January 31, 2010

This is not herding.

This is not herding. This is not herding. THIS IS NOT HERDING. Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times.

It's prey drive. Say it with me: PREY DRIVE. Your dog is not herding.

But he's a "herding breed," you say?

Stop. Please.

Prey drive is what makes your dog nip at your elbow when you start running, if he doesn't know any better.

Also: there is no excuse for his not knowing better.

Ever notice how actual working-bred border collies — reactive dogs with the prey drive of a dozen hungry leopards — manage to run around an agility course without chasing and nipping at their handlers? Ever been to an actual sheepdog trial, and noticed how real stockdogs never "herd" spectators or stray children? That's because chasing people and nipping at them isn't herding.

So when I see something like this, I could beat my head on rocks. Dear jogger: your handsome Catahoula is not mouthing your elbow because he's a "herding breed." He's mouthing your elbow because he has no manners. Don't make excuses for his rude behavior. If you spend a little time training him, you'll both enjoy those jogging sessions a lot more.

[Have I made a distinction between prey drive and "herding" before? Why yes, in the very first post on this blog! I started this entire blogging endeavor just to rant about how much it grates to hear someone who has never worked livestock with a stockdog announce that Scout is "herding the kids" because Scout is a Sheltie and not a Cocker Spaniel and Shelties are "herding dogs" and oh please God make it stop before my head asplodes. Here is a reprint of that first post.]


I know a number of keen, athletic dogs that love to crouch, stalk and circle. In fact, if they were border collies you’d say that they were stylish workers, with a fair amount of eye and good balance on their “stock” — but they’re not border collies. They’re not even “herding” dogs. They’re pit bulls, and the behavior they’re displaying is prey drive.

I’ve been told that most animal behavior texts don’t discuss drives, and when they do, the terminology is ambiguous. The consensus seems to be that the term is antiquated, though dog trainers discuss drives all the time: play drive, fetch drive, food drive, defense drive, fight drive. [Check out Schutzhund Obedience: Training in Drive at Dogwise.com.] Animal behaviorist Roger Abrantes writes that it is important to “distinguish between instinct and drive,” though, and I’m happy to give it a shot.

Drive means one of several varieties of “compulsive energy,” such as aggression, sex or self-preservation. Instinct is the inherent capacity to perform a complete behavior sequence: in this case the gathering of stock over vast areas of land and the conscientious management of that stock, in great or small numbers, in relation to a shepherd who may be close at hand or out of sight and miles away. This particular behavior sequence and its variations are instinctive in that they cannot be taught, only enhanced through experience, much as the ability to swim is acquired by young otters and flight perfected by young hawks. Prey drive, to use Mark Derr's definition, is “aggression that expresses itself as boldness and assertiveness in seeking and capturing objects.”

In his book The Sheepdog, Its Work and Training Tim Longton writes of his border collie Nell, who was suckling two-week-old pups and had been left home on a busy day. The shepherd and his helpers were endeavoring to move an unruly mob of lambs:

“[Nell] heard us trying to drive this lot along a rough bank where felled woodland and a landslide added to the hazards. I could hear her crying to be let out; a few minutes later she appeared, having gained the window. Two young lambs dashed uphill. Nell set off after them. She was fighting a losing battle, as the lambs split, and as soon as she had one on its way the other galloped madly in the other direction. I did not command her but, appreciating the position, Nell pushed one lamb in front of her and nosed it right in among the rest of the lambs. Then she returned for the other, which by now had escaped into a 200-acre field with 400 sheep in it. We continued our slow journey, and when we reached the far end there was Nell with a lamb pinned at the back of a gate. It was the lamb we wanted.”

That’s herding instinct. (Nell was English Shepherd’s Champion in 1951.) "It cannot be stressed too strongly," writes Longton, "that if you want a work dog both parents should be work dogs." Border collies bred to a working standard — that is, bred solely to work livestock — are the finest stockdogs on earth.

But when your sheltie, Belgian shepherd, beagle or Jack Russell runs happy, yappy laps around the neighbor’s grandkids, chases water from the garden hose until he’s soaked, nips at the hands and heels of your squealing six-year-old, runs furiously after every car, cat and bicycle he sees, or shows what passes for balance on dog-broke sheep in a round pen, that’s not herding instinct — it’s prey drive.

