December 31, 2007

Toddler Mauled by Pit Bulls; Father Time Marches On

UPDATE: Edited for syntax. Content unchanged.

Er, make that one pit bull. A female pit bull. No, a male. Wait a minute -- it was a boxer mix. Or not. OK, we think it was a male pit bull/boxer mix, but the reporters are all so PC these days, and anyway, according to a county administrator, "The more dominant breed is pit bull." Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean [and yes, I'm being facetious. We all know exactly what it means: it's the canine version of the One Drop Rule].

When it comes to pit bulls, nothing says "high standard of journalism" quite like the San Francisco Comical Chronicle and the San Jose Murky Mercury News. What a shame the original article and 10+ pages of comments were deleted from SFGate after the dog became a boxer. "I have a gun, and if some filthy pit bull sets foot in my yard, it's head will be hamburger!" Right, pal, unless the grammar police bust a cap in your apostrophe first. [I think filthy pit bulls are kind of adorable: see right sidebar.] On the Murky News the comments have taken a predictable turn:
All pitbulls and their owners should be put down. They are both stupid and vicious
To Truthful, You have a lot in common with the vicious pit bull who attacked that defenseless child, you're both halfbreed uncontrollable (mixed) animals who should be euthanized. Be not so proud of your uncivilized race because you will never be a proud American. Either deport all Mexicans or euthanize them!!
Blah blah blah eyeroll. The Murky News is trying to delete the most rude, off-topic comments as soon as they're flagged --- don't do it, Murky drones! This is thesis material!! [Honestly, issues of race and class play a huge role in the pit bull debate: a largely unspoken role, no thanks to politicians and most reporters.]

One poor soul asks,
WHY, when this breed is so clearly prone to be unreliable and when their physique makes an attack so serious, does the Silicon Valley Human Society continue to adopdt them out? Why aren't any pit bulls and pit bull mixes put humanely to sleep when turned in to the humane society?
Gee, I dunno --- could it be because many pit bulls are, in fact, more reliable than anything, and make wonderful companions?

Fave quotes of the day:
Greg Van Wassenhove, director of animal care and control in the county, said an investigation into the attack is ongoing. However, in cases like this one, where dogs are present at family gatherings, animals can view small children as "threatening their territories."

"That is the most likely scenario," Van Wassenhove said. "We don't expect a 20-month old child to provoke a dog."
Of course not, Greg! A twenty-month old child couldn't possibly do anything to upset a dog! [/sarcasm]

Feeding frenzy:
This morning four dogs circled the [family's] three-story main house [...] The property has a private easement snaking up to the house, which is nestled in the foothills. The dogs came charging out of the property, snarling and barking at members of the media in their vehicles.
OMG, "charging," for real? Do you mean these dogs actually barked at strangers on their property? And growled and snarled? (Congo, is that you?) I need to sit down.

So the Old Year fades away with more evidence than ever that people are forgetting what dogs are and how they behave, while groups like PETA and the HSUS bankroll spay/neuter laws and do their best to eradicate the domestic dog "for its own good, poor thing." Big dogs: too threatening. Medium-sized dogs: too boisterous. Small dogs: too, um, small liable to spread germs, ick.

Yes, dogs chase cats and "charge" at things. Some hate to be bothered when they're eating. Most bark at strangers. [The filthy pit bull in the sidebar is no watchdog -- she'd be delighted to let the axe-murderer into my home at midnight. Then my quiet collies would kill him. I'm joking, homeowner insurance people.]

[Sheep fed -- check. Dogs all inside -- check. Calming herbs for Gray -- check. Emergency IDs -- check. For years I've been a huge fan of Boomerang CollarTags, and each dog has two: "REWARD! LOOSE = LOST," cell phone, home phone, vet's phone, "MICROCHIPPED." We're ready for 2008. Bring it on.]

This New Year's Eve I'm hoping for peace [I'm a hopeful type]; for the health, safety and happiness of everyone I know and pretty much everyone I don't; for leaders who do justly and love mercy; for mild, contented sheep and tired, happy dogs; and for firecrackers so far away, tonight, that none of my collies can hear them. Also: for the stick-to-it-ive-ness to write often about real dogs and real dog behavior -- and link often to many of the fine blogs dedicated to nature, the environment, and, of course, real dogs.

Happy New Year!

ETA: More here, with a video showing one of the dogs involved.

December 26, 2007


UPDATE: Edited for spelling. Content unchanged.
This week there's a new back-to-the-top icon at the foot of each post, in honor of a small dog [scroll down in the link for a larger photo] who ate a batch of chocolate cookies and spent Christmas dinnertime at the emergency vet hospital getting her stomach pumped.

From the ASPCA Poison Control Website [link in sidebar, how ironic is that]:
Depending on the form involved, chocolate can contain high amounts of fat and caffeine-like substances known as methylxanthines. If ingested in significant amounts, chocolate can potentially produce clinical effects ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death in severe cases.

Typically, the darker the chocolate, the higher the potential for clinical problems from methylxanthine poisoning. White chocolate has the lowest methylxanthine content, while baking chocolate contains the highest. As little as 20 ounces of milk chocolate, or only two ounces of baking chocolate can cause serious problems in a 10-pound dog.
"Sometimes, even if poisoned, an animal may appear normal for several hours or for days after the incident," warns the "what to do if your pet is poisoned" page, so off to the vet's went Lil, wiggling with happiness at all the attention. [Thank you, good vets and vet techs everywhere, for staffing emergency hospitals on holidays.]

Pugs can jump! Who knew? She's back home now and resting comfortably after the overindulgence, as are we all.

December 24, 2007

Fear not, shepherds!

