August 31, 2007

Temperament tests, dog bite stats and "herding"

Where we're headed: the rock fort.

Taking off to escape the 110+ F temps for a few days. A few links in the meantime...

In light of the pending evaluations of Michael Vick's pit bulls, here's a link to an informative, well-written article from Bark magazine on temperament tests. Excerpt:
Implicit in the work these researchers and behaviorists are doing and in the worries people inside and outside the shelter system have about temperament testing is their concern for the community and for the dogs. Pete Miller, a shelter supervisor at Santa Barbara County Animal Services and a 20-year veteran of the shelter system who believes temperament tests are a necessary part of good sheltering practice, perhaps puts this best: “When a dog dies in an animal shelter, it almost doesn’t matter whether the dog was an old favorite or a hopeless case of a violent animal that never had a chance; the dog was alive one second, and literally gone the next. Everything it ever was and every possibility for what it would have been and done—gone in a second. It’s the actual fact of the real loss and what it means to kill that needs to weigh most and is the reason there should never be a formula that tries to remove the responsibility from a person or dim the reality of what it means to take away a life.”
Also -- because there seems to be a fair amount of interest -- here are links to two earlier posts debunking Merritt Clifton's list of dog bites. "Chox mix"? "Buff mastiff"? The jokes just write themselves:

Part I: “Dangerous breeds,” dog bite statistics, and the Merritt Clifton report

Part II: Pit bulls, dog bite statistics, and the Merritt Clifton report

Finally: I've said a million times that any responsive dog with sufficient prey drive can be trained to "herd" well enough to earn an AKC "herding championship." Here is a collection of good photos illustrating that everything from a basenji to a... is that a lab mix...? can "herd," given tame sheep, a small arena and an experienced instructor. I'd hate to see my sheep subjected to this sort of thing, but that's just me.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend, fellow Californians, and stay cool out there ;~)

August 29, 2007

Some trials

Soldier Hollow: set-out crew person Amy Coapman takes the sheep up to the put out pen at dawn. All photos by Denise Wall, used with permission. Click on the photos for a larger view.

Soldier Hollow, one of the top sheepdog trials in North America, begins on Friday. It's an invitational: competitors include some of the best handlers and their dogs from around the world, as well as winners of important trials in the States. Preliminary runs take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday [Labor Day, appropriately enough] the top fifteen dogs compete in the double lift final. The judge this year is Jack Knox. Working set out, as always, will be my trainer Anna Guthrie and the usual collection of notables ;~)

Soldier Hollow: Amanda Milliken's Ethel on the drive.

You might be able to get an idea of the size of the course from the photo above. Set out is to the left of the little cabin, and the sheep awaiting their runs are in the shade of the big tree at the top of the photo.

For those lucky enough to be in Utah with nothing else planned over the Labor Day weekend, directions to the trial can be found here.

Running second on Friday is Price, with handler Amelia Smith. Price set a record with his preliminary score in 2005. He's a Rhys son: someone told me at the Rimrock Ranch trial in May that five Rhys offspring and five Rhys grandpups were running in the Rimrock trial. Blood will tell.

Amelia Smith's great dog Price.


The Scottish National concluded August 25th. Andrew Carnegie and Lark are the Scottish National Champions this year. Complete results can be found on the ISDS site, along with the names of those who will represent Scotland at the International.

The Welsh National, which was postponed due to the UK's foot and mouth outbreak, will be held September 3 - 5. You might want to keep an eye on YouTube for videos filmed at these trials --- it was very nice to find Mike Cooke's videos from the English Nationals.

August 28, 2007

"Tragic consequence"?

"Tragic consequence"? Is that what you call it when abused dogs are offered a chance to lead safe, happy lives in loving homes? Since when is expert assessment of a dog's potential to thrive under responsible management a "tragic consequence"?

John Goodwin of the HSUS is the sour grapes poster boy of the year:
Goodwin said his organization opposed the behavioral testing because it could be inconsistent in evaluating how the dogs would react when they interacted with other animals.

“The fact that these dogs are put in such an impossible situation is just another tragic consequence of dogfighting,” he said.
How ironic that the folks who so aggressively solicited funds to "help us care for these animals" --- and who took such pains to make sure an HSUS t-shirt appeared in every photo --- are now lobbying to have all the dogs killed as quickly as possible. Way to show how much you care, HSUS.

Interesting to contrast the position of the HSUS and comments by PETA ["These dogs are a ticking time bomb"] with the eminently sane remarks by ASPCA president Ed Sayres:

As part of this process, BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls), a San Francisco-based non profit organization that is an educational resource for pit bull owners and the shelters that house them, will be working with the ASPCA-led team to help identify dogs that can be absorbed into experienced foster programs for further observation and possible re-homing into appropriate homes—one of several possible outcomes for these dogs.

“We greatly appreciate the trust placed in us by the USDA to ensure that these dogs are given every opportunity to have a second chance, and take this phase of the investigation very seriously,” said Ed Sayres, ASPCA president & CEO. “Fighting dogs obviously face a lot of challenges when considered for rehabilitation or placement but we will make sure they get the professional, thorough and detailed evaluations that they deserve.”
BAD RAP's Donna Reynolds: "Every dog is an individual and deserves to be treated as such."


Oh, the humanity

Good-bye, cruel world.

A regular Einstein, this one.

Dog Needs Better Life Than What I Can Provide

My female dog is a mixed border collie house trained around 9 years old that is very healthy. Day's she is locked in a small room in basement because wife works from home on phone and dog barks at kids and babysitter. Nite time, dog is separated from us most times because we don't want our infant scratched accidentally. Dog needs to be only pet in home or will bark nonstop (it is a border collie) and she will nip at kids that pull on her fur. Hopefully someone can provide a better life for her.

I see a lot of posts from nutcases who are extreme in their positions on animals. I urge one of them to step forward and take this dog to show their concern rather than bashing people who need to rehome thieir pets.

If you think you might be able to help this poor dog, here's a link: Chicago Craigslist. Please don't give the man too much of a cyber-thrashing --- I'm afraid he'd just dump her at the pound. The link has already been posted on few border collie rescue sites.

