Thursday, September 30, 2010

Excuse Me, We Are Not Extinct!

Gilbert's Potoroo

Over at Wired Science they are talking about extinction.   It seems a couple of University of Queensland scientists have more-or-less reposted what I wrote a few years back.  No doubt a case of parallel evolution!   As Wired Science notes: 

There may be many more “extinct” mammals waiting to be rediscovered than conservation biologists previously thought.

Categorizing a mammal species as extinct has rested upon two criteria: It has not been seen for more than 50 years, or an exhaustive search has come up empty. But “extinct” species occasionally turn up again, and some species have disappeared more than once. Australia’s desert rat kangaroo, for example, was rediscovered in 1931 after having gone missing for almost a century, only to disappear again in 1935 when invasive red foxes moved into the area of the remaining survivors.

In order to determine how often extinct species had been rediscovered, University of Queensland scientists Diana Fisher and Simon Blomberg created a dataset of 187 mammal species that have been reported extinct, extinct in the wild, or probably extinct since 1500, as well as those which have been rediscovered. They also looked at historical data on the threats that caused species to become extinct — or brought them close to it — including habitat loss, introduced species and overkill by humans.

It turns out that rumors of the extinction of over a third of these species have turned out to be premature, the scientists report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B September 29. At least 67 species — a little over a third of those presumed to be extinct — were later found again. And in most cases, these were animals that had been hardest hit by habitat loss. Humans and invasive species have been significantly more efficient killers; it’s rare that a species reported extinct due to one of these causes has been seen again.

“If you think that a missing species is extinct and the main cause of decline was introduced predators such as feral foxes, cats or rats, then you are very likely to be right,” Fisher said. But, she added, “If the main cause of decline was habitat loss, you are quite likely to be wrong if you say that it’s extinct, unless it was restricted to a very small area.”

Sound familiar?

In fact I wrote exactly the same thing back when I was director of the Population and Habitat program at the National Audubon Society.

An email memo I wrote in 2003 made it up as post on this blog in 2005 as "Thinking About Species Lost" and again in 2006 as "Condors and Species Lost".  As I noted at the time:

Here's the scoop: Over the course of the last 400 years, only about 820 species of vascular plants and vertebrate animals are listed as having gone extinct by the IUCN Red List. In addition, the IUCN reports several species being "rediscovered" every year after having previously listed them as "lost...

The death of any species is important, but I also want to know the circumstances of the decline or extinction. I consider the loss of the Passenger Pigeon and the Eskimo Curlew (there were once millions of these birds flying over vast areas of this continent) a much more significant tale than the loss of a species of flightless rail on a small island in the Pacific. One extinction signals the total loss of a once very common species that was successful over a very large area. The other signals the total loss of a very rare species that was NOT successful over a very large area. There are very different lessons to be learned from these very different stories.

Most people are surprised to learn that most extinctions are of the latter type (fairly unsuccessful species in very isolated locations) and not the former (fairly successful species in fairly common locations). They are further amazed to discover that habitat loss is a much rarer cause of species extinction than the introduction of rats, cats, goats and pigs -- or of indiscriminate hunting. If you go through the IUCN Redlist of extinct species, for example, you find zeros for most countries (no known endemic species pushed into extinction), but incredible numbers of extinctions for such tiny islands as Mauritius (41 extinct species), RĂ©union (16 extinct species), Saint Helena (29 extinct species), French Polynesia (67 extinct species), and the Cook Islands (15 extinct species). In fact, these little spots of land, along with Hawaii, account for about 200 of the 812 species pushed into extinction over the course of the last 400 years.

In a 2007 post entitled "Are There More Species Now than Ever Before?," I wrote:

Every year about as many previously "extinct" species are "found" and crossed off the list as are added to the list.

Recent examples include the pale-headed brush-finch, the coontail plant, the Uinta Mountain snail, the Golden-crowned manakin, the Ventura Marsh Milkvetch, the San Fernando Valley Spineflower, the Los Angeles Sunflower, the Bavarian Pine Vole, and Gilbert's Potoroo.

The IUCN notes that "In the last 500 years, human activity has forced 816 species to extinction," yet the IUCN also make regular announcements about formerly "extinct" species being refound.

The question of what to do with animal and plant species that are "created" or "recreated" also muddies the water somewhat. Selective breeding is bringing back the extinct Burchell's zebra and Quagga, for example, while hybridization is occurring so often between plant and animal species that species creation of some kind is clearly occurring at a very rapid rate.

If we are willing to declare the Asian lion a separate species teetering on the edge of extinction even though "the [genetic and visual] difference is less than that found between different human racial groups," why not count the fertile progeny of lion and tiger crosses as a new species as well (ligers and tigons)?

Bird and plant crosses are so frequent that they are almost impossible to list and document.

So are we losing species or gaining? Can it be said -- straight-faced -- that there are now more species than ever before?

Of course, talking about the true nature of species loss is not designed to make you popular in the world of direct-mail nonprofits! 

