Friday, October 31, 2008

So Long To Sprawlburbia

Wait a minute -- didn't we already do that?

Isn't that, like, the whole point?

Sort of. Despite the best efforts of the home warranty contractor and the buyers' lender today, we closed on the Cranberry ranch house where we lived for 12 years today. We finally have nothing at all in common with John & Cindy -- we are the owners of one house, and the payers of one mortgage.

And I am no longer obliged to drive into the hateful wasteland of metastasizing asphalt to maintain a vacant house and perform pagan marketing dances around the real estate sign in the lawn.

The punch line? It was a colossally unwise decision about a dog that finally sold this house -- and its big fenced backyard.

The young couple were living in a rented townhouse. The young lady is pregnant. So, naturally, they bought a Siberian husky puppy -- must've been right around the time they discovered the pregnancy -- then found that the condo association had a 25 pound weight limit for dogs.

The pup will be ten months old when the baby comes.

Good luck with that.

And bury some wire along the fenceline.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Norm MacDonald Notwithstanding ...

Hat tip to Patrick for pointing us to this blog about blood tracking with teckels, aka Dachshunds As God Intended Them.

Blood tracking with dogs is illegal in Pennsylvania. That's the cause of an ongoing tragedy -- the wasted lives of deer that are shot and not recovered. We are one of the premier deer-hunting states, and the ranks of Pennsylvania hunters include what I will guess is a greater-than-average number of weekend warriors -- guys who do not possess the woodcraft to visually track under difficult circumstances.

Vermont and New York have programs to enable handlers with leashed, trained dogs to track big game. Why not Pennsylvania?

There was a bill introduced a few years ago to allow it; I wrote to the sponsor to inquire about it, but never heard back.

When I mention this idea to other hunters, what I hear back is that it is unsportsmanlike to hunt deer with dogs.

I'm inclined to agree. But tracking a wounded animal is not "hunting." It is recovering what has already been hunted, and in some cases, it is a humane imperative. Bambi is not going to go on to become King of the Forest with an arrow in his belly.

I've got an underemployed shoulda-been SAR dog here. We had to withdraw Moe from the work he was born to because there are days when he just can't do it. Chronic Lyme disease has taken it out of his hide. While on his good days he is very good, on a bad day, he's camped out in the closet, or literally does not get out of bed. (Yesterday was a bad day, cold and wet and snotty with squalls, which is a problem for him, and his baby sister had to step up and help me with farm chores that are normally his.) A SAR dog, responsible for human lives, can't be chronically indisposed when the pagers go off.

But blood tracking? Oh yeah -- he could be good for that. Not every day. But often enough to be of service.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Did a Cat Shit in Here?

Science writer, receptor biochemist, and SAR dog handler Ken Chiacchia has launched a new scent-focused blog here.

Ken is a good enough dog handler, I married him.

Check it out.

I Can Get It For You Wholesale

You'd need a strong stomach to adopt a pet from the glorified dog pound I visited today.

Though I arrived less than an hour after what a sign on the front door declared the daily "cleaning time," the stench in the kennel was gagworthy.

Most of the tiny indoor runs had shit piles in them; some had many shit piles. There were no employees or volunteers in the kennel, but several occupied offices. Outside, where dogs are sometimes tethered -- shit strata.

And of course, there was the Wall of Sound, which is a feature of most kennels.

The two English shepherd boys I came to pull for National English Shepherd Rescue were friendly, good-natured, and smelled like Satan's jockstrap. Made for a memorable ride home. Their tiny shared run was one of the only clean ones; apparently, based on their deposits since being sprung, they'd been saving it up since they got there.

Now, I'm a woman who rakes a chicken coop each day, who processes whole tripes for her dogs to eat, who dresses and butchers her own deer, who has run on an ambulance, raised litters of puppies, eaten British institutional food. I am a woman with experience of stench.

The first thing I did with these two still-nameless dogs Ace and Gary was de-mat, comb, and bathe them. About three hours -- and they cooperated. Most do not. Especially most who have never seen a brush or a shampoo bottle in their lives, which is the case with these two boys.

Animal professionals often speak of the APO -- the Average Pet Owner. What he does and does not know, the skills he does or does not possess, what he is capable of doing, what he is willing to put up with.

I cannot imagine that 90% of the APOs out there could conceive of taking a shrieking, stir-crazy, filthy, shit-covered, urine-burned dog from one of those kennel runs and bringing it home to be a pet. In his house. Hell no.