Prey drive is evident to some degree in most healthy dogs. Chihuahuas can exhibit prey drive. Poodles can display it. The only difference between their behavior and your neighbor’s sheltie’s behavior is that when poodles and chihuahuas get excited and chase children and nip fingers and heels, no one smiles and says, “Look! Bit-Bit is herding!"

The great majority of dogs in the American Kennel Club’s ironically named Herding Group would ignore livestock completely if it weren’t for prey drive. With sufficient prey drive, though, a responsive dog of practically any breed could win an AKC herding title. I’ve seen a determined pair of Lhasa apsos compete successfully in an arena trial, and years ago Diane Jessup’s pit bull Dread won high score on ducks at an ASCA [Australian Shepherd Club of America] competition — he pushed the ducks around the course with his nose. Not real herding, Ms. Jessup has said, just a good dog obliging his handler. (Dread was also titled on sheep.)

The American Kennel Club has always limited its herding contests to dogs in the AKC Herding Group: a face-saving conceit that perpetuates the myth of “herding breeds” with unique talents beyond the ken of pit bulls and Lhasa apsos. Perhaps this really was the case one hundred fifty years ago — before the onset of dog shows and breeding to a conformation standard — but with one or two notable exceptions, today’s “herding breeds" no longer have any working instincts that set them apart from Labrador retrievers or Dalmatians. In fact, during a major show circuit a few years ago, the most impressive “herding” dog at the popular “herding instinct test” was a friend’s golden retriever.

Herding, of course, has its evolutionary roots in prey drive. But prey drive itself — chasing, circling, crouching, stalking — is no reflection of herding background, instinct, ability, or potential. If it were, I’d be running my pit bulls in the USBCHA Finals.

I love dogs with high prey drive; they are easy to motivate and a joy to train. But when prey drive is dismissed, excused or poorly managed, it can place children and others at risk of a dog bite or attack. Ask my neighbor: Art spent time in the hospital after he was chased and pulled from his bike by a German shorthaired pointer. Dogs with high prey drive need appropriate exercise, good training and careful management — recommendations that apply to all dogs, but particularly to the ones that are more than two degrees north of stuffed.

When someone with a conformation-bred dog says, “Oh, look — Scout is herding the kids!” the truth is that Scout is only doing what any energetic dachshund, golden retriever or cocker spaniel would do under the same circumstances. It’s prey drive. It isn’t by any means unique to the so-called “herding breeds,” and it certainly isn’t “herding.”


Related posts:
How to create a working stockdog
Great read: The Dog Wars by Donald McCaig
On titles and codes of ethics [or, "How can you tell if a dog is worth breeding if he doesn't have a title?" Answer: Watch him work.]
Zamora Hills [and some dog show]
The soft bigotry of low expectations suits the BCSA just fine
Inside animal minds

January 25, 2010

Why the snow-removal guys couldn't find the cabin

They actually know where it is [I think] — they just couldn't get to it. There are advantages and disadvantages to being a little ways from a paved road, grasshopper. The crew will give it another shot tomorrow. More snow on the way, ay caramba. Photo by Robert Gauthier for the Los Angeles Times: one of a series you can view here.

January 21, 2010

BIRD by Andrew Zuckerman

Andrew Zuckerman's website is here, and the book of photographs he created from the sessions above is here. H/T: Kitsune Noir.

[Update: we [Bobby at KN and I, and Lord knows how many others] were free to embed the video yesterday, but today the embed option no longer exists. Still worth watching — just click on the depressing message above to visit Vimeo.]

January 19, 2010

You'll cry, you'll cheer

I did, anyway. More on the team's activities here.

Rainy night links

Big dude or dudette in the sky...? It's me, down here in SoCal. You can turn it off now. Drought's over. Rain gauge is busted. Thanks, dude, it's been real.

Say again?

Gonna get worse?! Gonna last the whole week?! Oh, duuuuude...

While I still have electricity, here are some links:

First of all, a must-read by Rinalia at For the Pits. [Have I mentioned that Pacelle, Goodwin and the HSUS make me puke?]


