Dogs

A Fine Quote, and Dogs

August 1st, 2014 No Comments

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I stole this fabulous quote from Steve Bodio’s blog, Querencia at: http://stephenbodio.blogspot.com/

“Stuff is eaten by dogs, broken by family and friends, sanded down by the wind, frozen by the mountains, lost by the prairie, burnt off by the sun, washed away by the rain. So you are left with dogs, family, friends, sun, rain, wind, prairie, and mountains. What more do you want?”

Federico Calboli

Mr. Calboli is a geneticist, a post-doctoral Research Fellow at Imperial College, London, and—to be painfully honest—does the sort of work I am nowhere near smart enough to understand. But reading his opening page about himself (http://www.federicocalboli.com/) prior to stealing his words, the following sentence caught my eye:

“Alongside my genetic association research, I have worked on the analysis of complex pedigree records, using simulations to asses pedigree complexity, inbreeding and gene diversity loss in dogs.   My work on the analysis of the pedigree of purebred dogs in the UK has been key in the recent challenges to the practice of closed registries for dog breeds, on the grounds of animal welfare.”

Readers of my blog know I am no fan of anyone trying to tell me what to do, and when the government starts meddling in my affairs, I put my ears back like the false prophet’s donkey in the Bible and refuse to cooperate. Even more, I begin to think fond thoughts of Guy Fawkes, the sharpshooters who stood by the rude bridge and fired the shot(s) heard round the world, the men who picked their teeth while letting the rope of the guillotine go, all those who tell authoritarian governments (I know that’s redundant) to go perform anatomically impossible acts upon themselves. But…

But in this case, I have to admit I’m all on the side of science, or at least on Mr. Calboli’s science.

One of the blogs that was lost when my website had that embarrassing accident (wrong finger on the wrong key at the wrong time) was about this very issue. The moment a gene pool gets closed, disaster begins. It’s true of men (look at some of the royal morons and madmen that have cluttered up various thrones around the world throughout history) and it is especially and radically so with dogs. Dogs apparently have a genetic marker that allows them to evolve more rapidly than other species, which is why in such a comparatively short evolutionary timespan, the descendants of the wolf have been able to assume the shapes of Chihuahuas and Irish wolfhounds, whippets and bulldogs.

Closed gene pools have given us guard dogs that are afraid of their own bark, hunting dogs that can’t hunt their way to the meat counter in a supermarket, and companion dogs that bite their owners. No one is advocating mongrelization here, but for God’s sake, if crossing a little Malinois, say, into your German shepherd will delay the onslaught of dysplasia and spinal atrophy, or fear biting, do it. I have an antique dog book (I would have just called it an old dog book, since it was published in 1934, but apparently that qualifies it as an antique in today’s frantic world) with a cover photograph of a German shepherd. That dog bears no more resemblance to the German shepherds of the show ring or Schutzhund ring today than I do to LeBron James. If it sounds as if I’m picking on German shepherds, well, I am. As a child in Germany during the late fifties and the first half of the sixties I used to see them and admire them so much: magnificent and fearless athletes, calm and steady, polite with strangers, but fiercely protective of their owners, the ideal dog. Today… Let’s just say that with any breed, if the body can’t stand up to the rigors of being walked around suburban neighborhoods and the temperament can’t stand up to the rigors of being a beloved family pet, then that breed is, to quote a fine old Army phrase, FUBAR: fucked up beyond all recognition.

A kindly reader saved all my old blogs and sent them to me, for which I am very grateful. I will go back through my files and try to find that original blog and re-post it. If it has stood the test of time.

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Is Man Really God’s Last Word?

