July 31, 2008

Dogs and cats banned in Saudi Arabian capital

This just in from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice: on Wednesday it became illegal to walk dogs [or cats!] in public in Riyadh.
The commission's general manager, Othman al-Othman, said the ban was ordered because of what he called "the rising of phenomenon of men using cats and dogs to make passes at women and pester families" as well as "violating proper behavior in public squares and malls."

"If a man is caught with a pet, the pet will be immediately confiscated and the man will be forced to sign a document pledging not to repeat the act," al-Othman told the Al-Hayat newspaper. "If he does, he will be referred to authorities." The ban does not address women.
Only dogs and cats.

You remember the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice -- they're the same religious policemen who locked schoolgirls inside a burning building to protect Saudi passers-by from... girl-cooties, or whatever. Seriously, these are grown men who think they have a better chance of going to heaven because they locked a group of terrified children in a burning school.

Similar bans on pet dogs and cats in Mecca and Jiddah have been ignored. Read all about the latest ban here. And for a clear-eyed Muslim take on the whole thing, check out this editorial from the Arab News.

A-rovin', a-rovin', rovin's been my ruin

This classic barb was aimed at Hillary Clinton's campaign, but is worth posting again as the Rovians get down to business. Originally posted by Terrierman. I LOL'ed.

How often to train a dog? It depends.

Chip — pride of the Beagle Brigade [with his handler, Customs Inspector Carla Blackmon].

Researchers in Denmark have published a study in Applied Animal Behavioral Sciences demonstrating that "dogs" [that is to say, the 18 laboratory Beagles used in the study] "learn" [to touch a mousepad with a front paw, taught by a person using a clicker and treats -- not that there is anything wrong with that] better when taught once a week than when taught five times a week.

Which tells us exactly nothing about how often to train stockdogs, assistance dogs, search & rescue dogs, agility dogs, companion dogs or just about any other kind of dog. How often one trains depends on the individual dog, the trainer, the task, and the training environment, for starters.

Check out the first sentence of the abstract:
Despite the fact that most domestic dogs receive some kind of training, surprisingly few studies have been undertaken to analyze the process in detail, e.g. the question of how often training should be done has not been investigated in dogs.
Surely you jest. Is it, I dunno, within the realm of possibility that guide-dog trainers, hearing-dog trainers, trainers of great working stockdogs, trainers of Schutzhund world champions, and trainer/authors like Jean Donaldson and Karen Pryor might have given some thought to "how often training should be done"? Did it occur to the researchers that these authorities might have insight worth sharing?

My first dog was a light-speed learner of a Beagle, a dog who understood everything, and reading this study made my heart ache. Excerpt:
In a survey on the use of training in establishments using non-human primates as laboratory animals, it was demonstrated that even though there is general awareness of the benefits of training, it is not very widespread, partly due to a perceived overestimation of the time investment needed (Prescott et al., 2005). To optimize both the economy and the welfare of laboratory dogs it is thus of interest to know how much time needs to be put into training and, perhaps more important, what kind of training schedule is the most efficient.
Cripes, those poor critters. See how little time you need to spend with them? If this hits the mainstream press I can imagine lots of pet dogs getting a lot less attention. The less the better! I mean, it was proven scientifically, right?

And this gem: All dogs showed interest in the food during training.

Beagles?! Showed interest in food?!! The mind boggles.

You can find the entire study here, and read Christie Keith's rather different take on it over at Pet Connection.

July 30, 2008

"New Baby, Old Pet"

This is as good a time as any to mention a few of the excellent programs that help parents manage the family dog and a new baby. One of the best-known programs is the SFSPCA's Diapers & Dogs: a Guide for New Parents & Parents-to-be. Here's a class description:
Dogs and babies can be a successful combination with a little preparation and some good management strategies. This class offers a safe environment for dogs to become more comfortable with the newest members of their family. Dogs will learn basic manners such as laying [lying, dammit!] quietly while baby is being fed, not jumping on baby and walking nicely next to the stroller. Parents will learn the basics of managing dog and baby interactions as well as practical obedience commands that won't add more time and stress to a new parent's busy day.
If classes aren't an option, check out this awesome list of books at Dogwise.com: millions [OK, dozens] of books on dogs and kids, and they even have CDs of baby sounds to help desensitize Scout before the stork arrives.

Canada's Worms & Germs Blog has a new post on babies and pets, with a link to the Calgary Humane Society's article on "Preparing your Pet for Baby's Arrival." Have I mentioned that Calgary is famous for preventing dog bites without resorting to breed-bashing and BSL?

And by the way: the photo accompanying the Worms & Germs post is too precious for words [heart]. With responsible supervision, little kids and friendly, well-socialized dogs can get along just fine.

[The photo above is a gem from The Unexpected Pit Bull.]

Edited to add: Thanks to Nancy of Gooddogz for the link to Dogs&Storks. This "national program that prepares families with dogs for life with baby" got a nice write-up in the Wall Street Journal in June.


We rock, yay us. More seismic activity than almost anyplace and we use more gasoline than China. By God, I'm proud to be a Californian.

The animals didn't do anything. [Thanks for the early warning, chuckleheads, and after all I do for you...!] Here are some snaps by Rick Loomis [Kmart in Diamond Bar] and Irfan Khan [Pomona City Hall], both photos from the L.A. Times:

Security cameras at Incycle in San Dimas caught the P-wave/S-wave thing: in the first video you can see the customers' reaction to the initial jolt [watch the man on the right] and what happens when the shaking starts a moment later.

