Sunday, April 30, 2006

Yet another vicious, child-killing Rottweiler.

From the German (ADRK) official Rottweiler standard:
Temperament: He is descended from friendly and peaceful stock and by nature loves children, is affectionate, obedient, trainable and enjoys working...."
This is Kwan who was quite apprehensive about big dogs. He was very proud when I gave him Cooper's leash; he walked him all over.
I've had five Rottweilers over the last 19 years, and known many more. All have been unfailingly patient with small children, even though often aloof with adults. This is typical of the breed. Any responsible and knowlegable owner will tell you the same.
The German description doesn't reflect the image of these dogs as bloodthirsty killers, now does it?
This was at today's trial, at which we didn't utterly suck. Pictures to follow, when I get them from Mark the official photographer dude.
Phew, long weekend!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

RIP, Pierre the Betta.

Pierre is dead, and flushed down the loo.
Pierre was my red Betta fish. He was a real wimp when I brought him home about two years ago, but gained confidence and became quite brave. Eating live mosquito larvae all last summer really brought him out of his shell, probably because he got to hunt and kill things, the way Bettas do naturally.
Anyhow, I still have Achmed, who is even older than Pierre. And, I have an empty 2 gallon bowl and mini heater now....hmmmmm....maybe I should go Betta shopping. If you want to see some really awesome Bettas, check here.
But, I shall get a small aquarium for any more Bettas, I feel sorry for them, even in the 2 gallon bowls.

A tisket, a tasket, Elvis in the basket....

I have been insanely busy with work, dog stuff and bits o' social life. No time for pithy or insightful commentary.
So here are some photos of Elvis in a basket. He sits in it often. Sits. And sits. And contemplates. I have no clue why. It's a perfect Elvis-butt size, though.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Do dogs really want to please us?

I don't think so. I don't believe they are altruistic at all. Say you're sick, or sad, and your dog becomes more affectionate, stays with you, seems solicitous. I don't believe the dog "feels sorry for you." Maybe he wants you to feel better because if a pack member is out of sorts, pack balance is upset and this isn't the natural order of things? I doubt Fido is thinking "awww, she feels bad and if I stay close by and nuzzle her hand, she will feel better." That doesn't seem right; I think that's putting human emotions on an animal.
Maybe he's staying close because he is hoping you'll die and he'll then have a very large meal, so he's thinking he needs to hang around to keep his eye on this potential, very large meal. Haha. (Actually, this may not be too far fetched. Your dog is an animal, not a little furry baby! Have I ever mentioned I hate the term "furbaby"? Yuck.)
At any rate. I wrote on Sunday, about Cooper's recent unwillingness to go up and over the dog walk. He'd fallen off, and lost his confidence; we have trials coming up and he needs to be confident and sure-footed (and safe) on all the equipment.
I just love this dog. We worked on it at Tuesday night's class. He was really conflicted - kept starting up the thing, then stopping. Coop is an incredibly confident and macho animal. If he's nervous about something, there's a darn good reason. Coaxing made it worse - almost seemed that it had to come from within, for him. (Am I anthropomorphising? I'm not sure.)
I decided not to push the issue too much, and we did some little run-throughs on other equipment, so he could relax and have fun. Suddenly, and without bidding, he ran over to it, started up, got nervous and hunkered down, than crawled across on his belly. Why? It scared him, I hadn't asked him to, but he did it anyway. Of course he got big praise, so he did it again. I wasn't asking him to - he was offering the behaviour. Awesome!
By the end of the evening he was confident and strutting over the thing, pleased as punch and proud of himself.
So, did he do this to "please" me? I don't think so, I think it was something HE wanted to do. My dog-savvy friend Erica was over last night. We decided that maybe centuries of work ethic instilled in certain breeds gives some dogs an innate desire to do something correctly for their own satisfaction. He knows it's a job, jobs must be performed properly and that is just the way it is.
Of course this isn't as ingrained as pure animal instinct. I am guessing even the most seasoned and enthusiastic agility dog wouldn't bother with any of the equipment if they were let loose on a course in absence of humans.
Did I mention I just love this dog? He has heart and work ethic and drive. I wish I was a better handler, but we muddle through and have fun.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sexual differences in throwing - monkeys having a fling.

Trends Cogn Sci 2001 March 1:5(3) 88-89

Sex differences in throwing: monkeys having a fling.
Watson: NV.

