Friday, October 31, 2014

Magical Thinking

I sometimes run into people who want me to explain to them how to do something. No problem there -- I am always willing to share information. But sometimes things are not as simple as they appear from the outside, are they?

And more often than not, the person asking the question is not really that interested in learning, are they? If they were, they would have gotten a book, drilled on the Internet, and shown a lot more initiative a lot earlier than now.

In my experience, most folks are not really interested in doing the hard, slogging work of getting good at something; they want the easy miracles that come from pixy dust and magic wands. Give them a book on a subject, and they will not even read it.

In this world of one-minute rice, it seems everyone wants to know the "tricks of the trade," without actually taking the time to learn the trade.

I was reminded of this earlier in the week when a woman at work asked me a question that suggested something I knew to be very hard was, in fact, very easy and that there must be some short-cut to getting it done. What was that miracle short-cut she wanted to know?

I always find such questions offensive, because they assume knowledge is given away on a plate and served up for the asking, and that no real investment of time and energy is needed.

In fact a lot of people feel that way about a lot of things, and hunting and fishing are not exceptions.

How do you hunt and fish?

Well, which one do you want to do?

Hunt, I guess.

What do you want to hunt?

I don’t know. Say deer.

OK. Well, let me ask you a question: Why do you want to hunt?

Why does that matter?

Well, is it for meat, or for trophy, or is this pure outdoor sport?

There's a difference?

There is.

OK. . . . How about trophy ... for sport.

OK. How do you want to hunt?

What do you mean?

Do you want to use a rifle, a shotgun, a bow, or black powder?

What's the difference?

You can use a shotgun anywhere, but you have to be closer, while a rifle is prohibited in a lot of areas of the East Coast. Black powder is increasingly popular, but is not quite as accurate as a rifle, but the ball goes farther than a shotgun.

Oh. . . . Well let's shoot black powder then.

OK, well you're going to need a gun, a hunting license, a tree stand, some cold weather clothes, a decent pair of boots, a bit of camouflage, some blaze orange stuff, a skinning kit, and a place to freeze the meat.

What's all that going to cost?

Figure $1,000.

Wow. That's a lot of money. I can get deer jerky on EBay for $8 a pound.

Yes, you can.

OK, but how do you hunt? I mean, assuming you have all the equipment?

Well you have to learn how to use the equipment. You will need to take a gun safety course just to get a hunting license, and you will need to practice setting up a deer stand too, as more people die falling out of deer stands than you want to think about. And then you have to learn how to shoot, and reload, and clean the gun as well.

How long is all that going to take?

If you start on it right now, at least a couple of weeks.

Oh. . . . OK, suppose I do all that. Then what?

Well, then you have to get permission to hunt on someone's land.

Can't I just go to a National Forest or something?

Yes you can, but you are not likely to see too many deer in a National Forest. Deer are an edge creature, and there are far more of them in farm country than there are in a National Forest where there is not as much good food to browse.

But I thought there were a lot of deer in America. I read that. And I see them on the road sometimes when I am in the country.

There are a lot of deer. Especially in areas where there is mixed development with a lot of crops, scattered houses, and small forest plots in between. A lot of America looks like that now, but you cannot always hunt in those locations. A gun can push a bullet a long way, and it can kill people accidentally, so you cannot shoot a gun near a road or within eyesight of a building.

Oh. . . . So how do I get farm property to hunt on?

Well, you have to ask, and it helps if you know someone. A lot of places are too small to have deer, and a lot of farmers are not anxious to have deer hunters on their land because they want to hunt their own deer on their own land. Other folks are worried about liability in case a hunter shoots a neighbor, or a cow, or accidentally kills himself or a hunting partner while crossing over a fence.

But I won't sue.

It doesn't matter. Folks fear lawsuits, and it's not a crazy fear in this day and age. As far as a farmer is concerned, there is no benefit to them if you hunt their property. In fact, with so many hunters leaving open the gates and driving through wet fields and leaving ruts, hunters are almost always more trouble than they are worth.

OK . . . but suppose I find a place to hunt?

And suppose you have bought the equipment and also learned how to use it?

Uh, yes. That's right. I have it all. Now what?

Well, let's assume you are hunting a 2,000 acre farm. That's about three square miles. There will be deer on there, but there will be no deer at all on 99 percent of the land, 99 percent of the time. So that's your problem.

So what do I do? Learn about deer.

But that's what I'm asking you about.

What do you want to know?

Where are they?

They are taking care of their needs. They are bedding down in thick areas in the daylight, and moving to or from feeding areas in late afternoon or early morning. That's their routine, and they tend to follow routines.

Well, how do I find their bedding areas?

You are hunting them?


OK, if you are hunting deer, it's late Fall or Winter and the leaves are just coming off.

You can't hunt in Spring or Summer?

No. There's a season.


So, you are looking for deer in late Fall or Winter, and there is less cover. The deer will be looking to get out of the wind, and to stay out of sight, so you can guess that they will be in a little hollow, out of the wind and out of eye sight, and preferably near some thicket of evergreen, like honeysuckle. But you are probably not looking to shoot a deer in its bed -- they will hear you coming before you get there, and they will probably be gone. And you will also have a very hard time seeing them because they lie down almost flat and do not move.

They have good hearing?

They do. And a terrific sense of smell, and keen eyesight too. If everyone could shoot a trophy buck, there would be no bragging rights to the act.

But what about all those trophy deer I see shot on television every Sunday? They talk when they are filming and the deer do not run. And those are enormous deer.

Those are canned hunts.

What's a canned hunt?

It's a hunt inside a fence, and often on deer that have been acclimated to the presence of humans. The owner of that property has been feeding those deer for weeks, so the pay-to-shoot guides will know just where they will be and when they will be there.

That doesn't seem fair.

It's bad ethically and aesthetically, in my book, but there it is. It's not hunting, that's for sure, since you know where the deer will be, and you have guarantees.

OK, I'm not going to do that. I want to hunt. How do you do that?

You mean after you have bought the equipment, and also learned how to use it, and have acquired access to 2,000 acres of land on which to hunt?


Well, you locate the bedding areas for the deer, as I told you, and then you try to guess where they are moving in order to get food and water. Deer trails will tell you a lot, and so too will track, scat, and rubs.

What are those last two?

