Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year

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Some years ago, I basked in a holiday-time compliment from a fellow trainer, who lauded my "ability to make dogs wear antlers without them looking beaten."

Seems that that mojo has worn off this year, alas.

May 2011 see many sparkly things, and very few beatings, for you and yours.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Profane Open Letter to the Leader of the Free World, and an Apology to My Readers

Dear President Obama,

You know I love you.* Now shut the fuck up.

Okay, I gave this some time to cool, so I've now read that you did not actually call up the Philly Eagles in order to congratulate them on guessing right about the profit potential of a paroled sociopath.


When you call up an executive in the corporate entertainment world -- which, I might point out, as the POTUS you should not be wasting time doing -- you stay on your goddamn message. No frills. I understand your message was supposed to be "Good job making your stadium less of an environmental catastrophe."

But that's not what Jeff Lurie went running to the media to crow about, is it?

No, Lurie spun your phone call into a Presidential endorsement of loving† the puppy-hanger while maybe hating the puppy-hanging faster than a Kensington whore flips a BJ into a crack hit.

Are you surprised?

The White House hasn't denied that you talked about this parolee, or that you used tired cliches such as "second chance" and "level playing field" in referring to the hiring of a creature with bloody hands to catch the ball, run with the ball, throw the ball.** For far more money than you make.

So I reckon you did say that bullshit. Dumbass.‡

It's less clear whether you used the hackneyed language of "redemption," in your boy-talk with Lurie. If so, let's be perfectly clear about something.

Catching the ball, throwing the ball, running with the ball -- done well, done poorly, not done at all -- is not a morally relevant activity.

Jebus doesn't endorse men who play boys' games, or the mega-corporations who own employ them.

But more important, catching the ball, throwing the ball, running with the ball does not and cannot "redeem" anyone as a moral agent.

I'm going to repeat that with smaller words for you sports fans: Good at football not same as good man.

The usual sequence in, for the sake of argument, the "Christian" formulation is sincere repentance -- meaning that one is sorry one did wrong, not sorry that one got caught or suffered consequences -- followed by penance -- that is, working hard for the benefit of others (often the victims of one's misdeeds, or their proxies) for no personal gain and under no extrinsic compulsion in order to make things right -- leading to personal transformation into the kind of moral agent who is no longer capable of the kind of wrongdoing that led to the need for redemption.

Just, you know, ferinstance.

As for "comebacks," these are noteworthy -- not necessarily morally, but of interest -- when the "setback" that provides the stage is extrinsic, or at least not a direct and easily avoidable result of the staggering moral perversity of the one who has "suffered" the setback.

One can perhaps be inspired when an athlete comes back after blowing out a knee. It is not morally relevant in the way that sports writers like to sell, but it may speak to character traits such as perseverance that we generally favor and to which we aspire.

From what has Vick "come back?" Merely the cushioned, mitigated, kid-gloved semi-consequences of his own freely-chosen, focused and sustained moral depravity. From a token prison sentence for a few of his crimes, and unconscionable legal and media gloss over the worst of them.

Also, just saying, court-ordered community service is not a mitzvah. It's part of the goddamn sentence. Completing it is not optional, so you don't get extra credit points. It is not intended to "clean up your image" on the way to lucrative endorsement contracts.

There is, likewise, no "heroism" in apparently discontinuing ongoing acts of violent atrocity after being stopped by force of law. Most of us manage to refrain on a daily basis without threat of prison. Our "self-restraint" is not praiseworthy, even in these grade-inflated times. It's not even self-restraint, because normal people do not ever fucking want to electrocute dogs in our swimming pools.

I am quite certain, Mr. President, that as the doting father of two daughters, you would not go out of your way to praise an employer who hires an unrepentant serial child torture-murderer to perform any job -- and because he's good at it, to pay him $5.2 million. You wouldn't justify the crime because the murderer had served time, even if he'd served time for the actual crime. (It bears repeating, Vick has not).

