Archive for March, 2009


Big pistachio recall!

I love pistachios.

They are a wee bit expensive compared to other nuts, but I love their flavor.

Why can’t we fix our food supply?

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Bad day

Yesterday, my career has either ended or it has hit a very bad setback

So this blog’s days might be either numbered, or new information won’t be coming as regularly.

I’m now looking for work.

If anyone would like to know anything, my BA is summa cum laude in political science with minors in history and creative writing.

*Update:  Just in case everyone was wondering. I am in a graduate program where I’ve never really felt at home. I have also not been able to procure funding. I’m not “on the market” just yet, but I’m looking for something else.

And thank you all for all the kind words and encouragement!

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Here is a nice article on the growing conflicts between urban coyotes and people.

It includes advice on how to avoid coyote attacks. Don’t feed them. Keep dogs on a leash. Don’t leave pets unattended (especially if they are smaller than the coyote).

But I have one problem with the advice given: “Residents are warned…not to yell or throw rocks at coyotes so they associate humans with bad things.”

Actually, the problems with coyotes is that they are associating people with good things– yummy cats and small dogs, pet food, and good hunting grounds for voles and mice.

Wild animals are better living with us if they do associate us with horrible things. A coyote or bear that fears people above all other things is not going to attack people.

Where I grew up coyotes are common, yet they’ve never attacked anyone. They’ve killed scores of free roaming cats and small dogs, but they avoid people and large dogs at all costs. Why?

Because where I grew up, hunting coyotes with packs of hounds is a common activity. A coyote that has been run by a back of foxhounds is going to be very unwilling to come near domestic dogs of that size for any reason.

Further, people do shoot them. At first, shooting coyotes started when people believed (and some still do believe) that coyotes are a mortal danger to people or that coyotes were going to kill all the deer. They soon discovered that coyotes are nearly impossible to call in and shoot. They are easily as challenging as a game species as wild turkeys are, and in my state, there is no limit on how many can be killed or any set hunting season for coyotes.

Despite what that article says, local animal control would be better off putting the fear of humans and domestic dogs into the local coyotes. And we do have a model for doing so.

In Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana,  Karelian bear dogs (one of those laika/elkhound types from Finland) are being used to “haze” bears that come too close to human habitation. This hazing teaches the bears that associating humans with food will get them shot with rubber bullets and barked at by annoying black and white dogs that bark really loud.

I don’t see why a similar model couldn’t be applied to urban coyotes.

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Earlier this month, ABC’s Nightline featured a story about the problems in purebred dogs. I covered it here.

Unlike their British counterpart, the American dog fancy spammed the heck out of the comments section on the ABC New article.

Now, I’m in political science (at least partially. If anyone would like a Democratic campaign consultant– I can be of some use. )

Whenever you see lots of the same comments in a letters to the editor section of a newsaper or lots of the same comments on a youtube video or blogpost, you know there is a concerted effort at PR.  It is very instructive that many of the people placing these comments are using the same logic and invective against the reporter, ABC news, and everyone featured in that piece.  This similarity in their comments means that the fancy’s main people have given the breeders some sort of talking points.

The Kennel Club (of the United Kingdom) did not have good PR professionals working for its interests. I can’t believe the president of that particular club actually agreed to be interviewed in Pedigree Dogs Exposed. The  journalists who worked that program not only interviewed the KC’s upper echelon, they had extensive interviews. And as a result, the KC people could not effectively manage the crisis. That’s why this program has been so successful in building the outcry for kennel club reform in that country.

The AKC refused to appear in the ABC segment. That was a smart move from a PR perspective. The AKC can stay out of it. It can call the report biased.  Just more animal rights extremism.

And then, in wave two, they get their legions of loyal breeders to spam and troll any blog post that features this story, although they have not frequented this blog.

Remember, the mainstream media in this country is a wonderful political football for partisans of all stripes. And here I’m not just talking about the politics as we typically talk about it. Dogs are political. Dogs have lots of money tied up in them, and there are strong institutions that work within the world of dogs.  We all know that institutions are mostly about credibility, and these institutions will do anything to protect themselves from losing credibility. With credibility comes power. Reduction in credibility reduces powers. Having no credibility means you’ll cease to exist.

And that’s the war that all PR professionals fight.  The PR people working for the AKC are doing quite well at preserving the institutional legitimacy of that institution.

