Thursday, August 27, 2015

Another Gauloises, Garcon!

The wife and I are in Paris today, knocking around the zoo. It's raining, so a slow day, and Carolyn is catching up on a few hours of much-needed sleep while I walk around.

The book store may be dead in America, but it is alive and well in Paris. 

The hotel room that once required a room key in a wall fixture to turn on the lights has been replaced by a magnetic card that does the same thing. 

Starbucks has made it to France, even if it will never be tolerated in Italy.  

The plastic turd bag for dog mess is an idea that does not seem to be widely saluted. 

I needed to buy an umbrella this morning, and walked right into a dedicated umbrella shop. I have never even seen one of those before!

Smoking is still a very common pastime here, and there is no such thing as a "no smoking" section. You just deal with it, same as it used to be in the U.S.

To hear tell in some quarters, France is overrun with North Africans, but this seems to be more hyperbole than actuality. France is still French, and a few darker-skinned Frenchmen is not going to change that. France has never been as culturally fragile as it has imagined.

At the end of the day, somewhere between the Pantheon and the Louvre, I had my wallet pick-pocketed. I canceled my credit cards within an hour and a half (as soon as I figured it out) but they had already tried to use American Express in two locations. I lost about 70 euros plus my drivers license and insurance cards. I have not lost a wallet in 30 years. Truly pissed off. The credit card folks were excellent about it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dogs in the Wild

Berger Picard as found in the wild, in the streets of Paris, with drop ears and goofy grin.  #^%!?€ your "standards". 

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Lake Made, and Land Lost

This "lake" was made in one rain, while the effect of deep plowing on steep hills is self-evident.

Flooded in Tucsany

A storm came through last night which, when combined with rotten land management practices here in Tucany (deep plowing on steep hills without shelter belts, break strips, or cover crops), and very poor bridge construction, has wiped out all the bridges in the area. As a consequence, the wife and I are going to leave for the Rome airport tomorrow afternoon, as I don't want to drive through the mountains, in the dark, on these narrow, twisting roads. I'm driving a stick too, and only for the second time in 30 years.

This is not the first time bridges in this area have all washed out. Apparently what will follow is a year of argument about who should pay for the bridge repair (i.e., nothing will be done for a year) followed by slap-dash construction, which will fail with the next big storm or two.

As you can see in the last picture, at top, I am treating it all rather philosophically!

Tuscany is a beautiful place, but soil conservation is abysmal. The local rivers are running thick with soil and mud from a relatively modest amount of rain.

Protect your soil; God's not making too much more of that! 

We Need These in America

I am pretty sure they would sell like hot cakes.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

In Tuscany

I've been in Tuscany, Italy for the last few days. Off to Paris on Wednesday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Monkey Minds Up the Leash

The Buddhist term “Monkey Mind”
stems from the observation that left untamed, our minds' natural state can tend toward being unsettled, restless, indecisive and uncontrollable.

Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.

A few months ago, in a post entitled Attention Deficit Disorder at Both Ends of the Leash, I wrote:
The predator brain is constantly on the alert for clues and stimulus; the sound of a can opener, the click of a door, the scent of perfume, the rattle of a cup, the swish of a skirt, the greasy smell of a hamburger, the chime of an elevator.

As a consequence, both people and dogs seems to have epic levels of Attention Deficit Disorder.

What happens when the ADD mind of a dog meets the ADD mind of a human?

Often a great deal of misery!

When distracted people interact with distracted dogs, the result is inconsistent and poorly timed feedback. Connections, if made, are poorly reinforced. Frustration grows. Both sides get bored and begin to question the intelligence of the other.
So what's the cure? There is no cure, but there are tools that can help us tame our Monkey Mind when dog training. Oddly the two things that seem to work best are little handheld clickers.

When a trainer has a clicker in hand, and is focused on getting the noise timed exactly right, is the trainer flailing around with his or her hands?


Is he or she talking?


In fact, they are not supposed to be moving at all.

And in clicker training, it is the clicker that does the talking, not the human.

Is the clicker assertive? You bet!

The clicker sends just ONE clear signal -- a signal that says "we could use a little more of that."

So what's the difference between the proper use of a clicker and an e-collar tap?

Not much, other than the obvious --- one device is generally saying "give me a little more of that," and the other device is generally saying "give me a little less of that," or perhaps "pay attention."

Either way, the most important thing going on may be up the leash where the dog trainer's Monkey Mind is now focused, paying attention, and sending just one clear, well-timed signal to the dog.

Be Aware of Dog

Old dog, young dog
, several stupid dogs.  Please drive slowly if you are coming up my driveway.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Augmented Reality Sandbox

This is realtime topographic contour line generation with a pile of sand, some software, and a light projector. Very cool.

U.S. Border Collie Rounds Up 11 Million Illegals

It must be true
; it was on the Internet.

Coffee and Provocation

The Pesticides Used on Organic Farms
People think pesticides cannot be used on organic farms, but that's not true. Organic farms do use pesticides, but the pesticides they use are "natural" instead of "synthetic." This may sound better, but we actually know less about a lot of these toxic natural pesticides than we do about the synthetics. Want to know a few more myths about "organic" food? Head over to RealClearScience.

The Evolution of Taxidermy
Everything eventually dies, but a few rare animals become as close to immortal as we can make them. Only animals that help produce advances in scientific research, medical progress, and genetic improvement have longer-lasting legacies than taxidermied museum specimens.

Bears Kills Deer in Suburban Backyard
Warning. This video is pretty horrific, as this is not a quick kill. This bit of video does underscore a few points I routinely make: that wildlife is coming back all over, including top-end predators, and that nothing in field or or forest dies with a morphine drip and Mozart on the Victrola. (Thanks Karen C!)

The Devil's Advocate

Tasmanian Devils have been devastated in recent years by a type of infectious cancer, but a new vaccine has been created and the first vaccinated animals have been release back to the wild. Of course, a vaccine hardly stops the spread of the disease beyond the vaccinated. For things to turn around, thousands of devils in an area would have to perpetually vaccinated in order to create "herd resistance" to control the cancer's spread.

This Is Where Your Coffee Comes From
Every bean that goes into your morning coffee has been touched by multiple human hands.  This is product of blood, sweat and soil.  See this terrific photo essay.

A Book Worth a Look
A Naturalist Goes Fishing: Casting in Fragile Waters from the Gulf of Mexico to New Zealand's South Island by James McClintock comes out October 27th and looks pretty interesting. A good one to put  on the Christmas list for the anglers in your family!

Teach Your Kids About Math and Money
Teach your kids about math and money with this set of 100 plastic pennies. Cost? Over $9.00

Food for Thought
If you loved vagina yogurt, then you really should try toe cheese.  And yes there is even cheese made from Michael Pollan skin scrapings.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


From Modern Mechanix, June 1936:

HAVE you ever murmured “impossible” while watching the antics of famous dog performers at the theater or movies?

If so, were you correct in your assumption? It all depends on the stunt and who was doing it.

