Sunday, July 23, 2017

Back When Kids Went Outside and Did Stuff

It was as hot as the devil's oven yesterday
, and so to we visited Occoquan (population 759) for lunch. They have put in a new park at the end of the main street, and after walking it, I noticed a small sign across from the old mill house, next to a small hole cut into the side of what looked like  a concrete bunker,

Apparently the bunker was to house carbide rock during that small window of time between the death of coal oil (kersosene), and the arrival of piped natural gas and electricity.

In my day, we strapped we strapped carbide bunkers to our heads. We were tough and fearless, and used carbide lamps for caving. This was the era before electric lights and battery packs, when most of the gear was repurposed from mining and rock climbing. We were that transitional generation that started with Goldline ropes and ended with the new synthetics. The carabiners of my generation did not have locking gates. Yvon Chouinard had invented the aluminum chock and bong only a few years before, and I was a cutting edge walker with a Kelty BB5 pack, an Optimus 111b stoves, and Vasque boots.

The woods and mountains are still the same, but the stuff they make now is much better, though the big caves in West Virginia that we used to explore -- School House, Hell Hole, etc. -- are now closed to young rabble willing to risk life and limb to explore. We were the last of the Mohicans.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Party In the Front Yard Last Night

There was a party in the front yard last night.

These pictures were taken with a game camera, right in front of my greenhouse.

The wildlife, which sometimes includes deer, come for spilled bird seed and the occasional bit of kitchen leftovers I leave out for them very periodically.

If you feed at a location twice a month, critters will return every night hoping they'll get lucky.

A pro-tip: old bacon grease draws deer and everything else.

Jim Vance Was the Best of Us

Jim Vance has died at the age of 75. He worked at NBC 4, here in Washington, for 48 years, and he was anchor for 45 years.

Jim Vance was a friend. Not a close friend, but we knew each other well enough that when we ran into each other in Georgetown on a dark side street some year back, we both stopped to chat. This was a day or two after DC mayor Marion Barry had been caught smoking crack in a hotel room. Marion Barry had asked for Jim to come counsel him at home, even as reporters circled the house like vultures on a carcass. Jim had sorted his own drug problems a few years earlier. I told Jim I had just seen him on the news. Jim laughed. I laughed.

How long had he known Barry? Jim said that was the weird thing: they didn't really know each other. It was a small town, but they hung out in different waters.  I said that Barry had been a bright light and a powerhouse that most people did not know and appreciate. I clicked through his accomplishments at SNCC, his coming to Washington wearing a dashiki, his school board work, his work on the city council, his getting shot in the ass by the Hanafi Muslims in March of 77. Jim wasn't expecting a white guy to know this much about Marion Barry or to say anything good about him. No one was defending Marion Barry back then; he was a convenient demon for those who feared the rise of non-white political power.

"I get Marion," I said. "What I don't get is Effi" his wife. Why was she staying with him?"

Jim said he thought Effi was one of those born-again Christian types who, when she said "to have and to hold until death do us part," meant it.

I asked Jim if he thought Barry was mostly addicted to dope or women. "He's got a dick problem," Jim said, 'but it's all connected. If he's not in at least three 12-Step programs at the end, he's going to be in denial."

And we both laughed.

That was Jim Vance: smart, funny, caring, and uncomplicated.   He was a little bit street-wise and a very clear thinker.  He made you feel comfortable. He was the best of us. And now he is gone.

Red Fox, the Cat-Like Canid

The Red Fox has been called the cat-like canid for a reason. Like a cat, it mostly lives on mice, has a very light bird-like skeletal frame, and is a solo-hunter never seen in a pack. It is also, not-coincidentally, about the same size as a large house cat.

These pictures were taken in my front yard using a game camera set up right in front of the greenhouse.

Flashing lights and barking dogs do not bother suburban wildlife. They have learned that it's MOVEMENT that matters.

As big as that deer looks, as compared to the fox and the cat, is will stand not much more than 3 feet tall at the shoulder.

I always urge folks who want to truly understand deer to track them in the snow.  Pick one set of tracks and follow that set through meet up and yarding, from bedding areas to feeding areas, and you will see how small depressions in the land are used to shield the deer from eye sight, and how and low a deer has to get to move through tangles of brush and handing vines.  Follow deer tight, and you are liable to end up crawling on your hands and knees!