Set aside that the dogs in this "shelter" come in untrained, unmannerly, and with unknown and unadmitted histories -- and leave it the same way. Their physical condition does not spell out "great pet" to a normal person, any more than a totalled automobile on a flatbed screams "your next sweet ride" to anyone other than the owner of a body shop. The atmosphere in the kennel is palpable, and I mean that literally. Bring your kids in there? I don't think so.

The stink of parvo feces at Petland is concealed by automatic air "fresheners." The puppies appear clean, are kept on "sanitary" wire and bathed frequently. There's a deli case to block odors. This is called marketing. It's how Hunte stays in business, and also why dog pounds do. Cogitate on it.

For an hour and a half of (unpaid) work per dog, I've determined scads about their temperaments (bombproof comes to mind), and made them already more adoptable. They no longer reek like a pair of old goats, they don't feel gritty/greasy to the touch, the biggest mats are gone. With some groceries, peace and quiet, and training, they will be very marketable. An average pet owner would be able to bring one into his home. He would choose such a dog over one from Petland, even.

The ones back at the "shelter?" Notsomuch. Dogs will die of neglect there. Not a lack of food or water. They'll die because the Powers reject the necessity of marketing their "products." They'll die because a potential adopter is too grossed out by the stench of commingled shit, piss, and despair to visit the "shelter." They'll die because Dad bugged out with little Jimmy when the decibel level got dangerous -- and there was no place to look at or meet the dogs except right there in the kennel. They'll die because the volunteer who should have been bathing them and teaching them to sit and shake hands couldn't take it anymore.

There are a lot of people in the "shelter industry" who roll their eyes at the notion that we could become a No-Kill Nation. Killing for cage space is inevitable in their reality. But they have created that reality themselves. Others are free to reject it, and create a better one -- one where the shit gets scooped, the dog gets a bath, and a thousand other "marketing details" get attended to, because each and every animal has value.

Monday, October 20, 2008

One more Not of The Body

Mary Peaslee of Shepherd's Way sent me a link to this:

Working Dog Diary

Great stuff, fine writing. I'm going to enjoy devouring it all.

Small is beautiful. Diversity is strength. Dogs can lead us back to ourselves, if we will get out of the way and follow.

We are everywhere.

Monday, October 13, 2008

No Show

The most thoughtful of the people who are not embarrassed to call themselves "fanciers" of dogs -- and even "in The Fancy" or "part of The Fancy" -- meet critiques of the disastrous institution called a "dog show" with a sort of half-hearted, but still stubborn, defense:

Well, yes, so many of those people are terrible, win at all cost, and the judging is all political, and so many unsound dogs with bad temperaments get championships, and working ability is not respected there ... but this is where we breed fanciers get together. This is where we see other dogs of our breeds, and pick out mates, and sell puppies, and 'educate the public' about our breed. And it's where I get to see my friends 'in the breed' -- it's my social life. And the dogs get socialized, the chaos is good for the puppies to learn. And it's the breed club through AKC dog shows that educates us breeders about genetic defects and health problems and how to breed better dogs. Plus, how else would a puppy buyer find out about the good breeders out there instead of just go to a pet shop?

We drove over 900 miles this weekend, and came home with no championship points, no ribbons, no "legs," no silver loving cup.

Near as I can tell, nobody here is disappointed. Rosie is disgruntled, but she is always disgruntled -- everything vexes her.

Pip and Rosie got long-overdue new collars for the occasion -- burgundy for Pip, leopard-pattern for Rosie -- but they were rarely snapped to leashes, which were never used to string them around in a circle or restrain them for "inspection."

I did give Rosie a bath on Thursday night. This had nothing to do with enhancing her pretty white ruff to catch the eye of judge, and everything to do with whatever reeking black foulness it was that she rolled in Thursday afternoon. Pip's pre-trip grooming was limited to our usual evening burr-picking session.

Not one of the fifty-plus English shepherd owners who gathered at a horse farm in western North Carolina had occasion to whisper to another about the fix that "put up" the obviously inferior dog of a third one.

No one screamed "loose dog."

No vendor sold stacks of t-shirts reading "The winning dog was professionally handled ... and so was the judge." (Real shirt. Saw them selling like Eskimo pies in Hell at a show in 2003.)

Nobody jumped in the car early and headed home after losing in the "first round."

No one paid a fee to cover the overhead on Madison Avenue offices or a new tux for the judge.

There was no gatekeeper verifying that each dog's paperwork was in order.

Nobody got disqualified.

If anyone was being paid to be there, I didn't hear of it.

What did happen was this ...