In movie comedies, dogs frequently are called upon to do the “impossible,” according to Harry Lucenay, who has spent fifteen years in training canine movie stars, including the renowned Pete of “Our Gang” comedy fame. Veteran of more than 200 comedies and feature pictures, this dog has made a fortune before Hollywood cameras. But natural born actor and comedian though he is, Pete himself would be amazed at some of his screen antics.

For example, Pete frequently is called upon to register astonishment by putting his paw behind his ear while sitting up on his hind legs. Due to a dog’s physical make-up, this is virtually an impossibility. How is it accomplished? Simply by having the trainer place the dog’s paw behind the ear before starting the cameras and then shooting the scene in reverse action. A shot then is made of him sitting up in a natural position. In the cutting room the two shots are matched so the action appears to be simultaneous.

When a comedy script called for Pete to smoke a pipe, several plans were tried without success. Finally a profile shot of the dog was made, the cameras being so arranged as to cut out a small portion at the rear. A strip of copper tubing was then fashioned into a Z-shape so one end could be placed between the dog’s teeth, and the other on the outside of his jaw on the side hidden from the camera. To this end was attached a rubber hose that ran along the hidden side to the trainer beyond the camera lines. A pipe was then placed in the dog’s mouth and his trainer, blowing smoke through the tube, supplied realistic puffs. Inasmuch as the rear of the dog was not in camera range, the rubber hose could not be seen.

In another comedy, a young married woman, while making a cake, accidentally put a pan of chicken feathers into the ingredients. The laugh came when Pete was given a piece of cake and started spitting out the feathers. Lucenay experienced little difficulty in getting this effect. After the preliminary shots of the dog munching on cake were taken, the trainer rolled up some feathers in a compact ball and placed them in Pete’s mouth. Cameras started grinding and Pete was told to bark. When he did, the feathers shot out of his mouth.

In another picture, a college weakling became the campus hero when, while being chased by a dog, he succeeded in winning a cross-country race. Here the problem was in keeping the dog at varying distance behind the runner. When the athlete showed signs of slowing up, Pete was to move up within biting distance. Attaching a long piece of piano wire to the dog’s collar so he could govern the dog’s speed from the rear without detection, Lucenay placed Pete’s play ball in the runner’s back pocket.

When the actor started to run, the dog was after him to get the ball.

The methods he has used in training movie dogs can be used successfully in the education of house pets, Lucenay says. A dog to be trained must have love and confidence in his master, he warns. Too, he must be taught to respond immediately to commands.

“The reason many dog owners fail at training,” he explains, “is because they lack patience. They attempt to teach everything in a few weeks, when actually, months, and even years, are required to do the job properly.”

The early stages of training should be masked as play, says the Hollywood trainer. Thus, knowledge is instilled without making it a hardship. A hard rubber ball is the best pencil and slate for the canine kindergarten. If the puppy fails to register enthusiasm when the ball first is rolled, tie a string to the ball and draw it along in front of him. After he has been allowed to catch the ball a few times, he will be enthusiastic.

After a time, a newspaper rolled up and tied with a string should be substituted. This in turn can be supplanted by an old basket, or something else light and bulky. By degrees the weight can be increased. Then, holding the puppy by the collar, the object should be thrown and the dog commanded to retrieve it. “If the pup brings the object back,” says Luce-nay, “he should be petted and praised. Walk several steps before removing the object from the dog’s mouth. If he doesn’t bring it back, roll it around in front of him until he picks it up. When he has mastered this stunt, he is ready to carry a parcel or bring in the evening paper in addition to retrieving.”

To teach a pup to sit down, says Lucenay, place your left hand under his lower jaw and gently press his haunches downward at the same time telling him to “Sit down.” To teach him to come when called, a light cord several yards long should be fastened to his collar. After placing him in a sitting position walk away and then give the command, “Come here.” If he disregards the order, a gentle tug will serve as a reminder. When the gentle tug fails, pull the dog slowly toward you, making certain to encourage and pet him when he is within reach.

To teach a pup to lie down in an indicated spot and stay there, Pete’s master gives these suggestions: “Call the pup by name, point to the spot where you wish him to lie, and then in low, even voice tell him to ‘Lie down.’ Naturally, at first, he won’t understand, so after telling him to sit down, pull his front paws slowly forward until he is on his stomach. Place his head on his paws and hold it there for a short time. Loosen your hold and, if he attempts to get up, place him in the original position with the order ‘Stay there.’ Repeat this several times daily for a week or so. At the outset, it’s a good idea to stand over him for a short time to see that he obeys. Then start to walk away and if the dog gets up to follow, place him in the original position with the order, ‘Stay there.’ “Get farther and farther away, walking around him in one direction and then in the other. Then go to another room where the pup can’t see you, but you can watch him. If he starts to get up, command him to ‘Lie down.’ Never allow him to get up until you give him the command, ‘Come on.’ With a good foundation in these points, the dog can be taught many simple tricks.”

It is not hard to train a dog to jump through a hoop or over a stick, Lucenay says. He should be started with a piece of board held edgewise on the ground because if he is used to a stick, he may try to crawl under it. By lifting one paw gently and then the other, a pup can be taught to shake hands. At the same time repeat “Right hand” and “Left hand,” always taking the one demanded and refusing the other. Your hand should be extended to the side of the paw asked for so the other paw cannot reach it.

Another trainer who believes in starting to train puppies early is Paul Sydell, owner of Spotty and Kiki, two of the greatest dog performers in the world. Not long ago, Sydell introduced another member into his troupe. Her name is Roberta and she was just four days old. At her debut, the little pup stood perfectly balanced on its two front feet in the center of the trainer’s hand!

All dogs are not cut out for performers, Sydell says. Many with the ability to perform don’t care about it and are as useless as those that cannot be taught.

“I’ve spent weeks trying to teach some dogs a trick that a natural born performer can pick up in a few minutes,” he says. “If you find a dog is a show-off it’s a pretty safe bet he has good possibilities.”

Monday, August 17, 2015

As It Was: Japanese Falconry in the 1860s

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has digitized a Japanese falconry book from the 1860s entitled Ehon taka kagami, or An Illustrated Mirror of Falconry.

The woodcuts, by Kawanabe Kyôsai, shows falconry equipment and training methods, as well as the Siberian goshawks that 19th-century Japanese falconers favored. 

Some copies of Kyôsai's prints were printed with flecks of mica 
embedded in the paper in order to lend sparkle to the bird's feathers.

Drone Pictures of the Lava of Mordor

This drone footage of the huge Holuhraun lava field in Iceland was captured by US videographer Eric Cheng in February of this year.

Nature Thrives When People Disappear

It's a pretty sobering reality that no amount of barbed wire, spent fuel rods, PCBs, landmines, live ammo, or coal slag is as dangerous to wild animals as the mere presence of humans.

Prior to 1986, the area surrounding Chernobyl in the Ukraine was an agricultural area populated by about 135,000 people. After an uncontained nuclear power plant accident, however, livestock and crops across a vast area were systematically destroyed, and all of the people within a 2,800 mile area around the nuclear plant were evacuated.

