Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife. How did I get here?

I have a little tattling widget that tells me, among other things, what search terms land people on this blog.

I check it every so often.

Mostly, people are googling my name, and often the title of the blog or just "blog." These are people who mean to get here. They are remarkably consistent about spelling my name right, which is otherwise rare.

Before I left for Billings Montana, and again after my name appeared in the paper there, it seemed that half of Montana was wondering what was up with me. That's okay. You get a pretty decent sample on this blog, and my google results do not, at this date, include anything embarrassing or inaccurate. I do get a little creeped out when I find people googling my friend's names, for some reason. So I'm not going to repeat their names here. Except ...

There was this one the other day:
Ken Chiacchia facebook (user from Rome)
Aunt Linda, Ken doesn't have a facebook page, but he has a nice blog.

Apparent kindred spirits and fellow seekers find us:
the dog trainer from england is she a fake

drivey australian shepherds (visitor from Michigan, spent a while tooling around)

One of my most popular posts for the Googles is Abusive Boyfriend Dogs and Bunny Boiler Bitches. Landing there have been these searches:

Boyfriend's dog bit me -- cell phone googler in Illinois
my boyfriend's dog is possessive of me
a bunny that is good for a boyfriend and girlfriend to have -- user from the Columbia University server
how to spot a controlling boyfriend -- London, Engliand
bunny boiler bunny bolier (sic) behavior
What dose (sic) bunny boiler mean
(user from Oxford England)
keep Bitches Employed bug (from Bulgaria)
"Bitches are trying to collapse, but I am stronger" (Santiago, Chile)

Funny thing is, I think I did a pretty good job of defining the terms and addressing some of the issues that were on these people's minds in that post, whether or not the googlers had anything "dog" in mind.

I don't think I can help the Columbia student on his or her relationship-building rabbit project, but good luck kids, house rabbits can be quite charming pets and produce good houseplant fertilizer. Just shield your lamp cords.

I think the Bulgarian and Chilean googlers lost something in translation. I do not want to know what. Or are those rap lyrics of some sort? Again, don't answer that question.

Sometimes googlers land on my blog because of my penchant for whimsical, ironic, and obscure post titles:

Time for a Few Small Repairs
You won't find the lyrics to the excellent Shawn Colvin song here, but thanks for stopping by. Also, I'd always thought that Sunny was a high-school girl. Housewife? Really? Wikipedia may not be authoritative on this matter ... but then, I also thought Shawn Colvin was about 20 years younger than Wikipedia says, too.

Mystery Tree
Probably still a mystery for you, but mine is definitely a Bradford Pear.

"the unbearable cuteness of being" -- Brisbane, Australia
I guess I wasn't so original.

"chelsea arthur"
There are a number of young ladies with facebook pages, etc. with this name. As far as I know, my white easter-egger chicken is the only one who has mutton chops resembling those of the 21st President of the United States. Because "Arthur" is not a Greek surname.

A lot of people google wolf-related terms, including "raised by wolves," which may or may not reflect them looking for this blog. Probably mostly not.

Others included

the lady who raised wolves in pittsburgh (visited twice) -- user in McKeesport, PA
Now I want to know about it! Someone raised wolves in Pittsburgh? Do tell!

my husband was raised by wolves honda
Oh yeah, that's a cute car ad. I like Hondas too!

world population wolves
I have no idea, but let me know if you find some hard numbers.

There are search terms that don't bear further thinking
reform an abusive puppy trainer
lap chickens -- IL Mac user
general directions of giving first aid (Please! Just call 911!)
satan's jockstrap at hotmail dot com (user from London, did not stick around)

My post on Country Dog, City Dog gets a fair number of topical hits, such as
"country dog" "city dog"
suburban dogs vs. city dogs

A lot of googling on the marketing names of fake "designer" crossbred dogs land on At Least, Don't Buy This. I sure hope these people read the post. Could save them money and heartache, and save the pups and parents untold suffering.

cavi-poos puppies

toy poodles are whiney needy little dogs

And oh yeah, trainettes on that whiny, needy little discussion board -- I could see where you were linking from, and followed your conversation. Not sorry this post offended your virgin ears. Just amazed at how fast a defective thinker could go from "She says mean things to people who buy dogs from pet shops and makes them feel bad and we should never make people feel bad," to "The only way to shut down the puppymills is by making breeding illegal!" 'Cuz it would be mean to make consumers feel "bad."