UPDATE: Edited for spelling. Content unchanged.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
The passage above is the familiar one from the King James Bible. For comparison, here is the first text in English of the second chapter of Luke. The author was William Tyndale, may his name be a blessing. His translation was completed in 1525:
And it chaunced in thoose dayes: yt ther went oute a comaundment from Auguste the Emperour that all the woorlde shuld be taxed.
2 And this taxynge was ye fyrst and executed when Syrenius was leftenaut in Syria.
3 And every man went vnto his awne citie to be taxed.
4 And Ioseph also ascended from Galile oute of a cite called Nazareth into Iurie: vnto ye cite of David which is called Bethleem because he was of the housse and linage of David
5 to be taxed with Mary his spoused wyfe which was with chylde.
6 And it fortuned whyll they were there her tyme was come that she shuld be delyvered.
7 And she brought forth her fyrst begotten sonne and wrapped him in swadlynge cloothes and layed him in a manger because ther was no roume for them within in the ynne.
8 And ther were in the same region shepherdes abydinge in the felde and watching their flocke by nyght.
9 And loo: the angell of ye lorde stode harde by the and the brightnes of ye lorde shone rounde aboute them and they were soare afrayed.
10 But the angell sayd vnto them: Be not afrayed. For beholde I bringe you tydinges of greate ioye yt shal come to all ye people:
11 for vnto you is borne this daye in the cite of David a saveoure which is Christ ye lorde.
12 And take this for a signe: ye hall fynde ye chylde swadled and layed in a mager.
13 And streight waye ther was with the angell a multitude of hevenly sowdiers laudynge God and sayinge:
14 Glory to God an hye and peace on the erth: and vnto men reioysynge.
15 And it fortuned assone as the angels were gone awaye fro them in to heven the shepherdes sayd one to another: let vs goo eve vnto Bethleem and se this thynge that is hapened which the Lorde hath shewed vnto vs.
16 And they cam with haste and founde Mary and Ioseph and the babe layde in a mager.
17 And when they had sene it they publisshed a brode the sayinge which was tolde them of that chylde.
18 And all that hearde it wondred at those thinges which were tolde the of the shepherdes.
19 But Mary kept all thoose sayinges and pondered them in hyr hert.
And because I've loved it for decades, here is the shape-note hymn Sherburne. Listen to the great [Real Player] version here: click on April 17, 2002 RealAudio. The song begins at 3 hrs 28 min, and yes, you can fast forward ;~)
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

All glory be to God on high
And to the earth be peace,
Goodwill henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease.
And to the earth be peace.

December 23, 2007

Good blogging

Clearly, the author has better things to do than decorate dropcaps ;~) That blogger would be Stephen Bodio [a longtime Terrierman favorite], and this past week his Querencia included photos of an Anatolian LGD squaring off with a burro; a discussion on the merits of hunting cranes [prompted by my own fave blogger Julie Zickefoose]; and a link to a New Yorker review by Bill Buford of "three books by authors from three backgrounds—a farmer, a chef, and a pig-slaughtering, bacon-loving descendant of butchers — remarkably alike in their gleeful chauvinism about being carnivores." The River Cottage Meat Book, writes Buford, opens with "an eleven-photograph sequence that shows the author taking two cows to slaughter":
The pictures are not sensational, but they are unflinching [...] Why is it considered entertainment when a predator kills another animal in a wild-life film, Fearnley-Whittingstall wonders, “whereas the final moments of human predation of our farmed livestock are considered too disturbing and shameful to be made available even for information.” The reader understands the point. Meat comes from an animal—a banal connection that has been obscured by the way supermarkets prepare and present our food—and the animal has to be killed. If you fear the sight of a carcass, you shouldn’t be eating from it.
All this, and not a marching Santa in sight. Two opposable thumbs up.

Stocking stuffers

UPDATE: Edited for syntax. Content unchanged.

Where else but Archie McPhee.

Must have: St. Roch, patron saint of dogs. Also: the paparazzi playset, librarian tattoos, B-movie victims, the bacon 'n' eggs bandages, a sushi rug, Skydiving Sigmund Freud and of course the Avenging Narwhal. Yes, I'm twelve. The Yodelling Pickle was "named Least 'Green' Product of 2007" by the Huffington Post, hey. [And she has a point.]
The Avenging Narwhal playset.

Dog rescuer loses her home in a fire

Not that there is ever a good time to lose one's home in a fire, but a few days before Christmas...?

This is Pali Boucher's rescue site: Rocket Dog Rescue. You can read the news story about Rocket Dogs and about the fire here. She lost everything. If you have a few bucks to spare this shopping holiday season, you might consider sending a donation to Rocket Dog Rescue and Pali Boucher.
Rocket Dog Rescue has helped about 3,000 animals over the years - the vast majority saved as they were scheduled for imminent euthanasia at various shelters across Northern California.
And now the rescuer needs help. Sending good vibes and mojo would be nice, but I imagine sending money would be even better. [Contact info is in the SF Gate article.]

The Ethicurean: chew the right thing

Ethicurean pig drawn by Ad McCauley

The Ethicurean is is a favorite site of mine, and if you care a whole lot about food and the environment, it's probably one of your favorites, too. If you've never heard of them -- dig in.

You can spend ages cruising the links: Meatpaper! Smart, brave John Edwards! Pork-barrel Hillary Clinton! Another [very scary] reason factory farming is bad for all involved! And the Ethicurean is always good for comments like this:
Karma can be a real bitch: Contained within yet another story on how food prices are rising and everyone’s playing the blame game, is a jaw-dropping quote from Jay Truitt, spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in which he bemoans the ethanol boom that’s taking cheap corn and soy out of the mouths of countless feedlot cows: “You can’t get anyone to consider that there is a consequence to these actions … We think there will be a day when people ask, ‘Why in the world did we do this?’” You mean, why in the world did we confine ruminants in manure-filled prisons and feed them grains their stomachs can’t digest without making them sick, Jay? Do tell. (New York Times)
There are great little essays like Living Small in Montana [excerpts]:
If local is the new organic, then most of my friends here are very trendy. As with most little towns in the scenic intermountain west, we have our issues between the newbies and the locals, but game cuts across all the class boundaries — we all eat local wild meat. Whatever you might feel about hunting, you have to admit that you can’t get much more local than going out on a cold fall morning before sunrise, then shooting, field dressing, and packing out an animal that is destined for your freezer. An animal you intend to eat for the next year.
But just as folks who join CSAs learn to cook vegetables they’d never seen before like kohlrabi and chard and turnips, it only takes a year or two in Montana before you learn to be sanguine in the face of a thawed-out chunk of bloody game animal. Like all local product, it takes on a significance. You need to learn to cook it well because one of your friends got up on a cold cold morning and went out, shot this animal, then hauled it back to the truck on his own back (or in the case of Shannon, on her own back).
Christopher Cook writes in another link about the Food Bill and "the fate of America's food supply: what's grown, how it's produced and by whom, and how that food will affect our health and the planet."
What's to be done? Congress (particularly the Senate, where debate currently resides) needs to hear Americans -- urban and rural alike -- demand serious change, to shift our tax dollars ($20 billion to $25 billion a year in farm subsidies alone) toward organic, locally oriented, nutritious food that sustains farming communities and consumer health.

