Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Digging on the Dogs

Gideon faces a raccoon.

Today was the first really hot day in the field -- really too hot to dig, but Doug was coming down from New York and stopping in Fredericksburg to pick up a tiercel Harris Hawk, so we had scheduled the dig a couple of weeks ago thinking it would be below 90 for sure. Nope: 95 degrees in the shade -- not that there was any shade.

We started off at 8:00 AM as Doug has to cut out to pick up the hawk by eleven. The short story is that while there were a lot of holes, and the dogs showed some interest, it was clear there was a big problem: we had had a couple of weeks of heavy rains, and the creek had shot its banks by quite a lot. Weed rafts in the bushes showed the water rise had been at least six or seven feet above normal. The holes had been flooded, and the critters had abandoned the creek for either the trees or perhaps the railroad embankment one field over (an active railroad embankment, so we do not work it with the dogs).

Another problem was that the grass at water-side had been left uncut and was standing better than 6 feet tall and blowing pollen like smoke. I have walked a lot of fields in my day, but I never seen pollen roll off of standing grass like this. Wow!

At one hole, Doug and I heard a splash that was much bigger than a frog. My guess was an otter.

About a half hour before Doug was to go, we lost Mountain. We called, and walked the bank, but he had clearly tucked in some place. My guess was that it was a raccoon or a possum, as she will generally move off of a groundhog after a point (maybe 20 minutes)  and if she hears me calling. She will not move off a fox, a coon or a possum, however.

I walked Doug back to the vehicles, put Gideon in the crate in back of the truck, and then headed back out to find Mountain. I followed the tried and true technique of just stopping and listening.... moving a bit farther and doing it again.

Eventually I heard her -- in the ground and with a nice rhythmic bay. I put my hat in a sapling and my locator box (taped bright yellow) high in a fork right over the hole, and went back for the gear.

I met the farmer on the way back. She noted that she had swapped out beef (Angus) for dairy cattle (Holsteins) and when I enquired about the new fence up near the old dairy barn, she said she was going to get two llamas. Cool! And yes, she not only had otter in the creek, but also a couple of beaver that had chewed up about 50 of the small trees planted a few years back. She had called in a trapper to take care of the problem.

With her permission, I drove the truck up about 20 feet from the hole. It was smoking hot, and no matter how soft the ground, this was not going to be an easy dig due to the heat.

I listened at the hole, and it sounded like a raccoon. Excellent.

Long story short, after two and a half hours, I got Mountain out of the hole and swapped in Gideon for a little baying (Gideon's first raccoon), before filling in all the holes except a bolt hole for the raccoon to escape after we left. This farmer wants groundhogs taken off, as they break down the stream banks, but she wants fox, possum, and raccoons left unharmed, and I am only too happy to oblige.

Doug texted me from the road -- he got his new hawk and is working on a new name for the bird. Excellent on all scores!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron :: I'm New Here

I know what you are thinking:  He looks like hell.


Crack and AIDS will do that to you. 

As Allen Ginsberg so aptly put it:

I saw the best minds of my generation
destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters
burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters
and hollow-eyed and high
sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness
of cold-water flats
floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El
and saw Mohammedan angels
staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
among the scholars of war...

Allen Ginsberg knew Gil Scott-Heron, even though I do not think they ever met.

Gil Scott-Heron: April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg Takes Up DIY Meat

Zuck Off

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, creator and founder of Facebook has decided that in order to square his morals with this table plate, he is no longer going to let others kill to put meat on his table.

So does that mean he's now a vegetarian or a vegan?

Nope. It means he's learning how to use a gun and a knife.

So far he has killed goats, pigs and chickens, and he may yet take up hunting.

Zuckerberg got the idea after some guests to his house winced at the sight of a whole pig being roasted on a grill. It seems some of his guests had no problem eating pig -- they just didn't want to cut off an obvious body part in order to make a sandwich.

Zukerberg thought this finicky disdain for getting dirty was nonsense, but he also realized that he too was pretty far removed from most of his own meals. He decided to change that. Rather than apologize for eating meat, he decided to take responsibility for the meat he consumed and pay attention to where it came from, how it lived, and how it died.

And how does he kill a goat? With a knife -- as goats are killed in the Old Testament and across most of the world to this day.

One part of killing his own meat has changed Zuckerberg's diet: along with eating more vegetables and fruit, he is also eating every part of the animals he kills. Chicken feet and necks are no longer tossed out, and neither are hearts and liver.

Zuckerberg's first kill: a lobster, which was boiled alive (which, by the way, is the most humane way to kill a lobster).

Look for howls of protest from the puppy-killers at PeTA. As for the rest of America, we salute you Mark Zuckerberg!

Now the only question is whether a small chain of "Kill-n-Grill Farms" is going to pop up around the nation, catering to others who want to embrace a DIY meat ethos.