Doesn't the same consideration extend, in its way, to your dog?

While the tradition of political-pet-as-prop is too longstanding to ignore (nearly as venerable as the political wife/accessory), you seem to be genuinely fond of that hairy beastie Ted Kennedy gave your kids. It's hard not to be, right? That's the thing about dogs, isn't it? Like children, they disarm you; even despite yourself, they bring out some of the best core parts of the real person in there. For most of us, that's the open, trusting, innocent, unselfconscious giver and receiver of love. And with a dog as a catalyst, we might even bring a little bit more of that creamy center out into the rest of our lives, where the people around us can enjoy it.

It is that part of ourselves that bleeds when we hear of a child or a dog who is tortured. And that blood that rises into primal outrage when we see that the abuser will not be held accountable.

Cogitate on what Michael Vick's dogs -- loving, trusting, loyal dogs no different from the "cuter" fluffier kind -- brought out from the inside of their owner, what they revealed to the world about what occupies that center. And then tell me what the prize is for redeeming that ticket.


An American


* This is by no means unconditional.

† Or at least exploiting for execrable profits, as long as that keeps working out.

** Good thing Vick can do all three. No dog in his right mind would fetch it back to him.

‡ If Bush had done the same thing, the world would have found out what a really profane open letter looks like. And you know, that's not fair. So thanks for reminding me of that about myself. I'm going to pay attention to that.

* * *

An Apology to my Readers

Yesterday I published this post.

When I arrived home last night, I found a backlog of comments. (Comments are now moderated, as the spammers have honored this blog with their love). Almost every single comment expressed sincere white-hot outrage at the British judicial system and the RSPCA for this obvious miscarriage of justice. If you think the post above is profane ...

A more careful reader -- or perhaps just a person who has read more of my work and can see it coming -- catches the conceit of the post.

Because the "news article" is a fabrication, and was meant to be recognized as such.

It began with a friend's musing about what the general public would think of Michael Vick if he had gleefully tortured and killed animals other than pit bulls -- something fluffy and "cute." Kittens, perhaps.

Because people get caught up in the dog fighting aspect of his crime, and fail to stay focused on the psychopathic torture-killing of the dogs who disappointed their "master."

I took it further. What if Vick wasn't any good at football?

In other words, what if someone non-famous was treated as Vick has been?

It is too implausible that someone non-rich would be dealt with thusly, so I kept that part, and set the stage in a foreign land.

I asked a British friend with an eye for written nuance to edit the thought-experiment; she made it read more authentically British, and further, British second-rate newspaper.

I'm not going to name these co-conspirators, because the end result is all my fault.

I became rather pleased with the result as a piece of collaborative writing, and lost track of its likely effect on readers. Having constructed something that was too convincing, I thoughtlessly set a trap for them. That was never my intention. I honestly thought that this would play out like many articles in The Onion*; that is, initial outrage or astonishment, followed by "Oh, it's the bloody Onion. Got me again you jerks." But of course, this blog doesn't provide the context that an Onion header does.

I honestly figured that "Victoria Michaels" would jump out at people and cue them. I was wrong. Too subtle when someone is RWA. (Reading While Angry.)

The names of her co-defendants and mother -- also derived from the Vick case. The name of the judge and kennel, invented whole-cloth. The RSPCA, a real organizations that, as far as I know, has never made such a deal with the Devil, unlike its US "analogue." Swindon and District Animal Haven, a real charity that, as far as I know, is worthy. Holloway prison, Swindon, Wiltshire, Goatacre -- real places, where Victoria Michaels has never lived.

After sleeping on it, I've decided not to release the many comments posted yesterday. A big thanks to the spammers who set me up to have this time to consider things. It would be terribly disrespectful to "trap" readers -- many of whom I know to be thoughtful people -- and then leave them hanging out in public to look foolish to people who already know "the answer."

I'll release any comments made after a link to this post is active at the top of yesterday's.

I'm sincerely sorry.


