Archive for August, 2013

russ the uga

This bulldog is a mascot for the University of Georgia’s football team.

Anyone who knows anything about bulldogs knows why this dog, which “Russ,” also known as “Uga IX,” is sitting on a bag of ice. Bulldogs cannot cool themselves properly, and Georgia is in America’s humid subtropical belt. That means it gets quite hot and humid right through much of football season.

It’s not the best place for a dog with such deformed respiratory and cooling, which, as I noted in my pug post, are actually the same system.

Russ was given a “battlefield promotion” when Uga VII died of lymphona when he was about year old. Uga VIII’s tenure followed the very short life of Uga VII, who died of heart failure before reaching a year of age.

This breed does not have a very good track record at all. It’s one of the least hardy dog breeds you can find, which is why it is so expensive to insure. The dogs have a legendary toughness that has largely been bred out of them through breeding them to what is clearly one of the most absurd breed standards in the entire dog fancy. These dogs were messed up over a hundred years ago– after only about twenty years of being bred solely for the show ring– and one particularly “typey” specimen couldn’t even win a walking race.

Is this the symbol the University of Georgia wants for its football team? A dog that can’t even walk two miles?

And it’s not like Georgia doesn’t have its own native bulldogs. There is the Alapaha, which is often merle,  and there is the so-called “white English bulldog,” which might be better called the “Old Southern white bulldog.”  Of course, they don’t look like the Ugas, but these dogs were bred to do something in places like Georgia. They were all-around farm dogs, hog-catchers, and guardians. These dogs likely barked and snarled their warnings as Sherman’s troops marched through their owners’ lands on their way to the sea.

But the tradition at the University of Georgia is to use this particular type of bulldog.  They are always owned by the man who started the tradition, a prominent Georgia lawyer named Sonny Seiler. Seiler donated the first Uga to the team in 1956, and as of 2011, he had no interest in changing the bulldog at all. He told a writer for the New York Times Magazine: “Change this dog too much, and it won’t look like a bulldog anymore…. Besides, Uga gets the best veterinary care, and we do everything to keep him safe. These dogs have a good life.”

And this is precisely the problem. The dogs may be cared for amazingly well. They may have the best vets in all of Georgia at their beck and call.

But it is questionable how good a life these dogs actually leave. Remember, that extreme brachycephaly is associated with problems breathing and cooling.  Bulldogs often never know what it’s like to be fully oxygenated. If you’ve ever struggle to breathe, it’s not a fun experience, but bulldogs go through it their entire lives.

So you may have an animal that is well cared-for, but it’s life is pretty miserable.

It can’t tell you that it’s miserable, and because dogs are stoic, it will put up with all the misery that has been inflicted upon by human stupidity.

The nineteenth century dog fancier Rawdon Lee called the bulldog a “burlesque” of a national symbol. The bulldog of the University of Georgia is also surely a burlesque.

But in the South, football is a religion– much more so than even the dog fancy, and it is very unlikely that this mascot will change.

They’ll just have to change them ever couple of years as they die from conditions that normally don’t befall normal dogs until they are least ten.

It’s kind of pathetic and sad in a way.

I readily admit that I don’t really understand football, but I don’t get is how people can get so wrapped up into symbolism that they cannot think for a minute about what their symbol actually is.

This bulldog is an import– developed solely by the British dog fancy and sold to people with more money than good sense.

America– especially the South and Georgia in particular– have a very strong tradition of bulldogs. Bulldog and bulldog-terrier types were once common in every little town and every little farm and plantation. These were hardy, sagacious animals that made life in the subtropics endurable. You can’t control half-wild range hogs with with a collie, unless you want a dead collie.

Football is supposed to be a celebration of toughness and a distinct American-ness that surely could be better exemplified with a true Georgia bulldog.

But that’s trying to make logic out of the illogical.

Modern football traditions are all that matter.

Animal welfare and common sense be damned.

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Diseases are cute

At least with pugs, they are:


And with pugs, it’s sad to say that this isn’t first disorder they’ve had that people have thought might be cute.



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I backed over a duck last night.  Miley had brought it near my car, and I guess it hid there are all day. When I moved the car, I crushed it.

I was very upset about it, and I still am.

I decided the only thing I could do is give a proper funeral. I had seen fox tracks the night before about 30 yards from a grove of aspen.  As I’ve noted before, I want my own ashes spread in an aspen grove. Quaking aspen are among the first real trees to colonize a pasture or clear-cut in the forest succession. I want my elements to break down and become part of the aspen, which will feed grouse while they live, and then as they decay, they will feed the oaks and hickories and maples that come with the maturing forest.


I placed it there in the grove.


This is the duck that used to eat from my hand. The tamest of the lot. It had a good life, swimming and foraging as ducks do.

But it is gone now.

My only hope is that maybe a young fox that is just dispersing from his parents’ territory will come by and enjoy a free meal.

That’s all I can hope for.

This is my penance for my killing.

Pay it forward.

I am an odd fellow mourning the death of an animal like a duck.

If it were a wild animal or a real farm bird, that would be a different matter.

But it’s too much like family to eat.

So it must be passed along into the carbon cycle.


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See related post:



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I just happened to come across the neighbors’ puppies when I came in this afternoon. The father was a golden retriever.

Long-haired male pup:


Smooth-coated female:


Here’s the mother, a 40-pound Rottweiler mix:






(He has that golden retriever pout).


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Muddy face


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So much for that. I was, however, able to call her off.


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I think this one is a hen. Oscar’s the one with the plumage in transition and the drake voice:


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A few days ago, Miley decided to break the rules and try to catch a duck.

It was one of those rainy  days, and I thought she was just going to chase them a bit.

But I was wrong. She scattered them in all directions, and she ran the white Pekin drake onto the access road below the pond. She quickly had him run down was just about to put him in her mouth when I was able to call her off.

I noticed that one of the ducks– the pure wild mallard hen– had flown off and had actually gone quite high. I didn’t see where she landed.

I figured she’d work her way back to the pond that day, but she did not.  My parents looked for her that evening, but they saw no trace of her.

I took Miley out, and she wound up questing around in a stand of small pine trees. She was after something.

It was only later that evening that she went out on her own and came back with something.

She brought the hen mallard home without a mark on her.

I’ve always thought of Miley as a half-assed retriever. She’s not a working-bred dog, but she has a very soft mouth. I call her the “golden take it,” because instead of retrieving, she will take something and hide it from you.

She does like to duck chase and has to be scolded off them if she gets too close on them. She killed a duckling earlier this summers, so she does have to be watched when she’s around them.

But in that moment, she redeemed herself.

She may have been nothing more than a duck chasing “yeller dog,” but now she’s the duck shepherd.

If one wanders off now, I’m pretty sure she’ll be called into find it.



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One of the mom’s ducklings is undergoing a transformation. This is the one dad calls Oscar:




Just a few weeks ago, he looked like this:


And as a duckling, he looked like this:


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