Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Edwin Landseer's Falcon Portraits

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802 – 1873) is most famous in the dog world for the breed named after him (a black and white-coated Newfoundland dog), and for his numerous portraits of dogs, but he also painted horses, deer, and at least two falcons, and he sculpted the four bronze lions at the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

The Dog Merchants

I have just plowed through The Dog Merchants by Kim Kavin.  Its a very good read, and well worth buying and reading cover to cover.  Do it!

From The Washington Post:
[I]n “The Dog Merchants,” a sprawling, and sometimes fascinating, look at a complex industry. [Kim Kavin] reporting reveals that by simply finding a dog to take home, we are dipping into a world largely veiled to the consumer and in many ways ethically dubious. Kavin travels the country visiting high-end dog shows, back-yard hobby breeders, luxe retail rescues and even the Hunte Corp., “the biggest legal distributor of puppies to pet stores across America,” which moves about 45,000 puppies a year.

In the most revealing chapter, she visits an auction in Wheaton, Mo., ground zero in the dog trade, where various breeds will be bid on throughout the day by a wide variety of dog merchants, from amateurs to those who will supply pet chains nationwide. One 18-month-old Yorkshire terrier, which already had given birth to at least one litter of puppies, goes for “$1,150, having earned a reputation as a good producer from a nice, young age.” Meanwhile, a trembling Chesapeake Bay retriever named Feldmann’s Big Boy, startled by suddenly standing in front of such a large crowd, was “so terrified . . . that he wrapped all four of his legs around the two handlers.” No one will bid even $1.

One helpful participant explains to Kavin how lucrative an already pregnant West Highland white Terrier that sells for $650 can be: “A commercial dog breeder will get two litters of puppies out of that Westie during each of the five years after purchase. Every litter with a Westie is four to eight pups. That means a total of eight to sixteen puppies a year, or forty to eighty dogs coming out of that single Westie in five years’ time.” After the eventual sales to pet stores, which ultimately sell the puppies for much more, that one $650 dog can generate up to $64,000 in sales.

All of this, of course, alarms those concerned about animal welfare, and who wish the demand for the latest hot breed could instead be met by some of the millions of dogs euthanized in dog pounds and shelters across the country. Which leads, though, to Kavin’s startling discovery that rescue groups also frequent the auctions, usually trying to save specific breeds from a grim life fueling the puppy industry. Of course, by bidding on these dogs, they’re also fueling the very demand they abhor.

Is this that big of a problem? Kavin can’t quantify just how often it happens and whether many of these dogs end up routed into rescues, adopted by the very people who have gone out of their way to avoid the dog-breeding industry. Is it just the occasional Jane Rosenthal, whom Kavin profiles, bidding away on Japanese Chins for her small organization Luv A Chin Rescue? Without more than anecdotal evidence, one would think so.

The Dog Merchants, by Kim Kavin, hardcover, 336 pages. Published May 3rd 2016 by Pegasus Books.

More on this book later, but for now, just BUY IT.

American Passenger Pigeon?

American Passenger Pigeon? No. Just a Mourning Dove. But the birds are not so different.

Why do we romanticize the Passenger Pigeon and barely cast a second glance at the Mourning Dove? It's like romanticizing the wolf when it was not here, while putting a bounty on the coyotes up the road.

Mourning Doves are extremely prolific, laying as many as 4-6 clutches a year, with two eggs placed in a rickety stick nest, generally set in a small tree or a thick tangle of vines.

The Liberal Case for Gun Ownership

This is serious business, and I know it.  That's why I was not laughing when some of my friends took the Free Trump Score test.

Their supposed fate?

  • Re-education camps
  • The "Trump Guantanamo Bay Resort"
  • Deportation
  • Being Roughed Up

I'm not laughing.  Trump is dangerous, and we need to talk about that.  What would you do if Hitler raised his head?  Because Hitler did raise his head in Germany and people did nothing until it was too late.

You do what you want. I'm reminding my liberal friends with a brain that there's a place in this world for guns and ammunition, and it may be sooner rather than later.  Yes, let's drag every one we know to the polls, let's vote, let's engage in a serious program of organizing and nonviolent resistance.  Let's do it all. But remember they did all that in Germany too. And Russia.  And Turkey.  And in dozens of other countries that succumbed to madmen who then dragged their country into war, disappearances, dictatorship, and destruction.

To be clear, this is not a new thought. Back in 2007, I wrote The Liberal Case for Gun Ownership:

What were our Founding Fathers thinking when they wrote the Second Amendment?

Well, they were not engaged in narrow partisan politics. They were not posturing for Fox News or trying to “make nice to soccer moms.”

These were serious men who came fresh from the white-hot forge of revolution. A war had just been fought to overthrow the yoke of an oppressive and unresponsive Government that invaded homes without warrant and which exposed the populace to "dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within."

In short, while it was a bit hotter back then, the issues we face today are not so completely different.