There are bazillions of earthquake articles in the L.A. Times, but my favorite coverage was at Gawker. "Seriously, though, who wants to save an Earth that does crap like this? Die, dirtball, die. I'm going to go dump motor oil into a pristine watercourse." Oh, and the phones went down, too, but email still worked and Twitter scooped Associated Press by nine minutes, and there were no major injuries [and only eight minor ones], so it's all good. I love you, California...!

July 29, 2008

Coincidence? I think not

"I'm not angry — I'm disappointed. No, wait — I'm angry."

Bill Fosher, former reporter and assignment editor, wrote on July 26:
I am noticing a trend in local reporting toward credulity that makes me want to hurl. [I]t seems that the approach is to do one-source, non-critical stories. If anything, the approach to blunting this seems to be to do a follow up story that provides the same level of credulity and obsequiousness to the opposing view a day or two later.

Efforts at synthesizing information, critical analysis, and good old fashioned truth squadding are down the toilet...
On July 27, Gina adds:
Most newspapers’ pet-related Web logs are nothing but fluff along with ill-informed, poorly reasoned and inexpert commentary.
And on July 28, as if on cue, people! how rad is that? the Unleashed blog at the L.A. Times presents "A Few Words About Pit Bulls":
Few creatures in the animal kingdom seem to generate as much heated comment as pit bulls, but L.A. Unleashed would like to remind readers (and the staff of L.A. Unleashed) that the so-called bully breed has many, many, many defenders.
Yes, we know that if you sign up for a "Google alert" on "animal attacks," many of the headlines involve pit bulls, but it's tough to read the article [on the Vick dogs] in Bark and dismiss the notion of redemption. "The personal stories of dogs -- dogs redeemed from dreadful captivity, with no interest in fighting, joyously learning to be with people -- have touched many hearts."
Who needs research, a truth squad or actual experts when all you have to do is count comments and sign up for Google alerts? I smell Pulitzer!

, we're so glad you could be with us today. Jerry Springer is here to give you the Creation Museum award for excellence in faith-based journalism. "Everyone knows" you're the best! Congratulations, and we'll be looking forward to tomorrow's opposing viewpoint. Hey, a Google alert! Better run!

Parental supervision. Parental supervision. Parental supervision.

Imagine a world where newspapers, magazines, TV and radio preach it over and over: "ALWAYS SUPERVISE YOUNG CHILDREN WITH THE FAMILY DOG."

Dog Kills 2-Month-Old Infant In Tulsa

Police say the infant was left unattended in a swing with two dogs in the room.
Link to story and video.

Eight weeks old.

And to be perfectly clear

Of course I'm not like that with the sheepdogs.

July 28, 2008

The week that was

My so-called life.

Everyone is miserable. The mosquitoes are as big as chickens and I have no idea how they’re finding their way into the house, and I’ve been bitten so many times [5] that I’m anemic. Our rotten week:

On Monday my big male pit bull, who is eleven and arthritic and very sensitive, suddenly develops an ear hematoma. One precious velvet ear is puffed up like roti, or a bubble on a hot tortilla.

The vet wants some x-rays [not of the ear — we’d been concerned about a possible kidney stone], so I make an appointment and on Wednesday morning I lift the poor creature into the truck and off we go to the vet’s to get the ear and the kidney checked. Mom’s Little Lamb is desperately worried, which makes me worried, which makes him even more worried. He’s shaking like a little leaf.

At the vet’s I remind everyone that he has arthritis in his neck, and that he is extremely shy and very sensitive [he is trembling next to me and wagging his tail shyly at the same time, which looks piteous and makes me want to weep], and I give him a kiss on top of his head and tell him to Be Good, and Mom will Be Back Soon, and then the tech and I start down the hall together with him because otherwise the poor dog will sit down and refuse to budge. As soon as he’s on his way I drop back and tiptoe out of the office after double-checking that the techs in front know he is very sensitive and have all my phone numbers. It’s the crack of dawn [nine o’clock] and already hot enough to fry an egg in the truck bed.

I drive to the farm to feed the sheep. I’ve noticed one of the ewes has an odd lump just below where her Adam’s apple would be if sheep had Adam’s apples, and I’m worried she might have CL – which I have never, in 20 years of sheep-keeping, had in my little flock. How bad is it? Two words: purulent exudate. Also: contagious. Very bad. I’m kind of paranoid about it, actually.

To my surprise and relief L is at the farm, back from several weeks on a sheep ranch in Australia. I tell her about the ewe and ask if she’ll take a look, because L, at sixteen or thereabouts and the stepdaughter of a large-animal vet, is as good a sheep doctor as practically anyone. [She is going to be a large-animal vet herself.] She doesn’t think it’s CL [and she’s more familiar with the disease than I am], but she says, “Why don’t we draw some blood, and you can take it over to the Davis lab. I’ll go get the stuff.”

L returns shortly with needles, etc. Since I hadn’t planned to work sheep, I have no dog.

How do I explain what this feels like? Stepping into a sheep pen without a dog is like showing up at the Battle of Thermopylae with a spork. “This! Is! Sporka! Oh, crap.” With a dog you have such a sense of confidence. Without a dog, oy.

I want blood samples from two sheep: yellow tag #- and blue tag #-. Both, like most of mine, are Border Cheviots. To cut to the chase To make a long story short, a task that would have taken ten minutes with the help of Twiglet and five minutes with the Landshark takes rather longer. We corner the first ewe so that L can draw a blood sample, and some time later, just as I’m about to give up and drive home for a dog, L catches the second Cheviot by a hind leg and clings like grim death — she weighs less than the sheep does — and we are finally done. I drive to the Davis lab and drop off the samples, and then, with no time left to change out of clothes that smell as if I’ve been rolling in sheep dung, it’s off to the dentist’s for a check-up. Probably because he wants me out of the office as quickly as possible, the dentist finds no cavities and I race back to the animal hospital for my pit boo.