They are not falling into same trap that the KC fell for.

However, good PR works only so long as a spin can be made, and in twenty years, it is likely the number of dog breeds severely damaged by such practices will reach a level that far more people will be demanding reforms. After all, PR can only spin facts. It cannot change them.

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What I am about to say here is not intended as an insult to the Dalmatian breed. Not at all, for some people, this breed is the perfect dog. However, it is not the dog for me.

My grandfather took in a Dalmatian that originally belonged to some relatives. He was not, as is often the stereotype, aggressive to either dogs or people.  However, he was rather scatty.

Or at least, that’s how we interpreted his behavior. He was nothing like a working golden retriever. He wore my first dog out playing with her– something that virtual no other dog could do.

He was very difficult to focus.

He was high energy, but he wasn’t obsessive in the ways I was more accustomed to. I am much better off with a highly driven, high energy dog  that focuses so strongly that it approaches obsession. (See my post on what I prefer in a dog.)

He had lots of energy. His ancestors were bred for two purposes– to walk along with a carriage for mile after mile and look good while doing it. As a result, his ancestors were selected for their endurance, a trait that they passed onto him in great abundance.

And although I really like hard-driving dogs with lots of endurance, this particular dog never seemed to tire.

Now, my skills as a trainer were not what they are today. I probably could have turned him into a wonderful dog. But my golden had by then so spoiled me that I was unaccustomed to dogs that didn’t naturally focus on my voice.

It’s perhaps my impression with this particular dog that led me to believe that Dalmatians were stupid dogs, but now I know that different dogs have different cognitive abilities. For us to go on and on about relative intelligence is rather unscientific.

However, the impression that I got from this dog is that Dalmatians simply aren’t a breed that I would choose. Now, in the hands of the right person, one who could appreciate their eccentricities, I’m sure they are the perfect match.

My guess is that the people who really can handle a Dalmatian are few and far between. That’s one reason why it always bothers me when a that particular film is either released or reproduced.  Too many people see these films and then purchase the dogs without really understanding what they’re getting. Six months to a year later, the shelters wind up full of Dalmatians, cast off because their owners couldn’t understand them or cope with their very high energy.

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From Treytor.

Sorry, but this is a small goldendoodle named “Waffle.” This goldendoodle, though, has some throwback features that are really similar to the Tweed water dog or Tweed water spaniel.

Except for the shaggy hair on her muzzle, her coat is really quite like a Tweed water dog’s. It’s wavy to rather curly, but it’s not as long as a golden retriever or Irish water spaniel.

The reasons for this dog exhibiting such throwback features is quite simple.

Poodles are a “refined” version of the old European water dogs. There were once dozens of different strains.

In Britain, the regional strain was the rough water dog or “water rug.” This dog got absorbed into the water spaniels through regularly outcrossing. In fact, a water spaniel is descended from the rough water dog crossed with either a spaniel or setter. Some individuals developed smoother coats throw the backcrosses, while others developed smooth hair on the muzzle and tail only (like the Irish water spaniel. I have seen a goldendoodle with the same basic coat length patterns as an Irish water spaniel, except for the “rat tail.”)

The water spaniels were then largely absorbed into the retrievers, which also included the St. John’s water dog, setters, and collies as parts of their gene pool.

This little golden-poodle cross is a throwback to these older strains, both of which descend from the old European water dogs.

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APTOPIX Midwest Flooding Fargo

This is a golden retriever that I’m sure you’ve all seen on the news. The dog’s name is “Annie,” and she belongs to a resident near the Red River of the North in Fargo, North Dakota.

Fargo is expecting a record flood this time, which is why they’ve sandbagged. This is a pretty bad natural disaster by anyone’s imagination.

However, look at the dog for minute. This is the type of golden that is still common in the Upper Midwest, dark -colored and, in the case of this one, rather wavy-coated. This dog’s coat is really quite similar to what I imagine the Tweed water dog or Tweed water spaniel’s coat looked like.

These dogs largely descend from earlier imports from Canada, which were all meant to be working dogs. These dogs were first imported to Canada by  Colonel Samuel Magoffin. These dogs were kept at his home in Vancouver and were well-used as working dogs. These dogs were registered under the kennel name of Rockhaven. There were also dogs  of a similar type imported by Bart Armstrong of Winnipeg, Manitoba, for his Gilnockie kennels.