Investing our tax dollars in food isn't the problem; instead of commodity subsidies that ultimately benefit the production of meat and fattening processed foods by a handful of corporations, we need a New Deal for food that reinvests funds in sustainably grown, healthful produce grown by a diversity of farmers.
Chew the right thing: check out the Ethicurean.

December 22, 2007

It's done.

Finished snowing. On this blog. Forever. How people can bear to live where it snows for month after month is a complete mystery to me. I lasted less than a week, and with no shoveling. Hack news: the blog title font is Night Sky. The little penguin and his snowman are in the corner of each post -- they offer a quick return to the top of the page. The return code is courtesy of Rosa; penguin from La Bloguería. Yes, I'm storing all this away for next year.

OMG what a drive


Made my annual pilgrimage north to Mission San Juan Bautista in early December. El Teatro Campesino puts on folk plays in the old mission church each Christmas season, and this year the play was La Pastorela. Shepherds, angels, devils [tiny devils, played by local kids] and lots of music. It's always wonderful. The drive up, not so much. The drive home rocked.

Did you know that it's possible to steer with one knee while taking photos through the windshield? [Not that I would ever do this, especially not on the 5, in a downpour, at 70 mph.]

Once the rain was out of the way, though, the trip was grand. Pacheco Pass was beautiful as ever,

the Grapevine had snow on the return trip,


OMG OMG they were south of Gustine, two bulls and a harem, and I pulled over and the bulls started fighting OMG OMG!! Fighting bull elk! With utility towers in the background, what a photo op is that! It was totally awesome.

And I was shooting directly into the sun, so the photos are really blech, but it was a cool moment. More on the native elk here.

Run, Stuart, run!

Holly scares the rodents away at home, a deli in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo by Richard Perry for the NY Times.

So, where would you rather shop: a deli kept free of rodents by a resident cat, or a deli with no cat? [Hint: the deli with no cat has poisons, traps AND live rodents leaving their calling cards all over the merchandise.]

Cat, please.
Across the city, delis and bodegas are a familiar and vital part of the streetscape, modest places where customers can pick up necessities, a container of milk, a can of soup, a loaf of bread.

Amid the goods found in the stores, there is one thing that many owners and employees say they cannot do without: their cats. And it goes beyond cuddly companionship. These cats are workers, tireless and enthusiastic hunters of unwanted vermin, and they typically do a far better job than exterminators and poisons.
Many bodega owners reason that a cat is less of a health threat than an army of nibbling rats. “If cats live in homes and apartments where people have food, a cat shouldn’t be a threat in a store if it’s well maintained,” Mr. Fernández said.
Amen. I'm all for the legalization of store cats -- and they even have a site of their own: check out Working Class Cats.

I am not much of a cat person, and can't have one as long as someone whose initial is B lives here, but I am totally wanting a cat now.

"I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul." - Jean Cocteau

December 20, 2007

Sheep for Eid

A safe and happy Eid to Muslim students, friends, readers: have a "meatful" Eid ;~)

I was talking to a San Diego sheep rancher yesterday about this holiday and about what is commonly referred to as the "ethnic market." Both of us sold sheep for Eid [she sold quite a few; I sold just a few] and it turned out both of us had seen the same article in the news about sheep, Eid and a controversial legal decision:
The Rowes have long been in a tangle with the state over the mass slaughter of lambs on their 300-acre Princeton farm. State agriculture officials say the Rowes must build a custom slaughter facility, which the family says would cost $740,000. State officials say mass slaughters conducted any other way are unsanitary and threaten an outbreak of disease.

"When engineers, lawyers and students who have limited contact with animals come down from suburban centers to slaughter an animal, that's exactly the kind of high risk of spreading disease we're talking about," Barry Bloch, a lawyer with the state Attorney General's office, told Johnston County Superior Court Judge Tom Lock, who issued a 10-day injunction against the slaughters.
Yet it is perfectly legal for these same "engineers, lawyers and students... from suburban centers" to take a live sheep home and slaughter it in the kitchen. The irony wasn't lost on members of the Sheep Production Forum:
[Moderator/Shepherd Bill Fosher]: "Regarding poultry: there's an exemption in federal law for people who produce fewer than a certain number (and I think that number is 10,000) birds per year that allows the birds to be slaughtered at home and sold without inspection. They must be sold from the farm (not even a farmer's market) and they must carry the legend: "for home use only."

I've seen some pretty scary operations selling chickens off the farm, but that's the thing: you can make the judgment and drive away if the place scares you."

[Sheep rancher Janet McNally]: "and my point would be, if one can slaughter 10,000 birds on the farm and sell them, then why can't we have something similar with lamb? In the name of preventing disease, just what is being accomplished by banning lamb slaughter, that evidently is not necessary with poultry?"
Two things make me a strong proponent of farm slaughter. The first has to do with transport: I believe shipping livestock long distances to be slaughtered is terribly stressful. Animals are confused, frightened, uncomfortable and sometimes injured. The second reason I favor on-the-farm slaughter is that I've seen it done, and I'd bet money that it is vastly more humane than death in a slaughterhouse environment. The cattle I've seen butchered weren't stressed. They were in a familiar environment, handled by familiar people, and killed instantly. I suspect most Thanksgiving turkeys suffer far more stress than sheep killed at Eid.

Is some farm slaughter inhumane? I'm sure there are cases where it is, but prosecute those cases --- don't ban on-the-farm slaughter. Making every food animal suffer a long ride to a slaughterhouse is neither humane nor healthy. For a bit more on the interesting laws regarding U.S. food safety, see [again] this article from one of my favorite sites, The Ethicurean:
Welcome to one of Cowboyland’s greatest ironies: Unless you make direct arrangements with a farmer or rancher, it’s fairly difficult to purchase beef (or any other meat, for that matter) that has been both raised and processed in the state of Wyoming. That’s because there are no USDA-inspected processing facilities in the entire state — a state where agriculture employs nearly 20% of the working population and where cattle production beats out the next-highest value agricultural product, hay, by a factor of 15.
[Factoid: 7.4% of jobs in California are in agriculture (25% in the Central Valley). Agriculture is the state's biggest industry -- some $30 billion a year. We have more cows than Wisconsin. We really should secede.]