A New Shirt for the Field

This land is your land, made for you and me.  Order yours

Friday, July 21, 2017

Happy Birthday to Yusuf Islam

Happy 70th birthday to the great Cat Stevens, born Steve Georgiou, now known as Yusuf Islam.

The Importance of Being Ernest

Happy Birthday to the great Ernest Hemingway. If you haven't read The Green Hills of Africa, do so!

Dead as a Donut

My dogs do not kill things -- I do.

There is not much skill in killing, but it seems to be the thing that fascinates non-hunters.

I terminate quarry with a blow to the head -- the same as is done with slaughter house beef.  It's fast, it's assured, and there's no chance of shooting a dog or anyone else.  Only after a groundhog is good and dead do I let the dogs rag the carcass, as can be seen here.  In this case, it makes for a dramatic picture, but in fact this groundhog is as dead as a donut.  Dead is dead.  The reason that this groundhog has blood in its mouth is that its skull is in pieces insider its own skin. 

There is no coming back for you after I sort things out.

Let me stress that dispatch is an option that should not always be used.

If the quarry is a fox or raccoon, serious thought should be given to letting the animal go so that it can be hunted again another day. A farm can easily be hunted out, especially if you are hunting more than a few times a year. Having said that, an animal that is wounded should never be released. It's better to terminate a wounded animal than have it suffer infection or starvation in the wild.

An alternative to dispatch is relocation. Animals that are tailed out alive, snared, or netted can be placed in a fiberglass bag or large Havart cage-trap, or small dog box kennel, and moved to distant farms or wildlife management areas.  This is often illegal in the U.S. because of the notion that rabies might be spread. Good point, but total nonsense in this area, where rabies is endemic.

If you decide to dispatch, or the farmer requires it, there are three options. The best, in my opinion, is a hard rap to the skull with the back (blunt side) of a machete blade or some other reasonable weight. A strong well-placed blow with a dull instrument will create instant death and no pain, and very little blood will be evident. It is also very safe and has no legal complications. This method should only be used if there are no loose dogs, however. A blow to the head can easily be delivered to a terrier if it is still jumping about and leaping in trying to rag an animal that is pinned under a boot or held in a snare or net.

A common dispatch method is a .22 round to the brain-pan. Without a doubt this is a very quick and humane way to dispatch an animal, and a very safe one too if the shot is done in the hole after the dog is pulled. Some farmers are a bit dodgy about guns on their properties, however, and anyone with a .22 revolver should be sane, sober, and not very excitable. If you are not familiar with guns, there is no reason to buy one now to do terrier work -- a strong rap to the head will do the trick.

A third method of dispatching quarry is with a large knife to the heart, or to the neck vertebrate, with another cut to the carotid artery. This method works well if you have loose dogs about, as a knife can be methodically placed through the heart, or driven into the base of the skull severing the neck bone.

A final tip is that a heavy chisel-tip digging bar aimed straight at the head can take out a groundhog that is poking out of a deep pipe.  Aim well and hit hard, and it's instant death.

Never let your dog rag life quarry to death -- it is a sickening thing and debases not only the person that allows it, but all working terrier enthusiasts.

After you have dug a sette in a hedgerow or forest, please take the time to repair the den by jamming sticks cross-wise into the hole so that as much of the den pipe as possible is preserved after you backfill it with spoil. A reconstructed den will, in time, be recolonized by raccoon, possum, fox or groundhogs. Reconstructed den pipes help guarantee productive hunting grounds for seasons to come.

A Working Fox Terrier?

Someone wrote to me the other day:

I am interested in a working fox terrier dog puppy or a type of dog similar.... I am interested in hunting foxes and possum. I do have 4 cats. Do you think this would pose a problem?