With the removal of humans has come the return of some of Europe's most endangered species, including lwolves, lynx, cranes, beaver, eagles, hawks, wild boar, roe deer, badger, and otters. Populations of human-dependent animals, such as rats, house mice, sparrows and pigeons, have declined.

While some folks may imagine that the Chernobyl site must be filled with two-headed frogs, radioactive fish, and sterile deer, scientists have found relatively few visible wildlife side-effects. Dr. Ron Chesser, a senior research scientist and genetics professor at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) in Aiken, South Carolina notes that "There are no monsters. The Chernobyl zone is actually a very beautiful place with thriving wildlife communities. Without a Geiger-counter, you wouldn't know you were in a highly contaminated place."

Chernobyl is not the only place reclaimed by mother nature in the asbsence of humans. A sampling of a few others:
  • The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ): The Korean Demilitarized Zone is about 2.5 miles wide and 155 miles long, stretching across the entire length of the Korean Peninsula. It is one of the largest unmanned areas in northeast Asia. Festooned with barbed wire, landmines, tank traps, sensors, automatic artillery, and patrolled by scores of thousands of soldiers with "shoot-to-kill" orders, the Korean DMZ is also home to hawks, eagles, antelope, two kinds of rare cranes, frogs, black bears, and roe deer. The DMZ is also rumored to be home to the last Korean tigers on earth. In total, more than 20,000 migratory fowl utilize the DMZ border area which encompasses a broad cross-section of Korean ecosystems and landscapes.
  • Military Weapons Production Facilities: Military weapons production facilities in the U.S. have resulted in the creation of several large "no man" zones. In Washington State, for example, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was created as part of the WWII-era Manhattan Project. Today the 586-square mile site is one of the most contaminated spots on earth due to nuclear waste, but it also contains the best undisturbed "shrub-steppe" habitat in the Columbia River basin, and the only undammed stretch of the Columbia River. The healthiest populations of wild chinook salmon on the river system can be found along the Hanford Reach, and more than 200 species of birds and more than 40 rare plants and animals, such as the long-billed curlew, call it home.
    • In Colorado, the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (which produced and stored vast quantities of chemical weapons) systematically kept out humans for more than 40 years. As a result, the 10-square mile Rocky Flats complex outside of Denver has been described as "a rare biological treasure" -- one of the last remaining Front Range open spaces with natural prairie grassland -- while the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (also just outside of Denver) has thriving colonies of prairie dogs and over 100 overwintering bald eagles, as well as trophy-sized mule deer and impressive populations of ferruginous hawks, burrowing owls and mountain plovers. Both locations, for the record, are now National Wildlife Refuge's.
    • In Georgia, a 300-square-mile property along the Savannah River was set aside for nuclear research and development more than 50 years ago. For most of the Cold War this site produced plutonium and tritium for atomic bombs. While a small part of the complex remains heavily contaminated, most of the area was left in pristine condition as a security buffer zone -- an area that today is home to more than 240 species of birds, 100 species of reptiles and amphibians, and nearly 100 species of freshwater fish. Because Savannah River wildlife was left alone to matures, many state record holders have been caught or trapped here, including the largest South Carolina alligator ever caught (13 feet) and the largest South Carolina largemouth bass. Despite jokes about "glowing frogs," University of Georgia's Whit Gibbons says there is no evidence to date of genetic damage to wildlife. "It's a pretty simple formula," he note, "The best protection for the environment is no people."

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    Stuff for Sale at the Rand Paul Web Site

    Presidential candidate Rand Paul has some odd stuff for sale on his web site, including this "Unleash the Dream Beer Stein" for $20. It's a ceramic mug, so a good value, and if anyone wants to send me one, I promise to post a picture with it and give you a shout out!

    And then there's the Hillary Clinton hard drive.  It's been wiped and doesn't work, so basically it's a sticker slapped on some toxic waste junk.  If that's not Rand Paul's modus operandi,  I don't know what is.

    Crushing the Garden of Eden

    The latest projection from the United Nations’ population division is that at the close of this century, the world will have more than 11 billion. Of the 48 least-developed countries, the 27 in Africa will witness the steepest population growth. Nigeria alone is expected to emerge as the third most populous country, after India and China, by 2050.

    Here in the U.S. the foreign-born population has risen to over 42 million. To put it another way, immigrants now comprise 13.3 percent of the nation's total population — the largest share in 105 years. Most of these immigrants, it should be said, are in the country legally and, absent a change in legal immigration policy, those recent legal immigrants can be expected to hold the door for even more immigrant family members to come.

    Back in 2006, I noted that I have been writing about population growth and U.S. immigration policy for more than 25 years.

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

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

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

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

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

    For me, immigration policy is all about numbing numbers and the inexorable loss of the last best things in America -- a loss that will come with an ever-growing tide of people.

    If I could, I would deport some Americans I know, and swap them out for good honest, hard working immigrants. But that's not going to happen anymore than God is going to make more wild lands. It's a cute idea, but in the real world forests are falling to fields, and fields are falling to freeways at a dizzying rate.

    Something's got to give, and there's clearly a place to draw the line. Is it too much to ask that we draw the line at the border?

    Fishing on Friday


    Folks who insist on fling drones over people are going to have to learn that the public may fight back. When you fly a drone, you assume the risk.

    Thursday, August 13, 2015

    No More Prisons of the Road?

    From Peter Wayner
    at the Atlantic come this interesting idea: that driverless cars could turn a lot of city parking lots into urban parks:

    There’s plenty of research showing that a surprisingly large number of people are driving, trying to find a place to leave their car. A group called Transportation Alternatives studied the flow of cars around one Brooklyn neighborhood, Park Slope, and found that 64 percent of the local cars were searching for a place to park. It’s not just the inner core of cities either. Many cars in suburban downtowns and shopping-mall parking lots do the same thing.

    Robot cars could change all that. The unsticking of the urban roads is one of the side effects of autonomous cars that will, in turn, change the landscape of cities— essentially eliminating one of the enduring symbols of urban life, the traffic jam full of honking cars and fuming passengers. It will also redefine how we use land in the city, unleashing trillions of dollars of real estate to be used for more than storing cars. Autonomous cars are poised to save us uncountable hours of time, not just by letting us sleep as the car drives, but by unblocking the roads so they flow faster.

    Over at Treehugger
    , they wonder whether Tesla is going to compeete with Uber using driverless cars
    An Uber would clearly love to have a fleet of self-driving vehicles out there that can be hired via its app. While drivers might object to the very idea of driverless cars, the rest of us could see benefits from lower car ownership; rather than almost everyone owning a car and letting it parked 95% of the time, a single shared car could drive around dozens and dozens of people around the clock. And if it's electric, powered by clean energy, the benefit would be compounded further.

    The question that arises for the next few years is: Will Tesla and Uber get together in some way or other to push self-driving cars forward? Or will Tesla decide that it has everything it needs to start its own transportations service and launch its own equivalent to Uber, powered by its self-driving cars?