Dept of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive
1S6./, Burnaby, Canada

[Record supplied by publisher]

Fast and accurate throwing was undoubtedly important to ancestral hominids, and was subjected to sexual-selection pressures that generated a throwing accuracy that persists in modern humans. The balance of evidence, including that from a recent comparative study of throwing in humans and capuchin monkeys, suggests that high-performance throwing involves unique adaptations in the domains of spatial targeting, precision timing, and multi-joint motor control.

This is an actual abstract. What they are saying is early men had to throw with accuracy - for hunting, I presume? (I'm not sure about that; I didn't think monkeys ever hunted. Hunting and meat-eating in hominids is associated with larger brains and monkeys evolving into homo sapiens.)
Anyway, if you throw like a girl, it's because you never had to stone woolly mammoths to death for dinner.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Oh, crap.

These are photos of our first agility trial, last August. That thing is called a dog walk. It's a bit daunting for the really big dogs because it's so narrow, but Cooper hasn't really had a problem with it. Until now.
Two weeks ago, in class he took a little tumble going up - didn't hurt himself at all. However, now he is refusing it and we have our first large trial of spring coming up this weekend. Three refusals in the ring, and it's a disqualification. I don't blame him one bit for losing his confidence on it...agility requires some pretty unatural things, especially for the big bulky dogs.
I have three more chances to get him comfortable again with it this week - tonight's class, tomorrow evening's drop-in and my instructor & I are renting another space on Friday afternoon, so he can have a go on different equipment.
I know he'll get past this, I just want him to do so by this weekend! He has got awesome speed and drive, he is very athletic and deserves a better handler. (I have two left feet.)
So, positive vibes - go, Cooper, go!

Kids, dirt, bugs and connections.

Last week I spent three days painting the main living area of a house. Since I had their entire upstairs in disarray, Mom took her 16 month old and 5 year old boys into the basement. Three beautiful, temperate spring days spent in the basement, where mom watched TV and sewed curtains. Each time I went down, the kids were watching TV with her, or the older one was playing video games. Apart from some forays into suburbia in the SUV, fat Mom and her two pale little boys were in the basement. (Note to self - really hope some of my clients don't stumble across this blog!) Three gorgeous, spring break days spent in a basement? No wonder they were pale, fat and soft! I don't think this is an uncommon scenario. Ironically enough, Mom was a middle school teacher, and the house was fairly devoid of books. Well, that's a whole 'nother topic.
The newer subdivision was mostly populated with younger families, it seemed. Lush, sterile lawns in neat little squares fronted every house. A park-like area common area was more uniform green grass, a clean little sand box and playground set, where few kids played.
Where's the dirt? The bugs, errant wild grasses and flowers and trees? What connection to the natural world do city and suburban kids have, really? No, I'm not counting getting suited up in protective gear and playing sports. Or watching the Discovery channel.
Understanding the complexity and human connectiveness of the natural world is surely crucial to...I don't know, a holistic, broad knowlege of how to classify and conceptualize surroundings. How many kids - or adults, for that matter - really understand where the produce in the supermarket comes from? Or what the artificially pinkened, bloodless packages of shrink wrapped meat used to be? Or that it's no "sadder" that the family cat kills a baby bird than the family eating factory chicken, or veal. Or that dandelions are really pretty, not messy intruders that must be spritzed with weedkiller. Or that if you lift up an old log, there's a whole societies of interesting bugs, living complex and important lives under there. Where's the sense of wonder? Any more, these things elicit an "eww, that's gross." How sad.
Sometimes I get the impression that vast numbers of kids are being taught that wild animals and bugs are dirty and dangerous. OK in picture books or on TV, but not in our back yard! What implications this has for environmental consciousness in future generations, one has to wonder...
I read in the NYT a while back of a theory - that ADD in kids is, somehow, connected to alienation from the natural world. Some studies at a university in (I think) Illinois are showing that dragging kids away from their various screens, and getting them regularly exposed to the real, "natural" world markedly reduces attention-deficit symptoms.
And, it is fairly well accepted that kids who are in touch with dirt and animals from a fairly early age have better immune systems and fewer allergies. (Seems like half the people I know have "allergies" to one thing or another!)
OK, I have gone off in too many directions. It's 3 am, forgive me.
All I can say, is I am glad I grew up largely rural. I've milked cows and goats, helped with the slaughtering & preparing of poultry, been stung by bees and stinging nettles and jellyfish, walked barefoot through sunwarmed cow plops, planted and watched gardens grow, and to this day still turn over logs to see what bugs and beasties are living lives under there.
And, I think more kids should be allowed to get dirty and explore. They would be happier and healthier.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Doggie Blogging.

Hehe. I'm too busy with my offline life to post much, but this is cute.
My dogs say their their barking is their blogging. And sniffing and leg hiking is reading & sending pee-mail.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Just one more thought, about cats. Dogs too.