A single bullet to the brain will kill a steer or pig, and that's more than enough meat for a year, while dressing out that steer or pig will provide a good job for local artisinal butchers who might also operate an ancillary meat-locker operation.

Business opportunity anyone?

Friday, May 27, 2011

How to Honor Civil War Soldiers

Funny Memorial Day Ecard: I can think of no better way to honor our fallen Civil War Union soldiers than by reminding Confederate flag-wavers that our current president is black.

Thought of the Day...

Being a terrorist is a lot like being a  salmon...
. . . . . ...life can be pretty good until the seals show up.

"Largest Fox Ever" Underscores the Point

Is this the largest fox ever? That's the claim of The Daily Mail and never mind if it's it's not definitively true.

Without a doubt, it's a BIG fox! In fact, I am willing to readily concede it's the André the Giant of fox!

So how big is this it? All of 26.5 pounds.

Gee.... that doesn't sound quite as big as the picture looks.


Well here's a hint: that child is seven years old.

Now look at the picture carefully -- that fox has been put way up front and the child is well back, while the fox has been stretched out and carefully placed to maximize appearance.  This picture was taken by a skilled photographer who knew the "money shot" was in making that fox look like it was as big as an adult Mountain Lion!

Now look at the picture below.  This is the same "Andre the Giant" fox with a normal sized 14-pound fox shown in such a way as to make it look a little smaller than it really is, with the back legs angled away and down, and the front legs tucked under.  Did I mention this was shot by a skilled photographer?  True!

The large fox is still a VERY BIG fox.  The "André the Giant" of fox. 

But André the Giant was a freak who stood somewhere around 7 feet 3 inches tall (real height, not "show height" with shoes) and weighed somewhere around 500 pounds. 

What's the average height of someone in England, the United States, Russia, Bulgaria, China, Wales, Austria, Indonesia, Ghana, or Germany?    Not that!  Satisfy your curiosity on that score at this link.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Modern Day Toto ... in Alabama

A modern day Toto was whisked up by mighty winds in Alabama, but eventually crawled home two and a half weeks later with two broken legs.

And what did the owners do?  They say their own lives are so devastated by the same tornado that they cannot properly take care of the disabled dog, so it is parked at the local shelter for now.


Breeding Dogs and Other Critters to Kill Us

Training air-scenting dogs in 1930s Germany, with pulleys to kept feet off ground.

Someone should probably write a book about the use of animals in war.

We tried to use bats to firebomb Japan.

We have used "killer" porpoises, seals, and walruses to patrol harbors, locate mines, and retrieve lost equipment.

We have used dogs as four-legged tank-killer bombs as well as beasts of burden hauling machine guns and rolls of razor-wire.

We have trained pigeons to deliver wartime messages, and also guide wartime bombs.

We have used dead cats to spread plague, as well as used pots of poisonous snakes to spread fear.

We have used giant rats to locate mines and the Bible even mentions Sampson tying burning torches to the tails of 300 foxes in order to have them set fire to the fields (Judges 15:4)
War dogs with gas masks, Germany, World War I.

More recently, the U.S. miltary has experimented with using 'spy crows' to locate terrorists, and honey bees to help locate hidden drugs and explosives.

So what's the latest? 

The latest is that the Germans, during World War II, were interested in breeding smarter dogs and testing the limits of their sensing abilities.  A British tabloid framed the story as breathlessly as possible:

In his new book Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, Cardiff University historian Jan Bondeson mines obscure German periodicals to reveal the Nazis' failed attempt to breed an army of educated dogs that could read, write and talk. "In the 1920s, Germany had numerous 'new animal psychologists' who believed dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans, and capable of abstract thinking and communication," he writes. "When the Nazi party took over, one might have thought they would be building concentration camps to lock these fanatics up, but instead they were actually very interested in their ideas."

Of course, it's easy to see crackpot ideas looking backwards, but a bit harder to see them when they sit straight ahead.

For example, how about tracking dogs?  Can a dog really track a lost person six months or a year after they have crossed through field or forest?  Not a chance, and never mind if canine fraudsters have made the claim and people have believed them to the point that people were sent to jail.

Not all fraud is intentional, of course. 'Clever Hans' the counting horse was probably not a deliberate fraud -- simply a case of a very perceptive animal picking up on un-noticed cues being telegraphed by a human handler.

More recently, Psychology Today did a piece on drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs marking on locations where no bombs or drugs had ever been placed.  What was going on?  Simple:  the handlers were told that drugs and explosives were about and that was enough to trigger false positives by the dogs -- another case of the "Clever Hans" effect.
Dog guards sleeping soldier, Iwo Jima, 1945.

A Well Equipped Respondent

In Australia, the story goes, Major General Peter Cosgrove was being interviewed about a Boy Scout Troop that was coming to visit military Headquarters.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER : So, General Cosgrove, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?