* Without being, you know, funny in any way.

It Can't Happen Here

Dear Readers of Raised by Wolves:

Please read the second part of my December 29 post before commenting, linking, or forwarding this post.

Seriously, do.

The Mirror, 27 December 2010

House of Horrors Puppy Farmer Wants Another Pup.
Convicted Tax Dodger and Puppy Farmer Says She Has Been Rehabilitated

Swindon -- Convicted tax evader and notorious puppy-farmer Victoria Michaels has begged Wiltshire courts to let her go back to owning dogs. At present this would be a violation of the terms of her probation. The wealthy estate agent has told Judge Simon Walcott that she has been rehabilitated, returning to her career selling luxury homes, and has donated over £15,000 to the RSPCA, as well as paying the bill for her tax crimes.

Michaels came under police scrutiny in 2006, when a complaint from a neighbor about a bad smell and swarms of flies revealed a house of horrors behind the wooden fence of her smallholding outside the quiet village of Goatacre. Michaels was well-known for over a decade in Kennel Club circles for her “Powderpuff Kennel.” She entered several of her animals in dog shows, and sold surplus puppies to fanciers.

Authorities seized over fifty breeding dogs -- mostly bichons frise, a small and cuddly white breed that can sell for up to £1000 at pet stores. The dogs were kept chained to metal barrels or in rabbit-hutches in a dirty yard. Michaels was not licensed to breed dogs, and had forged documents in order to sell puppies to brokers and pet stores throughout Britain.

But what officers found in the shed and manure pile at the back of the dog yard was to shock the nation. Hidden under the manure pile were bodies of dozens of dogs that Michaels said had died of “old age” or distemper, but they showed signs of having been beaten, stabbed, strangled, smothered or electrocuted.

Inside the shed authorities discovered a bloody crowbar, a bloody nylon noose hanging from a beam, plastic bags and twisted wire that prosecutors say were used to suffocate unprofitable dogs, and an electrical cord that had been modified with clips, which they say she used to electrocute several stud dogs that had proved infertile.

Michaels’ co-defendant, Anthony Taylor, occupied the cottage on the property and served as kennel manager, feeding the dogs and arranging the sale of the puppies.

Taylor and his associate Lawrence Phillips gave evidence against Michaels, telling police and prosecutors that Michaels was ruthless in culling non-performing breeding dogs and unsaleable puppies. She seemed to take revenge on animals that disappointed her.

Taylor described the death of one bitch whose puppies had been born outside in December and later died of exposure. “I don’t have time for bad mothers,” Michaels reportedly told him, before grabbing the little dog by the back legs and striking her head repeatedly against the corner of the shed, then dumping her body on the manure heap.

Reject puppies with defects like cleft palates, broken limbs, and hernias, were hung inside the shed and dispatched with blows from a crowbar.

A bitch that did not conceive and fought with the stud dog had a plastic bag wired over her head and was left hanging by the neck in the shed overnight, after Michaels told Taylor “They either pay their rent or they get out.” When Taylor discovered the dog alive the next morning, Michaels allegedly laughed and told him that “She’s earned a holiday in Texas” -- a reference to the electrical cord that Michaels then used to “execute” the still-conscious animal.

Prosecutors eventually brought charges against Michaels for over £30,000 in unpaid taxes on her illegal puppy sales, as well as charges of operating an unlicensed breeding kennel. In return for withdrawal of animal cruelty charges, Michaels relinquished ownership of the surviving dogs to the Swindon and District Animal Haven.

Michaels served eight months in Holloway and was let out on probation in October 2009. As a condition of her probation, Michaels is not allowed to own or or have animals under her care.

Michaels’ solicitor has appealed against this condition, arguing that:

“Ms. Michaels has paid her debt to society, and sincerely repents of her crimes, as is shown by her personal and professional conduct since her release.