Mom’s Little Lamb is wearing a huge plastic cone and looks miserable. His ear is no longer inflated – it’s an oozing mess. No kidney stone, yay.

Once home, he pants and paces, paces and pants, around and around the dining room table in his awful cone until I’m afraid he’ll collapse. He can’t decompress. He refuses to drink. I replace the cone with a much shorter and theoretically more comfortable model [the things one collects!] but he is still determined to pant and pace. Soon I’m less worried about him and more concerned that I’ll lose my mind. The panting and pacing is worse than the worst music, worse than a colicky baby, and I am ready to kill myself, kill him and burn the house down when at last he stops, and then I’m afraid he’s dead. I bring him some water with a bit of chicken broth and he rouses himself enough to take a huge long drink, after which we both feel a bit better.

That night I carry him upstairs and put him on the bed. The idea is that I’ll be able to monitor him closely during the night, which is ridiculous since I sleep through large earthquakes, but I can’t bring myself to leave him downstairs with that cone. He sleeps stretched out in the middle of the bed and leaves me a space at the edge approximately eight inches wide, and I'm stuck there all night since he’s too heavy to move.

The next day my little female pit bull develops an odd, itchy skin problem. West Nile Virus? I make an appointment with the holistic vet, but something is wrong with my ankle, which looks and feels sprained, and I have to cancel the appointment. The next day the ankle is so bad I ask a friend to feed the sheep.

On Friday I get email from the Davis lab with word that both tests were negative!, negative for CL! Yay! Although they could both be false negatives. In any event, the sheep look all right and the dogs are doing a little better, so maybe we’ll live.

Some endearing things about sleeping pit bulls:

1) They are the soundest sleepers in the animal kingdom. Or perhaps the most extremely relaxed sleepers. It’s kind of fun to see what you can do with them without actually waking them up. Pick up a leg, put it down; pick up an ear, put it down; wag the tail gently; pick up the paws and do a patty-cake thing: they’re relaxed as rag dolls. You could never in a million years do this with a border collie, but my pit bulls sleep right through it, and if the eyelids start to open or the tail starts to thump-thump, I say, “It’s all right – go back to sleep,” and they’re out again.

2) They snore. It's adorable.

3) Pit bulls settle in for a good sleep with the most excellent sighs that anyone can imagine. Once my pibbles are about to doze off, they give such deep, loud, comfortable sighs that it’s contagious; you have to sigh a big comfortable sigh, too. And then you feel very relaxed and fall asleep right away. Forget artificial sleep aids – adopt a pit bull ;~)

Some Pigs

Check out Honest Meat — a fine new blog I found via I Heart Farms. The author is Rebecca Thistlethwaite, and right now she is in the middle of three posts on CAFOs [confined animal feeding operations]: specifically, the pig factories of North Carolina's coastal plain.

I love bacon, but not so much that I can buy it in good conscience when pigs are factory-farmed and CAFOs are destroying the environment. Rebecca links to Waterkeeper Alliance's Rick Dove, who took the aerial photos for her posts, and who writes on the Waterkeeper site:
There are now approximately 2,500 industrial swine facilities raising 10,000,000 hogs in North Carolina's coastal plain. This is a radical change from conditions that existed prior to the mid-1980s. Then, there were approximately 24,000 family farmers raising a little over 2,000,000 hogs. Based upon a study of Dr. Mark Sobsey of the University of North Carolina that compared hog to human waste, these hogs are producing more fecal matter in Eastern North Carolina each day than is produced by all the citizens (combined) in North Carolina, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, New Hampshire, and North Dakota. This incredible amount of fecal matter is constantly being flushed from the confinement buildings where these animals are kept under what are often grossly inhumane conditions. [Boldface mine.]
Rebecca writes:
This post is supposed to be about the human health problems with these huge hog factories. But if a hog farmer (or vertically-integrated pork corporation) will treat animals with complete disregard, how do you think they treat their human workers and neighbors?
[Like this, I imagine.] The Honest Meat sidebar is filled with books, farms, industry links and culinary sites. You'll find I Heart Farms, Honest Meat and other link goodness in the SHEEP, FARMS/RANCHES, GOOD EATS AND MORE section of this blog's right sidebar.

July 27, 2008

Light emitting diodes

"The full spectrum of color, design and programming available for the Times Square ball."

It just sounds cool: "light emitting diodes." Whoa. "Many of the biggest bulb manufacturers are now convinced [L.E.D.'s] will supplant incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs," writes Erica Taub of the NY Times, because L.E.D.'s are bright, beautiful and last a whopping twenty years. Unfortch [for me, anyway], the current price is a whopping $107 a bulb. You can check out the NY Times article and photo gallery here.

July 26, 2008

News coverage, continued

Bill Fosher wrote a terrific comment, reprinted below, in response to this post. My comment on his comment after the blockquote:

I don't think your criticism of journalism is exactly fair. It certainly doesn't reflect the reality of newsrooms. I'm a former reporter and assignment editor for local newspapers, so I can assure you that one of the last things that any editor is doing is sitting around deciding which of his several reporters he will ask to stop doing the crossword puzzles and send out on a story about a dog attack. More likely, it's a matter of triage -- whose work can I drop while doing the least amount of damage to today's local news effort?

And I was working back when newsrooms weren't the focus of the MBAs who are now running news operations with an eye exclusively on the bottom line. Big city newsrooms are losing hundreds of reporters -- not collectively, but individually. Local newsrooms, where the motto has always been "do more with less," are trimmed back half of the staffing levels that were present in my day. And staffing in my day was inadequate.