A large group of owners, and wannabe owners, of a rare kind of dog came together on a glorious fall Saturday.

A large group of dogs of a rare kind wandered about, most of them off-leash most of the time, socialized, played, threw a few snits, went swimming, fetched sticks and frisbees, barked, flirted, checked in with their owners, and sometimes shadowed them with the commitment of one of Pullman's daemons.

Humans looked at dogs and inquired about who was the Momma and the Poppa, and did that stolid fellow still possess a full pair of cojones, and what about them hip scores?

A representative of the ALBC spoke to us about our shared project of heritage breed conservation.

Puppies were passed from lap to lap for cuddling and spoiling.

Pedigrees were passed from hand to hand for scrutiny and discussion.

We had a raffle, and bought books and things, to benefit breed rescue. Rescue and the breed club are not at odds, with one party screaming "neuter them all" and the other sniping about unbalanced humaniacs. The boards overlap. Breeders are active in rescue. I am one of them.

Online friends got to meet in person, and old acquaintances were renewed. Club members from Texas, Vermont, Idaho and Montana had come.

Breeders got a good look at pups they had sold, all growed up.

We included part-bred dogs and their owners as a matter of course. (Imagine the welcome extended to a "shepherd mix" at, say, a GSDCA specialty show.)

We watched agility competitors demonstrate their craft; the regular dogs also played with the jumps and tunnels.

We commented on how great it was for our guys to to relax and socialize with other dogs and humans who "get them."

We remembered those who had left our community this year, canine and human, and shared our sense of loss.

We ate wonderful potluck food.

We took pictures.

We talked dogs.

We gathered up our folding chairs and serving bowls and drove home, each and every one of us with the grand prize: The same great dog we had brought with us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Prepotent Trademark?

The Original

is a trademarked term.

Who knew?

At least, one Daphne Hereford of Crocket Texas owns the tradmark rights to "Rin-Tin-Tin" as it applies to "live puppies."

No word on what the US trademark office has to say about marketing dead puppies as "Rin-Tin-Tin."

A US distributor is releasing a 2007 Bulgarian flick, Finding Rin-Tin-Tin on DVD, and Ms. Hereford is suing to have all copies of the film drowned in a bucket destroyed.

It is not clear to me how a trademark on a term as it applies to the sale of live puppies affects the use of the proper name in a movie which, while it may take liberties with the facts, is roughly a work of art depicting a historical personage. Caninage. Whatever.

But according to the Houston Chronicle

According to the new lawsuit, Hereford's trademarks on the Rin Tin Tin name include its use for live puppies, educational presentations, a mail-order fan club, magazines, playing cards, children's books, dog clothing and dog food.

Hereford's Houston-based lawyer, Karen Tripp, said the current case is about the dilution of trademarks. "Daphne has a very strong trademark in Rin Tin Tin. Her registrations are incontestable," Tripp said.

The possible remedies are varied, Tripp said. "At the very least, there has to be a notice that these are not Rin Tin Tin dogs but actors. Her dogs are beautiful and well-trained, and she wants it clear in the marketplace," the lawyer said.

I mean, I know! Just compare these superior "linebred" descendants of the original Rin-Tin-Tin:

Daphne Hereford's "history" page

With these hideous counterfeits:

(Hint: in Eastern Europe, the wicked commies did a very good job of breeding real working GSDs, the better to oppress their population, Dearie. Dog shows were a bourgeois no-no.)

So if I make a film about the life of Rinty contemporary Errol Flynn, do I have to cast Sean Flynn to play Pop-Pop? If I wanna make a movie about Oscar Wilde, am I SOL?

There's so much not to like about this sheet-shedding tempest in a steel bowl:

• Ms. Hereford's inbreeding program
• Her "eye" for a German shepherd dog, and delusions that the beasts she owns today bear any more resemblance to great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great Grandad than does any other German shepherd
• $3500 for an indifferently-bred shepherd pup, sold on a sterilization contract

Vying against

• What promises to be a truly vile direct-to-video animal-themed movie, which I now feel compelled to at least rent

(Update: It is on Netflix streaming. It is more horrible than I ever imagined. If Ms. Hereford had sued to have this film euthanized on artistic grounds, I'd have filed an amicus brief. Though it has a pretty awesome, South Parkian in its self-parody, training montage.)

You can patent a mouse or a yeast. I don't agree with it, but that's the law as it is. You can protect a bloodline of animals with hardass contracts, and it's the obligation of the civil courts to enable you to enforce those contracts.

Ownership of the name and story of a historical figure, by virtue of ownership of some of his descendants, and an aggressive trademarking campaign?

