Sunday, January 31, 2010

When a dog nearly gives you a heart attack

Mina is leash-aggressive around other dogs. I expect it from her. She can meet small dogs, no problem, on leash. She can bully her way up to large, calm dogs, no problem. But any dog who shows an interest or yelps or barks, she takes the offensive - on leash. Off-leash, her social skills aren't much better, but she's more keen on running and playing than anything else.

So when my parents and I took the dogs for a walk yesterday, I expected Mina's over-excited, irksome behavior upon seeing another dog.

What I didn't expect was my other dog, my calm, sweet, perpetual puppy Celeste to slip her collar and dash across a country road and start yelling in the other dog's face.

There I was with an 11-yr-old Pit Bull screaming bloody murder and an un-collared, un-leashed muttskie yelping - seriously - something at a geriatric, old-lady Vizsla dog with the kindest, nicest, calmest owner on earth. While Celeste is standing inches from the dog's face, talking and talking about what - none of us know - the man is standing there calmly and politely telling Celeste, "Oh gosh, you don't mean that." And it's true, Celeste doesn't. She's feeding off of Mina's energy and doing her best to protect the pack from this clear and present danger who's currently staring off into space.

My dad runs over and Celeste is all OH MY GOD U KILLS ME?!? No, my dad is being nice and sweet and Celeste is just oh so very concerned. I call Celeste and her recall skills, being far more reliable than a certain old-lady dog, comes over. She's looking quite upset about the whole fiasco, and I don't blame her.

Me? I'm ever thankful my parents are with me. With Mina, I wouldn't have been able to get within 5' of the other dog. Either Mina would have had to been tied to a freaking grapevine or the other man would have had to leash Celeste and hand her back to me...but from a safe distance, thanks.

The collar is tight now. No chance of slipping possible. Celeste didn't pose a threat to the dog and, really, you could tell the dog knew it. Celeste, bless her sweet, gentle, submissive heart, was so incredibly unsure of what the hell she was doing that she'd vacillate between barking and then gently sniffing the dog's nose, barking and then trying to sniff the dog's butt. Which is just me being overwhelming happy that, if this shitastic event were to occur, it occurred on a less-traveled road, at 11 in the morning, with my parents present and involving one nice man and his equally nice dog.

Worst case scenario didn't happen - encountering a car. Celeste can survive an encounter with an ornery dog, but not with a 2,000 lb vehicle.

Check your collars. Check your harnesses. Make sure your gear is safe and secure. Have all sorts of back-up plans for if the unthinkable happens. Celeste won't be slipping her collar ever again. My heart is unprepared to deal with her running in traffic to go yell passive-aggressive obscenities at other dogs.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

January 2010 Reads

Every year, I track the books I read. This year, you too can enjoy a monthly review of my reading. Enjoy may be very subjective.

Andromeda Klein - Frank Portman (1/5/2010): In a word - strange. Andromeda Klein works through her grief in mysterious ways (at least I assume it's a working through of grief, but who knows). Her dad's a paranoid schizophrenic, her mom is just paranoid. Andromeda invests her entire soul into "weedgie", the occult, magick, etc. ad naseum. Except she has a "disorganization of collagen" in her ears, rendering her nearly deaf and prone to misunderstanding (discombobulation becomes action-population, which I approve). This is a strange book. Really strange. And I'm not sure what the point is, but someone surely does, I hope. The end.

Sea Change - Aimee Friedman (1/23/10): In a word - nostalgic. Tangentially, this book makes me want to watch The Secret of Roan Inish again. It's one of my favorite movies. The book isn't like the movie at all, except there are sea people and mystery. Sea Change is an acceptable YA read. There's the stereotypical budding romance between, in this case, the young teenage scientist and a mysterious boy who might just be a merman. You'll have to read to find our more. The end.

 A Thousand Days of Wonder - Charles Fernyhough (1/26/10) : In a word - meandering. Fernyhough takes us on a journey following his daughter's first 1,000 days of existence. The most memorable piece of information is that for the first six to seven months of our lives, we are all synesthetics, our senses intermingling such that we might see shapes as colors or hear sounds as tastes. The end.

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins (1/28/10): In a word - engaging. This is the 2nd book in a series. The first, Hunger Games, is mandatory reading. While a typical 2nd series book, Collins is engaging, her characters so very human (both likable and "hateable") and the pace fast. Seventy-five years ago, rebellion led to the oppression of 12 districts, the destruction of the 13th and the creation of an ignorant, vapid Capitol. Every year, as a reminder of their loss, each district chooses through lottery two tribute children, male and female, to send to the Hunger Games held in an arena in the capitol. They kill each other until one victor remains. Katniss is a victor from that game and her winning has led to a possible revolution. But who is friend and who is enemy? Well, I guess I'll have to find THAT out in the 3rd book, damn you Collins, damn you! The end.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Toledo - I can has constitutionality?

I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. Instead, I'll just point you on over to KC Dog Blog's posts on this subject.

Toledo's dangerous dog law ruled unconstitutional (like isn't this the kajillionth time?)


Toledo stops putting hits out on Pit Bulls. Yeah, for reals. Lucas County used to get $100 for every pit bull they "confiscated" and summarily executed from Toledo. Go, team dog killer, go!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dogs in the News

In the News

The Brew City Bully Club hopes to eliminate dog fighting in Milwaukee in 10 years. Best of luck.

Did he get mauled or didn't he? Los Angeles citizens heralded a firefighter who hoisted a drowning dog to safety as hero. While rescuing the wayward pup, he was bitten. Depending on which article you read, the guy nearly lost his arm or got bitten on the thumb once. I'll assume it was something in between. You can see the video here. It's clear the dog bites the man several times, hopefully all that extra padding significantly reduced the severity of the wounds. Good job to the firefighter for holding on despite the large, biting dog.

I'm baffled as to why these two dogs need to be killed because their guardians/owners allowed them to run loose in their unfenced backyard and they invariably attacked and killed some goats, sheep and a wild deer. In a responsible home, this type of occurrence would be far less likely to occur because the dogs would not be running loose.

South Carolina Lt. Governor has something to say about poverty and stray animals - Call Animal Control, We've Got Poverty Again

New South Wales Dog Attacks

Last year, between the months of October and December, 470 people were bitten by dogs, 126 of them being classified as "serious" enough to require medical treatment.

The news article chose to translate the statistic into 8 dog attacks a day by including attacks on other animals. In reality, about five humans were bitten a day during that time period.

New South Wales puts out quarterly bite reports here. Here's the breakdown of attacks based on severity and age of victim for the entire year of 2009.

Child > 16
No Injury
Med Treat


There were 1,760 attacks, most of the victims were over the age of 16. Nearly 50% of them resulted in No Injury to the victim. 25% resulted in Minor Injury. That means in 2009, 75% of dog bites were minor injuries or not injurious at all. About 4.7% of the victims required hospitalization and 21% required medical treatment. Less then 33% of dog bite victims required medical treatment or hospitalization. One person, or 0.05% of victims, died from the bite wounds.