After my email memo on species loss went out, the Legislative Director at Audubon called me in and said another Big Green nonprofit group was in the process of putting out a massive direct mail piece claiming Pronghorn Antelope were almost extinct!   

The instructions were clear:  Shut up about the science!  Never mind the fact that this was a subspecies whose "pure genetic stock" had been compromised by imports more than 50 years earlier.  Never mind the fact that more than a million Pronghorn were still gamboling around in Wyoming alone.  Shut up!   If we have to salute bad science and myth in order to keep the direct mail returns up at another Green Group, then by God, that is what we we will do.

Message received!

Gilbert's Potoroo today.

Rebuilding a Hedgerow Sette

Rebuilding a hedgerow sette is one of those things you should be doing.

Sette reconstruction is not terribly difficult -- it's simply a matter of getting sticks and downed branches and jambing them crossways in the hole.

A few sticks are not really going to do it -- the dirt will simply fall through the gaps. As best you can, you need to make a real roof across the hole, using logs, grass, sheet of barks, old plastic feed sacks pulled from the den, and pretty much anything else you can find at hand.

Rebuilding a field sette is NOT something the farmer is going to want you to do, which is just as well since you will have no sticks at hand. Just fill in the hole, and try to put a plug or two of sod back on top. If you are short on dirt, due to the infill falling into the tube, simple take away some of the dirt pile at the entrance to the pipe.

After the dirt is shoveled on top of the stick roof, take a few minutes to "landscaped" with leaves, more twigs, bark, branches, multiflora rose, and whatever else you can find to make the hedge look "natural" again. If you do a decent job of repairing your settes, the hedge will remain active longer, and the area will look fine when you pass by again in a few weeks. It's a bit like camping -- the goal is to make it look as if no one had ever been there.

Today is Blasphemy Day

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It Takes More than a Village

Some smart friends were in a small squabble about a mutual enterprise, and I stepped in to write a short note encouraging all to think larger about the project and bit smaller about self.

To try to illuminate that end, I explained how the great Cathedrals of Europe were built:

A Cathedral is not built in a day, a season, a year, or even a lifetime.

It may be 200 years between cornerstone and capstone.

How do you get a people to contribute to this Great Thing that they will never live to see completed?

And the answer is that you paint a mighty picture in words.

You tell the people you want to build a mighty monument to God.

You want to build this thing that will last forever and that will inspire the heathen and give comfort to the afraid and the afflicted.

And you have a plan.

And you unroll the plan.

It is breath-taking.

It is ambitious.

And it is all possible, you note, if every person will do his or her part.

Brother, Sister.... I am not asking you to build a Cathedral.

No man and no woman alone can do that.

I am asking you to buy this one stone.”

And with that, a small  ::x::  is drawn on a single small block on the plan.

It is that man or woman’s block.  

They can see the plan and see how their stone fits within the plan. 

It is an expensive stone, for even a small stone is expensive.

It will take sacrifice but...  upon reflection... the peasant thinks he or she can do this one thing..... this important thing.... for the greater glory of God.

I told my friends this story, but it is not an apocryphal tale.

In fact, at lunch today, I walked down to the Washington Monument, which was also built in a similar fashion, one-pledged stone at a time.

If you go to the National Park Service web site, you can see pictures of what the inside of the Washington Monument looks like. Smooth as a baby's bottom on the outside, the inside is studded with inscriptions and plaques noting that this row of base stones was given by the American Medical Association, and another by the state of Pennsylvania, the people of Turkey, or the Masons.

Stones were given by the "Sons of Temperance" the "Independent Order of Odd Fellows," the "American Whig Society," "Invincible Fire Company #5," the "Columbia Typographical Society," and the "Cliosophic Society of New Jersey."

Below, for those who are interested in the history of direct mail and pamphlets, is the actual fundraising tract which raised the funds to built the Washington Monument, one stone at a time.

The fundraising appeal for the Washington Monument.


Superstition and Snake Oil

PK writes to ask me about flu shots:

I wanted to know whether you are getting the flu shot this year or not. I'm reading so much conflicting information. CDC says everyone needs it while Dr. Mercola says it contains dangerous additives. I couldn't find anything in your Daily Dose so I decided to ask you directly.

Well to start, I should say I am not a doctor, but on the upside I am also not a quack who is being sent "desist" letters by the Food and Drug Administration either. More on that in a minute....

What I am is a demographer and population scientist who spends a lot of time now reading and writing about U.S. health care and white collar crime.

And so I wade in:

Get the flu shot.

Flu shots, like most vaccines are grown on chicken eggs, and the "dangerous additive" stuff is nonsense. In fact the additives are preservatives, and an egg sandwich is more dangerous (and yes, I am quite serious about that).

Most of this fear mongering is done by people who have no knowledge of statistics or epidemiology.

