Archive for February, 2009

Thundersnow

It’s springtime late winter in Minnesota.  The time of year when the weather gods enjoy torturing toying with Minnesotans.  The weather turns warm and sunny for a few days, melting patches of the snow cover – then temperatures suddenly dip below zero and drifts of powder snow accumulate again.

Yesterday it was sunny and high temperatures were in the 40’s. Today — we have thundersnow.

Thundersnow is an unusual and, as yet, poorly understood phenomenon. It is defined as a heavy snowstorm with thunder and lightning.  Rare winter thunderstorms produce large amounts of snow. Thundersnow happens most frequently in March, and only a few such storms are reported in the US each year.

 According to a report on today’s KARE11News there is an old saying that:

If it’s snowing and you hear 1 clap of thunder stop shoveling for a moment and take a breath because you are going to get 3″ of snow in the next hour.

If it’s snowing and you hear 2 claps of thunder stop shoveling and go inside and have a meal because you are going to get 6″ of snow in the next few hours.

If it’s snowing and you hear 3 claps of thunder stop shoveling then go inside eat a meal, watch tv, have another snack and go to bed because you are going to get +12″ of snow in the next 6 hours.

So, I’m sitting here by the fire with a cup of chai in my hand, a big pot of chili on the stove and a couple of good books at my side because it’s gone well beyond three claps of thunder here in the last half hour — and it’s much too early to go to bed.

Thundersnow is typically created by strong updrafts within the cold sector of an extratropical cyclone in autumn or spring when ground temperatures are near or below freezing. One of the strangest things about thundersnow is the way that the heavy falling snow dampens the sound of the thunder. It’s fascinating to listen to. Muffled claps of thunder interspersed with an occaisional clap of loud thunder – immediately following the glow of lightening. It’s so quiet. Long pregnant pauses between the peals of thunder create an odd sense of expectation. Invisible lightening bolts in a blizzard sky disorient me.  Spring seems impossibly far away.

To make this post at least somewhat dog-related I’ll add that neither of my dogs is afraid of thunder. And, I think that observing a thunderphobic dog’s reaction to a thundersnow storm would be a good test to see if his fear was was created more by the sound of the thunder or the static electricity and barometric pressure changes associated with such storms.

thundersnow2

The training center, taken at 1:30 this afternoon.

 

Zip and Audie enjoy the storm in our front yard

Zip and Audie enjoy the storm in our front yard

February 26, 2009 at 8:21 pm 1 comment

Proper Restraint

Restraint – noun

  1. A device or means for restraining, such as a harness for the body; “please fasten your restraints and put your seat in the upright and locked position”.
  2. The state of being physically constrained; “the prisoner must be kept under restraint at all times”.
  3. Discipline in personal and social activities; “he was a model of polite restraint”.

One word, three definitions and two very different meanings.

Two kinds of restraint are important in dog training. To differentiate between them, I’ll refer to the kind of restraint defined in the first two examples above as “restraint” with a small r. This kind of restraint includes behaviors consciously controlled by outside forces. It is a reactive force and it includes management of problem behavior. I’ll refer to the type of restraint defined in the third example as “Restraint” with a capital R. This form of Restraint is an intrinsic value, a way of being and the goal of effective dog training.

We need to use restraint as we raise and train our dogs. Sometimes a young and/or untrained dog has to be kept away from things and situations he’s not yet prepared to deal with. But – mistakenly thinking that they don’t have the time to use everyday situations as training opportunities, many dog owners never move past restraining their dogs to avert misbehavior. This is unfortunate because restraining a dog simply forces him to comply, it doesn’t teach him any real manners.

When we train a dog we need to offer him guidance and information. If your dog is going to learn Proper Restraint, he needs to know what you want him to do. A bit of restraint combined with a healthy dose of patient guidance (involving Restraint on your part) will teach your dog how to make better decisions on his own. Manhandling him won’t.