You can look at the breed data yourself. I'm not including them because they don't delineate between attacks on people and attacks on nonhumans. I think there is a big difference between an attack between two dogs and an attack on an adult human. Further, I don't think they're useful. Most dog attacks are committed by dogs of an "unknown" breed or by "mixed breeds". The severity per breed is not included nor are the circumstances - all would be useful in even considering making judgments based on the phenotype of a dog (I say phenotype, or the physical appearance, because that is what eyewitness accounts go off of - they don't have pedigrees or genotypes available to them, so it's an iffy assessment at best).

Including attacks on other animals, 72% of attacks were committed by one dog and 25% were committed by two dogs. There were 23 other attacks involving 3 or more dogs. Most dog bites were committed by solo dogs, not by packs.

New South Wales has a population of 6.9 million. In 2009, 0.0255% of them were bitten by dogs. And again, 75% of that 0.0255% of the population required no medical treatment or hospitalization - that is, they were either uninjured or incurred a minor injury.

Most dogs don't bite. When they do, they tend to show incredible restraint. Most dog bites are not severe in nature. This, to me, is always an amazing feat.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Interesting Title Change - Breed Name Eliminated

This is what I received in my google alerts ("animal control" happened to be the alert):

Authorities: 4 Great Danes attack 5-year-old in Montgomery County
The dogs are now being collected by animal control. There is no further information at this time. I hope this little child is going to get well soon...its ...
See all stories on this topic

but when I clicked on the link, this is what I got:

Authorities: 5-year-old recovering after vicious dog attack

by staff
Posted on January 23, 2010 at 5:57 PM
Updated today (1/24) at 12:57 PM

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – A 5-year-old  boy is recovering after being viciously attacked by his neighbor's dogs. 
Drake Talley, was out playing Saturday around 2:30 p.m., when two of the neighbor's four dogs attacked him. 
Drake was airlifted to Memorial Hermann hospital for treatment, where he is now recovering.  
Emphasis my own, along with the added italicized date. We went from mentioning the breed name in the title (common with reporting on Pit Bull bites) to eliminating the breed entirely in both the title and the body of the article (common with reporting on non Pit Bull bites).

Correlation Does not Equal Causation - Lancaster, Take Heed

Too often, we fall prey to the fallible argument - as intuitive as it may be, at times - that when two things correlate with each other, by necessity one of those things causes the other to occur. A made-up example: In cities with more than 60 street lamps per 1,000 residents, the rate of heart disease is 2.5 times higher than in cities with less than 60 street lamps per 1,000 citizens. You would not make an argument that street lamps, in of themselves, cause heart disease. At least not seriously, one would hope.

Being human, our elected officials sometimes argue fallaciously about correlated events. In Lancaster, California, Mayor Rex Parris has most recently suggested that the mandatory castration of Pit Bull and Rottweiler type dogs caused a reduction in crime, most notably gang-related crime in 2009. The Mayor cites the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's statistical data, but 2009 information is currently unavailable to the public. You can see previous years here.

Where are the numbers coming from?
Mayor Parris states that "Lancaster’s violent gang crime, which includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, fell by 45% last year, and there was a drop in overall gang crime by 41%". It is difficult to challenge this without the data in front of me. According to the city's press release in October of 2009, the crime rate had declined 23% in the first nine months of 2009. While not impossible, it does seem unlikely that, in the last three months of 2009, Lancaster was able to boost their reduction in the crime rate from 23% to an amazing 45%. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's statistics available to the public do not delineate between "gang-related" crimes and all crimes. Without more specific numbers, it is difficult to garner much information from Parris' statement, except that gang-related crimes in 2009 were reduced. I can only assume Parris and other mayors are privied to other statistical information that assists in their "gang-related crime"assertions.

Crime reduction already on its way:
Lancaster's number of severe crimes* increased dramatically in 2003. In 2002, 6,961 serious crimes were committed in Lancaster and in 2003, that number grew to 8,301. In 2007, the numbers peaked and, in 2008, Lancaster saw its first significant reduction in the number of severe crimes since 2002. There were 685 fewer serious crimes in 2008 than in 2007. More importantly, the crime rate (that is, the number of crimes committed per 10,000 people) started to decrease in 2007. And continued in 2008.

Another way of putting it: A full two years before Pit Bull and Rottweiler type dogs were required to be castrated, Lancaster was seeing a reduction in its crime rate. And in 2008, Lancaster was seeing a reduction in the number of serious crimes committed, including gang-related crime.

Certainly, Mayor Parris would not suggest the mandatory sterilization bill worked retroactively in reducing crime.

Crime rate reduction occurring elsewhere:
Palmdale is located in the Antelope Valley, along with Lancaster. They have approximately the same population sizes. Their demographics are similar in some respects - they have between a $41-45,000 median income. Their median income for a family is nearly identical. Lancaster does have a higher percentage of people identifying themselves as white than Palmdale. Both have the same number of single moms. In many ways, Palmdale and Lancaster are quite similar. But in their crime rate, they are different. Palmdale has had a consistently lower crime rate than Lancaster.

More importantly, during the same time that Lancaster's crime rate started to decline...well, so did Palmdale's. According to their press release (and again, I do not have access to "gang-related" crime #s), there was an overall 25% reduction in gang-related crimes, a 67% reduction in homicides and a 41% reduction in gang-related robberies.

Palmdale does not have any laws regarding the mandatory sterilization based on breed.

In fact, in 2008, the entire Antelope Valley saw a 10% reduction in the overall crime rate - the greatest drop since 2001.

Who do these dogs belong to?
In 2009, as a result of the ordinance, 1,138 Pit Bulls and Rottweilers were impounded by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control on behalf of the City. Of those, 362 were voluntarily surrendered by their owners in response to the strict City ordinance.
Mayor Parris takes these numbers as evidence enough that this law reduces gang-related crime. Parris assumes that gang-members would voluntarily surrender their dogs to the shelter. He assumes gang-members care about being caught with an intact Pit Bull or Rottweiler. And he assumes that a seemingly large percentage of the "gang-banging" population will just stop their habitual criminality and start becoming upstanding citizens because they don't have intact Pit Bulls or Rottweilers. The failure of logic is astounding.

I do not have the individual stories in front of me, but I will hazard a guess at who exactly is dumping those 326 Pit Bulls and Rottweilers - some certainly may be gang members. Most are probably people who are a) confused by the law; b) incapable of affording or unwilling to fork out the cost of castration or c) disinterested in owning a castrated non-puppy-producing (and thus money-making) dog. I could be going out on a limb here, but my guess is that most of these people are not gang members.

Even if all 326 owners were gang members, there is still no statistical evidence that their dogs being placed in the shelter and a) adopted or b) killed reduces gang-related crimes. None. Raw data are what they are and can certainly be construed however the reader sees fit. Data that have been analyzed? With 95-99% confidence intervals? With the elimination of all other variables that might confound the data? That is scientific evidence worthy of writing news articles about.

But this? This haphazard, illogical, unscientific, non-statistical manipulation of raw numbers? It's a great way to set people and animals up for failure. The entire premise results in the death of dogs and the criminalization of certain dog guardians/owners. It creates a false safety net wherein other council members or mayors may try to improve safety by implementing an unrelated, uncorrelated law. All without any factual evidence that castrating Pit Bulls and Rottweilers causes a reduction in gang-related crime. Unless Palmdale residents thought they too had to castrate their Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, it seems - to me, anyways - that the cause of gang-related crime rate reduction had little to do with the testicles and ovaries of dogs.