Here's the short story:    if 80 million people touch their nose at about the same time, you can expect 12 of them to have a heart attack within 10 minutes. This will happen EVERY TIME. And you know why? Because every year, in a population of 80 million people, at least a million people will have a heart attack. That means there are 2,739 heart attacks a day, or 114 an hour, or about 19 every 10 minutes. So 12 heart attacks within a few minutes of touching your nose? You missed a couple! But did touching your nose cause a heart attack? Nope. Not a chance.

This is the kind of stuff that happens with vaccine reactions, and it's this kind of confusion that is the basis of most superstition ("a black cat walked in front of me while I was on a ladder and fell, so black cats must cause ladders to fall.")

Joe Mercola is simply a general practice doctor who wrote two fad books that did well in the stores, and his niche is in "alternative medicine" which is a nice way of saying he sells "second- best results and unsubstantiated claims."

I am not knocking Mercola gratuitously, only saying that he borders on quackery to the point that he has been dinged in warning letters by the FDA twice. He sells his publications largely through hype and fear and the suggestion that there is "secret" information out there that only he has the inside skinny on. Mostly, it's hooey.

I loathe pharmacy companies, hate being ripped off, and I am a general skeptic. But are vaccine makers trying to poison us? No. Is pasteurized milk dangerous? Are you kidding? I grew up in countries where UN-pasteurized milk killed you!

As Business Week has noted, Mercola is simply a modern version of a snake-oil salesmen, and in this regard is no improvement over the very worst that Big Pharma and Big Medicine have to offer.

Caveat emptor

And get the flu shot.


Brilliantly funny.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Coffee and Provocation

The Billions of Bugs Above


How Long is an Outrun?

At a sheepdog trial, how far is an outrun?   

Far enough that you can barely see the sheep, and you will lose the dog several times as it makes the run if you are not paying attention.   That said, each trial is different. 

At the 2010 National Finals trial held here in Virginia, the outrun was short for an American national trial -- 450 yards.  When the Americans hold trials out west, I am told the outrun can be 650 yards or longer.  Mark Billaudeau informs me that the outrun at the Edgeworth Farm Sheepdog trial in Gordonsville, VA two weeks from now, has a 600 yard outrun -- ''Long enough that there is a delay between when the whistle is given and the dog responds."  Nice.

Oddly enough, while the length of the outrun is the most impressive-looking part of a trial, it does not seem to be the hardest. 

Sheepherding is a bit like golf -- the long drives are the dramatic part, but the game is won or lost on the green or, in the case of sheepdog trial, at the shed and pen.

For the record, I looked up the outrun lengths for the Scottish National Trial and the Welsh National Trial.  In 2008 (the most recent year I could find data for), they were 400 yards and 300 yards respectively.

Bonus Video:  East meets west, and then it all devolves into gibberish. Watch to the end.  Fun!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Segway to Heaven

From The Independent comes this lush morsel:

Millionaire businessman killed in 'Segway accident'

A millionaire businessman whose company builds and markets the Segway upright scooter died when he apparently rode one of his machines over a cliff and into a river, it was disclosed today.

West Yorkshire Police said Jimi Heselden, 62, was found in the River Wharfe, at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, yesterday morning, and died at the scene.

It appeared Mr Heselden had driven over a cliff into the river.

It is understood a Segway was found nearby.

I guess that's the way he rolled.

Deformity and Defect as Sales Opportunity

A pet insurance company I have never heard of, called Trupanion, and billing itself as "North America’s fastest growing pet insurance company" has "released the top five most expensive dog breeds, based on pet insurance claims submitted by Trupanion policyholders since August 12, 2000."

The top five most expensive dog breeds, according to Trupanion:
  1. English Bulldog – This breed is prone to cherry eye, brachycephalic syndrome, elongated soft palate, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and stenotic nares. The total amount spent on this breed was $1,152,947.32, with 84% related to illnesses and 16% related to accidents. The average claim amount is $370.57.
  2. Bernese Mountain Dog – This breed is prone to cataracts, elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, and mast cell tumors. The total amount spent on this breed was $553,660.57, with 76% associated with illnesses and 24% associated with accidents. The average claim amount is $412.85.
  3. Rottweiler – Health conditions associated with this breed are allergies, elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, and hypothyroidism. Trupanion policyholders have spent $532,261.93 on this breed, 63% for illnesses and 37% for accidents. The average claim amount is $567.53.
  4. Great Dane – Common health issues for this breed are cardiomyopathy, elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, and hip dysplasia. The total amount spent on this breed was $462,204.97, with 77% associated with illnesses and 23% associated with accidents. The average claim amount is $385.49.
  5. French Bulldog – This breed is prone to allergies, brachycephalic syndrome, hip dysplasia, and stenotic nares. According to Trupanion databases, policyholders have spent $384,325.78 on this breed, with 87% associated with illnesses and 13% associated with accidents. The average claim amount is $355.63.
The press release goes on, with Howard Rubin, Chief Operating Officer at Trupanion saying:  "We encourage everyone to enroll their pets early to ensure that expensive veterinary costs are covered.”


Any admonition to stay away from deformed, defective and diseased kennel club breeds alltogether?