And my favorite to land on that post, someone in Germany actually googled this phrase, in all caps just as shown:

It is the second hit if you google that phrase. Why? The terms don't appear in the post itself. Can anyone enlighten me? Clearly my understanding of how search engines (even those with non-lame algorithms) work is missing some important pieces.

Monday, January 26, 2009

All that is gold does not glitter

Retrieverman is mad.

Retrieverman thinks that anyone else who loves the golden retriever breed should be mad, too.

You betcha.

My first dog was a proper golden retriever. Sassy, lithe and athletic, and would have chewed off her own foot before she bit anyone. Shannon was born in 1974; pre-Liberty. Ante-deluge.

I've been saying it for years.

You got a Rottweiler that is biting people, you got a training problem.

You got a golden retriever that is biting people, you got a genetic problem.

And folks, we have got ourselves one doozy of a genetic problem.

Retrieverman postulates that breeding for "calm" goldens has caused them to become biters. I am unconvinced. Calm dogs of other breeds are not psycho biters. And the dumb blond show dogs he dislikes are not, to my eye, "calm." Lumbering, yes. Squinty-eyed, sure. But being too fat and hairy and possibly hypothyroid to enjoy life is not the same as "calm."

Here's a theory I heard from a veterinarian about ten years ago. She bred golden retrievers herself. No, I do not remember her name. Dammit.

She told me that in the highly competitive golden retriever show ring, certain things were rewarded consistently:

Up on its toes.

Every dog in every ring was the first three, to the point where they were effectively identical. What she meant by the last was, judges were selecting dogs that were "on" -- stiff and alert, head and tail up, projecting what passes for "charisma" in the pageant world.

What that meant in terms of the dogs that were beating the competition was that -- they were dogs that wanted to beat the competition. Into a bloody screaming ragdoll. They were dogs who were highly aroused and on edge in the presence of people and other dogs.

Select rigorously for "winners" who are pissed off just looking at a stranger or another dog, make more just like 'em, continue for ten or fifteen generations, what you gonna get?

Last time I checked, the golden retriever standard for temperament did not read: Stiff, tense, and snarky towards humans and dogs; resource-guarding, dominance aggression, and psychotic attacks on neighborhood children are highly desirable characteristics.

But a quick review of my files for the last five years or so reveals something really extraordinary.

Well over half of the purebred golden retrievers I've worked with in recent years, privately or in class, come to me with a serious aggression problem.

I've handled a couple of pups, one of which was alarmingly lethargic, and one nice adolescent who needed manners. A young male who seemed to have both cognitive and affective deficits, but was certainly nonviolent. Oh, and there was the "golden retriever" puppy that I did a single consult for, much of which consisted of trying to convince the owner that the puppymiller had, indeed, sold her a husky. (Pointy erect ears - - check. Red-and-white plush fur -- check. Mask -- check. Curly tail -- check. This is not a hard call, ma'am.)

The only breed with a higher proportion of genuinely aggressive individuals in my training practice (I exclude breeds with an n<3) style="font-style: italic;">in my entire career, have been biters. The one that didn't bite had OCD. Cocker mixes -- also biters.

I see a smaller proportion of German shepherds, Rottweilers, Jack Russell terriers, and Dobermans that are aggressive. Much smaller.

I have never worked with an aggressive "pit bull." And I'm known as a pit-friendly trainer, so I see a fair number of them. Mostly for destructive chewing and general manners.

Back to goldens. Scariest dog I ever trained, most dangerous, longest rap sheet: golden retriever.

I've only told three clients flat out to put the dog down, that it is too dangerous to share surface space on this planet with the rest of us. This dog was the first.

Let me preface this by saying, if I encountered the same situation today, I would call CYS and report the parents. And this is the case that prompted me to use a sternly-worded contract for all aggression cases, and charge a lot more, and require the money up-front.