What do you think your cat would do if you shrunk to 6" tall?
Seriously. Cats are only a few clicks on the feral-o-meter from wild animals. I think you would be played with, then killed and possibly parts of you eaten. I very much doubt yelling "Hey Fluffy stop!" would make any difference.
Happy Easter. :~)

What about dogs? I've really wondered about that one. Try lying down on your back, and giving your dog a command. Dogs can be quite literal about hierarchy, and many won't obey you if you are flat on your back, telling them to sit.
I've tried it; my dogs comply (mind you, I do lots of training and one of them competes in various things.) But still. They looked a bit confused and hesitant. A bit of a paradigm shift!
Try it, and see what happens.
It's sort of like distance training - your dog will sit if you're standing right in front of him. But you generally have to work on distance - most dogs won't comply if you are 30 feet away.
Try that too!
In agility training, it's a big hurdle, so to speak. Cooper did lots of obedience before we started agility, so he is used to working close to me. It's taken ages to get him to do various obstacles from six or ten feet away, we are still working on it. When I can sit in the living room, tell him to go out into the back yard and do nine weaves, a jump and a five second down in the box, followed by another jump, I will know I've pretty much got it nailed!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Carpenter Bees are back! BBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Here's a female, who bumbled into the house yesterday. Much larger than a bumblebee - she was over an inch long and sounded like a small, flying power tool banging against the window and buzzing.
After I took some pictures, I shooed her back outside with a rolled up copy of BARK magazine. Buzz buzz, woof woof.**
They can be really destructive, drilling perfectly round holes into wooden structures for their nests. However, last year I just had a couple of them around the back porch. Unless I get swarms, I will leave them bee (haha! I crack myself up.) The males are harmless - no stingers - and the females can sting, but only if cornered. They're really not aggressive.
They are good pollinators, favoring large flowers and fruit trees. Neither of which are in much abundance here; maybe that's why I only have a few.
Wikipedia page on carpenter bees.

**Margot, that's the copy I meant to send you ages ago, and couldn't find! Well, I found it. :~)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Elvis and his pet bird. Aww. How cute.

Awww. Look. Elvis brought a new friend home. They hung out in the kitchen, playing and enjoying each other's company. His new friend is a baby pigeon. Isn't that cute? After a while the pigeon seemed to be getting tired, so I made them go back outside to play on the back deck. They are still out there, but the baby pigeon is taking a little nap now.


I know. I know. I do not like that I have a cat who goes outside and kills things.
Although, it's much more socially acceptable if cats kill mice, than killing cute little baby birds, isn't it?
But, we encourage these little carnivores to live in our homes, and really, it's not surprising that they get tired of our attempts to mollify them with catnip and pretend fuzzy cat toys and cat food pellets in the shape of little fish. Pretty hard to override instinct.

Oh. My kitchen floor isn't really that dirty. Well OK, it is. It rained a lot yesterday, that's right by the back door and the Rottweilers track in tons of mud. Sometimes one just has to relax housekeeping standards...!

Find The Penis.

Bosco was a big, happy Rottweiler with the heart of a party animal and not an unfriendly bone in his body. I got him as a puppy in 1989 and he passed on 4 months shy of his 10th birthday of bone cancer. RIP, Bosco. Party dog, mountain hiker and cart-puller extraordinaire, gentle with the tiniest children, tolerant of all living creatures (except for his insane hatred of flies and habit of licking up trails of ants) and my big sweet lug.
He had a work ethic to die for and a great sense of humor, so I have lots of Bosco Stories. Here's one.
You know how some people - particularly men - sit with the TV remote between their legs and click away? My ex did this. So naturally I called the remote "the penis." And you know how TV remotes are always getting lost?
Bosco loved having jobs around the house, so I wrapped duct tape around the blank part of the remote (so he could pick it up easily) and taught him to find it. The command was "find the penis." Which rather alarmed guests, since he was a 115lb, muscular, rambunctious Rottweiler who dove into every job with great enthusiasm and determination.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Elvis has stinky breath.