When you rely too heavily on restraining your dog, it puts you in a reactive instead of proactive situation and makes your dog think that he’s in control of the situation. And if you repeatedly restrain a dog without giving him guidance or release, he’ll become frustrated. This frustration can produce hyperactive or even aggressive behavior – and even if it doesn’t, it certainly isn’t conducive to learning.

doinitrong

So how do we move from restraining our dogs into teaching them Restraint? You probably won’t be surprised to find that the first step is to learn to exhibit it yourself.

When people sign up for my obedience classes they typically show up with a vague idea that the class will be a sort of doggy social hour. They expect to let their dogs play together and seem to have almost uncontrollable urges to pet and fuss over each other’s dogs. Because they haven’t learned Proper Restraint, their focus is on the other dogs and people in the room, not on their relationship with their own dog. Some of them are offended when I explain that I enforce strict rules that prohibit them from letting their dogs so much as sniff at each other and forbid them from touching or talking to any dog but their own without my permission.

Despite much human whining, I maintain these rules because I’ve found that when I restrain the owners from engaging in these kinds of distracting behaviors they learn to focus on their own dogs and begin acquire a sense of Restraint. This not only sets them up to be more successful handlers, it sends their dogs the first steps down the road to acquiring a sense of Restraint as well.

Moving from being reined in by restraint to earning the liberties that come with a well-developed sense of Restraint is a vital part of growing up. As dog owners we start out with a puppy or newly adopted dog that is, in many ways, a blank slate. At this point in our relationship much restraint is necessary to keep the dog and his surroundings safe. It’s also a time when we need to exhibit a lot of Restraint because our dogs are more likely to frustrate us since they don’t yet know the rules. As we move forward in the relationship, our dogs should begin to exhibit more Restraint and need less restraint. In a healthy training relationship our dogs earn liberties – and those liberties are far more satisfying to them than any treats ever made.

Effective training teaches your dog to use his mind to solve problems. Effective training doesn’t shackle or browbeat a dog; it frees him by providing him with a moral compass to navigate this strange human world — and it’s the most wonderful gift you can give him.

February 26, 2009 at 3:55 am 2 comments

Not so Tasty Bytes

dogpuke

H/T to YesBicuit for leading us to this story for our “Oh Crap!” files about a quail believed to be extinct — that was recently photographed for the first time before being sold as food.  Oops…

Australia’s Heraldreports on cats paralyzed by leukoencephalomyelopathy after eating irradiated food.  Orijen cat food is sold in several other countries, none of which have reported problems with the nerve syndrome associated with the food. In an odd bit of circumstance, none of these countries irradiate imported cat food either.  According to the Herald:

The Government insists on irradiating the pet food at much higher levels than human food imports on the grounds that radiation will kill germs and protect Australia from foreign diseases.

Independent tests on the irradiated food have found “substantial reductions in vitamin A levels” and increased “production of oxidative by-products”.

While the pet food company and the Government argue over the precise cause of the illness, cat owners are complaining that nobody will take responsibility.

Hamilton veterinary surgeon Chris McClelland said more than 60 cats had been affected in Australia by the strange nerve syndrome.

Several had died, but others had recovered, he said.

Australian dogs have not been adversely affected by irradiated Orijen food according to the article.

Consumer Affairsreports that yet more pet foods and treats have been added to the PCA peanut recall list.  These were mostly various formulations of American Health Kennels Bark Bars, Cookie Bars and Peanut Butter Crunch.

The company at the heart of this outbreak — the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) — recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. That action came within days after the company’s president, Stewart Parnell, refused to answer questions about the salmonella outbreak from the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee.

The bankruptcy action also came on the heels of state and federal inspections of the company’s facilities in Georgia and Texas, which revealed PCA shipped products it knew had tested positive for salmonella.

The reports also revealed such unsanitary conditions at PCA’s facilities as dead rodents, roaches, mold, and bird feathers and rodent excrement in a crawl space above the production area at one of the company’s plants.

Sigh.  We’ve got an entire case of peanut butter dog treats that will continue to sit in a closet until I either summon the courage to toss them out or hear definitively that they are not affected by the recall.