As left-wing, NPR-loving Virginia author Joe Bageant notes in his book Deer Hunting With Jesus:

”With Michael Savage and Ann Coulter openly calling for putting liberals in concentration camps, with the CIA now licensed to secretly detain American citizens indefinitely, and with the current administration effectively legalizing torture, the proper question to ask an NRA members these days may be 'What kind of assault rifle do you think I can get for three hundred bucks, and how many rounds of ammo does it take to stop a born-again Homeland Security zombie from putting me in a camp?'

"Which would you prefer, 40 million gun-owning Americans on your side or theirs?"

Bageant is not a new liberal, but an old liberal – the kind that once protested things and took to the streets in opposition to stupid wars, and which stood up to be counted when civil rights were being violated.

The old liberals know the value of guns.

They know that after the Civil War, southern whites denied blacks the right to own guns, because it was easier to lynch an unarmed black man than it was one who owned a deer rifle and 200 rounds of ammunition.

Some gay Americans have discovered this secret knowledge as well. As Jonathan Rauch wrote in Salon magazine back in March of 2000:

"Thirty-one states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible." 

If this sounds like Revolutionary talk, it is. It is the kind of language our revolutionary Founding Fathers might have used if they were gay, or black, or Hispanic, or Muslim, or Jewish and living in America today.

”Don’t Tread On Me,” was not a bumper sticker back then – it was a warning every bit as ominous as the shake of a rattlesnake’s tail.

The notion that our Founding Fathers contemplated armed insurrection inside the United States seems to surprise some people.

But it shouldn’t.

The Good Old Boys of Virginia -- Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington -- knew that power belonged to the people only so long as the power of the state could be met with an equal power organized by the populace at large working in tandem.

Guns were not to be used capriciously, but they were part of the long term plan crafted by our Founding Fathers to protect this great nation from powerful, cunning and patient forces of oppression -- whether those forces came from within or without.

Bottom line: Organize, vote, donate, put up posters and bumper stickers, send out messages on Facebook and Twitter, talk to everyone you know, and drag everyone you know to the polls.

But also read up on how to stuff newspapers inside a sweat shirt to absorb the baton strikes, and buy a gas mask and a couple of wrist rockets. Read up on how to disable police vehicles and how to counter pepper spray.  And don't forget to pick up 200 rounds at Dick's Sporting Goods and pay cash as is still your right under the Second Amendment. Because this is belt and suspenders time. This is serious business, and we will not go gentle into that good night.  Get serious. This election is not a fucking game.  As Michael Moore has noted, there is a very good chance Trump will win, and if that happens, there's going to be a Civil War to avoid a nuclear war. You will thank me later if it gets to that.

Some Things Need Killing

Some things need killing. New Zealand get it. From The Washington Post:

New Zealand is a nation that takes its birds seriously, and it’s got very special ones. The country’s currency is adorned with images of winged species found nowhere else, including the yellow-eyed penguin and the black-masked kokako. The logo of the national air force is stamped with the famed kiwi — a chicken-sized puff of feathers that cannot fly.

But many of those birds and other native wildlife are under assault from species that showed up with settlers to the island nation 200 years ago. And on Monday, Prime Minister John Key announced that, generations after they came, the invaders would have to go.

New Zealand, he said, has adopted the “ambitious goal” of eradicating its soil of rats, possums, stoats and all other invasive mammals by 2050. The name of the plan: Predator Free New Zealand.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it,” Key said in a statement, adding that invasive predators have surpassed poaching and deforestation as the biggest threat to New Zealand’s wildlife. Key held a tuatara, a lizardlike native reptile, after announcing the plan, the Financial Times reported.

Related Posts:
** Rats and Extinctions
** When Killing Rats Is Essential for Wildlife
** First We Kill All the Rats
** Poisoning Lord Howe Island
** Thinking About Species Loss
** Mass Hysteria Over Mass Extinction?
** Cats Causing Extinction

Place Work in the Morning

Patterns in the Sky

All see the notes
, some see the music.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Coffee and Provocation

GMO to the Rescue? 
Scientists are considering boosting up black footed ferret genetic variability by injecting DNA from long-dead specimens stored in zoos and museums. How bad is the blackfooted ferret genetic bottleneck? It's almost as bad as it is for many pure bred dog breeds.

This is Your Police Department 
Fox News reports that kids watched as a Wynnewood, Oklahoma police officer used a high-powered rifle, retrieved from his vehicle, to kill a dog at a children's birthdays party after it "lunged at him" when he entered their gated, fenced property searching for someone who had not lived there in a decade.  The police chief then lied to try to justify the killing. As John W. Whitehead notes: "[W]when you’re trained to kill anything that poses the slightest threat (imagined or real), when you’ve been instructed to view yourself as a soldier and those you’re supposed to serve as enemy combatants on a battlefield, when you can kill and there are no legal consequences for your actions, and when you are deemed immune from lawsuits holding you accountable for the use of excessive force, then it won’t matter what gets in your way. Whether it’s a family pet, a child with a toy gun, or an old man with a cane—you’re going to shoot to kill."