Ms. Michaels owned at least one bichon frise from when she was a small child, and wishes to once again enjoy the companionship of a dog, just as so many families enjoy the companionship of the puppies supplied by Powderpuff Kennels. In addition, Ms. Michaels is now caring for her elderly mother, Brenda, who was forced to put down her own bichon frise when she moved in with her daughter. Brenda Michaels had no part in the commercial operation of Powderpuff Kennels, yet is being denied the comfort of a dog in her final years.”

The RSPCA supports Michaels’ plea. An RSPCA spokesman told The Mirror, “We have been working with Ms. Michaels since her time in Holloway. Ms. Michaels has been eager to help the RSPCA in our ongoing efforts to educate the public about the abuses of illegal puppy farms. Such efforts are important to prevent vulnerable dog fanciers from falling prey to these enterprises. We believe that Ms. Michaels, with her many years of experience caring for dogs, would provide a good home for a puppy.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I had thought that I'd be posting amateur photographs of the solstice eclipse yesterday.

Skies were winter-clarified and bright, and the news was abuzz about the blood-red moon that we could expect. I researched photography sites for hints on using my modest digital camera, got out the tripod, and played with the controls. Had some normally verboten dinnertime caffeine, and stayed up.

At midnight the moon burned cold and high, sharp-edged and brilliant. The landscape glowed back. I could read by the light.

By two, the shroud of clouds was so thick that I could not find the moon at all -- premature eclipsulation.

Sunday night I'd been possessed by the urgent thought that it was time for the last of the excess cockerels to convert -- convert from hen-harassing freeloading loud-mouthed date-rapists into coq a vin and mole. I'd caged them up then, and spent Monday afternoon killing, plucking, and butchering them. I am prone to procrastinate those chores that require me to kill someone, and this task goes faster if PC is here to help, so this positive urgency was curious. It just seemed as if it needed to get done now.

Much like the wood-splitting that calls me out back nearly every day while the light fades. As the stacked cordwood piles up, I feel a little less nervous urgency in my bowels.

I was not born a medieval peasant or stone-age pastoralist; winter has not meant especial hunger and risk for me. But somewhere in the last 10,000 years of re-twisting DNA, there must be a gene that, triggered in the proper context, tells me: Cold out, meat will keep, you can't afford to feed that guy all winter, now is the time.

So at Yule we celebrate with fire and flesh.

Barn chores kept me busy yesterday, and it was coming on 6:30 when I remembered the bowl of rooster heads and innards chilling on the porch.

The dogs get the necks, gizzards, feet, hearts, lungs, enormous testicles, and livers. But the heads and guts are the portion of the other canids, the family of red fox who den in the hollow log at the far east end of our south pasture.

The fox stump is a perhaps fifty feet from their favorite lookout spot. Because generations of lazy farmers have nailed their fence wire to the trunks of trees, any tree that expires near the pasture edges must be cut at least chest-high, leaving a tall stump. The fox stump is too tall for my dogs to steal the foxes' tithe. As the tree's formerly living layers rot away, nails and staples and bits of wire appear on the pasture-facing side, as if exposed by rain on stone.

I've been bringing the slaughter remnants and the occasional naturally-expired bird to the stump since we got our poultry. I've never lost a bird to a fox. It's a contract enforced by Moe's diligent patrols and the block walls of the barn. But still, the foxes have been good neighbors. Polite. Deferential. Their tracks in the snow take a hard turn when they encounter the tracks that record Moe's perimeter -- the canids have an ongoing and subtle conversation, though I doubt they have often seen one another. For a dog or fox, scent is thought and intention distilled in time. Moe's perimeter, and Rosie and Cole's profane late-night call-and-response sessions, are no doubt what keeps the local coyotes at arm's length -- and whatever pushes the coyotes away is good for the foxes.

So the dogs and I walked out to the end of the pasture and left an offering feast on the fox stump at just about the moment of the solstice. We had the moon and sky back; I had not even brought a headlamp, whose beam shuts out the world. As we neared the house and barn, warm lights making embers of each window, I felt the great horned owl.