In all likelihood, if the reporter didn't go out to the scene, it's not because of fear or reluctance, but because there simply aren't enough hours in the day. Sometimes the best you can do is cover a breaking news story by telephone.

Add to that the focus on getting stuff onto the web and the 24-hour news cycle, and you really can't begin to pick and chose who covers a breaking news story based on who might have some level of expertise in the subject area.

And, even if they did have a staff that included experts on dog behavior and training, sending the expert opens the organization up to criticism that the reporter was too close to the subject matter.

Now, having said all that, I will also say that I am noticing a trend in local reporting toward credulity that makes me want to hurl. Particularly in small markets and local newspapers, it seems that the approach is to do one-source, non-critical stories. If anything, the approach to blunting this seems to be to do a follow up story that provides the same level of credulity and obsequiousness to the opposing view a day or two later.

Efforts at synthesizing information, critical analysis, and good old fashioned truth squadding are down the toilet at most local newspapers and small-market broadcasters these days. As are editing, proofreading, and headline writing.

Could this be due to the fact that most local reporters are now of the generation that thinks "doing research" means "going on line and finding people who agree with me?" That treats all information as equally valid? That accepts the culture of assertion?
The last three paragraphs? Big, giant amen.

If more of my synapses had been working, I would have mentioned in Donny meets Hector that the Washington Post flew a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer around the country to to take photos of the Vick pit bulls in their foster homes, but the accompanying article was penned by a "pit bull-shy reporter" who never met any of the dogs. This was what I had in mind when I wrote about journalists who are "too afraid of pit bulls to actually leave the office and meet one." Excusable for a small local paper, maybe, but the Washington Post...?

Pit bull people deal with this on a regular basis: the reporter and photographer who won't exit their vehicle at the home of an AmStaff breeder; reporters who say, "We'll be there if you can promise us a dog fight"; editors who end discussions with a curt, "Everyone knows Labs don't bite." Reporters aren't immune to mob-think. From an editorial in the Cranston, RI Herald:
If you think it’s difficult to get your kids to clean their rooms, try finding a reporter willing to cover a story about pit bull enthusiasts.

When the founder and president of the Little Rhodie Bully Breed Club sent the paper an announcement for its upcoming trained pit bull graduation, the announcement was sent out to Herald staff as a story in need of coverage. With stunning speed, the responses came back – “heck no, I don’t want to get eaten,” or something to that effect.

Lisa DiMaio, our regular schools reporter, finally agreed to take the story, albeit with a postscript: “pit bulls scare the crap out of me.”
Bill writes:
And, even if they did have a staff that included experts on dog behavior and training, sending the expert opens the organization up to criticism that the reporter was too close to the subject matter.
Here I disagree. After consumer electronics, Americans spend most on pet products and services in the retail market, and editors know this -- hence blogs like Unleashed at the L.A. Times. But compare the coverage. Every large paper worth its salt has at least one reporter knowledgeable about technology, because you'd be nuts to cover tech without a reporter who knows his or her way around an iPhone and can tell the difference between Linux and Unix. Most papers don't have anyone comparable to write about animals. Hence the idea that if you buy a "safe breed" your child will never suffer a dog bite. Hence Jon Katz. It's unreal to remember that Vicki Hearne once wrote a regular column on animals for the L.A. Times.

Which brings me to another important point Bill mentioned, and it's one for pit bull lovers like me to keep in mind: as revenues fall and the MBAs take over, newspapers across the country are disappearing. The reality of U.S. newsrooms is that no matter how much an editor might like to have a knowledgeable reporter on staff to cover animal stories, these days an editor is lucky to have any reporters at all. It's scary and heartbreaking to watch the decline [maybe evisceration is a better word] of once-excellent newspapers like the San Jose Mercury News and the Los Angeles Times.

Bill, thanks for the thoughtful comment and fuel for a blog post.

Edited to add: Just ran across this — The survival of journalism: 10 simple facts. [H/T swissmiss.]

July 25, 2008

Heart and waves

Portrait by Alberto Seveso of the great surfer Kelly Slater, from Graphic Exchange via fffound.

Blog love: dogs in art

James Buddenhagen and his wife Esther Buddenhagen live in the Mexican state of Veracruz. They are talented writers, photographers, and miracle workers. Here's proof: Giaco before —

Giaco now:

How about that?! I rest my case.

James loves art [no surprise there], and posts lots of interesting and wonderful art and design on his blog. Check out the candid shot of Frida Kahlo from this post:

James is dad of Rita, who created a blog of her own and, after a heart-to-heart with James, took over the dog art blogging. Only reasonable, since the topic is near and dear to Rita's heart [/humanization]. Here is Rita's blog, filled with a terrific selection of dogs in art. I wish I could write as well as Rita.

Thanks to Rita and James, I discovered Dog Art Today.
"Dog Art Today is devoted to daily dog art from around the world. Features include contemporary dog art, the history of dogs in art, dog art auctions, books, posters, fashion and decor. It's the perfect place to find an artist to paint, sculpt or photograph your pet. And there are lots of great gift ideas for the dog-lover in your life."
Ye Gods, the books alone...! Hello, foreclosure...

Last, but not least: over at Today's Arthur there are sheep. Sheep! [Let's not talk right now about the depressing sheep ailment that is CL, kthnx.]

This past June, Arthur's Dogsitter posted about some "real deal," terrific, professional photographers who specialize in pet portraits. [Just ignore Dogsitter when she disses her own work. She's a wonderful photographer, and I love her blog.]

Lots o' cool links: enjoy.

When Donny Met Hector

Area man adopts large, dog-shaped armful of limp spaghetti.