My answer:

I don't breed dogs or sell them, but recommend you look at Jack Russell Rescue and The JRTCA. Fox terriers do not hunt fox -- they are a show dog. Hunting fox or possum requires you to be able to dig 3-5 feet and carry about 40 pounds of tools with you into the field on a very cold day with ice and snow on the ground. Fox do not go to ground in warm weather. Cats and hunting dogs may or may not get along well -- its depends on the dog and the cats and when and how they are associated. My suggestion is before you get a dog, buy a book on working terriers and contact someone who can show you what it really means to hunt with terriers. There are a number of diggers in Ohio; the JRTCA should be able to give you a name or two.

Of course, I suspect this person is not really interested in a hunting dog. She is interested in the fantasy of hunting.

Rather than have a simple pet terrier, she wants to be able to tell a longer story -- that her dog is from hunting stock.

She knows that when people see her with a dog, the conversation started is always "what kind of dog is that?" and she wants to be able to have an intrepid-sounding answer, and who cares if it's actually true?

I get it.

But no, I am going to be no help if a person has done this little research before they write me.

If you really want a hunting terrier, buy a book and follow directions because, along with a dog, there are tools to buy and a lot to learn if you expect to keep your dog healthy in the field.   Green cash and paper pedigree does not make a dog a working terrier.

Dorothy Parker Had a Dog Named Cliché

The writer Dorothy Parker owned a series of dogs, including one named Cliché. 

The entire roster of Parker's dogs, listed alphabetically, include:
  • Amy — Mutt
  • Bunk — Boston terrier
  • C’est Tout — Poodle
  • Cliché — Poodle
  • Cora — Bedlington terrier
  • Daisy — Scottish terrier
  • Flic — Boxer
  • Fraulein — Dachshund
  • Jack — Dalmation
  • Limey — Poodle
  • Misty — Poodle
  • Nogi — Boston Terrier
  • Poupée— Poodle
  • Rags — Boston Terrier
  • Robinson — Dachshund
  • Scrambles — Mutt
  • Timothy — Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Troy, aka Troisiéme — Poodle
  • Wolf — Bedlington Terrier
  • Woodrow Wilson — Boston Terrier

As one might expect, Parker also wrote a litle poetic ditty to her dogs.

Verse For a Certain Dog

Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.
All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
(For Heaven's sake, stop worrying that shoe!)
You look about, and all you see is fair;
This mighty globe was made for you alone.
Of all the thunderous ages, you're the heir.
(Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)

A skeptic world you face with steady gaze;
High in young pride you hold your noble head,
Gayly you meet the rush of roaring days.
(Must you eat puppy biscuit on the bed?)
Lancelike your courage, gleaming swift and strong,
Yours the white rapture of a winged soul,
Yours is a spirit like a Mayday song.
(God help you, if you break the goldfish bowl!)

"Whatever is, is good" - your gracious creed.
You wear your joy of living like a crown.
Love lights your simplest act, your every deed.
(Drop it, I tell you - put that kitten down!)
You are God's kindliest gift of all - a friend.
Your shining loyalty unflecked by doubt,
You ask but leave to follow to the end.
(Couldn't you wait until I took you out?)

My favorite Dorothy Parker line:

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

This is Excellent, In My Unbiased Opinion

Snake Trapping

We have a few Black Rat Snakes in and out of the yard, and I wish them well and many mice. The song birds lose a few eggs to them every year, and I have no doubt they get the occasional chipmunk or two, but they are always welcome. Less so for the Copperheads which we occasionally get. In truth Copperheads are not likely to kill a dog, even a small Jack Russell. The standard care is a dog-sized dose of benadryl (1 mg per pound of body weight, given 2-3 times a day), and there is not much else you can do but wait for the swelling to go down.

That said, you can try to remove snakes from around the house, and in locations where rattlesnakes are a real problem this seems to me to be good practice. Karen J. posted a link to the above video, which shows how to use a commercial minnow trap to catch small snakes. In Malaysia and the Philippines, they use a much larger net version placed in the drainage ditches of plantations to catch large pythons.

Terriers Not Bred for Cup Hunting

The Reverend John Russell (no one called him Jack) was old, broke, and without dogs when the nascent Kennel Club reached out to him in 1871. Would he judge the terriers at the first big show at the Crystal Palace? Flattered, Russell said yes, but what he saw in the ring created sufficient alarm that he advised others not to register their own dogs, noting of his own working terriers:

True terriers they were, but differing from the present show dogs as the wild eglantine differs from a garden rose.
Gerald Jones (Dan Russell) with the Rev. John Russell's horn and a model of his dog Tip. 