What is crime?
It should be noted that throughout 2009, Mayor Parris and company seem to suggest that there were other reasons for the reduction. Not once do they mention doggy breeding body parts. They mention a lot of the new programs the LA County Sheriff's Department has implemented in the past two years.

We know crime is not a one-variable event. Fixing broken windows, in of itself, will not eliminate crime.  Increasing the number of police officers. Reducing the time it takes to reach the scene of a crime. Increasing social welfare programs. Improving the economic value of impoverished regions of cities. Inviting and encouraging civic participation with programs like the Neighborhood Watch. Reducing the likelihood of juvenile mischief through alternative after-school programs. Increasing graduation rates. We know that the likelihood of committing serious crimes depends on a host of variables - where you were born, who you were born to, your education, your economic background, your friends and social peers, the range of options you have after school (both after high school and, literally, when the school day ends), etc. ad naseum.

A complex social phenomenon, like crime, cannot be reduced to something so simplistic as whether Pit Bulls and Rottweilers have testicles or ovaries. It is not only illogical, it's offensive to our collective intelligence.

*Which the LA County Sheriff's Dept defines as Part 1 crimes include homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault, grand theft auto, burglary, larceny and arson.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Clouds After a Storm

Yesterday, I helped out with a vegan bake sale benefiting the victims of Haiti's earthquake. We raised $1,600 - people enjoyed donated baked goods and made a positive difference for the people in Haiti. It was a win-win. All proceeds benefited Food for Life Global, an international organization that donates vegetarian and vegan meals to impoverished people.

On my way home, I was passing over the Yolo Causeway and noticed the beautiful sky, crisp and light and full of fluffy clouds after a recent storm. When I was at UC Davis, I loved visiting the Vic Fazio Wildlife Area, which is part of the Yolo Basin. In the winter and early spring, the entire park floods, and you can only really enjoy it from a distance. In the late spring, summer and fall, when the flooding recedes, you're left with gorgeous wetlands and a bird-watcher's paradise. I'm not a bird watcher, but I did love sneaking Mina into the park and exploring. I never let her off-leash, although I was very tempted. Technically, dogs aren't allowed out of the car to protect the wetlands and habitat of the birds. The park has a lovely driving tour, which always struck me as both fascinating and off-putting. I mean, how can you really enjoy the rustling reeds or the honking geese while safely ensconced in your vehicle?

Back to yesterday. I took the appropriate exit and parked as close as I could to the flood-plains. I really wish cameras could translate what your eyes see, but they just aren't that talented. The clouds were even more brilliantly beautiful than what my cameras captured.

The only downside - for me - is that the park is also open to hunters. It's sort of a catch-22. I can enjoy the park for free because hunters purchase hunting stamps to fund the preservation of the park. I'd be happy to pay, though, and enjoy the park sans guns going off and birds falling to the earth. (I realize not all of you agree with this sentiment - the hunters I've met have been nice, caring people so this isn't a misdirected hatred for hunters. But I'm vegan. So that is that). There were some hunters out in the marshes - there are a few more days of geese hunting, so I assume they were taking advantage of that. No gunshots, thankfully. There were also people hiking out with their dogs off leash, which just seemed like a bad combo.

More importantly, the clouds!

In the distance is the city of Sacramento. It's dwarfed by those clouds.

By summer, all of the water you see will be gone and underneath it will be a parking lot and driving paths.

That's Highway 80, and you can see the causeway on your left. The water you see is obscuring the parking lot and paths of the park. However, it isn't at its peak flooding capacity. Some years, the water reaches near the top of the causeway, truly transforming the landscape. The causeway really is a neat concept. Bypasses and weirs (small dams) funnel flood waters into semi-natural flood-plains, mimicking natural flood events. If you care to learn more about the Yolo Bypass, this is a good article.

There are a few more photos:

Amtrak uses railroad tracks adjacent to the highway. I used to love taking the train home when I was at college and w/o vehicular transport. Another photo but taken with a different camera.

Railroad tracks going the other way.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sanctuary on a rainy day

I really wish I had my cameras with me when the rain stopped. Nothing is quite so crisp and beautiful as a sky after a good storm. Here is a picture of when the rain was coming down pretty heavy. All that white you see is rain. Except for the cows, the animals were not amused.

I suppose I shouldn't complain. We get nice, lush, verdant green pastures in the winter. It could be worse. We could get snow. YUCK!

Rainy afternoon

Son bitten once on nose, called mauling

A family just brought a new dog home. NEW DOG.

Within hours of bringing this NEW DOG home, they left the dog alone with their two kids. I mean, just for a moment, yo. During that time, the older child raised a toy above his head. The dog aimed for the toy, missed and bit the boy in the face.

There's a picture - it's pretty evident that, as awful as the bite is, it was not a mauling but a one-bite affair. But the story paints the ensuing bite as a prolonged mauling.

Here's a reality people need to get through their thick skulls: A dog's mouth versus a child's face will ALWAYS end poorly for the child - no MATTER the dog's size. Worst one-bite wound I've ever seen came in the form of a 4-yr-old child who lost her eye. HER ENTIRE EYE. The dog was a Beagle who had been aggressive in three homes, returned to the shelter each time, and adopted out again because "she was cute". And she was. She was also a crotchety old dog.

Also, please do not ever leave your hours-old adopted dog alone with your two kids. Not for one second. I mean, that's just setting everyone up for failure.

The dog is dead. Not because he was dangerous. But because a new family failed him miserably. And now a child has a bite wound to his face and may have emotional trauma in relation to dogs. I'm so tired of these cautionary tales.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Off Leash Wars

There's an in-depth article in SF Weekly covering the battle over off-leash "rights" in San Francisco.

Dogs should have off-leash time, safely.

People should be able to walk without fear of being jumped on or even touched nicely by loose dogs.

I've seen the following scene repeated way too many times. It's embarrassing for all of us who love dogs, want them to have safe off leash time, but who also respect the fears and concerns of other people to read these incidents:
Not all live with it happily. As Troup walked across a grassy hillside, a pair of small, off-leash dogs rushed up to the leashed Chino, causing him to startle and yank his owner off-balance. The dogs' master, a tall man in plaid shorts, glared at Troup through a pair of shades, a cigarette dangling from his lips.
"This is actually an on-leash area up here," Troup said.
"I'm aware of that," the man replied. "Fuck you."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PETA hates women

I don't know how else to explain their behavior when it comes to women.

Their most recent misogyny can be found on their website. I won't link to it, but it's their "State of the Union Undress" in which a woman undresses herself while supposedly advertising all the great things PETA has done in 2009.

And this year, they specifically asked for an African American or "mixed race" woman

Being proud of your body is wonderful. Being comfortable with your skin and nudity is also great. I am not a prude. Sex can be a wonderful expression of connection between people.

But selling sex in order to stop the exploitation of other species' seems disingenuous, at best.