The L.A. Times [better late than never] has a report on environmental groups' opposition to feral cat colonies, and the recent injunction by a Superior Court judge "barring the city from subsidizing or promoting the trap-neuter-release program until environmental studies are completed." For related links, see Cats in court.


Following Pet Connection's post and discussion on Rescue pets: How do you know when it’s ‘right’?, along comes a post by Marie Finnegan at Dog Star Daily:
What I don't understand is why more people don't ask trainers their opinion in finding the right dog for them. We see and work with more breeds and shelter dogs regularly than they will ever meet in a lifetime. Some of us even live with multiple breeds in our own homes. Not to mention the fact that dog trainers know about dog behavior and breed traits because it is our job to know this information.
Makes sense, but there's that whole "arranged marriage" vibe, nome sane? I kid. It's a good idea to take a trainer you know, or better yet, a brutally honest friend and dog person. Second opinions are a good thing.


Finally, please read Michael Jernigan's latest essay for the NY Times Home Fires project: it's an appreciation of his guide dog Brittani.

From the author's bio: Michael Jernigan, a contributor to Home Fires, served in 2004 with Easy Company, Second Battalion, Second Marine Regiment in Mahmudiya, Zadon, and Falluja, Iraq, where he was severely injured and blinded by a roadside bomb. He was medically retired from the Marine Corps in December 2005.

If I try to quote part of the article, I'll end up doing a copy-and-paste of the whole thing. Also, the link is in the essay, but I'll reprint it here: read more about the Paws for Patriots program at Southeastern Guide Dogs.

How did I miss this?

Apparently the alpha roll is now the zen down [pdf: see page 6].
[Y]our dog should learn to calm down when you instruct him to. To do this, we help the dog physically to move into a comfortable, resting position – even though at first, most dogs have no intention of doing so.

First, have your dog lie down. If he responds to a “down” cue, that’s great. If you need to kneel down beside him, and help him down, using pressure on his shoulders or gently lifting his legs out from under him, that’s okay too. At any rate, once he’s down, you should be kneeling beside him. Now, gently roll him onto his side – it’s often helpful to press him back into your body, but it’s not necessary. When he’s on his side, place one of your hands on his shoulder, the other on his rump, and apply just enough pressure to keep him down. When you feel his muscles relax, you can release him quietly. At first, he may only lie on his side for a second or so – or he may fight it intensely. Stick with it, and he’ll learn to relax all the way, and probably enjoy it.

You can use this exercise whenever you wish, but it’s especially handy if your dog has become aroused by the sight of another dog, a cat or a “scary” person.

No Marin jokes, please.

[H/T: Lenajo at the Border Collie Boards, who wrote that the zen down was "promoted in detail" at the APDT's Portland conference in 2007. Bad me for being so out of the loop.]

Photo: Sleepy Puppy, by basykes on Flickr.

January 18, 2010

January 17, 2010

International Medical Corps in Haiti

The IMC is hard at work in Port-au-Prince.

International Medical Corps, one of the best emergency medical teams on the planet, is on the ground in Haiti and working at a hospital in Port-au-Prince. From their web site:
We believe there are 1,500 patients seeking treatment and approximately 70%-80% need surgery. So far there have been 70 amputations and another 150+ are needed.
IMC is also working out of their hotel, Villa Creole, "which has been turned into a makeshift clinic," according to their web site. Here's the IMC home page. I could just slap myself for not mentioning them earlier. Here's their page with info on Haiti -- you can donate $10 by texting.

Yéle Haiti has come under recent scrutiny, but IMC's track record is impressive, and impeccable.

Also: Mensch of the Month award to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who stood fast all night at a field hospital when other medical personnel were ordered to leave.
CNN posted video from Friday night that shows the Belgian team packing up its supplies and leaving with a U.N. peacekeeper escort in marked trucks.

Gupta stayed behind, and along with CNN staffers, security personnel and at least one Haitian nurse who refused to leave, took care of 25 patients as best they could, given the lack of medical supplies.

"I've never been in a situation like this. This is quite ridiculous," Gupta says on camera.

CNN reported that Gupta "monitored patients' vital signs, administered painkillers and continued intravenous drips. He stabilized three new patients in critical condition."