Nope.  A deadly silence there.

Got it.  Thanks for sharing!

You Should Have Used the Google

Google is twelve years old today. 

A while back I wrote a piece on this blog entitled Diamonds and Dogs:

One of the powerful forces shaping the world of dogs has been the Internet. With the rise of online communication, the word has gotten out that breed after breed of Kennel Club is statistically less healthy than a shelter dog.

The diseases, defects and deformities change from breed to breed, of course, but almost all the Kennel Club dogs now seem to be struggling under a horrific genetic load: jaw-dropping rates of cancer, juvenile cataracts, liver disease, hip dysplasia, deafness, endocrine issues, blood problems ... the list goes on and on.

Who wants to be part of that? No one!

In the February issue of Dogs Today, I wrote:

In the late 1990s... something came along that changed everything: the Internet.

It is hard to overstate the impact of the Internet. Suffice it to say that in our own lifetimes, we will see the end of books, newspapers and magazines as we have known them. The era of film cameras, video tape and recorded disks is already past. Many young people today have yet to lick their first stamp, such is the ubiquitous nature of email, voice mail and text messaging in this modern world.

What does this mean for the world of dogs?

Quite a lot.

The Internet, you see, has democratized information and mass communication.

Today, anyone with a computer can read Darwin's notes about canine evolution, research the origins of the Kennel Club, and locate health surveys and veterinary insurance records which illuminate the current and rising crisis in canine health around the world.

Of course, the thing that has not changed is that people are lazy. 

And so we still get owners buying working dogs from show dog breeders when all they really wanted was a pet.

We still get people buying puppies, because they don't really want a dog.

We still have people not asking for hip scores, not doing coeffcients of inbreeding, and not looking at previous progeny from earlier matings.

We sill have people not asking for test results for the most common health problems in "their" breed.

And, we still have sick, deformed, diseased, and defective dogs as a consequence.

Is there any excuse? 

Not really.

Do just ten Google searches to find health information on any common breed, and you will probably find all you need to know.

But people are willful and lazy. 

They want a dog that looks like the one in the picture book, and they want it NOW, and they do not want to drive far, and they do not want to be the kind of person who asks tough questions and walks away when given weak answers.

And so bad Kennel Club dog breeders still survive as a kind of intelligence test. 

But something new will arise. I do not know when, but I have no doubt it will. As I wrote in Dogs Today:

In the age of the Internet, creating a new national registry of dogs is no longer a daunting task. If the Kennel Club will not stand for dogs that are healthier and more able than those found down at the local pound, then someone else surely will.

While it took the Kennel Club 130 years and hundreds of millions of pounds to build their current registry, it might take a young Internet-savvy entrepreneur only a few weeks and perhaps 100,000 pounds to build the backbone of a parallel Internet-based registration system that pairs modern email outreach with a dynamic web site, a powerful online date base, and a system of real veterinary-based health checks coupled to product-based discounts on pet food, pet insurance, and veterinary care.

Unlike the Kennel Club, this new registry would have no historical baggage to tote, and would not have to pay homage to petulant prigs and screaming matrons hell-bent on holding on to defective standards and misguided Victorian-era theories.

One thing is for certain: at this point in the game, the Kennel Club cannot afford to dally and play footsie with incrementalism.

The 21st Century will no longer wait for the 19th Century to catch up.

We Can Have Better Dogs with Better Lives

I believe we can have better dogs with better lives.

I believe we need something different.

The old way is clearly in collapse.

Here in the United States, AKC registrations have plunged 60 percent since 1995.

In Canada, the Kennel Club continues to teeter on the edge of insolvency.

I do not know how we will get to this new place with better dogs with better lives.

But I know why we will get there, and we must get there, and to do that we must put dogs first.

Not profit.

Not fundraising. 

Not registry.

Not philosophy.

Not ribbons.

Not owners.

Not ego.


Of course, it's all crazy talk until someone starts something new and others follow.

But do I think the time is NOW?

Yes I do.

The time is now to put dogs first, because the dogs deserve better than what we have done so far.

There is a void.  It is only a matter of time before it is filled.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Four Legs, Not Two

Had  a great day at the National Sheepdog finals. 

I took Gideon, who met a few Border Collies (he liked them), and I re-fought the Civil War with Don McCaig (he won). 

I met Heather Houlihan of the Raised by Wolves blog in person, along with her charming little-man English Shepherd, Cole, a happy and much loved survivor from the Great Montana English Shepherd Rescue of a few years back. 

I also ran into Mark Billadeau whose Pipe Dream Farm I once hunted (my memory being what it is, I at first wondered if I knew him from the Lindsay Lohan Rehab or the Eastern State Laughing Academy). 

Mark's got 10 or 11 Border Collies and a Maremma guard dog to keep coyotes off of his woollies, and the Maremma is apparently knocking off quite a few groundhogs too.  Excellent!

The sheep and the dogs at the trial were spectacular.  This was the last day of the finals, which is to say only the best of the best were left. 