ASPCA Elaborates on Pit Bull Evaluations—Announces Bad Rap as Partner

Big huge yay. There is a doG:
NEW YORK, August 28, 2007—With overwhelming public concern in the fate of the dogs seized from Michael Vick’s Surry County, Va., property, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today provided the following information on the upcoming evaluations of the dogs, as well as the nature of assistance it is providing to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, CAAB, executive vice president, National Programs, and science advisor for the ASPCA, will be leading a team of several other certified applied animal behaviorists (trained animal behavior experts who have been certified by the Animal Behavior Society) in conducting behavior evaluations of the pit bulls seized during the course of the investigation.

As part of this process, BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls), a San Francisco-based non profit organization that is an educational resource for pit bull owners and the shelters that house them, will be working with the ASPCA-led team to help identify dogs that can be absorbed into experienced foster programs for further observation and possible re-homing into appropriate homes—one of several possible outcomes for these dogs.

“We greatly appreciate the trust placed in us by the USDA to ensure that these dogs are given every opportunity to have a second chance, and take this phase of the investigation very seriously,” said Ed Sayres, ASPCA president & CEO. “Fighting dogs obviously face a lot of challenges when considered for rehabilitation or placement but we will make sure they get the professional, thorough and detailed evaluations that they deserve.”

Said Donna Reynolds, BAD RAP executive director, “We’ve seen time and time again that by pooling resources, we can get more accomplished for animals. We’re honored to be a part of the ASPCA’s team effort and look forward to giving our best to the dogs. After all they’ve been through, they certainly deserve a fair trial.”
Press release here, and thanks to Donna of BAD RAP for the heads up. [ETA: Thanks, Christine!]

August 27, 2007

"ASPCA will assess seized dogs"

From the Daily Press [Virginia]:
"In order to provide the court with complete information about the characteristics of the dogs and the available options, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has contracted with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to conduct an assessment of the dogs," the Attorney's Office news release said.

The society will lead a team of animal-behavior experts and, based on those evaluations, recommendations will be made to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The evaluations should be completed within about three weeks, and the government will recommend to the court what to do with the dogs.

"The public can be assured that careful consideration will be given to the ultimate disposition of the dogs involved in this matter," the statement said.
Also: ASPCA Reveals Its Role in Federal Investigation.
The U. S. Attorney’s office revealed the assistance provided by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) in its investigation: ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck, participated in the excavation of the graves and examination of the remains. Further details cannot be provided at this time.
Read the entire press release here.

August 26, 2007

"Michael Vick, HSUS, and the ASPCA"

Dept. of Polemics: late Sunday I received a copy of an email [excerpts below] denouncing the HSUS role in the Vick investigation. The author of the email is from Virginia, and is active in rescue. I don't know her. I do know that the HSUS solicited funds for the care of Michael Vick's dogs and gave "several thousand dollars" to Surry County. I've commented before on the organization's mad PR skillz. This week we should learn more about the ASPCA's role in the investigation.

Did the U.S. Attorney's Office ask the HSUS to leave? Were HSUS publicity efforts jeopardizing the government's case against Vick? Newsworthy stuff, if these charges are substantiated, and I hope some keen reporter follows up on them.

From: Patti Stinson [e addy removed]
Sent: Sunday, August 26, 2007 3:04 PM
Subject: Michael Vick, HSUS, and the ASPCA

First, as you all know, the rescue I volunteer for has served as rescue support for the Vick effort. We have been standing by for when we are needed. We are primarily on call to rescue some non-pits involved in the case.

That said.....

You all likely know that HSUS was asked to step in and help handle the pitbull situation since they are a large national organization with a lot of money, a lot of support, and a high profile. What you don't know is that they were asked to leave the effort (by the US Attorneys office) because they couldn't resist putting out press releases that could possibly jeopardize the case against Vick[... ]

They were soliciting donations for the care of the pitbulls. They never provided any care. Further, if they had expended any funds, I believe that they would have been reimbursed by the Feds [...]

On the flip side, how much did you hear from the ASPCA? Little to nothing, right? Right. They were involved in a major way in the investigation (on a much larger scale than HSUS) but had the common sense, professionalism, and ethics to keep their mouths shut in order to do the best they could for the dogs.

It's obvious where priorities are for both groups. ASPCA puts the animals first. Publicity and solicitations for money come second.

HSUS wants to grab all the credit they can - even when they don't do anything.

Who are you going to support financially?

My money is going to the ASPCA.

Patti Stinson
Founder (inactive), 4 Paws Rescue Team

Another video from the English Nationals

Last Monday I posted three videos from the first day of the English Nationals, and here's another run from the same day. The score for this one was 187, which earned handler John Wood and Sweep a spot on the English team headed to the International. Video by Mike Cooke.

BAD RAP and ASPCA to evaluate Vick dogs?

Ears back, tail a blur: good luck, boy.

It wouldn't be the first time that BAD RAP and the ASPCA have combined forces to save pit bulls.

ASPCA press release:
NEW YORK, August 23, 2007—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today confirmed that it is assisting the USDA in the evaluation of the dogs seized from Michael Vick's Surry County, Va., property. Further details are not possible at this time.
And another press release [August 25, 2007]:
Ed Sayres, president and CEO of the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), will be available for in-person interviews in Richmond, Va. on Monday, August 27, when Michael Vick is scheduled to appear in a U.S. District Court to plead guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities (“Travel Act”), and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.

In addition, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty Initiatives and Legislative Services Dr. Randall Lockwood will be available for in-person media interviews in Washington, D.C.

The ASPCA also has several other subject matter experts located in New York City and around the country who can speak to the media on request, including its Humane Law Enforcement officers (featured on Animal Planet’s “Animal Precinct”) on animal cruelty and the link between animal cruelty and human cruelty.

On July 23, the ASPCA announced that it was assisting federal authorities in this investigation. On August 23, the organization confirmed that it is assisting the USDA in evaluating the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case.
Steve Visser of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes:
District Judge Henry E. Hudson ordered the U.S. Marshal service to "protect and maintain" the dogs recovered from Vick's property.

Pit bull groups have been maneuvering to get permission to evaluate and save at least some of Vick's dogs, said Donna Reynolds, executive director of Bad Rap, a California pit bull advocacy and rescue group.

"We expect to have an announcement next week," she said.

Evaluate, rehabilitate

Generally, even pit bulls that have been trained to fight have a good disposition toward people but are often a danger toward other dogs, experts say. Trainers, such as Good, Jessup and Reynolds, say they can easily identify a vicious pit bull that can't be rehabilitated. But they said Vick's dogs should be sent to organizations that will evaluate the dogs, rehabilitate the ones deemed salvageable and then screen potential owners to ensure the animals end up with the right people.

