Sunday, June 26, 2011

Snapshot Sunday: A Matter of Scale

Click any image to embiggen even more.

Native ladybug on green twill trousers.

Mystery insect. Ailanthus webworm moth.


Milkweed flowers

Cole and Mommy.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Memphis Sinking

If you check out the sites in the blogroll to the right, you may also have been experiencing a daily dose of abject misery via Shirley Thistlewaite over at YesBiscuit, and courtesy of the devoted public servants at the Memphis, TN municipal animal shelter.

These are the same animal-care professionals who intentionally starved dogs to death two years ago. Had to be raided by the county sheriff, they did. Cuz they are the guys who are supposed to investigate and prosecute the kind of knuckle-draggers who would abuse an animal that way. Tricksy.

One consequence of the documented criminal animal cruelty and evidence-tampering at the "shelter" was the installation of webcams in the corridors. And that's what Shirley has been posting just about every day; still images of MAS employees dragging dogs to their deaths, hoisting big dogs into small cages using choke poles, chuckling on their way to the kill room, poking caged kitties. You know. Good times.

Xeroxed poster taped up in the MAS break room: You don't have to be sociopathic to work here, but it helps!

These people know they are on camera. What happens inside the runs, in the blind spots, inside the killing room just before over 70% of the animals who cross the threshold breathe their lonely, frightened last breaths?

One thing Shirley has been doing is trying to spring some of the dogs spotted on the cameras back in the "stray hold" area.

Now, one might think that "stray" animals brought to a publicly-funded animal shelter might be made available to people who are, you know, searching for their lost pets.

Nope. No public access. No photos. Tough luck.

MAS posts about 10% of the animals in its custody on Petfinder. Or rather, they graciously permit someone else to do so on their behalf.

If you are "in back," you are SOL, goggie. The man with the snare pole has some nice juice for you down the hall.

Shirley writes to the new, improved shelter director pretty regularly, trying to find out about dogs on the webcams. By way of answer, MAS kills them.

Also by way of answer, the City of Memphis, via its city attorney, makes baseless, bullying, unconstitutional threats intended to intimidate a citizen into silence about the official conduct of public employees on the taxpayer's dime.

Just thought people should know about this. Maybe people such as the Tennessee ACLU. The Fourth Estate. At the very least, the voters of Memphis, who pay the salary of the mayor, the MAS employees, and the city attorney who billed y'all for his efforts in finding an obscure (and wholly irrelevant) law in another state with which to threaten a citizen engaged in protected speech.

This pathetic attempt at a tax-funded SLAPP on a citizen of another state is the exact kind of government misconduct that engendered the First Amendment.

If you don't give a fig about public employees abusing lost and homeless pets, or a rat's ass about lazy, venal shelter bureaucrats who rationalize and justify their choice to slaughter dogs and cats by blaming everybody but the ones who, you know, decide to kill them -- well, #1, what the hell are you doing here? and #2, you should bloody well care when a government agency responds to citizen criticism with abuse and illegal threats.

Meanwhile, for Shirley, consider this empty threat, leveled on lawyer letterhead, against a friend of mine who took the lead in exposing a fraudulent "search and rescue" product that was already being sold to public agencies.

I was threatened by officers of the law in two states for my own role in debunking the whizzboxes.

Thirteen years later, funny thing, we are still here, still standing behind our words.

Because the last thing a bloviating liar wants is to have to keep all those lies straight while up on a witness stand.



For some reason Pitt is posting a "page not found" for the threatening letter on my friend Keith's personal website. The link is here: and it seems to work if it is not embedded in the text. At worst, cut and paste it.

The story is blowing up the blogosphere; please circulate it as widely as possible. I figure that Shirley is best able to keep the roll of links updated. So far, nothing from the "traditional" media.

The new chipin is here.

I've thrown in a few bucks, what I can spare at the moment. I know things are tight for most everybody. But every little bit helps.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Please Enjoy this Photographic Interlude While Your Operator Catches Some Z's

More later on our Gathering, but for now, a not-very-edited photo montage.

Monday, June 6, 2011

This Weekend

So shoot me, I am not a food stylist. Have you bought your raffle tickets for a customized basket of Brandywine Farm humanely pasture-raised and home-grown yummies? The prize will have much more stuff than shown here -- this was all I could fit in the basket. Go to the chipin link above or to the right.

We're getting kind of excited about our first-ever English shepherd Gathering at Brandywine Farm. We are expecting somewhere north of fifty people, and a slightly larger number of dogs, with some special guests who have surprised even the hosts. Could be many more, as more RSVPs are coming in as the date approaches. We have participants coming from all corners of the country.

Here's some of what's going to happen. Full schedule and deets are here.

On Saturday, in addition to our barbeque (pasture-raised Brandywine broilers) and the potluck (ES folks can get competitive with their potluck contributions, so come armed and hungry) and all the general socializing and dog-walking and strawberry-picking, and movie night-ing, we will have a canine freestyle class taught by trainer Mary Waugh Swindell, who is coming all the way from Texas for the Gathering with her two ES, toddler, husband, Doberman(s), and there was the threat of a lizard or pair of lizards, I believe. Which have nothing to do with the potluck. I hope.