Edited to add: The L.A. Times covers the Rowe controversy:
Other families took their animals, saying they had plans to kill them somewhere else. State agriculture officials determined that such slaughter fell into a legal gray area and said they would not prosecute anyone who did so [...]

And so the doctors and scientists -- most lured to the region by research firms, hospitals and major universities -- chatted on cellphones in Arabic, Bengali and Uzbek, trying to find someplace to kill their lambs. Young sons and daughters stuck their noses through fences, staring at animals that were unaware they may have won a reprieve.

Families with a plan backed their vehicles into Rowe's barn. There, a farmhand named Dwayne would bind an animal by its ankles, then dump it into a trunk.

Many of the Muslims said they felt no ill will toward the Agriculture Department -- the law was the law; they just wanted a place to practice the ritual.

Mannan suggested they might lobby for a way to do it legally next year. "I think we will have to go to the governor," he said.
Beats me how anyone could think it's safer, or cleaner, or more humane, or something, to toss a live sheep in the trunk and butcher him in a suburban backyard than to kill the sheep on the farm.

December 19, 2007

Messing around with templates

I wonder: does my blog need more gifs, more widgets, more gadgets? More Santas, trees, elves, snow, stars... a new header, maybe...?

Seriously, the day after Christmas all the bells and whistles on this page will vanish into the ether. I was going to wait until Epiphany [Twelfth Night, the Day of the Three Kings, el Día de los Reyes Magos], but the page has gone a bit over the top -- taken on an unsettling life of its own, really -- and my dream blog is actually a cool, austere page with two or three soft colors and zero add-ons, so that all the focus is on the written word, as it should be.

Oh, who am I kidding -- my blog looks like a piñata exploded, and that's just the way I like it.

A Blogger "issue" [header images shrinking] and a bad ankle [I was housebound] triggered the fit of hacking. All I originally set out to do was fix the header, but along the way I wound up discovering a community of talented bloggers in Spain and Latin America with hacks to spare, and to share. Some of these generous folks are listed in the Trucos drop-down menu at the very top of the screen, and some of their widgets can be found at the bottom of the page.

I'm new to HTML and CSS and such, and the first time I changed anything in my Lassie template I was shaking like a leaf, even though I'd experimented on a few practice blogs and backed everything up hundreds of times. I'm a lot more casual now, and thoroughly addicted. If I lived in NoCal I'd be begging Google to hire me. (I can play with templates! Give me stock options!) Realistically, I've discovered a fun new addiction obsession hobby.

Big, giant hat tips and besitos to:
El Escaparate de Rosa for one of my most favorite changes -- breaking up the sidebars into sections. El Escaparate was also my source for the Christmas trees, the marching Santas and falling snow.

La Blogería provided the elf gif, the penguin & snowman and a wealth of ideas.

Futurox Blogx provided the link to the Network Bar Generator and other top-of-the-screen banners.

El Blog de César was the inspiration and source for another of my favorite changes: the date block that now appears on each post. There's a bit of a glitch with this feature: on my blog it appears on all archived links, individual posts and the home page, but seems to disappear from some of the "older posts" pages if you visit them by clicking the link at the foot of the main column. Nevertheless, I like the date block so much that I'm willing to live with the glitch while I hunt for a solution.

Edited to add: So I deleted the "older posts" link. Solved that little problem. [You can find all previous posts in the Archives section.]

Key Trucos blog was the rabbit hole that started this whole trip. Key Trucos, Cábalas Virtuales and other sites have given me enough ideas for new blog features and templates to keep me out of trouble for some time. Many of these sites link to some of the better-known and not-so-well-known English-language sites for blogger hacks. For me, the most helpful site in English was Tricks for New Bloggers.

Finally, thanks to the readers who have endured my stumbling around in the template. Download time should be shorter when the holiday stuff is removed [she said, hopefully].

Edited to add: the terrific new Google search feature is available through Blogger in Draft.

Edited again to thank César for the cool navigation bar at the bottom of the header!

December 16, 2007

Well written

On Mary Scriver's prairiemary blog, a fine essay on symbiosis. Excerpt:
The business of animal control (or the function that we currently call by that name) is NOT to number, sterilize, and supervise every animal in America, but rather to work through problems as they arise. It is a great mistake to alienate and polarize whole populations of animal keepers and lovers, but it is often a mistake thrust upon animal control by over-reaching humane societies. The misunderstandings are fed by the narrowness of experience of many people, who only know about animals from television, their dinner plates, and maybe their childhood pets. The use of animal aggression for gaming and gambling, an ancient practice, is (and I’d say SHOULD be) hypocritically demonized in this country. (I have a hard time seeing the difference between Vick fighting dogs against each other and Vick himself courting concussion and joint damage in a football game.) But my prejudice is that we’d do more good to try to uncover the causes of such behavior than by simply passing laws. Education, the creating and pointing out of better ways, has got to be a big part of animal control.
She writes with such clarity. Read more of her work here. Her comment that "misunderstandings are fed by the narrowness of experience of many people, who only know about animals from television, their dinner plates, and maybe their childhood pets" reminds me of a comment by Donald McCaig:
[T]he laws that most affect America's dogs are often made by those who fear them, sentimentalize them, or are only interested in their suffering. Dogs and dog owners endure an ever more dog-hostile culture without a champion.
[Cue William Tell Overture, Nathan Winograd, Richard Avanzino...]

A dog is not a toy. Also: puppy mills suck.

Classic posters from the Fundación Altarriba. 'A dog is for life, not just Christmas.'

I get lost in my little dog-person world sometimes, and assume everyone knows certain things about dog care, dog training and dog behavior: that bloat is a life-threatening emergency, for example. That beating a puppy for "deliberately disobeying" is stupid, and cruel. That half a dozen annual vaccines for Scout may not, in fact, make you a paragon among dog owners. That puppy mills are the stuff of nightmares. That pet shop puppies come from puppy mills.