Scat is deer shit. Look for it, and also what is in it. Tracks will tell you something about size and sex. Since you are looking for a trophy buck, you will want to be looking for big tracks. A rub is a spot on a small tree or large bush where a deer has been rubbing its antlers to get velvet off, and it's also a spot where a buck will spray his scent to mark territory. Dominant bucks will tend to keep coming back to rubs, and if you pay attention you can sometimes tell how big a buck is by how far up the rub is, and where it is located.

This is starting to sound like a lot of work. I mean, I've never even seen a rub. Where would I start to look for one?

Well, you have to spend a lot of time in the woods. You have to get to know the land, and how to read the movement of wildlife. You have to start thinking like a deer.

But I don't want to start thinking like a deer. I want to kill a deer. How do I do that?

Go up a tree stand, aim the gun, and pull the trigger when you see a deer.

That's the answer I wanted!

Glad I could be of help. Good luck trophy hunting in the field.

Can I ask you another question?


How do you fish?

From Ireland: Well Said and Well Done

From the masthead at the top of the web site of the Irish Working Terrier Federation
"The greatest danger to a working terrier is admiration in the show ring."
A nice link to this blog is also at the top of the site, and also this very good graphic:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Does Skunk Stink Last and Last?

The stuff in skunk spray that stinks is a series of odorous compounds called thiols. Bonded sulfur and hydrogen atoms in thiols attach to the same nose receptors that sniff out hydrogen sulfide ("swamp gas"). Human noses are highly sensitive to thiols and can detect the smell at just 10 parts per billion.

Skunk spray also contains compounds called thioacetates, which slowly break down into thiols. When a skunk sprays a terrier, thioacetates in the spray (and absorbed into the skin of the terrier) break down and replace the old thiols, resulting in the skunk odor reappearing on the dog.

Water seems to rapidly speed the process of thioacetates breaking down into thiols, but part of the release seems to be time-sensitive. Getting a dog wet repeatedly over several days will not "drain off" all the thioacetates.

No matter what you do, it will take about a month or even 6 weeks before skunk odor disappears off a well-dosed dog.

For more information on skunk spray odor remedies and toxic-shock syndrome in terriers sprayed by skunks underground, see >>

It's OK. He Needed to Lose Weight Anyway.

Weight and Measure on the Pups

The online calculator does not go past 26 weeks, so the weights and measures track is over, but suffice it to say that I am NOT worried that either of these two dogs will be too big for my very tight earths.  

Moxie stands at 10.5 inches tall right now, and I believe Misto is at 10 inches.  

Very different builds on these two dogs.  Misto is low to the ground and solid, with a big head, while Moxie is as tall and thin as Taylor Swift and with a head to balance the frame.  Interesting enough, both of these dogs seem to have the same chest size --  less than 13 inches.

Both pups will fill out more, of course, but the bulk of their growth has happened. I do not expect to see more than a quarter inch gain in height.

With two little dogs that can go anywhere underground, I suspect I will see fewer groundhogs digging away in the Spring, and a lot fewer holes dug by me as well.  It's always nice to be able to sink the first hole right on top of the quarry.

As I wrote a decade ago:
A true working dog should be able to enter a fox den or groundhog sette and negotiate the entire pipe – from main entrance to bolt hole -- without having to be dug out of the ground. In a natural earth this den pipe will be 15 to 40 feet long and will rise and fall, twist and contract, challenging the dog at every turn.

A dog that routinely fails this challenge is not a useful dog. In fact, hunting with a large dog that cannot get past the first turn is nearly impossible, as it requires a team of diggers to sink a new hole whenever the tunnel changes direction, and in the end you may end up excavating the entire length of the den.

A large dog in a small hole is also a danger to himself. A terrier that has to dig hard in order to move up a tunnel is a dog that has to push dirt behind it in order to make progress. As earth is shoved to the rear, a dirt wall can easily form just behind the dog, "bottling" it off from its air supply. Because a digging dog is working hard and breathing hard (as is the quarry) asphyxiation underground is a very real possibility.

A small dog, on the other hand, can simply scoot over small dirt mounds and around constrictions and obstacles. Not only will such a dog face the quarry with more energy and more air, it will also have room to maneuver to avoid a bite and force a bolt. A larger dog, on the other hand, may find itself face to face with the quarry, jammed tight in the pipe, already tired, and with a dwindling air supply. Only tragedy can come out of such a situation.

Can a dog be too small? Yes.

I do not think Moxie can afford to be any smaller. The two pounds she will add in the next few months will increase her weight by about 25 percent -- substance she will need if she is to work through heat and cold for five or six hours at a crack.  But is she too small?  I don't think so.  She's going to be the same size as Sailor, my old dog who was a legend. If she is half the dog Sailor was (and I have high hopes based on her attitude) very good things are in the future!

A Roaring Lion Does Not Hunt

Kevin Richardson strapped a GoPro camera on a tame, but natural hunting, African lion named Meg. Thanks to that, we get to see a lion's-eye view of what it's like to takes a waterbuck.

Sadly, the African lion population is in free-fall, largely due to an American company -- FMC -- which sells Furadan (carbofuran), a highly toxic, tasteless pesticide in Africa, where herders are using it to indiscriminately wipe out all predators -- lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, etc.

Black on Black Violence in Rockaway, New Jersey

The black bear population of the U.S. is over 500,000 and climbing.

Even in the most densely populated state in the nation, New Jersey, black bears are thriving and there are now confirmed bear sightings in all 21 of New Jersey's counties.

Black bears are generally pretty inoffensive.  Their major crimes include knocking down bird feeders and trashcans, ripping into outbuildings full of dog food, and occasionally climbing through the kitchen windows of cabins when no one is home.

In the last 100 years, more people have been killed by ping pong balls than by black bears.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bred For a Purpose?

Rudyard Kipling: The Fox Meditates


Rudyard Kipling traces the history of England and western civilization through the "meditations" of the fox in the poem appended below.

As the last verse notes, the car on the road kills far more fox than any of the mounted hunts ever did -- in fact it kills far more fox in the UK than the mounted hunts, the weekend terrier enthusiast, and the shooter and working lurcher enthusiast combined.

Kipling references the time when "hedging came in fashion" (the Enclosure Movement) and notes too the rise of wire fences and trains which enabled more and more "townies" to come into the countryside.

Carter Fell is mentioned as well -- the same Carter Fell that John Dodd of Catcleugh -- one of the creators of the Border Terrier -- was hunting during Kipling's lifetime.