The dogs had to do a very long outrun to the upper left, lift 10 sheep, and drive them down to a center gate area. 

Then the dogs had to do another long outrun to the upper right, lift another 10 sheep, and drive them down to the same area. 

Of course, by then the first 10 sheep had broken hard to the left, going off-course, and now the dog had to gather the two groups together, and then drive them, as a group, through two gates before getting them to a shedding ring, where the dog had to split the 15 uncollared sheep from the five collared sheep that had be driven into a pen, with the gate closed firmly behind them.  A hard day's work, and all of it done on a clock.

The nice part here, as in hunting with terriers, is that there is no "judging up the leash," as there is no leash.   The sheep are the final judge.   Theory hits the floor pretty fast in a Virginia pasture!

The dogs are roughly-guided free-thinkers for most of the outurn, lift, and drive.  The human enters into tight formation with the dog at the gates, and by the time they get to the shedding ring, it's a very tight partnership of pressure that is given, and released, by human and dog alike.

The dogs put on the pressure, and then release it to let the sheep re-sort within the flock.  When there are a sufficient number of the uncollared sheep together, the dog searches for the smallest natural crack to develop in the flock, and then, with a bit more pressure (perhaps a bit of it provided by the human on one side of the flock), the unwanted sheep split off and are allowed to leave the shedding ring.  

Antwerp diamond-cutters could learn a few things from these dogs!

Of course, as in any sensibly-run business, it's all about the work, and so there's a great deal of diversity in looks.   

Yes, there are lots of very traditional-looking black-and-white Border Collies, but there are Slicks too, and a few merle and brown dogs, and a lot of variation in size. 

One dog I saw was enormous -- 70 pounds if an ounce, while a few of the smaller bitches might have tallied at 35 pounds.

It is this diversity in form that the Kennel Club rails against, and so they have produced a "standard" for a "Barbie Collie" with the idea that, like a Barbie-doll, the dog should be injection-molded, and put in a nice box with promising packaging (Career Barbie Now Comes With Hair Extensions!).

But what is the standard for a working sheep dog?  Not so very different from that of the working terrier.
  • Legs?  Prefer four
  • Eyes?  Prefer two, but may be willing to negotiate.
  • Tail?  It would be nice, but we are not finicky.
  • Nose?  Definitely a nice feature.  Prefer on the front of the muzzle.
  • Coat Color?  Any color.  It's a come-as-you-are party.
  • Brains?  Yes, please.
  • Grit and drive?  Of course.

And that's it.   

After that, "the standard" is found in the field, and it's found in the work, and the judge has four legs, not two.   

Four legs not two.

The Kennel Club folks do not even know what that means.

Where I Will Be Today

Last Day of National Finals is Today
Belle Grove Plantation,
336 Belle Grove Road
Middletown, Virginia 22645

An MRI of a Python Digesting a Rat

I am the National Sheepdog Trial today, watching some of the smartest dogs and best dog handlers in the world, but I leave you with this picture to mull over with your coffee:

Using a combination of computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists Kasper Hansen and Henrik Lauridsen of Aarhus University in Denmark were able to visualize the entire internal organ structures and vascular systems (aka "guts") of a Burmese Python digesting a rat.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How Much Is That Dachshund in the Window?

This working dachshund is a rescue with a fine nose and a booming voice.

I like Dachshunds, but they are not the dog for everyone.  

Too many people forget that these dogs started off as small, turbo-charged working dogs designed to go down holes and face off against Badger (aka "the dachs").

Today most Dachshunds are pretty far from their working roots, but the genetic code for prey drive does not always wash out neat and easy.

When genetic prey drive is mixed in with unsupervised children, ignorant owners, and the natural fear of a small dog overwhelmed by much larger people careening around it, you get what you have with Dachshunds:  the breed of dog MOST likely to bite a human.

Is a Dachshund bite likely to be fatal? 

No, of course, not. 

That said, it is sure to be painful, and in a small child it might also be disfiguring.

Jack Russell Terrier owners go out of their way to warn people off of their breedThis is a hunting dog, they let the world know. 

Dachshund owners?  Not so much.  

And so, time and time again, Dachshunds are acquired by people who are "totally surprised" to learn their "little wiener dog" is a very loud barker and perhaps a biter to boot.

Dachshunds come in three sizes, three coat types (smooth, long and wire) and a variety of colors.

  • Standard Dachshunds tend to be oversized and poorly bred in the U.S. and in the U.K.  Under Germany's FCI rules, however, a standard Teckel or working Dachshund is supposed to have a chest measurement of 35 cm, or 13.78 inches. This is about the same size as the chest span of the average red fox.
  • Miniature Dachshund or Teckels are supposed to have a chest circumference of 30 to 35 cm when measured at the age of 15 months or older. This smaller chest allows the dog to follow even a very small vixen to ground in a very tight earth.
  • Rabbit Teckels are rare in the U.S., but in Germany this size is supposed to have chest circumference of up to 30 cm measured when at least 15 months old.   As the name suggests, these dogs are sometimes used for rabbiting, and many have chests as small as 10 inches around.