When I first started speaking out against the train wreck that is AB 1634, I learned that if I said, "This bill gives puppy mills a free pass," people would say, "What are... 'puppy mills,' exactly? Why are they bad?"

This graphic may help. The author posted it to the Pet Connection Blog last year, and it's also available on the Best Friends web site. According to the USDA, which regulates commercial, high-volume factory farms for dogs breeding kennels, a dog must have six inches of head room, and each animal's floor space = [the length of the dog from nose to base of tail + six inches] squared. And if this space is doubled, the dog never has to be taken out of her cage --- double the space means "adequate" room to exercise, according to the USDA. Here's a photo from an old post of a dog with "adequate" room to exercise:

She'll spend most of her life in that cage. She will be bred on every heat until she's too worn out to breed, and then she'll be sold at auction or killed. This is where pet shop puppies come from, not from "caring breeders." A truly responsible breeder would slit her wrists before she'd hand puppies over to a pet shop to sell to anyone with a credit card. Pet shops get their puppies from large-scale, commercial breeders, and until people quit buying puppies from pet shops, puppy mills will go right on cranking out thousands upon thousands of sickly, unsocialized 'misery puppies.'

[And may I take this opportunity to call BS (a bit) on Newsweek and the HSUS? Good on you for lifting the rock off "Pets of Bel Air" and making the bugs scatter, but enough already with the old "you must get your dog from the shelter" routine. For a healthy, well-raised pup, get in touch with a responsible breeder.]

December 14, 2007

Something shiny

This short survey will tell you approximately how many five year old children you could fight at once. Results are based on physical prowess, training, swarm-combatting experience, and the flexibility of your moral compass.

I am so there.
How many five year olds could you take in a fight?

December 11, 2007

PETA foot soldiers are clueless. Film at eleven

[As if this were news.]

We're all eager for details about the Vick dogs... but in the meantime, here's a classic bit from the media circus feeding frenzy at Michael Vick's sentencing [with photo caption from the BAD RAP Blog]:
Left - Tim learned that Peta volunteers have absolutely no idea that their organization wants to ban pit bulls. Like, NO idea. This looks like an intervention.
[Snerk.] Read it all here.

December 7, 2007

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: Son of Congo

Click here to watch the video.

Seems to be working in New Jersey, so Colorado "animal activists" are following suit, so to speak: the owner of Rolo, a German shepherd condemned to death after attacking a neighbor, is staging rallies in his defense.
An Arvada woman who was bitten by a German shepherd has been getting hate mail and threatening messages from animal lovers.

After Kathy Hardin was bitten July 1, a judge ordered the dog be put down following statements from neighbors who claimed the dog acted aggressively.

But since then, Rolo's owner and animal activists have been protesting, saying he's not dangerous and that this was the first time he's bitten anyone.

Hardin's attorney said she's been harassed so much that she and her family are moving out of the neighborhood.
Weren't all those Colorado pit bull bans supposed to prevent dog bites...? [Seriously, the cretins behind the Denver ban have killed more dogs than Michael Vick: killed them not for dangerous behavior or poor temperaments, but because of the way they look. Heartbreaking -- and very scary.]

December 6, 2007

Look. at the size. of those FEET

Sleeping it off at the Redlands Animal Shelter.

She's down in Alpine (CA) now, at a sanctuary/rescue for big cats. Hope her sibling is doing OK -- the other mountain lion hasn't been seen since the day of all the excitement.

December 5, 2007

AB 1634: same old same old, and it's still bad

Judy Mancuso and her amanuensis Assembly Member Lloyd Levine have announced the relaunch of AB 1634, the mandatory statewide neuter law. [The bill was last amended July 3, 2007, according to this site.] You can read the entire sack o' spin here. Excerpt:

AB 1634 asks that most dogs and cats in the State of California be spayed or neutered. More than 20 common sense exemptions are provided in the bill, including for show and sporting dogs, law enforcement dogs, dogs used in search and rescue, pets that are too old or in poor health, and guide, service and signal animals.

The bill is largely modeled upon a successful mandatory spay and neuter ordinance that the County of Santa Cruz implemented in 1995. By 2005, although the county’s human population had grown by 15%, its shelter’s intake numbers had plummeted by well over 50%, the majority of which were already spayed or neutered. This clear success has inspired other jurisdictions, including the Counties of Lake, Los Angeles and Stanislaus, to adopt similar measures.

“The facts of this issue are really very simple. We have overcrowded shelters that are costing the taxpayers millions of dollars annually,” said Judie Mancuso, Sponsor/Campaign Director for the California Healthy Pets Coalition. “This is the right legislation at the right time – a common-sense, humane and taxpayer-friendly solution to a real and costly problem. The needless killing of over 500,000 healthy animals and the waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year must end. With both the state and local governments facing critical budget decisions, we need to look for savings wherever we can.”
Where to begin [sigh]...

The bill is not "largely modeled upon a successful mandatory spay and neuter ordinance that the County of Santa Cruz implemented in 1995." See for yourself. I don't think the AB 1634 crowd has ever taken more than a cursory glance at the Santa Cruz law.

"Taxpayer-friendly"? Sure, if you believe Levine/Mancuso's voodoo math. A former president of the CVMA called them on it. And speaking of veterinarians, six of them carried out a study that concerned neutering and [yikes] osteosarcoma. Here's a quote from the abstract:
Male and female dogs that underwent gonadectomy before 1 year of age had an approximate one in four lifetime risk for bone sarcoma and were significantly more likely to develop bone sarcoma than dogs that were sexually intact
Can you name the breed in the study? The Levine/Mancuso crowd doesn't know, and they don't care. [Other large breeds are also believed to be at greater risk.] The people behind this bill are animal rights extremists who would love to see dogs, and all other domestic animals, disappear from the planet. (PETA helped run the bill's campaign -- but their name was erased from the AB 1634 website's list of supporters, apparently to make the bill more palatable. Nothing like the courage of your convictions [/irony].)