One never hears an owl, unless the owl intends.

I turned just as she landed on the top of the big hemlock that guards the outside curve of the lane. The dogs felt her too; they rushed the tree -- but silently -- and must have been circling its trunk under the dark cave of its branches.

The owl said nothing, just made a silhouette. I watched her for several minutes. But goats were yelling in their stalls about dinner.

When I came out of the barn ten minutes later, she had silently dissolved.

In the small hours this morning, Rosie stood at the bedroom window and growled profane threats under her breath.

This happens from time to time; usually I can make out nothing in the darkness. I believe her, but in winter, with all our creatures locked in after dark, the night belongs to the wild things.

This time, moon blazing once again and snowy world glowing, I could see the owl, posted on top of a defunct utility pole a hundred feet from the front door. She was scanning the garden, hayfield, and stone retaining wall for prospects of her own Yule meat feast.

Uncommon brightness illuminated the solitary life of a night creature on this, the darkest day of the year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Food/Feed Part One: Nitrogen is Nitrogen

The students at Sheep School (aka classes offered in conjunction with the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival) were a mixed lot: a few experienced small commercial stockmen and women, hobby farmers, hand-spinners, pet herders, stockdog handlers, and farmers new to sheep. And me, the stock farmer wannabe; closing on our farm was still a week away.

The instructor for our integrated pest management class was a bit ADHD and very widely knowledgeable, so the course strayed a bit from the closely-defined curriculum. At times, quite a bit. We spent a good deal of time discussing general nutrition. How to balance a ration, how much protein was necessary, working with the feed mill for custom mixes, computing supplements for animals on pasture. And making use of "waste." One student fed bakery discards to his flock. Another was exploring a deal with the produce manager of a supermarket. Good economy if one could ensure that the animals got proper nourishment, if their "ration" was "balanced" overall.

Then the skeptical question, from one of the more experienced students: What about this thing he had read about, feeding poultry litter to sheep?


For those of you whose brains are reflexively vomiting back what you just read (and good for those brains, that is the right reflex), I'm afraid, yes, he was referring to feeding chicken shit, feathers, and soiled sawdust (corncobs, peanut hulls, shredded paper, whatever) to sheep. To animals that evolved to eat God's grass. To animals that are eaten by humans. Whose milk is consumed by humans.

Most of us in the class had to have this clarified and explained too. Not because we were thick.

It's worse than just that, though. What is the source of "poultry litter" to be added to the silage for sheep, goats, cattle? Not the smallholder's wholesome happy henhouse, but, of course, the industrial broiler factories, "vertically integrated" McNugget mechanisms where hundreds of thousands of freakish hybrid birds are crammed together for the short duration of their lives, scarfing down pellets laced with subclinical antibiotics, growing at an astonishing rate, and shitting prodigiously.

The instructor's official response came straight from the playbook of industrial agribusiness: Well, nitrogen is nitrogen.

Translation, long form: As long as an animal receives known chemical nutrients in the right amounts and relative proportions, as determined by science, it doesn't matter what foods it eats.

"Food" is presented as a quaint vehicle for delivering chemical nutrients. No, not "food." "Feed." If livestock eat it, it is not even dignified as "food."

A joke: April Fool's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered in the early 90's. The well-crafted spoof spotlights the growing practice among organic gardeners of skipping the middleman and eating delicious, rich, nutritious finished compost.

Okay, cute. Funny part was listener reaction the next day. There were the clueless who never got it, and earnestly wrote and called in to solemnly warn about the dangers of pathogens in compost. And the pinched and humorless, who upbraided the wicked reporters for their irresponsibility, invoking the legions of listeners led astray, and out to the corner of the garden with a spoon.

Little did they know.

Sitting in that tent in Maryland, I remembered the previous year's pet food recalls. Are nutrients packaged and marketed for dogs and cats "food" or "feed?" On the bag it says "food." The pet-owning consumer likes to think of it as food, no scare quotes. The industry periodically drops into referring to it as feed, same as the pellets and crumbles and grain mixes sold for poultry, cattle, horses.