Former Vick dog Hector has a for-real home and a loving family back in Minnesota now. KAALTV reporter Donny Rowles did a bang-up job of covering the story:

Odds were [Hector] would have been put down until a pit-bull advocacy group called "Bad Rap" met with Hector and found he was friendly and adoptable.

[Roo] Yori went to California to see Hector.

"I really liked what I saw. He's an awesome dog with a really solid temperament. There's a lot of myths about the breed that need to be shattered; there's a lot of stereotypes that need to be broken."

Yori and his wife hope Hector's example will show pit bulls can be good, friendly pets.

"I can sit here and talk all I want. But all they need to do is look at Hector.”
Click here to read the report and see the most excellent video. Sez you, "This basic stuff is 'bang-up' reportage? Good story, sure, but 'bang-up'?" Zip it, and watch the vid. The reporter is holding Hector, so help me. Check it out, there on the right: that's KAALTV's finest, Donny Rowles, giving pibble Hector a good rub. God bless the man. If only more reporters had the neurons to say to themselves, "These folks have forgotten more about dogs than I will ever know. If they can hold this friendly boy and play with him and take him into their home, what's not to like? Sure, lemme hold that sucker."

Weird as it may seem, not all reporters get this. Weirder still: editors don't get it, either. Editors assign pit bull stories to writers who've never housetrained a puppy. They assign pit bull stories to reporters who are too afraid of pit bulls to actually leave the office and meet one. Which, if you think about it, is kind of like an editor saying, "Y'know what I need for that upcoming feature on great food in Beijing? A reporter that doesn't speak a word of Chinese, hates travel, hates China, hates Chinese food and is such a crappy cook, she burns water. Maybe I could even find someone who won't speak to Chinese-Americans in person because she's afraid they might jump up in the middle of the interview and start a tong war. Yeah, that's the ticket."

When Jefferson wrote that he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers, I like to think he had a different type of journalism in mind ;~)

Those poor kids! And dammit, those poor dogs

Two attacks in the news, and two videos. First, a tragedy in Pennsylvania: a dog [an Old English Sheepdog mix, according to police] attacked a 14 month old girl and injured the girl's mother as she tried to protect her child. The attack took place in the family's living room. The girl, Addison Sonney, died Thursday afternoon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh; her mother was treated at a local medical center.

Reporters were on the scene in minutes, and the coverage at GoErie.com — photos, a map, videos — is dramatic and extensive. The big mystery: why did the dog attack?
The dog escaped the home after the attack. Millcreek police hunted it, tracking it through nearby woods with guns drawn.

At one point, officers surrounded the dog in a dense thicket at the northeast corner of Love and Zimmerly roads, shooting at it five times through heavy brush. But the dog continued to run, eventually making its way into the quiet Love Farm subdivision, where homes sell in the $200,000 range. [Reporter must be a Californian.]

Officers patrolling the neighborhood urged children riding bikes and people walking dogs on the sunny morning to go inside their homes.

"He told me there'd been a vicious dog attack, and I should take my dog and go home," said Carol Edmundson, who lives in the subdivision. She ran toward her house, but before she could get there, she saw a dog covered in blood running toward her.
Neighbors, many of whom did not know the dog had attacked a child and her mother, watched the scene unfold. One teen was in tears. Other people held their hands to their mouths.
A police spokesman tells how the dog was killed... er, "terminated," after it "became combative." Which is GI Joe-speak for "went apeshit from pain and fear." [/humanization] Heed the "graphic content" warnings.

The second video is from Brazil, and it's in Portuguese. Boy bites "pit bull"! [English article here.] And loses a tooth — a canine tooth. Eleven year old Gilbert da Silva [a cutie, and thank heavens he's going to be all right] needed four stitches and a rabies shot. What struck me about this video were the features so common to dog attack stories in the North American press: poor families, poor neighborhoods, and a scatter-bred, untrained resident dog, kept in the yard for security.

The links on this site are interesting [and if you need Google Translator, here's the link]. According to this article, after the state of Minas Gerais began regulating 17 "vicious breeds," the number of recorded bites fell dramatically -- except in the city of Divinópolis, where the number of recorded bites tripled "and attacks aren't always by breeds considered 'aggressive.'" [The breed referred to in one article as a Queue and in another as a Row is the Fila.]

July 20, 2008

David Beckham weeps with envy

Anyone who's lived with a pit bull knows this is the real deal. Good boy! [H/T to John over at For Your Entertainment.]

July 14, 2008



You know what bugs me the most about this vid? First there's a shot of Angel Falls in Venezuela and then a shot of Machu Picchu in Peru and then this little talking Chihuahua says he fought with the Aztecs...? Who were not, the last time I checked, from South America, oy.

The video responses convey such a degree of horror that the NY Times threw in a cringe of its own, but puppy peddlers must be drooling with anticipation. Shelters and rescues of America, get ready for a tsunami of Chihuahuas.

"Tracker hunts Palo Alto mountain lion after attack"

From SF Gate:
An animal tracker hired by city officials was heading into Foothills Park in Palo Alto tonight to hunt down and kill a mountain lion that attacked a man over the weekend, authorities said.

Foothills Park and the adjacent Pearson-Arastradero Preserve were closed today after officials learned of the incident, the first known mountain lion attack in Palo Alto, said Palo Alto Police Agent Dan Ryan.

The 50-year-old hiker was uninjured but narrowly escaped with his life after the cat leaped onto him from behind about 4 p.m. Saturday, sending man and beast tumbling down an embankment, Ryan said.
Read the rest here. Gah, my sis runs and hikes in that neck of the woods...

[Although children have been attacked by mountain lions in California, IIRC only adults have been killed.]