"The right legislation at the right time"? Spare me. Listen to Nathan Winograd, and read Redemption. Terrierman has a great post on this important book, and Gina and Christie of Pet Connection think Redemption is the book of the year. Listen to Richard Avanzino of Maddie's Fund -- and read this.

And you're more than welcome to check out the other posts I've written on this arrogant, dishonest, badly written bill. A big amen to Christie Keith for this summation:
The answer [to the problem of homeless cats and dogs] is not some bitterly divisive, hard to enforce, punitive legislation that doesn’t solve the problem in the first place and tramples on people’s dreams, goals, and relationship with their animals. The day I let a politician or animal control officer force me to perform a medical procedure on my dog or cat against my will be a cold day in hell. All my current pets are altered so it’s all hypothetical, but I would never, ever comply with this legislation. I find it profoundly offensive, and if you can find someone who loves animals more than I do, I have no idea who it is.

BAD RAP makes great points, PETA scores a [big, fat] zero

Mojo, party animal. [Have you ordered your calendars yet? Better hurry, before they sell out!]

Who wants to kill shelter dogs? Ingrid Newkirk and PETA, that's who. They want all pit bulls dead ["for their own good," of course], and they'll get around to your breed, eventually, since their ultimate goal is the extinction of all domestic animals -- your dogs and cats included.

Irony of ironies, none of this stops PETA from using pit bulls in their ads: "Please send money to help us kill these poor dogs."

Ingrid Newkirk was selling her snake oil at a Berkeley, CA bookstore recently, and who should be in the audience but Tim Racer and Donna Reynolds of BAD RAP. With [gasp!] two pit bulls! And lots of pointed questions. Read all about it here. Yay, our side.

December 4, 2007

How to housetrain a dog

Photo by Gordon M. Grant for the New York Times.

Whatta ya think I'm gonna share my secrets? Fuhgeddaboudit! I'm packing my bags and moving to Manhattan --- gonna housetrain the dogs of hedge fund managers. Gonna make a mint.
Mr. Strict’s recommendation for solving Steffi’s housebreaking problem was much more onerous — on us. He said we had to make Steffi sleep in her crate at night with the door closed instead of on the bed. (“Dogs don’t like to soil where they sleep,” he noted.) He also wrote out a detailed schedule that called for us to feed Steffi twice a day and take her out for walks three times a day at exactly the same times.

“Hiring a dog trainer won’t solve your problems,” Mr. Strict said. “This process is 70 percent owner and 30 percent dog. You have to make a commitment to doing the exercises for at least a month to see lasting results.”
Ms. Gentle’s housebreaking prescription was conscientiously canine friendly. While she also insisted that we consign Steffi to sleep in her crate at night, she encouraged us to make the crate “den-like” by stuffing it with favorite toys and by partly covering it with a sheet before we turned out the lights. But she was even tougher on us than Mr. Strict. In addition to taking Steffi out for extra walks, we were supposed to keep a log of her eating, drinking, defecating and urinating.

“Adults learn much faster than puppies,” Ms. Gentle insisted. “So you can almost always teach an old dog new tricks if you commit yourself to taking the time.”

To my chagrin, the family voted to shelve the housebreaking issue. Harrison claimed he did not prefer Ms. Gentle over Mr. Strict or vice versa. Alison claimed that her work schedule and Harrison’s school schedule weren’t compatible with the recommended walking and feeding schedules for Steffi.
And boy, does Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, executive vice president and science administrator of the A.S.P.C.A., let these folks off the hook. Dr. Z knows as well as I do that the problem isn't "the relentless scheduling demands modern life puts on all concerned." The problem is that some people are unwilling to spend even a minimal amount of time training their dogs. Money on trainers, though --- they'll spend that.

Big Apple, here I come.

December 3, 2007

Mondo Congo

Photo by David Hunsinger for the New York Times.

From the Gray Lady [and that would be the NY Times, thank you very much]:
It’s man versus beast in Princeton, and the town is in an uproar over a dog on death row.

The curious case of Congo, an 85-pound German shepherd sentenced to die for attacking a Honduran landscaper, is making its way through New Jersey’s courts. Protesters have packed the courtrooms here and have staged rallies waving signs that say “Free Congo!” And the landscaper, Giovanni Rivera, who suffered a six-inch bite wound and other injuries, has been vilified by some of the dog’s supporters in this well-to-do Ivy League town, who have been sending newspapers and blogs angry anti-immigrant slurs.
State Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen, a Democrat from Union, has introduced legislation, which he calls Congo’s Law, that could spare the life of Congo and other dogs in similar situations by giving judges more discretion in meting out punishment.

And now, thousands of people from Princeton and elsewhere are petitioning the governor for a pardon. (There is precedent for such things in New Jersey.)

So shoot me, but the whole "Save Congo" outpouring of public sympathy reminds me more and more of the efforts a few years ago to "Save Max."

Town Rallies To Save Dog On Death Row:

NEARLY six months after he was sentenced to death by the Watertown animal control officer for biting a child, Max the golden retriever was lying on his back like a baby in the arms of Audrey McKay, the animal control officer in New Milford, luxuriating between belly rubs and doggy treats.

''He's ferocious, let me tell you,'' Ms. McKay said facetiously as the 16-month-old dog looked up and licked her chin.
The pending execution of Max has Watertown in an uproar, with his family and their supporters from several states signing a petition to save the dog. Earlier this month, there was a rally for Max on the town green of neighboring Litchfield and the head of the national animal rights organization, Last Chance for Animals, came in from California on Monday to assist the family. Even the governor has written a letter of support (he doesn't have the power to commute the sentence).
Escaping Execution (Amid Wags and Cheers):
Thousands of letters and e-mail messages poured in supporting the return of Max to his family, especially after he passed several animal behavior tests proving him to be a safe and gentle pet. ''Save Max'' signs were posted in pet stores, on front lawns and on vehicles around the state, and rallies for the dog were held on various village greens.

For months, the town remained firm in its stance to euthanize the dog, but pleas for mercy from Gov. John Rowland and the national animal rights organization Last Chance for Animals, helped change the course. After a formal hearing by the State Department of Agriculture, Richard Blumenthal, the state attorney general, mediated an agreement on June 17 between the town and the Pyons to spare the dog's life and have him returned home.
For a Dog, Another Attack on a Child Was One Too Many:
WHEN Max, a 2-year-old golden retriever who lived in Watertown, was happy, his whole body would wiggle when his tail wagged. Like many dogs, he was a face licker and a ball chaser, and it was his gentle, joyful demeanor that persuaded so many people, including the attorney general and the former governor, to come to his defense when the town's animal control officer said the dog was dangerous and must be destroyed after seriously biting a boy in 2003.