Arthur Heinemann,
who was born after Russell had given up hunting, and who the Kennel Club "Parson Russell Terrier" folks claim as their standard-bearer (and never mind if Heinemann hunted badger, not fox) also had a caution about looking to the Kennel Club for dogs or standards. Heinemann sneered at the "cup hunters" who did not own a shovel and had no ideas what the dogs were actually meant to do. He told Dan Russell (aka Gerald Jones):

We are very much opposed to the modern show terrier and his type. Once you begin to breed it for show type, you lose the working qualities upon which you pride those terriers. I have been, I might say, the protagonist of the terrier bred for sport as against the terrier bred for show. I have no interest in cup hunting.

Fish on Friday

Is That Dead Hooker I Smell?

I came out of the woods on Sunday to be greeted by a collection of Search and Rescue dogs doing scent training. They were teaching the dogs to search for human remains in the river. I was told I might want to get upwind of the sample container. Nice people, diverse looking dogs -- GSDs, small Labby dog, shepherds. They had never seen working terriers, and I had never smelled human remains. Good times!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Origins, Schisms, and the True Church of Work

For all practical purposes, the story of American terrier work begins in 1971 with Patricia Adams Lent, who founded the American Working Terrier Association to promote working terriers and dachshunds.

The American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) was, and is, a modest organization with about 100 members last I looked. It has no headquarters or paid staff, and produces a simple newsletter four times a year. Its web site has no information about actual hunting or wildlife, and is focused almost entirely on go-to-ground trials.

That said, AWTA is an important organization in the history of American working terriers, not only because it was the first "club" devoted to the sport, but also because Ms. Lent invented go-to-ground trials, and the basic set of rules governing them.

Since 1971, go-to-ground trials have served as a kind of "on ramp" for actual field work. The basic AWTA format has been widely copied, first by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (1976) and then by the American Kennel Club (1994).

The origin of the American go-to-ground tunnel can be found in the artificial fox earths first constructed in the UK in the 1920s, but which came into their own in the 1950s and 60s with the collapse of so many ancient rabbit warrens under the onslaught of myxomatosis.

Artificial earths are generally constructed of two parallel rows of brick stacked three bricks high and topped by overlapping slates, or out of 9-inch clay or concrete drainage pipe laid end-to-end. The result is a very spacious and dry fox earth. If sited within 200 feet of a water source (it does not have to be large), far from residences, and on the edge of fields and small woods, the chance of a fox taking up residence is excellent.

The first artificial fox earths were constructed in order to guarantee that a fox could be found on hunt day, and to encourage fox to run along known courses away from roadways. That said, they also found favor because they proved easy locations for a terrier to bolt a fox from. Even an overlarge dog could negotiate the straight or gently curving unobstructed nine-inch pipes of an artificial earth.

The go-to-ground tunnels devised by Patricia Adams Lent were constructed of wood instead of stone, brick or clay pipe, but were equally commodious, measuring 9 inches on each side with a bare dirt floor for drainage and traction.

From the beginning, AWTA's goal was to be inclusive. Scottish Terriers with enormous chests were encouraged to join AWTA, as were owners of West Highland Whites, Cairns, Norfolks, Norwiches, Border Terriers, Fox Terriers, Lakelands, Welsh Terriers, and Bedlingtons. All were welcome, with the simple goal of having a little fun with the dogs, and perhaps giving American Kennel Club terrier owners some small idea of what actual terrier work was about.

In AWTA trials, wooden den "liners" are sunk into a trench in the ground. The tunnels are up to 35 feet long with a series of right-angle turns, false dens and exits. The “quarry” at the end of the tunnel is a pair of "feeder" lab rats safely protected behind wooden bars and wire mesh. The rats are not only not harmed, but after 100 years of breeding for docility, some lab rats have been know to go to sleep!

Without a doubt, go-to-ground trials have been a huge hit with American terrier owners. The interior dimensions of the den liners -- 81 inches square -- means even over-large terriers are able to negotiate them with ease. With nothing but a caged rat to face as "quarry," the safety of dogs is guaranteed, and since the dogs only have to bay or dig at the quarry for 90-seconds, most dogs end up qualifying for at least an entry-level certificate or ribbon.

