Wednesday, December 30, 2009


One year from the day that Cole, Jasmine, and Barry White were confiscated from the abusive hands of their former owner:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Eat it Cold

Another fantastic PSA from the Norwegian Association of the Blind:

I would so raise a guide dog puppy for these guys.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Lied

In this post, I laxed wyrical about young Cole's quick discovery that human children were super-kewl, even though he had never seen one in his life.

Today I wanted to find some puppy photos of Cole's brother Charlie.

While reviewing my files from January, I discovered that I had lied.

On one of my last days in Billings, Operation New Beginnings got some special visitors.

The woman who filed the cruelty complaint against Linda Kapsa with Yellowstone County, and then took it in her teeth and would not let go until the authorities acted, brought her two young children.

She wanted the kids to see why Mommy had been so preoccupied. What all the fuss had been about. Why we do what is right even when it is not what is easy.

The kids could not come inside the sheriff's perimeter fence. So I broke another rule (I hadn't realized it was a rule) and randomly selected a puppy from the seven in the bitch barn to bring outside. (Or did I pick up the first one to come to me?)

The photos don't lie -- it was young Cole, not any of his siblings, romping with the children on that warm day in January.

I am not posting the cutest of the pictures, because they necessarily expose the children's faces. Not gonna do that.

Did those few minutes playing in the winter sun open up a channel in Cole's brain while his synapses were still being pruned?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

There were few takers

H/T to commenter "straybaby" over at the Pet Connection for this article about veterans and homeless dogs.


One of my obscure antiquarian book treasures is this:

History of Dogs for Defense

by Fairfax Downey

Part historical record, part public relations campaign, and part excruciating period piece. Mr. Downey's attempt to affect a breezy gee whiz style provides cringe-inducing passages about "Japs" and "Nips" and lots of references to the dogs as "chum" and "pal" in stilted fictionalized dialogue. The style it most evokes is that of the miserable self-serving hack Albert Payson Terhune.

Nevertheless, it is an original source, and valuable even in the face of a possibly unreliable author. It is sometimes difficult to parse out the difference between a normal absence of foresight and an appalling lack of self-awareness on Mr. Downey's part.

Downey did not grok, for example, that his account of dogs (or more properly, dog ownership) as therapy for "shell shocked" veterans would be one of the saddest things I have ever read:

These Dogs for Convalescents as they came to be called were in effect a revival in a new form of the casualty or ambulance dog, used fairly extensively in the First World War though little in the Second. On the battlefield they ahd searched out the wounded and led parties back to their aid. Now these dogs helped wounded men find themselves. And they led their masters back to health as surely as Seeing Eye dogs guided blind veterans.

Soon after the advent of "Fritz" the Air Forces hospital and its pleasant grounds, formerly a boarding-school, began to resemble a kennel club show, an obedience class in more or less continuous session, and a K-9 training camp. Dogs were everywhere. For a time those that were house-broken were allowed to sleep at the foot of their masters' beds in the wards, but the situation reached a point where it was more than the staff could cope with, and kennels were required.

"Fritz" had created demand. Mrs. Preston and fellow-enthusiasts managed supply. Most calls were for Spaniels, German Shepherds, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Fox Terriers (both wirehaired and smooth), Boston Terriers, Collies, Setters, Pointers, Airedales, Scotties, Dalmatians, Beagles, and Retrievers. Aside from breed, patients almost always asked that their dog be a veteran of the K-9 Corps or purebred.

Insistence on purebreds was based on the wounded men's pride in the dogs' appearance, their adaptability to training, and on eagerness for pets to make a good showing in the dog show and exhibitions which commenced to be staged as part of the program. When mongrels were offered or a basket of foundling puppies was left at the gate, there were few takers.

There it is, right there. The post-war conversion of dog from working partner and companion into consumer product and brand-name ego surrogate.

Mrs. Preston, the helpful dog "fancier" who ran dog shows and brought in an AKC judge to appraise the "quality" of the wounded soldiers' kennel-bound pedigree pets -- we can thank Mrs. Preston for jump-starting the degradation of American middle-class dogs into brand-name consumer satisfaction.

Men who had given nearly all, and who had watched their friends die, to fight Nazis and Nazi ideology, now encouraged to cultivate pride in the purity of their living property, and pride in winning a contest of appearances. Taught by The Fancy as part of their government-run therapy what makes a "better" dog. Rassehund uber alles.

