April 27, 2008

Bear in mind

C. Hart Merriam's hand-colored map shows the distribution of the seven subspecies of the California Grizzly he identified and described.

Grizzly bear kills handler — on Earth Day! Paramedics arrive — from Big Bear City! Front-page article in — well, you get the idea. As they say, the Wheel of Karma has many spokes. From the L.A. Times:
Friends and colleagues of an animal trainer killed by a performing bear called it a "freak accident" Wednesday and said the 700-pound grizzly should not be euthanized. The animal, they said, did not intend to kill the bear expert.

"The same thing he was doing I have done a hundred times. We wrestle the bears in a loving way," said Joel Almquist, an animal trainer who has worked extensively with Rocky, the 5-year-old grizzly who killed 39-year-old Stephan Miller on Tuesday with a single bite to the neck.

"This bear has never shown aggression," Almquist said. "It was a flash bite, a real quick . . . bam. Unfortunately, we are built like tissue paper compared to them."
Diana Guerrero is familiar with the people who run Predators in Action, and has much more on this tragedy over at her Ark Animals blog. Lots of photos of the Rocky the grizzly and handler Randy Miller here.

"Perhaps few animals have suffered more from persistent and relentless warfare waged by man than this formidable Bear."

At one time there were more grizzlies in California than anywhere else in the continental U.S. Our native monarch is extinct now: the last wild grizzly in California was killed in 1922.

The following images and quotes were taken from the Bancroft Library's great Bear in Mind exhibit on the California Grizzly. There's a terrific book available as well. Read it and weep.

"[In 1844 we] crossed over to what is now called [Big] Bear Lake - before arriving at the lake capturing a village, the people of which had all left except two old women & some children.

On evening of the 2nd day arrived at the lake - the whole lake & swamp seem’d to be alive with bear; the 22 young Californians went out in pairs, and each pair lassoed one bear and brought the result to the camp, so that had at one & same time 11 bear - this prompted me to give the lake the name it now bears ...

On the return by way of Bear Lake, the same 22 men that went with me to that lake repeated the feat of bringing eleven bears to camp - making 22 killed on the trip." Don Benito [Benjamin Davis] Wilson, Observations on Early Days in California: manuscript, 1877.

James Walker: "Roping the Bear at Santa Margarita Rancho."
" ...High up on the waters of the San Joaquin, in California, many of these animals have been killed by the miners now overrunning all the country west of the Sierra Nevada. John James Audubon, Rev. John Bachman, The Quadrupeds of North America, 1851-54.
"S. E. Hollister, the Great American Hunter & Trapper: His Famous Encounter with the Enormous She Bear While Capturing Her Cubs in the Sierra Nevada Mountains Between the American and Mocosume Rivers, California, in March 1853."

"I shot that year, as before stated, 45 grizzlies, not counting those that got away in the brush, most of them no doubt fatally wounded, but one of my rules was never to go into a thicket if I knew it contained a bear.

I killed some very large ones and one in particular whose skin I sold to one of the trading vessels. It was much larger than any bullock’s hide they took on board... When a she bear with cubs is found, it is best to shoot the old one first and the young ones can be shot at leisure, as they will not leave the mother...

At this time there was no sale for bear skins, so that we never took the trouble to skin them...

I think I must have killed, on this coast, at different times, upwards of 200 grizzlies." George Nidever, manuscript: 1878.


The grizzly-as-symbol is all that's left. Check out these crate labels from eBay:

I want this one. Bid here. No, I don't get a commission.

There are still big ranches in Orange County, believe it or not. Make a bid on this label.

My hometown used to look just like that. Make a bid.
i have this weird thing about bears- one part of me is seriously obsessed with them and thinks they’re the coolest thing since sliced bread and then the other part is deathly afraid of them. Grace Bonney, Design Sponge.
[Is Grace Bonney me, only with cooler stuff?]

