February 26, 2010

"If you think it's a socialist plot... drop out of the federal employees' health benefit program."

Like the good people at Obsidian Wings, I'm impressed to hear a senator say this stuff. Sen. Durbin Destroys Republican Arguments on Malpractice Reform:

And in related health care summit news, an ObWi commenter links to right-wing media coverage.

February 24, 2010

Who's a bully now? Brampton hires big-city law firm to defend the indefensible

[Photo from Facebook's Injustice Brampton Dogs on Death Row.]

It's official: Brampton bureaucrats have lost their minds.

They have hired a pricey Toronto law firm on the Brampton taxpayers' dime to defend the warrantless seizure [and, perhaps, the killing] of friendly dogs that have committed no offense. Dogs that belong to law-abiding Brampton citizens. That is, to the very people Brampton's government is obliged to protect and serve.

At least I thought that was the way it worked, but apparently Brampton officials think covering their posteriors saving face is their first priority, and cost be damned.

Imagine what people like this might be capable of doing to those poor impounded dogs — the dogs no family member or family-chosen veterinarian is allowed to visit.

And the cost? If Brampton officials are this determined to torment their own citizens and kill beloved pets, the cost may turn out to be far greater than they imagined.

More bullshite in Brampton
Brampton dogs: Still on Death Row


Random news articles from the RSS feed:

Idaho hunter takes 180-pound wolf, via The Oudoor Pressroom. Head and skin to the left, from an image by Shawn Gust for the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Sea Wolves are not Sea Dogs, by Heather Houlahan over at her Raised by Wolves blog: hands down the best thing I expect to read on the trainer-killed-by-orca tragedy.

As they say, read it and weep.

February 21, 2010

Pringle of Scotland - Life Behind The Scenes

If this video had a rating, it might be PG-13. Also: manky means "extremely gross." But you knew that.

Brampton dogs: Still on Death Row

Hmmm... sure looks like a pit mix to me. Kilo ponders his fate during Saturday's rally for the boxer-mixes locked up in Brampton. Rambo and Brittany haven't seen their families for over a month, for some damn reason that is too incredibly cruel and stupid and petty for me to imagine. Stay classy, Brampton bureaucrats. [All photos from Facebook's most excellent Injustice Brampton Dogs on Death Row].

This coming weekend there will be a rally in Kingston, Ontario, to protest the persecution of responsible dog owners in the province. The rally will be in front of City Hall, Kingston, at noon on Saturday, February 27th.

As is clear from the situation in Brampton, Ontario law grants officers the right to come into a home with no warrant and confiscate a licensed dog that has committed no offense. If the dog isn't killed for the crime of possessing a short coat and a relatively broad skull, he can be shipped from the province and adopted out to total strangers.

"Issues like this must be thoughtfully and cautiously considered," say Brampton officials, as they spread fear and anguish among law-abiding citizens, and kill or threaten to kill good dogs. "Thoughtfully considered"? Spare me. Like all terrible legislation, Ontario's breed-specific law is at its disastrous worst when interpreted and enforced by idiots bullies like the ones in Brampton.

A few of the signs from Saturday's rally in Brampton. Did I mention that someone in Brampton's City Hall found this blog via Facebook? Leave the Dark Side, Brampton bureaucrats!

For more Brampton coverage, please check out the following blogs:
One Bark at a Time
KC Dog Bog
Brindle Stick

Amen, brudder.

February 20, 2010

Daddy the Pit Bull, RIP

Dear old Daddy with Cesar Millan.

There's an In Memoriam page over on Cesar Millan's website, but traffic is so heavy it's taking forever to load. Excerpt:

Cesar Millan, all his family and friends, his staff and volunteers, and dog lovers all around the world today will mourn the passing of one of the most loyal, trusting, well-balanced, and influential pit bull ambassadors the world has ever known. Daddy, Cesar’s longtime friend and partner in canine rehabilitation, died peacefully surrounded by family on Friday the 19th of February. He was sixteen years old.
[He lives on] in the hearts and minds of everyone who knew him as a calm, sweet, and mellow example of a widely misunderstood breed.

In Loving Memory.

If you would like to honor Daddy’s memory and the contribution he made to improve the lives of other animals, you can make a donation to Daddy’s Emergency Animal Rescue Fund, which will provide assistance for dogs who are victims of abuse or violence, man-made disasters (hoarder and puppy mill rescues), and large-scale natural disasters (hurricanes, fires, and other natural catastrophes).

Quiet Nights

I go to sleep on one shore,
wake up on another.

Boat all fitted out,
tugging at its rope.