GENERAL COSGROVE : We're going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery and shooting.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER : Shooting! That's a bit irresponsible, isn't it?

GENERAL COSGROVE : I don't see why, they'll be properly supervised on the rifle range.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER : Don't you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?

GENERAL COSGROVE : I don't see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER : But you're equipping them to become violent killers.

GENERAL COSGROVE: Well, Ma'am, you're equipped to be a prostitute, but you're not one, are

The radio-cast went silent for 46 seconds and when it returned, the interview was over.
_ _ _ _ _

Of course, the story never happened; this joke is pretty old and has various American and British permutations.

But if feels true, doesn't it?

And the reason is feels true is that this really is the quality of thinking we so often see in the media today where prattling interviewers have to fill every moment of every the day with low-cost chatter.  And what is lower cost than a young radio interviewer?  Nothing!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Will You Forgive Me a Poem?

Will you forgive me a poem?

It is not a long one, and it is easy to understand it it, and it is about dogs.

Dharma by Billy Collins

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance –
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Ghandi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

This is from Sailing Alone Around the Room which can be yours for less than $2 plus postage at Amazon.

A Dandie Dinmont?

Yale University is making high-resolution images from its cultural collections available on a free, open access basis, and they've started by uploading 250,000 images, with more to follow. A drill through the new online library turns up the above image, which is described as a Dandie Dinmomt Terrier painted by John E. Ferneley Jr. in 1848.

For those who do not know, the "Dandie Dinmont" is a terrier named after a character in a Walter Scott novel (Guy Mannering), which was first published in 1815.  Dandie Dinmont was a border farmer from Liddesdale who was said to have terriers by the name of "Mustard" and "Pepper" which he trained for work the same as dogs are still trained today:

I had them a’ regularly entered, first wi’ rottens—then wi’ stots or weasels—and then wi’ the tods and brocks—and now they fear naething that ever cam wi’ a hairy skin on ’t.’ 

The novel itself is a very bad romantic tale supposedly taking place between 1760s and 1780 in Scotland, but it does mention fox hunting -- the first real mention in British literature, and the timing is not a coincidence, as the Enclosure Movement, which did so much to drive the rise of fox hunting and the development of dogs, was starting to roar along at this time.

What's notable about this painting of a "Dandie Dinmont" is that this is what the dog was supposedly supposed to look like, and yet it is quite different from the sway-backed top-knot-headed, straight-tail dog we see in the Kennel Club show ring today.

Of course, the painting at top may be a complete fantasy.  This is, after all, a dog named after a minor character in a bad romance novel.  It's been pure fantasy since Day One with the Dandie Dinmont!

What we can say for certain is this picture was painted 11 years before the first dog show in Britain (1859) and 25 years before the start of The Kennel Club (1873).  The dog shown is a mongrelly-looking terrier that, if pressed, I would say was a cross between a Cairn Terrier and a Dachshund or Corgi with a dash of lap poodle or lap spaniel tossed in for good measure.  If you want an exact copy of this dog, they get in two or three a month at your local animal shelter!

Barkers for Britain

This is a "Fala Tag" given out as part of the "Bundles for Britain" program created in December of 1939.

Fala, of course, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's famous Scottish terrier.

The Bundles for Britain program was created by Mrs. Wales Latham, a New York Society lady who organized Americans to knit garments for British sailors fighting the Nazis in the North Atlantic.

The Bundles program focused on producing and shipping needed knitting supplies, instead of collecting money. Storefront drop-in centers were set up to collect knitted goods, and volunteers at these drop-in centers would also sort and repair good cast-off clothing that was being donated to the effort. 

When a little money to ship supplies was eventually needed, Mrs. Latham and her friends created the "Barkers for Britain" which sold 30,000 Fala dog tags at a price of 50 cents apiece -- enough to cover the very low operating costs of this earlly war-time effort.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Big Cat Sighting in the UK Proves REAL

The escaped Sussex tiger.

In the U.S. we have more wild lions than Africa, more than 500,000 black bear, an expanding grizzly population, bobcats everywhere, coyotes in numbers too large to count (we shoot and trap over 500,000 a year and the population continues to expand), and we have thousands and thousands of wolves (almost 3,000 wolves in Minnesota alone).

In the UK, however, their largest predator is a 15-pound fox.

Which is not to say that folks in the UK do not wish there was something really big and really scary out there in the dark.

As I have noted in the past, various "Beast of Bodmin" stories have been circulating since long before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, and entire web sites are devoted to the notion that there are "British Big Cats" roaming the countryside.

Of course, eventually a large big cat was sure to escape from somewhere, lending credence to the "Big Cat" myth.

And guess what? 

It's finally happened!

A British Big Cat has indeed been spotted, been well photographed at large in the British countryside, and even (with the help of a helicopter) been captured.  The video is here for all to see

Let the critics doubt now!  What a monster!

No word yet on where this animals escaped from.

