Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sioux City, IA: Still Vicious

Devoted wolf cubs will recall the clown car called Sioux City Council that kept reappearing on this blog and all over teh interwebz last summer to disgorge more hilarity just when you thought it had to be empty.

Ordinarily, a third-rate town's fourth-rate politicians and their Solonesque approach to public safety via canine racial profiling doesn't bear a special look here. Too damn many of 'em. But here, Alannis, here is some irony.

After pibble-hating councilman and cynological sage Aaron Rochester's untrained, unfenced, unsupervised, let us safely say asshole of a Labrador, bit an innocent passerby, Mr. Rochester continued to insist that the breed ban ordinance that he authored was Jesus' own animal control law.

The dog was impounded under the "one strike and you're dead" ordinance that was also thoughtfully penned by the august member of council who speculated that his own resident biter was "protecting the children." Oh woe, it seemed that Jake Manyteeth was about to be hoisted by his own(er's) petard.

But wait! What light from yonder window breaks? Jake's life is spared by a deus ex machina that is totally a surprise to his devoted master guy who sold the dog to another guy while he was impounded on death row.

Yes, Aaron Rochester claims he "sold" his death-row biting dog to someone named Lew Weinberg on July 31. On August 2, the yeller thumb-slasher was stolen from animal control during a Sunday night break-in. Rochester somehow failed to mention ("Oh, by the way...") the dog's in absentia change of master at a city council meeting on August 3. Cuz that's just how he rolls.

Over the past year, the Googles has sent me occasional updates on this devoted Iowa public servant, slayer of porch sofas* and nemesis of Girls Gone Wild buses that are clearly obscene and illegal -- a man never too busy to make light of his own starring role in multiple crimes against persons and property by, say, judging a "Jake look-alike contest" to see which Labrador most resembled that biting dog he used to own but doesn't anymore and he doesn't know anything about it, no sir.

If anyone had the brass balls to bring a nice buckskin pibble and sit it down in front of Rochester, it is not recorded.

There were also news briefs indicating that Sioux City was on the verge of repealing its obviously bogus breed ban in deference to the advice of all experts and their own legal counsel, and revising its overall vicious dog ordinance to ensure that politicians could always weasel their way out of the consequences of their negligent dog ownership things would be more fair to good dogs.

Well don't get your hopes up.

Pit bulls will remain banned in Sioux City after a 3-2 vote Monday by the City Council, but the panel gave first-round approval to some changes in the vicious-animal law.

Radig and Rochester argued the ban, in place since 2008 when Rochester first proposed it, was working. Hobart had voted for the ban but has since said he no longer favored it. Padgett and Fitch previously had indicated they did not like breed bans.

"I'm not going to change what the previous council did," Fitch, who took office Jan. 2, said after the meeting, "I think if we made the change those owners would get confused on what they are supposed to do."

In refusing to lift the pit bull ban, the council also did not toughen the irresponsible-pet-owner provision, as proposed by City Attorney Andrew Mai. Council members said they believed the current law could be enforced.


Under the proposed new law, pet owners could reclaim their pets from Animal Control during an appeals process.

Looks like the councilman got his way.

Now it will be dead-easy to disappear a genuinely vicious dog while "appealing" -- no bolt cutters required, no pesky exposure to felony burglary charges.

The new guy on the council pussied out like a little bitch thoughtfully supported the wise judgment of his predecessors so that they could avoid confusing the little people by not, you know, confiscating and killing their pets.

Counsel's advice to council was ignored, 'cuz what does the city attorney know about the law anyway?

And all the "pit bulls" who never bit anyone are still vicious.

* Mebbe if Rochester had a comfy couch on his front porch, the damn dog would have stayed put instead of charging down the steps and across the lawn to attempt four-fanged pollexectomy.

Much mischief can be prevented with a suitably comfy couch.