Mary is a long-time top competitor in freestyle and agility, with her magnificent Dobermans. I first met her about thirteen or fourteen years ago, when she lived in Pittsburgh. I went with my friend Barb to meet her rescue ES, Gwen, because we were interested in this little-known breed. At that point I started to plot to steal Devon, her Doberman. Devon is of sainted memory now, but it's possible that his son may just up and disappear this weekend.

Mary's current freestyle up-and-comer is her NESR puppy, Shiner Bock. You may remember Shiner under a previous identity.

Here's the skinny on the Freestyle clinic, which will start at 3 pm on Saturday:

Freestyle is a terrific way to have fun with your dog and build new skills that will help you in obedience, rally, agility, Therapy dog visits--or simply to dance better in your living room! This sport is appropriate for dogs of all ages and abilities, as long as they are ready to have fun and have a handler ready to have a good time. Depending on the skill level of the dogs and handlers attending we will work on the following skills:

Walking backwards
Dog Weaving through your legs while you walk
Teaching your dog to jump through your arms
Teaching your dog to back through your legs
Teaching dogs to sidestep (both in heel position and in front)
Spin, Twist, and jumping through hoops!

No prerequisites needed to attend; but bring treats or toys to guide and reward your dogs. If your dog is trained to go to a mat or target, bring that along. Have a hula hoop? Bring it on!

This is a great way to help build body awareness, and develop more communication between handlers and dogs.

Some of our freestyle students go to to work on group demos for public events, or to add skills for therapy visits and PR events, but most do it just to have a good time, and to teach some new skills.

You can see us doing Freestyle on Animal Planet's Breed All About it with our Doberman Devon, and you can watch a clip of an awesome routine by Carolyn Scott here.

We'll be having a great time, and Shiner will be showing you how to make this look easy!

We'll have a few slots available for local students who aren't here for the ES Gathering. You must contact me at houlahanATzoominternetDOTnet. to secure a place. We just ask for a donation -- what you can afford -- via raffle tickets.

Just before the Freestyle clinic, at 2, we will have a brief canine search and rescue demonstration by the dogs of Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group, many of whom are English shepherds.

On Sunday, we will host a Canine Good Citizen test, starting at 11 am. The cost for this will be nominal. Many thanks to Tammi Potts for agreeing to be our CGC tester for the day. This test will be open to the public, but you must contact me at houlahan AT zoominternet DOT net beforehand to secure a slot.

Throughout the weekend, we'll be raising money to cover the cost of the Gathering and to raise funds for both National English Shepherd Rescue and the English Shepherd Club's Health and Genetics Committee by raffling several items, including a customized Brandywine Farm Basket o' Noms which can be customized to your desires and shipped if necessary -- you do not need to be present to win.

The basket will reflect your preferences, and can include fresh pastured eggs, pastured humanely-raised chicken and/or guinea fowl (frozen), colony-raised rabbit (frozen), home-made raw-milk goat cheese (feta and/or chevre), home-made stock from pastured chickens, grape jam, home-grown and made marinara and salsa, dried currant tomatoes, home-made raw goat yogurt -- am I forgetting anything?

Again, use the chipin to the left if you would like to buy raffle tickets and will not be at the Gathering. I'm filling up a jar with pre-purchased tickets already. Make sure I have a way to contact you if I don't already have at least your email address.

Also being raffled will be a special Texas-sized gift basket donated by Mary and her students, in honor of her two NESR dogs. I can't wait to see what's in this one! I suspect it will have some fire to it. The same tickets apply to both baskets.

I'll keep the chipin open for raffle tickets until 7 am Sunday the 12th, and you can buy tickets at the Gathering right up to the drawing at 3 on Sunday. We will be tossing in a few other raffle items as well.

Photographer Martha Cristy-Couch has donated two complete sets of blank greeting cards in her extraordinary "River Reflections" series. The cards will be for sale in the community center all weekend, with information on posters and additional cards available.

Finally, for all English shepherd owners and former English shepherd owners -- we will be working on "Project Fill In the Blanks" for the English Shepherd Club Registry Database. We will be collecting photographs, measurements, and information (including pedigree info) about your current and former English shepherds for inclusion in their entries into the genetic database of the breed. Your dog does not have to be ESC registered to be recorded!

Health and longevity information on both living dogs and dogs who have left us is especially important for the conservation of the breed.

You can download a PDF form here and fill it out before the Gathering if you like. Bring photocopies (don't risk your originals if you can make a copy, but I can copy papers here if necessary) of registration, pedigree, and health screening certificates and results. We can take photos and measurements of the dogs who attend.

Throughout the weekend we will have a Rally obedience course set up for your "doodling" pleasure, and agility equipment for learning and practice, courtesy of Family Dog Obedience in Butler and Pittsburgh.