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Gyr Falcon
Mark Churchill has uncovered a minor Conan Doyle mystery about a Gyr falcon. Cool!

Israel Now Has a Surplus of Water 
From the Natural Building Blog: "Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants....Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the kind of advanced technologies being employed at Sorek have been a game changer. Water produced by desalination costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents."

Sea Otter Populations Rebounding 
The sea otter population, which was 500,000 in the pre-fur trade era, and which dropped to fewer than 2,000 individuals in the early 1900s, is now back at over 100,000.

Indian Justice Plants a Forest
Drivers violating traffic rules in the Indian state of Telangana are now being ordered to plant a tree. Police said their goal is to plant a total of one million saplings, thereby increasing the state’s current 24 percent tree cover to 33 percent.

Victorian Sleep Patterns
We used to sleep differently, and perhaps we still should: "Around a third of the population have trouble sleeping, including difficulties maintaining sleep throughout the night. While night time awakenings are distressing for most sufferers, there is some evidence from our recent past that suggests this period of wakefulness occurring between two separate sleep periods was the norm."

Trolling While Rolling

Lots of Dominance in Wolves, But More in Dogs

In the real world, there are real wolves and real wolf experts, same as there are real packs of dogs and real dog experts.

Wolf experts will tell you that dominance shapes every aspect of wolf life, from mating to communication, and from vocalization to who squats to pee.

Data and video tape clips of the largest wolf pack in the world, shows that battles over dominance are among the leading natural causes of wolf death in the wild.

But are wolves more centered on dominance than dogs?

Not according to the most recent study comparing the two in perfect parallel.

As Virginia Morell notes in a recent article in Science magazine, wolves seem to be more programmed to cooperate than dogs. While wolves cooperate, dogs submit to more dominant dogs.

For dog lovers, comparative psychologists Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi have an unsettling conclusion. Many researchers think that as humans domesticated wolves, they selected for a cooperative nature, resulting in animals keen to pitch in on tasks with humans. But when the two scientists at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna studied lab-raised dog and wolf packs, they found that wolves were the tolerant, cooperative ones. The dogs, in contrast, formed strict, linear dominance hierarchies that demand obedience from subordinates, Range explained last week at the Animal Behavior Society meeting at Princeton University. As wolves became dogs, she thinks, they were bred for the ability to follow orders and to be dependent on human masters.

Range and Virányi developed their new portrayal of dogs and wolves by giving a series of tests to socialized packs of mixed-breed dogs and wolves, four packs of each species, containing anywhere from two to six animals each. The scientists raised all the animals from about 10 days old at the Wolf Science Center in Game Park Ernstbrunn, Austria, living with them 24 hours a day until they were introduced to pack life, so that they were accustomed to humans.

Range and her colleagues tested the dogs’ and wolves’ tolerance for their fellow pack members with a mealtime challenge. The researchers paired a high-ranking dog with a low-ranking pack buddy and set out a bowl of food, then gave the same challenge to a pair of wolves. In every matchup, “the higher ranking dog monopolized the food,” Range told the meeting. “But in the wolf tests, both high- and low-ranking animals had access” and were able to chow down at the same time. At times, the more dominant wolves were “mildly aggressive toward their subordinates, but a lower ranking dog won’t even try” when paired with a top dog, Range said. “They don’t dare to challenge.”

Range and Virányi suspect that the relationship between dogs and humans is hierarchical, with humans as top dogs, rather than cooperative, as in wolf packs. The notion of “dog-human cooperation” needs to be reconsidered, Range said, as well as “the hypotheses that domestication enhanced dogs’ cooperative abilities.” Instead, our ancestors bred dogs for obedience and dependency. “It’s not about having a common goal,” Range said. “It’s about being with us, but without conflict. We tell them something, and they obey.”


It seems the hand of man has not been selecting for "cooperation," as the theorists have so-oft opined, but for submission.

This will, no doubt, be very unsettling for some, and will result in a new flurry of explanation and revisionist back-peddling. This is to be expected. It's rare for folks to toss out their frame even when presented with new facts, and much more common to toss out the facts, even if they come from the house organ of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The good news, however, is that what people "believe" hardly matters.

As Neil DeGrasse Tyson has noted, what's great about science is that it's true whether you "believe" in it or not!  "Perspective" and "philosophy" do not enter the picture when it comes to reality.

And, as always, dogs are the real experts.

Oops. There Really IS Dominance in Wolves

We all make mistakes.  I make 'em every once in a while, and you do too.

The true test is not whether you make a mistake, but whether you own it, and by that test Lee Charles Kelley comes out alright.

I don't know Kelley.  Never read him before.  We might disagree on nothing, or disagree on almost everything.  I have no idea.  That said, I give him a small nod for cowboying up for a serious error.  It would be nice if other dog trainers would follow suit. 