You cannot pursue the cessation of animal exploitation when you, as an organization, perpetuate the self-objectification and commodification of human females. It just cannot be done. And I'm tired of it. Women are not body parts. They are not breasts and butts and exposed skin. They certainly cannot be effective advocates for horribly exploited female farmed animals. When you see PETA's ads or shock tactics, you know nothing about the woman, do you? Do you know her interests? Why she cares about nonhumans? Where she comes from and where she's going? What makes her care about other exploited species? All you get is flesh, body parts, comparmentalization of a unique individual. That the women participate in their own self-exploitation is heart-breakingly sad.

I want people to care, for example, about farmed animals because I know them to be fascinating, engaging, emotional, intelligent individuals with different personalities. I want people to care for dairy cows because they are denied motherhood and green pastures. I want people to care for egg-laying hens because they are de-beaked, housed in cages so small they can't turn around, and killed at an unreasonably young age. I want people to care about nonhuman animals because we know they can suffer, just like us. And I just find it difficult to convince people to care when an organization purporting to help animals is exploiting women and engaging in sexist ad campaigns. It isn't just.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Difference an Approach Makes

UC Davis is doing its annual fund-raising drive. Current students call alumni and do their best to ask for money.

I sympathize immensely with this type of work. In 2008, I volunteered to coordinate my county's signature gathering for a ballot initiative. Standing outside supermarkets, calling potential supporters, working with volunteers - it was all daunting and, at some points, quite intimidating. And I was only asking for signatures, not money!

This year, I ended up being called twice and the approach each student took made all the difference.

The first was nervous and gruff. I think he was a little unsure of himself and came across as such. He wasn't really interested in the sell and got straight to the ask. To be honest, I'm perfectly fine with going straight for the ask. These students are working from the assumption that we get what UC Davis does, we know about the annual fund-raiser (excepting a first year alumnus), and as such we know where our money is going. We don't really need a pitch.

But I like to know that the people doing the fund-raising care a little bit. I'm not talking it's their whole life care, just enough caring to engage during the conversation.

I kindly declined donating to the student and barely received a "bye" before he hung up.

Flash forward to this evening when another student called. She explained who she was and then just started to ask me about my experience at UC Davis, weaving in how the campus has changed, how money is tight, how the school has been expanding new programs and encouraging new research. Through our discussion, I learned about her and her struggles. I learned the school was low on donations. I learned a lot about what has been happening at my alma mater and about upcoming events.

I mean, I knew from the get go that the ask was coming. But it was this leisurely, comfortable path to get there.

And when she finally got to the ask - she went big, as all good little fund-raisers know to do. Other circumstances forced me to decline. Before I could even offer a lower donation, she jumped in with, "I totally understand. Times are tough. What about donating this amount? We can do three monthly payments of x, so you don't have to worry about a lump sum." I agreed to donate at the amount she suggested but in total (not the monthly payments).

Caring about people, even while being honest about your intent (in this case, raising money) is possible. I think there are lessons animal rescuers could learn from these two UC Davis students. Lessons about kindness and listening, about not being overly judgmental and understanding that a "perfect" home for a dog may be one where folks don't have a lot of money or don't have a fence or feed their current dogs Ol Roy. There are lessons about compromise and understanding, about looking at a person and seeing, really seeing, the hope and love and respect they have for an adoptable animal, no matter that they don't fit the "ideal home" model. I sometimes feel like animal rescuers are more like the first caller - quick to give up, quick to judge, quick to decide that if the adopter isn't going to pay x and do a-m, then well, hang up now.

There are a lot of acceptable homes out there. There are good homes. Great homes. Supremo homes. They are made up of fallible humans, all of them. Some are more responsible, all are capable of making mistakes.

In the end, for me, it comes down to this: Do I want a dog to enter the home of an acceptable family or do I want the dog dead? I know what I want. I can hazard a guess at what the dog wants (what do all living organisms strive for?) Why is it so fantastically hard for some animal rescue agencies to figure this out?

So, thanks UC Davis student #2. You made an effort to care. You made a commitment to listen. You shared and were patient. And, well, you got UC Davis some of my money. (Your supervisor says you get an incentive to boot, so you're welcome for that!)

Animal Planet Investigates: Dogfighting Exposed

Hey, for those of you who have a super-strong desire to see never-before-witnessed footage of dogs tearing each other apart, then please - by all freaking means - watch Animal Planet Investigates show on Dogfighting.

I'm tired of this shit. Dog fighting is awful. Awful. All of us have seen the footage, why on earth do we need to see more? Why must we glamorize in ANY manner, shape or form the disgusting, disturbing, morally bankrupt act of pitting two dogs against each other?

From the website: "Featuring HSUS dogfighting experts John Goodwin, Chris Schindler and other team members, the prime-time special takes viewers on nail-biting busts, exploring what is being done to educate and rehabilitate offenders and touching on our work with the Michael Vick case."

Seriously? Excuse my gag reflex.
Nail-biting busts? I don't want to see them. You don't want to see them. They are useless visual tools in getting people to stop fighting their dogs. They don't teach us anything.

Look, I love seeing more shows involving Pit Bulls. Really, I do. But really, I wouldn't mind seeing a Pit Bull show involving people who aren't former felons. I'd like to see a show where Pit Bull rescuers are just pretty average folks working hard to save lives....perhaps that isn't dramatic enough? I don't want to see any more footage of dogs tearing each other apart. Like ever. And certainly not as the crux of a show.

We can't possibly normalize Pit Bulls if we perpetuate their roles as fighters, that they are aggressive in all situations around other animals, that they are only owned and rescued by drug-using felons.

Flickr Google search terms

For the past few weeks, one of the most popular search terms for my photos is a variation on "guinea pig rabbit hybrid" on google images.

It takes them to this photo, which is titled Guinea Pig Rabbit Hybrid Cross Oscar. Of course, the animal in question is a rabbit, albeit a small one w/ pinned back ears. But I'm very curious as to why people are searching for guinea pig rabbit hybrids...

Guinea Pig Rabbit Hybrid Oscar

Monday, January 18, 2010

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Serious Sheep is Serious


This is Aiden, he's a 2-yr-old "bummer lamb", an abandoned lamb. Generally, big range operations don't bother with caring for abandoned lambs and they are left to die from exposure. We have a lot of sheep farms near the sanctuary, so we get calls about bummer lambs a lot every spring. We agreed to take in the little 2-day-old lamb. It was nice seeing a sheep w/o a docked tail - most sheep breeds are born w/ tails. Anyway, after a severe battle with pneumonia, Aiden is a very healthy adult. He's also more dog than sheep - he knows his name and prefers human companionship over sheep. (All the sheep know their names, responding to them individually but few actually come running over).

The only dog he's ever liked is Mina who he will bestow with very gentle nose bops. Other dogs, he's highly aggressive towards. A few months ago, a neighbor's Border Collie came on the property, frightening the sheep. Aiden came charging out of nowhere and chased him off. He was quite ready to head butt that dog into the next century.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vegan Bake Sales Benefitting Haiti Recovery

I'm sure there are other fund-raising events occurring, but us vegans love a good bake sale. If you live anywhere near the bake sales, come on out, enjoy some good, sugary baked goods and help out the victims of Haiti's earthquake. Isa over at Post Punk Kitchen has been doing a phenomenal job of encouraging folks to do a vegan bake sale or join in the efforts. She has a list going (which includes everyone listed below). She has tips on how to get a bake sale together stat.