Good said he owns three pit bulls, once fighting dogs but now socialized, that have become great pets. Reynolds said she has a battle-scarred female she rescued and it doesn't attack other dogs on impulse. She keeps it out of potentially provocative situations.

"No matter what the public decides to think about Vick's dogs, I think we can learn a lot from this situation, if we can get past the stereotypes that they're ticking time bombs or fighting machines," Reynolds said. "As long as the dog is going to be well-behaved on the leash, it can go on walks. They don't have to go to the dog park. Dogs don't have to be friends [with other dogs]."

When it comes to evaluating a dog, you won't find anyone more honest, more pragmatic or more realistic than Donna Reynolds. She says, "Temperament is the ONLY thing to rescue for." Diane Jessup is the same --- she'd never spring an iffy dog.

The "boundless, staggering ignorance" award of the day goes to Ann Chynoweth of the HSUS for claiming that "temperament testing on pit bulls is very difficult." No, Ann. Border collies can be an interesting challenge, but pit bulls are easy: the good ones are so very, very good, and the bad ones stick out like a sore thumb.

Chynowyth's statement demonstrates how little the HSUS seems to know about dogs in general, and pit bulls in particular. All the more reason for BAD RAP and the ASPCA to evaluate the dogs that used to belong to Michael Vick.

"I think it is easy to brush these dogs under the rug when there are groups out there who are willing to step up and help," [Jessup] said. "If these were German shepherds, this wouldn't even be part of the discussion."


In related news [news you missed, because it was just a paragraph buried in Delaware Online]:

DOG MAULS GIRL: A 12-year-old Newark girl was in serious condition with head and scalp injuries at Christiana Hospital after a German shepherd attacked her Thursday afternoon. The girl was in her neighbor's yard on Strickland Court about 4:30 p.m., helping to clean up after the 4- to-5-year-old dog, when the animal mauled her for an unknown reason, said New Castle County police spokesman Cpl. Trinidad Navarro. The Kent County SPCA will investigate.

She must have misread the dog's intentions --- it was probably trying to pull her away from danger.

The attack took place August 16, and I can't find any follow-up reports on the child's condition. I hope she will make a full recovery. In one of life's little ironies, Delaware Online reported the day before the attack that the City Council of Dover had proposed an animal ordinance designating specific breeds of dogs as dangerous. The German shepherd wasn't mentioned.

Reminds me of an Australian news report from July 2006:

A third dog attack in two days has left Local Government Minister Kerry Hickey conceding defeat over how to solve the problem.

Despite claiming NSW had the "harshest" dog laws in Australia, Mr Hickey yesterday said he was at "pains" to find a way to halt the spate of attacks.

He rejected calls to expand the restricted dog breed list, calling it a "knee-jerk" reaction.

"If I keep expanding the restricted breed list, we will have no dogs left in NSW," he said.
That's the thing about BSL: its basic premise is incorrect, and it doesn't work. As Dr. Karen Overall writes,
"Breed specific laws are not based in science... [Laws] banning breeds will not make you safer, and the illusion that they will do so is dangerous to humans and unfair to dogs."

August 24, 2007

Something's in the works

"The [Vick] dogs are being evaluated to determine whether they can be rehabilitated."

That's the word in Tim McGlone's article in the Virginian-Pilot:
After learning that the court would consider euthanizing the dogs, animal welfare groups have inundated the U.S. attorney's office and the office of U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson with pleas to save the pit bulls.

The groups were particularly upset after the Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States recommended euthanasia as the only option for dogs trained to fight.
And an intriguing comment from BAD RAP's Donna:
"Thanks for wanting to nudge for TT [temperament testing]. There will be some news regarding this early next week, so pls stay tuned."
If the dogs in question were border collies, the HSUS and PETA would never have been so cavalier or so quick to condemn them. The dogs would have been evaluated by people with years of experience working with the breed. The Vick dogs deserve this chance, too. If they are great with people --- if they are as hugely people-friendly as authentic pit bulls should be, without fear or shyness --- they should be all right. What was it that Surry County Animal Control Officer James Smith said about the Vick dogs? "They are not violent to humans.” Gamebred dogs are generally among the friendliest, so there may still be a measure of hope that some of these dogs might live out their lives in good homes.

And if they are too messed up, too shy or too fearful to adapt to life off a chain, they should be euthanized. Just let the real experts evaluate them, and let the real experts make that call.

August 23, 2007

Last minute reprieve?

Judge Saves Vick Dogs From Death Row:
It appears the dogs seized during the Michael Vick dogfighting investigation will be spared, at least for a while.

Federal Judge Henry E. Hudson approved an order Thursday afternoon ordering the U.S. Marshals Service to take custody of the 49 dogs.

The judge's order directs the Marshals Service to use "whatever means appropriate to protect and maintain" the dogs.
Wishful thinking, probably, but I hope this means someone in charge will put PETA and the HSUS [Pacelle: "I don’t want to see another dog or cat born"] on hold and listen to some real experts.

Death sentence for the victims

More than 50 pit bulls seized from Michael Vick’s property must be claimed by today, or they could be euthanized.Federal prosecutors declined to comment Wednesday on the seized dogs. Typically, when confiscated property goes unclaimed, the government asks the court to have the items declared forfeited. In this case, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson will make the final decision on the dogs’ fate.

“There’s no dispute over who owns the dogs,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Obviously this is not going to be a process where someone steps forward and says, ‘This is my dog, can I have her back, please?’ 

”Although Hudson, who also is handling Vick’s criminal case, will determine what becomes of the pit bulls, Nachminovitch said it’s likely that they will be euthanized because they’re not adoptable as pets.

These dogs are a ticking time bomb,” she said. “Rehabilitating fighting dogs is not in the cards. It’s widely accepted that euthanasia is the most humane thing for them.”
Stupid, stupid, stupid PETA idiots. What a damn shame.

August 21, 2007

Small farming roundup


Earlier this month I posted a link to the NY Times article Food that Travels Well:

[L]amb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

Bill Fosher of the Sheep Production Forum posted a comment: "I'd want to run that claim about Britain's poor pastures through the BS detector."

Michael H. Shuman, the author of The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition, called BS as well:

Congratulations to the New Zealand lamb-export industry for getting a gullible New York Times to publish an op-ed recycling its claim that its product is better for the global environment than locally produced lamb [...]