    There are early signs pointing in that direction.

    Read the whole thing
    , but one thing is clear: the era of everyone owning their own cars, having them sit empty 98% of the time, and driving around with only one other person inside the other 1.75 percent of the time, is clearly almost over.

    What that will mean for our cities, our car companies, national energy use, our roads, human productivity (less traffic time) is almost beyond understanding. but this is BIG, BIG, BIG, and not too many people are talking about it.

    A Last Message from Uggie

    Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who charmed audiences in the 2011 Oscar-winning film "The Artist," has died. Omar Von Mueller, his Los Angeles-based owner and trainer announced Uggie's death earlier today in a Facebook post. The 13-year-old dog had a cancerous tumor on his prostate.

    Uggie started his life bouncing around among owners who were not prepared to own a Jack Russell terrier. The little dog was, in fact, headed for the pound when Mr. Van Mueller rescued him as a possible trick dog prospect. Uggie did well, and the rest is movie history.

    Along with "The Artist," Uggie also appeared in 2011's "Water for Elephants," alongside Reese Witherspoon, and he had a cameo in the 2012 Will Ferrell election comedy "The Campaign."

    Jack Russells are small dogs with a great deal of drive, which makes them ideal for trick performance dogs, but often too much for folks looking for simple house pets.

    Jack Russells are game-bred hunting dogs, and they are NOT the dog for every one.  In fact, hundreds of thousands Jack Russell Terriers are abandoned to shelters every year, and scores of thousands die there, for no other reason than they are no longer puppies and are normal, adult, Jack Russells Terriers.

    If you, or anyone you know, is thinking of getting a Jack Russell, stop them from acting in haste and urge them to read Bad Dog: An Article for Prospective Terrier Owners.

    Then have them read Bad Dog Talk for Jack Russell Terriers from the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America.

    Then have them read this general piece: So You Want a Dog? Terrierman's Top Ten Tips for Avoiding Expense & Misery.

    Have them pay special attention to the last few lines under point number one:

    If you will not consider getting an adult dog from a local shelter or over-stocked breeder, you do not want a dog. You want a puppy. And what you need is a cat.

    If Uggie could speak,
    this would be his last and most heart-felt message to all:  Breed less, love more, train better, and above all consider getting your dog from the pound.

    Coyotes Are Great for Birds

    The Gravel Page

    If you print out and read only one thing today
    , I suggest this: John McPhee's chapter on the Gravel Page (PDF).  Buy the book that this is just a chapter from.  No one writes better than John McPhee. An American original.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    Competition With Cats Drove Dogs to Extinction?

    Over at Science Daily
    , we find this improbably headline: Competition from cats drove extinction of many species of ancient dogs.  The summary?

    Competition played a more important role in the evolution of the dog family (wolves, foxes, and their relatives) than climate change, shows a new international study. Researchers analyzed over 2000 fossils and revealed that the arrival of felids to North America from Asia had a deadly impact on the diversity of the dog family, contributing to the extinction of as many as 40 of their species.

    Lucas M. says he thinks cartoonists will be all over this. I bet he's right!

    Robotic Crate Training for Dogs

    Robotic dog training.  It's back to the future as imagined by B.F. Skinner and Keller and Marianne Breland.

    Dog training is repetitive and technology can fix that.

    People are poor at timing and consistency and tech can fix that.

    People are impatient and emotional and tech is not.

    Along with rewards-based training there will be low-stim e-collars which will find little objection since inconsistent human beings with poor timing will not be part of the equation. Electric fences for cattle and sheep draw no controversy, and neither do invisible radio fences. The problem people have with e-collars is not electricity or the dog, but that people are inconsistent and have poor timing. Technology can fix that.

    Here we see an entire kennel of dogs turning from one form of self-rewarding behavior (barking) to feeding.

    How practical is this device for group training dogs?  I think it might depend on the size of the group. But if the goal is to simply teach the dogs to kennel on command, this would work great.  The web says simply putting the feeder on a timer also works to reduce anxiety and kennel barking, as the dogs are now focused on the positive that will come when the next bit of kibble drops.

    Moving Sheep from Shed to Pasture

    This is a simple study
    in constraints (fencing) and pressure as observed from the modern marvel of a drone.

    Where the fencing seems to end, three of the border collies drive right  but seeing that the sheep do not take advantage of the lack of fencing, two return to the main drive while a third takes a long rounding turn to cut off any sheep that get an independent idea.

    Nature Rx

    Prescription strength.

    The Shame of Virginia and the South

    What caused the Civil War?
    Did the North care about abolishing slavery? Did the South secede because of slavery? Or was it about something else entirely...perhaps states' rights?

    Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point, settles the debate.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2015

    Thanks Monsanto!

    Coffee and Provocation

    Black Fish May Push Sea World Into Red
    Seaworld does not have much of a business plan if folks turn away from their Killer Whale act (these are real documented human-killers).  Sea World's profits have plunged 84% as customers desert the controversial park. My guess is that the park will end the Orca act by the end of the year.  It will remain to be seen what happens to the whales, but selling them to another outfit will not work and releasing them to the wild would likely be a problem.  A netted off cold-water bay next to a fish processing plant might be the ideal situation. Surely such a spot exists?

    Cow Farts Vs. Organic
    Is organic grass-fed beef that produces a regular amount of greenhouse gases better than cows fed 3-nitrooxypropanol (3NOP) which reduces methane emissions by 30% AND improves dairy cow weight and health while reducing farmer feed costs?  (Thanks Mark B.!)

    Welsh Mountain Now a Hill
    A mountain has been downgraded to a hill after coming up 23 millimetres short. I think there was a movie about a similar situation, involving the down carrying loads of rock and soil up the mountain to "make height."

    Bogus Expiration Dates 
    Expiration dates on pill and capsule antibiotics are bogus, as I have noted in the past, and they are also bogus for most food items. Ridiculously early dates are how drug and food vendors get you to throw your money down the drain and out with the trash.

    Zimbabwe Lifts Big Game Hunting Restrictions
    After just one week, Zimbabwe has lifted the hunting ban it introduced following Cecil the lion's death.

    A 390-Year Old Tree In Washington D.C. Tree Survived Hiroshima -- And No One Knew
    In 1976, bonsai master Masaru Yamaki donated a small white pine bonsai tree to the United States National Arboretum in Washington D.C. For 25 years the tree sat by the entrance of the arboretum’s Bonsai Museum, hardly gathering any notice. Then, in 2001, two of Mr. Yamaki’s grandsons showed up in search of the tree that had been in their family for generations. It seems the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped just two miles from their grandfather’s home, and though 90 percent of the city was decimated, and 180,000 killed, Mr. Yamaki’s bonsais were protected by a tall wall surrounding his nursery, and survived. The tree is now 390 years old.

    A Special Chicken for Your Williams and Sonoma Coop
    Now that backyard chickens are cool, you need a special all-black (inside and out) artisanl chicken for your Williams and Sonoma coop. (Thanks Lucas!)