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash

Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan, age 70.  The Dylan and Cash sessions are worth owning.  In fact, they are some of the finest music ever put on vinyl.

Down the street the dogs are barkin’
And the day is a-gettin’ dark
As the night comes in a-fallin’
The dogs’ll lose their bark
An’ the silent night will shatter
From the sounds inside my mind
For I’m one too many mornings
And a thousand miles behind

Aldo Leopold on Hawks and Shotgun Shells

From "A Man’s Leisure Time" in A Sand County Almanac:

The most glamorous hobby I know of today is the revival of falconry. It has a few addicts in America and perhaps a dozen in England – a minority indeed. For two and a half cents one can buy and shoot a cartridge that will kill the heron whose capture by hawking required months or years of laborious training of both the hawk and the hawker. The cartridge, as a lethal agent, is a perfect product of industrial chemistry. One can write a formula for its lethal reaction.

The hawk, as a lethal agent, is the perfect flower of that still utterly mysterious alchemy – evolution. No living man can, or possibly ever will, understand the instinct of predation that we share with our raptorial servant. No man-made machine can, or ever will, synthesize that perfect coordination of eye, muscle, and pinion as he stoops to his kill. The heron, if bagged, is inedible and hence useless (although the old falconers seem to have eaten him, just as a Boy Scout smokes and eats a flea-bitten summer cottontail that has fallen victim to his sling, club, or bow). Moreover the hawk, at the slightest error in technique of handling, may either ‘go tame’ like Homo sapiens or fly away into the blue. All in all, falconry is the perfect hobby.


Dog Trumpet :: Slow Down

Wikipedia says:

Dog Trumpet is an Australian rock band, formed by brothers Peter O'Doherty and Reg Mombassa (aka Chris O'Doherty). Both Mombassa and O'Doherty were founder members of the iconic Australian band Mental as Anything, and they formed Dog Trumpet as an outlet for their original material.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Visible Dog

Get yours here.  Just $17.83

8" long 4D dog model contains 30 detachable organs and body parts, with a full skeleton.

What makes this model set different is that it includes a full skeleton, as well as a transparent cutaway to show internal organs and structure
Comes with display platform.

Also includes Illustrated assembly guide and description of the anatomy along with some fun Q and A to test your knowledge.

Fine detailed sculpting with hand painted parts

Found This In My Door

I always enter through the garage door, so this may have been left Saturday, which explains the problem.

Humane Society Gets Sand Kicked In Its Face

The Humane Society of U.S. continues to get sand kicked in its face.
  • The first kick comes from several key members of Congress which have asked the Internal Revenue Service to look into HSUS's tax status as it appears, according to these members of Congress, that HSUS has violated its nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)3 status by spending too much money on lobbying. You can read more about it here, but the bottom line is that I doubt this investigation will go anywhere. The rules here are a little fuzzier than most people think (so long as specific legislation is not named, it's probably not lobbying), and the remedy is unlikely to be a denial of HSUS's 501(c)3 status.  .
  • The second kick comes from the courts which have denied HSUS, the ASPCA, and Maddie's Fund from getting their hooks into Leona Helmsley's eight billion dollar fortune which was supposed to be left to animal welfare (no specific charity was named). All three claims were denied due to lack of standing. Only the Attorney General of New York has standing to represent the interests of potential beneficiaries in New York, and the Attorney General of New York has sided with estate trustees which have decided to fund other causes.

The Common Denominator is Too Many of Us


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Arlington May Ban Children From Dog Parks

Dogs at play... maybe.

From the free newspaper know as The Washington Examiner comes this article:

The Arlington County Parks Department is considering banning small children from its dog parks.

Children under the age of 8 would no longer be allowed in any of Arlington's eight dog parks under the proposal. Children between 8 to 14 would have to be supervised by an adult at all times.

The rule change, said Keith Fred, who helps sponsor the Shirlington Dog Park, is needed to protect the children, though there have been no reports of a child being hurt in any of the parks.

What's next, banning short ugly women?    I kid.  Actually I am conceptually for this ban (yes, both of them).  

I do not think small children should be allowed everywhere, and I do recognize that small children are probably "an accident waiting to happen" at a dog park.

That said, I assure you a lot of the adults that go to dog parks are accidents waiting to happen as well. And yes I actually go to Arlington dogs parks, which are a varied thing from quite excellent to pretty dubious, depending on which one you go to.

Here's what happens too often at these dog parks:   People bring every manner of medium-to-large dog imaginable (small dogs tend to stay away from dog parks), and let them loose.

Some of the dogs are old and arthritic, some are young and boisterous, some are well-socialized, and some are fresh from the pound and pretty clearly overwhelmed.

At the entance gate to many of these parks it's like a gang rape, with every dog in the park pushing in to knock and butt-sniff whatever new dog has showed up. This might be 20 dogs at once pawing and pushing at the ass of a new dog still at the feet of his or her owner. Does that sound like potential trouble? It is!