For more information about the role of the Enclosure Movement in the development of terriers, see >> "A Pictorial History of Terriers; Their Politics & Their Place"

For more about how the rise of cars and easy travel to the countryside has influenced terrier work, see >> "The Sad Rise of Hard Dogs"

Rudyard Kipling was born in 1865 in Bombay India, and died in 1936 in London. He married an American woman in 1889 and, for four years, he lived in Vermont, where he wrote The Jungle Book and the sequel, Just So Stories.

Kipling was the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Fox Meditates by Rudyard Kipling
When Samson set my brush afire
To spoil the Timnite's barley,
I made my point for Leicestershire
And left Philistia early.
Through Gath and Rankesborough Gorse I fled,
And took the Coplow Road, sir!
And was a gentleman in Red
When all the Quorn wore woad, sir!
When Rome lay massed on Hadrian's Wall,
And nothing much was doing,
Her bored Centurions heard my call
0' nights when I went wooing.
They raised a pack - they ran it well
(For I was there to run 'em)
From Aesica to Carter Fell,
And down North Tyne to Hunnum.

When William landed hot for blood,
And Harold's hosts were smitten,
I lay at earth in Battle Wood
While Domesday Book was written.
Whatever harm he did to man,
I owe him pure affection;
For in his righteous reign began
The first of Game Protection.

When Charles, my namesake, lost his mask,
And Oliver dropped his'n,
I found those Northern Squires a task,
To keep 'em out of prison.
In boots as big as milking-pails,
With holsters on the pommel,
They chevied me across the Dales
Instead of fighting Cromwell.

When thrifty Walpole took the helm,
And hedging came in fashion,
The March of Progress gave my realm
Enclosure and Plantation.
'Twas then, to soothe their discontent,
I showed each pounded Master,
However fast the Commons went,
I went a little faster!

When Pigg and Jorrocks held the stage
And Steam had linked the Shires,
I broke the staid Victorian age
To posts, and rails, and wires.
Then fifty mile was none too far
To go by train to cover,
Till some dam' sutler pupped a car,
And decent sport was over!

When men grew shy of hunting stag,
For fear the Law might try 'em,
The Car put up an average bag
Of twenty dead per diem.
Then every road was made a rink
For Coroners to sit on;
And so began, in skid and stink,
The real blood-sport of Britain!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pope Says "God is Not a Magician"

Pope Francis has come out for protecting Good Original Design (God), evolution, and the Big Bang.

“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life...

Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve....

In the Book of Genesis, God commanded Adam to name everything and to go ahead through history... This makes him responsible for creation, so that he might steward it in order to develop it until the end of time....

It is a grave sin against God the creator to destroy the environment, and scientists hold a special responsibility to protect God’s creation. Therefore the scientist, and above all the Christian scientist, must adopt the approach of posing questions regarding the future of humanity and of the earth, and, of being free and responsible, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature.

But, at the same time, the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realize, to achieve the development that is in the plan of the creator.”

John Higginbottom. The Last Great Lurcherman

I reprinted a short segment of this piece from Gary Hosker's old website, and linked to the rest of it too back in 2007, but the link is now broken and so I post the entire story here as it's simply too good a parody to lose to the ages.

If you know who this is really about, it a hoot, and if you don't know who it's about it's still a hoot.

John Higginbottom:
The Last Great Lurcherman
I drove north the three hundred long miles from my comfortable air-conditioned London office to interview a recluse, a self- styled eccentric, a man above men, a lurcherman. Name, John Higginbottom.

My journey started with a long drive north, then north and north again along the MI for what seemed an age. As the flat lands of the south turned first to gently rolling meadows of Northamptonshire and then to the hills of Derbyshire I drove ever onwards, finally arriving in the windswept dales of Yorkshire; a land where, if it's not raining one instinctively knows it must be snowing.

High limestone and millstone grit fells clad in an ever-present mist seemingly sweep up to the very base of the stratosphere. This North of England that lies on the wrong side of a theoretical line known as the north-south divide; a North of dark satanic cotton mills that belch black smoke out of imposing, discoloured and misshapen chimneys, chimneys reaching almost as high as the fells that surround them, blending with the landscape yet at the same time destroying it. A North of coal mines and colliers, of iron foundries and smelters, where work- hardened men lead lives so arduous their circumstances could best be described as an existence.

Yet, leave this industrial landscape that was once the pulsating heart of a proud British Empire and drive only a few short miles through the bitter driving rain and take a side road (track would be a more accurate description for metalled roads have yet to come to this part of Britain) signposted 'to the edge of the world' and one encounters an altogether unique England.

An England so blissfully isolated from the twentieth century that one feels encapsulated in an age long past. Sheep hardened by many a long winter shelter behind 'dry' stone walls from the ever present torrent of rain, where men still scrape a meagre living for themselves behind horse and plough, cultivating crops on half an acre of boulder-strewn land, subsistence living that is this England. Yes this can truly be called a place on the edge of the world. I took this path to find lurcherman John Higginbottom, John, a giant of a man with ruddy complexion, short greying hair, a beard of flaming red, and hands like the proverbial size ten shovel. Hands that were cut, bruised and contorted, he told me, through many a long desperate dig, rescuing his battle-hardened terrier 'Tootsie' from life or death conflicts with rabbit and other subterranean creatures, this reclusive, almost shy man refused to talk about.

John, a youthful forty-seven, a taciturn man who still retains most of his own teeth, was brought up in the Midlands and is a spot welder by trade. I asked him why? Why does any man try and live here, all alone pushing himself to the very limits of endurance in order to eke out a shallow existence in this particularly inhospitable place, with only the bark of his seven lurcher dogs and sound of the occasional crow for company. “Have you ever spot welded?” replied John philosophically. He sat quite still reading Kipling to himself.

Breaking the silence I enquired about the breeding of his battle-hardened terrier, Tootsie. “That,” explained John, ”is a Higginbottom terrier, the culmination of a twenty-five year selective breeding programme based on the Yorkshire terrier with just a dash of King Charles spaniel for temperament.”

Feeling that I had in some small way penetrated his rock-hard exterior and socialized myself with John, I asked, nay begged, to accompany him on one of his famous hunting expeditions - expeditions, on which I was informed, he uses his homogeneous pack of Higginbottom lurchers to hunt all legal quarry. For John truly is the last of the self-confessed great hunters.