Anyway, this golden had a bite rap sheet into the double digits when the owners called me. He specialized in nailing neighborhood kids who came over to play with the owners' children. Owners had never been sued, and I still don't grok that. The owners' own children feared and disliked the dog. (There's your sign.)

Dog tried to kill me at the first session. Oh, did I mention he also had seizure disorder? But he had to be well-bred, objected the owner, "His breeder was a minister's wife!"

Every session, the female owner would announce, in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, that the dog was "100% better than last time." Then I'd repeat my lecture to the owner about not giving the dog free access to leg o' toddler, since none of my management requirements were in place, then the dog would spend an hour thinking about how much he'd like to kill me if he could get the damned collar and leash off.

My final CTJ conversation with the client, which was also when I fired her, was over the phone. It went something like this:

Me: Your dog has not improved one bit with training. You don't seem to be willing to do any homework or change a single thing about the way you manage him. He's a very dangerous animal, and you have two young children over whom you also have no control. You need to put this dog down.

Client: Don't you know of a farm in the countr ...

Me: No. You are not hearing me. This is a very dangerous animal. He is escalating his attacks. In my opinion he is not neurologically normal. I know that your vet has told you exactly the same thing I am telling you. This dog is not safe to have around people, period.

Client: You don't think he'd bite my kids, do you? (This sentence verbatim. Exactly what she said.)

Me: (What I should have said) You delusional self-absorbed hateful bitch! It's fine for this psycho dog that you refuse to control to chomp down on other people's kids as long as yours are unperforated?! What the hell is wrong with you? Did the same bad nanny drop you and the dog on your heads?

Me: (What I actually said, more or less) Yes. Yes he is going to bite your kids. And he will bite them much more badly than he's bitten all the other kids, and your husband, and his other victims. Your kids are going to be bitten, and they already know it.

What happened was this.

The owners never spoke to me again, and never spoke to the vet (who had told them exactly the same thing after exhausting the medical angles) again.

They moved away. But, as it turned out, not very far.

About a year later, I was meeting with a new client who had a rather challenging Samoyed puppy, one that was getting pushy and dominant at quite a young age.

As I outlined the responsibilities that come with having such a mentally powerful dog, I mentioned the moral and legal liability in a neighborhood such as hers, which was crawling with free-range children.

And the client started telling me about the family that had moved into the neighborhood that year, and their dog had bolted out the front door and bitten a kid who was playing in the street, unprovoked.

This time, the parents of the victim reported the bite, and called the police, got a lawyer, and generally raised a stink.

And while the dog's owners were objecting that the dog was perfectly fine, and had never done anything like this before, and was a golden retriever for chrissakes...

I interupted her story. Named the dog. Yes -- that was the dog's name -- how did you know? Named the former client -- yes, that's them.

"Which of their kids did he bite?"

The boy. Didn't bite him. Mauled him. Then they killed the dog. Never made the papers. After all, everyone knows that golden retrievers are great family dogs.

(FWIW, the owner of the Sammy was a great client, did a wonderful job with her pup, and he's long since grown into a dignified, lovely companion.)

Now this is a great story of owner enabling and denial. But the fact is, owner neglect did not make this dog dangerous; it just supplied him with a bottomless bucket of tender juicy white meat while he indulged his abominable genetics with aberrant experience.

And this is not, by any means, the only one.

Here's a modest proposal to fix this before it becomes -- as I suspect the American cocker already is -- unfixable:

• Any golden retriever that lifts a hostile lip at a human being loses its gonads. Every. Single. Time.
• Any golden retriever that starts fights with other dogs loses its gonads. Every. Single. Time.
• No golden retriever gets to use its gonads before age four (bitches) or six (dogs).

No exceptions. Don't care if the cur won Westminster. Don't care if it's a field trial champion, either. No swimming in the gene pool for mean goldens. Problem solved.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Baby Steps

Someone has to clean up this mess.

First, I love you all.

The concern that readers world-wide have shown for the plight of the English shepherds in Billings Montana has been heart-warming.

But please understand, I can't tell you everything I hear and see and know.

Inclusion comes with the expectation of discretion. And the volunteers here are not public figures; they are just hard-working folk who are doing all they can for the animals, with no expectation of any extrinsic reward.