What decades of genetic damage and cultural delusions might have been avoided in 1944 if someone had been there to take the veterans coon hunting instead? If fair and open contests of obedience and function had channeled the soldiers' competitive urges?

Might compassion have combated consumerism in post-war America if the men had been encouraged to rehabilitate dogs who needed them, rather than demand dogs with the appearance they had been conditioned to want?

Sixty-five years later, thanks to Pets2Vets, the basket of foundling puppies finally has some takers.

Monday, December 21, 2009



See. Worked.

Timing is everything.

A joyous Solstice to you and yours

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lilly's Choice Biscuits

Ten years ago, Lilly was the celebrity judge for a dog biscuit baking contest at a local animal shelter's fundraising fair.

Mel was disqualified for being insufficiently discriminating in her "food" choices. But she did a dandy demonstration of opening dog-proof containers.

This was the winning recipe, and I've never found a dog who disagreed with Lilly about it.

I usually make a double batch of these, and will cook some up tonight. I got a lot of shredded cheese very cheap -- the local stores are pricing them as loss leaders this week.

Lilly's Choice Biscuits


1 cup rolled oats (oatmeal)
1/3 cup butter or margerine
1 cup boiling water

3/4 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 teaspoons bouillon (I use the paste-type soup base)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup (4 oz by weight) shredded cheddar
1/2 cup milk
1 beaten egg

2-3 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour

Pre-heat oven to 325
Grease cookie sheets

In large bowl combine
boiling water

Set aside for ten minutes while the oats swell up.

Mix in well

Add flour one cup at a time, mixing each cup in well. This will form a stiff dough. Continue adding flour while kneading in to dough ball on a floured surface until dough is smooth and no longer sticky -- about 3-4 minutes of kneading. Roll dough* to 1/2" thickness. Cut out with cookie cutters.

Place 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake for 35-45 minutes -- until golden brown. Smack Professor Chaos' hand with spatula as he steals them. (These are delicious, but once cooled, a bit hard for human teeth). Cool completely before storing.

* I use a pastry cloth and stockinette roller cover for all my pastry rolling needs now. Has made life much easier.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snapshot Saturday: Fosters' First Snow

Jasmine and Cole were puppies when they were seized almost one year ago.

As a throwaway unsold pup out in the infamous "J-pen," Jasmine's baby experience of winter and snow does not bear contemplation. Cole, who was found in a hole under a trailer, experienced less of winter, but more than any month-old puppy ever should.

Barry White is perhaps five or six years old. He has known Winter.

Some of the older dogs have shown some behavior regression as snow and ice take over the landscape of their new homes.

Though Jasmine and Barry White are now sleeping indoors and spending part of each day in the house as well as their time in the well-sheltered kennel and their walks and playtime, they are now eating twice as much food as a month ago. Winter is hungry for calories. The Snow Queen will take those animals who can't get enough.

Barry White is not comfortable in the confines of the house -- he's still nervous about tight spaces, narrow doorways, and traps of all kinds. But when I go out to bring him in on the coldest nights, he pulls me towards the front door and the promise of warmth. I put the dogs out in the morning while I layer up and fill water buckets for morning chores. While the youngsters romp, Barry White stays on the porch staring at the front door, waiting for me to appear. He doesn't want to come back inside -- he wants me to come out. Once I reappear, he will trot off to scombre and even join the frolic for a moment.

This morning was our first real snow, and our first snowy frolic. The fosters' lesson for this day is that the Snow Queen does not reign here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A departure from our regular programming

For our nieces, and all our young friends:

Be strong. Be smart. Learn to do a difficult thing well. Don't be distracted by things.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Photo Phriday: Hot Date

Patsy and Edina are off on what, in the goat world, is considered a double date.

They don't mind the young fellow they went off to meet, but the inlaws are beastly.

I'm glad they still fit in the car, which saved me the trouble of building a stock box onto my trailer. I'm even gladder that neither decided to profane the (tarp covered) car.

Foster dog Barry White helped me load them.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pedigree Dogs Exposed: US

The BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed will air tomorrow -- Thursday, December 10 -- on BBC America. 8 pm Eastern, 7 pm Central.

Check now to see if your cable or satellite system carries BBC America. Set your recording implements! This is not one to miss.

I believe this may be the "international edition" mentioned by filmmaker Jemima Harrison. If so, we may see our friend Dr. John Burchard.

In Britain, the airing of this documentary elicited lawsuits, shrieks, and recriminations from the Dog Fancy and its bureaucratic superstructure.

But it also backed them into a very tight corner, and has forced reform that would have never occurred otherwise.