John fell silent, gritted his teeth, pursed his lips, and went into deep thought, almost a trance as if he were going through a metamorphosis or having an out-of-body experience.

Then as suddenly as he had entered the trance he snapped back to reality, kicked his dog and snapped: “Yes, the mad are in God's keeping. Tomorrow morning, crack of ten thirty, not a minute later and I hope for your sake you have a high attention span.”

Glancing in my direction before walking into his meagre shanty home, shared with his pack of Higginbottom hounds, John continued “I insist upon complete and utter obedience from both my dogs and those who chose to follow me.” Fixing me with those steely blue eyes, he gave a penetrating stare, a stare that I would come to know as his force 7 stare. I felt as the Apostles must have felt on the banks of sea of Galilee. I was in awe of this demigod.

Next morning we set off across the fields at a quarter-past- eleven precisely. I asked John why he was late. “Time has no relevance here on the edge of the world,” replied he, wiping the sleep from his eyes.

'Ferrets, ferrets I must have ferrets,' he whispered gently. Suddenly he opened a hutch door, and plunged his gigantic hand into a cage of these ferocious little carnivores. Five ferrets bit deep into the flesh of each of his massive digits -- yet did this man flinch? Not he.

With blood trickling down his forearm he throttled each ferret in turn in order to prise them from his fingers. "Aren't you concerned about infection' I asked “No,” said he “The poker's in the fire. I'll cauterize the wounds when we return.” I glanced ominously at the cumulus clouds gathering overhead, said a silent prayer and thought – ‘If we return.’

With a steady stride we set out into the wilderness. At our heels trotted his seven lurchers’ beardie collie lurchers these, some of the best in the world (or so I was told) bred by David Ballcock. As with Tootsie, his Higginbottom terrier, these lurchers too were the result of an intensive twenty - five year breeding programme; a programme so genetically calculated as to make the breeding of thoroughbred racehorses or racing greyhounds pale into insignificance.

“John, why haven't you channeled your scientifically based genetic theories into creating the ultimate Waterloo Cup winning greyhound or a Derby winning race-horse?' Once again he went pale and then into a trance before replying: “Because my theories don't work.” Suddenly a rabbit ran from under our feet and John turned to his dogs and yelled, 'Mayhem, go!' All seven dogs gave chase opening up in glorious song. 'Yip, yip, yip, yip,' they sang. After a life or death run of five hundred and forty-six yards two feet seven-and-a-half inches, the rabbit struggled into the relative safety of its warren.

Higginbottom astounded me with his ability to judge distance so precisely. My astonishment must have shown on my face, for Higginbottom said modestly: “Oh, I forgot to mention, I’m the best judge of distance in the world.”

Six lurcher dogs stood over the hole 'marking' as John called it, while he explained in some detail the complexities of the chase or 'course' may be a more accurate description for such a distance, telling me how each rabbit must be given sufficient law and how, he had calculated, in a couple of years time he would have the best rabbit match-dog.

One lurcher, however, lay panting on the ground halfway between ourselves and the other Higginbottom lurchers, unable to move or catch breath. “Is this dog suffering from hybrid vigour?” I asked. With a look of total bewilderment Higginbottom turned on me, his steely blue eyes glinting in the midday sun. “I value that dog at ten thousand pound,” said he. “But why,” I queried. “Because that lurcher has the intelligence to know when he's beat, thereby saving valuable energy for the next grueling encounter with the most formidable of all quarry, the rabbit! No longdog in the world has comparable intelligence.” “Looks knackered,' said I, and walked on.

We left 'Myrtle' to recover and approached the six other Higginbottom lurchers that lay panting all about the warren. John pulled a ferret from his 'poacher’s pocket' and secured some electronic device or other around the ferrets neck. (There is story behind the locator, its invention and John Higginbottom, which will appear in later revelations from the diaries of Miss Wilhelmina Wordspinner.) Slowly, hesitantly, the ferret entered the rabbit’s subterranean refuge, but turned and came back to the entrance, all the while peeping in cuckoo clock fashion, in and out, in and out of the hole. John said this ferret had been trained by him to be especially wary of strangers (Higginbottom can train almost any animal to a very high standard).

Then as the ferret's head disappeared into the hole for the twenty-ninth time, John kicked in a clod of earth behind it. We waited five, six, seven minutes but nothing was seen or heard of either rabbit or ferret. John pulled a small box from one of the numerous pockets in his coat (each pocket filled with hunting essentials -- tape recorder, camera, stopwatch). I was informed this box would locate the ferret, and if the ferret it had managed to find its quarry, the rabbit, we would dig down to the combatants.

As Higginbottom swept the ground in a methodical fashion, the box burst to life, first with a loud crackle then a burst of the BBC's World Service. “Does this mean you have located your relentless little hunter and rabbit deep within the very bowels of the earth?”

John slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand, fell to his knees and in a gasping, strained voice said: “Ughhh, the locator's interfering with mi pacemaker.”

After John had made an almost full recovery we walked deeper into the hills, the weather deteriorating with every step of his enormous feet, while he recounted his many and varied hunting stories; stories so unbelievable I said he should write a book. How, thinks I, has one man managed to cram so much hunting into just one short lifetime?

John then started to tell me of his passion for collating data and statistics, and how bullshit baffles brains. I stood listening intently to the great man as he told me how, in his opinion, he was the greatest authority on the lurcher ever to have graced the face of the earth and how many young people regarded him as a latter-day 'Grizzly Adams'.

From nowhere, a crippled sheep sprang. Instantly without a word of command the lurchers gave chase. After a course that lasted thirty-eight point seven five seconds (John always times each gallop with a stopwatch) all seven dogs eventually came to terms with the sheep. John gave a great hysterical cry, begging me not to use my camera, as this would impair the lurchers' hunting ability. Calling each dog by name, then turning to look sheepishly back in my direction, he shouted : “Kill!” and his lurchers delivered the sheep into Abraham's bosom.

“That's the kind of obedience I insist upon,” said a blood-covered John as he fought his way into the mêlée to rescue a leg of mutton from the snapping jaws of his hellhounds.

We turned for home, cold and wet and dejected, my mind at its lowest ebb. John saw my bedraggled state and showing his concern for the weaker sex, he began to sing a hunting song. “Do you ken John Higginbottom at the break of day, do you ken Jon Higginbottom as your hounds view away, do you ken…..”