How about health?

Dachshunds tend to live fairly long lives, but not so long as their analogs in the working terrier world, such as Jack Russells, Borders, and non-Kennel Club Patterdale and Fell terriers.

The main reason Dachshunds tend to die 2-3 years younger than their terrier counterparts is that Dachshunds are more likely to be plagued with congenital and acquired joint and spine problems -- the kind of thing you should expect to find in an achondroplastic (dwarf) breed with an unnaturally long  back.

As Embrace Pet Insurance notes,
The most common health issues in the breed are back problems. Conditions severe enough for hind-end paralysis are so common that Dachshunds are one of the breeds most likely to spend part of their lives in “canine wheelchairs”: wheeled carts that support the rear of the dogs.

Because of their long, low-slung spines, normal canine behavior like jumping off the sofa may result in a slipped, pinched, herniated or ruptured disc. Dogs can be injured even in relatively mild play, and will sometimes show defensive or apparently aggressive behavior at other dogs – or children – who are nearby. In fact, a study done at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the Ohio State University approximated that Dachshunds are 57 times more likely to suffer from a herniated intervertebral disc than all other breeds.

Data from Embrace Pet Insurance is incomplete
, and does not seem to cover spinal surgeries.   What data they do present, however, suggests that owning a Dachshund comes with a high chance of having a multi-thousand dollar veterinary bill presented to you some time in the future.

So how do you feel about Dachshunds now?

Web Cast of 2010 National Sheepdog Finals

THE 2010 NATIONAL SHEEPDOG FINALS, held this year in VIRGINIA about an hour from my home, will be broadcasting the last two days of the competition over the Internet via a streaming video. All the info you need is at the following link: >>

The video, above, from the 2009 National Sheepdog Finals in Oregon, is an introduction to Sheepdog Trialing 101.


Best Coat Ever

L.L. Bean Cotton-lined field coat. They wear well, the price is right ($90) and the style is subtantially unchanged for the least 86 years:

Originally designed for hunting, it's built to withstand the briars and branches of the thick Maine woods. Made of best-grade two-ply 10 oz. cotton canvas, washed to feel broken-in and treated to repel moisture and stains.

Underarm gussets and bi-swing shoulders let you move and reach with ease. Sewn-in lining: cotton in body, nylon in sleeves. Five pockets with enough room to carry a day's essentials. Collar and cuffs are 100% cotton 16-whale corduroy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Holistic Dog Food and Homeopathic Vets

If you buy dog food labeled "natural", "premium", "ultra premium", "human-grade", or "holistic" I have a product for you.

Miracle Water.

And yes it works.

I promise.    I'm from the Internets, and would I lie to you?

If you go to a veterinarian or doctor that advertises themselves as "homeopathic" or one that practices "herbology," or touts themselves as being "holistic," then I have a doctor just for you.

He offers all kinds of cool stuff, including Miracle Hip Replacement Surgery.

And yes it works.

I promise.  I'm from the Internets, and would I lie to you?

And JUST REMEMBER, if Eddie Fischer had followed my advice just three days ago, he would still be alive


P.S.:   Are you tired of people calling you gullible?  Did you know that gullible is not even in the dictionary?
.  .

The Internet Will Not Kill Us All

Despite what you have heard, and others have suggested, the Internet will not kill us all. 

Instead, it creates increased connectivity, which is the true engine of innovation and ingenuity -- the thing that will SAVE us all.

Watch this 4-minute video in which Steven Johnson goes over the natural history of innovation and explores where good ideas come from.

Did you see he mentions the World Wide Web and Tim Berners-Lee?  Well, guess what?  Tim Berners-Lee did not invent the Internet.  Government did.  Tim Berners-Lee simply suggested adding hyper text to an Internet system that already existed -- and he did it while employed by "the government" at CERN in Switzerland.  

Yes, that's right, government funding created the Internet.


Government funding kept people like Vinton Cerf (who invented both the IP and TCP), and a few dozen others (like Tim Berners-Lee) in food and shelter while they did Great Things That Changed the World. 

And yeah, Al Gore was there pushing it all along.  It's all explained here.   But why take their word for it, when Vinton Cerf and Bob Kuhn themselves will tell you how it went?

Did you see Steven Johnson mentions coffee houses? 

Yes, that's right.  Coffee is the fountain head of all great things, including the World Wide Web (circa 1600) and increased intellectual activity and productivity.   To read more about this (and a little bit more) see an earlier post on this blog entitled Coffee, Birds & the World Bank.

And what of the larger message that Steven Johnson is illuminating here -- that connectivity drives intellect and innovation?

The first person to point this out was the Marquis de Condorcet, who is probably the most important person you have never heard of (though Norman Borlaugh is right up there too). 

To read more about the Marquis de Condorcet, see this link on The Root of the Oldest and Most Important Debate in the World.

That is all for now, as it's 3:30 in the morning.  