The US Fancy Establishment, primarily embodied in the American Kennel Club, is larger, more contaminated by the puppymill industry, and even more arrogant than the British Kennel Club.

Will they attempt reform? Or continue to circle the wagons in the face of registration revenues that have been shooting down the crapper for over a decade?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Seized and Saved

Henry and Copper. Not yet made whole. We're looking at about $3000 each for their orthopedic surgeries, not counting aftercare. A private donor is covering the remainder of Henry and Copper's surgery costs. (She types through tears...)

When is an animal "rescued?"

The video crews catch the initial gore and horror: The scarred pit bull on his logging chain, the skeletal horse hock-deep in in mud, a hundred cats peering from holes in the wall.

The news footage shows the "rescue" -- trucks and trailers, mountains of crates, live traps and catch-poles and people wearing dust masks and t-shirts with the name of some National Animal Charity in VERY LARGE LETTERS on the back.

They gather up the miserable creatures and make them Go Away. They rescue them.

Maybe, if this show came to a Theater Near You, you might catch a news brief a few weeks later about their former owner's plea bargain, and how she "signed over" all the animals in return for leniency on the charge of cruelty to animals. Whew. That's good. Now the animals are really rescued.

Of course they are. For decades, you will see tiny clips of these same miserable crime victims against New Age background music and a Genyoowine Hollywood Celebruvoiceover.

Today I saw a seven-year-old picture of some of these dogs on my teevee while Nina from Just Shoot Me told me to send $19 a month to the National Animal Charity -- in this case, the HSUS -- to rescue them.

Where are the after pictures?

The shining horse carrying her rider down the trail. The sleek pit bull lolling on the sofa cushions. Smug moggies sunning on the windowsill.

In many cases, the after pictures would be problematic fundraising, because they look like this.

Or in the case of horses, even this.

It wasn't the man or woman trying to plea bargain on charges of cruelty who killed them.

It was the "rescuers" who determined that all seized pibbles are "fighters" and all "fighters" are irredeemable. That hoarded cats, once extracted from the drywall, are expensive to vet and time-consuming to tame. That seized horses are expensive to keep and can be quickly unloaded at auction.

But more and more, animals that are seized are getting an opportunity to live and to heal.

It may take months of patient training before a puppymill survivor can stand upright on a leash or work up the nerve to take some chicken from a human hand.

Untold hours in the round pen -- and hay, wormer, and the farrier on speed-dial -- to make a neglected horse into something other than a Frenchman's sandwich.

The cats will need to be treated for URIs, say goodbye to their gonads, and, if an implacable volunteer with a lap and a feather wand can't convince them that the Good Life lies in an easy chair, they'll need to find productive employment as barn cats.

The humans who accomplish these transformations are not the employees of the National Animal Charity.

In addition to the time -- volunteer time, unpaid time, time gifted for love -- this all takes money.

Money for food, money to transport, money for kennel runs and fencing, and, frequently, lots and lots of money for veterinary care. Sometimes, specialist surgery.

Like this girl.

While the HSUS was sending her pictures around as part of a scheme to raise a million bux this month, Fay was having her first surgery to fix her amputated lips.

Brilliant! The HSUS is taking care of Fay! They have the ability to raise beaucoups bux and pay the surgeon. Then, when she's all fixed up, they'll find her a home.

Or ... not.

True, the HSUS was part of the drama when Fay was seized. They will waste no opportunity to tell us so.

They never owned Fay.

They never had custody of Fay.

They never fed Fay.

They spelled Fay's name wrong.

The warm bed in the safe place is being provided by Gale.

Gale, like virtually everyone who works "for" or runs a Small Local Animal Charity or Small Focused Animal Charity (such as a breed or disability-focused rescue), is a volunteer.

If my experience with NESR is representative -- and I believe it is -- there is no "fundraising budget." We use our websites and email lists to ask for support. Volunteers work the phones and sweet-talk corporations for donations that represent peanuts to them, jackpot to us when it comes through. We scrounge supplies on Craig's list. Foster families feed the beasties.

If the HSUS persuades good-hearted animal lovers to send them a million dollars this month -- 1% of their 2008 revenues -- perhaps $300,000 will be available for "program costs." Including their employee's salaries, office space, vehicles ...

The rest will pay for Nina van Horn to tell us on the teevee to send more moneyz.

Meanwhile, Gale and her fellow volunteers scrape and beg to get together the vet fees for Fay's multiple surgeries.