This list will be updated as often as is necessary. If you know of any group holding a vegan fundraiser to help Haiti, post in the comments!
1/16: Vegan bake sale in Philadelphia raised $600 for Partners in Health
Some other links: EasyVegan has a great action alert list going on how to help.
I posted a bunch of organizations providing relief including most recent updates.
Herbivore and Ink Brigade are selling a t-shirt, "I love Haiti" in which all the proceeds benefit the relief efforts. Each shirt is $18. Buy your shirt now!
Food Fight in Portland will be donating 10% of sales in-store and on-line this weekend to Partners in Health.
Vegan Bake Sales (please note: Not all of the bake sales benefit vegan organizations).
Isa over at Post Punk Kitchen has been doing a phenomenal job of encouraging folks to do a vegan bake sale or join in the efforts. She has a list going. She has tips on how to get a bake sale together stat.
1/23 (Sat) Sacramento
Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe
2315 K Street
11:00 - 3:00 pm
Benefits Food for Life Global
1/23 (Sat) San Francisco
Patricia's Green
Hayes St. at Octavia
11:00 - 4:00 pm
1/31 (Sun) Los Angeles
5825 Franklin Ave
11:00-4:00 pm
Benefits Doctors without Borders
1/30 (Sat) Minneapolis
Ethique Nouveau
317 West 48th St
12:00-5:00 pm
1/24 (Sun) Omaha
McFoster's Natural Kind Cafe
302 S. 38th St
12:00-2:00 pm
Benefits Mercy Corps
New York
1/28 (Th) New York City
Angels and Kings
500 East 11th St.
7:00-9:00 pm
Benefits Sodoprec (Dominican veterinarians, site in Spanish)
1/31 (Sun) New York City
78 Orchard St.
11:30 - 6:00 pm
Benefits Doctors without Borders
1/24 (Sun) Philadelphia
25 E Street
11:00 am
1/23 (Sat) Akron
21 Furnace St.
11:00-5:00 pm
Benefits Doctors without Borders
1/31 (Sun) Portland
People's Coop
3029 Southeast 21st Ave.
2:00-5:00 pm
Benefits Mercy Corps
1/31 (Sun) Seattle
Neptune Coffee
8415 Greenwood Ave North
2:00-5:00 pm
Benefits Partners in Health
Facebook invite page here.
Washington D.C.
DC Vegans
1/24 (Sun) DC
Takoma Park Farmer's Market
Carroll Ave & Laurel Ave
10:00-2:00 pm
Facebook Event Page
Benefits Mercy Corps

FDA Health Alert re Merrick Beef Filet Squares

FDA Health Alert for Merrick Beef Filet Squares Dog Treats Packaged and Distributed by Merrick Pet Care
Products may be contaminated with Salmonella
The U. S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to use Merrick Beef Filet Squares for dogs distributed by Merrick Pet Care with a package date of “Best By 111911” because the product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

The product was distributed nationwide through retail stores and Internet sales.

Although no illnesses associated with these products have been reported, the FDA is advising consumers in possession of these products not to handle or feed them to their pets.
In December 2009, the FDA conducted routine testing of Merrick Beef Filet Squares and detected a positive finding for Salmonella. A follow-up inspection found deficiencies in the packaging and manufacturing processes.
Salmonella can affect both humans and animals. People handling dry pet treats can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the treats or any surfaces exposed to these products. Consumers should dispose of these products in a safe manner by securing them in a covered trash receptacle.
Healthy people infected with Salmonella may experience some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Although rare, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments including arterial infections, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart), arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their health care provider immediately.
Pets with Salmonella infections may become lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets may experience only a decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected, but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed any of the affected product or is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The affected Merrick Beef Filet Squares were packaged in a 10-ounce green, red and tan re-sealable plastic bag. The “best by” date is imprinted on the top portion of the bag, which is torn off when the bag is opened. The FDA recommends that consumers who are unable to determine the “best by” date discontinue use of the product.
Consumers can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food and pet treat products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in their area. Please see for additional information.

Dog attack sparks breed ban debate (sorta)

I'm not sure where the breed ban debate actually makes its debut in this article. It must be there, lurking amidst all the text.

The story goes: Woman is walking her Vizsla puppy (who looks to be 25-35 lbs) when two dogs jump over a fence and begin attacking the dog. One dog is a Pit Bull (who is continually referred to as "pit bull" as if the breed is nonexistent and isn't deserving of proper capitalization). One dog is a St. Bernard (receiving proper capitalization).

The St. Bernard:
- grabs the dog by the neck
- bites the woman on the hand

The Pit Bull
- bites the dog on the chest
- is easily led away by a neighbor who grabs the dog by the collar

The woman is claiming the Pit Bull did the most damage, while Animal Control believes the St. Bernard was the most dangerous and the lead aggressor.

How does this spark a debate about breeds? I mean, we have two very distinct breeds involved in a dog-dog attack and only one of the dogs bit a human who intervened in the fight. It's not as if the article describes a massive increase in dog attacks or rampaging breeds running loose, wreaking havoc. We have a case of a fence too low to restrain two dogs. That's it, really. If the owner of these dogs does not have a long history of letting his dogs loose, then all we have a case of a major screw-up that is easily remedied with a taller fence. To make it into a more dramatic situation is irrational and unfounded.

Which is not meant to detract from the trauma of a dog attack. I feel for the dog immensely and wish her a full recovery. The woman too - we humans are often left more scarred than the dog herself. I just wish people would see situations like these as reflective of an individual error instead of an issue of breed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Toledo Blade and Lucas County

Let me just sing the praises briefly of the Toledo Blade.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and opine that they were almost solely responsible for
a) the removal of Skeldon
b) the dramatic increase in adoptions

Pressure from Ben Konop, concerned citizens and a couple animal welfare groups helped as well.

In the last 60 days of 2009, a whopping 33% of adoptions occurred. I believe part of that had to do with posting not only the adoptable animals available but also the kill logs.

Still, Lucas County Animal Control has a long way to go. A 72% kill rate is absolutely unacceptable. The blatantly breedist kill rates are unacceptable - no way, no how should we be killing adoptable animals based on how they look. And, to be honest, the fact that Skeldon-approved employees are still running the shelter is not going to be helpful. Unless they all secretly  hated the policies set forth by Skeldon et. al., there isn't any reason to see a monumental shift in increased adoptions or better enforcement of laws (other than the silly, outdated, costly breed specific law).

We'll see how they do in 2010.

Dogs in the News

A Ridiculously Small Canine was nearly snatched up by a red-tailed hawk in Connecticut. Everyone is shocked. I remember a red-tailed hawk snatching up one of the thousands of ground squirrels at the sanctuary. Ground squirrels, by the way, who weigh about 3 pounds due to their infatuation with chicken feed. He scooped the squirrel up. I perhaps reacted inappropriately by yelling bloody murder, which proved to be useless as the hawk flipped me the proverbial bird. Luck was on the squirrel's side when the hawk was attacked by two small black birds protecting their nest. Under assault, the hawk dropped the squirrel, who scurried off to hopefully not die of infection and perhaps learn to run away next time he sees a hawk fly above. Anyways, I'm not shocked a hawk would look at a 3.5 lb dog and think GROUND SQUIRREL or LUNCH.