In other pet food news the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that animal rendering plants are preparing to comply with a new FDA rule aimed at preventing mad cow disease from reaching the food supply. The rule, which takes effect in April, requires that livestock  producers clearly mark cattle 30 months of age or older before sending them for slaughter or rendering (infectious BSE prions are most likely to be found in cattle 30 months of age or older.)

Prion diseases like BSE have not been documented in dogs, but the rule will affect pet food production as rendered protein meals such as meat and bone meal, poultry by-product meal, and fish meal are used in many pet foods.

How much of these products are incorporated into pet foods? Well, according to a detailed report availabe on the National Rendering Association website, specific information on the amount of rendered animals products used to manufacture pet foods is not available.  But the group estimates that about 25 percent of the total U.S. production of rendered animals materials (or about 2.4 million tons per year) is incorporated into pet foods. The new rules may therefore help prevent potentially BSE-contaminated materials from entering a significant portion of the pet food (and livestock food) stream. It will also make rendered ingredients more expensive, and therefore somewhat less desireable.

February 24, 2009 at 4:11 am 2 comments

No Leash Laws for Wolves?

WDIO Duluth reports:

Linda Ziegler says she let her 5-year-old dachshund, Jenny, outside just before noon last Thursday. Ziegler was standing on her front steps when two timber wolves appeared.

“The minute they spotted her, well that was the end,” said Linda. “They went right after her and they killed her. And they were carrying her around the yard and there was no one around anywhere. So I was under the impression that these two were wild.”

Wolves depredation on dogs in Minnesota has become more common in recent years as wolf populations increase and animals come into more frequent contact with hunters and human habitations.  In Wisconsin, wolf depredation on bear hunting dogs is now a serious enough problem that the DNR has published a guide and maps of ‘caution areas’ to help hunters reduce conflicts.

More wolves means more wolf / dog confrontations. Still, Minnesotans don’t expect to have their dogs killed by wolves during a short pee break in the front yard. Especially when the wolves in question are “tame” animals out on a photo shoot…

The wolves belong to the Minnesota Wildlife Connection. Founder Lee Greenly says the business provided the animals for a photo shoot near the Ziegler’s property when the wolves wandered a little too far.

“I deeply regret that this incident happened and we’ll take precautions,” said Greenly. “99% of the time it’s never a problem. It’s just that 1% that happens, and this happened to be a problem.”

Yeah Lee.  I’m guessing this is much like that 1% of stuff that happens when an untrained, unsupervised dog is allowed to run loose. The times when he kills chickens, craps in the neighbor’s yard, is hit by a car or gets shot for running deer.  It’s also the 1% of stuff that responsible animal owners do their best to avoid. But hey, it’s OK  ’cause, you know – these weren’t dogs. They were wolves.

Greenly says he has several licenses to breed and raise the wolves, which have been trained by Greenly and his family. He says the regulations for letting wildlife run free in rural areas are minimal.

Brilliant Lee!  The fact that the state doesn’t specifically require that wolves be kept on leash obviously gives you the right to let tame wolves who, unlike their wild brethren, have lost their fear of people – run at large in the neighborhood. Leash laws are obviously only meant for domestic dogs and the wimps that own them. Real men own wolves.  And hunt bear.

Lee enjoys the manly sport of bear hunting. So does his pal, country western singer Troy Lee Gentry.  Back in 2006 Minneapolis TV station WCCO reported that:

Investigators said Troy Lee Gentry, half of the Montgomery Gentry duo, killed a tame black bear in an enclosed pen in Sandstone, Minn. in October 2004 and videotaped it.

Investigators said Gentry then edited the video to make it appear as though the animal was shot in the wild.

Shooting bears in a barrel! I’ll bet that’s more fun than hunting wiener dogs with wolves! Unfortunately, while we won’t penalize you for letting your wolf run at large, shooting tame bears is a misdemeanor here in Minnesota. In 2007 CBSNews reported:

Gentry pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in November. Under a plea deal, he agreed to forfeit the bear and the bow he used during the hunt near Sandstone. The 600-pound bear has been part of a taxidermy display at Gentry’s home in Tennessee. He was sentenced Friday.