The Belgian team returned Saturday morning.
I am so not going to snark at the Belgian emergency response team. Things are beyond chaotic in Haiti right now, and Belgian responders have been saving people right and left. I will, however give a round of applause to Dr. Gupta and his people. [stands, applauds, runs off to donate to IMC]

"Ich will auch so viele Hunde"

Or, as we might say here in SoCal, "Duuuude...! I totally want that many dogs, too."

H/T to the irrepressible Roughly [oops!] Ruffly Speaking for this great vid of fit, happy, gorgeous, purpose-bred dogs in beautiful condition and, oh yes, beautifully trained. [Lovely encounter with a loose dog at 1:37.] If this gentleman [a sled dog racer from Germany] can handle sixteen dogs so effortlessly, managing one or two should be a piece of cake for the rest of us, right? Right...?


January 15, 2010

"Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world"

Rescued from a collapsed building in Port-au-Prince, two-year-old Redjeson Hausteen Claude is reunited with his mother. The firefighter/rescuer is a member of the Community of Madrid's Emergency and Immediate Response Team, ERICAM. Photo by Gerald Herbert: see the full size version here, at the Big Picture.

It's incredibly moving to me that this can happen: that in the wake of a disaster, members of rescue teams from around the world set aside their day-to-day concerns, leave their homes, rush to the devastated area and go to work saving lives and helping others.

While the rescue teams are hard at work, the rest of us can make some small efforts of our own to diminish the horror, the grief and the suffering in Haiti. My homeboy James Fallows suggests a donation to Food for the Poor, and of course the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and Yéle Haiti are good organizations if you're still looking to donate. Texting a donation will set you back a relatively painless five bucks if you follow the directions at Yéle Haiti, ten via the Red Cross link above.

Looking for updates on conditions in Haiti? Boing Boing has a great compilation.

And the search dogs...! Lots of links and photos from Nag on the Lake, Discovery News, Dog Art Today, Unleashed and a selection of news outlets. Here's an update from the Search Dog Foundation:

At 1:15pm local time, an SDF Search Team in Port-au-Prince located three girls, trapped alive since Tuesday in the rubble of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.

Bill Monahan and his Border Collie, Hunter, were searching a neighborhood near the Presidential Palace, concentrating on a large bowl-shaped area of rubble which was all that remained of a 4-story building.

After criss-crossing the area, Hunter pin-pointed the survivors’ scent under 4 feet of broken concrete and did his “bark alert” to let Bill know where the victims were. Bill spoke with the survivors, then passed them bottles of water tied to the end of a stick. As they reached for the water one of the girls said, “Thank you.” Highly trained rescue crews from California Task Force 2 are now working to extricate the girls from the wreckage and provide first aid.

Bill and Hunter continue to search, as do the 6 other SDF teams on the ground in Haiti:

California Task Force 2 – Los Angeles County

Also at work in Haiti are handlers and their dogs from France:




and Taiwan, among other countries:

It is written in the Talmud, "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." Here's another view of that little miracle:

The photo is by Carol Guzy of the Washington Post. If Carol's name looks familiar to dog people, it's probably because of her brilliant photos of the Vick dogs. And if you were to ask Carol or the Spanish fireman, "Why are you in Haiti now?" each one might say to you, in his or her own language and in his or her own way, I came to Haiti because that's my blood down there.

January 11, 2010

Link liberation: scary wolf stories

Ernest Thompson Seton: Wolf Study. Pen and ink with water color (1896).

I first read Seton's Lobo, the King of Currumpaw when I was eight or nine [thanks, Uncle Rudy, for the gift of Wild Animals I Have Known], and I can still recite parts of that story from memory.
A lion shorn of his strength, an eagle robbed of his freedom, or a dove bereft of his mate, all die, it is said, of a broken heart; and who will aver that this grim bandit could bear the three-fold brunt, heart-whole? This only I know, that when the morning dawned, he was lying there still in his position of calm repose, but his spirit was gone—the old king-wolf was dead.