    Playing Trumps
    From Slate:  "In a Morning Consult national survey conducted over a three-day stretch that ended Sunday—aka after the debate—Trump led the pack with the support of 32 percent of self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning independents—nearly THREE TIMES the support of his closest challenger, Jeb Bush, who was the first-choice of 11 percent of respondents. Trump’s 21-point lead was well outside the online poll’s margin of error of 3.59 points. According to the pollsters, there was “no evidence” that Trump’s support was slipping..."

    Rob and Run
    How many big companies pay ZERO taxes, get BIG subsidies, AND ship jobs overseas? You would be amazed.

    Drunk Web Surfing:  The Job
    I don't drink, so I'm not qualified, but this seems to be a niche job that some of you might be great for!

    More Guacamole Señor Bush
    Jeb Bush is selling a cheap plastic guacamole bowl for $75. Am I the only one who had questions about his commitment to border control?

    Eagle Takes Out Drone

    If you fly a drone you assume the risk. Here, an Australian Wedge-tailed Eagle makes it clear who is king of the sky in his part of the world. The eagle was unharmed.

    Monday, August 10, 2015

    Rocket Surgery

    Wishing much success to Steve B. who is undergoing surgery today. Initial word is that it went well. Fit and fiddle adjustments are no doubt ahead, but that's how you get back to fit and fiddle. I confidently predict more great books ahead.

    Beyond the Blue Solution of Dog Shelter Death

    (We're kidding, of course.)  
    A recycled post from October 2007

    Have you ever noticed
    that PETA is always there to throw blood on people wearing fur coats, but that they never protest in front of kill shelters?

    A friend of mine who used to be a shelter worker explained it to me. "PETA would never show up at a kill shelter," she explained, "because if they did, the workers there would bring out all the dogs and and cats, turn over the leashes and say, 'Here, they're all yours now.'"

    It's an amusing picture, but it's not quite true. You see, PETA does not protest at kill shelters because it supports the killing of dogs and cats in shelters, and it does almost nothing to try to get dogs and cats adopted out.

    In fact, in 2005, PETA killed 90 percent of the animals turned over to it despite an organizational budget of $25 million a year.

    If that shocks you, then consider this: most "Humane Society" shelters kill 50-80 percent of all the dogs and cats turned over to them. So too do most SPCA shelters contracted by local municipalities. And they kill even when they have empty cages and kennels, and even when they have lots of money in the bank.

    In fact, shelter killing is the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the United States.

    All in all, some five million dogs and cats are killed in our nation’s shelters every year by the "humane" industry.

    To put it another way, the "humane" industry, which vociferously opposes hunting of deer for meat, actually kills more dogs and cats than hunters shoot deer.

    How could this be occurring, even as Americans are buying large numbers of cats and dogs?

    How could this be occurring at a time when more dogs and cats than ever are being spayed and neutered?

    And how is it that the "humane" industry is doing all the killing?

    These are the questions asked -- and answered -- in Nathan J. Winograd's new book, entitled Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America.

    This is an important book. In fact, this book is so important --- and so few people are likely to read it -- that I am going to provide a long summary.  Suffice it so say that I think this book is very deserving of your dollars and reading time.

    Buy the book!

    The Lost Cause Meets the Blue Solution

    The American "humane" movement began with the gadfly Henry Bergh, who was radicalized on a trip to Russia when he successfully stepped into the street to stop a man from beating his horse.

    Emboldened and amazed at the power of moral suasion (backed up, it should be said by his 6'2" frame), Bergh decided he liked this feeling very much, and on a trip to London, he got an instruction sheet on how to do more of it from the newly-minted Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

    Upon arriving back in New York City, Bergh created an SPCA to parallel the work of the organization in London, and he personally patrolled the streets of New York and lit in to every horse-beating hack and street hawker he could find.

    Bergh was a force of nature; he got New York to pass anti animal-cruelty laws, and he closed down the rat pits to be found at Kit Burns' Sportsman's Hall. He got horse drinking troughs installed all over the city, and he berated the New York City practice of paying people to round up (and even steal) dogs and cats in order to drown them in a huge old iron cage dunked off the end of the wharf. What harm were the cats and dogs doing, Bergh asked? Not much, but never mind; they were an inconvenience, and smacked of disorder in a city trying to enter the modern era. Stray dogs and cats had to go.

    Bergh generally made such a nuisance of himself that exasperated New York City officials offered to turn over the keys of the City Pound if he would run it. In fact, they said they would pay him to do the business of rounding up and drowning all the stray dogs and cats.

    Bergh would have none of it. He did not seek a job killing animals; he wanted to end needless animal suffering, and that included ending the needless destruction (as he saw it) of stray dogs and cats.

    Bergh was a gadfly, but he was a principled and effective one. Without a doubt, he made life better for horses and other beasts of burden in New York City.

    Soon other cities were copying the Bergh model, and setting up their own SPCAs. As a direct consequence, life got a little better for urban horses and mules all across the United States.

    When Henry Bergh died, the folks that sought to fill his shoes were less principled and more oriented towards financial stability. And so, when New York City officials once again offered to turn the keys of the City Dog Pound over to the SPCA -- and even pay the SPCA to run it -- these new leaders leaped at the chance for a steady income. And what harm did it do, they argued. If the SPCA did not do the killing, then it would simply fall on someone else's shoulders.

    And so, with the passing of a key and a check, the humane movement was in the mass killing business. With Henry Bergh dead, no one saw the slightest moral problem.

    The SPCA was to remain in the killing business for the next 100 years, doing little more than replacing iron drowning cages with gas chambers, and gas chambers with injections of sodium pentobarbital.

    For thirty years, pentobarbital has been the humane movement's "Blue Solution" to the "pet overpopulation" problem.

    To this day, most SPCAs are little more than government-hired killing machines
    for dogs and cats. Though they never mention it on the Animal Planet television show, the New York City ASPCA, according to Winograd, kills nearly 70 percent of the dogs and cats turned over to it

    Across the U.S., the typical "Humane Society" or SPCA building remains an ugly wreck located in a depressing and trash-strewn part of town. The employees there are so over-worked and underfunded, that it's all they can do to keep the killing machine going full-bore.

    But they manage.

    Poor infrastructure and poverty-level funding are a commonality to animal shelters across the country. This is what you get when you make a pact with City Government to become a municipality's dog-and cat-killing machine.

    Municipalities know that after years of dependency on government funds, most SPCA and Humane Society shelters are in no position to turn down low-ball contract offers.

    And since the shelters are located in out-of-the-way locations and have no constituency (because most do very little outreach to the community), they are in no position to bargain or raise a stink.

    This is the death business, not the adoption or pet-placement business.

    Out of sight is out of mind. The goal of these shelters is simple cost-effective efficiency.

    And nothing is as cost-effective or as efficient as disposing of an animal in a gas chamber or with a killing overdose of drugs.

    Absolutely nothing.