Second, here's what's up:

There are no more of these ES being held at the Billings animal shelter, and few at the veterinary hospital. Most of the special needs dogs -- including pups, new Mommas and those about to be -- are now being housed in an old veterinary hospital on Moore Lane in Billings that the county has gotten the use of.

So it has been several hectic days of moving dogs around, cleaning, reorganizing, pipes bursting, and fires (metaphorical) to be put out.

I have to conclude that the bitches were on synchronized heat cycles (think women's dorm during PMS week), as we are having a bit of a puppy boom, with a litter every day now. Mostly small litters, for which we are thankful.

True to their breed, the Mommas are devoted and attentive.

Also at the Moore Lane facility -- one Momma pug and two babies, several cats, and a flock of cockatiels.

Today the seven pups formerly at the Metra took a trip across the parking lot to the new hospital for baths. Then we let 'em rip.

They swarmed. The volunteers deserve a bit of puppy fun. They work so hard. The scores of volunteers who missed this moment will get many opportunities for puppy fixes in the days ahead. Some are fixing up part of the old lobby as a giant puppy dayroom.

Here's our IC from the sheriff's department, Mike, falling under the spell of the little girl pup I think of as BP:

BP = Baby Pip. She reminds me of my SAR partner at that age. Cocky little thing.

While some of the grown dogs have advanced quickly, other handlers have had to count their victories in the most patient increments. Every hour, a handler will come to me to tell me about the dog who touched him today for the first time, the one that is coming just two feet out of the corner, the one who will creep up behind the chair and lie quietly while listening to her handler read aloud now.

Here's a first for this guy:

Which brings me to a question that keeps coming up in emails and comments on news sites -- why did the dogs in the news photos look, you know, kind of okay in the pictures?

The news cameras were catching the dogs who free-ranged -- about a third of the total -- not the ones chained or penned in their own waste.

English shepherd coats are not only naturally full and care-free, naturally shedding junk and resisting mats, they cover up a multitude of sins -- ribs, hipbones, wounds, scabs. They are like chows in that last regard; by the time the neighbors know that a yard-chow is starving, he's already dead.

Most of these dogs are still not at the point of function where we normally begin rehab with a neglected pound dog.

Many people have expressed such worry about Harry, the dog who would not take his head out of the corner.

He has two handlers who are working hard with him.

I made it a goal of mine to get Harry to just look at me before I leave Montana.

Talk about a baby step. But he has taken it. Proof:

I was shocked to see that he looks like Gary -- Gary my foster dog, who was launched to his new home just yesterday by my better half.

Feels better, seeing his face, doesn't it?

Finally, I'm getting inquiries about adoption.

First, remember that these dogs are still the property of Linda Kapsa, and are being held in evidence.

We have no way of knowing if and when they may be released for adoption, or how, by whom, and with what strings attached.

I can almost guarantee that the majority of these dogs will require rehabilitative foster care before they are adoptable -- including the ones that have advanced the most at the Metra. They've never lived in a house with people.

National English Shepherd Rescue
is making lists of potential foster and adoptive homes. If you are interested, please contact NESR to start the paperwork.

The volunteers at Operation New Beginnings are also taking names and numbers of those interested in adoption, particularly those who live in the Billings area.

Finally, all dogs will be spayed or neutered prior to any placement, no matter who places them, or with whom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Operation New Beginnings

Got into Billings yesterday Monday afternoon, and had enough time to do a "drive-by" of all the dogs being kept at the Metra facility and get a sense of the personnel and facilities. There are puppies staying at the women's prison in town, sick dogs and new Moms at veterinary hospitals and the animal shelter. I haven't seen those guys yet.

Since I hadn't slept since Saturday night, had to go do that.

Back to the Metra at 8; first task on the agenda -- a bitch had given birth in the night. The two county ACO's and I wrangled her freaked-out cellie out of the stall so that Momma dog could have some privacy. The other little bitch was quite glad to get away from Momma. Later in the day the new family was moved to a vet's facility.

At nine, there was an orientation for new handler volunteers, run by Tony Barone, the Billings-area trainer who has taken the lead on behavioral rehab.