The original goldens in North America would be what we would call “field-line” or “working-type” today. However, many of these dogs made up the original show population of this country.

Indeed, they were the nominate type of the breed in Britain until the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.  That’s when the distinct “blocky” British type evolved.

Let’s hope that the floods in Noth Dakota aren’t that bad, and that whatever damage they experience can be mitigated. Floods are terrible things.

But that picture of that golden is certainly instructive.

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Fox and Terrier

From UpdocFilms

I don’t normally recommend owning wildlife, so let me say that I do not think foxes make good pets.

That said, isn’t it really interesting how this terrier and fox live together?

I don’t know whether this terrier is a Jack Russell, which, ironically, were bred to bolt foxes from their dens, or a rat terrier, which sometimes have drop ears as this dog does.

I chose this video not because of the relationship between the dog and fox, though.

I wanted a good close up of North America’s most unique canid.

As I have said previously, this species is my favorite wild dog. It is truly a unique animal. It has raised strand of black hair along the top of its tail. When one gets its hackles up, this hair really stands up.  It is almost as if it has hackles on its tail.

It can also climb trees, and when I say “climb trees,” I mean almost as well as a raccoon or cat. These foxes also live in Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela and Colombia. Because of their arboreal habits, the animal was often known as a  “mountain cat” or “deer cat” (because it looks like cat with a deer’s face!)

The first one I saw in the wild was running after a cottontail rabbit, and I thought it was some species of cat. It ran in the same fluid manner one sees in cats, but when you looked at its head, you could obviously tell it was a canid.

In my area, where the red foxes and gray foxes live in the same basic area, the grays dominate the reds. Red foxes avoid grays like the plague. The two are roughly the same size, because the red fox here isn’t one of the larger subspecies. The grays are proportionally stronger than the reds, which are built more like greyhounds. Grays are built like big cats, with proportionally shorter legs and heavier bone.

When my grandpa was shooting foxes for their pelts using recorded calls,  one could never get a red fox to respond to a gray fox call. However, one could get a gray to respond to a red call. (Calling foxes in this way was legal when he was doing.) The reds just did not want to have to fight a tough gray fox, but a gray would want to drive a red from its territory.

Now, the two don’t drive each other out of the same area for a very simple reason. Grays prefer deep timber and dense thickets in which to live. Reds prefer more edge land, with access to marginal farm land, some open fields, and some undergrowth in which to hide. Thus, the two do not share the same habitat even if they live relatively close to each other.

With the arrival (or possible return) of coyotes to this part of the world, the red foxes have only now begun to adjust to coyote predation. Reds den closer to houses and towns to avoid the coyotes. Coyotes and red foxes share roughly the same habitat, and they often encounter each other. Coyotes will kill off smaller competitors, and the reds are often targeted. Gray foxes do not share the same habitat with the coyotes, for they still prefer the dense thickets. And they can take to the trees should any coyote appear.

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Richard Ansdell was a nineteenth century painter who painted lots of portraits of rural life in Scotland and England. In this particular potrait, he is potraying a Scottish game keeper and a brace of gundogs. Ansdell was well-acquainted with country life around Loch Laggan.

They might be setters or unusually colored wavy-coated retrievers. The reason why I think these dogs might be retrievers  is that Ansdell clearly depicted setters in another portrait of a gamekeeper shooting blackcock. The dogs in this other painting are like modern red and white setters and lack the large size and heavier bone of the dogs in the above depiction. Further, the black and white dog shows brindling, something that was often associated with  contemporary wavy-coated retrievers. Of course, setters in Scotland were often heavier than ones bred in Ireland or England and Wales.

Reddish colored wavy-coats were also not unknown at the time. Landseer painted one named “Breeze” in 1843. These dogs were typically culled from retriever breeding programs at the large estates, for this was a time in which the preferred retriever color was black.

Even if these dogs are setters, they closely represent the sort of dogs that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth would have been able to procure in his vicinity. It is from these local dogs that he would be able to breed his peculiar line, one selected for yellow or reddish hair that excelled in retrieving from the grouse moors.

Therefore, this depiction is of real historical significance in trying to understand what the golden’s ancestors were like.

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From adriennelane.

A dog like this one can give us an idea of the tawny coloration in the Tweed water dog. This dog is also about the size of a Tweed water dog, except that her coat isn’t as short and curly as that breed’s was.

You can see more this golden here.

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