(Update: The judge says WTF?)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Can we have international election monitors in Ohio?

Concentrated Evil

From the Gray Lady herself.


Will they be tying damsels to the railroad tracks as well? Drowning puppies?

More from the Indianapolis Star.

And the Great Falls Tribune.

And from CBS News -- why the hell has this not been on the front page of the Pittsburgh papers every day?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Abusive Boyfriend Dogs and Bunny-Boiler Bitches

I've never had that boyfriend. The guy who starts out all romance-novel, but then pretty quickly it's all Where were you this afternoon, I called your sister's and she didn't pick up -- you don't need your own bank account, I'll pay for what you need -- why were you just talking to that guy, what do you mean he's a "friend" from work, you don't need no "friends" -- goddammit, when I come home I expect dinner to be on the table -- what did you say, bitch!?

He's the guy who's going to hit you sooner or later, unless you get the hell out sooner. He's right there, ready, when life takes down an otherwise capable woman, and he's always out there hunting for someone who believes deep-down that she's a piece of shit who doesn't deserve better -- he can find these weak members of the herd with a skill that would make a hungry jackal blush, and run them until they collapse.

On a first date, he may take your wrist "gently but firmly." Or steer you by the small of the back when you need no assistance. He'll wrestle "playfully" and let you know he's stronger than you. Nipping the gazelle, see. Little test.

No, I've never had that boyfriend. My romantic history runs heavy on the sweet geeks. Worst mistake I ever made along those lines was dating a Republican. But like every woman, I sure know That Guy. (He's the one all your friends and family hate, girlfriend. Listen to them. Or he's the one who can "charm" some or all of the people in public, but "changes" when he's alone with you. Run.)

He thinks he's an "alpha male," but really he fears your power and grasps for control he knows he does not deserve and cannot achieve without diminishing you.

Men, I am told, have an equivalent archetype, the "bunny-boiler." Sexy, passionate, and will cut your balls off with pinking shears because you were telling jokes to a younger woman -- excuse me, that whore -- at the party.

(I think we can all agree that the blessed union of John and Lorena Bobbitt was what happens when That Guy marries the Bunny Boiler. Police in every town, everywhere have a list of such couples. Drain on the law enforcement budget, and potentially dangerous, but at least the two of them are out of circulation as long as they stay together.)


The enormous Labrador put on a pretty good doofus act.

Oh, don't you want me to barrel into you at the door? I'm just a really friendly dumb dog, don't mean nuthin' by it! Hey! When I'm jumping from chair to couch to coffee table, I'm just being an exuberant guy! I'm a Labradork! No one takes me seriously! I'm takin' this sammitch! I'm charming, I don't have to have manners, look how cute I am!

When he grabbed his owner's arm to keep her from snapping on the head halter she'd been using to try to control him on walks, I flashed on That Guy in the bar -- the one gripping the back of his girlfriend's neck. Deadly threat and immediate coercion in a deniable form -- Just being affectionate. Just playing. Nothing wrong here officer. Ask her yourself.

Like most Abusive Boyfriend Dogs of both species, this Lab employed manipulation with the implied, rather than overt, threat of force -- right up until that didn't work anymore. Mostly it always worked with his owners. They were pretty obedient, and he'd trained them to present cookies whenever he might get upset about something.

He'd already trapped one disobedient dogsitter in the basement, prompting his owners' call to me. He was not going to go back into his crate, and if he had to use his teeth to emphasize that point, that was okay too.

Trainer coming in and telling him what to do -- and worse, telling his beyotch to disobey him? Let's start with some nose bumps. Now hard eyes. Doesn't back down? Here come the teeth!

Lest you think that successful bullying of humans is the domain of hundred pound brutes -- there was the eight-pound papillon who dictated whether or not his male owner could return to bed after getting up at night (answer: not), and successfully "pulled" his fit, athletic female owner off the straight line I'd asked her to walk, because he wanted to pee on every mailbox.

A variation is the bitch who proclaims to one human I will not be ignored, and to the rest of the family (interlopers) You will never come between us. In my experience, bitches are less likely to use "goofy" as a cover for their controlling behavior, and tend to be both sneakier and more symbolic when they make their points. Like the herding-breed bitch who left steaming turds in the exact center of her man's wife's meditation cushion. (This lady was not the bitch's owner in any meaningful way; when I suggested that there was a man-wife-bitch love triangle in operation, she quite astutely interjected "And I am the other woman.")

Are these problem dogs?

They are problem relationships.