Back at the cottage that night, refreshed by a hot drink of cocoa made from ewe's milk, we dined as the Saxon kings of old, on the rescued leg of mutton John had so courageously saved. He talked endlessly of his many adventures with both rat and rabbit.

I asked John if he had any burning ambitions left to fulfill. “I'd like the dogs to catch a rabbit,” said he, casually tossing a tidbit to one of the lurchers that lay contented at his feet. After dinner we sat, John reading a book while he puffed at his short clay - pipe, blowing the most enormous blue smoke rings (he loved smoke rings) that seemed to hang in the air indefinitely, or curl round and round the ceiling.

I couldn't quite make out the title of the book John was reading. Without further ado I asked what book could so totally absorb such an articulate, self-confessed intellectual? He tossed the book casually over to me, a wry smile covered his face, as he said: “My bible.”

I opened the book and read the title 'The Big Blue Book of Lurchers' by John Higginbottom.

The hour being ever so late, John, seven very tired Higginbottom lurchers a Higginbottom Terrier and I, lay in front of an open log fire. John, however, could not sleep. His fingers that had been so savagely attacked by his ferrets were giving him jip. Yes, he had conveniently forgot to cauterize his wounds.

Driving home, I felt each long mile the car covered was taking me nearer to reality and civilization. I had left a giant of a man completely alone in his cottage at the edge of the world. Little did I appreciate the power of John's force 7 stare. As my diary entries will reveal, there was intrigue, scandal and mystery surrounding John Higginbottom Esq.

The Decline in Terrier Coats

Christine W. writes:

Is a proper wire coat easy to lose with careless breeding? After looking at many pictures of old terriers from 50-100 years ago, it seems they've gotten much 'woollier' than they used to be. For instance, the old Wire Fox Terrier looked like it had a coat very similar to a JRT in it's earliest days, but now it seems much longer haired. Is it the result of breeding for 'beards' and other points other than a natural short, hard coat?

My reply:

Yes, you have it exactly.

A really hard coat that sheds water and briar is what you want on a terrier in cold country. A hard coat is somewhat brittle, and the hairs will naturally break off if they get too long. Dog show judges, who have no idea what is actually important in a working dog, generally judge on all the wrong things. Chest size alone is more important than everything else that can be judged in the ring, but one of the few important visible things you want in a working dog (other than chest size) is a decent coat. A long curly coat is a soft coat, and a soft coat cannot shed water, ice and dirt like a hard one. I much prefer a good smooth coat to a woolly coated dog.

The best coat on a working terrier, in my opinion, is what is called a "slape coat." Not sure of the origins of the word (apparently northern slang for 'slippery' and for slate roofed), but I have been using it for more than 25 years and everyone who works dogs in the UK knows what it means as well. It's a hard coat, and pretty short, and it lays down with hard guard hairs on the outside. You will see it on a good working Patterdale or Fell, and sometimes on a Jack Russell of the right sort. Border terriers often have terrific slape coats, but we are seeing those get ruined by the ring as well.

I put coat a distant second to chest size in importance when looking for a working terrier, but when you are out foxing and the temperature is 15 degrees and its 20 mile-per-hour winds, you want a coat that is hard, and which the wind and water and ice cannot blow through. A linty coat or a long and woolly coat will generally not do. A working terrier has no "furnishings" at all. In fact, if you ask a working terrierman about his furnishings, he will show you his couch!


Dog Training

Monday, October 27, 2014

Darwin's Advice on Ebola

Distemper Vaccine Ad 1965

Repost from June 2005

Nothing has killed more dogs than distemper, and the cure for this dreaded disease was found thanks to The Field magazine and a partnership between hounds, ferrets, fox, and scientists.

For the complete story, see the previous post on this topic >> here.  

Stanley Milgram Dog Buyers and Breeders

I have written about the Milgram Experiment before. In that earlier post I raised the question as to whether a different kind of "Milgram Experiment" might be going on with dog breeds and breed standards:

People know that breeding very large dogs and very small dogs results in a very high, and very predictable, amount of painful canine pathology, ranging from cancer and bloat to syringomyelia.

People know that breeding achondroplastic and brachycephalic dogs results in a very high, and very predictable, amount of long-term breathing problems, joint problems, and heart disease.

People know that breeding Bloodhounds results in dogs that will often be in pain due to bloat, gastric torsion and cancer, and that more than half of these dogs will be dead by age 7.

So why do people do it?

They are simply "following directions."

The directions are written down in a "breed standard" created by a nameless, faceless group of people who claim "history" as their guide even when the history is entirely invented.

The directions say that no dog can be bred outside of the Kennel Club's closed registry system.

The directions say that a pure breed dog is better than a "mongrel" gotten from the pound

The authority is the Kennel Club.

The pain administered to the dogs is minimized by "expert breeders" and Club potentates who spend considerable amounts of time and energy denying, rationalizing, and explaining away defect, deformity and disease in their breeds, and who also routinely lie to potential puppy buyers about breed longevity.

Deaf dog? Never had one.

Uric acid stones? Not in my line.

Heart problems? Oh, that occurs sometimes among "backyard breeders" but never in the kennels of the board members of the breed club.

Cancer, skin conditions, and eye problems? That just comes with the breed.

In fact, only the best Chihuahuas have moleras, and only the best Finnish Spitz's have epilepsy, and only the best herding dogs have the merle gene which is so often linked to deafness.

Defect is proof of quality!

In a world in which people will administer killing levels of electric shock to other people on voice command alone, it should come as no surprise to find many people are able to rationalize breeding dogs that will be in pain or discomfort for much of their lives.

After all, it's not like every dog in even a deeply troubled breed will have a painful defect.

And if it happens, it can easily be fobbed off as a "bad break" . . . for the owner of the dog.

And yes, that is how we say, isn't it?

Oh your [cancer prone breed] is dying of cancer? I'm, so sorry for the terrible expense.

Your dachshund has to be put down with a spinal cord injury? I'm so sorry for your loss.

Are you getting another one?

Oh good! It would be a shame if you let that one dog change your opinion of the breed!

    Vonnegut on the Apocalypse

    “And how should we behave during this Apocalypse? We should be unusually kind to one another, certainly. But we should also stop being so serious. Jokes help a lot. And get a dog, if you don’t already have one …”
    ....- Kurt Vonnegut

    Jesus Said This?