That's my sis on the left, reading at the cabin. No grizzlies lurking outside, but there are black bears [Ursus americanus] galore in the San Bernardinos. Our Big Bear Lake electrician back in the day kept a pack of Plott hounds to scare off problem bears for the State Fish and Game people. After an adult black bear strolled through the Cedar Lake dining hall during a seniors get-together, his Plott pack chased the bear all night, from Cedar Lake down Clark's Grade to Seven Oaks. One heck of a run, I'm telling you.

I'm going to buy these most excellent posters for the cabin. The artist is Scott Hansen of San Francisco:

And finally, check out the five California Grizzly Recovery Areas [based on preliminary assessment by the California Grizzly Bear Reintroduction Team]. I totally support this concept and the great team involved — every last one of them.

April 26, 2008

A free man in Jeddah

As free as one can be in this day and age, in Saudi Arabia — but out of prison, alive, and home with loved ones:
Fouad Al-Farhan was released early this morning and he is spending a warm and good time with his family. Most of bloggers in Saudi Arabia reacted happily after getting the good news from blogs of Fouad’s friends.
I'm in awe of his courage. May Fouad, his family and his friends someday enjoy the right to express their opinions without fear of government reprisal. 137 days in prison for blogging...!

April 24, 2008

Bryant's legacy

From the "Mark my words, Ontario will be safer" Dept:
Family angry after dog mauls infant

KITCHENER-"Hello doggie." Those are the last coherent words Ginger Visneskie remembers before her 2-year-old daughter was attacked by a German shepherd last week[...]

Neighbours who saw the incident say the dog pounced on the child, threw her on the ground and sunk his teeth into her face. While they looked on in horror, Visneskie pulled on the leash and freed Lilly.

In barely five seconds, the child had been bloodied and appeared to be in shock. Visneskie didn't bother calling an ambulance. She and another neighbour put Lilly in the car and raced to the Grand River Hospital.

For the first few hours, Visneskie feared for Lilly's life and her eyesight.

"He'd bitten so close to the eyes, I thought he'd gouged them out," the 29-year-old single mother said.

When doctors finished sewing up the dozen bite marks on Lilly's nose, near her eyes and just below her chin, she had 35 stitches. She will need extensive dental work, doctors told Visneskie, since her lower jaw had been pushed into the roof of the mouth.

She has started a series of rabies shots — five in total — and may need speech therapy. Four of her front teeth were dislocated.
The dog was trying to pull her from danger, no doubt. Read the whole story here, in the Toronto Star.

April 20, 2008

New laptop and a new look

Four. big. GBs. of RAM. Words cannot begin to describe how much I love my new laptop. Not a Mac after all, but the new HP dv2840se which was totally on sale at Office Despot, and once I figured out how to adjust the color, everything was good. I was going to set up a dual-boot with Ubuntu but I've heard the 64-bit Vista makes that problematic, so Ubuntu will have to cool its heels for the time being, while I get more info. Yes, I'm kind of geeky.

Dog news: nearly lost the poor landshark last week. She skidded knee-first into some sharp stuff while traveling at warp speed IN THE BACK YARD [haring after poor, long-suffering Twiglet] and went down yowling. I carried her inside and discovered [it was after dark] that her knee was covered with blood, so I pulled some cold packs out of the freezer and sat down on the kitchen floor with my good girl — ice! compression! — and iced her knee for 15/20 minutes. The vet told me later that icing the knee was the best thing I could have done: "I've seen lots of hematomas from injuries like this," she said. I'm very happy to say that the landshark will be fine [though she isn't supposed to work for another week, which may change the date for shearing]. Home is more dangerous than the farm, apparently.

Before I figured out how to adjust colors on the laptop the blog looked vomitrocious. So I changed it. Walla! as we Californians say. The new look is courtesy of Jo Mora, one of my favorite artists. From Californios:
Joseph Jacinto “Jo” Mora, born 22 October 1876 in Uruguay, died 10 October 1947 in Monterey California, just short of his seventy-first birthday.

Jo Mora came to the United States as a child; he studied art in New York, then worked for Boston newspapers as a cartoonist. He was a man of many other talents, artist-historian, sculptor, painter, photographer, illustrator, muralist and author.