The Saunders’ study is a nice promo for the New Zealand lamb industry, but it’s a lousy piece of analysis. It’s an embarrassment that the New York Times so sheepishly republished this disinformation about local food systems. Real localization means avoiding environmentally unsound inputs of outside fertilizer, feed, and additives. It means pruning away the vast economic waste associated with ad agencies and middle people. It means avoiding trucking food around either nationally or internationally. Account for these items comprehensively and fairly, and local food wins out environmentally over global food almost every time.

Meanwhile, I've switched to alfalfa grown close by, and I'm just rolling in carbon credits now.


Also on The Ethicurean: The barriers to buying local meat --- and not only in Wyoming. An old-ish article [July 1] but interesting:

In a healthy local-food economy, Sundance ranchers would be able to bring their animals to C&A Meats, which would in turn sell the processed meat to a local retailer. Local consumers could eat locally produced and processed meat, and the revenues would stay in the community. But the system that exists now in Sundance, as in much of rural America, requires producers who want to sell their meat in local retail outlets to ship the live animals either to state-inspected facilities far away or to neighboring states for processing. The transport costs, not to mention the negative effects on animal welfare, can be enormous. That’s a Rube Goldberg system if I’ve ever seen one — and it makes it extremely difficult to procure local meat locally unless you can seek out a rancher and can accommodate at least half a cow in your freezer.


Tana Butler, who has one of the best gigs on the planet -- she photographs farmers, farms, farm dinners, and farmers markets -- is all over the American Lamb Board like a bad smell:

[M]y suspicions are based on, well, everything else we know about producing meat in mass quantities, and how hard that is to do cleanly, humanely, and sustainably.

I can only dream of the day advertising and agribusiness interests try to corrupt my blog.


Chef Rebecca King of Ardi Gasna has a new organic grain supplier: the local microbrewery. Barrels of [wet] grain --- and it's free:

I would like to encourage anyone in the area to come by and check out your local microbrewery or order their beers at your favorite local eatery. My favorite is the brown ale but the sheep prefer the lighter brews like the pale. The more beer you drink the more grain for my sheep--I really think it has added a nice earthy nuttiness to the milk!

That would be the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, folks. Cheers!


ETA: Check out Of Church and Steak: Farming for the Soul in Wednesday's NY Times --- it's about the "deep and growing involvement of the faith community" in agricultural and environmental issues.

August 20, 2007

English Nationals

Busby Hall, North Yorkshire: they're on the cross drive, near the tree. A screen cap from Vic Morris's run with Nip.

Complete results for the English National Sheepdog Trials are available at the ISDS site. Winners were Paul Turnbull with Mirk. The English Nationals were run with just 300 sheep due to the restrictions on livestock movement triggered by the foot and mouth disease outbreak --- the trial format was altered, and there was a run-off over a shortened course to determine the winner.

Mike Cooke of UK-based Border Collie Rescue in North Yorkshire was at the trials with a camera, and kind enough to forward video information to Sheepdog-L. Here are three runs from the first day [August 16th].

The first is Thomas Longton with Lady. Score: 142 points.

Next is 15 year old Sophie Holt with her three year old Harvey. Their score: 163.

And finally, Vic Morris with Nip. Their score of 177 wasn't the highest of the day --- they were fourth --- but it was high enough to earn them a spot on the English team headed to Ireland next month.

The Scottish Nationals will be held August 23 - 25, the Welsh Nationals [postponed due to the disease outbreak] September 3 - 5, and the 2007 International September 14 - 16 in Kilkenny, Ireland.

Guilty as sin

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has accepted a plea deal that could send him to prison.

CNN has the latest. I'll post details as they become available.

Evening roundup of Vickedness.

Sports Illustrated first with a good Q & A: Could the judge impose a stiffer sentence?
Dohrmann: Usually judges stick to the guidelines, although the judge in Vick's case -- judge Henry Hudson -- let it be known at the plea hearing for Peace and Phillips last Friday that he could sentence them to five years in prison and they couldn't then get out of their pleas (or appeal). If Vick agrees to plead guilty to the same single charge as his friends (federal dogfighting conspiracy), he faces the same quandary. He might get the sentence his lawyers negotiated with prosecutors or he might get more. Hudson won't make the final decision until the sentencing hearing, the date of which we won't know until Monday.

Terrific column by Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News:
Please spare me the comments that this is just like hunting. Or that this is a race-based investigation. Or the scapegoating of a superstar. Or that we should save our outrage for crimes against humans, like spouse abuse, rape and murder. Of course, we should also be outraged by other crimes. But the outrage people feel on behalf of innocent animals is also true and deep and morally justified. All the other arguments only attempt to minimize the horror of such an inhumane activity.

Vick's apology rings hollow to SI's Don Banks:
I'm just wondering if we're going to hear again from those wise men of all wise men, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Clinton Portis and the like? I seem to remember that Sanders told us Vick might love his dogs as much as any dog lover, it's just in a different way. He loved them because they fought for him.

Now that we know Vick and two of his co-defendants killed some of those dogs by hanging them from trees in their backyard, I want to hear Deion's latest take. And what about those dogs that just wouldn't die by hanging, but had to be finished off by having their heads held in five-gallon buckets of water until they drowned?

If that's the way Vick and his buddies "loved'' their dogs, please explain it to us again, Deion. Because I'm just not getting it.

Vick's attorney says the plea is "just verbal":
The proposed plea is for Vick to plead guilty to one federal count of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities. [Daniel] Meachum declined to take questions on a possible sentence or whether the sentence discussion is part of the plea offer.

Meachum has referred to Vick as "a kid." Spare me. Vick's 27. He's a parent. "Kid," my elbow.

Complete coverage, as expected, at Google News, CNN, etc.

Does Vick deserve a second chance?

Last word on that goes to PitFriend from the Pit Bull Forum message board:
All [Vick] had to do was keep his head up and play the game, and he had it made. But he threw that away for the thrill of torturing helpless animals and making a little extra cash on the side, and we're supposed to give him a second chance? What an insult to all of the hardworking people in this world who struggle just to get by and still manage not to break the law or commit such heinous acts against sentient beings. The idea of it makes me sick.
My prediction: Vick will serve at least two years, and never play pro football again. Hey -- a girl can hope.