Kelley writes in Psychology Today online:

A Mea Culpa to Mech, an Apology to Bekoff

When it comes to understanding canine behavior, Dr. David Mech — the world's leading expert on wolves — and Dr. Mark Bekoff — the world's leading expert on coyotes and canine play — are two of my biggest heroes. So imagine my chagrin to discover that they're both irritated with me....

I wrote a piece last week titled "Deconstructing the Dominance Myth (Again...)," which was a response to a personal blog post written by Dr. Roger Abrantes, posted on another part of the internet, far, far away. The main thrust of my article wasn't that dominant behaviors don't exist, but that the terms we're using to describe them are anthropomorphic, and that saddling dogs with these labels is harmful to any dogs whose behaviors may, in fact, be the result of stress or anxiety, not dominance. I now realize, and freely admit, that I made mistakes in my article, mistakes I wasn't aware of until Dr. Bekoff pointed them out to me here.

My first mistake was referring to the concept of dominance as a myth. That's a charged word, one that carries with it the implication that scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding animal behavior are all operating under some kind of mass delusion. I deeply regret making that insinuation, however unintentionally. In recent years, it's become fairly common in the dog training world for some of us to talk about "the myth of dominance" in a somewhat cavalier way. What's generally meant by this is that the idea of dominating a dog, as the basis for a training system, isn't based on real science and can be harmful to the human-canine bond.

Dr. Bekoff also took me to task for the following passage:

"Dr. David Mech, the world's leading expert on wolves, says that in 13 years of studying the wolves on Isle Royale in Michigan he never saw any displays of dominance. In other packs Mech says that dominance displays are so rare as to be almost nonexistent."

I turns out that this isn't exactly true. I was basing what I said on the following passage from a 1999 paper ("Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs," Canadian Journal of Zoology.): "In natural wolf packs, the alpha male or female are merely the breeding animals, the parents of the pack, and dominance contests with other wolves are rare, if they exist at all. During my 13 summers observing the Ellesmere Island pack, I saw none." (I made another mistake by getting the geographical location of Mech's studies wrong.)

Dr. Bekoff apparently sent a copy of my post to Dr. Mech, who responded with the following: "A quick scan of the Kelley article reveals much misinformation attributed to me. This misinterpretation and total misinformation like Kelley's has plagued me for years now. I do not in any way reject the notion of dominance."

In his post, Dr. Bekoff pointed me (and other readers) to a 2010 paper written by Dr. Mech and H. Dean Cluff ("Prolonged Intensive Dominance Behavior Between Gray Wolves, Canis lupus") in which they write: "Dominance is among the most pervasive and important behaviors of wolves in a pack."

Clearly, I'm not keeping up on my research. So I was wrong to insinuate, here and in other pieces I've written on dominance, that Mech believes dominance is rare or doesn't exist at all in wild wolf packs. I apologize for my mistake and will attempt to make corrections to all the pieces I've written that contain this outdated view (there are a lot of them).

But wait. It gets worse!

My thesis about the cause of dominance and submission—as outlined briefly in my post—is that they're primarily the result of a wolf's internal tension and stress. But in the comments section of Dr. Bekoff's post, Simon Gadbois, from the Canid Behaviour Laboratory at Dalhousie University in Halifax, wrote: "My PhD thesis was on social stress in wolves... Jane Packard, that had done the stress studies with Mech in the 80's was on my committee. Here I can tell you that your interpretation is wrong because you are over-generalizing. We simply do not have enough data to jump to the conclusions that you get to."

Read the whole thing, but let me be clear that I am applauding Kelley for owning up to his error, setting the record right, and putting it in print.

Contrast that to another person who will remain unnamed, but who was the subject of a blog post about dominance (in which David Mech weighs in -- see the comments) authored by Dr. Mark Johnson.  Read that post here: Is Dominance Always Bad?  And, of course, the answer is NO. I featured excerpts from Dr. Johnson's post on this blog some years ago (see here) and even featured video of wolf dominance filmed by Dr. David Mech and Dean Cluff (see here).  For those who like video-enhanced story, I put up a post entitled Dominance Creates and Maintains Wolf Packs which told the story of the rise and fall of the Druid Wolf pack -- the largest wolf pack in the world at the time it was being filmed. 

And yet we still have this nonsense about dominance in wolves and dogs as a "myth."  Why is that?

Mostly it's because a small slice of dog trainers have decided that in order to differentiate themselves in the world of dog training they need to brand what everyone else is doing as "abusive" while proclaiming "their" method (click-and-treat) as the only one that is "scientific."  

This is the Internet School of Dog Training where Lee Charles Kelley has apparently been hanging out and drinking the Koolaid, and it seems he has simply not bothered (up to now) to actually read the sources that he and others have been referencing. 

Even now he cannot quite let go of the nonsense, writing that what he meant "is that the idea of dominating a dog, as the basis for a training system, isn't based on real science and can be harmful to the human-canine bond."