But I already sent money to the Humane Society for that dog! They sent me an email! Who are these people asking for more!

They are the ones still rescuing Fay.

She's not rescued when the bolt cutters sever her chain.

She's not rescued when the video camera is packed up and the van drives away.

She's not rescued when the man who cut her lips off signs her over, nor when he is sentenced for his crime. Indeed, that has historically been when she is most likely to be killed by her custodians.

She's not rescued when she puts the first tentative foot onto a cushion by the hearth of a foster family's den.

She is not rescued when the surgeon pulls the last stitch.

She's rescued when she has been made as whole in body and mind as can be done, and she's living a life as a normal dog. Not an object of pity, not a poster girl for anything, not a project -- just somebody's dog.

The hard work of rescue takes months, years. It has nothing to do with catch-poles or t-shirts with VERY LARGE LETTERS displayed for the cameras.


Of course, the punch line to Fay's story is that the HSUS was caught with its pants down and its pecker in the apple pie.

Confronted by bloggers here and here and on Twitter and Facebook, the National Animal Charity now claims that it will be sending money to pay for Fay's surgeries -- the ones it claimed were already done on its fundraising video. Five thousand dollars -- which is not the full amount needed. Chump change to the HSUS -- and the largest line item in the budget of almost any local or focused volunteer rescue.

Fay's foster human will believe it when she sees it.

Meanwhile, the HSUS probably brought in $5000 within five minutes of sending that email. And continues to rake it in.

Fay will reap some benefit from the HSUS's most recent experience with the mousetrap in the cookie jar. She's fortunate to carry visually stunning evidence of physical abuse, fortunate that she became the poster pit for a cynical money-pitch, fortunate that they got caught in a lie that was specifically and concretely about her.

What about the others?

The other dogs from the Missouri fight bust -- dogs whose needs may be less visually apparent, less dramatic. This one needs a dental, that one is hypothyroid. All these need to be spayed. This guy needs to see a chiropractor to do something about the damage that logging chain did to his neck. This one really needs to see a professional trainer.* All these need to be tested for heartworm and treated for coccidia. This is the hard work of rescue, as well as the expensive part.

Thousand dollar vet bill here, fifteen hundred there ... pretty soon you are talking real money. The three bux profit you got from selling each Studmuffins of Rescue '09 calendar doesn't go nearly as far as you thought it might.

And so on.

We think it's great that the HSUS is now thinking in terms of survivors, rather than proclaiming each animal "rescued" when the bolt cutters come out and then advocating that they be summarily executed for the crime of having been a victim.

We'll believe they mean it when the money starts flowing. Sure, it's likely that Fay's rescuer will see the $5000 -- such a pittance from the hundred-million-dollar budget when you've been caught in the lie, it's cheaper to cut the check than to dodge the truth.

Will Copper (broken carpals -- $3000+) or Henry (two destroyed knees -- $3000+) or Charlie (one slipping patella, $500+ if the GP can fix it) have to suffer through a bunch more bake sales before they can be rescued?


* Why is it that it is assumed that veterinarians who provide care to animals owned by nonprofit rescue groups will be paid for their services -- while those who make their modest living as trainers are expected to always work pro bono? Because we love animals and shouldn't ever take any money for our time and expertise. Unlike a vet, who is a professional.

I'm not in any way dissatisfied with my professional decision to provide pro bono services for NESR -- it has been my choice, and I believe that all professionals should donate services to some worthy cause of their choice.

But you know, a trainer's mortgage payment is not pro bono.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Photo Phriday: Mount Jasmine

There are some benefits to being under emerald ash borer quarantine.

Arborists, township road crews, and the utility company guys who turn street trees into hideous Suessian lollipops are not allowed to move wood chips very far. It can be challenging for a tree guy to find a legal place to dump a truckload of what I consider primo hardwood mulch.

The foster kennel is already mulched inside, but the outside run, which was originally turf, was starting to edge towards mucky.

So a while back, when I saw the big orange Asplundh truck parked outside a local mechanic's shop, I nipped in to see if the tree guy was there.

He wasn't, but the shop belongs to Professor Chaos' assistant fire chief (because, small town, if you haven't already got that). Neil said he'd mention it to the guy, and I put a note on his window with a map and phone number.

About a week later, this enormous truck just appeared. It could not have taken on even one more wafer-thin mint of a woodchip.

I opened up the side of the run of the foster kennel, and the guys dumped all the chips in.

Trouble is, I pulled an intercostal muscle last week, and what I certainly cannot do is rake. Or fork. Or be useful in any way.