I took the chain from his neck, a cowboy helped me to carry him to the shed where lay the remains of Blanca, and as we laid him beside her, the cattle-man exclaimed: "There, you would come to her, now you are together again."
That account of a great wolf's life and death just killed me. A couple years ago PBS ran a show about Lobo and Seton, called The Wolf that Changed America. [You can watch video selections here.] The website has a collection of related images, and when I saw the photo Seton took of Lobo at the end, the real Lobo, with each leg in a horrible trap, I actually broke down and cried.

Yes, I'm a child of the suburbs. [The very first subdivision to spring up in the midst of Pleasantville's fields and orange groves, but still.]

Like grizzlies, wolves fascinate and frighten me all at once.

These two stories are both hair-raising, and true, and they don't have happy endings.

Gros Ventre wolves kill 3 dogs [this article broke my heart]

Wolf kills hunting hound

Watch out, wolves of Idaho – the Becker dogs are ready to rumble [Edited to add: check out the follow-up post's beautiful photos.]
Dr. L. David Mech's International Wolf Center.
Cat Urbigkit's Wolf Watch.
Off Endangered List, but What Animal Is It Now?

January 10, 2010

I am so buying a bunch of these

This decal will look great on the truck's rear window. And on the fridge at the cabin, and on my laptop, and in the classroom ... Purchasing info here.

Mountain lion in your driveway? Bear in the barn? Hippies in the hot springs? Who ya gonna call? Around here, it's usually senior wildlife biologist Kevin Brennan of the California Department of Fish and Game. Here's Kevin carrying a drowsy young mountain lion away from a local elementary school:

Fish and Game Wardens and wildlife biologists in California do incredibly important work, and these days the department they work for needs public support more than ever. Consider:
California's game wardens protect wildlife and public resources and enforce hunting and fishing regulations. But warden numbers have been depleted by attrition.

Today there are about 210 field-level game wardens to patrol the state, recognized as the lowest ratio of wardens to population of any North American state or province.

Money from the special stamps will pay for training and equipment for game wardens. The stamp comes in the form of a sticker that can be affixed to a car window. Anyone can purchase a stamp; it does not have to be purchased with a hunting or fishing license. [Source]

As if budget cuts weren't bad enough, the California Department of Fish and Game is reeling from the tragic loss of three biologists and a pilot who were killed in a helicopter crash last week. [A memorial fund has been established, and this article tells how to make a donation.]

Times are tough indeed for the good people who protect so much:
* more than 1,000 native fish and wildlife species, 6,300 native plant species and 360 threatened or endangered species
* California's 159,000 square miles of land (414 square miles per warden)
* 1,100 miles of coastline, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 4,800 lakes and reservoirs and 80 major rivers

And with the lowest ratio of wardens to population in North America! Buying a bunch of stickers is the least I can do to show my thanks. That, and a new sidebar link: it should be just a few inches to the right.

Double suspension [for Heather H]

Woo hoo! [Reference is to this post.]

The trouble with "temperament tests." Also: Oreo

Fish-belly white and dressed to depress: it's "Sue Sternberg’s essential temperament assessment tool." Because nothing says "I'm great with kids!" like exhibiting confusion or shutting down when you're starving and they give you food and then some schlemiel starts poking you in the face with a stinky piece of plastic.

A smart woman who sometimes writes about pets blogged recently about her visit to a large, urban New England animal shelter. While she was there, she watched a number of behavior evaluations.

Volunteers from a local humane [Gaaack...! Sorry, I choked there for a minute] "humane" group tested the dogs. Each hungry dog [most were noticeably below a healthy weight, the blogger said] was given a dish of canned food, and after the dog had taken a couple ravenous gulps, the fake hand was used to try to take the food away. Any dog that growled or snapped was labeled unadoptable and slated to be killed.

This happened last week, people, in 20 effing 10. I could beat my head on rocks.

The HSUS has an endless apologia for the fake-hand, one-strike-and-you're-dead approach to temperament assessment. "Behavior evaluations are indispensable," sez the HSUS — although, gosh darn it, "evaluations can be adversely affected by uncontrollable factors such as stressful shelter environments." You think?