- Ray Carver

February 16, 2010

"What is the first law of the foot?"

Photographer Dave Bonta writes: "A first-year female captured on our property and fitted with a transmitter as part of a research project by the National Aviary and the Carnegie Museum's Powdermill Avian Research Center. See here for background, and the main blog post here." Photo from Dave Bonta's Flickr set, golden eagle, via that Illinois Birders' Forum thread from the previous post. Click for big.

Illinois: Golden Eagle attacks White-tailed Deer

Ye gods.

Via the most excellent Birdchick: check out this amazing photo series of a Golden Eagle attacking a Whitetail. Props to Eric Walters of the Illinois Birders' Forum for posting the story and photos, and for having his camera handy for one of his "most exciting Illinois birding experiences over the last three decades."

February 14, 2010

ASI proposal threatens livestock guardian dogs

Livestock guardian... er, protection dogs protect sheep from coyotes, wolves, bears, eagles, domestic dogs and thieving humans. This is good. But federal lands are public lands, and on federal grazing allotments conflicts may arise between flock guardians and someone who, for example, happens to be riding her mountain bike through the flock after dark, screaming hysterically.

In that sad case a woman was mauled and the flock owner, whose LGDs were confined during the day of the mountain bike race and released at sundown, was convicted of owning vicious dogs. His guardian dogs were killed. [Read the ongoing discussion on the Sheep Production Forum.]

At the American Sheep Industry Association's Annual Convention in Nashville last month, the ASI working group on Livestock Protection Dogs was feeling the heat:
ASI strongly believes that the use of LPDs on federal grazing allotments is in serious jeopardy, and anticipates three possible outcomes: 1) Federal agencies develop their own mandatory regulations for the use of LPDs on grazing allotments; 2) Federal agencies completely eliminate the use of LPDs on grazing allotments; or 3) ASI takes a proactive management position and adopts a stringent LPD certification program that sets high industry standards for the use of LPDs with the intent to effectively manage and maintain the use of LPDs on federal grazing allotments.
That quote was taken from a five-page document the ASI is calling its draft management program for livestock guardian dogs. A certification program is recommended, and there are guidelines for everything from socialization and training to coat care and mandatory neuter. [I suffered AB 1634 flashbacks.]

Sheep Production Forum owner Bill Fosher doesn't like the proposal either, and he's a sheep producer and guardian dog owner. He writes:
While I can understand and appreciate that the ASI is trying to take a pro-active stand, I believe that its proposal will do more harm than good. You can read it for yourself here. ASI is seeking input, and I believe that every sheep producer who uses livestock guardian dogs should read the document carefully and comment extensively.
Go to the Edgefield Sheep blog to read Guard dogs under threat, Bill's excellent commentary on the ASI proposal. And if you raise sheep and rely on livestock guardian dogs, please send your comments on the proposal to the ASI.

[In the photo: woman meets livestock guardian near Cabrales, in northern Spain. She's a dog person, but this working mastiff growled at her husband, who kept his distance (and used a zoom lens while she examined the spiked collar). The blog post he wrote about the encounter and about the return of flock guardians to the Spanish countryside is called La Torna del Cancerbero (The Return of Cerberus).]

February 13, 2010

Light-up dog hoodie keeps pup warm & visible on cold winter nights

Tucker "hanging out watching TV and showing off her hoodie." All photos by val head on Flickr.

It's the best dog hoodie ever. Pittsburgh maker Val writes:
The LEDs on the hoodie’s pocket light up when it’s dark out and fade back when there is more ambient light. Perfect for evening walks in the winter when it gets dark far too early.

"The finished hoodie."

"Tucker modeling the finished hoodie."

No garment in creation is as excellent as the hoodie, if you ask me. This one is just perfect. Check out the whole process on Val's Flickr site.

H/T: MAKE Magazine.

February 12, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count

The guaranteed-to-make-you-gasp-out-loud-when-the-sun-hits-him-just-right Costa's Hummingbird. Photo by bcsing on Flickr, taken 1-08-10 on the Lower Colorado River.

Feeders filled — check. Binocs — check. Regional checklist — check. Perfect 74F weather — big giant check. [Sorry, snowpocalypse people.] This weekend it's all about The Great Backyard Bird Count, "an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent."

Why participate? Aside from the fact that it's hella fun, the GBBC helps birds. And birds, as the great Canadian writer Margaret Atwood explains in this wonderful essay, are not merely beautiful and fascinating. Birds are the canaries of Coal Mine Earth.
[T]imes change, and we're heading back towards an older way of reading the birds. It's Fates of Nations time again, and ill omens seen through birds in flight – or the absence of them - and deadly prices to be paid for getting what you want. The birds have something to tell us again, and the truths are not comfortable ones.