In 1903, Mora came to California, then in 1904 he moved to Keams Canyon in northeast Arizona, living with the Hopi and Navajo Indians. He learned their languages and photographed and painted an ethnological record, particularly of the Kachina ceremonial dances. In 1907, he marred Grace Needham and they moved to Mountain View, California. He moved to Pebble Beach in 1922 and established a home and large studio there.
Mora's posters and maps are still being printed and sold. His Indians of North America poster is well known, and The Evolution of the Cowboy [sometimes called The Sweetheart of the Rodeo] is an eBay perennial. Mora moved easily between cultures, and from childhood was comfortable in several languages: his father was Catalan and his mother was French. I've been coveting and collecting Jo Mora's books, posters and maps for as long as I can remember.

Speaking of cowboys: The NY Times has an article on a photographer, Robb Kendrick, who makes tintypes of western folk. There's a second's worth of border collies in one of the related videos, and some striking portraits of cowboys and buckaroos: that's Max Gaultier on the right. [Click for big.]

I remember looking out my window down in Guanajuato, Mexico one morning at the sound of hooves on the cobblestones, and catching a glimpse of several riders, working men from a rancho in the hills, one of them an old man with hands as brown as my father's hands; these men had a certain bearing and a certain level gaze that men afoot don't share. It's an old Irish saying, I think: "A horse without a rider is still a horse — but a rider without a horse is just a man."

Film at 11

I love this. An oldie, but a goodie.

April 12, 2008

Sibling rivalry

Talk about throwing your grandmother under a bus: Dalton McGuinty's parents owned and loved a pit bull.

If a politician is willing to ignore the experts and pander to a lynch mob, it's time to vote for someone else.

Yes, that Dalton McGuinty, the current Premier of the province of Ontario, Canada — the province where any dog "substantially similar" to a "pit bull" can be confiscated and put to death based on nothing more than its appearance.

Was the "McGuinty family pit bull terrier" [as the dog is described in, of all things, a 'let's quit for the holidays' petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1987] a chained-up, dangerous, unloved backyard dog? Apparently not: Dalton McGuinty Sr., serving at the time as an MPP, considered this pit bull such an important part of the family that the dog is mentioned by name — Tory McGuinty, so help me — and his or her pawprint was added to the petition.

Poor Dalton McGuinty, Sr. must be spinning in his grave at the current state of affairs in Ontario. Is this what it takes for a politician to stay in office: support for the eradication of several breeds of dog [and all dogs "substantially similar"], even if it might mean confiscation and death for an elderly parent's beloved companion, were Dalton Sr. and Tory McGuinty still alive?

Ambrose Bierce called politics "a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles," and seldom are politicians less adept at maintaining a facade of integrity and intellectual honesty than when the topic is banning breeds of dogs. Pay close attention, voters, because BSL is a great litmus test: if a politician is willing to ignore the experts and pander to a breed-bashing lynch mob, it's time to vote for someone else.

Hat tip to Barking Mad, whose blog featured this important news today:
Hello everyone,

Our appeal for the Constitutional Challenge of Bill 132 in Ontario, will be heard on Mon Sept 15 and Tues Sept 16 [2008] beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen St. West in Toronto.
Room to be determined the Friday before.

We just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has stepped up to the plate and supported the Legal Challenge of one of the most significant threats to dog ownership in Canada.

The response to the CKC fund-raising initiative has been overwhelming!

As we move forward into the home stretch, funds are still desperately needed to continue.

Everything is greatly appreciated!

On behalf of the Banned-Aid Coalition


Cathy Prothro

President AmStaff Club of Canada
Sec/Treas Dog Legislation Council Of Canada
Treasurer Banned-Aid Coalition
Ontario, Canada's BSL isn't just "one of the most significant threats to dog ownership in Canada." It's a threat to my dogs and a threat to yours, no matter what type of dog you own. Banning breeds anywhere threatens all dogs everywhere. Please click on this link to help fight the good fight in Ontario, Canada. Do it for your dog. Do it for Tory McGuinty.

April 7, 2008

Wolves, coyotes and LGDs

Wolf concept .02 by Chris Do and the BL:ND team for Gap.