Monday, June 28, 2010

46 Hours

Blue track is PC's, recorded on Saturday night. Red track is mine. East pointing black arrow designates the start, three-pointed star the end (barn). The blue blob is a dead-end where PC got bunged up in deadfall. You can see that we successfully bypassed this false lead, but had difficulties near it. (Dog was closer to being spot-on than I was -- the track reflects the route I managed to find through the obstruction.) The long slight divergence as we return west reflects poor GPS reception because it had fallen to the underside of my butt pack, and the abrupt "return" to putting it back where it belonged.

At SAR dog training on Saturday, Perfesser Chaos employed the full powers of his well-honed husbandly listening skills, and thereby screwed up the opportunity to provide Rosie with an aged training trail in a time-efficient way.

I was, of course, charmingly understanding* about this, and sweetly informed him that he would be laying a trail for her when we got home, to be run on Sunday morning. About a fourteen-hour aged trail -- nice scent challenge. He had some things he wanted to reconnoiter out in our woods, so off he went, whistling merrily without a complaint, as soon as we got back.

He laid a roughly oval-ish trail about a kilometer long, starting in the lush meadow next to our spring, going northeast through the steep woods on the near side of the buttcrack, crossing the stream near our neighbor's property line, angling back SSE, then taking a turn onto our overgrown right-of-way and returning west through our south pasture, ending at our barn.

By the time he got back from mass on Sunday†, conditions outside closely resembled the steam room at the Y. I suggested that I would prefer to run the trail in the early evening, when sun might let up on converting the woods and fields into a giant bamboo steamer.

As the shadows lengthened, a fire call.

Then dinner.

Then another fire call.

Oh screw it.

We ran it tonight, in a rainstorm. Forty-six hours old -- by far the oldest training trail we've ever attempted. I secured a scent article by stuffing a clean rag into one of his hiking boots (last worn on Sunday afternoon) and leaving it for half an hour, handling it only with a baggie. Rose and I started the trail when he called me from his exit, ten minutes away, and were well-underway when he got home and radioed that he'd slipped into the barn.

Now, keep in mind that I had a rough idea of how the trail ran. I carried his GPS, which included his track, in case I needed it. And the trail is marked. This was not a blinded trailing task, and as such did not simulate real work the way that a proofing or testing task would. It was on our own property, so almost guaranteed uncontaminated by more recent cross-trails of anyone except me -- and those only near the start and end points.

I did not need to consult the GPS. I could not see most of the flagging markers until I was right on top of them (he'd used a dark color that didn't show up well in the heavy foliage and poor light.) I had some misconceptions about the exact route that he took. I watched the dog, and did conventional man-tracking, finding frequent corroborating footprints and vegetation damage.

Although an angry broody turkey hen was flying at her as I scented her from the rag by the spring, about 50 feet from the trail, she ignored the assault and immediately went to work, bypassing the first tempting travel route and hooking a hard right turn onto the correct path.

She trailed with a high head. Normally Rosie has a moderately deep nose (by non-hound standards); on this very old trail, she never dipped her nose to the ground. She was working the vegetation at all times, and casting widely, making lots of loops. I usually use a 30' long-line to slow Rosie down and remind her that we are working as a team. I quickly removed it. She worked slowly and deliberately, despite the wide casting and looping. Where ground-level vegetation was heavy, she stayed very much to the trail; where it was sparse and there was bare ground, she had great difficulty. She frequently returned and demanded the scent article -- she normally almost never does that.

Where PC had left long streamers of flagging, these supplementary scent articles of a sort were clearly creating scent pools; she would become more animated near them, circle, frequently stand up on her hind legs to nose the flagging. She ordinarily does not respond to markers on fresher trails -- some dogs do, creating a challenge for marking those kinds of training trails, but Rosie has never paid them much mind. Even more interesting, she was "climbing trees" in the vicinity of the markers, catching scent on the bark at about 3' above the ground.

There were a lot of recent deer trails crossing, and these she ignored. She acknowledged scent from our neighbors' house when we passed about 200' from it, but was not distracted at that distance.

At the barn, where the ancient trail became fresh, she leapt into the air on the downwind side before circling back to the lower-level door and scratching to be let in, then searching the barn until she found PC in one of the back stalls.

She was rather pleased with herself.

As am I.

Now, what has been proven?