Vick dogs "likely to be euthanized"

Time is running out for the dogs seized from Michael Vick's [alleged] dogfighting operation.

From the Charlotte Observer:

The federal government is preparing to dispose of most of the dogs seized from Michael Vick's Surry County property during its investigation into a dog fighting operation.

The fate of the 53 pit bulls will rest with a federal judge. Animal rights groups have suggested that the dogs be euthanized because they have been trained to be fighters, not pets.

The U.S. attorney's office published notices last month giving anyone until Thursday to claim ownership of one or more of the dogs. Following federal law, the government in early July filed a civil action in court seizing the animals.

If no one steps forward to claim ownership, the case will move to a federal judge who has two options: sell the dogs or dispose of them "by other humane means." Other humane means usually results in killing the dogs, animal rights experts say.

"If there is a professional dog fighting operation, we typically recommend euthanasia of the animals," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, an animal rights group [...]

"In most cases, pit bulls seized from dogfighting rings are euthanized, and as sad as that is to all of us, it may be the best thing to do for everyone concerned," PETA spokesman Dan Shannon said.
Victims of cruelty, and now, it seems, victims of ignorance. Those poor dogs.

August 19, 2007


The dog that once symbolized a nation.

Richmond criminal defense attorney Michael Morchower: "They have positioned [the case] so well that [Vick] has very little if any choice but to plead himself.
They drafted a masterful indictment and they had more evidence to up the ante."

"They" are Assistant U.S. attorneys Michael Gill and Brian Whisler, the lead prosecutors overseeing the federal case against Michael Vick. Both men are known for their smarts, their work ethic, their honesty and their tenacity: "If I had Michael Gill on my [butt], I'd cop a plea post haste," says the man who served as Gill's boss in the U.S. attorney's office in Dallas.

Read about the good guys here.


A Pet Connection poster linked to an ESPN story:

ESPN's Kelly Naqi has learned from multiple sources that Vick, Peace and Phillips initially hanged all of the dogs in the woods behind Vick's house but at least three dogs survived the hanging attempt. Subsequently, Vick, Peace and Phillips submerged the surviving dogs' heads in five gallon buckets filled with water until they drowned.

When I read that bit, "at least three dogs survived the hanging attempt," I remembered a nightmarish abuse case from a couple years back. How does a dog survive a "hanging attempt"? How long does that desperate struggle last? And Vick and his friends, according to ESPN's sources, took the surviving dogs down --- those poor, terrified animals --- and drowned them. If this is true, Vick, Peace and Phillips richly deserve prison sentences, and the NFL should take steps to insure that Michael Vick never plays football again.

August 15, 2007


The rare Double-Nosed Andean tiger hound. From the people who brought you the Peruvian Inca Orchid.

The next time I'm in a poor region of the world and run across a dog with a odd genetic mutation or birth defect, I am so giving it a ridiculous name and an impossible history and starting my own breed club.


Good to see veterinarians and others speaking out against Dover, Delaware's proposed BSL:
In addition to Akitas and Dobermans, the designated dangerous breeds are the Cane Corsa, the chow-chow, mastiffs, pit bulls, the Presa Canario, the Rottweiler, Staffordshire terriers or a mix of any of those breeds.

Even dogs that resemble those breeds would be deemed dangerous -- and they and their owners would be subject to restrictions.

Those include a prohibition on breeding dangerous dogs and a requirement that they be spayed or neutered. The dogs would have to be contained in a secure enclosure and be muzzled and leashed when in public. Owners would have to be at least 21, and those convicted of a violent or drug-related felony within the past 10 years would be barred from ownership.
Read J.L. Miller's excellent report here.

I'd be inclined to say that anyone convicted of a violent or drug-related felony within the past 10 years should be barred from owning any dog.

August 14, 2007

The Case Against Dog Breed Discrimination By Homeowner's Insurance Company

$400 for the house --- $100 for the piano.

For an excellent, thoroughly researched article on actuarial risk and insurance company breed blacklists, read Larry Cunningham's study, The Case Against Dog Breed Discrimination By Homeowner's Insurance Company. It's well written, well reasoned, and researched into the ground. Big round of applause for Mr. Cunningham and for the Michigan State Animal Legal & Historical Center: fighting ignorance via the Interwebs since 2004 and 2002, respectively.

World News: Chile

" National menace": street dogs in Santiago attack a pedestrian after cornering him against the security barricades in front of La Moneda [the building that houses the offices of the president of Chile].

[Note: linked websites are in Spanish.*] From Santiago de Chile: just a week after the government was asked to carry out a massive extermination of street dogs, a woman from the Santiago suburb of Puente Alto was attacked and killed by a pack of dogs on her way to work. The dogs that attacked her were not homeless pariah-dogs like the ones seen here --- they included at least three "police dogs," a Rottweiler and a mixed breed. A district attorney has begun an investigation.

On Tuesday [Aug. 14] the mayor of Puente Alto began the process of filing a complaint of homicide against those responsible for the death of Eduvina Ramírez Fierro, 50, and spoke out against those who train dogs to kill. He also voiced local concern over a growing trend among young people to raise dogs of fighting breeds.

Tuesday afternoon the Lower House of the Chilean government voted to approve a bill that would regulate the ownership of dangerous dogs. Among other things, the bill would require a list of "breeds considered highly dangerous" to be prepared by the government each year, and owners of these breeds would be required to pass a psychiatric examination.

Where did all these news links come from? From the Chilean blog Perros, where you'll find everything from announcements about free neutering to postings about dogs available for adoption. And news stories, of course. It's sort of a Chilean, animal-rights Itchmo. [Itchmo is in English, needless to say].

If you don't speak Spanish and would like to read Perros in English, first highlight and copy the web address of the page you need translated. Then go to Google, click on Language Tools, paste the address in the Translate a web page box and click on your preference in the drop-down menu. Hit Translate, and walla!, as we Californians say ;~) You'll have a quick, comprehensible translation.

L & M Ranch III

Uno keeps everything under control. All photos courtesy of Laura Hicks: used with permission. [Click on photos for a larger view.]

Huge thanks to Laura of the L & M Ranch for sharing her photos. I love shots of real dogs doing real work [and resting after work, and waiting to work] and I love photos of beautiful country. Laura's photos have both the good dogs and the beautiful country.