The bear was killed in October 2004 at the 80-acre Minnesota Wildlife Connection. Owner Lee Marvin Greenly sold the bear for $4,650 and orchestrated the hunt, which Gentry videotaped and edited to make it appear the bear had been killed in a fair chase hunt, according to authorities.

In his plea bargain agreement, Gentry admitted he shot a bear named Cubby from a hunting stand that stood in a 3-acre pen surrounded by an electric fence.  And the wildlife-loving Mr. Greenly set the whole thing up for him (for a fee, of course.)  And unfortunately for Mr. Greenly, the penalties for setting up fake bear hunts are somewhat more serious than those for hunting wieners out of season. According to the Chicago Tribune:

Lee Marvin Greenly, 46, Gentry’s local hunting guide, pleaded guilty at the same hearing to two felony charges of helping other hunters shoot bears at illegal baiting stations he maintained inside a national wildlife refuge near Sandstone in east-central Minnesota.

Our hearts go out to the Zieglers. This was a terrible way to lose a beloved friend. Our sympathies are also extended to Cubby the bear, killed back in 2006. We’d like to suggest that the USDA, Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture and Minnesota DNR consider reviewing the Wildlife Connections‘ permits.  It appears that there may be something rotten in the City of Sandstone…

February 20, 2009 at 5:35 am 6 comments

The “Creatures’ Caucus” – A Call to Action

Back in December the HSUS bragged that a record number of animal “protection” laws had been passed in 2008.  Their website states that; “The nation’s largest animal protection organization ushered in a whole new era of policies for animals by helping to pass 91 new animal protection laws this year, surpassing the previous record number of 86 new laws enacted in 2007.” 

While we’re absolutely in favor of well-written legislation that improves the lives of animals — it is our opinion that the goal of the “protective” legislation pushed by HSUS lobbyist is to end all use of animals.  HSUS lobbies for breed-specific legislation, limit laws, mandatory spay-neuter and overly restrictive breeding regulations designed to put hobby, show and working dog breeders out of business.  While 2008 saw record numbers of these kinds of laws introduced at every level across the country, 2009 may be even worse. According to a press release just posted by United States Sportsmen’s Alliance:

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) couldn’t be happier with the formation of a new group of Congressmen that will promote its agenda.

On February 18, U.S. Representatives Jim Moran (D- VA) and Elton Gallegy (R- CA) announced the formation of a new Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. The goal of the group is to get like-minded members of Congress together and promote animal rights policy in Washington, D.C. through forums and briefings. 

According to the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), the legislative wing of the HSUS, the new caucus will “take lawmaking for the animals to the next level.” HSLF went on to gush in its blog, “we could not be more excited about their leadership of this new organization of humane lawmakers.”

creatureblacklagoon

This group of legislators, also known as the “Creatures’ Caucus” appears to be operating under the false assumption that HSUS speaks for American pet owners.  A press release published yesterday on Moran’s website prominently features this quote:

“The American public is united in its belief that all animals deserve humane treatment,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  “The newly constituted Congressional Animal Protection Caucus will help better align our federal policies with public opinion, and we are excited to work closely with its leaders and with the entire Congress to combat cruelty and abuse.”

NEWSFLASH Representative Moran — the beliefs of the American public are in no way “united” with those of the HSUS.  Most of us enjoy eating meat, drinking milk, wearing leather and wool and owning pets.  Lots of us enjoy hunting and fishing.  Many of us love “dangerous” breeds of dogs. And unlike the self-rightous a$$#*les at HSUS, we don’t feel entitled to force our social / religious / moral standards on other people.

Folks, this is something we all need to keep an eye on. Write to your senators and representatives and let them know that “Humane Wayne” and his vicious pack of mindless, mean-spirited monsters don’t speak for you.  According to USSA:

As of press time, a full list of other U.S. Representatives joining the caucus was not available. However, the USSA will let sportsmen know as the names become available. Each member of the caucus should be contacted by constituents in their districts. 