Well, in a very high-humidity, heavily-vegetated, contamination-free environment, Rosie can strike a 46-hour-old trail and provide a direction of travel. With some handler assistance provided via mantracking, she can complete the trail. These things are possible.

She "reads" differently on a trail of this age, and although she keeps focused and works hard, she is much more handler-dependent and less cocksure than on a fresher trail.

I am more willing to give a two-day-old trail the old college try than I would have been previously.

One possible SAR use of this ability is for the instance when we discover a revised LKP (Last Known Point) in the course of a long search. A field team that finds the missing hiker's sleeping pad in a thicket in the middle of the woods, and follows proper procedures for preserving the clue, can help a trailing team resolve the search before all the scent and sign in the area is destroyed by a hundred sets of firefighters' boots and half a dozen ATVs.

What has not been proven?

I wouldn't in a million years represent that Rosie could reliably strike a 46-hour-old trail or consistently complete one. In dry or frigid conditions. In the absence of vegetation. And most especially, with any significant contamination by other humans' more recent trails.

The task wasn't blinded, so my possible contribution to helping her through the tricky parts based on my knowledge of the tasks' parameters has not been controlled. It is possible to very subtly "push" a trailing dog while being quite sure that you are not doing so. These are bright, perceptive animals, and they will find the right answer by whatever means is available.

This is one task that I would have loved to record on video.


*Closed italics provided for the marital sarcasm-impaired.

† We never run a training trail without the tracklayer at the end of it, so his presence was non-optional.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Photo Phriday: Aerial Invader

Our neighbor swears that the first hundred feet of airspace is ours.

We are regularly invaded in the summer by this commercial endeavor

Scenic, sure, but it frightens the livestock, and the dogs hate it. They all leap to their feet, barking emphatically, when they hear the whuumph of the burner in the distance.

Rosie has developed a three-dimensional case of Mailman Syndrome.

She and Pip chase through the hayfield barking, snarling, and leaping into the air.

And the balloon runs away every single time. Success!

Next time, she will surely jump high enough to catch the trespasser.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Comment moderation is enabled.

USA Board of Dog Searchin' Freedom

How did Steven Colbert find out how SAR dog handlers get "certified?" And then employ such a clever metaphor with ophthalmologists and cats to subtly reveal it?

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
USA Board of Ophthalmological Freedom
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

I'm sorry Jay. That cat told me he was certified.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Photo Phriday: Oviduct

One doesn't normally deliberately kill a productive laying hen.* So when Dale McNugget departed this mortal coil last week and I dressed her out for the dogs' dinner, there was something other than the usual giblets inside.

I was surprised to see so many egg yolks, lined up in her oviduct and clustered around her ovary.

Chickens (all birds) have two ovaries when the are born, but only the left one (right one in some raptors -- don't ask why because I don't know) develops and produces eggs.

This is a lot of good-sized (i.e. fairly developed) yolks, but apparently not outside normal limits. I asked around.


* The ornery Daughter of Henery who drew blood while I was gathering eggs last week may find herself an exception sealed her fate by breaking into the turkey coop and killing several hatchling poults; she had fewer eggs lined up than Dale, but was more interesting, as one was in the chamber getting shell laid on when I converted her to curry ingredients.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Even the Devil Can't Fool a Dog

A dog's got a right to have a man around, just the same as that man's got a right to have a dog around.

Best Twilight Zone EVAR.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3, the money shot

You can get it on DVD, Volume 25 of the Twilight Zone complete set. Netflix has it.

The writer, Earl Hamner Jr., has a long list of writing credits for animal-themed television, including Lassie and Gentle Ben, and the 2006 live-action movie adaptation of Charlotte's Web. He was also the creator of the 1970's series The Waltons.

It is an old story, simply retold here.

How old?

"Shakra said, ‘Thou shalt behold thy brothers in Heaven. They have reached it before thee. Indeed, thou shalt see all of them there, with Krishna. Do not yield to grief, O chief of the Bharatas. Having cast off their human bodies they have gone there, O chief of Bharata’s race. As regards thee, it is ordained that thou shalt go thither in this very body of thine.’