A drug-sniffing dog discovered 68 marijuana plants after s/he fell through a camouflaged tarp and landed...on a school bus. The article neglects to mention how the dog is doing.

Silly New Yorkers practically brawled for 15 Chihuahuas flown in from California to the ASPCA. I love the bus driver who suggested they adopt a needy pit bull instead. Wanna bet that none of the remaining 135 dorks shivering in the cold who didn't get a Chihuahua didn't adopt another dog either? I don't, I know it's probably none. I remember when I was volunteering at a county shelter, we got in 10 miniature poodles. These were HUGE back then, I guess. I couldn't understand it, they were tiny, ridiculous and prone to eating you. No matter. We had sixty people show up and had to hold a lottery for the dogs. When all were placed, guess how many of the 50 adopted another, needy, small dog? ZERO. 

A Monterey County police canine has been killed after he was let out to potty, escaped from his yard, killed one dog and attacked another. I'm curious what the "previous incident" was and how "in light of it", why the dog needed to be killed. According to one article, the last incident involved "unexpected" behavior. Perhaps true, although I would point out that attacking other dogs is not generally unexpected behavior. Dogs get into fights.

You know the animal control officer in MIssissippi who shot 100 dogs to "reduce the number of dogs in the overcrowded shelter"? Yeah, turns out he shot more than 200. He used his county-issues service revolver to perform the shootings.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti - How You Can Help

Please do your due diligence in researching each organization.Charity Navigator
Charitywatch list of relief organizations helping in Haiti
Better Business Bureau website.

Relief Efforts for People (Photo by: Gerald Herbert)

Doctors Without Borders
Read about their efforts here. As of 1/14/10, they are asking donors to give through an unrestricted account so that the nonprofit can continue to function and assist in ALL areas of the world as well as provide on-the-ground care in Haiti.
Food for Life Global 
Provides vegetarian and vegan meals to impoverished people. As of 1/16/10, they are currently on the ground in the Domincan Republic and expect to start delivering food to Haitians next week.
Direct Relief International
As of 1/15, they are airlifting 13 pallets of medications and medical supplies to Port-Au-Prince Health. You can text Give10 to 20222 to donate $10 via your mobile phone. So far they have sent $2 million in direct relief aid via FedEx.
Yele Haiti
1/16, allegations that Yele Haiti have possibly mismanaged funds in the past. They've raised about $1.5 million as of 1/15. You can text YELE to 501501 to donate $5. 
Haiti Emergency Relief Fund 
No word on specific relief efforts
1/15: UNICEF is joining with the UN and calling on the global community to raise $562 million; UNICEF is trying to raise $120 million.They have been on the ground providing aid.
Partners in Health and donation form
With doctors already in Haiti when the earthquake hit, PIH has been able to provide some basic on-the-ground care since the quake. They say fuel is a huge problem soaring to $25/gallon. They have a water truck on the way. They are in desperate need of surgical supplies and doctors. They have 30 volunteers arriving 1/16.
Save the Children donation page
They have been in Haiti for 25 years. Text SAVE to 20222 and donate $10. Currently, they are working specifically to help children and reunite them with relatives, many of whom have been tragically killed.
WorldVision and its donation form
Also on the ground, their headquarters suffered major damage during the quake. They have been doing all they can to provide assistance to those affected.
ActionAid and its donation page
1/16, ActionAid relief team will be arriving 1/17, Sunday. Another on the ground group, ActionAid has been in Haiti for about twelve years - unfortunately as many as 20 of their 25 staff were affected by the quake. As of 1/13, ActionAid has sent an emergency response team to Haiti.
Oxfam and its press release for donations
1/15, Oxfam is providing supplies to assist in clean-up and working on getting potable water available. They will be coordinating international aid groups on water and sanitation. They had a team already on the ground prior to the quake and lost one OxFam employee. (If you are vegan, please note that Oxfam does have animal donation programs).
Red Cross donation form (You can read their wikipedia article for more information, see Sept 11 controversy.)
As of 1/15, there are 12 teams of relief workers on the ground. They have raised $37 million so far.
Artists for Peace and Justice
They've been in Haiti for years and lost a lot of their friends and family b/c of the quake.
    After the primary response is over and rebuilding needs to occur:
    FINCA is helping microfinance banks for women in Haiti
    Architecture for Humanity is looking for donations in assisting with the rebuilding process
    As of 1/13, they have raised $45,000 for rebuilding. They plan on working with other NGOs to assist in the recovery efforts.
      Relief Efforts for Animals
      SODOPRECA (site in Spanish)
      As of 1/14, WSPA has joined forces with the International Fund for Animals (IFAW) and other animal welfare organizations and created the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH) and will head over to Haiti when it is appropriate to do so.
      The Christian Veterinary Mission
      As obvious by their name, they are a religious organization.As of 1/16, they  have been on the ground assisting people in the recovery effort.
      The International Fund for Animals (IFAW) will be on hand to assist animals after immediate assistance is well under way.
        • American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013
        • US Fund for UNICEF, 125 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038
        • Doctors Without Borders USA, P.O. Box 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5030
        • Partners In Health, P.O. Box 845578, Boston, MA 02284-5578
        • Donations to the International Response Fund - 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish)
        • Unicef - 1.800.FOR.KIDS (1.800.367.5437)
        • Doctors Without Borders - 1-888-392-0392

        Haiti is a horribly impoverished part of the world, even more so than its sister, adjacent Dominica.To have such a tragedy of this magnitude affect the country is devastating.

        Please help. Remember, no donation is too small. Even if money is tight, surely you have $2-10 to spare - share it.

        Tuesday, January 12, 2010

        Mina can has immortalization

        Mina and Celeste will soon be immortalized on canvas. Actually, Mina already is!

        I first learned about Sheila Tajima when she emailed me at work - she wanted to paint pictures of some of the animals and then auction them off to benefit the sanctuary. When I saw her paintings, I fell in love. They are colorful yet soft and capture the personality of the subject beautifully. I've always wanted to paint but found photography to be my preferred medium. That Sheila used my photos to create the artwork was an honor and compliment (it meant I could sort of pretend I had a hand in the painting, heh).

        When I asked about doing a commission, to paint my two beloved dogs, she was more than happy to help out.

        She just sent me a picture of the Mina painting:

        Mina is there. Right there. If you see a sensitive soul, then you are seeing Mina. If you see a dog with an edge of angst, you are seeing Mina. If you see a beautiful, wondrously amazing animal - no duh, you are seeing Mina.

        I'm really fond of the result. I didn't realize that this would end up being a difficult paint job for Sheila. As I commented to her - Mina is a challenging dog, so it seems fitting she'd be a challenge to paint in just the right pose with the right colors and that perfectly pensive expression on the right face.

        She does pet portraits and you can see her etsy shop here.

        I can't wait to see Celeste - she gets colors! Crazy ones, I hope, to best represent her out-there personality!