    Operant Conditioning for Babies

    Someone has a little fun trolling Craig's List.

    Sunday, October 26, 2014

    The World of Dog Breeding Is About to Change

    The cloning of dogs seems to strike at the economic roots of breeding show dogs.
    Dr. Hwang Woo Suk runs the only company on earth that clones dogs for customers willing to pay $100,000.

    Dr. Hwang led the team that cloned the first dog in 2005, an Afghan hound carried by a Labrador Retriever surrogate. Dr. Hwang has produced more than 550 cloned puppies since.

    Dr. Hwang has recently teamed up with BoyaLife, a Chinese biotechnology company with 28 subsidiaries, to build a 667,000-square-foot research laboratory that will be China’s first commercial animal cloning facility.  The grounds will be landscaped to look like a park. Think Jurasic Park for dogs, cows, and pigs.

    The U.S. military has already commissioned Dr. Hwamg to clone two Belgian Malinois puppies from an animal they believe is the elite of the elite among special forces dogs.

    High-performing special purpose dogs are a particular interest of Dr. Hwang, who wants to know if a puppy cloned from a truly exceptional working dog will end up performing as well as its genetic twin -- an area of economic interest to those who breed and train police dogs, explosives detection dogs, service dogs, and hunting dogs.

    Cloned dogs will be only part of the produce at the Chinese cloning facility now being built -- look for cloned cows, pigs, and rare and endangered species.

    Animals will also be cloned and genetically manipulated to have certain diseases, such as a beagle with Alzheimer's, or a Labrador Retriever with diabetes.

    Cloned pigs will be raised as a spare parts factory for humans needing heart valves and the like.

    And human cloning?  If it occurs in the next 20 years, it will likely occur at Boyalife and Dr. Wang will be the force pushing for it.

    As for dogs, how many cloned animals will it take to end the world of dog shows?

    We have "pupsicles" on ice now of course; frozen semen from top dogs that died as long as ten years ago.

    But that simply extends the breeding "life" of a male dog.  The wobble of uncertainty still comes with crossing.

    But a clone removes that wobble entirely, and since so much of the dog show world swings on winning that one top ribbon at Crufts or Westminster, the cloning of dogs seems to strike right at the economic roots of breeding top show dogs.

    This video has nothing to do with the post -- just very cute.

    Coyotes Chase Inmate Back to Prison

    From the Muscantine, Iowa Journal:
    MUSCATINE, Iowa — A Muscatine man who escaped custody during a trip to the hospital has been caught, and authorities didn't even need bloodhounds to track him down.

    They got help from some coyotes instead.

    Daniel Rice led Muscatine authorities on a foot chase Monday night after escaping custody. Rice, 21, whose address was last reported as 401 Colorado St., had been transported from the Muscatine County Jail to Trinity Muscatine hospital for heart-related health issues. Once there he was cuffed to the bed, but was able to pull his wrist through the handcuff, evade the transport officer and escape on foot. Rice had been wearing only a hospital gown at the time, which came off during the chase, authorities said. A warrant was issued for his arrest and authorities continued their search.

    On Wednesday, Rice was taken into custody shortly after midnight by the Rock Island County Sheriff's Office.

    Deputies were dispatched after receiving a call about two men being chased by a pack of wild coyotes at the Loud Thunder Forest Preserve in Illinois City, Illinois, according to Steven VenHuizen, chief deputy for the Rock Island County Sheriff's Office.

    VenHuizen said Rice called dispatch using a false name to report being chased by coyotes. When deputies arrived on the scene, they recognized Rice by the description they had, and a pacemaker scar on his chest. Rice was taken into custody and transported back to the Muscatine County Jail around 8:15 p.m.

    Rice has been arrested in Muscatine County three times since July on charges of theft, criminal mischief and burglary. A new charge was filed Thursday for escaping from custody, a class D felony.

    Rice is being held on a $50,000 cash-only bond and a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Monday, Nov. 3.

    Redlining It to the Grave

    God never gives you more than you can handle. Or any less. Every one of us is redlining it to the grave.

    Most of the time folks are doing the best they can.

    It's hard to remember that some times, but in old age I have learned to keep my expectations low.  We have not been out of the trees for very long!

    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    A Dog Training Story in an Unlikely Periodical

    Foreign Policy magazine is not the most obvious place to find a story about dog training, but there it is. Under the title, The Dog Whisperer, we are given the story of "how a British colonel altered the battlefields of World War I, and why his crusade still resonates today."

    In April 1917, in Villers-Bretonneux, northern France, war was raging. The Germans were advancing on the British; a small brigade of Australian soldiers had emerged from the trenches repeatedly to push them back. The enemy captured a strategic position, knocking out all lines of communication, but one member of the Allied forces was able to make it through the heavy shellfire that pounded down on the treacherous seven miles separating the command from the front: a small retriever, a messenger dog named Darkie, who covered that distance in only 55 minutes. Of all the reports sent from the front, Darkie's was the only one received.
    The article goes on to tell the story of Lt. Col. Edwin Hautenville Richardson, the author of British War Dogs: Their Training and Psychology, and the man who introduced the notion of the use of dog in war to British military forces.

    In truth, the article is a bit light and so too is Richardson's book if one is looking for any insights into dog training. Still, as a bit of history found in an unlikely place, it surely ranks!

    Undiggable Earths

    This groundhog sette ran more than 6 feet deep through broken slates mixed with thick tree roots. This is a diggable earth, but one you do not want to tackle solo, as I was this day in the field. This is when you want a dog that will come out rather than force you to dig down to it.

    If you dig very much, your dog will eventually enter a sette that, for one reason or another, is undiggable. Perhaps it is a fine-looking earth that, when shovel is put to soil, turns out to be a heap of roofing tin covered over with dirt -- or worse, a mound of steel-belted radial tires! I have had dogs enter settes that ran under huge pieces of broken iron sewage pipe that had been dumped into a ravine, as well as rock settes and massive hay bale stacks that were not going to be shifted without a backhoe.

    Sometimes a sette is theoretically diggable, but you really would prefer not to. A 10-foot solo dig for a groundhog? Not if you can avoid it!

    What do you do when your dog enters an earth that could only be dug if you were forced to chainsaw down the tree and prize out the roots?