This is Laura and Mike's youngest son Brady working a young dog named Mist:

Oldest son Dustin walks behind as Kat drives a group of ewes from one pasture to the next:

Both Laura and Dustin ran dogs at the 9th Annual Upper Midwest Stockdog Challenge at Jordan, Minnesota in late July. The two of them also helped with set out. Dustin did very well in the Novice classes with Kat:

In this photo, Laura and Zac are working to shed a group of farm-flock ewes --- not the same as shedding range sheep:

Laura and Zac were just three points behind leaders Alasdair MacRae and Star in the first round of Open.

Laura, thanks again for sharing these great photos, and good luck in the National Sheepdog Finals in Gettysburg! Yeah, I think you should make the trip ;~)

L & M Ranch II

Zac watches another dog at work on the L & M Ranch, South Dakota. All photos courtesy of Laura Hicks: used with permission. [Click on photos for a larger view.]

Uno in a rare, [somewhat] relaxed moment:

Reece, a friend's dog, works the larger flock for the first time, and does a terrific job. The big white dog tagging along is a livestock guardian dog [LGD] that lives with the sheep in order to protect them from coyotes, mountain lions and stray dogs.

"Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked": Simba is one of the L & M Ranch LGDs. He is an Akbash/Great Pyrenees cross:

Whose colt? I had to post this photo to try to remind myself why I am not moving to South Dakota immediately. [Hint: it's that cold, white stuff.] A few of the L & M Ranch quarter horses:

L & M Ranch

God's country: Zac brings in the girls on the L & M ranch in South Dakota. All photos courtesy of Laura Hicks; used with permission. [Click on the photos for a larger view.]

Mike and Laura Hicks own the L & M Ranch in the southwestern part of South Dakota, not far from Badlands National Park. Mike and Laura, along with their sons Dustin and Brady, run a commercial cow/calf operation and raise sheep and good ranch horses. They raise good dogs, too.

Laura grew up with Australian shepherds, but she and Mike use border collies on their ranch. Laura writes: "The dogs are invaluable in helping gather pastures in the fall. They are great about sweeping the tree filled draws. It takes about half the riders it used to with the dogs helping now. The dogs are used in almost every aspect of the place now." She says, "If we could figure out how to teach them to drive a staple or stretch wire, we might get them more involved in fencing, too. As it is now, they prefer to supervise."

Here are a few members of the hard-working L & M Ranch crew. First is Laura's Zac, who made the double lift final at Meeker and placed 6th in the double lift at this year's National Cattledog Finals in Torrington, Wyoming. Zac is cooling down after helping to move some bulls:

Homebred Jag also works both sheep and cattle:

Intense Uno keeps an eye on the stock:

This photo of Zac and Laura was taken at the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship in Colorado. Laura calls Zac an assertive, biddable dog, fearless "but not stupid," who "came out of the womb knowing he’s capable of moving anything." Zac won the Best Drive award at Meeker in 2006, and Laura received the Shining Star Award. They are entered at Meeker again this year.

August 13, 2007

Pippa wins at Kingston

Soldier Hollow, 2005 -- another win for Bev Lambert and Pippa. Photo by Denise Wall: used with permission.

Not news: border collie wins sheepdog trial. News: border collie wins big, prestigious Kingston Sheepdog Trial. Ginormous, Lassie-Get-Help News: winning border collie at Kingston is eleven years old.

After the challenging double lift at Grass Creek, Bev Lambert's Pippa was tied for first place with Amanda Milliken's Ethel [the second most famous Ethel in the world of working border collies].

The tie was broken by a regular Open run. According to a spectator kind enough to share details on the Border Collie Boards, Amanda's Ethel went first and had a fine run, but timed out at the pen. Eleven year old Pippa, who had finished a demanding International run just a couple hours before, got around the Open course [400 yard outrun, 450 yard drive], got the shed, pen and single, and won Kingston 2007. [The photo above is of Pippa at the pen with Bev at Soldier Hollow, where they won the double lift final in 2004 and 2005.]


In other not-news, my Cheviots will be home on the farm soon and I promise there will be photos at last.


Soldier Hollow is two weeks away, and this year's National Sheepdog Finals are just around the corner, too: they'll be held at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania September 18 - 26. The trial should be a great one. Top 150 dogs qualify.


In the UK, a parent is furious that nothing can be done about the dog that attacked her child:

A Merseyside police spokesman said there were a number of different offences covered by dangerous dog legislation, but none applied in this case.

The dog could be seized by police if it was one of four officially “dangerous” breeds – American pit bull, Japanese tosa, fila Brasiliero or dogo Argentino.

For any other breed the attack must happen in public or be one of a number of incidents involving the same animal for action to be taken.
The police spokesman said this attack was not in a public place and was the first incident involving the shih-tzu.

Last year doctors at Alder Hey’s A&E department said they were treating the equivalent of a child a day for injuries caused by dog attacks, with one in five needing further treatment on more serious wounds.

Pit bulls, dog bite statistics, and the Merritt Clifton report

"Our bad: two Rottweilers, actually, and they were malnourished and abused. Whatever." Top-notch reporting there, WTKR.

Part II:
Clifton’s “Analysis”

In Part 1 of my look at Merritt Clifton’s study of dog bites [“Dangerous breeds,” dog bite statistics, and the Merritt Clifton report: Numbers] I showed that Clifton’s tabulation of press accounts is incomplete, inaccurate, badly edited and misleading. Readers have no way to access the original news stories and follow-up articles; breeds of dogs aren’t accurately recorded; and there is a huge discrepancy between press accounts of dog attacks and hospital data.

Clifton follows his list of severe bites with a brief section of comments on selected attacks. No footnotes or links are provided: in fact, there are no citations anywhere in the report.

In the Analysis section Clifton writes:
The tallies of attacks, attacks on children, attacks on adults, fatalities, and maimings on the above data sheet must be evaluated in three different contexts. The first pertains to breed-specific characteristic behavior, the second to bite frequency as opposed to the frequency of severe injuries, and the third to degree of relative risk.
In other words, Clifton is turning his back on everything known about the cause and prevention of dog bites, and is choosing instead to evaluate severe bites and attacks on the basis of “breed–specific characteristics”: an approach with no grounds in science, and one that has been discredited and rejected by the CDC, the AVMA, veterinary behaviorists, trainers, humane organizations and ACOs.