    Dog catcher, Seattle,1921

    Followship Rather than Leadership

    When push comes to shove, nothing much has changed in the humane movement for the last 100 years. For over 100 years, the metric has been a simple one: How many dogs and cats can the local shelter "handle" for the race-to-the-basement sums being offered up by the city contracting for this "service."

    A "good" shelter is not one that adopts out most of its cats and dogs; it's one that keeps a large number of cages empty and clean, and that consistently makes its annual budget numbers while doing so with as little negative publicity as possible.

    And, oddly enough, this is still the metric being used by most of the "humane" organizations, even when those organization have millions of dollars in their bank account as PETA and some of the larger Humane Societies around the United States do.

    What is going on?

    The short answer, according to Nathan Winograd, is followship.

    Followship is the opposite of leadership. Leadership is what happens when you break away from the herd and proceed in a new direction. Followship is what happens when organizations tell us each other that they must all pack up together and do the exact same thing.

    Why do these organizations want to pack up? Simple. There is safety in numbers.

    And why do these shelters crave safety? What do they fear? Simple: They fear anyone questioning their "killing for convenience" paradigm -- a paradigm that began more than 100 years ago when the SPCA abandoned the principles of Henry Bergh and took over the first municipal City Pound contract.

    If everyone does the same thing, the killing for convenience solution will be easier for the public to swallow. Everyone else is doing it, so there must be no other way.

    Winograd notes that followship in the humane movement has been routinely solidified by a series of conferences in which all of "the principles" in the dog-catching and dog-killing business have gotten together under the mantra of forming a "consensus" about what to do about "pet overpopulation."

    And who is in the room when that consensus is sought? Not only representatives of individual SPCAs and Humane Society shelters, but also the leaders of the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States (neither of which financially support local shelters), along with the national trade association of dog catchers (the National Animal Control Association), folks from the American Veterinary Medical Association, and people from the American Kennel Club.

    In order to get consensus, all parties have to give up ground, which is a nice way of saying the "solutions" that are embraced at these consensus conferences have been as tepid as old bathwater.

    Never mind if good ideas that could reduce the number of dogs and cats going into shelters are rejected; the organizational business interests of each group are more important than the dogs. After all, where would these dogs and cats be without the "humane" movement?

    And so, there has been a general agreement among consensus conference participants to oppose subsidized low-fee high-volume pet sterilization clinics since veterinarians feared that would take away a portion of their business. Subsidize pet sterilizations? My God man, that's socialized medicine!

    And, of course, there should be no criticism of the American Kennel Club's requirement that only intact dogs be eligible for showing. Nor should their be any criticism of the Kennel Club's long-standing promotion that pure-bred dogs are the "best dogs," never mind the huge number of genetic defects to be found in AKC dogs.

    Instead, the parties have repeatedly agreed on a plan based on "Legislation, Education and Sterilization," or LES.

    By "Legislation," the parties meant imposing more punishments on the dog-owning public.

    Dog and cat licenses will be required, or the animals will be rounded up and killed.

    Vaccines will be required, or the animals will be rounded up and killed.

    Of course everyone should voluntarily spay and neuter their pet, but if they don't, there should be mandatory spay and neuter laws, with big fines and licensing fees. And if that does not work, then we will push to have unlicensed and unspayed dogs and cats seized and summarily killed.

    By "Education" the humane movement means taking a few pound puppies to schools and lecturing kids about how horrible it is to be cruel to animals.

    What will not be mentioned at these sessions is the fact that 75 percent of the healthy dogs and cats given to the pounds are killed, and that a state or city contract to kills dogs is what funds the shelter to begin with.

    There will be no mention that most dogs and cats are killed after only just a few days wait, and that this killing goes on even when cages are empty.

    There will be no discussion of how the humane movement has consistently opposed city- and state-subsidized spay-neuter initiatives.

    There will be no mention of how most shelters discourage fostering of their overflow and consider volunteers "too much work." Nor will there be a discussion of how little community outreach is done to place or showcase dogs placed at the shelter.

    Instead, the message told to the kids -- and the public in general -- will be a simple one: People are irresponsible and they are to blame for so many cats and dogs going to the gas chamber.

    And as for "Sterilization," the humane movement means only "free market" sterilization at the local for-profit veterinary clinic. Whatever price they set is fine. Can't afford it? Then you are really too poor to own a cat or dog at all. Never mind that you are old and on a fixed income. Never mind that you earn only $7 an hour at WalMart. Only people with credit cards and significant home equity should own cats and dogs.

    Of course, the LES paradigm has been a complete and utter failure. As Nathan Winograd notes,

    “Whenever a shelter kills a homeless animal entrusted to its care, it has profoundly failed. And animal shelters fail, as general rule, 50 to 80 percent of the time. Put it another way, animal sheltering is an industry whose leadership mostly fails.”

    The "humane" movement has made peace with its history of failure. In fact, the web sites of most of these organizations actually argue that killing dogs and cats is the "best outcome" for shelter dogs and cats and is much preferred to having animals held for a few weeks in a kennel situation.

    This message is repeated so often that through sheer repetition it starts to sound like truth.

    But what does this mean? Does this mean that the dogs in your kennel runs are better dead than being owned by you? Yes, according to most humane organizations. Does this mean that animals at the zoo are better dead than kept in cages? Yes, according to most humane organizations.

    The Blue Solution is the only solution they know. Never mind if the animals they want to administer this solution to seem quite fine and happy. The humane movement knows best. Just ask them, and they will tell you.

    Part of the Legislate-Educate-Sterilize paradigm is unity. Unity is important because it is only by "singing out of the same hymnal" that mass absolution for killing 5 million cats and dogs a year can be achieved.

    And so, if one small group or another breaks rank, that group is denounced, ignored, marginalized, or pushed back into into the fold.

    The result has been a nearly complete suppression of innovation. If a City like Los Angeles or San Francisco shows that subsidized high-volume spay-neuter clinics can work to reduce the number of unwanted pets, then those results are ignored, and efforts are made to get the program killed or repealed as quickly as possible.

    If a no-kill shelter pops up, the humane organizations move to demonize it by saying that such programs "only push the killing on to the backs of other shelters."

    If the No-Kill shelter actually takes ALL admissions, as does the Tomkins County shelter in New York, then that fact is simply ignored. The consensus mantra is simply repeated: "There are no such things as No-Kill shelters in this country. Shelters that claim they are 'No-Kill' are simply selecting out the easy to adopt dogs, and deflecting all the others to shelters that have to do the dirty work."

    Never mind if that's not true.

    Ignore the experience of San Francisco and Charlotesville, Virginia which have shown that it's possible to have open admissions and still adopt out 90 percent of all the dogs, cats, kittens and puppies.

    The bizarre thing here is that the humane organizations seem completely dense. Even as they threaten to kill even more dogs and cats, they seem confused as to why the public is not eager to rush down to "the killing rooms" in order to pick out one lucky survivor from the pile.

    Surely the average American is eager to drag his or kids down to the bad part of town in order to enter a kill shelter reeking of urine and feces?