The wolf is a compelling, complicated presence in human history and evolution. He's more controversial these days than ever: some people pay to hear wolf packs howl on winter nights in Wyoming, while not that many miles away other people grit their teeth and curse when wolves kill sheep or a favorite dog.

The wolf's little cousin, the coyote, is one of my favorite creatures on earth. I was alone on a snowy trail in Yosemite once when three coyotes, big ones in thick winter coats, loped into a meadow maybe forty yards away, pointed their muzzles at the gray sky and whooped and shrieked like the devil incarnate. It was beautiful. Those three sounded like a dozen, loud and wild.

I love to hear coyotes sing when I know my animals are safe. The Daily Coyote melts my heart. But the suburban coyote that trots out of the Verdugo Hills and tries to carry off a toddler? Out of the C. latrans gene pool, you. The sheep-killing coyote? Toast. [Not that traps and bullets make a real dent in the coyote population: the irony here, I'm convinced, is that we're making the species stronger and smarter by killing the inept ones.]

Livestock guardian dogs, relatively new to North America, are old hands at protecting flocks of sheep from predation and other hazards:

"Kodiak, a livestock guard dog, stays with what's left of the flock of sheep he had protected from a barn fire near Carnation on Thursday. Kodiak's fur was singed while he stayed between the fire and the sheep, later running to a pond and sitting in mud." [Kodiak, a Great Pyrenees, belongs to Diane Pagel. Photo by Steve Ringman for the Seattle Times.]

Cat Urbigkit, Wyoming sheep rancher and author, has shared notes and photos of her LGDs with Stephen Bodio of Querencia: see the posts Flock Protectors and Coursing with Sheepdogs. I know zip about LGDs so can't comment on breed preferences in the U.S., but I've noticed that many flock owners prefer crossbreds. I think Maremmas are beautiful: you can read about Julie Poudrier's new Maremma — a rescue — here.

Meanwhile, to the northeast: is it a wolf? Is it a coyote? It's thriving, whatever it is, according to the NY Times:
Amid much fanfare this year, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service declared the western Great Lakes gray wolf successfully recovered from an encounter with extinction and officially removed it from the endangered species list. Under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, the wolf boomed in population to 4,000 in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin today, up from just several hundred in northern Minnesota in 1974.

But the victory celebration was premature, according to two evolutionary biologists, Jennifer A. Leonard of Uppsala University in Sweden and Robert K. Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles. The historic Great Lakes wolf did not return intact from the edge of oblivion. Instead, the scientists report in the online edition of the journal Biology Letters, it hybridized with gray wolves moving in from Canada, coyotes from the south and west and the hybrids born of that mixing.
Janet McNally of Minnesota writes that she needs six to eight LGDs at the minimum to keep her sheep safe from all that hybrid vigor. Click on Guardians at this link to read more about her crossbred LGDs.

Shepherd Bill Fosher notes the recent appearance of a wild wolf in Massachusetts, and suspects there will soon be "a movement to reintroduce this top-level predator into its former range in New England":
There's historical evidence that my part of New Hampshire was, in fact, home to wolves. So if there's going to be reintroduction, it will probably happen around me. I hope that the wildlife biologists have the common sense to work with livestock producers before the killing starts. The can have us working with them, or they can have us working against them. It's as simple as that, and it's entirely up to them.
For more information on wolves, see the following sites:

Dr. L. David Mech's International Wolf Center.

Cat Urbigkit's Wolf Watch.

For more on the coyote, see this detailed Wikipedia article, and check out the book by J. Frank Dobie, Voice of the Coyote. It's an old fave.

Your so dum, you're brane is leik a peenut.

Just doing my part to keep the world rotating on its axis, folks. As scientists know, the earth's rotation is driven by English teachers rolling in their graves. Physicist zandperl explains it all to you, and I'm sure any misspellings on her blog, as indeed all misspellings here, are a deliberate attempt to prevent the extinction of life as we know it.