Um.  Mr. Kelley, you still don't get it.  Dominance is not violent.  It is not bad.  It is simply taking control and establishing respect and leadership on your part and establishing respect and followship on the part of the dog. It is not a threat to the human-canine bond, it is the essence of it.  And, to be clear, dominance occurs every day and not only with wolves, but also with dogs, people, elk, bison, and pretty much every other animal that lives in social groups (as well as many that do not). Dominance makes the world go around.

Kelley, describes himself as as a "neo-Freudian" dog trainer. I have no idea what that means, but he seems to think it has something to do with prey drive. I guess I know a little about prey drive in dogs since I have working terriers with the scars to prove it, but I have never felt any need to quote Freud. Let us remember that the real experts on dogs have tails. 

I have to say I find it amusing that Kelley says words like "dominance" and "submission" are "anthropomorphic" and then turns around and calls himself a "neo-Freudian" dog trainer.  Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot.  Not too much self-awareness there!

So what is this contrived and entirely fake controversy about dominance in dogs about? 

It is about marketing. 

Remember that dog trainers are trying to sell a service and so they are trying to differentiate themselves.

In order to differentiate themselves, a dog trainer may claim to be neo-Freudian or "gentle" or "natural" or "positive" or "holistic" or "balanced." 

Casting about for a rationale for why people should choose their training methods as opposed to their competitors, many of these folks have done two things simultaneously:

  1. Mis-characterized scientific work on wolves and dogs, including and perhaps especially the work of David Mech, and;
  2. Mis-characterized the training methods of thousands of years of dogs trainers, including and perhaps especially the work of Cesar Millan, who happens to be the most famous dog training personality on television these days (a spot previously held by Barbara Woodhouse).

Since the previous text straightens out much of this mis-characterization of Mech, let me address the second one -- the mischaracterization of Cesar Millan. 

In Cesar's Rules, Millan and co-author Melissa Jo Peltier write about what Millan actually does and what he has actually written:

My co-author tells me that on occasion someone will say to her, “I don’t approve of Cesar’s training methods.” When she tells the person that what I’m doing isn’t dog training but dog rehabilitation, he or she often grudgingly admits to having watched only one or two episodes of the show or a one-minute clip on YouTube and typically has not read any of my books or seen my videos. When my co-author asks, “What do you think his methods are?” the answer invariably is something like, “Oh, all the choke chains and the e-collars and the alpha rolls.”

Well, any regular viewer of Dog Whisperer knows that these tools don’t fairly represent what such a critic would call “my methods.” Curious about this, our producers did a show-by-show breakdown, watching hundreds of hours of television and counting when a particular technique was used in any given episode. At the time the breakdown was done, we’d filmed 140 shows, covering over 317 separate cases of problem dog behavior.

The person who doesn’t approve of my “methods” might be surprised to learn that the number one thing I advocate nearly every show is simply leadership (in 98 percent of the episodes), which I teach as the calm-assertive energy that any leader, teacher, parent, or other positive authority figure projects to her followers. I’ve used the word dominance to describe the energy of leadership, but in the animal world dominance doesn’t mean “brutality,” and assertive certainly doesn’t mean “aggressive.” I believe that good leadership never involves bullying or intimidating; instead, it depends on confidence, knowing what you want, and sending clear, consistent messages about what you want.

The number two method I advocate, according to the producers’ breakdown, is body language (91 percent), which is a primary way in which leadership is projected in most animal species. My third top “method” is exercise — walk your dog properly at least twice a day (72 percent). And what is the fourth most common “method” I’ve used on Dog Whisperer episodes?

This one may shock a few people. I used positive reinforcement in one form or another 67 percent of the time in the first 140 shows. As Barbara De Groodt reminds us, positive reinforcement doesn’t have to mean cookies. It can mean anything that a dog likes and that becomes a motivator or reward for the dog.

Personally, I don’t think I have a specific “method” or “system” that I apply in order to change or improve a dog’s behavior. For me, there is no magic formula. I believe in trusting my instincts and in treating each dog as an individual.

So there you go: those are Millan's "methods," and if you oppose them, then you are telling me and the world that you oppose leadership, exercise, body language, and positive reinforcement.

There is much more in the book of course, but you will have to actually buy the book and read it.  Since a quick glance through Lee Charles Kelley's previous writings tells me he has not actually read Cesar Millan either, he might take a hint and do a little reading there too. 

Does reading books (and not just Internet bulletin boards and Facebook posts) make me an "old school" dog trainer?  

If so, then I am very old school, and I have the T-shirt to prove it

This post is from Feb 24, 2012

World War I Was a War with Animals

A messenger dog with a spool
attached to a harness for laying out new electric line in September of 1917.  From Animals at War; World War I in Photos. 

