Monday, November 3, 2008

Why, We ARE of The Body

Raised By Wolves has been tapped for a Superior Scribbler Award by Janeen over at Smartdogs!

Aw shucks.

I think we're too new at this. Really.

So, since I am such a tyro, I shall utterly sincerely plead ignorance and immediately break the rules of the Award. (I was gonna excuse myself as a maverick, but I'm kinda hoping that self-characterization don't play right now.) I'm meant to nominate five other bloggers who have not already been tapped. But my blog reading is limited, and I believe most, if not all, of the fine writers you see in my blogroll have preceded our infant project in recognition.

Instead, I'd like to put the pressure on to some of the best, most insightful animal writers on the interwebz, who are hiding their lights under a basket. That's right; if Janeen can tap such a new, untested blog for recognition, I'll take it one further and pre-emptively bestow this award on five writers who should be blogging for the masses instead of concealing their talents.

Well, not entirely. They are just limiting their audiences to the subscribers of some of the better discussion lists. I have been guilty of subscribing to certain lists solely for the pleasure of reading one or two writers' posts.

I'm going to email this post to all of them -- I don't know whether any of them read this blog -- and start the arm-twisting forthwith. Any of you who know these individuals will, I'm sure, agree with my choices -- feel free to pile on.

Many of you will know the novels and nonfiction of my friend Donald McCaig. If you don't, go out and buy them. Now. I told him many years ago that he is one of the finest American essayists of our age, in the same league as Wendell Berry. That was not fan fawning, that's how it is. Then I read his Civil War novel Jacob's Ladder, and knew that I had also made the acquaintance of the Great American Novelist. Do I say so lightly? I do not. Believe it.

What you will not know is that The Donald's contributions to canine discussion lists are also lyrically beautiful, insightful, and uncompromising. Not to mention curmudgeonly when it is warranted. I first met him online on the original Canine Genetics list, which was owned by the late Dr. John Armstrong, and hosted on a university server in Calgary. Cangen was a revelation, a graduate seminar in population genetics, a usually gracious and always provocative salon of things Dog. (It was strangled in its sickbed by show-fancy dittoheads after Dr. Armstrong's untimely death in 2001.) Donald McCaig continues to enthrall me with the world of sheepdog trials and work on the closed professional Balanced Trainers' list. It is selfish for us trainers to keep these pleasures for ourselves.

Donald, knock it off with the modesty. There is a ready readership for the art you share on BT, and they need to hear what you have to say. For doG's sake man, Jon Katz has a website!

Some of you will be aware that CARDA SAR dog handler Laura Sanborn is one of the tireless citizens who spearheaded the campaign to defeat the noxious California AB 1634, The California Pet Extinction Act. Save Our Dogs spoke for the working dog in that great coalition to defeat "sounds good" nanny-statism. Those of us who need, use, love and value real working dogs -- and those who would choose their own pets -- have Laura and her husband Douglas Surber to thank for putting their lives on hold for over year to turn back the tide of PeTA's anti-animal agenda in California -- slowing its metastasis to the rest of the world, buying time for reason to prevail.

You may not know that, although Laura owns two English shepherds, she has the tenacity of a terrier when her engineer's mind encounters a puzzle. Her research skills are second to none, her ability to frame an argument and support it with facts a wonder to behold. She's one of the few people I know whose opinions follow the facts, an uncompromising intellect.

Like, for example, this.

Laura's SAR-unit name is "Twenty Questions." No doubt.

Laura is another Cangen alumna, and is active on the English shepherd discussion lists and the Balanced Trainers' list now. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of working dogs of all stripes -- not just SAR and stockdogs, but especially police and Schutzhund dogs, and extending to every beast who earns his kibble. It doesn't stop there -- Laura's interests and expertise range wide across the medical, behavioral, genetic and historical.

I asked Laura to join me in a communal blog some time ago; at the time she was neck-deep in the California battle, and both she and Douglas were hard at work establishing the amazing online registry database for the English Shepherd Club. Now Laura, you weren't thinking you'd just return to having a life, did you?

Dr. John Burchard knows more about a thousand disciplines than I will ever master about one.

Sighthounds, horses, hawks, hares. Wolves and eagles and badgers Oh My. Biomechanics. Genetics -- regular and population. Human cultures and how they interface with their animals. Tick-borne disease. Reproduction, selection both natural and artificial. Ecology. Behavior, ethology -- any species. Great Mexican food.

Some of you have seen John occasionally quoted on the fabulous Querencia blog. Not enough.

John used to go online once every couple of weeks, and then the lists to which he was subscribed (Cangen again, and others) would receive an enormous bolus of Burchardian knowledge, insight, and wisdom. I would purely salivate when I saw the first post, for I knew there would be a dozen wonderful ones to digest that day.

I once asked John, as I was working on a magazine project that died aborning, what he would most want ordinary dog owners to know about their animals. This hard scientist thought for a while and said, carefully, "They must understand that there is a mind there."

John Burchard is gracious above all else. John, it is unkind of you not to share yourself more widely.

Alison Lever is a Brit expat academic who thinks on Things Dog and, now, raises sheep and picks olives in rural Spain and continues to think on Things Cultural, like this and this. Alison, am I correct that your specific form of overeducation is as a cultural anthropologist? I miss her posts to Balanced Trainers, followed her journey from urban pet owner in closely-guarded England to Spanish shepherdess in one of the villages where she performed her field work.

Alison, come down out of that olive tree a few times a week and tell the world about it!

Baton Rouge dog trainer Dick Russell welcomed me to the Balanced Trainers' list with a threat to the other members -- If you run this one off, there will be (I forget the specific colorful Cajun consequence). No worries Dick -- I was happy to jump in swinging. Where Donald McCaig is curmudgeonly, Dick Russell is just plain ornery -- and we like it that way.

More to the point, there is no other single dog trainer whose advice to owners I simply send off verbatim (usually as a link) so often. Like this one.

At my first dog trainers' conference, hundreds of dogs, there were three dogs that were never on a leash, and never on an electronic collar, had never been trained on an electronic collar. One was my beloved SAR partner Mel. One was Donald McCaig's June. And the third was Dick's sheepdog Annie.

Dick, I want to hear about your horses and Gulf Coast sheep and sheepdogs and kittens and etouffee and chickens and politics and wimmin again.

The gauntlet has been slapped to the ground. Blogger accounts are free. Gentlemen and ladies, what say you?


  1. Bravo! I'll start hammering on Donald, Dick and Laura.

    Also - did you see that Alison just rejoined the new BT list this very morning?

    IMO this is a good omen.

  2. The "this" link for Laura S. seems to be broken. I don't know if it is just my browser, but you might want to check it out.

    Otherwise, those sound like they would be interesting blogs to take up my not-so-copious time. Best of luck. :)

    Jean & Chan in CT

  3. Thanks Jean -- fixed it. You should be able to link now.

  4. I totally agree: Get these folks a-bloggin'


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