Neither Merritt Clifton nor I nor anyone else can speak about any breed’s “bite frequency,” or compare “bite frequency” to “the frequency of severe injuries,” because no one knows how often dogs of any breed bite. It is possible, for instance, that most pit bull “bites” are nips or bruises, and that none of those bites are recorded by the press because the bites cause neither real injury nor concern. No one knows. No one knows how often dogs of a particular breed bite or what percentage of those bites are severe, and no one knows the number of dogs of each breed in the overall population. Bite frequency and relative risk are impossible to determine.

These facts are evident, or should be evident, to anyone. As the AVMA task force on dog aggression states:
Dog bite statistics are not really statistics, and they do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite. Invariably the numbers will show that dogs from popular large breeds are a problem. This should be expected, because big dogs can physically do more damage if they do bite.
The AVMA task force needed less than a paragraph in its Community approach to dog bite prevention to kick the Clifton study to the curb, but I’m going to spend a bit more time on his Analysis section. Frankly, it’s such a train wreck I can’t look away.

Clifton’s comments are in green --- mine are in red.

Of the breeds most often involved in incidents of sufficient severity to be listed, pit bull terriers are noteworthy for attacking adults almost as frequently as children. Numbers again: Clifton doesn’t know how often pit bulls bite children or how frequently they bite adults. He has no idea how often they bite at all. No one does. This is a very rare pattern […] What pattern? Without knowing anything about a biting dog’s health, care or condition, its quality of ownership, victim behavior and so forth, there are no patterns. Captain Arthur Haggerty, a well-known dog trainer, wrote that in cases where a pit bull bites, the owner almost always has a criminal record. That might be a pattern worth investigating. Pit bulls seem to differ behaviorally from other dogs in having far less inhibition about attacking people who are larger than they are. Which pit bulls? Out of the country’s three million or more pit bulls, which ones “differ behaviorally”? Mr. Clifton, meet Mr. Gladwell. Once again, Clifton refuses to acknowledge that other factors may be involved when a pit bull bites: abuse, starvation, life on a chain. They are also notorious for attacking seemingly without warning, “Notorious?” According to whom? Barring health problems and/or abuse, all dogs exhibit a pattern of negative or abnormal behavior before a bite. a tendency exacerbated by the custom of docking pit bulls' tails so that warning signals are not easily recognized. Where on earth is it “the custom” to dock pit bulls’ tails? Seriously. Is there any substantiating evidence for this statement? Because no one docks pit bulls’ tails. Ears, sometimes --- tails, never [unless the tail is injured]. Thus the adult victim of a pit bull attack may have had little or no opportunity to read the warning signals that would avert an attack from any other dog. How many of the pit bulls involved in this list of attacks had docked tails? “We have no idea”? I thought so.

Rottweilers […] seem to show up disproportionately often in the mauling, killing, and maiming statistics simply because they are both quite popular and very powerful[...] A “large, popular breed,” in other words --- as opposed to those notorious pit bulls with their rare behavioral patterns.

German shepherds are herding dogs, bred for generations to guide and protect sheep. Please. German shepherds are show and companion dogs, and no, they have not been bred for generations to work sheep. For the last century they have been bred for conformation; for police work and protection sports; and to be pets. Most modern GSDs have as much “herding instinct” as a bulldog, and based on what I’ve seen at AKC “herding trials,” as much talent on stock. In modern society, they are among the dogs of choice for families with small children because of their extremely strong protective instinct. How does he know? They have three distinctively different kinds of bite [I can’t believe I’m reading this]: the guiding nip, which is gentle and does not break the skin; the grab-and-drag, to pull a puppy or lamb or child away from danger, which is as gentle as emergency circumstances allow; and the reactive bite, usually in defense of territory, a child, or someone else the dog is inclined to guard. The reactive bite usually comes only after many warning barks, growls, and other exhibitions intended to avert a conflict. When it does come, it is typically accompanied by a frontal leap for the wrist or throat. Unbelievable. There is not a shred of evidence for these statements, and I’m speaking 1) as a former owner of both American-bred and Schutzhund-bred German shepherds, and 2) as one with a fair amount of literature in my possession relating to this breed. If German shepherds are bred for any sort of bite, it’s the full-mouthed protection-sport bite, and that same type of bite is admired by the relatively tiny but dedicated group of GSD boundary-style herding enthusiasts here and in Germany. “Three distinctively different kinds of bite”? I thought I’d seen it all after reading a few years’ worth of AKC Gazette breed columns [“Collies must have an oblique eye set in order to scan the horizon for sheep”], and then something like this comes along. The “three different bites” concept has nothing to do with the millions of GSDs in North America and even less to do with the realities of stockwork. Seriously, where did this “three distinctive bites” business come from? Is it from the Gazette? Enlighten us. Because it sounds as if it was made up out of whole cloth.

Because German shepherds often use the guiding nip and the grab-and-drag with children, who sometimes misread the dogs' intentions and pull away in panic, they are involved in biting incidents at almost twice the rate that their numbers alone would predict: approximately 28% of all bite cases, according to a recent five-year compilation of Minneapolis animal control data. Yet none of the Minneapolis bites by German shepherds involved a serious injury: hurting someone is almost never the dogs' intent.

Again: I can’t believe I’m reading this.

GSDs “are involved in biting incidents at almost twice the rate that their numbers alone would predict” --- because they are trying to lead or pull children out of danger? There is nothing to support this claim: zero, zip, nada. And what’s up with the reference to Minneapolis AC data? Is this a “Look! Something shiny!” gambit? Because in Clifton’s own study, GSD attacks result in a higher percentage of maimings [60%] than pit bull attacks do [55%]. And yet -- again with no supporting evidence –Clifton states that when German shepherds bite, “hurting someone is almost never the dogs' intent.” He knows all the GSDs in the country, apparently, and reads their minds, too.
In the German shepherd mauling, killing, and maiming cases I have recorded, there have almost always been circumstances of duress: the dog was deranged from being kept alone on a chain for prolonged periods without human contract, was starving, was otherwise severely abused, was protecting puppies, or was part of a pack including other dangerous dogs. None of the German shepherd attacks have involved predatory behavior on the part of an otherwise healthy dog.
Neither Clifton nor [as far as anyone can tell] the press accounts he tabulated see fit to acknowledge “circumstances of duress” when a pit bull or other breed bites. Apparently pit bulls are never chained, never turned loose or abandoned to run in packs, never abused, always well fed and correctly socialized --- unlike those misunderstood German shepherds.