April 6, 2008

On the good, the beautiful, the true, and the knuckle-draggers who wouldn't recognize rational, ethical behavior if it slapped them upside the head

"What are you?" Photo from Today's Arthur.

So I needed a photo to illustrate the boundless, staggering ignorance that is BSL [breed specific legislation], and specifically the obscenely boundless, staggering, Orwellian idiocy that is BSL in Ontario, Canada; and sure enough, Google Images turned up a perfect photo — the one above. More about the source of that photo in a minute.

Is the dog in that photo a pit bull? Of course he'd be a pit bull if he'd bitten someone and the media picked up the story, but what if he were a friendly, tail-waggin', obedient stray? Would he be a pit bull then — or a lab mix, or a Heinz 57?

"Perhaps a more scientific approach is warranted: say, reading tea leaves, flipping a coin or spelling out the breed name using a ouija board."

The question takes on a certain urgency in Ontario, Canada, where the answer determines whether the dog can be put up for adoption. Excellent behavior and flawless temperament be damned: if the answer is "pit bull," the dog must be killed.

Where is Oprah when you really need her?

Blogger John Stewart of the Mississauga News holds idiocy's feet to the fire:
[Ward 6 Councillor Carolyn] Parrish is incensed by a part of the [animal control shelter] policy which outlines what will happen in cases where stray dogs are picked up and there is doubt in the minds of officials about whether or not it is a pit bull.
That procedure calls for a "pit bull identification voting card" to be posted on the kennel of the dog in question.
"All full-time officers and full-time shelter cleaner are eligible to vote. Each staff member is allotted one vote per animal. Once the allotted time has expired, the voting card shall be removed and brought to the animal services manager for a tally of the votes. Should a tie occur, the animal services manager shall have the final and deciding vote.
"If the dog is found NOT to be a pit bull, the dog may be moved up to the adoption room as long as it has met or exceeded all other adoption criteria as specified under the shelter's screening process. This shall include, but is not limited to, the dog's temperament, health condition and age.
If the dog is found to be a pit bull, the dog shall be euthanized in a reasonable time frame."
An incredulous Parris says, "a dog's fate is decided by who walks through the room during the days that they are voting and whether they vote yes or no. The caretaker can be the deciding vote. And our manager only gets to vote to break a tie."
Never mind the details of the vote procedure.
The bigger problem here is the absolute inanity of a law that is based on something as flimsy as someone's personal opinion on whether an animal has "substantially similar" characteristics to a pit bull.
What we have here is a reverse beauty pageant with death as the door prize for any perceived loser.
File under "Evil: banality of." Read all of Stewart's excellent post here, and check out the comments, including this gem by LauraG:
Perhaps a more scientific approach is warranted: say, reading tea leaves, flipping a coin or spelling out the breed name using a ouija board.

None of these is any more ridiculous than the current "methodology". It would be laughable if it weren't such a tragedy for the dogs and the people who love them.


Now for the good, the beautiful and the true. First, I've added a section of links [in the right sidebar] to some most excellent border collie blogs. The writer/photographers are good, smart, talented people with smart, talented dogs and [in many cases] livestock, which may or may not be smart and talented but is invariably well cared for. I'm so happy these folks are blogging and so happy I've discovered their blogs I could just plotz. Most of these bloggers are also regular posters on the Border Collie Boards, as I am when I'm not bloggin' bloggin' bloggin'.

The photo up above was discovered on a site-featuring-rescue-dogs masquerading as a terrific blog: Today's Arthur. The blogger loves pibbles, loves photography, loves collie/spaniel mix Arthur, of course, and comes up with stuff like this. And this. What's not to love? [Besides the end of spring break, but that's another post.]

Oprah, where are yooooooo...?

Edited to add: Slaps self upside head for neglecting to thank the wonderful Caveat for the John Stewart link.

April 4, 2008

Don't sleep

How'd I miss this? From the NY Times:
On Jan. 31, Derrick Ashong, a 32-year-old musician, dropped off his pal, Shaunelle Curry, at the Democratic primary debate taking place at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. After shrugging off her suggestion that he join her in carrying a sign for Barack Obama outside the theater — his band was leaving on tour the next day — he reconsidered and walked back to join her.