And a more succinct headline from the local NBC affiliate: Max The Dog Put Down After Mauling Another Child.

I'd be less worried about Congo biting again if his owners had a better record of keeping their dogs on their property, and if they had bothered to have their dogs vaccinated for rabies, and if they hadn't bred Congo at... what, a year of age? He was 18 months old at the time of the attack, with six-month-old pups, oy.

Years ago I owned a German shepherd that looked quite a bit like Congo. Mine was a dark sable with a great heart and a bold, fearless temperament: she was a Bodo vom Lierberg granddaughter, bred by Margaret Pooley of the old Rocky Reach Kennels. I'd give a lot to have another GSD like her. That may be one reason Congo's owners offend me so much: I think he deserves better. To me, Congo and his owners reflect what the ASPCA's Randall Lockwood calls "a perfect storm of bad human-canine interactions -- the wrong dog, the wrong background, the wrong history in the hands of the wrong person in the wrong environmental situation."

December 2, 2007

Patterns of drought

Dry as dust. Click on photo for a larger view.

In much of California last winter, it just didn't rain. Even when parts of the state are in the middle of a drought cycle, our hills here in SoCal always turn green in the winter -- or they did until last winter. Next-to-no-rain, with all that entails, can be a scary, expensive, miserable thing. [Ask Atlanta.]

Compare this blog's header photo with the photo at the top of the post. Both photos were taken the same day. The ranch in the header photo is twenty miles from the ocean, and as green as you'd expect for its location, but the photo of the farm at the top of the post was taken inland: fewer than twenty miles inland from the ranch in the header. Given the time of year [early May] that land should should look much more like this:

Green as grass.

The pasture above is on Anna Guthrie's place in inland San Diego County, but last spring it was as parched as the ranch at the top of the post.

Was I happy when it poured buckets for the better part of 24 hours last week? I can't begin to tell you how happy. Mudslides and rockslides are a pain, but drought is in an awful category all by itself.

West of Big Bear Lake.

Mountain lion magnet

What is it with Redlands and mountain lions? People see them in local parks, by the local mall, out in the canyon, in their homes... and the next thing you know, it's another news story:
The mountain lion was tranquilized after it and another cougar were seen perched in a tree near two schools in Redlands, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Local officials locked down the schools as state Department of Fish and Game wardens surrounded the tree, said Redlands police spokesman Carl Baker.

One mountain lion jumped down and ran into a wash toward an orange grove that was less than a mile away. The wardens surrounded the tree and shot tranquilizer darts at the other mountain lion as children in the nearby elementary school, whose mascot is the cougar, shouted from their classrooms.

“They kept saying, 'Don't shoot our mascot,'” Baker said.
[The tranquilized mountain lion was later released, according to this article.]

There have been a lot more sightings in the local mountains than usual -- probably due to the fires.

Where are they now?

One of the Vick pit bulls.

The Vick survivors are alive and well, I'm sure, and getting the kind of terrific care every dog deserves. Waaay back in October, the BAD RAP folks mentioned on their blog that
BR's Tim Racer flew back to VA to assist attorney Rebecca Huss in re-evaluating the dogs in order to create solid placement recommendations, and, we helped organize the transfer of 16 Vick dogs that were deemed foster care candidates to warm and ready foster homes for TLC and observation.
According to the rescue application, sixteen dogs "showed no sign of aggression or threat to either people or dogs" and were headed to foster placement; two dogs "exhibited suitability for a specialized program for highly energetic and motivated dogs" and will be evaluated for detection work in a program like Law Dogs; twenty dogs showed "fear or a lack of socialization with people or other dogs" and will be placed in sanctuaries with possible fostering in the future; and ten dogs "exhibited mild to intense threat to stimulus and may have shown high arousal towards people," and may spend their lives in a sanctuary program -- although foster care placement in the future is not ruled out entirely for these ten.

Donna of BAD RAP can't give out any details [yet], though foster placement of course means homes with kids, other pets and so on. Keep tuned to the BAD RAP blog -- and this one, too -- for more information on the progress made by these rescued dogs. If only they could talk...

Oh, and you can support BAD RAP's great programs [and cross names off your gift list] by purchasing a cool calendar with, um, Tim's butt on it ;~) If that's too exciting, you can buy the wonderful Pibbles 'n Kids calendar. Better still, buy them both! And don't forget to order your copy of The Unexpected Pit Bull calendar before supplies run out [as they did last year -- these calendars are classics]. Actually, wait a few minutes before you order --- I need to order my copies first.

Vick wonders - can dogs count?

I'm working on it.

A farmer is wondering how many sheep he has in his field, so he asks his sheepdog to count them. The dog runs into the field, counts them and then runs back to the farmer.

"40," says the dog.

"How can there be 40?" asks the farmer. "I only bought 38!"

"I know," says the dog. "But I rounded them up."

[Classic joke, and sweet photo, from the good folks at Dogs in the News.]

Michael Vick has been held to a promise he made in court: he has deposited a cool $928,073.04 into an escrow account to provide for the lifetime care of the pit bulls taken from his property last spring.

And people are complaining about this! I've read comments along the lines of: "If our government can find the money to pay one million bucks for a bunch of dogs, maybe they can find the money to fix health care/education/starving children in [insert country here]!"

But the government isn't paying -- Michael Vick is paying. And he had the option, during his salad days, to fund any number of worthy causes rather than siphon God knows how much into his dogfighting habit.

And yes, it seems like a lot of money -- unless you've left three dogs at a good boarding facility for a week, lately, and winced at the sight of the bill.

Let's use boarding kennel prices to estimate the cost of care. In my neck of the woods a decent boarding kennel charges at least $20 a day, more for extras like individual exercise, special medications and grooming. Even a multi-dog discount won't save you much. Let's pretend you could find a boarding facility charging $15 a day. That's $5475 a year, and $43,800 for eight years. [My oldest dog lived to sixteen, and quite a few live longer.]