Though the die-hard hunter may sneer, the increasing popularity of go-to-ground terrier trials is a welcome thing, for it has brought more people a little closer to real terrier work.

Owners of dogs that do well in go-to-ground trials should take pride in their dog’s achievements. Like all sports that emulate real work (lumber jack contests, bird dog trials, and sheep dog trials, to name a few), a go-to-ground trial is both harder and easier than its real-world cousin.

A dog that will exit a 30-foot tunnel backwards in just 90 seconds and on a single command (a requirement for earning an AKC Senior Earthdog certificate) is a dog that has been trained to a fairly high degree of proficiency.

Having said that, it should be stressed that a go-to-ground trial has little relationship to true hunting. In the field dogs are not rewarded for speed. In fact, if a hunt terrier were to charge down a real earth like it were a go-to-ground tunnel it would quickly run into quarry capable of inflicting real damage.

In addition, in a real hunting situation a dog must do a great deal more than “work” the quarry for 90 seconds! A good working dog will stick to the task for as long as it can hear people moving about overhead – whether that is 15 minutes or three hours.

And nose?  There is not much of a test for that at an AWTA trial!

The real division street between go-to-ground and earthwork, however, is size. And the real problem with a go-to-ground trial is not that it teaches a dog to go too fast down a tunnel (dogs generally understand the difference between fake liners and real earth), but that it suggests to terrier owners that any dog that can go down a cavernous go-to-ground tunnel is a dog “suitable for work.”

To its credit, the American Working Terrier Association recognizes the difference between a go-to-ground tunnel and real earth work, and implicitly underscores this difference in its rules for earning a Working Certificate.

AWTA rules note that a terrier or dachshund can earn a working certificate on woodchuck, fox, raccoon, badger, or an “aggressive possum” found in a natural earth, but that “this does not include work in a drain or otherwise man-made earth.”

In short, a drain is not a close proxy for a natural earth, and terriers that are too large to work a natural earth do not meet the requirements of a working terrier.

The American Working Terrier Association issues Certificates of Gameness to dogs qualifying at their artificial den trials. Working Certificates are awarded to dogs that work groundhog, fox, raccoon, possum, or badger in a natural den provided that at least one AWTA member is there as a witness. AWTA also issues a Hunting Certificate to a dog that hunts regularly over a period of a year.
Eddie Chapman and Ailsa Crawford

Six years after the American Working Terrier Association was created, Mrs. Ailsa Crawford, one of the first Jack Russell Terrier breeders in the U.S., founded the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA)

Ms. Crawford and the early founders of the Jack Russell Terrier Club put a lot of thought into structuring the JRTCA so that work remained front and center. Towards that end, the club decided that its highest award -- the "bronze medallion" -- would not go to show dogs, but to working dogs that had demonstrated their ability in the field by working at least three of six types of American quarry -- red fox, Gray fox, raccoon, groundhog, possum, and badger -- in front of a JRTCA-certified field judge.

In the show ring the JRTCA decided to ban professional handlers as it was thought this would keep the shows fun and less important than the essential element of work.

Instead of mandating the kind of narrow conformation ranges demanded by the Kennel Club for their terrier breeds, the JRTCA divided the diverse world of the Jack Russell Terrier into three coat types (smooth, broken and rough), and two sizes (10 inches tall to 12.5 inches tall, and 12.5 inches tall to 15 inches tall).

"Different horses for different courses" became a watch word, with overt recognition that the world of working terriers required dogs able to work different quarry in different earths, and in different climates.

Unlike the Kennel Club, the JRTCA also decided to keep their registry an "open" registry so that new blood might be infused at times. At the same time, the Club discouraged inbreeding and eventually restricted line breeding to a set percentage.

To balance off an open-registry with the desire to keep Jack Russell-type dogs looking like Jack Russells, the JRTCA decided not to allow dogs to be registered at birth or to register entire litters. Instead, each dog would be photographed from each side and the front, and admitted to the registry on their own merit, and as an adult. In addition, each dog had to be measured for height and chest span.