Happy Bastille Day!

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

La Marseillaise as performed by an actual French person [Mireille Mathieu]:

Gratuitous high school French class flashback:

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

Aux armes citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons!
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!

From Wikipedia [where you can find the hair-raising lyrics in English]:
"La Marseillaise" is a song written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg on April 25, 1792... It became the rallying call of the French Revolution and received its name because it was first sung on the streets by volunteers (fédérés) from Marseille upon their arrival in Paris after a young volunteer from Montpellier called François Mireur had sung it at a patriotic gathering in Marseilles. A freshly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general with Bonaparte and died in Egypt at 28.

Its lyrics are heavily oriented toward Prussian and Austrian armies which were attacking France at the time (Strasbourg itself was attacked just a few days after). The Battle of Valmy turned the tables.
A few summers ago I was having breakfast with a bunch of people at a friend's ranch and a fellow guest [she breeds and trains Rottweilers] said, "It's Bastille Day!" And all of us at the table started to sing the Marseillaise and someone asked, "How do you know that?" and we all answered at the same time, "Everybody knows it [kind of]!" Aux armes, citoyens...! [marches off to kitchen, followed by the pack]

July 11, 2008

AB 1634: bypassing the Appropriations Committee

And going straight to the full California State Senate for a floor vote. AB 1634: no dogs excepted for any reason, no Due Process, no Appeals Process, and owners can be cited for any complaint regardless of the truth of the complaint.

Here are all the California State Senators

Find your Senator and Assembly Member here.

No Due Process.
No Appeals Process.
Anonymous complaints accepted.
No exemptions.

A Pet Connection reader posted this quote:
"You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered."
AB 1634 is a train wreck, and it needs to be voted down as decisively as possible. To the barricades phones and fax machines, dog people...!

July 10, 2008

Return of the disaster that is AB 1634

This mess of a bill is scheduled to be heard on Monday, July 14. Contact the committee members, and please check out this terrific letter from Save Our Dogs — it's so terrific and so important, I'm reprinting the whole thing here:

RE: AB 1634 as amended June 18, 2008 — OPPOSE

Save Our Dogs opposes AB 1634 as amended June 18, 2008. We applaud the effort to narrow the bill to one that targets only irresponsible pet owners. Unfortunately, as written, this bill has several severe flaws that would leave millions of responsible dog and cat owners in California vulnerable to unsubstantiated complaints, would establish a system of penalties with no Due Process right to challenge them, and would establish into state law a false and counterproductive finding that spay/neuter is an appropriate remedy for a wide range of animal control infractions. Save Our Dogs is a grassroots coalition of over 120 organizations united to save California’s working dogs from AB 1634. Among our coalition are the two largest associations of K9 law enforcement officers in the nation, California’s largest K9 search-and-rescue organization, the world’s largest guide dog and assistance dog umbrella and advocacy organizations, as well as numerous stock dog and hunting dog organizations in California.

Save Our Dogs recommends the following modifications to AB 1634 to insure that it doesn’t have the unintended consequence of unfairly targeting responsible dog owners:

1. If a dog is picked up by Animal Control for being "at large", on the 1st or 2nd offence the owner who picks their dog up from impound would be ordered to pay a fine. The shelter may insert a microchip into the dog either in addition to the fine or in lieu of the fine, at the discretion of the local jurisdiction. The owner will be notified that he has the right to a hearing and appeals process to challenge the "at large" finding and fine. After the 3rd time an intact dog is picked up by Animal Control for being "at large", the owner who picks the dog up from impound will be ordered to either pay a fine or spay/neuter the dog, at the discretion of the local jurisdiction. The owner has a right to challenge the "at large" finding, fine, and sterilization order in a hearing and appeals process. A spay/neuter order would be voided with written notice from a California-licensed veterinarian that sterilization is medically ill-advised for the dog. Shelters may not hold dogs pending payment of the fine, pending proof of spay/neuter, or pending the hearing and appeals process.

2. Dogs would not be classified as "at large" if they are SAR dogs, hunting dogs, police dogs, detection dogs, herding dogs, or other working dogs who became loose while working or training for work. Dogs involved in competitive dog sports including but not limited to obedience, protection, agility, hunting, and flyball are not "at large" if they became loose while engaging in or training for those competitions in a setting where these events or training are allowed. Dogs are not "at large" if they became loose because of natural or man-made disasters, or the actions of someone other than the owner. Local governments may define other exemptions from "at large" status.

3. Save Our Dogs recommends that the impound fines not be increased from current law. While it appears logical that bigger fines will lead to better compliance, experience shows that bigger fines leads to fewer releases from impound because owners cannot afford to pay the fines. Bigger fines = more dogs euthanized in shelters.

4. The complaint-driven section of AB 1634 that refers to nearly all other animal control infractions should be deleted entirely. This section is without merit. It would not benefit society even if its very troubling due process deficiencies were corrected, and it establishes a false and dangerous precedent about the scope of the problems that spay/neuter can address.

5. The many references in AB 1634 to humane societies and SPCAs should be removed. They appear to grant sweeping animal control law enforcement powers to private organizations. It is already the case that some local governments contract animal control authority to their local humane society or SPCA. But this is done on a case-by-case basis, with prescribed limits, at the discretion of the local government. Removing references to humane societies and SPCAs from AB 1634 would maintain the status quo in this respect.