Recording your counts this weekend during the GBBC is one way to help birds. Another way to help is by making birdhouses for them. The most excellent Birdchick shows us what a well-designed birdhouse should look like:

Want some drug-resistant germs with that pork chop?

From the five-part AP series When Drugs Stop Working:
[T]he overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year - more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs went to pigs, chickens and cows.
Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza are the excellent reporters who wrote When Drugs Stop Working, and if you missed it in December, you can read the complete series here. [The articles are in pdf.] The fifth article, Solution to killer superbug found in Norway, shows how MRSA [Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] can be controlled. Norway's solution? Cut [human] antibiotic use way, way back:
A spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway's model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying [MRSA] deaths - 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS - are unnecessary.

But what about the 24.5 million pounds of antibiotics fed to livestock in the U.S. each year? [So glad you asked.] Over at Civil Eats, you can watch this week's CBS Special Report on Antibiotics and Animal Agriculture:
In the report, [Katie] Couric visits a confinement pig operation, where she speaks to a farmer who believes using antibiotics is necessary. She talks to victims of MRSA, a bacteria infection that is resistant to antibiotics. And she visits similar hog confinement operations in Denmark that are taking care of their animals without the use of antibiotics. The Danish are proud to have transitioned, and scientists go on the record to talk about the decrease in antibiotic resistance in humans since the ban in that country.

Related articles [all from USC's ReportingonHealth]:
Q&A with the AP's Martha Mendoza
Covering outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant infections
Useful Resources: MRSA

Pork Magazine responds to the CBS report

From this blog:
"Taking the Lambs to Market"
Factory farmed pork safer than free range? In a pig's eye
Some Pigs

Boss Hog. Excerpt:
Smithfield's pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouse-like barns, in rows of wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially inseminated and fed and delivered of their piglets in cages so small they cannot turn around[...] There is no sunlight, straw, fresh air or earth.
The temperature inside hog houses is often hotter than ninety degrees. The air, saturated almost to the point of precipitation with gases from shit and chemicals, can be lethal to the pigs. Enormous exhaust fans run twenty-four hours a day. The ventilation systems function like the ventilators of terminal patients: If they break down for any length of time, pigs start dying.

From Smithfield's point of view, the problem with this lifestyle is immunological. Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement badly damage the pigs' immune systems. They become susceptible to infection, and in such dense quarters microbes or parasites or fungi, once established in one pig, will rush spritelike through the whole population. Accordingly, factory pigs are infused with a huge range of antibiotics and vaccines[...]
Read it and weep. If you still can't bear the thought of life without bacon, call a farmer with pasture-raised pigs. Or try "free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat" — which is to say, the kind you hunt. Whatever you do, though, please don't trot out the old "factory farms keep prices down for the consumer" lame-O excuse. Because no amount of savings justifies the cruelty inflicted on factory-farmed livestock.

February 11, 2010

Dogs still at risk in Brampton

Remember those two dogs in Brampton, Ontario? The dogs that 1) have never harmed or threatened to harm anyone; 2) have never been the subject of complaint by neighbors; 3) have never escaped from their yards or been found wandering loose; 4) have licenses and law-abiding owners; and 5) are by all accounts friendly, much-loved companions?

Yeah, those two: the ones facing execution for the crime of living in Ontario while having a short coat and a wide-ish skull.

The execution has been postponed, but the families are barred from visiting or even glimpsing their pets, and their family vet is likewise barred from checking on the dogs, which have been locked up for the better part of a month. [Habeas canis, anyone?]

On Saturday demonstrators rallied in support of the families and their dogs, and the bureaucrats are now "moving forward very cautiously."
The goal is to find a solution that works for everyone in the best way possible while respecting the legislation.

"Respecting the legislation" — Gah, I love that. Because defying a piece of crap legislation simply isn't done! Unless, of course, you happen to have a backbone and a shred of integrity.

For updates on the fate of the dogs in Brampton, keep an eye on the following blogs:
One Bark at a Time
KC Dog Blog
Social Mange

Edited to add
a new bog covering this story: Brindle Stick. The more coverage of Ontario's epic BSL failure the better, sez I. Thanks to Lori for the heads up.

February 10, 2010

Sled dogs

It's one of the best collections of sled dog photos ever, all posted at The Big Picture. Most are from Europe, including the gem below. Look! Bijou is herding!