Yes, coffee will do that to you too


Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Much is That Bulldog in the Window?

Back in 2006, I wrote of the English Bulldog:

The famed English Bulldog... is mostly Chinese pug -- a show ring creation with legs so deformed it can barely walk, a jaw so undershot it cannot grab a Frisbee, and with a face so bracycephalic it cannot breathe. Add to these problems a deformed intestinal system (a by-product of achondroplasia or dwarfism) which makes the dog constantly fart, and a pig tail prone to infection, and you have a dog that considers its own death a blessed relief.

I have not changed my opinion, but you do not have to listen to me to hear about the congenital defects inherent to the breed.

Listen to what a top AKC show breeder told ABC television's Nightline program in April of 2009:

Why should anyone care that English Bulldogs are genetic and conformation wrecks?

Well for one, because this dog is a Top Ten AKC breed, along with the Golden Retriever, whose health care costs I have previously described.

We are talking about scores of thousands of dogs that will spend a lifetime in misery, struggling for breath even as they sleep.

And this struggle is not some sort of accident or an unintended genetic aberration.

This is perpetual torture by design, and it is common to one of the most abundant dogs to be found in the American Kennel Club.

Then there is the expense of taking care of these dogs. As with Golden Retrievers, the financial costs can be jaw-dropping.

Consider some of the common health care expenses that Embrace Pet Insurance has documented with this breed:

Embrace Pet Insurance pulls no punches in their description of the health of English Bulldogs:

The Bulldog may be perfect in spirit, but in the flesh is a different story. These dogs are intolerant of warm weather, and may die if over-heated. Too much exercise or stress can make it difficult for them to breath. Without exception, Bulldogs must live indoors, and need air conditioning in all but the mildest summer weather.

More than 90 percent of all Bulldogs are born by C-section. Because breeding them is expensive, the puppies are, too. Love is an expensive proposition when you own a Bulldog....

...Bulldogs' hips and spines are often malformed, as are their mouths. They suffer from a long list of respiratory ailments. Their many wrinkles and folds, and tightly curled tails, mean lots of skin infections. Cherry eye, inverted eyelids, cataracts and dry eye are just a few of the eye abnormalities that can affect the Bulldog.

...Many conditions have no screening tests, even though they're known or believed to be genetic. These include seizure disorders, allergies and skin problems, several kinds of bladder stone, a long list of airway defects, birth defects, infertility and cancer, and more. Bulldogs are also at high risk for "bloat and torsion," where the stomach twists on itself, trapping air inside, and requiring immediate emergency surgery.

Of course, more could be said.

Embrace Pet Insurance mentions the high cost of Cesarean births, but they do not mention the rape racks that are used in mating because this dog is so deformed and defective that it can only rarely breed on its own.

Do you still want an English Bulldog?

So you still think they are "oh so cute?"

Are you still reading all-breed books that leave all the important information out?

James Tayor Walks Down a Stream With His Dog

This song, Copperline, is about a stream in James Taylor's home town of Carrboro, North Carolina where he spent his youth and which will, forever, be Carolina in My Mind.

In this song, Taylor sings about walking down Morgan Creek, with his beloved childhood dog, Hercules.

The creek, which ran just below Taylor's house, was locally nick-named "The Copperline."

Even the old folks never knew
Why they call it like they do
I was wondering since the age of two
Down on Copperline

Copper head, copper beech
Copper kettles sitting side by each
Copper coil, cup o' Georgia peach
Down on Copperline

Half a mile down to Morgan Creek
Leaning heavy on the end of the week
Hercules and a hog-nosed snake
Down on Copperline
We were down on Copperline

Walking streams with your dog is a universal human experience -- at least it is for young men who later go on to hunt and fish as adults.

There is something about dogs and man in nature that is absolutely primeval. As I write in the introduction to American Working Terriers:

What’s is it about dogs?

There is no simple answer to such a simple question. Instead there are as many answers as there are people.

For most, a dog is simply a happy greeter at the door that never asks too many questions. For this alone people spend enormous sums on food and veterinary care, forgiving stains on rugs and holes in gardens, hair on the couch and strange smells in the den.

For other people dogs are other things.

Some show ring enthusiasts love the competition, while others value the friendships that develop at ringside.

Agility and fly ball competitors love the speed of their sport, the cleverness of their dogs, and the challenge of cross-species communication and instruction.

For those of us with hunting dogs, the joy is going into field and forest with a companion that offers an entirely new way of looking at the world. For many it is a return to childhood, when we saw nature at a smaller level as we turned over rocks looking for fishing worms, or caught frogs and turtles by the pond, or climbed trees to steal a peak at a nest of doves.

Dogs give us an excuse to venture back into thickets again, to jump from rock to rock down a stream, and to poke about in fields.

The process of hunting forces those of us that rush too fast through life to slow down and pay attention to detail. If we are going to get any good, we have to learn about wildlife and the land. We have to give the dog experience and gain some ourselves.