Over at the most excellent Dog Star Daily, Erica Houck Young has a more concise take. Excerpt:
The problem with temperament testing is that it doesn't give us an accurate portrait of a dog's personality/behavior [...] I won't rule out that some clues may be present, such as being wary of handling by strangers, while other things like resource guarding are the product of displaced stress. Each situation needs to be addressed separately and, hopefully, worked on. When I worked as an adoption manager at an SPCA I found that most of the in-kennel behaviors present in the adopted dog almost vanished completely at home. Dogs who resource guarded bowls didn't present any of that with their new families. Dogs who lunged and barked at dogs on leash were calm and going to dog parks without issue. On the other side of it, dogs with "no" issues in the shelter were resource guarding or having trouble with the resident dog they moved in with.
Read the entire post here.

Keeping in mind that the plural of anecdote is, in fact, data, here are two anecdotes:

My little pit bull Bounce, the dearest dog ever and the dog with the most perfect, bomb-proof, happy, friendly temperament in the history of the universe, came home from the pound in a food-guarding frame of mind. It was an easy fix — but she probably would have bitten that stupid hand if our pound had employed it. [The shelter supervisor had been to a Sternberg seminar and told me, "That woman wants to kill everything." Have I mentioned how much I love my awesome local pound?] A pushy kindergartner could bury his little arms up to the elbows in Bounce's food dish now, and she'd just wag her tail and give him a lick.

The landshark, in contrast, was so shy and gentle and submissive and stove-up when I brought her home from the pound that she wouldn't touch her food unless I left the room. A few months later she had morphed into a resource-guarding switchblade on legs. Google "alpha bitch" and the results are all about Lulu. Kids? She hates 'em. But she would never have challenged that phony hand.

Erica Houck Young is tired of "pigeon-holing and biased interpretations based on NORMAL dog behavior in abnormal conditions." Toss the plastic finger of fate, in other words. Get the dog out of that concrete, chain-link prison and into a foster environment, and do some training. As the woman says, "It's energy better spent."


But what about abnormal dog behavior in a shelter setting? What should be done with a dangerous dog like Oreo? Should I have titled this post "I'm incredibly thankful Oreo is dead and not suffering like a Gitmo prisoner at the hands of people who think love makes everything better"?

It depends.
What they did.

Oreo was the unpredictable young pit mix euthanized ["murdered," if that's your ideology] by the ASPCA last November.

The ASPCA was absolutely correct in its decision to euthanize Oreo, if you ask me. God bless them for having the courage to do what was right for the dog, when they knew it would be a public relations disaster of ginormous proportions.

The most horrible thing is not death -- it’s being stuck between life and death, not being able to die and not being able to get better. People in this situation are called zombies. The American culture likes zombies because they make money.[prairiemary]

From USA Today:
Oreo lunged and snarled at dogs and people, often growing so angry when she couldn't reach them that she'd redirect her anger at the closest person. She often raged without any clear stimulant at all, as if there was something simmering deep inside her that spilled over without warning.

She had 59 sessions of about 45 minutes each to try to dampen her reactiveness and unpredictability. Nothing worked. "We have one behaviorist who fears nothing when it comes to dogs. About once every three years she's afraid of one. She was afraid of Oreo," Sayres said.

They called in an outside veterinary behaviorist. She expressed grave concerns. It might be possible to drug Oreo every day so she'd pose less threat, the vet said, but the drugs might, as they sometimes (though rarely) do, make her worse.
And the sanctuary demanding that the dog be handed over to them? God help us. UPDATE: it was a lot worse than I imagined. [H/T to Heather H in the comments section.]
What sort of life would Oreo have had, in a sanctuary?

That’s a good question to ask BEFORE you kill the dog. [Source]
Seriously, how could anyone imagine that question wasn't asked before Oreo was euthanized?
"Unless she was put in virtually complete isolation," she'd live a "life of constant stress," [the ASPCA's Stephen Zawistowski, a Ph.D. behaviorist who was deeply involved in Oreo's treatment] said. She was so reactive to so many things that she was almost always agitated. "We tried to desensitize her, and that tended to make her more reactive. The kind of love, attention and handling that has worked with so many other dogs made her more hostile," he said. Drugging her might have lowered her aggression, but if drugs succeeded, "you have to be certain someone would always maintain and monitor this treatment for the next 12 to 14 years … and there can be organ damage over time." And finally, complete isolation from all people and animals is "not a quality of life we can accept." [Source]

Could Oreo's condition have improved with all that love waiting for her at Pets Alive? Oh, absolutely — and I'm sure Terri Schiavo would have regained consciousness if only her evil doctors had prayed harder. Let's keep Terri on life support forever, and keep trying stuff! Maybe something will work! Excuse my shudder. A dog "in a state of constant stress" due to genetics and/or brain trauma is not, should not, be a kind of guinea pig for rescue groups to take turns experimenting on.