    Stand back, far away, and sit down. Do not smoke, do not talk, and do not stand up. Do not sit near the sette -- you want to be so far back from the hole that the dog cannot hear you breathe or smell you. Do not shift your weight or bang your tools -- just sit and wait and watch the hole.

    How long do you wait? That depends. Most dogs will come out between a half hour and an hour after they enter. What happens if they don't? You wait some more. Do not go back to the sette and do not call the dog.

    Waiting is hard, especially if it's a green dog, or you are a green digger. There's a natural desire to do something -- to start digging, to call the dog, to shove a mirror and light down the hole, to walk around topside boxing for location, etc.

    If you have really ascertained that the earth is undiggable, resist temptation.

    Two or three hours may go by with the dog not coming out. The good news is that most dogs will exit on their own before this amount of time has passed. Be patient.

    It is in these undiggable earths that small vocal dogs prove their worth, because these dogs are less likely to get stuck, are more likely to be able to turn around underground, and are less likely to shove dirt behind them that might "bottle them up" from behind.

    If the dog is vocal, and you are quiet, you should be able to hear it bay when you are close to the sette (provided it does not have a mouth full of fur).

    When the dog does appear, do not walk up to it, but instead turn your back, walk slowly away, and quietly call its name -- the dog will most likely follow. If it does not follow, and instead dives back into the hole, simply sit down and wait some more -- the dog will be out again, soon enough. Now you are simply in a waiting and training game.

    An experienced dog will understand, in time, that you are a team and that if you are digging it has to hold ground, but if you are not digging for a long period of time it may be a signal to come out.

    Dogs learn, provided we are consistent and give them lots of experience. It is on the experience end that most terrier owners fall down.

    Tales That Dog Dealers Tell

    A dog dealer emailed me a few week ago. I will not name him or post my complete note back to him, but I did enjoy pricking the balloon that terrier work of any kind is big game hunting in truly wild country done by hardened macho men.

    You can only believe that nonsense if you have never been close to big game, never been in truly wild country, and never known a truly dangerous man. As I noted:

    Yes we hunt [with terriers] in America, and we hunt without apology and within the law. But it's not exactly big game hunting, is it? This is small potatoes stuff, and the braggadocio that goes on among dog dealers is funny when held up to the cold light of day.

    Raccoon, groundhog, badger, and fox are not exactly mountain lions, grizzly bear, and wolves are they? Let us tamp down the notion that we are big game hunters involved in mighty life-and-death struggles with fierce, killer fighting dogs. It's not true. That's the romantic rhetoric of a dog dealer.

    Who cares what color a dog is, where it came from, who bred it, or what piece of paper is associated with it? Let the dog work, and the work will speak for the dog. No grand stories of heroic valor need to be told. No foreign origins need to be assigned, and no references to fighting dogs need ever be made.

    Of course that's not the story told by the dog dealers, is it? And especially not the wannabe working dog dealers that do not seem to own a locator collar or a decent shovel and digging bar.

    Like parents who have sent their children off to Lake Wobegone Summer Camp, every dog dealer wants to believe their dogs are "above average." To do that, they think they must tell you their dogs are tougher, bigger, and harder than the next. Their dogs are "the real deal" they will tell you. Accept no substitutes.

    Really? I need a tougher dog? Why is that again?

    After all, a fox, raccoon, or possum cannot dig away. Surely this dog dealer knows that? And surely this dog dealer knows how to dispatch quarry at the end of a dig?

    Just asking...

    But, of course, so many do not know how to handle quarry at the end of a dig, do they? Cuff a fox out of a hole? Tail out an animal bare-handed? How do you do that? So many have no idea!

    And the evidence of ignorance shows, doesn't it?

    How many of these dog dealers count as success not pictures of quarry dug to, but pictures of dogs with ripped muzzles?

    This is success? Hmmmm.

    Where I come from, we count success as showing a creature at the end of a dig, and a dog that has come to no serious harm as a result of a job well done by the human working in partnership with the dog.

    Now, of course, some animals can dig away -- badgers and groundhogs for example. There is no denying it.

    And yet, with some amusement, I note that one of the pictures of a wrecked dog on one of the anti-sites (the worst picture on there!) shows a Jack Russell Terrier ripped across the snout by a groundhog owned by an Englishman who was told groundhogs were no tougher than hamsters. He has learned since! They are not wolves or grizzly bears, to be sure, but they are not quite hamsters either, are they? Yes, they have teeth and will use them, but let us admit the truth: they are small game, and adding macho swagger to the idea of slipping one in the bag is silly if you actually know what it is you are doing.

    But each to his own.

    I suppose if you only dig a few times a year, every dig has to be an expedition, every raccoon or fox has to be a giant, and a slashed muzzle is a never-mind. After all, these folks have no real intent of going out digging next weekend too, do they?

    Fear Factor

    "Through their analysis two key factors emerged: having a lower level of education and also high frequency of television viewing were the most consistent predictors of fear." -The Chapman Survey on American Fears

    Friday, October 24, 2014

    Great Migrations

    Whales, shark, tuna, seals, and turtles migrate across and around the oceans.

    Pronghorn, Bison, Elk, and Bear migrate up and down and across the American west.

    Squid and ocean invertebrates migrate up and down in the water column, from day to night and back again.

    Ducks, geese, hawks, cranes, storks, robins, shearwaters, and even hummingbirds and penguins, migrate vast distances around the globe.

    Elephants, zebra, wildebeest, and gazelles migrate hundreds, even thousands of miles, and some predators migrate with them.

    Some butterflies, and a great number of dragonflies, migrate long distances and even travel across oceans.

    The world is pulsing with life.  

    Even earthworms rise to feed above ground, and plunge below at night.

    The entire planet is a ball seething with life.

    Dog Training

    Over 200 "Likes" In a Week

    Terrierman's Daily Dose now has a Twitter Feed and a Facebook Page which are automatically populated from the blog.  The Facebook page got over 200 "likes' in its first week.  Thanks and please share!

    Prison Planet Dogs

    So many dogs these days live "prison planet" lives.

    What do I mean by this?

    Think about the life of a dog, but flip it around and make it about a child.

    Suppose a small boy or girl, age three months, is brought to live alone in a cave tied to a large fenced yard.

    He shares the cave and yard with five or six dogs, but other than that, he only communicates with other people on those brief occasions when he is allowed to leave the yard and can actually interact with them.

    Will this boy learn the language of humans with so little contact in such truncated circumstances?