[A]utomobiles, tractors, and trucks were relatively new inventions and somewhat rare. British and French forces imported horses from colonies and allies around the world, a near-constant flow of hundreds of thousands of animals across the oceans, headed for war. One estimate places the number of horses killed during the four years of warfare at nearly 8 million. Other animals proved their usefulness as well: Dogs became messengers, sentries, rescuers, and small beasts of burden. Pigeons acted as messenger carriers, and even (experimentally) as aerial reconnaissance platforms. Mules and camels were drafted into use in various war theatres, and many soldiers brought along mascots to help boost morale.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rolling with the Dogs

I knew it was going to be hotter than Vulcan's forge today, so I got up at 5 a.m. to get to the Canal Towpath before 6 a.m. It was 87 degrees at 6 a.m.

My modest goal was to get both dogs back on the bike, while adding two reels, a break down spin-fly rod, and my Nikon P610 to my rolling kit.

It all worked fine. Though it was too hot to fish, everything packed fast and solid. Another day, another time we will actually cast a line.

I started out at Pennyfield Lock, where President Grover Cleveland used to fish. History is never my enemy and it lies thick around here -- draped like wild grape.

I was led on for a while by a beautiful blue Kingfisher that I never got a lens on, and I missed a large owl as well -- bigger than a Barred Owl, so it must have been a Horned Owl, but I did not see the bird's head too well -- simply the size.

A kayaker was out on the river, and I squeezed off a shot from a great distance, capturing a skein of geese flying over his head.

Turtles and several beaver were scooting around in the canal, and a deer seemed quite unconcerned with my presence, perhaps secure that it was on the opposite bank.

Less that 100 years ago, beaver were so heavily trapped they were extirpated from the United States east of the Mississippi. Now, they are so plentiful they cannot be trapped and moved; the law requires they be killed in place, rather than moved to a new location whey they are likely to cause trouble. One of my farms has had to trap off several -- one of which weighed 80 pounds, I am told.

The dogs were perfect little citizens and it was a nice run, with all of us back at the car by 8:10, before the heat came too hard.

Hunting Ethics and Terriers

A repost from June 2005.

The hunting community has given a LOT of serious thought to ethical hunting and perhaps this is a topic over-due for discussion in the arena of working terriers.

As the folks at Boone and Crockett note:
"We live in a democracy where in the rules by which we live are determined by majority vote. For those who value hunting, it is fortunate that the majority of the population who do not hunt tolerate or accept hunting. If hunting is to survive to be practiced by future generations, we must preserve, enhance, and protect the image of hunting, hunters, and land stewards as a positive force in wildlife conservation."

Every person will come to their own place when it comes to ethical hunting. I do not like canned bird shoots, for example, while others may find nothing wrong with them. Each to his own.

I broach the topic of ethical hunting, not so we reach the same place, but so people will think about this topic a bit more. How do we represent our sport? How do we do right by the dogs and by the quarry?

As stewards for a type of hunting that is hundreds of years old, how do we make sure terrier work is passed down, intact, to the next generation?

There should always be respect for honest differences of opinion, of course, but opinion should be grounded in thought and information.

I am always amazed that so few people in the U.S. know the history of hunting and wildlife management in this country. A small start at education can be had by visiting the "Fair Chase" web site which notes that:

"As hunters and land managers, we are in the 'image business' - even more so now than at the turn of the century when 'fair chase' was proposed as the underlying foundation for hunter ethics. For sportsmen to continue to be the dominant force in setting wildlife resource policies we must, and foremost understand our role as conservationists. We should take pride in accomplishments and recognize, and assume the responsibilities that have been passed to us by our hunting forefathers. If we don't stand up for wildlife and its habitats, who will? We are, in the end, a 'band of brothers and sisters' in that what we do individually affects us all."

Standing up for wildlife and habitats is not something we hear much about in the terrier world for some reason. Perhaps knowledge of quarry and habitats is what is missing.

Perhaps it is what should be added.

I am always amazed to find hunters
who have never taken the time to learn about the animals they hunt. For these people, terrier work is not a commune with nature, but a proxy for dog fighting or a paper certificate. A deer is nothing but a target and a trophy. A duck is just a feathered clay pigeon.

The true hunter knows the difference between a rat and a raccoon, a squirrel and a fox, a groundhog and a possum. They know what each animal eats, how often they breed, their population densities in various habitats, and their natural mortality rates.

A true hunter knows that you cannot hunt out all the rats on a dairy farm or shoot out all the squirrels in a 200-acre oak woods, but that you can knock all the raccoon or fox off a farm in a single weekend.

An ethical hunter does not bleed the land white.

A smart hunter thinks twice before dispatching a fox or a raccoon. Is it really necessary to terminate this animal? What harm is this animal really doing? If it is a nuisance animal for some reason, make dispatch swift and offer no apologies. But think it through. A released raccoon and fox can be hunted again. If the animal is not a true pest, releasing it is more than good ethics -- it is also good hunting.