Too often people bring large dogs with no manners to the park, let them loose, and then act shocked when their 8-month always-biting Border Collie is knocked over and pinned to the ground (or worse) by a Pit Bull or a Shepherd that has had enough.

Dog parks are a fine idea (I am all for them), but they are also an "accident waiting to happen" for a lot of dogs and novice dogs owners, as well as small children.

Here's an idea: How about a simple set of signs with a simple set of rules, guidances and procedures so that new dog owners can learn the value of settling down over-excited dogs, learn to control their dogs better as they enter and leave, and learn how to handle dogs in the event that altercations do occur (because they will)?

Sometime the best solution is not legislation, but education.  

And yes, by all means, explain that bringing small children to a dog park is not a good idea. Go ahead and ban little kids if you think it necessary. But more work needs to be done when it comes to dog park decorum, and not all of it can be done with a simple ban on small kids. Owners need more guidance -- and the regulars need more social permission (hence the signs) to instruct the new fools.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Coffee and Provocation

Maryland has approved a type of birth control for deer at $1,000 a pop.  No worries -- the state says it cannot imagine it ever being used, not only because of the cost, but because it makes the deer meat a potential health hazard.  To be clear, hunting of all kinds is a money-maker for the state in the form of both license fees and taxation of goods and services, as well as a source of millions of pound of meat. Birth control for deer, on the other hand, is a massive tax loss and a waste of meat.   Access to Gonacon, the deer birth control, will be sharply restricted by license.  Think zoo populations, not open range.

A dachshund wearing chain mail: because you know this dog rocks the look and needs the protection. 

Charles Dickens had a cat named Bob, and when it died he had a paw cut off and turned into a letter opener.  Taxidermists could make money doing this with dogs, I think.

Ever wonder what it looks like inside a black bear's dirt den?  Here are the pictures.  Not said:  black bears mostly live on acorns and other mast in the Eastern U.S., and the large trees that provide the nuts also tend to supply the dens.  Yep:  most black bears den in hollow trees, and often pretty high up where they remain dry and warm.  Dirt dens often fail on both accounts -- just ask any groundhog or fox.

Stetson® Hats Suck.  That is not a question -- it is a statement of fact.  I used to think well of the company until they sent this letter out to this fellow.  Of course, he had the last laugh with some small hilarity ensuing.  Added bonus:  the article is going everywhere.

Foreign Orchestras on tour in the U.S are little more than immigration frauds with reeds and brass mouthpieces.  The New York Times explains.

The Rapture with Judy Garland Goodness

Hat tip to Melissa Peltier for this one!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama Farks It Up.... Again

This is why government is farked up.

Look at this page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

NOWHERE on there do they mention the need for a shotgun.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

You are going to NEED a shotgun.

Damn it Obama, not everyone can direct dial Seal Team Six!

Sure we're going to need this stuff too:

Water (1 gallon per person per day)

Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)

Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)

Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)

Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)

Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)

Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to name a few)

First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)

But it's just NUTS not to have a shotgun in there too. 

It's Z-O-M-B-I-E-S for God's sake! 

We're NOTgoing to need a passport or a birth certificate (sounds like you found yours, huh?). 

We ARE going to need at least four boxes of magnum loads.

Goodbye to All My Fundy Christian Readers!


When the Levee Breaks

Thursday, May 19, 2011

And Then God Came Down Like an Eagle

From The Vancouver Sun comes this real-life story about a poodle and a Golden Eagle and a little divine intervention:

She's a vagabond toy poodle, named May by SPCA staff because earlier this month she fell out of the sky and landed in the grounds of Sechelt's Shorncliffe Nursing Home.

How she came to be flying over the nursing home is explained by the deep talon marks in her back and sides, showing she was probably the unwilling passenger of a hungry eagle that had picked her up but eventually found her 18 pounds too much to hold on to.

May, her ribs broken, her body lacerated, was found by nursing staff May 2 and delivered to the Sunshine Coast SPCA.

The fall injured her, says BC SPCA official Lorie Chortyk, but the whole unnerving ordeal likely saved her life.

"Ironically, if it hadn't been for this we might never have found her," said Chortyk.

She carried no identification and her generally poor condition indicated she had been wandering without care for some time before attracting the eagle's attention.

"She's been a stray. There's been severe neglect, and who knows how long she's been out there. We estimate she's six years old but her nails were growing into her pads and her teeth are badly decayed," said Chortyk.

Does This Mean I Have to Facebook and Twitter?

In an article that dares to ask Is It Time to Shut Down Your Website?, David Rogers notes:

The Wall Street Journal reported that Starbucks receives over ten times as much traffic to its Facebook page (19.4 million unique visitors each month) as to its corporate website (1.8 million). For Coca-Cola, the divergence is even starker: 22.5 million visitors on Facebook vs. just 270,000 to its website—over 80 times as much traffic.