What this meant is that at the time of registration, the height and chest measurement of an adult dog could be recorded. Over time, both height and chest size could be tracked through pedigrees -- an essential element of breeding correctly-sized working terriers.

The JRTCA was not shy about their rationale for these rules: they openly and emphatically opposed Kennel Club registration, maintaining that time had show that dogs brought into the Kennel Club quickly grew too big and often lost other essential working attributes such as nose, voice, and prey drive.

Today the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is the largest Jack Russell Terrier club and registry in the world, and its Annual National Trial attracts approximately 1,200 Jack Russell terriers from all over the U.S. and Canada.

The JRTCA's small professional staff cranks out a solid bi-monthly magazine that is 80-100 pages long, holds a regular schedule of dog shows, and sells deben locator collars, fox nets, and a host of other items ranging from hats and jackets to coffee cups.

The web site of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is packed with well-presented information.

Perhaps the most important service work of the JRTCA are the ads that the Club routinely runs in all-breed publications warning people that Jack Russell Terriers are not a dog for everyone, are primarily a hunting dog, and are not like the cute dogs seen on TV.

Sometime in the last 1990s, following the appearance of Jack Russell Terriers in a host of TV and Hollywood productions ranging from "Wishbone" and "Frasier" to "My Dog Skip" and "The Mask," the American Kennel Club decided to add the Jack Russell Terrier to its roles.

As they had previously done with the Border Collie, the AKC ignored the strong opposition of the large existing breed club, and quietly assembled a new club of show-ring breeders to serve as their stalking horse.

The "Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association" (later called the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America, and now called the "Parson Russell Terrier Association of America") petitioned for the admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the Kennel Club and, despite the objections of the JRTCA, the breed was admitted in January of 2001.

The admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the American Kennel Club was a contentious affair, with the JRTCA standing firm on its long-held rule that no dog could be dual-registered.

What this meant is that breeders had to chose whether to remain in the JRTCA or to "get in early" with the AKC before they closed their registry.

Some of the breeders that chose the AKC did so because they thought they could then sell their puppies for more money, others were eager to be the "big fish in a small pond" at the beginning of a new AKC breed registry. Still others were anxious to attend more dog shows,.

Whatever the reason, the Kennel Club required that the Jack Russell Terrier breed description be narrower than that of the JRTCA. The goal of a Kennel Club breed description is to craft a narrow "standard" -- the wide variance in size, coat, and look allowed and encouraged in the world of working terriers would not do.

The American Kennel Club breed standard stipulated that an AKC Jack Russell terrier could not be under 12 inches in height nor over 15 inches in height, and further stipulated that "ideal" dog was 14 inches tall and the ideal bitch was 13" tall.

Ironically, this breed description effectively eliminated about 40% of all the American dogs that had actually worked red fox in the U.S.

More importantly, this narrow standard eliminated the small dogs necessary to "size down" a breed -- something absolutely necessary in order to keep working terriers small enough to work.

Of course the American Kennel Club has never been interested in working terriers and the breed club they created has shown no interest in work either.

Under continuing pressure from the working Jack Russell Terrier community in England and the U.S., the British and American Kennel Clubs decided to jettison the "Jack Russell Terrier" name to more easily identify the non-working show ring dog they favored.

Now called the "Parson Russell Terrier," the AKC dog is quickly getting too big in the chest to work -- though not many dogs are actually taken out into the field to try.  For more on the convolunted and contrived history here, see: A Wrench That Doesn't Fit
After just three years in the Kennel Club, the "Parson Russell Terrier Club" tried to modify the show ring standard so that the dog no longer had to be spanned. In fact, many Kennel Club judges do not know how to span a terrier and many do not do it as a consequence.

In 2001, the United Kennel Club started an "earth work" program modeled after that of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. The UKC working terrier program remained small, with relatively few judges, it did not grow rapidly, and it has now been consigned to the scrap heap of history since it did not turn a quick and ready profit (the UKC is for-profit and privately held by a single individual).

In 2005, The Kennel Club in the UK added a bit more confusion to the story by changing the standard for the dog they were now calling the Parson Russell Terrier, extending it to encompass dogs ranging from 10 to 15 inches tall at the shoulders.