A lot of ethical hunting is just good manners -- close fences you open, don't trespass, fill holes you dig in the fields, park out of the way, don't rut the fields, and keep a low profile.

Ethical hunting is mostly about respect -- respect for the farm and the farmers, respect for the crops and the livestock, and even respect for people that do not hunt (waving a bloody shirt is no way to preserve hunting).

Respect extends to dogs and quarry. Respect for the dogs means that you work to reduce the incidence of injury to the animal. Once you get down to the quarry and it can be reached, you pull the terrier and do the job YOU are supposed to do which is swift dispatch or quick release.

A seriously injured dog is not treated as a "red badge of courage" but as a failure of either the dog or the digger to work in a sustainable manner. Routine injury is not a sustainable way to hunt -- and the goal of the serious digger is to hunt next week as well as this.

Respect for the quarry means you dispatch it as quickly and humanely as possible, and if pictures are taken for posterity, they are tasteful. Remember that killing the enemy is part of war, but displaying disrespectful pictures of the dead and wounded is a war crime. There is a lesson there, and the ethical hunter gets it.

An ethical hunter is the opposite of the slob hunter. The slob hunter drives his truck down the middle of the field and mows down the hedgerow. He leaves gates open and drives into the 7-Eleven with a bleeding doe in full view in the back of his pickup truck. The slob hunter does not know the difference between a gray fox and a red fox, and does not spend more than 30 minutes tracking his gut-shot deer.

Ethical hunters tend to be better hunters than slob hunters for the same reason that people who handicap themselves in golf tend to be better players than people who want a "gimme" at every hole.

I am happy to report that ethical hunting is on the ascendancy in the U.S. As wildlife has roared back from the edge of extinction and finding game has become easier, more and more people are affirming the hunting experience by turning to black powder and bow. When Colorado decided to ban hunting bear over bait (steel drums filled with jelly donuts and pizza), bear hunting increased because it was no longer seen as "slob shooting" but real hunting that required wood craft and skill.

Those that fish will understand. When we were five years old our fathers or grandfathers took us to a stocked trout pond and we were guaranteed a catch (paid per pound). A few years later we were mad fishermen killing everything we caught. As over-enthusiastic youth, we used live bait, tail-snagged fish during Spring runs, and bought packages of hooks with multiple barbs.

As we got better at fishing, most of us turned to catch-and-release and artificial lures. The best of us crushed the barbs off our hooks. We may have turned to fly fishing. No one bought a fish finder.

There is nothing wrong with killing -- it part of hunting, but as we get older and better at wood-craft we realize that killing is not hunting in and of itself. We do not say a slaughterhouse worker is hunting, though we say a man who returns without a buck has been out hunting hard and "better luck tomorrow".

Those of us who love this land and the creatures on it recognize that hunting is a necessary part of game management and an important economic and political engine protecting America's wild places and farms. That said, we also need to recognize that just as it is important to protect the land and the streams, so too is it important to instill in the next generation a sense of hunting history and hunting ethics, and a sense of decorum when dealing with the non-hunting public.

It is sad, but true, that honorable minority communities are often scandalized and victimized by ugly and criminal elements within their midst. That is true for immigrant communities and racial minorities, but it also true for hunters.

It has been said that a minority community knows it has come of age when the worst acts of a few can no longer be used to characterize the larger whole. The good news is that we may be there with hunting in general. It remains to be seen as to whether we will get there with terrier work in particular.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

God Bless Willis Carrier

Its hotter that the Congo outside, and so let us take a minute to give thanks to Willis Carrier, who invented air conditioning and is therefore responsible for about half of all settlement in the tropical world and the American West.

Northern Flicker

A little wildlife this morning, while walking the dogs.
Though technically a kind of woodpecker, the Flicker will eat seeds, wild grapes, poison ivy berries, flies, butterflies, beetles and snails. About 40% of their diet is made up of ants, and they can sometime be seen stabbing into ant mounds to get larva.  They are common on suet blocks in the winter.

Lucy is Ready to Roll

Lucy is ready to go jogging with Austin on his electric skate board.

A Creel Full of Puppies

This is about as cute a puppy picture as I have seen. These West Elk  pups were sired by Moxie's brother, Jack, and all are spoken for. The boy on the right has a strong-looking head, while the wee bitch on the left looks very much like Moxie at this age -- and with much of the same markings. Anyone who wants to see what Moxie can do in the field is welcome to come out and carry a posthole digger in the field on any day under 90-degrees in temperature.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Business of Diamonds and Dogs

Almost everything the diamond industry tells us about their product is a lie.

For one thing, diamonds are not particularly rare. They are found all over the world and in such quantities that the only way the diamond cartel can keep prices up is by putting more than 70 percent of all diamond production into a vault.

And why is this industry so interested in telling us that a "diamond is forever?"

Simple: they don't want us to try to sell a diamond once it is bought. Not only would resale further flood the already-glutted market, but it would also reveal an essential truth: diamonds are a really lousy investment.