Save Our Dogs agrees that it is in the public's interest to sterilize the intact dog that is habitually "at large" due to owner negligence. The "at large" dog that is picked up and impounded 3 times by Animal Control has probably been "at large" not 3 times but dozens of times. “At large" intact male and intact female dogs are at risk of being a source of the unplanned litters that get relinquished to public animal shelters. The "at large" intact male dog is at risk of burdening responsible owners of intact females if these males roam until they find a female in estrus, jump a fence or through a window, and impregnate the female. It is in society's interest to prevent these outcomes of chronic irresponsible dog ownership. Sterilization will not stop dogs from being “at large” or make their owners responsible, but it will at least reduce the burden on society that these dogs impose.

Unlike the case of dogs that are "at large" due to owner negligence, there's no reason to believe that any other animal control infraction can be mitigated by sterilization. If an owner walks his dog on leash into areas where dogs aren't allowed, or doesn't clean up after his dog defecates, sterilization will not reduce the odds of this happening again. Owners cited because their dogs have expired rabies tags, are not wearing current rabies tags, or are unlicensed do not have any lower risk of repeating these infractions if their dogs are sterilized. In recent years a considerable body of conflicting evidence has been published in the scientific literature about the effects of sterilization on aggression in dogs. As such, no scientifically-defensible case can be made for the state to compel sterilization for aggressive dogs. Other remedies and punishments are appropriate in all of these cases, such as citations, fines, muzzling, confinement, etc. But sterilization is an inappropriate remedy for nearly all animal control infractions.

AB 1634 also contains no recognition of Californians’ Constitutional right to Due Process. In no circumstance may government fine or otherwise penalize its citizens without access to a process of administrative, civil, or criminal hearings to determine culpability and allow the accused to make their case. Yet AB 1634 establishes a system whereby unsubstantiated complaints, impoundments that had mitigating circumstances, and no system of Due Process would result in fines or government-ordered sterilization of dogs. This would amount to state-sanctioned vigilantism.

Save Our Dogs fully supports the section in AB 1634 that withholds state funding from local governments who fail to report their shelter statistics to the state. A first step to solving any problem is data. Complete and accurate shelter statistics are vital in efforts to identify the local programs that are enjoying success in reducing impounds and euthanasias. In recent years a large and increasing number of California jurisdictions have failed to report their shelter statistics to the state, as already mandated under state law. Apparently many local governments don’t perceive an incentive to obey this state law, since there is currently no penalty for violating it.

Save Our Dogs urges that AB 1634 either be defeated or amended as noted above. Thank you for your consideration.
Hat tip to Terrierman via the Pet Connection Blog. See y'all at the fax machine —

Memorable performances: Joe Cocker at Woodstock

With closed captioning.

July 9, 2008

Now it's personal

Picante, pero sabroso: "Even dusted with ashes, red-hot serrano peppers seem to glow in the eerie light of the Day Fire." Photo by Les Dublin from The Ojai Garden [2006].

Torn from today's headlines:
July 9, 2008 -- The CDC today warned that people at high risk of severe cases of salmonella infection -- infants, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems -- should not eat raw jalapeno peppers or raw serrano peppers [!!!] because of the ongoing salmonella outbreak.
"Most serranos rate between 10,000 and 20,000 Scoville units," says Wikipedia. We do indeed.

Peppers may be bad for you, but high fructose corn syrup is filled with natural goodness. The Ethicurean fills us in:
Conveniently timed with the Corn Refiners Association’s multimillion-dollar campaign to sweeten consumers’ appetite for high fructose corn syrup, the FDA has reversed its position on whether HFCS an be labeled “natural,” reports Food Navigator yesterday. “HFCS, like table sugar and honey, is natural. It is made from corn, a natural grain product,” says Corn Refiners President Audrae Erickson in the association’s statement gloating about welcoming the government approval.
It's a "quality" sweetner! Right. Oh, what the hey — it not as if 57 million Americans have pre-diabetes or anything. Thanks to The Ethicurean for great reporting and valuable info, and ditto to Christie and Gina at Pet Connection for their ongoing coverage of our tax dollars at work.

July 6, 2008

From rare plants to orca poop, these dogs can find it

On the left: wildlife ecologist Dave Vesely and Rogue locate a Kincaid's lupine. [Photo by Melissa Jansson.]

Did you know scientists were using dogs to locate whale poo, endangered plants, northern spotted owls and the scat of individual grizzly bears? Am I the last one to hear about this? I believe I am.

Check out this terrific article [with photo gallery] by Lily Raff for the Bend Bulletin:
In the last decade, scientists have started using dogs — and their sensitive noses — to locate hard-to-find plants and animals. Just as some dogs are used to sniff out drugs, bombs and cadavers, others are trained to sniff out rare plants and animals.

Among scientific techniques, this one is still considered new. But the dogs already are proving so successful that many scientists — including some in Central Oregon — are eager to enlist canines in their own research.
Only a small percentage of dogs are cut out for detection work. Researchers are always on the lookout for more detector dog candidates.

Trainers say they often acquire detector dogs from shelters. Many were brought back to a shelter after a family couldn’t handle them.

“The thing that makes them a really good dog for detection work kind of makes them a horrible pet,” [biologist Alice] Whitelaw said.

“Very, very, very, very tiny things give off scent. Just because we’re all going, ‘Oh, no!’ doesn’t mean the dogs can’t do it.” So far, in fact, dogs have sniffed beyond scientists’ wildest expectations.

Professor Sam Wasser is the director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington and a pioneer in the use of dogs for this sort of detection work. According to the article, "Wasser’s lab just finished constructing a 143-acre training and kennel facility for more than 25 species-detector dogs."
For every 1,000 dogs that he tests, Wasser said one to four will meet his criteria to enter training for detector dog work. Wasser said he looks only at big dogs because they have the stamina to cover long distances during a day of work. Many detector dogs are mutts.

“We look for ability and drive rather than a particular breed,” he said.