The American Kennel Club did not follow the U.K Kennel Club in changing the standard, instead choosing, in 2012,  to create another breed of dog called the "Russell Terrier" which they said "originated" in the United Kingdom, but which was "developed" in Australia -- a country which John Russell never so much as visited, which had no Jack Russells at all until the very late 1960s, and where the dog in question remains a pet and show dog that never sees a moment's work. The AKC "Russell terrier" standard calls for a dog standing 10-12 inches tall at the shoulder. As with the AKC Parson Russell terrier, almost no dogs are ever found in the field.

How to sort it all out then?

I think simplicity is best. In my opinion, there are only two types of terriers in the world: those that work, and those that don't. The white ones that work are called Jack Russell Terriers, and they are called that out of respect for the working standard that the Reverend John Russell himself honored throughout his life. Many of these white-bodied working terriers are not registered, but neither were any of the Reverend's own dogs.

What are we to make of the Kennel Club dogs? Simple: None of them are Jack Russell terriers.

They are not Jack Russells in name, nor are they Jack Russell terriers in terms of performing regular honest work.

They are simply another white terrier being combed out, powdered, and fussed over by people chasing ribbon

I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

Toto was a terrier who exposed chicanery and flim-flammery.

It's all connected

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

There Comes a Time For All Things

I have made my peace with death, and most people have not.

All I can tell you is that there is more to living than longevity, and sometimes the best gift we can give those we love is a dignified end that is free of pain, confusion and fear.

And so now we come to the old dog, the ancient hound who now lies arthritic and deaf.

What do we do here? How will we know when to say when?

There is no clear answer, other than to keep your eyes open.

If the dog refuses water, it is time.

If an old male dog has blood in its urine, it is time.

If a dog cannot stand on its own due to failing joints, it is time.

Do not let the dog live in pain.

Recognize that dogs are natural stoics, and what looks like a little pain may be a great deal more than that.

Which brings me to the most important point: Be early, not late.

A week early, and not much is lost; your much-loved dog slides off to sleep still free of anxiety, pain, and fear. It is a gentle thing, I assure you.

A week late, however, and you have needlessly tortured your best friend because you were unwilling to face the inevitable.

In the end, it is your job to stand for the dog, and to put the dog first.

This is your last duty.

Don’t fail him now.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Few Notes on a Modest Predator

I have dug on fox, measured them, released them, and photographed them.  These two pictures are from my yard last night. Here's the short story as far as size and food: this is a very small predator.

Fox mostly eat mice, but really will kill your free-range chickens and ducks if you leave them out at night or fail to maintain a fox-wire surrounded coop (not chicken wire, fox wire!).

Fox will generally ignore a cat, cannot kill a sheep, and outside of mice, they mostly live on scavenged berries, bird seed, roadkill, frogs, snakes, and the occasional bird (they are called a cat-like canid for a reason).

Fox have a chest size of about 14 inches or less, and larger weight fox tend to be longer, but not much bigger in the chest.

A dog that has a 14 inch chest will be about two inches shorter in stature than a fox, which is mostly leg, with a bone structure closer to that of a bird than that of a dog.  Look for a small-chested 12 inch tall terrier (or less) and you will never regret it.

The far-and-away biggest killer of fox is disease (distemper, mange); parasites (roundworm, hookworm, heartworm); exposure, flood, and respiratory illness (as kits); starvation; and happenstance (ripped by barbed wire, caught in brambles, accidental poisoning from antifreeze or rat bait). Encounters with farm dogs prune of some fox, and vehicle impact kills many others. Trappers and hunters have almost no impact on fox numbers at the national level.

Man as Terrier Down Under

Watch This for the Surprise

Meanwhile, in Russia...

The bear actually looks like it's having a good time.

Trust me -- if a bear is riding in your motorcycle, that bear is trained, loved, and well-managed. Should bears be in the wild? Sure. How many acres of the wild will you be buying today? How much have you ever bought? How much have you donated to conservation? Want to put your money into habitat for bears? Great! I have a terrific organization that will accept your dollars for that cause. Mention my name and they will throw in a T-shirt for every $5,000 contribution.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Future is Coming, But I Look to the Past

I found this Chevy electric Bolt getting charged at one of the two new charging stations that were recently put into my 40-year old office building; proof positive that if you put down food and water, it will attract wildlife.