Seriously, it’s unbelievable – unconscionable – that anyone writing about dog attacks would fail to acknowledge the abusive conditions surrounding most pit bulls that bite, and yet make such a raft of excuses for another breed, claiming, “There have almost always been circumstances of duress.” Is this intentional, or simply drawn from the press accounts themselves? Either way, the lack of objectivity is remarkable.

Clifton goes on to stress “the need for some sort of strong breed-specific regulation to deal with pit bulls and Rottweilers,” and chastises the “humane community” for refusing to see that adopting a pit bull is no different from adopting a mountain lion. He states that pit bulls and Rottweilers should be strictly regulated “if they are to be kept at all.”

And that’s just stupid.

Ban all dogs over 30 lb, and children (and adults) will still be maimed and killed by dachshunds and cocker spaniels. But the statement that will make knowledgeable, informed dog people beat their heads on rocks is this one:
Temperament is not the issue, nor is it even relevant. What is relevant is actuarial risk. If almost any other dog has a bad moment, someone may get bitten, but will not be maimed for life or killed, and the actuarial risk is accordingly reasonable. If a pit bull terrier or a Rottweiler has a bad moment, often someone is maimed or killed--and that has now created off-the-chart actuarial risk, for which the dogs as well as their victims are paying the price.

I think Clifton wants very much to say, “They’ll turn on you.” But a dog with a good temperament won’t do that. If your dog is elderly and confused, suffering from a brain tumor or seizure disorder or terrible thyroid problem, or is injured and in pain, he may bite regardless of a terrific temperament. Dogs aren’t robots. But dogs with good temperaments don’t turn on people. They don’t have chainsaw-massacre “bad moments.”

Dogs with unsound temperaments? Especially if they are unsocialized, untrained and badly managed, everyone around them is always at risk.

The bulk of dogs that bite are somewhere in the middle. One may have a sound temperament but was never socialized to children. Another may be a nice dog whose resource-guarding habit was never addressed. Some have just had all they’re going to take, like the Dalmatian who bit a boy that jumped from his bed onto the sleeping dog. And because children are small, many of these injuries are terrible.

“Bad moment” isn’t a scientific term. It’s a euphemism for something only “those breeds” do. It implies that no one really has to worry about “safe breeds,” and the trouble with this particular implication is that “safe breeds” already send hundreds of thousands of children – and adults -- to hospital emergency rooms each year. The choice of phrase reflects all the misleading, inaccurate figures and statements that make the Clifton report such a hot mess: another sad measure of the general public’s “boundless, staggering ignorance about dogs.”

August 11, 2007

Noted - good eats, good reads

One of my best friends is a CSA site coordinator, and because of her I've been meaning for ages to link to Local Harvest. Every Friday people roll up to my friend's place to collect their week's supply of delicious, seasonal, locally-grown fruits and veggies, and the list of people joining up is getting longer and longer.

Between the weekly farmer's market and the farm where my sheep live, I'm spoiled for choice: if I want fresh eggs, for example, the toughest decision is which variety of chicken to chose from. And why buy "cage-free" eggs that come from poor, warehoused creatures in photos like this, when a little scouting around should put you in touch with people whose chickens actually breathe fresh air and get as much sunlight and exercise as they'd like?

More about local agriculture in the NY Times article Food that Travels Well:

The term “food miles” — how far food has traveled before you buy it — has entered the enlightened lexicon. Environmental groups, especially in Europe, are pushing for labels that show how far food has traveled to get to the market, and books like Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” contemplate the damage wrought by trucking, shipping and flying food from distant parts of the globe.

Both the article and the letters to the editor had comments about lamb, and since there's no forage -- or not nearly enough forage -- where I live to sustain my sheep without hefty purchases of alfalfa hay [from Nevada], this got my attention:

[L]amb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

I am so not going to use the expression "food for thought," but you might want to give the article [and the letters] a read.


Book plug: anything by California farmer Mas Masumoto. Anything. His latest book, Heirlooms: Letters From A Peach Farmer, is being published this month. Mas is a terrific writer, and he always makes me think of my dad, who grew up in the Central Valley. Yes, I'm Californian to my marrow.


If I had $700 lying around and knew I'd be home for a few hours every Thursday, I would totally sign up to take The Cognitive Dog: Savant or Slacker.
The noted psychologist Paul Bloom commented recently that "for psychologists, dogs may be the next chimpanzees." Leaving aside the question of who is happier about this, the dogs or the chimps, the fact remains that the cognitive ability of dogs has been the focus of a great deal of work recently. This course is a review and analysis of the latest work on dog development, cognition, and learning, supplemented by some of the classics and guest appearances (canine or otherwise). Topics covered include evolution and development, perception, cue learning and use, imitation and social learning, emotion, temperament, and training. Prerequisite: experience with dogs or a background in animal behavior and learning is helpful.
Harvard Extension has offered this class before, and the syllabus looked good. There's a related course in Spring: The Learned Dog: Learning Theory, Animal Learning, and the Practice of Animal Training.


Ooh, a news story with a pit bull [mix] and a border collie!

The pit bull went to the vet hospital to get stitched up, and the border collie's owner lost the tip of his finger when he reached into the middle of the fight to separate the dogs. Standard advice: Introduce dogs when they're good and tired, take them on a long [on-leash] walk together and then [if you must], let them meet and greet on neutral ground, and leave the leashes on so you can pull the dogs apart and keep your fingers safe in case a fight breaks out.

I would bet money that the border collie started it and bit off the man's finger, and it doesn't surprise me at all that the pit bull needed medical attention and the collie didn't have a mark on her. Yes, I'm assuming it was a border collie bitch. And yes, I have a tiny bit of experience in this area.

In other, sadder pit bull / border collie news, a border collie puppy was killed by a loose pit bull in Ontario, Canada. Idiots who refuse to control their dogs should be hit over the head with a board, but the quote that caught my eye in the Ontario article was a comment by Kathy Duncan, Oshawa's Manager of Animal Services:
While pit bulls have received a lot of attention since the provincial ban was implemented, Ms. Duncan says the statistics don't point to them posing a higher risk to the public, than other breeds.

"Of all the bite reports we get, we don't see a predominantly higher level of pit bull reports," she said. "They're in the media more, you don't hear about the golden retriever that leaves someone with hundreds of stitches."
Yep. Can't speak for Ms. Duncan, but my local ACOs view the media's pit bull obsession with weary, unconcealed disgust.