Wasser won’t adopt pit bulls even though they often seem like they would make great detector dogs.

“I suspect pit bulls would work very well but … many of the airlines won’t let us ship them. It’s really frustrating because sometimes we go through one of our searches and we find two or three pit bulls and no other dogs that meet the criteria. But if you can’t transport the dog to the job, it defeats the purpose.”
How sad is that.

I'm terribly sorry that pit bulls are blacklisted, but I'm totally stoked that dogs are doing this sort of work, and I'd love to give it a shot with my pups. Hmm... rare plants near Big Bear Lake...

Exotic pets, and more on Moe

Moe the chimp is still missing. The best-written take I've seen on the story comes from William Booth of the Washington Post:
Usually, a piece about an escaped chimpanzee is catnip to news editors, especially over a long holiday weekend. Like a good shark attack (or poodle-eating alligators or lurid panda sex), your missing-chimp story is a leafy green perennial of the news business. So here we go. Except. Except this is all sort of sad and disturbing.

Because maybe chimpanzees aren't really supposed to wear short pants and live in suburban houses with humans who treat them as their child. It never really ends well, does it?
Read the rest here.

Bethania Palma of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune takes a look at the trade in exotic pets — monkeys, big cats, alligators, wolves, bears:
"There's no such thing as domesticating a wild animal," said Carol Asvestas, director of the Wild Animal Orphanage in Texas.

Asvestas said she currently houses 600 animals, including primates, bears, big cats and wolves, some of which were pets who injured their owners.

But in many cases, she said, owners simply realize they cannot meet the demands of the animal they bought as a cuddly infant.

She said often, animals are neglected or abused because their owner becomes overwhelmed[...]

Asvestas said she has taken lions and tigers out of cages so small they could not turn around.
Diana Guerrero of Ark Animal Answers has much more on the story of the escaped chimpanzee, and I agree with her that "due to the high numbers of rattlesnakes in the area–it does not look good." Poor Moe. I hope he'll be OK.

"Friendly, feisty breeds identified"

I've said it a million times: if editors and columnists and politicians really cared about keeping children and others safe around dogs, they'd lose the "good breed, bad breed" mindset and listen to the real experts. Easier said than done, though, when news like this turns up:
This week at Discovery News you can learn about the world's most and least aggressive dogs [...]
Little dogs -- think Chihuahuas and Dachshunds -- tend to be feisty, while certain breeds, like Golden and Labrador Retrievers, are as mellow as their reputations suggest, found a new study that identified the most and least aggressive common dog breeds.
A study! How totally conclusive and, well, scientific! Breed A is "mellow" and breed B is "aggressive," so a parent's responsibility is clearly defined: get one of the "least aggressive" breeds to keep the kids safe. Look — there's even a list.
On the "least aggressive" end of the spectrum were Basset Hounds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Brittany Spaniels, Greyhounds and Whippets. Interestingly enough, several of these dogs also rated low for "watchdog behavior" and "territorial defense" behaviors, suggesting that they tend to be lovable family pets, but are less vigilant watchdogs than Chihuahuas and Dachshunds.
"They tend to be lovable family pets." Forget socialization, training, parental supervision — it's not as if dogs are individuals, for heaven's sake! The important thing, the big, neon, take-home message, is that aggressive breeds have been identified. Whew! Glad that's done.

Buried at the end of the article:
Duffy countered that "just because there is a genetic component to behavior does not necessarily mean that it is predestined."

"Anyone looking to bring a dog into their home should find out as much as possible about the individual dog's history and temperament," she advised. "Certainly some breeds are better with children than others on average. However, it wouldn't make sense to pass up a well-socialized, well-trained, non-aggressive Rottweiler for an atypically aggressive Labrador Retriever."
I know some ACOs that would collapse in hysterical laughter at that "atypical," but whatever. The most important quote of the whole article is the one getting the least attention, and children will continue to pay the price.

[One more thing. I'm inclined to think that the distinction between "good" and "bad" companion dogs has less to do with breed and more to do with how close certain dogs are to working or purpose-bred lines. The best dog for a typical family should probably be as far from working lines as possible.

This is one reason I'm not at all opposed to John Q Public's breeding his friendly, healthy Golden to the friendly, healthy collie next door. Throw the pedigrees away and breed for healthy, friendly and laid-back, if good pets are what you're after. Don't depend on working-dog people or show-dog people to provide the best companion dogs. Don't let politicians limit dog breeding to the folks whose dogs can run a hundred miles a day for days on end and the folks whose dogs can't walk around the block on a sunny day without collapsing. Those dogs aren't for everybody — and John Q Public knows it.]

Narrow street

Photo by Pino Buongiorno.

Working dogs in Texas

Sweet little cur gyp you got there, Henry!

There'll be no living with Henry and Cate now that they've been on Good Morning Texas. [ insert puparazzi wisecrack ;~) ]

Henry visited this past week with host Gary Cogill in a segment on working dogs, with appearances by Henry's mountain cur, a stockdog, and a couple of [authentic] rat terriers. You can catch the video here. The Three Letters were never mentioned. It was terrific, and the host was full of praise for Henry's great article on Texas working dogs in The Land Report, which you can read online here.

I should mention that Henry Chappell and photograper Wyman Meinzer have collaborated on a book called Working Dogs of Texas, due out in fall of 2009. [2009, dammit...! It's such hell being the Instant Gratification Poster Girl.]

July 5, 2008

Fires in California

Image from the European Space Agency. Visit the link for hi-res images.

InciWeb has all the latest official fire news, maps and more. Wikipedia article: 2008 California Wildfires.

Animals suffer as habitat is destroyed. Firefighter forums? Take a look at wildlandfire.com.