    What will this child act like? This adult? This old man?

    When we talk about poor socialization among dogs, we tend to mean dogs that are overly fearful or aggressive towards other dogs and other people.

    But poor socialization just as often expresses itself in another way -- dogs that are SO in need of canine contact, and so inarticulate in "dog speak" that, when put before other dogs, they are like long-term foreign prison camp survivors swarming over their liberators, crying and laughing, pawing at their pockets and kissing their feet as they try to get their cracked vocal chords to work again and remember the word for "thank you" in their almost-forgotten mother tongue.

    And these are men who were captured as adults, and after only a few years as captives!

    Now imagine how bad it might be if you were taken to a prison planet -- a suburban home -- as a child and left to communicate with no one but the wolves.

    Would you ever be able to communicate with the wolves as well as they communicate with each other?  And how well would you be able to communicate with other people ?

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    The Kennel Club Is Not Full of Evil People... It is Full of People Desperately Seeking Social Status

    A segment from a post I wrote in 2005:

    The Kennel Club is a huge money-making bureaucracy dependent upon selling people on the "exclusivity" of a closed registry and a scrap of paper that says a dog is a "pure breed". So long as people are willing to buy Kennel Club registered dogs that have predictably higher chances of serious physical impairments than cross-bred dogs, the Kennel Club (and Kennel Club breeders) have little motivation to change the way they do business.

    Let me hasten to say that the Kennel Club is not filled with evil people intent on doing harm to dogs. It is, in fact, filled with regular people who are different from the rest of the world only in the degree, and the way, they seek ego-gratification and are status-seeking.

    This last point is import: the Kennel Club is not primarily about dogs. Dogs do not care about ribbons, pedigrees, titles, and points. These are human obsessions. The reason a human will drive several hundred miles and stand around all day waiting for 10 minutes in the ring is not because of the dog, but because the human needs that ribbon, that title, and that little bit of extra status that comes from a win.

    Each to his own, but let us be honest about what dog shows are about -- they are about ribbons for people. The dogs themselves could not give a damn.

    It is unfair to fault individual breeders and breed clubs for the failures of the Kennel Club, as these smaller units are powerless to change the larger whole.

    Breed clubs are small and largely impotent by design. Because the Kennel Club does not require breeders, pet owners, or even show ring ribbon-chasers to join a breed club as a condition of registration, these entities remain small, underfunded, and unrepresentative.

    Breed clubs, like dog shows themselves, are also steeped in internecine politics and dominated by big breeders and people who over-value "conformation."

    It is only by conforming to the AKC system for decades that anyone can hope to move up in the AKC hierarchy -- a situation that guarantees intellectual and bureaucratic inbreeding.
    In the end, the AKC is a closed registry in every sense of that word. It continues to embrace the failed genetic theories of Victorian England because it is incapable of serious reform within the Club itself. 

    Cats are Selfish, Unfeeling, Environmentally Harmful Creatures -- and That's the Opinion of a Fan

    Researchers say cats are "selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures". A bit harsh, but also a bit hard to argue with. As the folks at Vox note,
    Compared to dogs, scientists have found, cats don't seem to have the same sort of emotional attachment to their owners, and show genuine affection far less often than you might think. Further, they're an environmental disaster, killing literally billions of birds in the US every year — many of them from endangered species.

    Most alarmingly (and as explained in this 2012 Atlantic article), there's compelling evidence that a parasite often found in cat feces can subtly change people's personalities over time, increasing rates of neuroticism, schizophrenia, and perhaps even suicide.

    In other words, research is telling us that cats are selfish, unfeeling, environmentally devastating creatures. If you need to convince someone not to get a cat, here's the research you need to show them.

    Now, before folks start sending me hate mail (delete!) you should know that the person doing this research is Daniel Mills, a veterinary researcher at the UK's University of Lincoln, and a confirmed cat lover.

    But he is also a rational objective scientist and knows a problem species when he sees one.

    What about cats that purr, or which rub up against their owner? They are not signs of affection. The former is what a cat does when it is manipulating people into feeding it, the latter what it does with trees when it is scent-marking.

    And what about the billions of wild animals they kill every year, and the sometimes-fatal brain disease they carry to humans? Read the whole article!

    Click to enlarge.

    A Matter of (Good) Breeding

    Clicking around the interwebs (did I mention that there's now a Facebook and Twitter account associated with this blog?), I came across a link to a book scheduled to come out next year. From
    So-called “purebreds” are the mainstay of the dog industry, and social critic Michael Brandow argues that these aren’t markers of time-honored traditions but rather commercial inventions of the nineteenth century that were marketed as status symbols to a growing middle class. Combining social history and consumer studies with sharp commentary, this book reveals the sordid history of the dog industry and shows how our brand-name pets pay the price with devastatingly poor health.

    The Thagomizer

    A million years ago, the great cartoonist Gary Larson produced this cartoon:


    That cartoon was so successful in the rarified world of morphological descriptions of paleontological specimens, that this happened:

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    Ben Bradlee, a Lion, Roars at a Circus Flak

    Ben Bradlee was editor of The Washington Post, my local newspaper, from 1968 to 1991.

    He came in when the town was just starting an epic rise, and he stepped down from the Post just before the rise of the Internet shot that paper, and the entire news industry, to hell.

    Part of good living is having good timing in your profession, and as a newspaper man, Ben Bradlee's was perfect.

    The man was a lion with balls the size of mangoes and a wit as sharp as a straight razor. He did not suffer fools well, and so was rarely surrounded by them.

    And did he like flaks? No, not much.  The above letter to a circus public relations man (for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus), is a masterpiece!

    What Americans Need to Know About Ebola in Dogs

    Not a single damn thing.  There is no evidence dogs can even carry ebola, and there have only been three ebola cases in America (one brought from overseas).  

    As one wag pointed out, Taylor Swift fans kill more Americans every week than ebola has in the last 100 years!

    Remember, the thing that REALLY kills Americans and their dogs is Dihydrogen Monoxide and bumble bees.  

    And, as always, beware of the cows.

    That said, because Ebola is not much of a threat to Americans, is no reason not to remember what is happening right now in West Africa.  Ebola is a very serious threat in that part of the world.  

    I suspect we will contain this contagion, and hopefully it will be a wake up call about the need to be more forward-thinking about epidemics in this increasingly inter-connected world.  God help us all if this warning is not heeded.