My vet thinks he's about 8 years old, he was a stray who moved in last summer. He was a tom cat (his family jewels were removed pronto when he became an official member of the household) and has scars to prove it. Also, his back leg was broken at some point; it's a bit stiff & the vet felt the healed break. He is an excellent cat. Mellow, quiet, clean, very dog-savvy, smart, affectionate and addicted to catnip.
He goes outside, which I don't like. But he's survived this long - he is street savvy. The nearest busy road is a long ways off. He doesn't stay out long. He dislikes using the cat box, and prefers to go in the empty wooded lot across the street. At least I have no neighbors with nice gardens, so I don't have to worry about him pooping in someone's flowerbeds.
He climbs the trees around the house and catches mice outside. Last winter I had a real mouse problem in the house; haven't seen a single one since El moved in.
Anyhow, his breath reeks, he has gingivitis - so I need to schedule him for a dental. Poor thing! First, he gets his orchids removed. A few months later, he gets shots. Now his teeth have to be scraped.
Hopefully a decent diet will keep them clean for the rest of his life. I was going to do the whole raw thing with him, but cats are more complicated than dogs, with their specific needs for taurine and such. I get coarse-ground rabbit for the dogs sometimes - ground whole, guts bones and all. Elvis adores this, and I mix it about 50/50 with good canned cat food. He does get a little dry on the side. And, he eats mice. Little rodents have the highest taurine content of any mammal meat, I've read. Canned clams are also taurine-rich. Cats who get insufficient taurine may go blind and will have heart damage. Also, 100% dry food diets are not at all good for cats because they are desert animals with a low thirst drive and are usually chronically dehydrated on all-dry food.
I will expand on cat nutrition in a future post! But if you feed kibble, start adding some canned to your cat's diet. Truly.
It's really hard to get a good photo of Elvis because he wants to sniff the camera, or he's moving around, or he turns his back on me. He's a very handsome kitty, looks exactly like a seal point bicolor Ragdoll cat.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

You will NOT score 100% on this quiz. Betcha.

I don't even know where to begin with the vapid ignorance of the people who buy designer doodle schnoodle teacup whatever dogs for huge sums of money. Not to mention the greed and cruelty of those who sell them.
So, I won't. I'm tired and don't have the energy right now.
Just take this quick little pop quiz.
(I scored 71%.)

Oh - and if you have paid money for a "designer dog" - or are considering it, you are an idiot. Sorry.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Turkey vultures are back for the summer.

Just in time, too. Someone needs to start cleaning up the springtime wildlife roadkill! Stretches of rural highways are littered - I mean every 20 feet or so in some areas. Squished wild animals who were so intent on post-hibernation feeding they weren't paying attention. Rabbits, possums, skunks, raccoons, deer, squirrels galore. I saw a poor mangled fox along M15 yesterday. I always hope the ones visible on the roadway were the lucky ones who got killed outright.
A couple of years ago while walking one of the Rottweilers, we passed a rabbit in the ditch. Poor thing was very much alive, but immobilized with a run-over hind end. I started looking for a rock or big stick to dispatch it humanely. However, the dog saw it trying to move, pounced and killed it with one hard bite and vigorous shake. He was so proud, he kept shaking the dead bunny like a rag, growling happily. Morning rush hour traffic in progress, too. You know how people stare nonchalantly in the other direction, pretending they don't see their dog pooping? That was me. "Rottweiler killing a rabbit? What Rottweiler killing a rabbit?"
Anyhow, Turkey Vultures. Last week was warm, and the vultures came back from their winter vacations. I've always enjoyed watching them soaring and drifting high on the thermals - they can smell rotten meat for up to a mile and are one of few birds with a great sense of smell.
They do a marvellous job of cleaning up nasty road kill. Symbiotic relationship there. Vultures have such efficient digestive systems that the dropping are sterile, and they are very clean birds; often bathing in water.
Vultures flock together at night in large groups to roost, usually in large trees. The same roost can be used for decades - even centuries - and a vulture may be using a branch used by its great great great grandmother.
When cornered or threatened, they may projectile-vomit putrid meat at an attacker. Isn't that neat? Also, they can cool themselves off on hot days by defecating on their own legs. How about that.
Three years ago, I was in Costa Rica. I decided to climb this hill near the hotel, then climb the observation tower at the top of the hill, at sunrise. Ascending the tower, I realised there was a flock of vultures roosting on top of the structure. I climbed as quietly as I could and was within 10 feet of the huge birds before they decided to leave. (I was probably lucky I didn't get pooped on, but it would have been sterile. And cool.) With a giant prehistoric whooosh, they soared off past me. I sat on top of the tower and watched them from above, taking off for the days scavenging. Pretty cool. How often does one see vultures from above?
Springtime in Michigan. There's not much at all I like about this state, but I do enjoy the season changes and the wildlife.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Geeky kid goes up against militant animal rightists.

Laurie Pycroft is a sixteen year old English kid who has taken to protesting the AR extremisits both on his blog, and on the streets.

If you're a PETA sympathiser, you'll dislike this young man.