Carrying a sign saying “¡Sí, se puede!” (Yes, we can!), he joined a throng that was milling around in the background of the live CNN shot focused on the anchor Wolf Blitzer. Then a guy named Mike carrying a video camera came walking by and began peppering Mr. Ashong with a series of skeptical and very pointed questions.

“So why are you for Obama?” he asked. It was clear from his approach that he expected a dimwitted answer, an expectation that he was about to talk to another acolyte smitten by Senator Obama’s rock star persona.

The young man in the video is musician Derrick Ashong. Take a listen to his follow-up:

Here's Derrick and his band Soulfège [heh -- nice name]. The song is a remix of a West African classic, and the video was filmed in Ghana -- Derrick does the second verse in three languages. Enjoy.

Hat tip to my cool cousin, also to Jack and Jill Politics.

April 2, 2008

Tea and Entropy

[pause] OK. From Buenos Aires, photo by Luis Alejandro Sanchez for Proyecto Cartele.

And speaking of odd signs: over on the Pit Bull Forum a Northern California writer [and old hand at pit bull rescue] posted a sign she saw on a street in her neighborhood: "Pitt Bull Pups." "Blue Nose" Pitt Bull pups, whoa! Names of two famous commercial, high-volume breeders kennels were on the sign, too. Oy. It isn't just a West Coast thing, either — you can find bad breeders from coast to coast.

"I don’t understand why, if you’re going to spend the money, you don’t do your homework and hook up with a breeder who does it right."

Over on Save the pit bull, save the world, Katie has written a terrific post on the spring crop of puppies in Central Pennsylvania, among other places:
and it’s not just the Amish who are cashing in. I can’t tell you how many clients we see with their new puppies who assure us that, even though the pup came off a farm, raised in a barn and completely unsocialized, sold the moment they reach seven weeks if at all possible, it’s okay because the breeders weren’t Amish. And, see, he’s got papers! Papers mean quality!
Right, and I'm Britney Spears. Check out the entire essay at Katie's Underdogged blog.


The best April Fool's Day headlines belonged to The Ethicurean. From Wendy's new starling burger to Autistic livestock expert accidentally slaughtered, The Ethicurean owned April Fool's. And check out the new BBC vid:

Hat tip to Living the Scientific Life, currently at the top of the Nature Blog Network.

In other bird news [and I'm delighted this is no April Fool] the endangered red knot got a helping hand from the New Jersey governor. Read about it [and much more] on David Sibley's blog.


Two depressing items from the NY Times. In this article, people who want a dog, sort of, but just "can’t make that kind of emotional commitment" [shudder] can rent a pet. Far from ideal from the standpoint of animal care, but doG knows being a rental item has to be better than life as a Romanian street dog. Stray dogs are being rounded up prior to a meeting of NATO leaders:
Officials will not venture a guess at the number of strays, and estimates of the semi-feral population in the local news media range from 30,000 to 200,000 dogs.

It's National Poetry Month! Here's Meat:
My brother saw a pig root in a field,
And saw too its whole lovely body yield
To this desire which deepened out of need
So that in wriggling through the mud and weed
To eat and dig were one athletic joy.
When we who are the overlords destroy
Our ranging vassals, we can therefore taste
The muscle of delighted interest
We make into ourselves, as formerly
Hurons digested human bravery.

Not much like this degraded meat — this meal
Of something, was it chicken, pork, or veal?
It tasted of the half-life that we raise
In high bright tombs which, days, and nights like days,
Murmur with nervous sound from cubicles
Where fed on treated slop the living cells
Expand within each creature forced to sit
Cramped with its boredom and its pile of shit
Till it is standard weight for roast or bacon
And terminated, and its place is taken.

To make this worth a meal you have to add
The succulent liberties it never had
Of leek, and pepper fruiting in its climb,
The redolent adventures dried in thyme
Whose branches creep and stiffen where they please,
Or rosemary that shakes in the world's breeze.
By Thom Gunn, from his Collected Poems. Check them out.