        Monday, January 11, 2010

        Miep Gies dies (a very non-dog post w/ views you may not agree with)

        If you don't recognize the name, I'm sure you'll know this one - Anne Frank. Miep Gies was one of a few, brave souls who hid the Frank family for two years during the Nazi occupation. Anne Frank died in a concentration camp, two weeks before its liberation. Today, her protector died. She was 100. A living legacy, gone.

        I remember reading Anne Frank: A Diary of a Young Girl in middle school, then in high school, and again my freshman year of college. I'm going to read it again in Gies' honor.

        It's strange. The past few days, I've been listening to NPR and feel as if I'm listening to a radio show all about the 'isms we perpetuate in global society. The classism. The sexism. The heterosexism. The racism. The xenophobia...ism (for consistency). The cissexism. There's more, all tragic, neat packages of labels to apply freely.

        Heterosexism, or the social institution of opposite-sex relationships as the Gold Star for normalcy is being challenged in federal courts and broadcast on YouTube. For reals.

        Racism and xenophobia is rearing its ugly, violent head in Rosarno, Italy, where African migrant workers protested the shooting of a fellow worker (a passing policeman claimed it was not his job to assist the shot man, what is his job?) The protests turned violent. And then the vans came with the message blaring loud - If you are black, get out, or we will kill you. Workers had to be removed from Rosarno out of fear of bodily harm. If, like me, you live in California, you can't help but notice the similarity between the treatment and perception of African migrant workers and the treatment and perception of Mexican migrant workers. It's a freakish mirror to look into.

        I don't have a link, but there was a story about classism in England amongst Indian immigrants who still maintain a set of religious and institutionalized beliefs about class and caste. In England. Geez.

        Those are only the stories I've heard. Microcosms, probably. How far have we come? Perhaps the overt displays of racism - the shackles and chains, have mostly disappeared from many governments and societies. But it's still there. Still simmering and raging and etching it's ugliness onto people's hearts.

        Miep Gies spent her life living on Anne Frank's behalf. On behalf of the millions of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and "others" who some still claim never starved in camps, never burned in chambers, never died...nay, never existed. They are like the supporters of Prop 8 who see nothing wrong in discriminating against their neighbors, teachers, friends, family, pretending that denying a couple's right - yes, right- to marry isn't as awful as, say, killing them or raping them or physically mutilating's not an 'ism, is it? They are like the citizens of Rosarno who claim their actions of oppression and discrimination are not racist; they are perhaps from another fountain of hate? They are like the Brahmans who shun other Indians and pretend it's not classist or wrong but an established tradition, faith, religion as if the terms are in bed with righteousness and good ethics.

        Miep Gies is dead. Yet the racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism? They live on. How so very sad.

        Mauling tigers; starving giraffes and monkeys, oh my

        It is illegal to own new Pit Bulls in Ontario, but please to be owning tigers. A "pet" tiger killed his owner because, well, he was a tiger and all. The same man's tigers attacked a 10-yr-old boy five years ago.

        A monkey at a research facility starved to death. Had he lived, he would have died, perhaps as horribly through AIDs and neuro-science research. Perhaps not. Facility staff called it bothersome that the monkey died. Yes.

        Two giraffes at the Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Centre in Canada died because of poor nutrition and inadequate heating. This is because giraffes are not native to Canada, in case you were wondering.

        Lubbock shelter employees euthanized animals without the proper certification. According to a zoonosis expert, it's silly that the shelter employees are being charged with anything, because after all, they kill animals every day and their skills aren't exactly rusty. Well, sorry zoonotic expert but a) it's the law and b) certification ensures the most up-to-date techniques are used.

        Sunday, January 10, 2010

        Coyotes or Dogs?

        This is one of those stories in which you know there's a lot more than meets the eye.

        In 2004, a wealthy entrepreneur purchased land in Forestburgh, New York. In an interesting move, he took it upon himself to erase the portion of the property's deed that stated the property could only be used for residential purposes. That done, he decided to create a tourist attraction with the addition of llamas and alpacas, whose fleeces he'd sell. The original land owner, who retained property nearby, was upset and believed the man, who we'll call SS (short for his actual name), violated the property's deed. SS was sued and inspired the ire of many neighbors who didn't move to this part of New York to have alpacas and llamas strutting around in mud next door. This issue has sparked so much debate that SS had to file a couple restraining orders against neighbors, and the town hall meetings sound more like a witch hunt than an act of civic participation.

        In April of 2009, the former land owner, BW, we'll call him, adopted two Belgian Malinois who came from a neglectful situation at a farm.

        Flash forward to October 2009. On the 19th, while SS was out of town, three canines entered the alpaca pen and began attacking the animals. Farm workers heard the screams of the animals and ran to the scene. They saw three canines exit the property but were not close enough to determine if they were dogs or coyotes. Nine of the animals were attacked, killing seven, including - and I think this is important - one llama who was a guardian to the alpacas. The other six were alpacas. A week later, armed farm workers discovered a lone dog in the alpaca pen. In lieu of chasing the dog away, they pumped five bullets into the dog, killing him. The dog, it turns out, was one of the Belgian Malinois belonging to BW.

        Case closed?

        No. Now, according to an animal control officer investigating the shooting, the dog didn't do it. According to the animal control officer, it was coyotes. I'm not sure what he is basing his evidence on - pictures, necropsies, interviews, what?

        I've seen dogs attack livestock. I've seen a coyote attempt to attack lambs on a free-range sheep ranch. Where I work, we've had both dogs enter the property as well as coyotes. The dogs always chased or bothered the animals, while the coyotes - interestingly enough - haven't shown predatory interest in the animals (before the poultry enclosure was predator proof, they certainly did).

        The modus operandi seems different. Dogs tend to engage in some of the predatory behaviors but oftentimes neglect with the big follow-through - the actual consummatory behavior, eating the animal. They tend to kill multiple animals and rarely eat them. Depending on the dog, many of the bites are body wounds, leg wounds, and not so much attempts at the stereotypical "going for the throat".

        Around here, the coyotes travel solo or in small groups. The largest group I've ever seen have been six coyotes and that was abnormal. I don't know the social structure of coyotes in Forestburgh, New York or their size difference. Coyotes around here (northern California) are pretty small, no more than 40 lbs in healthy conditions. Mostly, they're slender, lithe, small/medium sized animals who prey heavily on ground squirrels. Perhaps the coyotes in Forestburgh are much larger, I don't know.

        The coyote I saw trying to take out some lambs was not interested in attempting to attack every animal in the flock. She zeroed in on one lamb, tried for about 15 seconds to get him, then backed off when the ewe charged her. She tried a couple more times, before I arrived screaming and flashing my pit bull wildly at the coyote (Mina would have preferred I hadn't picked her up for the flashing purposes). The screaming would have been fine, the coyote didn't stick around, I didn't expect her to. I knew, though, that had she caught a lamb, she would not have dropped him and tried to kill ten more. If she wasn't physically or mentally unsound, that is. I could see a rabid coyote or one with distemper or meningitis acting abnormally, but mostly, coyotes, like most wild canines, prefer to kill what they can gorge themselves on and worry about killing other animals later (certainly if the opportunity presented itself for a large group of wild canines to easily take down several prey animals, I imagine they'd take that chance.)