April 1st, 2014 28 Comments

blackpup   For the first time in all the years we’ve been married, Darleen and I are down to one dog. We’ve never had less than three, and at one point, due to circumstances beyond our control (soft heads, soft hearts, dogs in need of rescue) we had five, and the chaos level in the house was on a par with a badly run kindergarten. Imagine the lunatics not even bothering to run the asylum. We have decided to keep it down to two, but that still leaves us one dog shy, so we drove down to the nearest city to see about rescuing a dog. I’m not sure why, but southern California seems to have more than its fair share of irresponsible pet owners. Between three and four million dogs and cats are euthanized at shelters all across America every year. That translates to roughly 80,000 animals a week, and the shelters in southern California are overwhelmed. Apparently large numbers of people labor under the misapprehension that neutering old Rover or Miss Tabby is somehow cruel. Or maybe they’re just so dumb they don’t even think of it at all. The Audubon Society claims that the single greatest killer of migrating songbirds is the domestic (or feral) cat, yet people all over the nation think it is cruel not to let their cats out to play. It is possible the birds who get played with have a different perspective. And every mentally negligible moron in the country seems to think his dog is worthy of reproduction (“Let the kiddies see the miracle of birth.” I have actually heard that.) with the result that every time you go to the local shopping mall there are kiddies standing out in front with cardboard boxes of puppies they are trying to give away. Or starving pit-bulls running loose along the interstate. Or unidentifiable messes of bloody fur on the asphalt. In the years we have lived in our little rural corner of the mountains, ten miles out from a very small town, Darleen and I have averaged two stray dogs a year on our property. For the first four or five years we earnestly tried to find the owners, but after one such paragon of compassion told Darleen on the phone, “Ah, just kick him in the gut and send him on home,” (that’s a direct quote) we stopped trying to return them. Now we feed them and take them down to the shelter or, if injured, to our local vet. If you’re too stupid and irresponsible to get your dog micro-chipped, and you can’t be bothered to even keep a collar with a tag on him, you don’t deserve to get him back. But rescuing a dog is not as easy as you might imagine. We had to rule out a wide range of the shelter’s offerings. Pete is a male, a male with a tendency for brawling, and I have broken up more than my fair share of dog fights during my life, so it’s female only. We ruled out dogs with obvious communicable diseases, and dogs that showed any signs of aggression toward people or toward Pete or toward cats. After that we ruled out various characteristics or breed types that would make our lives miserable for one reason or another. We spent two days at two different shelters and finally gave up. The best of the bunch was a sort of Labrador kind of cross that had been neglected in a backyard for so long that it had reached a state I can only describe as catatonic in terms of its reactions to humans. She was fine with Pete, but completely unresponsive to the vet tech, to me, to Darleen. I can understand a dog being unresponsive to me, but if a dog is unresponsive to Darleen, it has serious problems. A pet rock would respond to my bride. So we are still, for the time being, a one-dog family. But what the experience left me with was a conviction that there is something seriously wrong with man’s relationship with his best friend. And if man can treat an animal with such callous disregard, how will he treat his fellow man? I don’t think we’re going to see peace on earth anytime soon.

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Belle

March 19th, 2014 30 Comments

008 (800x600)   We had to put our old corgi down. She, Belle, is the alert one in the photo above, shown with her friend Scooter in a chair I used to be able to sit in myself. Old is a relative term; she was only ten, which is old for some breeds, but not—or it shouldn’t be—for corgis. Belle was a semi-rescue (what breeders euphemistically call “pet quality”) that no one else wanted and so, being soft-headed and soft-hearted, we took her. She was a delight. She had tremendous charm and brains enough to know how to use it. When guests came over, she would work the room like a cabaret singer, and when we went out with her somewhere, she invariably made everyone smile. She was a mess. She had terrible structure, including excessively turned-out feet that caused her great difficulty and necessitated a surgery in her later years. In her later years (which should have been her middle-aged years) she also developed Cushing’s disease, something I had thought only horses got. She was a delight. She was hands down, without question, the finest and most alert watch dog I have owned, seen, known, heard of, or encountered. If she went on high alert and growled at the back door, it invariably meant there was something up on the hill behind the house, frequently something so far away that it took us and the other dogs a long time to spot it. If she went on high alert toward the front of the house, it invariably meant someone was driving up the lane, even if the car was still a quarter mile away. Both of these she did regularly, summer and winter, even when the house was buttoned up tight and the television was showing the Animal Planet. She was a mess. Her nerves were so bad she was terrified of practically everything, which made taking her anywhere extremely difficult. Even walking her around the fields in our own neck of the woods could be problematic: my neighbor to north sometimes practices shooting in the canyon north of his house. The distance is about half a mile, and the shooting is always muffled by the canyon wall, but she would begin to shake and, if she was off-leash, she would run back to the house. Since the only way to (hopefully, possibly) get a dog over a fear factor is to ignore any behavior exhibited, taking her anywhere was a challenge. She was a delight, getting along with everyone, human, equine, canine, and feline. She always stayed calm around the horses, resolutely ignored the cats, and bedeviled Pete the Boxer into games. She also used to bedevil me into playing tug-of-war with her, but only with one very specific toy. I lived in fear that toy would disintegrate and that she would be inconsolable. We purchased another, identical in every way save color, but she wouldn’t touch it. Unfortunately, the toy lasted longer than she did. She was a mess, badly bred by an irresponsible breeder; but even the typically callous, venal, avaricious breeders so prevalent today in America, even that despicable person couldn’t destroy the essential sweetness of one of the world’s oldest breeds. She was a delight.

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