    Doesn't everyone want to answer their children's questions about what happens to all the other dogs and cats that are not picked?

    And who could not be charmed by the indifferent (and often quite rude) staff and the short hours that the shelter is actually open?

    Why would anyone prefer to simply get a dog out of the paper, or from a professional breeder, or from a puppy store?

    A complete mystery.

    The Needle and the Damage Done

    A Better Way of Doing Business
    It is possible to run a No-kill shelter? The short answer is a definitive YES.

    It's been done in urban San Francisco, where for many years the SPCA took all the dogs and cats the city would relinquish to it.

    It's been done in rural Tompkins County, New York where the local SPCA shelter is a pure open-admission no kill shelter.

    It's been done in Charlottesville, Virginia where 92 percent of the dogs are now adopted out.

    It been done in Richmond, Virginia where the SPCA says it is "proud to report that no healthy, homeless animal died in the City of Richmond in 2006."

    It's getting done by the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association which has gone from an 80 percent kill rate to a 50 percent placement rate in just 7 months time, with the numbers continuing to fall.

    So what has been the response of the Old Guard in the "humane" movement? Surely they are thrilled that someone has found a way to keep more dogs and cats alive?


    Instead of celebrating, the quick-to-kill folks have denied that open-admission No-Kill shelters even exist. They have failed to report about the success of No-Kill shelters in their publications and on their web sites, and they have tried to explain away every success as being a unique situation that could never be replicated anywhere else.

    San Francisco? Yes, it worked there, but only because that city has a lot of rich gays (according to ASPCA president Roger Caras). Plus, it's an urban area; it would never work in a rural area.

    Tomkins County, New York? Yes, it worked there, but that's only because its a rural area. And it's a Northern part of the country too. A No-Kill shelter would never work in an urban area, or in the South where the rednecks don't give a damn about dogs.

    Charlottesville, Virginia? Well, yes it worked there, but that's only because it's a moderate-sized city with a University. That's different.

    Richmond, Virginia? Ugh ... Well, yes. I'm not sure what's unique there, but give us an hour or two and we'll figure out some way to marginalize that success too.

    So how are all these No-Kill Shelters doing it?

    It's not rocket science, but it does take dedicated management and a commitment to new way of doing business.

    The new paradigm is not always easy for folks to get used to. If you have spent years rationalizing "killing for convenience," you are not likely to embrace a new way of doing business that involves more work.

    It is a simple truth that empty cages are easier to manage than full ones. Visitors to a shelter means more paperwork and more accountability.

    Not surprisingly, some shelter workers buck. Nathan Winograd says that when he first came to Tomkins County to transform their 80-percent kill shelter into a No-Kill model, he had to confront the staff and explain the world of budgets as he saw it.

    The issue came to a point over a basket of puppies that were dropped off at the shelter on his first day. As he told the staff:

    "Volunteers who work with animals do so out of sheer love. They don’t bring home a paycheck. So if a volunteer says 'I can’t do it,' I can accept that from her. But staff members are paid to save lives. If a paid member of staff throws up her hands and says, 'There’s nothing that can be done,' I may as well eliminate her position and use the money that goes for her salary in a more constructive manner. So what are we going to do with the puppies that doesn’t involve killing?"

    One can only imagine the reaction!

    In fact, Winograd found about half of his existing shelter staff could not make the transition. Most were simply too lazy. Trained that killing was the only way, they could not assimilate a new order that involved actually using all of the shelter's kennel capacity, fostering out puppies and sick dogs to volunteers, and actively partnering with the community to increase the adoption rate.

    Yet, these techniques worked. Today the Tomkins County shelter is a No-Kill Open-Admissions SPCA shelter with a better than 93 percent adoption-placement rate.

    None of Winograd's techniques or ideas were entirely new, but no one had tried to use them all at once.

    And using them all at once is what made the difference.

    In the end, Winograd and others in the No-Kill movement have come up with a 10-point plan for success.

    By definition, a 10-point plan is more complicated than a one-point plan. The one point plan -- the Blue Solution -- promises only death. The 10-point plan, however, results not only in a dramatic increase in adoptions of dogs and cats, but also results in more income to the shelter as the relationship between the shelter and the community begins to change.

    It turns out that people who will not give money or support to a shelter that kills 80 percent of the dogs and cats that pass through its doors, are more than willing to give money and time to a shelter that actually saves lives.

    Who knew?

    OK, enough wind-up. What are the 10 elements of success as outlined by Nathan Winograd?

    1. Hire a compassionate director who is dedicated to measuring success by lives saved. Winograd make a convincing argument that municipalities need to look for new shelter managers outside of the current humane movement. What is needed for success, he says, is not a 10-year track record ofkilling animals, but a demonstrated ability in basic management, coupled with good people skills, enthusiasm, creativity, and a commitment to the cause of quickly and sharply reducing the needless killing of healthy dogs and cats in a shelter.

    2. A high-volume, low-cost spay-neuter program designed to get more people to voluntarily spay and neuter their pets. The biggest obstacle to spay-neuter at the individual level is not lack of willingness on the part of pet owners, but lack of money to get the surgery done. Even though research has shown that most intact animals are owned by the poor, and that spay-neuter subsidies are cost-effective ($1 invested is a $10 savings in animal control costs), the humane movement has repeatedly testified against them in order to maintain their "consesus compact" with the veterinary community.
    3. A feral cat program focused on trapping, neutering and returning wildcats to the wild. Wingograd argues that cats do fine as feral animals (they are little more than African Wildcats to begin with) and that there is no need to kill them. Simply trap, spay, innoculate, and release them. As to the notion that they might harm bird populations, Winograd dismisses these claims, correctly noting that most birds experts point to other causes of bird decline, including forest fragmentation and chemicals in the environment as more important causal agents.
    4. Use breed rescue groups. This not only frees up needed space in a shelter, but it also reduces food and upkeep costs, and improves the chance that a dog will be adopted by someone specifically looking for that type of dog. Despite the fact that pure breed rescue groups exist across the country, local shelters have often rejected overtures from these groups, claiming that making contact and setting up appointments is "too much work."
    5. Use foster care volunteers. While traditional shelters generally reject volunteers as "too much work," Winograd argues that not only are foster care volunteers the perfect answer for what to do with puppies and kittens too young to adopt out, but they are also good for sick animals that need several weeks in order to recover and look presentable. Foster volunteers not only adopt many of their charges themselves, they also serve as ready and willing outreach ambassadors to the community.
    6. Change the sales presentation. Studies show that people get their dogs from the local pound only 15 percent of the time, and that cats are even less likely to be acquired at a shelter. The trick to changing these numbers, says Winograd, is to present dogs and cats in better surroundings, to extend shelter hours, to hire friendly and committed staff, and to take animals out to where people can see them and consider them for adoption. A shelter should not be a gloomy place with the air of inevitable death about it, but a place where a father or mother will feel fine taking their kids to pick out a dog or cat that simply needs a home and a chance. People want pets. They pay large sums of money for them, and they travel to get them. A lot of people can be convinced to get an older dog or a dog that is not purebred ("It's the only one of its kind"). What people object to is not the animals in the shelter, but the shelter's look and smell and the business of killing itself.
    7. A pet retention program to work with owners who need a little bit of help in order to keep the pets they already have. Often this is simply a matter of a little problem-solving as it relates to "accidents" (don't leave a water bowl down 24-hours a day), barking, or finding a landlord that will accept a tenant with a dog or cat.
    8. Focus on medical and behavior rehabilitation. This means finding volunteers, veterinarians, and even local businesses willing to work with problem animals. Winograd suggests partnering with a veterinary college, but other good ideas include working with businesses and others who might be willing to support a fund to deal with certain conditions, such as respiratory infections or behavior problems.
    9. Public Relations means reaching out to the public and treating them as a potential solution rather than as the source of the problem. It means advertising, creating attractive web sites, networking with rescue groups, meeting with editorial boards and small business owners, and going out to places where people can get the message, see the product, and hear the pitch.
    10. Recruit and work with volunteeers. Volunteers can take pictures of dogs and cats for the web site, write up web descriptions, feed and water animals, walk animals, clean cages, put up flyers, and take animals out into the community for basic socialization. The more volunteers, the more hands, and the more hands the more positive energy will flow into the shelter -- and the more dogs and cats will flow out.