"Yudhishthira said, ‘This dog, O lord of the Past and the Present, is exceedingly devoted to me. He should go with me. My heart is full of compassion for him.’

"Shakra said, ‘Immortality and a condition equal to mine, O king, prosperity extending in all directions, and high success, and all the felicities of Heaven, thou hast won today. Do thou cast off this dog. In this there will be no cruelty.’

"Yudhishthira said, ‘O thou of a 1,000 eyes. O thou that art of righteous behaviour, it is exceedingly difficult for one that is of righteous behaviour to perpetrate an act that is unrighteous. I do not desire that union with prosperity for which I shall have to cast off one that is devoted to me.’

"Indra said, ‘There is no place in Heaven for persons with dogs. Besides, the (deities called) Krodhavasas take away all the merits of such persons. Reflecting on this, act, O king Yudhishthira the just. Do thou abandon this dog. There is no cruelty in this.’

"Yudhishthira said, ‘It has been said that the abandonment of one that is devoted is infinitely sinful. It is equal to the sin that one incurs by slaying a Brahmana. Hence, O great Indra, I shall not abandon this dog today from desire of my happiness. Even this is my vow steadily pursued, that I never give up a person that is terrified, nor one that is devoted to me, nor one that seeks my protection, saying that he is destitute, nor one that is afflicted, nor one that has come to me, nor one that is weak in protecting oneself, nor one that is solicitous of life. I shall never give up such a one till my own life is at an end.’

"Indra said, ‘Whatever gifts, or sacrifices spread out, or libations poured on the sacred fire, are seen by a dog, are taken away by the Krodhavasas. Do thou, therefore, abandon this dog. By abandoning this dog thou wilt attain to the region of the deities. Having abandoned thy brothers and Krishna, thou hast, O hero, acquired a region of felicity by thy own deeds. Why art thou so stupefied? Thou hast renounced everything. Why then dost thou not renounce this dog?’ "Yudhishthira said, ‘This is well known in all the worlds that there is neither friendship nor enmity with those that are dead. When my brothers and Krishna died, I was unable to revive them. Hence it was that I abandoned them. I did not, however, abandon them as long as they were alive. To frighten one that has sought protection, the slaying of a woman, the theft of what belongs to a Brahmana, and injuring a friend, each of these four, O Shakra, is I think equal to the abandonment of one that is devoted.’"

Vaishampayana continued: "Hearing these words of king Yudhishthira the just, (the dog became transformed into) the deity of Righteousness, who, well pleased, said these words unto him in a sweet voice fraught with praise.

"Dharma said: ‘Thou art well born, O king of kings, and possessed of the intelligence and the good conduct of Pandu. Thou hast compassion for all creatures, O Bharata, of which this is a bright example. Formerly, O son, thou wert once examined by me in the woods of Dwaita, where thy brothers of great prowess met with (an appearance of) death. Disregarding both thy brothers Bhima and Arjuna, thou didst wish for the revival of Nakula from thy desire of doing good to thy (step-) mother. On the present occasion, thinking the dog to be devoted to thee, thou hast renounced the very car of the celestials instead of renouncing him. Hence. O king, there is no one in Heaven that is equal to thee. Hence, O Bharata, regions of inexhaustible felicity are thine. Thou hast won them, O chief of the Bharatas, and thine is a celestial and high goal.’"

The Mahabharata, Book 17: Mahaprasthanika Parva

ca 400 BCE

I couldn't find any reference to the animal trainer(s). While the dog is well-cast for type (Hollywood likes to cast Labradors as hounds and curs, golden retrievers as mongrels, German shepherds as wolves, and this episode is a refreshing exception), the dog work is fairly poor. Not much is expected of the hound. He's no Terry.

But he wouldn't walk into Hell with his eyes wide open, either.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Got a call this morning from Mary Mary, a regular commenter over at the Pet Connection blog.

Apparently, after years of being widely known as the Dog Lady, I am now the designated Chicken Lady.

A senior prank on the last day of school at a suburban high school left ten* young chickens in need of a refuge. (I did make it clear that we aren't a farm sanctuary, and don't guarantee cockerels a sinecure.)