It turns out that buying a diamond is the financial equivalent of flushing your money down the toilet. You buy retail and sell wholesale, and can never hope to recoup the difference.

Why am I talking about diamonds?

Simple. Diamonds and dogs have been variously described as a girl or a man's best friend.

And though they would seem to have nothing in common, diamonds and dogs are not so far apart in terms of marketing methods and marketing problems.

Think about it.

The world of diamonds is being hammered by three forces: 1) a flood of diamonds on the market as new sources come on line from Russia, Africa, and Australia; 2) the slow but stead rise of genuine laboratory-made diamonds and the perfection of cubic zirconia, and; 3) a rising social stigma attached to diamonds as a result of television new shows and documentaries which have (correctly) associated wedding and engagement rings with the human atrocities behind blood diamonds.

Are dogs really that different?

The canine equivalent to cubic zirconium are shelter and rescue dogs.

These "throw away" dogs shine every bit as bright as their Kennel Club brethren, but do so at a fraction of the cost, and often with less up keep as well.

The canine equivalent of laboratory diamonds are "designer dogs" created whole cloth by non-AKC breeders who promise "hybrid vigor" from Puggles, Labradoodles and Chiweenies.

As for the glut of dogs on the market, that can can be seen at any shelter. The only difference here is that instead of putting the dogs in a vault, we kill them in gas chambers or with a blue solution of sodium pentobarbital.

Which leaves us with the changing social construct behind owning a Kennel Club dog.

That construct has been changing for some time now -- one reason Kennel Club registrations have declined 53 percent in the last 15 years.

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

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

Who wants to be part of that? No one!

And so we have a perfect parallel.

In a world in which the ashes of your dead wife (or dog) can be turned into a real diamond, why would anyone buy an anonymous stone mined in Sierra Leone at the point of a gun by a man who eats human flesh and rapes 12-year old girls?

And when the jewelry store at the local mall will sell you a cubic zirconium ring in a gold mount for $80, why would anyone shell out $20,000 for something that will not "do the job" any better?

No one smart, that's for sure!

And the same is true for most dogs owners who only want a pet.

Just as "conflict diamonds" left blood stains on the ring fingers of new brides, so too have the defects, diseases, and deformities of Kennel Club dogs become a quiet indictment at the end of a leash.

Who wants to be associated with such misery and depraved indifference to outcome? No one!

And that is a real problem, for both dog dealers and diamond merchants.

When you are selling a commodity that is almost entirely devoid of all practical value, and whose price is based solely on romance, myth and misinformation, it does not take too much to generate a market collapse.

Are we there yet? Not quite, though it safe to say that "the market is down" as far as both diamonds and dogs is concerned.

And interestingly enough, neither the diamond cartel nor the American Kennel Club seem to have a program for recovery.

Is there a way forward for the Kennel Club? I think there is, but it will require fundamental changes in the way the Kennel Club registers and evaluates dogs.

Only by improving the health of their product (and the utility of their product in the case of working dogs), can the Kennel Club hope to change the story being told, and hope to compete head-to-head with shelter dogs and just-invented hybrids.

Americans will pay more for a better product, and we will beat a path to the door of someone who offers one.

But, as the American car industry is finding out, we will NOT pay more for a product that is burdened with moral baggage, costs more, and is breaking down all the time.

We may be slow, we may be ignorant, and we may even forget a lot, but we are not stupid.

Alone in a Crowd

With Spade in Hand


Four year ago, Karen Cooper wrote this poem for one of her dogs, Gizzy. That dog is gone but not forgotten, because nothing loved is ever lost.

I post this poem here for Sailor and Gideon. I have had other dogs, but none were more loved that those two, who had their lives cut short.

I had a dream I saw your face
Among the branches bare.
Beside that den-you know the place,
Worked lots of quarry there.

This dream so clear-I called your name
To come and hunt again.
With spade in hand, I ran to you
You're not alone my friend.

This can't be real, I whisper loud,
I know you went away.
I held you close n kissed your face
And wished that you could stay.

So dreams are where we'll have to meet,
To play and hunt again.
With spade in hand, I'll come for you
You're not alone my friend.

What They Won't Tell You at PetSmart

Based on 2007 data compiled by the Center for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, you are more likely to be seriously injured by a leash than by the unintentional discharge of a firearm.

I Found Him Like This Last Night

KKK's David Duke:  "Couldn't have said it better" than Trump.
From Vox:
His speech tonight invoked a nightmarish American hellscape that doesn't actually exist. His promise to restore order made him sound like the aspiring strongman his critics fear him to be. "I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end," he said. "Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored."

Of course not much is ever new. The Republicans have been playing footsy with racists for over 75 years, and all the time using the "law and order" label.

July 12, 1964. "Ku Klux Klan members supporting Barry Goldwater's campaign for the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, San Francisco, California, as an African American man pushes signs back."


Fish on Friday

Potato Cod Grouper, Australia