Meanwhile, the Iditarod is just around the corner. Drug tests this year — for the mushers:
The Iditarod plans to test mushers for drugs and alcohol in March, a change many mushers have no problem with -- but one that three-time champion Lance Mackey scoffs at.

"I think it's a little bit ridiculous," Mackey said Wednesday night from his home near Fairbanks after a training run. "It is a dog race, not a human race. It (using a drug) doesn't affect the outcome of the race."

Mackey, a throat cancer survivor who has a medical marijuana card, admits to using marijuana on the trail and thinks his success has made some of his competitors jealous.

"It isn't the reason I've won three years in a row," said Mackey, though he concedes marijuana helps him stay awake and focused during the 1,100-mile race that takes winners nearly 10 days to complete. [ADN]
As a supporter of California's "legalize it, regulate it and tax it" initiative, I'm rooting for Lance. [Full disclosure: your blogger never smoked, but did inhale. Damn dorm-room hippies.]

I'll watch the Iditarod as always, though each year it feels more like a countdown to the inevitable dog deaths. Six dogs died last year. And yes, they "love to run"; but breeding dogs with off-the-charts drive and then pushing them not merely beyond their capacity but to their deaths — holy crap, Iditarod people, this is not what the serum run to Nome was all about. Wake up, smell the medical marijuana, and create an exciting race that doesn't kill dogs every frikkin' year.

Iditarod links, and a moment of silence, dammit

Fave table, amazing shop, and wheels

Gah, I love this table. From Parliament; H/T: Abduzeedo.

I would so make a copy of that awesome Parliament Design table if only I had my own little workshop. Oh, Norm — you never write, you never call... [Photo by mtneer_man on Flickr: click for embiggened goodness.]

Also: Furniture on casters from Desire to Inspire. I've died and gone to heaven.

February 8, 2010

Shorty gets his DNA on

SpongeBob ChowTail out back one night last week, pretending he just heard a small suburban woodland creature. The camera flash makes him look several shades lighter than he really is. [Click for bigger.]

Those crazy kids over at Mars Wisdom Panel kept saying they could spot Chow DNA with one eye closed, and wasn't I curious about that blue spot on Smoky's tongue and his tail-in-a-circle? Well, wasn't I?

I was. When you tell people you have a new dog and they ask what kind and you say, "Oh, I think he might be a chow/pit bull mix," you see all kinds of interesting faces. I figured if we were going to make people struggle to compose their features, then we better find some science to back us up.

So we sent blood to Mars, and sat back to wait for the results.

Smoke has been here for a year now. He's about 17 months old, 60 athletic pounds, smart, keen, happy, likes people, travels well, sleeps on the bed, and has the biggest, most distinctive voice you have ever heard in your life.

He still keeps an eye out for me and looks me full in the face when one of us has something to say to the other. I still think he's just about perfect.

I told my vet I'd check for the DNA results online, and she said "results pending" was the only thing her clients ever saw. [Results are also snail-mailed.] In any event, a week or so later Smoky's workup appeared on the Mars site. It was in pdf and cleverly designed: the actual DNA results and breed names are on the second page, so you can sit and stare at the first page for a while and let the suspense build and remind yourself that these things can be wildly inaccurate and OMG dare I turn the page now and what if they say he's Duck Tolling Retriever and Bichon Frise? Because I would totally have to return him to the pound if he were that.

I drummed my fingers, took a deep breath, and scrolled to page 2.

And yeah, it turns out I paid Mars one hundred simoleons to play Captain Obvious and tell us what we already knew. To wit:
I'm guessing he's part pit bull and maybe part German shepherd.
But not half-and-half, mind you. He's vastly more generic and All-American than that. He's a blend of the country's two most common types:

Smoky is a pit-mix/shepherd-mix mix.

And if that isn't a fine style of cur-dog, I don't know what is. Happy first anniversary with us kids, Smoky! Honestly, our local pound has the best dogs on the whole damn planet.

In which I make an executive decision — which, for the record, still stands.

February 6, 2010

No joy in Mudville

Some stay dry while others feel the pain: "A gas company worker digs in front of a flattened home on Manistee Drive, where the flash flood caused a gas leak." Photo by Gary Friedman for the Los Angeles Times.

It was a sucker punch: the last rainstorm was the "bad" one, they told us, and this one was supposed to be comparatively meh. Trouble was, the storm parked itself above L.A. and didn't leave until it had dumped up to 3.5 inches of rain in the foothills, or what's left of the foothills after the monster Station Fire.
[T]he damage was worst at the top of the hill in La Cañada Flintridge's Paradise Valley. The rains made good on worst-case-scenario predictions that geologists and emergency officials have been warning about since the Station fire denuded 250 square miles of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Some residents were awakened by water flooding waist-deep into their homes. Two men rescued a bedridden 86-year-old woman trapped in her room, tethered to an oxygen tank, her bed floating in the rising water.