As dog and owner progress, they begin to work as a team and a kind of trust develops. The dog is seeing the world through the human’s eyes, and the human is seeing the world through the dog’s eyes. Both are looking at the world through a new set of glasses.

There is an epilogue here.

James Taylor revisited his childhood home just before writing this song, and so the song sadly ends with this refrain:

I tried to go back, as if I could
All spec houses and plywood
Tore up and tore up good
Down on Copperline

Isn't it that way all over?

I remember the first time I went hunting with Larry Morrison, he pointed to subdivisions, houses and strip stores where he used to hunt.

"Bolted a fox off that hill before the houses" he would say, pointing to a big set of boxes with plastic siding.

"Used to take a lot of 'chucks in that pasture before it became a parking lot," he would say as we pulled past a mini-mall.

I have asked the question before, and I will ask it again now: When will we draw a line?

We can't continue to grow on like this. Too many people is a threat to what we love. It's about numbers .

Will America fall apart at 400 million, or 500 million or even one billion people?

No, it will survive. It just will not be the America I love today.

If you hunt, you will have to drive farther, and perhaps pay to hunt in a for-profit shooting preserve (some do that now).

As we pave over paradise and put up parking lots, surface water will flow fast and dirty into our rivers and creeks. Cars will become more efficient, but population growth will consume the oil savings, and we will be more dependent on foreign oil than ever before.

More and more creeks will run in culverts, and fewer and fewer children will play in them. Silt from construction sites will clog rivers and streams, and no one you know will have ever caught a five-pound bass or a three-pound trout. You will no longer be allowed to walk down White Oak Canyon in the Shenandoah National Park unless you first bought a ticket at Ticketron.

And, of course, fewer and fewer kids will be walking down "the Copperline".

Kids remove old tires from Morgan Creek, "the Copperline.".

That What's We Do to Parrots

A Very Old Joke:

Have you heard about the man who owned a parrot that swore like a sailor?

This parrot was so terrible, it could swear for five minutes straight without repeating itself. One day the man finally got tired of this parrot's horrible speech, and decided to do something about it.

He grabbed the parrot by the throat, shaked it really hard, and yelled, "QUIT IT!" every time the parrot said something ungodly. But this just made the parrot mad, and it swore more than ever.

Next the man tried locking the bird in a kitchen cabinet. This really aggravated the parrot, and it clawed and scratched furiously until the man finally let him out (upon which the bird released it's fury in a torrent of language so horrible it could never be repeated).

At that point, the man was so frustrated that he threw the parrot into the freezer. For the first few seconds the parrot made a terrible amount of noise in protest to this treatment, kicking, clawing, and thrashing about. But after a few moments it suddenly went very quiet.

As the silence grew longer the man started to think that the parrot may be hurt. After a couple minutes of silence, he became so worried that he opened up the freezer door.

The parrot calmly climbed onto the man's outstretched arm and said, "Awfully sorry about the trouble I gave you. I'll do my best to improve my vocabulary from now on."

Of course, the man was astounded. He could not understand the transformation that had come over his unruly parrot.

Then the parrot asked, "By the way, what did the chicken do?"

The moral of this story: That's what we do to Parrots, anonymous cowards, time wasters, trolls, zombies, and instant-experts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Some Sick Stuff

People are stupid.

You no doubt have your own evidence, but here's mine this morning: a pure poppy cock paper now made into an Internet post whose message is: If your dog is sick, it's not because you are inbreeding crap, untested, nonworking dogs in a closed registry and without any health testing, but because you vaccinated your dog.


How many dogs are we going to kill with this patent nonsense?

  • Is 1,000 too few?
  • Is 500,000 too many?

Does anyone reading this stuff claim to actually understand it?


If they do, they are liars. And you know why? Because it is in fact, pure gibberish!

This is a monkey typing -- a dictionary of science terms tossed into a Cuisinart on "high blend."

Footnotes? Sources? "We don' need no stinkin' footnotes or sources."

I am sorry, but herbology is BULLSHIT. So are crystals, feng shui, aromatherapy, homeopathy and the like.

Do not read "science" written by someone who believes in feng shui, aromatherapy, homeopathy, herbology or a laying on of hands.

But hell, I cannot say it better than Billy Connolly can I?

No I cannot.

Now here's a clue: there are actually scientists who work on vaccines and immunology and they are not posting their stuff on some place called "The Dog Place."

Gimme a break!

And please do not kid yourself that this nonsense does not kill.

It does kill.

It is killing children in America right now.

Yes, stupidity and nonsense DOES have a toll.

State health officials reported Thursday that California is on track to break a 55-year record for whooping cough infections in an epidemic that has already claimed the lives of nine infants.....The state is on track to exceed the record 4,949 cases reported in 1955.

So THANKS to the vaccine hysterics who do not know their ass from their elbow about science or medicine who are KILLING KIDS by scaring ignorant mothers who never took a college biology course, much less organic chemistry.

And now these people want to KILLS DOGS too?



Some sick stuff if you ask me, and yes the pun is intended.