My guy Moe is the most devoted, loving, loyal animal I've ever known. He wants nothing more dearly than to be of service, to be on the team. Moe's motto: What can I do for you next, ma'am? And he never met a (human) stranger.

Moe is also dominant, powerful, physically and emotionally pushy, protective and hyper-responsible, slightly needy, and has potential for aggression. All reasons why he stayed with us instead of being sold. It was clear by the time he was six weeks old that adorable puppy Moe was an Abusive Boyfriend Dog waiting to happen.

Different relationship, different development, result = different dog. Too bad we can't evaluate little kids and make sure they get the specific parenting they need based on temperament. There'd be a lot fewer women with black eyes cowering near the only pay phone in town. Unfortunately, most humans don't even try to evaluate the temperaments of their future pets, or the pets they are selling -- and when they do, they frequently get it wrong.

While a pet dog may successfully control some of the behavior of humans he lives with, ultimately he cannot be in charge of the relationship. After all, the human has the ability to drive him to the pound at any time -- the human can end the relationship unilaterally and permanently, and the dog has no recourse, can't really break in and boil the bunny in retaliation. Just as real Abusive Boyfriends become more controlling and dangerous when they perceive that a woman might be strong enough to leave, ABD's controlling and violent behavior is grounded in their unconscious knowledge that the humans they bully still maintain the power of the doorknob, the car keys, and the checkbook. It escalates when the human attempts either distance or discipline. So, although the dog's temperament is a major factor, we cannot hold a dog responsible for a human-dog relationship gone wrong. That leaves one other party in the relationship.

People who have one Abusive Boyfriend Dog frequently find themselves with one after another.

Others are lucky enough, or careful enough, to acquire good-natured, easy-going dogs who are secure enough that they feel no need to "control" their humans. They may have had many dogs with no real problems before the one who prompts the call to me. The ABD is a surprise -- I raised all my dogs like this, and none of them ever chased me into the bathroom when I tried to take garbage away from them.


How can I tell whether I may have enabled my dog to become an ABD, or a BBB?

• You find yourself altering or limiting your relationships with other humans because the dog is "protective" or intolerant of guests or your SO/dates/family members.
• The dog is destructive, anxious, hysterical when you go out, and may have been labeled as having "separation anxiety." He may even actively attempt to prevent you from leaving.
• The dog steals stuff in order to initiate a keepaway chase and gain attention, or in order to have something to guard.
• The dog bolts, plays keepaway, or otherwise acts up when you are preparing to leave.
• The dog resists training for door manners.
* The dog does not get off furniture when told to do so, and resists yielding to humans.
• The dog is uncharacteristically subdued and mannerly in the presence of the vet or obedience trainer, especially when away from home.
• The dog is uncharacteristically overtly aggressive towards the vet or obedience trainer.
• The dog guards you. Many owners call this "protective." It is not. The dog who guards you from your eight-year-old grandson or your husband or every stranger he sees is the canine equivalent of the guy who picks fights in bars because You was looking at my woman. This is possessive, not protective. (The same guy will run like dollar-store pantyhose in a genuine pinch, leaving you in the alley with the knife-wielding mugger.)
• The dog "disciplines" human family members, or threatens them, particularly when he is occupying furniture or has something he's guarding.
• The dog responds enthusiastically to "cookie training" and then becomes "stubborn," resentful, or threatening when the bribes are withdrawn.
• The dog constantly solicits fondling and touching in the manner of his choosing, but resists grooming, physical shaping, physical corrections, and other forms of touch that are not of his choosing.
• The dog claims space in your bed, and may guard it from one or both of its rightful occupants, or from your young children
• The dog is "fine" with you because you don't do anything "unreasonable" -- but threatens or bites others who find and push his "buttons."

Do you suspect you have an ABD or BBB? This list is not a Cosmo quiz -- it isn't a case of "eight of the above and you are living with an ABD." It's a suite of issues that you may want to think about. However, if you have ever said or thought the following, you have enabled an ABD:

• But he's so sweet! And he's sorry that he lost his temper with me, just look at those eyes! He doesn't want to do it again; I'll just let him have the couch next time, it's no big deal. And he's good with the kids Skylar's lip is already healing.

Next week: How to reform an ABD, or Shotgun Therapy for Bad Attitude.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Edison: The Dog Factory

I first saw this charming Edison short at a special exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Delighted to find it on YouTube. (There are several fragments posted, but this is the only one that has the entire film.)

Notice how many kinds of "bulls" the dog factory provided a century ago.

Love the Trained Dog.