My cunning plan is to lock up Jasmine and Cole for a few hours of puppy romping at a time, and get them to distribute the pile.

So far they seem willing and energetic, but are not making much headway.

Barry White isn't bothered by it, but doesn't see much point in the kidnicks' because it is there philosophy.

Wednesday night when I went out to bring Jasmine and Barry White inside for the night, she was curled up in a ball on top, fast asleep.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Polishing the Turd that is Cranberry

Professor Chaos has the cover story in this week's Pittsburgh City Paper.

I don't care how purty a developer talks about "greenways."

When I see a man with a tripod and a theodolite at the edge of my hayfield, I find the key to the gun safe.

My last day on the Graham farm in Cranberry was a day or so after I returned from my Houlie Puppyseed trip to the upper Midwest. I dropped off one foster dog and delivered two puppies to their new owners. Then I came home.

It was also only a few weeks after the death of Mel, which has left a jagged hole in the universe that will never heal over.

I took Pip, Moe, Rosie and Sophia for a walk. Since Rosie was a wee tot, I drove to the coffin plant rather than walk them all up the street and across Rochester Road.

We set down our usual path into the woods, where a few weeks before I'd taken Rosie and all her siblings on a Puppy Outward Bound Adventure.

And then, quite abruptly, there was no woods. No path. Nothing.

A moonscape.

In the distance, a mountain of wood chips.

And a machine into which trees disappeared and wood chips shat forth.

Another jagged hole in the universe.

I pulled out my phone and called Professor Chaos. Between sobs I told him that we needed to start looking for land. Somewhere else. Right now.

Lassie of Borg

H/T to Smartdogs for the most addictive timesuck of all, Paleo-Future.

Just reinforces my perennial pique.

Where is my damned jetpack!?

Why is there no cheerful robot cooking my dinner?

How come no monorail?

And how did past futureologists envision 21st century "pets?"

LONDON (UPI) -- The programming of family pets to perform various tasks and various deeds, good or evil as required, may be fairly common practice by the year 2000, according to an American psychologist.

Dr. Boris Levinson of Touro College in New York, a specialist on relationships between people and animals, said that by the end of the century pets controlled by brain electrodes may become commonplace. Recent experiments make this a strong probability, he said.

"it does not lie in the realm of science fiction," Dr. Levinson told a symposium organized by the British Small Animals' Veterinary Association. "In a sense the electrodes will make the animals become living robots. They will be able to open doors, close windows, adjust beds and even call for help."

He said pets could even be used for warfare and for espionage and if the knowledge of genetic engineering involved fell into the hands of insurgent groups they could be employed in bombings and in plane hijackings. Criminals might use them in the commission of theft, robbery and even murder.

But he said most pets would play a highly beneficial role in society -- "a very important safety valve in a sick society" -- as specially trained companions to invalids, old people, childless couples and even astronauts.

Dr. Levinson's remarks brought quick reactions in this nation of animal lovers. A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other animal lovers described "exploitation" of pets as reprehensible.

Dr. Levinson pointed out that dogs had been used as living bombs in the Russo-German fighting in World War II an he was stating the possibilities.

"We can already implant minute electrodes into animals' brains to make them placid, angry or to stop them attacking," he said. "It is only a matter of time before electrodes can be implanted into every part of the brain to make them do whatever we wish."

Putting aside Dr. Levinson's muddy conflations of remote-control with "training," animal with "pet," and brain implants with genetic engineering, this 35 year-old prognostication raises interesting questions.

Dogs and helper monkeys already perform all the services Dr. Levinson predicts, and much more.

They can do this because of training, not electrode implants.

The BNW of remote-controlled pets has not come to pass, and I don't see any sign of it on the horizon.

There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to the principles of training animals. There are new tools. Not the same thing. Everything you or I have ever done to train a dog or another animal to do any given thing has been done before, and was probably done before the invention of agriculture. We're continually rediscovering and rearranging old knowledge for our current needs. Those with an inferiority complex invent new jargon so as to seem original.

But brain implants that directly controlled motor functions would be entirely new.

If it was available, if it worked, would you do it?

Would you have your dog wired?

What needs, human or canine, could induce you to do so?

What if the electrodes simply delivered stimulation to the pain or pleasure centers of the dog's brain -- so that we are, however tenuously, back in the realm of "training?"

Would you deliver a remote punishment to the dog's brain?

What about a remote reward?

If you see a difference, what is it?

borg dog sez  you will be assimilated
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