Facebook vs Website Traffic for 2 Brands

A Fur Coat of a Different Sort

Canada I am pretty sure.... And almost certainly trapped, not shot.

KC Chairman Ronnie Irving Stepping Down

Ronnie Irving is stepping down as Chairman of the Kennel Club in the U.K.

So what?  Good point!

At best Irving was a bowl of warm porridge -- a mosh of  half-measures apologies, weak leadership and tenuous conviction.  More than two and a half years ago, I noted that history would judge whether Ronnie Irving led.  The answer is that he did -- if you count being dragged kicking and screaming as leadership.

Yes there has been small change.  Let us stress, however, that the change has been small and that Ronnie Irving has not been a very visible agent of that change.

If one were looking for a single metric of how little has changed at the Kennel Club, it's the fact that Caroline Kisko is still there -- the Baghdad Bob of the Kennel Club.  One of the first things the next Kennel Club Chairperson should due to signal a real change in leadership is to empty that seat and fill it with someone who will at least acknowledge the obvious, which is that a lot of pedigree dogs are in trouble (do they need a list?) and that it's not all "due to the Victorians" (would they like a list of dogs in trouble and admitted to the Kennel Club since 1920?), and that the Clarges Street has the power to force change now.

Irving's stepping down, of course, is now an opportunity for stronger leadership. 

The Kennel Club has come to the first big fork in the road since the first airing of Pedigree Dogs Exposed back in August of 2008. 

Will it stumble on down the road to wreckage it has been on for the last 120 years, or will it veer off and take the High Road to Health and Real Work for Working Dogs?

Time will tell, but I would keep my expectations low.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dogs and People are Often Unfit for Each Other

Back in 2009, in an article for Dog's Today, I wrote that:

We call them "Man's Best Friend," but if any other friend pissed and crapped in the house, yelled loudly early in the morning, stole our food, humped our leg, ate poop, and then tried to kiss us, we would brick them in the head in short order.

Of course, it's worse than that.

Not only are a lot of people very unhappy with their dogs, but a lot of dogs are unhappy with their people.

Every year, millions of dogs are acquired by folks who say they "love" them, but these same people turn around four, six, or nine months later and then abandon them.

These abandonments are not an accident -- they are the product of a generalized lie and a specific lie.

The generalized lie is that everyone (and certainly every family) needs a dog.   Not true.   The harsh truth is that in this jam-packed world, increasing numbers of people do not have the yard, schedule, time, finances, or temperament to live well with a dog.

The specific lie is that all breeds are the same. This is the lie that flows like water off of the lips of the Pit Bull community which chants "deed not breed" as if indoctrinated into a cult. The simple truth is that why NO dog is the right choice for a lot of people, a Pit Bull is the wrong choice for MOST people. It is not an accident or random chance that half of all the dogs abandoned to their death in this country are Pit Bulls. To put a number on it, that's nearly one million Pit Bulls a year; over 40 million pounds of dead dogs tossed into landfills and incinerators every year.

For the record, this video was made by the ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi for the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in the U.K.

I am not sure this video does exactly what they want, but maybe it does.

You see, at the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, about 1/3 of the dogs are put to sleep, and most of the healthy dogs that are put to sleep are Pit Bulls -- i.e. "Staffordshire Bull Terrier types."

So yes, maybe this ad does exactly what the Battersea Dog & Cats Home intended -- it makes people think about getting an over-large, prey-driven, guarding or herding dog that will make their life -- and their dog's life -- a living hell for the next 10 to 15 years.  Not bad then!

Working Terriers at the Tar Pit

The article, below, is my submission for the June issue of Dogs Today.
The art by the always wonderful Kevin Brockbank

It seems that most dog owners want “their” breed to be of an ancient and storied lineage, and never mind if that’s actually true. In the rush to embrace contrived histories, however, the true story of breeds is often obscured, and with it a tale of canine caution.

The story could be told with almost any type of dog, but terriers will do. In the last 150 years, British working terriers have been schismed and morphed into a variety of dogs variously called Fox, Jack Russell, Parson Russell, Border, Lakeland, and Welsh terriers.

Terriers, of course, go back several hundred years. Since the beginning, they have come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and coat colors. Most were farm and family pets of no purpose. Others served as all-purpose ratters, bushing dogs, cart guardians, or turnspit dogs.

The true working terrier, however, is a dog that goes to ground on fox or badger. Though a dachshund-like version of these dogs is mentioned as early as 1500, the true advent of working terriers began with mounted hunts at the end of the 18th Century.

The Schisms Begin

The first discernible ”breed” of working terrier was the Fox Terrier. A predominantly white dog, it came in rough, broken and smooth coats. Alongside this dog, there have always been various types of colored dogs, now called “fell” types.

Working terriers of all colors have always been judged on the quality of their work. Though a dog may be called a “Jack Russell” if it is predominantly white, or a “Border” if if is grizzle, or a “Patterdale” if it is black, this is a gauze-thin classification system.