    So why aren't more local SPCAs and humane societies around the country doing all of this?

    The answer is that many of them are starting to. A movement is growing, and it is moving in the right direction.

    That said, change is a proceess not an event. Moving from a 75% kill shelter to a 93% placement shelter requires careful staging. Do it wrong, and you will have full cages, but you will not yet have developed the capacity to cut down on admissions (thanks to cheap spay-neuter, and successful pet-retention programs) or foster out dogs, or move dogs to breed rescues, or find homes in the community thanks to a well-oiled up-and-running community outreach effort.

    So the good news is that good things are happening in some locations.

    Numbers That CountNathan Winograd argues that the terms "adoptable" and "unadoptable" are too easy to manipulate and subject to wide interpretation. He notes, for example, that a lot of the "temperament testing" that goes on at shelters is complete bunk practiced by ignorants and amateurs, while some shelters simply strike off as "unadoptable" all very young puppies and kittens, any older dogs or cats. Animals with even mild illnesses (such as sinus infection or kennel cough) are similarly tossed into the weste busket for killing. So what defines success? Winograd suggests that success is achieved when a shelter achieved an adoption rate 90 percent or better for total open admissions of ALL dogs and cats (including the sick, the injured, the young, the old, and those with serious behavior problems). By putting the big number in the denominator, shelters are not able to lie with statistics and "select the best and dump the rest." Is the better-than-ninety-percent goal achievable? Yes -- it's already being achieved in shelters around the country.
    But not everyone is on the bandwagon. To tell the truth, some current shelter managers could not be bothered to initiate a complicated high-energy pet-placement program. This was not what they signed up for. They signed up for a death-factory job; fill out some forms, place a pet or two, administer the Blue Solution to all the others, and wash out the cages at the end of the shift. Who wants more work than that?

    Another contributing factor is that municipal officials and some animal control board members are often risk-averse.

    The city knows they can kill 80 percent of the dogs and cats entering their shelter without so much as a ripple in the local news media, but suppose they start doing "something different" down there at the Pound? Suppose everything is not 100-percent smooth sailing right from Day One? Or worse, suppose the folks that run the shelter want more money to do No-Kill work?

    As for the board of the local shelter, they often feel captive to city and county contracts. How are they going to rationalize turning down guaranteed money? Without municipal money, how will the shelter pay for salaries, dog food, gasoline, water and electricty?

    And so lack of inertia and plain-old financial fear keep the old killing-for-convenience paradigm going.

    In the background, cheering on the old, failed LES strategy are folks like Ed Sayres, President of the ASPCA, who was quoted in the August 13, 2007 issue of USA Today as saying “There is no room for No-Kill as morally superior” to kill shelters.

    There isn't? Not even even as a goal?

    The ASPCA, it seems still prefers the Blue Solution.

    So too does the Humane Society of the United States which refuses to even acknowledge that open admissions No-Kill shelters even exit.

    The good news is that at the local level these national organizations do not really control too much.

    The ASPCA does not actually run shelters at all -- all the local SPCAs are separate free-standing organizations. What this means is that if you have been giving money to the ASPCA for years, you have not been giving money to your local shelter. There is no pass-through money. The big boys in the ASPCA have simply pocketed your money, and used it to produce more direct mail to send to more suckers like you. Sorry.

    Ditto for the Humane Socety of the United States, which also does not give a dime to support local Humane Society shelters. If you are giving money to the Humane Society of the United States, you are simply funding more direct mail asking little old ladies to give their "most generous contribution at this critical time." Silly you.

    True leadership in the world of animal sheltering is not coming from the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States or PETA. It's coming from folks like Nathan Winograd and Richard Avanzino, who first turned the San Francisco SPCA into an open admission No Kill shelter back in 1976, and who ran it that way until 1998.

    Avazino is now head of the $250 million Maddie's Fund (funded by PeopleSoft Founder Dave Duffield and his wife Cheryl) which gives out money, funds projects, creates shelter medicine programs, and acts as an information clearinghouse for what works in the No-Kill movement.

    No-Kill is gaining traction.

    And that's a problem for the ASPCA, PETA and the Humane Society of the U.S. After all, who wants to fund failure when success is an option?

    And so the ASPCA, HSUS and PETA have embarked on a two-pronged strategy of: 1) denying that No-Kill works, even as they; 2) Claim they are leading the movement themselves.

    The results of this communication stratgy are truely bizarre.

    Consider this: Even as ASPCA President Ed Sayres holds a press conference in New York City with Mayor Bloomberg in order to "welcome" a $15.5 million Maddie's Fund grant to help that city transition to No-Kill (see ASPCA press release) Sayres and others are attacking No-Kill as being a complete fraud, denying its existence, and accusing it of actually doing nothing more than warehousing animals for months or even years. Truly this is Through the Looking Glass!

    In fact, No-Kill shelters are as open (or more so) than other shelters, and Maddie's Fund has pioneered this type of openness. Have a few shelters transitioned too rapidly? Yes, but Richard Avanzino of Maddie's Fund and Nathan Winograd are convinced that every shelter can be No-Kill, and more and more cities are proving their thesis every day.

    In fact, it is the success of the No-Kill movement that is causing paroxisms at the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the U.S., and PETA.

    The success of No-Kill movement means that these organizations have been killing for years, not because the job of saving the lives of dogs and cats could not be done, but because they did not even realize that that was the job!

    Here's a hint: It's called a SHELTER.

    That just might mean saving lives, not snuffing them out.

    It might even mean coming up with a better idea than the infamous "Blue Solution."

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    Order a copy of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America. I guarantee this is a book that will open your eyes.

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    Do you really want to explain this sign to your six-year-old daughter on the day she gets her first dog? Me either.