Dog and cat food, or feed, was systematically killing beloved pets because, somewhere at a factory in China, someone had discovered that a cheap industrial plastic could be added to agricultural commodities to make them appear to be higher in protein. It was cheaper to add waste plastic (impure "melamine scrap") to grain products so that when these products were tested for "crude protein," they would appear to be more valuable than they were.

What does the simple, cheap "crude protein" test detect? Not protein, but nitrogen -- an element that is lacking in lipids and carbohydrates, but abundantly present in the amino acids that form proteins.

Logical enough. If nitrogen is part of a food, it is tied up in the protein. Measure nitrogen, you measure protein. Why would one expect anything else?

But that's not quite true of "feed." Ruminant animals -- cows, sheep, goats, camels, deer, etc. -- can, to some extent, utilize free nitrogen as nourishment. The microbial symbionts in their reticulorumens (first two "stomachs") are able to convert non-amino acid nitrogen to both microbial amino acids and -- if an excess is present --ammonia, used as an energy source. The animal does not digest this free nitrogen (as well as undigestible cellulose) itself -- the animal digests the microbes that have eaten these uneatable feeds. And their poop.

Feedlots have been adding urea to the already unnatural rations of cattle for decades. Since the feedlot steer is not meant to live to adulthood, what does it matter that his kidneys are being destroyed? The captive-bolt will beat fatal organ breakdown by a few months. There isn't even the conceit of optimizing steer nutrition for health and well-being. Cheapest way per pound to cover bone with meat over the course of the next few months.

Monogastric animals -- dogs, cats, chickens, horses, almost everyone, including us -- don't carry around a belly-load of symbionts ready to digest these particular undigestibles for us. Nitrogen that isn't chained into an amino acid is useless to our innards.

So that's the basic biochemistry -- the reason the ag-school expert was willing to pronounce that "nitrogen is nitrogen," even when faced with a practice that, from her paralanguage, evoked the same disgust in her as it did in the rest of us. Official line: Industrial chicken-shit and prime alfalfa -- same diff to a sheep's symbionts. Do the math. Use what's cheap.

A notion that has grown rather more legs than are justified by sciences and disciplines beyond the basic biochemistry involved in a nutrient analysis.

Does it make sense from the standpoint of evolutionary biology?

Well, there are animals that consume the feces of other animals for nourishment. They are called scavengers. If you've kept an aquarium, you've likely employed catfish or snails in this capacity. Sheep are not among them. Sheep have evolved to to eat grass.

The will to ignore the observed facts of biology comes from the conceit that, because we understand more about the chemistry of nutrition today than we did a hundred years ago, we know everything about it.

Does it compute from a public health perspective?

Factory broilers consume sub-clinical doses of antibiotics from the day they hatch to the day before they are slaughtered.

Does your lamb chop need to consume megadoses of not only the antibiotic residue in the chicken shit, but the mutant coliform bacteria themselves?

Does it pass the sniff test of food safety?

The melamine in US infant formula wasn't dumped into the milk powder from a vat. It was concentrated in the kidneys of cows fed contaminated "feed."

The contention that "nitrogen is nitrogen" -- could that be the underlying industriagra conceit that gave us Mad Cow/scrapie/Creuzfeldt-Jacob? That poisoned dogs and cats who were eating a "balanced" and "scientific" ration? That has destroyed the kidneys of uncounted Chinese infants? That has American cows' milk testing positive for the same a fossil-fuel-based contamination that "couldn't happen here?"

Has this conceit clambered up the food chain to become "fat is fat" -- which has given us industrially-altered trans-fats and their attendant heart disease -- or that "sugar is sugar" -- whereby chemically mutated high-fructose corn syrup replaces cane sugar?