Digging dogs are best evaluated through the color-blind eye of the fox which, in the darkness of the den pipe, only cares if the dog has found, if it can reach, if it will bay, and if it has the heart to stay when its adversary puts in a tooth.

With the start of dog shows in 1859, however, the world of working terriers took a hind leg to appearance. By 1900, the working Fox Terrier had been “improved” to the point it was nearly useless in the field, and digging men were now advertising “Jack Russell” terriers to signal that their stock had nothing to do with show ring failures.

The colored working terriers were also being gussied up for the show ring, but here, where there had once been a single broad type, three different breeds were now forming.

First up was a dog initially called the “Old English Black and Tan” terrier. But the dog was not English at all, was it? No, it was Welsh, and after howls of protest the terrier was renamed.

Next up was the Border terrier which was added to the Kennel Club’s fold in 1920, after nearly three decades of dog dealers pounding on the door for its entrance.

Why was the Kennel Club slow to admit this breed? A big issue was that the old working “Borders” were not very uniform in appearance. In order to be admitted, working Borders had to be “improved” so that they could hunt rosettes, and never mind if they never hunted fox again.

The Lakeland was added to the Kennel Club’s roles in the mid 1930s, but in truth it was not much of an addition. The visual standard for the dog can best be summarized as being “exactly like a Welsh terrier, but lighter in color.”

When working dogs began to be selected for appearance rather than work, they got less steady in the field until at last they passed a tipping point where no knowledgable working man would take the risk of investing two years bringing on a dog with a higher-than-necessary risk of failure.

A good example can be seen with the Border terrier. Now a Top Ten breed in the U.K., it’s almost impossible to find a registered Border terrier working in the field, and never mind if the Chairman of the Kennel Club’s family goes back three generations as breeders!

The Tar Pit Ahead

So where are we now? What trouble lies ahead?

As always, the threat to working dogs is the tar pit of the Kennel Club from which no breed has ever emerged intact and still working.

Tar pits look benign -- cool water tends to pool on top -- but nothing has ever come out of them but bones.

In the case of the Kennel Club, what has emerged, time and time again, are exaggerated dogs devoid of working instinct, nose, and common sense, with coats inappropriate for the job, and skeletal structures that are often inadequate for a day in the field.

No one who courses dogs looks to a Kennel Club dog to do the job, and the same is true for working sled dogs, herding dogs, cart dogs, pointers, setters, or retrievers.

Terriers are not an exception to the rule.

The key and recurring problem with working terriers drawn into the Kennel Club is size. Why do small working terriers always seem to get too big in the chest after being listed on Kennel Club roles?

The answer is to be found in an inherent defect of the show ring, and a basic understanding of canine anatomy.

The essential elements of a working terrier are small chest size, a strong prey-drive, a loud voice, a sensitive nose, and a clever kind of problem-solving intelligence. Aside from size, none of these attributes can be judged at ringside.

In a judging field of 20 or 30 dogs, a selection filter of size alone does not provide the gradients required to articulate a reason for choosing a single dog or bitch as a winner. The breed club solution has been to generate pages of cosmetic criteria which effectively devalue the only important attribute of a working terrier that can be judged in the ring — a small chest.

Another factor is that in the Kennel Club, head size and shape are deemed to be very important by theorists who assign a great number of points to this feature. It is head shape, after all, that gives each breed its distinctive look. It is the head that faces the quarry in the hole. Surely the shape and size of a terrier's head is important?

In fact, when it comes to working terriers, head shape is only important to the extent that it leaves space for brains, produces a strong enough jaw to grip, and allows for unobstructed breathing. Most crossbred mongrel terriers have heads shaped well enough to do the job.

In the world of working terriers, a bigger head is not necessarily better. Larger heads tend to be attached to larger chests — the latter being necessary to support the former. When terriers are bred for the kind of “strong heads" that Kennel Club judges favor, the resulting dog is often large-chested as well.

It does not take too much gain in the chest for a dog to have quickly diminished use in the field. But what does that matter if your dog is never in the field? Kennel Club dogs are not made for hunting fox, are they? They are made for hunting rosettes!

The Kennel Club has not been content with merely drawing the Fox terrier into the tar pit. Now they have drawn in the Jack Russell under the name of the “Parson Russell” terrier. Already the dogs are getting too large and the coats too linty. Every year fewer registered dogs of this breed are found in the field. Georges Santayana was not wrong when he said “those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them”!

Of course Jack Russells can still be found working and work free of the Kennel Club system. Fell terriers exist as working dogs unencumbered by a show ring standard.

I would raise a caution flag, however when it comes to the hard-working little dog called the Patterdale terrier. At some point in the not-too-distant future, the Kennel Club is likely to reach out for this breed. It takes only a handful of pretenders and dog dealers to make a breed club under whose auspices the Kennel Club can raise its flag.