Handler orientation

Each handler takes responsibility for the dogs in one or two stalls, and provides a consistent point of reference for each animal.

At this phase, the dogs must be tamed before they can be trained or socialized, or their true temperaments and possibilities assessed.

NESR provided a protocol for the taming phase, and I was happy to see that the workers here have found it useful. I'll adapt it and post it on this blog soon.

Watching the watcher
I started doing baseline behavior assessments (not temperament tests!) on each dog today -- stall-by-stall. There are two buildings, each with two ranks of 12 stalls -- 48 stalls, with between two and five dogs in each (more dogs in the sick bay stalls and one stall with five pups). I photograph the stall door, which has the dogs' descriptions, microchip ID, and the new names that the handler (if there is one yet) has given them, plus the handler's name and any instructions for the other volunteers who might enter to clean and feed. Then I go inside, orient sideways, and crouch down quietly. And wait.

Some dogs were curious and would approach and even touch me. Others paced and scurried. There are a few pills who will bluff charge, barking and growling. Many will huddle in the corners and watch. The quality of their eyes varies, from soft and searching to round and wild to pinched and haunted.

I've so far seen not one genuinely aggressive dog.

Then there are the dogs who worry me most:

This guy would occasionally look quickly away from the corner to see if I was still there -- never long enough for me to capture his portrait.

It will take three things for this dog to trust human beings: patience, patience, and patience.

And yes, those are shit dingleberries on his flank. He did not accrue them on the clean straw at the Metra. I would not have believed that an ES, with the breed's teflon coat, could acquire such an accessory.

In contrast, some of the dogs are already accompanying their handlers on walks.

There is such hope here, and such devotion.

For every dog, the path to a good life.

Billings Channel 8

Channel 8 Video


Billings Gazette

As always, keep checking National English Shepherd Rescue for updates.

Friday, January 9, 2009

We had to destroy the village to save it

I can haz ... oxygen?

The British documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed was aired shortly before the birth of Raised By Wolves.

You can view the whole thing here.

The producer's stance? Purpose-bred dogs are worthy of preservation. The breeding practices enforced by Kennel Clubs, grounded as they are in disproven 19th-century eugenics theories, are destroying the genetic health of pure breeds, and causing unimaginable suffering in the products of "selection" for show-ring exaggeration. If we are to enjoy the company of purpose-bred dogs in the future, the Kennel Clubs are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the reality-based world.

(Raised By Wolves' stand on the AKC, UKC, KC, etc.? Let 'em dig their own graves. I'll give them the shovel. Hell, I'll rent them the backhoe if it will go faster. Purpose-bred dogs and their owners will do much better without some central government telling them what is "correct," dictating who may mate with whom, and handing out rewards for brainless conformity to groupthink. The faster these bloated bureaucracies implode, the easier it will be for people who actually like dogs to get on with the project of conserving, perpetuating, and enjoying the particular kinds of dogs they like.)

Now (HT to Patrick the Terrierman), the zombie army over at PeTA is trying to lamprey itself onto the message of Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

And the producer of of the documentary, Jemima Harrison, is having none of it.
“PETA is a bunch of crackpots who do not care about anything but publicity and making money. They have not bothered to contact us - and, indeed, if they did we would make it very clear we do not want their support. It devalues and marginalises a film that raises a serious issue that needs to be addressed, and quickly.”
You go girl.

Here's where you expect the lecture about the difference between "Animal Rights" and "Animal Welfare."

Here's where I'm supposed to remind you that the death-worshippers at PeTA kill just about every animal they get their hooks into, that they practice theft by deception in order to get more animals to kill, and that they are committed to the extinction of all domestic animals.

They will destroy the village and pronounce it saved.

Okay, consider it done.

More important is the message that we must not let lunatics distract us from reality. We must reject the fallacy that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

PeTA protests outside of Kentucky Fried Chicken? This does not mean that the broiler industry is A-OK on animal welfare, environmental quality, and human health.

PeTA screams that fur is murder? Does that make leghold traps humane? Does it mean that mink farming is not a cruel enterprise that caters to the vain and callous?