        The llama is interesting. Llamas hate coyotes. They hate dogs too, generally, but they are behaviorally and physically equipped to deal with coyotes pretty effectively. It's why they are used as predator protection animals, especially coyotes. There is a pasture-based chicken farm that added two llamas after coyotes kept killing the chickens - no more dead chickens. The fact that the guardian llama was also killed seems  important. Not saying a llama couldn't be killed by three coyotes, certainly they could, but opportunistic predators tend to avoid really aggressive "prey" animals who kick, charge and hurt them.

        Add to the fact that a dog was shot and killed merely a week later and I believe the three canines in question were most likely of the domestic variety. Perhaps the two Malinois weren't normally likely to attack the alpacas or llama (they had lived with farmed animals before), and perhaps the addition of that other domestic dog increased the chance for predatory behavior gone bad. I don't know, but I don't think coyotes did it.

        Hopefully, the council and town realizes that the most likely culprits were domestic dogs and don't go on a coyote witch hunt. Coyotes already have it tough, they're sort of the pit bulls of the wild canine world. :)

        Reading the articles, what do you think? Coyotes or dogs?

        Saturday, January 9, 2010

        Pit Bull Pointing

        I was going through some older photos in my photobucket account and came across this photo from 2005. It's at an off-leash park in Napa. Oh god, she used to love running off leash with the other dogs.

        And yes, she'd point. She would still herself, including her tail, and lift up her right leg, always her right, and curl it under her. She'd tense and gaze off in the distance. Sometimes, it would be clear to me what she was looking at - a rat, mole or another dog, but mostly I had no idea what was going on in her head (or perhaps, her nose).

        Here's another. This photo is a little painful to look at - this is a young Mina, now is an old Mina. I don't like that one bit.

        Now those legs and shoulders give her trouble. I don't think she could comfortably maintain a point at this stage in her life. But I have photographic evidence that, for many years, she was a Pointing Pit Bull.

        Friday, January 8, 2010

        Are We Horrified by the Method of Death or the Death Itself

        An animal control officer in Mississippi is accused of shooting 100 cats and dogs and dumping their bodies near a creek. The officer had been employed for three years, so it's possible some of the animals were killed as long as three years ago. The officer has been fired and is facing misdemeanor charges.

        I want to make my feelings clear: I believe what this man did was wrong on a moral and legal level.

        But after reading a couple of articles, I'm left wondering why the outrage?

        Here's what I feel the officer did wrong:
        * He killed healthy and/or adoptable animals.
        * He may have shot animals multiple times before their death.

        People find gunshots viscerally unappealing, it's such a violent blow to the system...literally. American society has deemed it a generally unacceptable method of killing, and this is important, dogs and cats. Oddly, American society feels it acceptable to kill farmed animals and wildlife with gunshots. But our schizophrenic relationship with nonhuman animals is a post for another day (and perhaps never on this particular blog).

        Wielding a gun requires experience and the ability to know where to aim for a killing shot. In my opinion, only the most docile of dogs and cats can easily be dispatched with one bullet- hitting a flailing, unrestrained dog or cat properly in the head isn't easy (assuming he aimed for the head). So I'm not going out on a limb here when I imagine that some of these animals suffered several gunshots before their ultimate demise.

        But I've witnessed plenty of botched killings using "euthanasia solution". Each animal responds differently to the chemicals in euthanasia solution - some go quickly, some resist. Sometimes it is hard to find a vein. It requires a lot of physical handling, unless the animal is slap-shot with a tranquilizer or sedative prior to the introduction of the killing solution.

        All that said, what I think is horrifying is this: Those animals never received a chance to be adopted. They were never taken to a shelter for possible placement. Their fates were decided by one individual who, for whatever reason, didn't want to take the time to bring the animals to the rescue league.

        We kill millions of dogs and cats in this country. How they are killed is certainly important, but it is not most important. That they are killed, now that is what is important. They are killed for space. They are killed because they have curable or incurable diseases. They are sometimes killed because shelters are underfunded and lack resources for better marketing. This is what I find most tragic. Discussing how they are killed and how perhaps some forms of killing should be rethought are red herrings. They divert from the fact that we are killing at all. Yes, outlaw egregiously cruel methods of death. No, how they die should not distract from the discussion about why we are killing these animals in the first place.

        This comment sums it up, expresses how horribly skewed our perceptions and priorities are in this situation:
        "Healthy animals are put down in shelters every day," Boswell said. "While the results may be the same (as killing them outside a shelter), it's how you get there."

        It's true. Healthy animals are killed every day. That is wrong. Morally. Ethically. Wrong. It is not where they are killed that is at issue, it is that they are killed that is at issue. So Boswell has it right, we kill a lot of animals. But Boswell has it wrong - it isn't how you get there, it is how you get the animals out alive.

        As an aside, I want to make it clear that this is not me casting aspersions on shelter workers. I do not believe most of them are morally wrong or ethically unsound people. I feel they are part of a system that is making great leaps and bounds in thinking but that still kills 2-5 million animals a year. I've known wonderful ACOs, people who have helped me move, helped me train dogs, save lives, who have supported me during important times in my life. I never thought the kill room was a nice place nor the job of killing animals a good task. Never. So while I may feel strongly that killing healthy or potentially healthy animals is unacceptable, I do not feel those who participate in the system are evil, awful people. They have great potential for fomenting change, and I hope they do push the envelope and demand a paradigm shift. We all need to.

        Wednesday, January 6, 2010

        Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies w/ Soy Milk

        I feel as if I've plagiarized from Isa's cookbooks too much, so I'm just sharing a picture. A tasty picture! These are vegan chocolate chip cookies (YOU CAN EAT THE DOUGH RAW AND NOT GET THE SALMONELLA!) with a glass of soy milk (which my mom drank b/c I'm not an actual fan of soy milk in the buff). They were good, although they had a carmel-brown-sugar taste to them that was different than other choc cookies I've had. Still tasty. And did I mention the lack of SALMONELLA, oh my god, you can eat the dough raw!!! In fact, that's what we did - we made eight cookies and just ate like five cookies worth of dough raw. It was good. The recipe is from the cookbook Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

        Vegan choc chip cookies w/ soy milk

        Tuesday, January 5, 2010

        Celeste, the Beaker Muppet of Dogs

        A few weeks ago, my mom pointed out something peculiar about 2008 Celeste - she looks like Beaker from The Muppets.

        You decide (please ignore the angry Mina):


        Monday, January 4, 2010

        Riddle Me This

        How come when Mina is sleeping and I look at her, she knows it and wakes up?

        Also, when I'm driving, Mina knows when I'm thinking about her and she'll sit up and stare, stare, stare. Why?

        These are but two of Mina's many mysteries.

        Sunday, January 3, 2010

        Wallace the pit bull

        I was watching Purina's east coast regional finals - disc dogs, agility, terrier races, and some water stuff. The frisbee freestyle is always fun to watch, and of course every time I see the dogs, I can't help but think of another frisbee dog, Wallace.

        I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing a pit bull out there doing what most think of as a collie-sport.

        Friday, January 1, 2010

        2010 Prediction

        Mina will exhibit more woe and also take over the world. You have been warned.
        Mina is the woe