It speaks volumes that of the individuals protesting Oreo's "murder" and demanding the removal of the ASPCA's Ed Sayres, not one, as far as I know, is a veterinary behaviorist, a dog trainer, or a person active and experienced in pit bull rescue.

On its Oreo page, Pets Alive asks, "How is being DEAD rather than alive better for [Oreo's] welfare?"

If they have to ask, they are too ignorant of the scope of canine health and behavior to be given responsibility for a dog like Oreo. [I'm inclined to think they're too overwrought to be given responsibility for a goldfish, but that's just cold, analytical me.] The tragedy is that if Oreo's Law passes, a decision by a group of trainers, veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists could be overruled by any rescue with a 501(c)(3); and an agitated, reactive dog in constant stress might be kept alive for years — warehoused — not because this benefits the dog in any way, but because it makes the rescue group feel so good about itself.


Have to add a heartfelt golf clap for Emily S., who kept her cool in this thread despite the snark, the sanctimony and the personal attacks. Ironic that she was probably the only person in the thread with rescued pit bulls of her own.

Bark Magazine article on temperament testing: Dog is in the Details
Maddie's Fund: Behavioral Assessment in Animal Shelters (2007)

January 7, 2010

Big whoop: Coyotes yip, shriek, howl the night away

" Anything you can sing, I can sing louder
I can sing anything louder than you
No you can't, Yes I can, No you can't, Yes I can
No you can't, Yes I can, yes I can!" Coyotes on Flickr by matt knoth.

Gah, I love this music. Great big hat tip to Camera Trap Codger, the man behind this beaut of a photo and many others.

Heard something like Track #3 right under the window up at the cabin this summer. Coyotes are loud. That scrawny chest hides a mighty amplifier. Track #6 and Track #20 sound like standard cabin serenades, the ones that wake me up at two or three in the morning happy to be warm and safe inside. Great vocalists, coyotes.


Wild Coyote Sounds
at Soundboard.

January 3, 2010

When can I move in?

"Let's sleep on the balcony tonight." I think this is my all-time favorite bed ever. The Mann house in Sonoma Valley, California, by Fernau + Hartman Architects.

Christie Keith asked her Dogged blog readers to imagine where they'd live, if they could live somewhere else.

Fernau + Hartman Architects have designed several homes in Northern California that would be just perfect for me, thanks.

More wonderful photos here, at Desire to Inspire.

January 2, 2010

Vestibular Disease II

My earlier thread on vestibular, Vestibular disease: leave a light on, now has over 100 comments. On some computers [that is to say, in some browsers] the comment form can no longer handle the load, so please post new comments here.

I would like to thank all those who have shared stories. Vestibular is a miserable experience for both dogs and owners, and reading about others' experiences can sometimes help. For anyone watching a beloved companion go through this: you have my prayers and best wishes for the return of your dog's health.

[That's my good girl Piper up above.]

ETA: Now with two pages of over 200 comments! Thanks, all! You may need to click "newer" to see the latest ones.

"Living on nothing but food stamps" — with dogs [and Western values]

Two images by Stephen Crowley for the NY Times photo essay, Living on Food Stamps. See related article here. Quotes below are from the photo essay:

Diane Marshall, 27, lives with her brother Kevin Zirulo. "We've got all kinds of [discarded furniture they have scavanged] on Craigslist we're trying to sell," she said. But she said that it fluctuates, "One day you have a bunch of sales and you get by, and the next it's you're calling mom and saying, 'hey, I need toilet paper.'" Mr. Zirulo added that Marshall just posted on Craigslist that she has a female Chihauhua that she wants to get pregnant. "I don't know if this little dog is able to pop out that many puppies, but if we had an extra puppy or two we'd be happy to sell them."