Are eaters -- and feeders of eaters -- falling prey to a sad shadow of physics envy -- and regarding as "sciencey" the neatly quantified pronouncements of industrial nutrient peddlers? I see an agribusiness creep -- from livestock "feed" through pet "feed/food" to ConAgra's interpretation of "food" for humans

The goal of the feed seller is to get away with the maximum markup between raw material cost and the feed bag on the shelf at Agway. Some can spin chicken shit into gold.

The goal of the commodity farmer is to get the maximum production for the least cost. A broiler chicken's lifespan is eight weeks; a lamb's, eight months; a steer's, eighteen months. No one is worrying about cancer or blindness or kidney failure striking down Ferdinand in middle age.

Pet owners were surprised in 2007, when we found out that the feed sellers did not ethically distinguish between beloved pets and working dogs and future lamb chops.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

News from English Shepherd Land

English Shepherd Club

The 2011 English Shepherd calendar is available from the English Shepherd Club for $14 (ESC members) or $17 (non-members). Order here. Volume discounts available.

This gorgeous calendar features ES from around the world, including many of our beloved rescue ES. It is a major fundraiser for the ESC, a 501(c)3 non-profit incorporated for the conservation of the English shepherd dog as a heritage agricultural resource.

While you're there, now is the time to renew your membership for 2011, or apply for membership if you are not already one. (Join now and get the member price on your calendars.)


The National English Shepherd Rescue 2010 cookbook is also on sale. Shepherds in the Kitchen: 483 Recipes to the Rescue is available for $20 here.

Yep, almost five hundred recipes for $20 -- about four cents a recipe. Hell, it costs me that much to print one out. And it's the only way you are going to get my chili recipe, or my famous marinara.

While you are on the order page, check out the other items that benefit NESR's work rescuing and rehoming English shepherds in need -- jewelry, decals, and the great martingale collars with side-release clips (hard-to-find item!) made by the vendor who supplied them for the ONB dogs. And visit the NESR Cafe Press shop.

Mark Your New ESC 2011 Calendar

Please come!

June 11-12, 2011 will be the first Brandywine Farm English Shepherd Gathering in Harmony, PA (16037).

What's a Gathering?

Two days of education, fun, food, networking, socializing, and celebration of (and with) the dogs we love.

I've been to Gatherings in Ohio, North Carolina, Ontario, Montana and California. Each one was different, each had activities tailored to the venue. The larger gatherings attracted ES and their humans from all over North America.

At Brandywine Farm, we are fortunate to be able to rent the township park and community center that abuts our hayfield -- giving us the entire farm, plus the community center's historic schoolhouse (with kitchen and bathrooms), picnic pavilion, baseball field, playground, and parking.

Activities planned include CGC testing, a SAR demonstration, agility, a silent auction to benefit NESR, lectures on breed history and conservation, obedience fun drills, and, if we have the fencing and stock squared away by then, a stockwork clinic. (I've already ordered new ducks for the occasion; we're working on the sheep.)

There will be two days of potluck picnicking, and a barbeque of Brandywine Farm pastured Freedom Ranger chicken. As those who are wise enough to order the NESR cookbook will soon discern, English shepherd people take their cooking seriously. I generally waddle away from Gathering potlucks with a smile on my face.

You can come for one or both days.

There are a variety of camping and dog-friendly motel accommodations nearby.

You do not need to own an English shepherd to come. The ES community is a friendly crowd, and we welcome friends of the breed, the curious, and all who have an interest in conserving heritage breeds. No one will check your dog's pedigree at the door, and all well-behaved dogs are welcomed.

If you have a Facebook account, you can RSVP or keep up on developments at the Brandywine Farm Gathering's FB page. I'll be adding a page to this blog with schedule and particulars as they develop.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I'm playing with some redesign this week. Bear with me; the blogger preview lies like a priest, so it will take some time to get the font sizes, colors, etc. where they need to be.

For some reason, every time I change a background color, all kinds of text becomes Barney-purple.