PeTA pisses off MAD with an anti-milk, pro-beer campaign? This does not mean that those California Cows are "happy."

PeTA claims they hate puppymills? Well so do I.

It's become all-too-easy for the calculating frontmen for agribusiness, the fur industry, the puppymill industry, and all manner of commercial animal abusers to convince dog owners -- especially dog hobbyists -- that "users" of animals must present a "united front."

If you don't support farrowing crates and shooting wolves from airplanes, goes the propaganda, they will come and take your dogs.

And dog hobbyists -- some still call themselves "fanciers" and identify as "part of The Fancy" -- who are thoroughly trained to obey a faceless entity over which they have no control -- the dog hobbyists fall for this bullshit.

By criticizing any atrocity -- veal production, canned hunts, Japanese "scientific" whaling, egg factories -- the animal lover is "playing into the hands of PeTA."

So, command the industrial animal abusers, shut up!

And that's where a lot of the screaming from "The Fancy" about Pedigree Dogs Exposed comes from.

We've heard it before. When this article was published, for example.

And this book.

To be sure, much of it is pure defense, from the people who are personally engaging in ongoing animal abuse by breeding what they know to be unsound animals in order to win ribbons. You can't expect someone who doesn't care that the dog he deliberately created cannot, by design, breathe, walk, see, hear, or pee normally to suddenly see the light.

But more telling is the squawking from dog hobbyists who consider themselves "reformers" and "mavericks," who actually train their dogs, who brag about "titles on both ends," who take part in dog sports (as opposed to the hilarious "Sport of Dogs.") The people who tch tch and turn away sadly when they pass by the German shepherd pageant ring on the way to their rally entry. It's a real shame what they've done to those dogs ...

The squawking is scripted by the political arm of the animal abuse industry and read by hysterics. It goes
Don't bring attention to our dirty laundry. Going public about the genetic abuse of animals we purport to love plays into the hands of PeTA. If we just keep deceiving the public, it will all be okay. We can fix this all without systemic reform or any scrutiny from the outside. Purebred dogs are ours. Nevermind that we sell the extras to ordinary people as pets, and that we've spent the last sixty years selling the unfounded idea that our sickly culls are better pets than "mongrels." The Code of Silence is our only hope.
Sorry guys. Your wagons can't bend into that circle. You've spent too much time agreeing with one another about what makes a good dog, and no time at all in the reality-based universe. Science passed you by a hundred years ago. Popular culture is catching up. Sometimes that takes the form of a new stupidity -- all hail the Labradoodle -- but the trend is always to strip you of your unearned authority on matters "dog."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More Montana ES. No, Really.

All of our cell phones are screaming for batteries, but at long last NESR will be on the ground in Billings, Montana to contribute our resources and expertise to the evaluation and rehabilitation of the growing number of English shepherds being held as evidence in the cruelty case against Linda Kapsa.

Growing number?

Yep. There are puppies. And more on the way. My guess is, every female who has been in season in the last two months is pregnant. That would be about a third of them. Thirty bitches?

Just for a population perspective, the English Shepherd Club Registry recorded twenty-nine litters anywhere in 2008. (There will probably be a few more litters registered that were born in December.)

Ms. Kapsa was not, needless to say, registering her litters or her adult dogs with us.

And not every breeder does. Some use one of the commercial registries. Some don't register litters, and some don't register dogs at all. Still ...

When we heard "two hundred," we were first incredulous. That is, by seat-of-the-pants estimates, around 5% of the world population of these dogs.

Ms. Kapsa started with, we think, eight foundation dogs about five years ago.

Only half those foundation dogs were female.

And in five years, while selling puppies to anyone naive enough to lay out $650 to some stranger on the interwebz for a "quality" puppy, while dogs died of doG-knows-what and rotted in the yard -- in five years she got to 200 English shepherds. In another two months -- 300?

Talk about hitting critical mass.

I will be arriving in Billings Monday afternoon, and hope to be able to update in this space during the time I spend there.

Meanwhile, a slide show

That good looking fellow at the top is Teddy, my foster dog from the spring of 2007. He was another death-row ES. Teddy is a happy, gentle, uncomplicated soul.