Mary's young friend and her Dad delivered them this afternoon, and I set them up in the now-disused foster dog kennel. (New poultry need to be quarantined from the resident flock.)

There appear to be four cockerels and six pullets. Maybe about five weeks old? What kind is a mystery to me. They appear to be white at first glance, but almost all of them have some brown splotches here and there. They aren't leghorns, nor, thankfully, Cornish crosses.

They were delighted with their new temporary digs and immediately went to work scratching and pecking. They know all about using a roost, and are very lively.

Any ideas about what breed(s) these guys might be?

(Edit: Mount Healthy hatchery has agreed that these appear to be Amberlink hybrid layers, which are only sold by Mount Healthy. Many of our local feed stores deal with Mount Healthy for chicks. They are characterized in the catalog as active foragers and productive brown egg layers with nice temperaments. They should fit in well here and do well under our kind of husbandry.)


* So we can be very grateful the Class of '99 didn't think of this one.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

RIP Dale "Supersize" McNugget 4/14/09-6/6/10

Dale McNugget passed away peacefully and rather suddenly in the sunny barnyard, surrounded by her flockmates, this afternoon.

The proximal cause of death was pulmonary failure. This was secondary to what I would have called morbid obesity -- except, on necropsy, she really had very little body fat. She was just one enormous chicken.

Hybrid broiler birds are not designed by artificial selection to live long, healthy lives. Had Dale been a conventional cornish cross hen, she would have been unlikely to live four months, much less fourteen. Because she was a "freedom ranger," she was a little better equipped to live in the world. But she was still too heavy to flutter up to the roost with the other hens, spending her nights on the coop floor with the ducks and the two auxiliary Dales -- hens who escaped capture on processing day last July. She laid eggs under the nest boxes* after she became too large to fit inside one -- or rather, too large to get out once she had squeezed in. Later I installed a large covered cat litter box as a floor-level nest box for the former McNuggets.

I started limiting the plus-sized girls' access to feed a few months ago, gating them out of the coop during the day by installing a creep on the pop door that the smaller chickens could slip through, but kept the three big girls outside to forage on pasture rather than hog down layer feed. It didn't seem to make a lot of difference in their weights, but they did become more active.

Of course I'm ambivalent about the very existence of hybrid broiler chickens, let alone the lives they usually lead. That those will be short is a given; knowing this and feeling a bit guilty about it, we endeavor to eliminate nasty and brutish from the list of options. There are currently fifteen Cartmans living in a chicken tractor in the pasture; they'd have grown just fine in a stall in the barn, but a chicken should breath fresh air and eat bugs and grass. They'd also be fairly content confined to the tractor, but I open it up during the day so they can shuffle around a bit, and sack out in the tall grass along the old fenceline when they want to, and dustbathe. To the extent their genetics allows, they get to be chickens during their very short span on this earth.

There are 76 new McNuggets growing feathers in preparation for their own move out to pasture, where they'll live behind electronet at night, range free for much of the day, and have even more chicken-like and slightly longer lives.

But their genetics dictate, always, that those lives will be short. Not even an internet rabble with money in their teeth will convince me to hold back any meat birds from this years' flocks. I do not believe it is kind.

I think of the short lives of giant breed dogs, and how their hearts so often give out. The incredibly plastic canine genome can produce 200 pound dog bodies, but not the hearts to run them.

One of the two auxiliary Dales died a month or so ago; her heart was at least four times normal size.

I didn't weigh Dale after my mom found her still-warm body this afternoon. But a necropsy on a chicken is another way of saying "dressed out," with a little more haruspicy. She makes at least a dozen dog meals -- feeding five English shepherds and one hollow-legged German shepherd -- in other words, you could easily feed an English shepherd for a week on one chicken. She must have been at least sixteen pounds alive.

I took her skin, head, and intestines out to the Fox Stump at the far end of the south pasture, where we leave offerings to the vulpine neighbors in exchange for respect for our living flock. Think of it as a sky burial.


* She had no fewer than eight eggs at various stages of growth queued up in her oviduct.