Archive for May, 2016


The above is image is the reconstructed skeletal remains of a Hesperocyon. The Hesperocyons were the first recognizable dogs in the fossil record, which first appeared 35-40 million years ago in North America.

I’ve decided to use this image to tell you something very simple:

This is no longer a dog blog.

I’ve not written anything serious about dogs in a very long time. I know that most of you came here for those posts.

There aren’t going to be any more of those. I’m sorry.

I don’t think I’m qualified enough to discuss the subject matter. When I was younger and cockier, I thought I knew enough. I don’t know enough.

I wrote this blog because I was questing after ghosts. I was questing after dogs that have long since passed from this mortal coil but who still cast a deep shadow into my psyche.

I was also questing after myself. The happiest time of my life was my childhood in the forest with dogs.

In both quests, I have found other things.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that as authoritative as I’ve sounded here,  I’m really not qualified to talk about it.

Dogs have become one of those topics, like politics or religion, where you just don’t want to talk about them or only talk about them with guarded company.

Things have just become so complex and fractious now that I don’t know if I consider myself a dog person anymore.

Many people will say that they can never live without a dog, but I’m coming to the conclusion that for the sake of the dog and for me, it’s better that I not have them.

Miley is doing well. Don’t worry about her.

But there won’t be another dog.

I admire animals, but I know that I just don’t have what it takes to be a great dog person.

I’ll leave this up for people who know more.

I’m really sorry that I have to leave it here. I had hopes and dreams. But I know they can’t be realized with my level of skill and knowledge.

Enjoy what I’ve written here thus far. It may be inaccurate. It may be accurate.

But I’m not putting any additional content here that relates to dogs.

I have come to the conclusion that I have failed, and that I need to step way back.



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On the nest, glowering


I don’t know how strong her brooding instinct is. Pekins usually don’t have enough to hatch out their own ducklings, but she’s got a nest in a brush pile.

The father would be a Rouen drake, so the ducklings will be of many colors.



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A red-shouldered hawk comes by to eat chicken livers left out for coyotes and foxes:

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Cicada year

This is the year the 17-year periodical cicadas (Magicicada) emerge in most of West Virginia.


The first sign they are coming is holes in the ground, where the nymphs emerge from their 17-year sojourn in the underworld.


The climb up the nearest tree, and the winged adult form bursts out the nymph’s thorax.






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bronwen dickey pit bull

Three years ago, I received an email from a writer who wanted to interview me on what I knew about the history of bulldogs and bull and terrier types.

I have received several emails like these over the years.  They usually go nowhere, but when we were able to talk  on the phone, I was actually  quite surprised.

The author had actually read my blog very carefully, and the questions showed that she had done quite a bit of research on the topic. When you write these sorts of blog posts, you often wonder if people are actually paying attention to what you write.

She obviously had done her homework. She asked me something about Cuban bloodhounds, a defunct breed of dog used to catch runaway slaves. I hadn’t written on Cuban bloodhounds for many years. She asked about the ancient alaunt dogs, whether pit bulls had essentially become an urban landrace, and how society came to understand this concept of breed.

The author who contacted was Bronwen Dickey. I didn’t know it at the time, but she is the daughter of the great Southern poet and novelist James Dickey. And as I came to find out, she is a very fine writer in her own right.

In April 2013, she was delving deeper into the research around pit bulls. She was writing a book on the story of the pit bull type dog in America. Pit bulls, as we all know, are the most controversial dog breed in America. Many, many claims are made about them, but whether these claims withstand objective scrutiny is quite another thing. There is a widespread belief that these dogs have locking jaws or that they suddenly turn on people without warning. There is also a belief that a pit bull is a super canine that can readily dispatch  a feral hog on its own and then curl up with the kids as the “Nanny dog.”

Both advocates and detractors have created an image of this sort of dog. What Bronwen wished to figure out is which parts are true and which are parts of contrived to the point of being pure fantasy.

It turns out there was quite a bit.

Now, this book isn’t out yet, and it’s already being attacked.

Pit bulls are so contentious that I stopped writing about them quite a while ago. Of all the issues I’ve seen dog people invest emotional time and energy into fighting over, pit bulls are truly an outlier. Dog people fight over just about anything trivial, but when it comes to pit bulls, there is a whole other dimension:  If a pit bull mauls someone, there will be a group that wants them all executed. If a pit bull mauls someone, there will be a group of people who want that dog’s life spared at all costs.

I’ve never seen anything quite like this in dogs. Indeed, the only other topic that riles people up more online is whether feminism destroyed video games or not.

In one week (May 10), Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon will be released. There are people whose minds will never be changed on both extremes of this debate, but for that great middle, who really wants to know what the pit bull is and what it truly means to this country, Bronwen Dickey has produced a nuanced analysis that is well worth reading.

And she’s a good writer.

When she had me review a few chapters of her drafts, I found them to be quite fascinating in deed.

But if you really want to know– and are brave enough to have your assumptions challenged– buy a copy. Only a few more days to wait.






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