On Manistee Drive, a white single-story home appeared submerged in several feet of dirt, looking as if a giant child had dropped the house in a sand pit.

"The one time they don't evacuate, this happens," said Justin Jesscoat, an Ocean View Boulevard resident whose parked car was swept down the street. [LAT: 'Niagara' of mud hits homes.]

More rain is expected later this week, oy. Mudpocalypse! Mudmaggedon! Meanwhile, up the hill, they're getting ready to do this all over again:

"Too much snow on the roof!!!" Photo by Rosalinde at RIMOFTHEWORLD.net.

February 4, 2010

"Excelling in expression": three show collies

Ch. Beulah's Golden Futureson, born in 1943.

These photos were scanned from Margaret Osborne's book The Collie. I think they're three of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen. All three were bred and born in England.

The tricolor on the left is Beulah's Nightvictorious, born in 1939.

Ch. Backwoods Fellow, born in 1930.

Brampton officials forget to pull heads in before shutting window. Again.

These two dogs are on death row in Brampton. Crime: not a damn thing. They're nice dogs, with loving - and very worried - owners. Brampton sez they're ticking time bombs, though, on account of being "pit bulls." So Brampton officials have to kill them. It's the law.

How on earth [a commenter wonders] can a city veterinarian, in good conscience, euthanize a healthy dog that 1) has never harmed or threatened to harm anyone; 2) has never been the subject of complaint by neighbors; 3) has never escaped from his yard or been found wandering loose; 4) has a license and a law-abiding owner; and 5) is by all accounts a friendly, much-loved companion?

How can animal control officers justify entering a family's home and taking possession of such a dog?

How can city bureaucrats justify their willingness to inflict such cruelty on a dog and such anguish on law-abiding citizens?

Beats the hell out of me. But it's apparently business as usual in the Ontario city of Brampton: two families are sick with worry and two dogs have been impounded and may be killed, and killed soon, because of Brampton's canine version of the one-drop rule. Doesn't matter if Momma Dog was a Boxer and Dad was an AmBull mix: there might be some pit bull blood in there somewhere, and we can't have that.

Seems Brampton didn't get the memo that ignorance, hysteria and urban legend are terrible grounds for legislation; and Brampton officials lack the balls, the brains and the integrity to take a stand against a crappy law that hurts citizens, kills good dogs and wastes the taxpayers' hard-earned money. And that's where things stand tonight, in 2010, in Ontario, Canada.

H/T: One Bark at a Time

From Brent's awesome KC Dog Blog: The Problems with BSL - Brampton, Ontario Edition [be sure to check out the links]

February 1, 2010

Family photos

Dog people: the little cutie-pie holding Bonnie's paw just adopted a Heinz 57 from a pound in Orange County, CA. Click for big.

Outtake ;~)

Our feathered friends

Hail to thee, blithe spirit: Fossil feathers reveal dinosaurs' true colours. Above, an artist's impression of Sinosauropteryx, from Wikipedia.

I know what you're thinking. Looks just like a Spotted Towhee, right? Or close enough. One of my favorite visitors:

Spotted Towhee by Rick Leche on Flickr.

A young Cooper's Hawk showed up in the yard last week. The first time I saw him he was staggering around on top of the brushpile like a drunk in a dark room, with a dozen sparrows and finches frozen beneath his talons. He fumbled around for a bit and flew off, but returned the next day and nabbed a warbler. Collateral damage: an American Goldfinch that I suspect was injured trying to escape. The goldfinch lay on the ground panting and flailing, and I got a shoebox with a towel ready and called one of our local wildlife rehabilitators.

Although some might be inclined to put a poor goldfinch out of his misery in a case like this, keep in mind that 1) killing him yourself is a violation of federal law, and 2) he might have an excellent chance of recovery with the help of a skilled rehabber*. Sad to report, this little guy didn't make it. Plan B: pop tiny body in freezer for delivery at later date to local raptor rehab.

Hummingbird Hospital
Hummingbird Hospital Part 2
Hummingbird Hospital Part 3
Release Day

Calvin & Hobbes & Bill

On the fridge all these many years. The U.S. Postal Service will release a Calvin & Hobbes stamp in July; Mr. Watterson grants an interview: more here. Click for [very] big.