[Isabel] Bermudez worries about crime now that she lives in a rental apartment. She keeps dogs for protection.

On the one hand, I have some opinions about these photos; on the other hand, I've never been broke, jobless and hungry.

[For one thing, I'd be inclined to offer to pay for the Chihuahua to be spayed. Risk of complications if the dog gets pregnant; small pups are a dime a dozen — you'll wind up giving them away in front of WalMart, etc. Let me pay for the spay.]

I saw the NY Times photos after reading this passage by author Mary Elizabeth Thurston on the Bad Rap blog:
"Pet keeping is now one of the Western values being exported to cultures where animals have traditionally been viewed as consumable resources. With only the affluent in these countries able to afford keeping dogs for pleasure, pets again are becoming emblems of prestige, just as they were in nineteenth-century Europe. So we might ask, as the far reaches of the globe are transformed by a second wave of industrialization, whether the human-dog relationship in these developing nations will follow the same evolutionary pattern. Will the camera again document a canine pilgrimage from slave to soulmate as these societies grapple with concepts of self-determination and a compassionate ethic that embraces us all?"
What would the rest of humanity do without our Western values, I wonder. Here in the developed world our dogs are soulmates, not slaves. So I turn from news about guard dogs and puppy mills and the latest U.S. dogfight busts and 100 Huskies in Quebec rescued from neglect to a guest post from Catherine in Bangladesh, posted on the terrific blog One Bark at a Time. Excerpt:
The Bangladeshis are starvation poor, but many share what little they have with the dogs and cats on the street. It might take six bearers, sharing lunches, digging in garbage, and pooling their tea money, to feed one crippled old dog, but the miracle is that those six do share.
Read the whole post here, and Part 2 here. Catherine again:
There are no animal welfare groups here dealing with dogs and cats: the few concerned people are fighting the illegal poaching of endangered species, and the traffic in exotic pets. They are not doing well, because although there are laws against these things, no one can enforce them. If folk ask about helping, they should give their donations to proven development groups who are working to improve things for the people here. The people will share: it's what they do.

If you'd like to lend a hand, here is a long list of international aid and development groups to check out: Get Involved - Half the Sky.

After midnight

"St. Sylvester mummers (Silvesterklausen) perform in the village of Urnaesch in the region of Appenzell, December 31 2009. Three very different groups of mummers distinguished as the beautiful (Schoene), the ugly (Wueschte) and the less ugly (Schoe-Wueschte) dressed up in costumes made of twigs, cones, mosses and dried leaves proceed from house to house in small groups singing and ringing their bells wishing families a prosperous year." Best. costumes. ever.
Photo by Miro Kuzmanovic for Reuters, via
The Big Picture.

Random stuff.

Quote o' the day:
Man, nothing saps my motivation to write like smart people I agree with writing about the same topic. [Ars Technica]
Yet I must somehow find the energy to provide linkage, at least.

Interesting questions that have brought readers [via Google] to the blog this evening:
when will eye open after sticthes from dog bite
do hyenes bite harder than bears

The worst movie of the decade, says Ta-Nehisi Coates. OMG yes. Steve Lopez killed it dead: "an artless, dated and manipulative morality tale on the evils of the sprawling metropolis, shot with a long lens from behind the bars of a gated seaside community." It reeked, but Steve's slapdown totally rocked.

From fave design blog Desire to Inspire, three installments of a regular feature:

All this and great health care, too: urban Swede and rural Swede. Beautiful.

Finally, from the December trip up north, a breathtakingly fit and lovely greyhound [recently retired], regaining composure after an unsettling run in with an off-lead, out-of-control border collie. No, not one of mine: they were home in SoCal.

Thunder thighs like an Olympic ice skater. What a beautiful dog. Click for bigger.

January 1, 2010

Crying Time

The time sink that is YouTube — hours of my life I'll never get back. What the hell, it's vacation.

Ray Charles and Buck Owens sing Buck's Crying Time [Thanks, Mexico Bob]:

Another classic:

Next should be one of YouTube's ten gazillion versions of La Llorona, but no — here is Lila Downs singing about a woman leaving her lover for another man. The lover protests, the woman cries, the end. A great little song, very well sung: