animal rights movement. For the most part I think they are a distraction and the Dog Fancy's final, desperate demonization - "Yeah the AKC's no good but who else have we got to fight PETA".

      And I'm not afraid "they're coming to take our dogs". If Mao couldn't sever that ancient connection, PETA certainly can't.

      I am afraid of the fallout when the guff is exposed and derided and angry citizens pick up those pitchforks. I'm afraid that careful obedience, agility, sled dog and yes, sheepdog breeders, will be lumped in with the conformation breeders. I'm afraid our more dog savvy passions will be seen as "just like dog shows".

      It won't do us much good but we'll know who's to blame.

      Letter Two

      Dear Fellow Sheepdoggers,

      Twenty years ago the entire Border Collie community fought against AKC "recognition" (Aka "stalking"). Like many sheepdoggers I was unfamiliar with the Dog Fancy - the real humans whose dog activities occur entirely within the structures and belief systems of the Kennel Club (UK) and it's American (and slightly worse clone) the AKC.

      Under the "know your enemy" theory I studied these organizations and their origins and belief structures. I got to know AKC dissidents and had access to then unavailable AKC board minutes and AKC correspondence with breed clubs.

      It puzzled me. How could otherwise rational human beings believe such crap?

      Every time they were criticized, the AKC sent a letter to their important members. (Ordinary owners of AKC reg dogs were ignored).

      These letters answered criticism with three arguments:

      The Wizard of Oz argument: "We are the dog experts. Who knows dogs - or what's good for them - better than anyone."

      The Charlie Brown argument: "We just register dogs on little pieces of paper. We have no responsibility for them. Why is everybody always picking on me?"

      (You can see both arguments offered in "Pedigreed Dogs Exposed").

      A third argument is a native American product. I've never heard it in Britain. For brevity I'll call it the "Niemöller argument" Ms. Joy has been kind enough to reprint it in full.

      While the AKC registers lots of dogs, the vast majority of American dogs aren't registered, and most Americans are mildly contemptuous of dog shows (which are, at its core, what the AKC is about). Americans watch Westminster and giggle at it. I don't known if I've ever seen a major newspaper account of that show which wasn't accompanied by a photo of a ridiculous dog - esp a French poodle in show coat. I've never seen an account w/o a pun headline.

      That mockery hurts a Dog Fancier's feelings. Here they are: the Dog Experts that everybody is picking on and they they have the only correct and refined canines. So okay, the AKC treats them like petulant children. The AKC doesn't let them have a say in anything.

      But the AKC, like every other tyrant in history, will protect them and their dogs.

      Against who?

      Well, er . . . against anybody. How about Ingrid Newkirk. How about the HSUS. And anybody who criticizes anything the Dog Fancy does - whatever it does, is Ms Newkirk's dupe - a doggy pinko.

      Because they're coming to take our dogs.



      "But what about the 60 million American dogs and their owners."

      "Them too. After they've got all the "refined" dogs."

      "Oh. And why do you think this is true?"

      "Don't you see - it's just like dominoes. First they come for the socialists . . ."

      "I've never heard of that breed."

      "No, it's like Nazi Germany. 'First they came for the socialists.'"

      "But this isn't Nazi Germany. Dogs aren't socialists."

      "Never-you-mind: they're coming for our dogs!"

      The Niemoller argument (which is a pretty good argument for the ACLU) has become: "If you think the American Kennel Club is autocratic and unresponsive; if you think that show ring breeding has, over time caused immense pain to dogs and dog owners, if indeed, you think the AKC may, at one time, have made a mistake - just one - then you are among those conspiring to take away our show dogs, our working dogs, our fiest dogs, our sled dogs, our police dogs, our sleep-on-the-bed pet dogs, even the old fart dog I saw lounging in the offices of the US House Ag committee.

      If you criticize the Dog Fancy, you are anti-dog.

      Don McCaig shows a very sophisticated understanding of how the AKC and its parroting lackeys work on canine list-servs and bulletin boards.

      "Niemoller arguments" are actually "slippery slope" arguments.

      McCaig correctly notes that these arguments are often used by the ACLU to manipulate the left into saluting every extreme rights claim.

      It should also be said that they are used by those on the far right trying to rationalize the more extreme claims made by the National Rifle Association.

      The problem with the "slippery slope" argument is that it denies the rationality of people and ignores the fact that we carve steps into slippery slopes every day.

      Legalization of booze has not meant the legalization of heroin.

      Legalized abortion has not led to legalized infanticide.

      Legalized guns for self-defense and sport has not meant a push to carry loaded bazookas through airports.

      Regulation of cars and swimming pools has not led to a police state.

      Of course, everyone knows this.

      We all use stairs every day. No one is falling, uncontrolled, out the window or down the mountain.

      And yet, contrived crisis is manufactured at every turn.

      Paranoia politics is a staple of the American political system.

      What's that all about?

      The simple answer is that it's about social manipulation.

      One way to gain or retain political power, even in the face of obvious immorality, is to suggest a massive "evil" lurks just outside the campfire's light.

      And so Joe McCarthy clanged the alarm of communism, and George Bush said weapons of mass destruction were just over the hill.

      No one thought to notice that Russia could not even make soft toilet paper.

      No one bothered to point out that Al Queda's choice of weapons was box cutters, and that their leadership lived in caves and mud huts without running water or electricity. We are not fighting Lex Luthor!
      And so it is with PETA.

      This organization has no lobbying presence in Washington, D.C. and is little more than a press release factory.

      Like a Hollywood western town, it's one board thick with nothing but the desert behind it.

      But you would never know that to listen to the American Kennel Club or some of the professional hysterics in the online world.

      Consider this: Don and I both live in Virginia, where PETA is headquartered, and yet in this state we shoot more than 230,000 deer a year, as well as over 1,500 black bear. My name and address is in the phone book, and Don is not too hard to find either. Harassed by PETA? Ha! They are cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown. I have no fear of them, and neither does any dairy man, deer hunter, sheep man, or butcher.

      Here in Virginia, we trap red fox, gray fox, and bobcat, have two turkey seasons, and we blast away at duck and geese with abandon.

      We have a cash bounty on coyotes, and the state Constitution guarantees a right to hunt and fish.

      Dogs? The state dog of Virginia is the fox hound!

      PETA? Real power? Not so much.

      In fact, the only power PETA has is the power that the American Kennel Club and various fringe hook-and-bullet writers have given it.

      What's that all about?

      Simple: by fomenting a fake fear of the "Animal Rights lobby," the American Kennel Club and some right-wing hunters seek to turn attention away from genuinely immoral activities.

      This is "Wag the Dog" politics, where a contrived crisis is used to take our attention off of real immorality, such as breeding deformed, defective and diseased dogs or winking at "canned hunts" where former petting zoo animals are shot as they step out of a cage and into a 50-acre fenced enclosure.

      The bottom line is that the folks who pull the "Animal Rights" fire alarm at every turn are giving us all an IQ test.

      If we fall for it, then we have failed.

      And who have we failed?

      Not just ourselves. We have also failed the dogs.

      One of Don's dogs plays in the recent snow..

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      Sunday, December 20, 2009

      Murdering Thugs Cannot Catch a Break

      Never shoot a dog owned by the last surviving member of a Navy Seal team, especially when that dog is named after his four dead Seal Team mates.

      Just saying ...

      Happy Winter Solstice Eve!


      A Happy Winter Solstice Eve to all my Pagan friends.

      Below, are the lyrics to the Dar Williams tune "The Christians and the Pagans" (video above):
      _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

      Amber called her uncle, said "We're up here for the holiday
      Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay"
      And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree
      He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three
      He told his niece, "It's Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style"
      She said, "Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it's been awhile"

      So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
      Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
      And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
      Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

      The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch
      Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
      His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen
      And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian"
      "But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share
      And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere"

      So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
      Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
      And where does magic come from, I think magic's in the learning
      Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning

      When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother"
      Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father
      He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year
      He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here"
      He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve saying
      "Can I be a Pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave"

      So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
      Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
      Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
      Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold

      Saturday, December 19, 2009

      The Big Snow

      The snow is still coming down. I went out to bang some of the snow off a few bushes and the holly tree. While I was out, the dogs joined me, and I took a few quick pictures.

      Snow on the back patio furniture.

      Snow on the greenhouse. The small square is where I mount my camera trap for my yard fox pictures. They come right up to the house.

      A few of my bird feeders. This is just off to the side of the greenhouse.

      Mountain plows through the upper yard.

      The snow is actually taller than her back.

      Pearl plays in the snow.

      Trooper, the old man, still rules all. He is a bit slower, of course, and he does not bound through the snow. He trudges. Grudgingly. He would rather be asleep in his nice warm house, but if I come out, there is always a good chance there will be a few pieces of kibble to be had. Can't miss that!