If Michael Vick had been found guilty of torturing just one dog, and had agreed to pay for that animal's lifetime care, the bill would be [based on the figures above] just $43,800 -- and I expect people would be demanding that Vick fork over quite a bit more. But Vick chose to mistreat over fifty dogs. $43,800 for 50 dogs works out to $2,190,000 -- more than double the amount Vick was actually required to pay.

Michael Vick promised in court to pay for the lifetime care of his dog... and his other dog, and his other dog, and his other dog, and his other dog, and his other dog... and $928,073 is the least he should be paying, if you ask me.

November 30, 2007

Art imitates life

It's a three-column template. That's hours of my life I'll never get back. I've been messing with this blog, too, and I think I am finally OK with the header photo and the colors. No, the clouds were not Photoshopped.

Thanks to Terrierman for the great cartoon I totally swiped and plan to use over and over.

It's still raining.


This is the real deal, people.

It's raining. Real rain. There are actual puddles. Oh. my. god. I took some pictures -- my hands were kind of shaking.

November 25, 2007

Scots wha hae

Go on, buy him something to drink.

I will so buy the wee punter's nasty book. His site is worth a visit. Obligatory stockdog reference: "pear-shaped." Who knew?

November 21, 2007

Sportspersons of the Year

Tim Racer, Donna Reynolds and Honky Tonk. Photo from, by Annie Truitt.

OK, it's "just" a nomination, but ye gods --- hella big honor there, BAD RAP! Congratulations --- you are the real heroes.
There are 31 dogs once owned by Vick currently housed in shelters around Virginia, another three in upstate New York and 14 in Northern California. The people who care for those dogs daily deserve some recognition, and they are my choice for Sportsperson(s) of the Year.

Tim Racer and his wife, Donna Reynolds, are among those currently caring for dogs confiscated from Vick's kennel. They run an organization called Bad Rap (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls). People have strong opinions about Pit Bulls. Many believe the breed should be banned in the United States; others (like Racer and Reynolds) remember when it was America's most popular dog.

They believe Pit Bulls are gentle creatures at their core. Set aside your feelings on Pit Bulls for a moment and consider only this: Racer and Reynolds awake every day and try to "give these dogs the life they should have had," Racer says. "People use the word 'rehab' but we don't. We say 'healing.' We are fixing them physically and then emotionally by giving them food, water, basic training, socialization and structure."

Read [again!] the rest of George Dohrmann's most excellent article here, and see BAD RAP's heartfelt response here. The BAD RAP blog is full of good stuff. Don't miss Sophie's video --- what a dear old girl [sniffle].


Ken Foster, author of the terrific book The Dogs Who Found Me and a smart, no-nonsense pit bull advocate, calls PETA on their ongoing hypocrisy: we must destroy the pit bulls in order to save them!

One breed at a time, right, PETA? If you haven't read BAD RAP's take on Tyrannical Animal Activists, check it out now. [Both PETA and the HSUS lobbied loud and hard for the immediate killing of all the Vick dogs, with no evaluations.] If you'd like to send a holiday donation to a group that doesn't hope for the eventual extinction of all domestic animals, there are links in the sidebar to BAD RAP and the ASPCA.

November 20, 2007

In the spirit of the season

Dixie destroys a giant pumpkin filled with chipmunks. Kidding. The helium effect is a stitch, though.


Turkeys on the Mesa Grande Reservation, California, November 2006. Click on photos to make 'em bigger.

Terrierman has a good post about the recovery of America's wild turkey from an estimated 30,000 birds in 1910 to over 5 million today.

I see two or three flocks of wild turkeys every time I drive over Mesa Grande. Good country:

The October fires came awfully close, but this area was saved. Grazing projects and grazing easements are used in parts of California and around the West to keep the fire threat down. [We need more grazing easements.] Just drive kind of slowly around those blind curves.

November 19, 2007

The "merle explosion"

A merle border collie pup.

I love merle. Want to say that right off the bat, so no one will think I'm bashing blue dogs or red dogs or Aussies or Catahoulas or any other merle-colored dog. Check out this handsome Catahoula:

Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog

Merle is a striking color, no question. But what's up with all the blue merle border collie puppies?

Merle has never been common among working border collies: great working merles are rare as hens' teeth. I'm no geneticist, but it's my understanding that a merle pup can only be produced if one of the parents is merle --- the last thing a breeder of good working stockdogs is going to care about. It doesn't help that breeding for merle carries a certain amount of risk, as in, you can kill some of the puppies now, or you can kill them later. Quoting from the GenMARK site:

Both heterozygous merle (Mm) and homozygous double merle (MM) dogs may exhibit auditory and ophthalmic abnormalities including mild to severe deafness, increased intraocular pressure, ametropia, microphthalmia and colobomas. The double merle genotype may also be associated with abnormalities of skeletal, cardiac and reproductive systems.
Genetic testing for merle is now available through GenMark. More information on the recent discovery of the merle locus can be found here and here, with illustrations here.

ADCH MACH-4 Marshland Fantom of the Opera TD PT ("Heather"), 2-time AKC National agility champion, member World Champion small-dog team, owned by Kathie Leggett.

Responsible breeders of companion dogs like the beautiful Sheltie above will be all about the merle test. Puppy millers, not so much. This gent was expelled from the American Border Collie Association in 2004. He appears to be breeding and selling merles. God help us bless America.

There is a smart thread on merles on the Working Stockdog Forum [where the breeder in question actually makes a rather telling appearance].

And over on the Border Collie Boards there is an excellent thread on the "merle explosion." Good links in that thread, too, and I've swiped some for this post. [While you're on the Boards, take a look at the "Ask an Expert" section -- top handler Bev Lambert is the current expert. You can watch Bev's great bitch Pippa by clicking on the first StilHope video in this blog's sidebar.]

Repeating a line from the GenMARK site: "Both heterozygous merle (Mm) and homozygous double merle (MM) dogs may exhibit auditory and ophthalmic abnormalities." Breeding merles isn't for the faint of heart, and the designer-color craze, though it may be a windfall for puppy millers, is very bad for border collies.

Homozygous merle puppy with microopthalmia (small eyes). More photos at the Aussie Eye Defects site.