Will the Patterdale terrier be the next breed to disappear into the Kennel Club’s tar pit? Time will tell. One things for sure, is that the Kennel Club tar pit is cunning and powerful.  Above all, however, it is patient.

Are Your Rapture-Ready?

As most of you know by now, the end of the world is scheduled for late in the day on May 21st when The Rapture begins and the world of man ends. 

You are prepared of course, but what about your pets?

Good News (pun intended).  The pagans have come up with a solution

Our service is plain and simple; our fee structure is reasonable.  

For $135.00 we will guarantee that should the Rapture occur within ten (10) years of receipt of payment, one pet per residence will be saved. Each additional pet at your residence will be saved for an additional $20.00 fee. A small price to pay for your peace of mind and the health and safety of your four legged and feathered friends.

If you truly believe in Jesus, you will post this to your Facebook wall all day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shovel Ready or Psychiatrist Ready?

Mike Rowe's Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation:

I believe we need a national PR Campaign for Skilled Labor. A big one. Something that addresses the widening skills gap head on, and reconnects the country with the most important part of our workforce.

Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it's getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They're retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them.

Alabama's not alone. A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn't a lack of funds. It wasn't a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.

In general, we're surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn't be. We've pretty much guaranteed it.

In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We've elevated the importance of "higher education" to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled "alternative." Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as "vocational consolation prizes," best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of "shovel ready" jobs for a society that doesn't encourage people to pick up a shovel.

In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a "good job" into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber "if you can find one" is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we'll all be in need of both.

A Canine Push-Me Pull-You

A nice looking dog!

A New Pet Store in Town

A free $10 card on the left, a free ball in middle, and Terrierman's Starbucks card on the right.

The old Blockbuster video store across the street and up on the next corner from where I often have coffee has converted over to an "Unleashed by PETCO" store.

Unleashed by PETCO is the small-footprint PETCO store division that began in 2009 in California, and seeks to gobble up all the small independent pet stores that it can.  The pet store that is most likely to suffer with this new arrival is the small independent-operator store tucked into the corner about 10 stores up from Starbucks.  This store has had very marginal business for a long time.  Thought it never sold dogs or cats, it used to have rabbits, some birds, a few hamsters, feeder mice, feeder goldfish, and a few snakes, but now it's just expensive dog food, expensive leashes, and chew toys of various kinds.  Everything is over-priced and every time I go in, I am reminded of why I shop online.  Ditto with Unleashed by PETCO, by the way.  $32 for a plain 6-foot leather leash you can get for $7 online?  Gimme-a-break!

On the upside, Unleashed hit me with a free $10 gift card and a ball coming through the door, and though I did not buy anything (maybe later), I give them a small plug here if for no other reason than it underscores the point I made earlier, which is that the pet store market is changing rapidly, and the small independent operators are being driven out by the mail-order and chain-store folks.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

American Canine Demographics

As I noted in an earlier post, there are approximately 75 million dogs in the U.S. 

Every year about 7 million new dogs are acquired in the U.S. to replace those that die from disease, old age or accident.

Of these 7 million new dogs, approximately 53 percent are crossbreeds or mongrels, and approximately 47 percent are "pure breeds".

More than half of all U.S. dogs are mixed breeds.

To put a number on it, that works out to be approximately 3,710,000 dogs of mixed ancestry, and approximately 3,290,000 dogs that are pure breeds.

In 2006, to pick a year, the American Kennel Club registered 870,192 pure bred dogs. To put it another way, AKC registrations represented about 26 percent of pure bred dogs and about 12 percent of all dogs acquired that year.  Since 2006, AKC registrations have continued to decline dramatically, and it's reported they are now under 500,000.  Since 2006, the AKC has not, so far as I can tell, published counts by breed.

About a quarter of pure breed dogs are AKC-registered

Of the 870,192 pure bred dogs registered by the AKC in 2006, the top 10 breeds represented 51.7 percent of all dogs registered (449,689 dogs), while the bottom 50 breeds represented less than 1.2 percent of all dogs registered (9,868 dogs)

More than half of all AKC dogs are in the top 10 breeds.
The bottom 50 breeds sum to 1.2 percent of AKC-registered dogs.

Top Ten Breeds in 2006
  1. Retrievers (Labrador) 123,760
  2. Yorkshire Terriers 48,346
  3. German Shepherd Dogs 43,575
  4. Retrievers (Golden) 42,962
  5. Beagles 39,484
  6. Dachshunds 36,033
  7. Boxers 35,388
  8. Poodles 29,939
  9. Shih Tzu 27,282
  10. Miniature Schnauzers 22,920

You are Here.

This is the world. We can do better.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fishing Camp Terrier, 1902

This is John Runk at his fishing camp on Rice Lake, Wisconsin in 1902, with his Jack Russell dog sitting on top of  stacked barrels.