Don’t wait for that list to come out. Call or write NOW.  We all need to make sure that we are the voice our elected representatives hear.

February 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm 4 comments

More Killing in the Name of “Rescue”

Yeah, I know. This is supposed to be a dog blog, but sometimes a story comes along that’s just too important to ignore. Please bear with us.

It appears that killing in the name of “rescue” isn’t just for those lucky pit bulls anymore.  According to KSTP-TV:

Last Wednesday, the Humane Society wanted to show us the nearly 120 cats they saved from animal hoarders in St. Anthony.

Now 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has learned that same day—the shelter began putting them down, despite the plans they told us. They said they had little time to act.

Two local shelters—Animal Ark and Home for Life—state they reached out to the Humane Society in Golden Valley, willing to take in the cats, regardless their condition.

Kathie Johnson, director of animal service with the Humane Society, said it would take weeks to determine the cat’s health.

“We’re giving them time to settle down and we’re hoping after a few days, we can start fully evaluating them,” Johnson said on Feb. 11.

But now, the Humane Society said they were euthanized—not weeks later, not days later—but just hours later that same night.

sickcatsseized

The Golden Valley Animal Humane Society must be reading from the H$U$ playbook.  You know, the book that says that the key to a “successful” rescue is to:

  • Show up for a high-profile seizure. Preferably this will involve a puppy or kitten mill or animal hoarder where large numbers of sad-looking animals can be shown being removed from dire conditions while your articulate, well-groomed spokesperson provides voice over commentary about how deeply your organization cares about animals.
  • Take the animals back to your facility for more photo ops. Immediately update your website pleading for donations for the care of these “poor victims.”
  • Don’t waste your time doing those messy and time-consuming temperament and health evaluations.  Just declare the whole bunch hopelessly damaged and say that their deaths were “unavoidable.”
  • Use the situation where you seized the victims as a springboard to advance laws that will restrict responsible small-scale breeders — while encouraging large-scale, industrial breeders. After all, it’s the PR you get from the large scale breeders and the pet stores they supply that helps keep you in business.

Mike Fry of the Animal Ark posted a scathing  prediction of the Humane Society’s actions titled “How to Make 100 Cats Disappear” — days before the mass killing was reported. It seems that this isn’t the first time that Golden Valley Animal Humane Society has been involved in this kind of “rescue” effort.

Given the conditions of the place they were confiscated from, I’m sure that some of the cats were beyond hope — but… I’m also convinced that some of the 118 animals could have been saved. And even if only a few of them could be saved — these animals deserved a better fate than a quick trip to the death room.

February 19, 2009 at 2:36 am 4 comments

Help Support Iditarod Sled Dogs!

The nutjobs at peta are making their usual fuss about the Iditarod again this year.  It is, after all, unspeakably horrible to expect sled dogs to run.  While we’re at it, shouldn’t we lobby to keep labradors out of the water and border collies away from sheep?

Proving once again that they don’t know anything about real animals, peta’s pitching a fit about some of the happiest, best cared for and most psychologically fulfilled dogs in the world.

Peta is promoting a website where they ask people to contact race sponsor to express their outrage at the ‘mistreatment’ of the dogs. With the start of the race just a few short weeks away I think that it would be a nice gesture for those of us who really understand and appreciate working dogs to take a minute to express our appreciation them.  Sponsors are the backbone of the race.  Without them, it’s not going to happen.

So, below the fold you’ll find a list of the 2009 Iditarod sponsors.  Please don’t spam them with a bunch of email.  Take a few minutes and write a letter. A real ink and paper letter. And send by postal mail.  It’s kindof old-fashioned I know, but a single well-written letter is worth more than a thousand tossed off at a whim email messages.  You can still cheat by using your computer. I hope that these letters and cards of appreciation help convince them to maintain their sponsorship.

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(more…)

February 18, 2009 at 9:24 pm 4 comments

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