The Chevy Volt runs on a lithium-ion battery, which will be recycled at end of life. Though lithium (a very common element) fetches very little, other components in lithium-ion batteries, such as nickel and cobalt, make the batteries far too valuable to send to the landfill.

Most batteries coming out of cars, however, will not be recycled -- at least initially. Instead, they will have a secondary 10-year life as home energy storage units coupled to rooftop photo-voltaic solar panels. Just two car batteries could power all of the needs of a typical home.

By the time my hybrid C-Max car is ready for the scrap heap, all-electric driverless cars may be the norm, at which point I will get a 1946 Chevy "Waterfall" truck.  How cool a dog vehicle would this be?

Box Turtle and Ancient Guardian

The second box turtle of the day. The tree behind it is in one of three or four very large White Oaks that I believe once lined a farm road that has been been swallowed by the forest. One of these giants has collapsed since I was last here, its dried leaves still on the branches, the trunk an enormous thing with perhaps some still-good wood inside.  It would be hard to get the wood out, but it would make an incredible table.

Mushroom Hunting

Moxie slides into a sette topped by Crown-tipped Coral Fungus growing out of dead wood. It's edible, but so is a lot of stuff in the forest if you know what's what. It's amazing that smart people starve in the forest, while dumb animals get fat.

Below, Misto is happy in the field with another large summer mushroom at her feet.  Most mushrooms fruit in fall after a heavy rain, but there are spring and summer mushrooms too.

The Architecture of Burrows

From a post on the architecture of burrows:

Rocks, roots and barbed wire at the entrance:
This is so common that it is clearly a planned design feature. It is not uncommon to find dens exiting inside a stump or hollow tree, or to have a strand or two of barbed wire running along the lip. Groundhog dens frequently start on one side of a barbed wire fence and exit out another. If there is an abandoned vehicle on the edge of a farm, a groundhog will invariably makes its home under the chassis -- a nice shelter from the rain, but also from predators who will have to slow down to a crawl to avoid beaning themselves on the I-beam and suspension. Hard structures not only makes digging out more difficult, it makes a mad dash at the den hole a dangerous and maladaptive strategy for large predators. In addition to hard structures at den entrances and exits, there are "soft structures" such as thickets of multi-flora rose, bramble, poison ivy, and thick wild grape vine.

Hard Rock Mining With Wildlife and Dogs

This groundhog was a bit of a rock miner. When I repaired the sette, after the dig, I used a few of these small stones to cover the crack between the logs before I piled the dirt on top. Good as new!

A Nation Groaning With Wildlife

As I loading up yesterday morning, I looked down the hill of my driveway, and there was a red fox lying down in the cul de sac like he was in a perfect down-stay. He was watching me and the terriers up top. The dogs did not see him -- they were too focused on me.

As I stopped to get gas, we passed these three deer at the entrance to the CIA as they waited to cross the road. A real family group!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

First Box Turtle of the Day

A forest full of box turtles is too rare a thing these days.

A Forest Loaded With Spider Webs

The Wee Ones Between Holes

Tongs and Snares Allow Wildlife to Be Moved

Badger Tongs are an ancient way of dealing with angry badgers at the end of a dig, and though they look primitive, it's worth remembering that they are actually a way of  moving a badger rather than using a gun or poison to kill it.

Here in the U.S., we use two slightly different tools.

Some years back, Bill Boatman invented "raccoon tongs" made of soft steel and with a cantered locking handle. Much shorter and lighter than the very long-handled iron badger tongs used in Europe, these still weigh more than the solo terrier digger wants, or needs, to carry.

My own pair of raccoon tongs never leaves the garage any more, and with the death of Bill Boatman and the demise of the Boatman Catalog, they are now a bit of history.

I never go out into the field hunting with the dogs without a lightweight pole snare.  I tell how to make those here.  These things weigh less than tongs, and allow the creature to be moved and released with ease.  This raccoon, pulled from a cistern next to a house, was released unharmed.