Dog Paddle Song

For the first day of summer:

“Sing it boys!”

I love the footage comparing the young boy’s swimming style to the dogs’.

June 21, 2011 at 8:41 am 1 comment

Vizsla a volánnál!

Vizsal at the wheel!

A wonderful bit of video from a Hungarian newsreel site via my friend Andrew who blogs over at The Regal Vizsla:

FILMHIRADOK

Sadly, while I could grab screenshots, the clip isn’t embed-able, but go. Watch it. I’ll wait.

In 1948 ‘special effects’ largely consisted of expert training, handling, driving and editing skills. And even though I’m sure I could see the handler’s knee guiding the wheel in one scene, I still think that this is a lot more impressive than the computer animated version we’d typically see today.

The dog in the video appears to be much darker in color than any of the modern Vizslas I’ve seen. Susu looks like a dog whose seen a bit of field work. And his attitude toward work very much reminds me of the OddMan.

We love working dogs.

June 21, 2011 at 8:15 am 2 comments

How I spent my spring

This is my latest project.  Building a series of giant self watering planters.

If these function as planned, plants will draw water up from a reservoir below the growing medium through capillary action. This means that the roots can draw up water as they need it and the plants will have nice, moist soil most of the time. Subsurface irrigation not only requires less water than standard gardening methods, it can also help reduce the risk of fungal disease.

We started by selecting a location with lots of sun, removing the grass and leveling the ground under each tank.

A clean, empty tank was set on each pad.

The bottom of each tank was filled with 8 to 10 inches of 3/4″ washed river rock. We conveniently had a lot of this laying around leftover from another landscape project. This coarse, well-sorted gravel has lots of large pore spaces and creates a reservoir at the base of the planter. A gravel like this can have a porosity of up to 50%!

I installed a section of 1 1/4 inch galvanized pipe at one end of each tank. The pipe has a 8 inch elbow at the bottom and a screw cap on top. I made sure that the gravel at the discharge end of the pipe consisted of pieces that were much bigger than the inside diameter of the pipe to keep it from being blocked. The pipe will deliver water to the gravel reservoir at the bottom of the bed.

The gravel was covered with a layer of landscape fabric. The fabric will allow water to wick up to the soil while keeping the soil out of the gravel below.

I drilled a half dozen drain holes at the top of the gravel layer at the end of each tank opposite the intake pipe. This will encourage the water to flow across and fill the entire reservoir before it hits the overflow.

I filled the section above the fabric with good topsoil. Audie supervised.

I read in several places around the web that “wicking bed wizards all agree that water cannot be wicked further than 300mm (or about 12 inches) in soil”. The wizards didn’t provide any kind of calculations for their magical prognostications and their numbers didn’t make any sense to me. So, since I did rather large amount of hydrogeologic consulting work in my previous career I looked up some general data on capillary rise and then went ahead and put a foot or more of soil over the rock in each of my beds.

For those who may be interested, capillary action pulls water upward in materials against the force of gravity. The empty spaces between soil particles are called soil pores. Below the water table the pores are filled with water and above the water table they’re filled with a variable combination of air and water. Adjacent pores are connected to each other somewhat analogously to pipes in a water system. The sizes of these ‘pipes’ and the degree to which they are connected can vary over several orders of magnitude.

Capillary rise occurs when water migrates upward through soil pore spaces against the pull of gravity. Capillary action involves two types of attractive forces — adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion is the attraction of water to the solid surfaces of the pore walls. Cohesive forces attract water molecules to each other. Adhesion pulls a mass of water upward along the pore walls and cohesion pulls more water upward with that mass.

Capillary rise occurs when the upward pull of adhesion and cohesion is equal to or exceeds the downward pull of gravity.

Anyway, I was comfortable enough with my off-the-top-of-a-former-hydrogeologist’s-head calculations to put 16-18 inches of soil on top of my gravel reservoir. I will update you on how this works.

The beds operate very simply. The male end of the garden hose conveniently fits snugly into the intake pipe, so when I want to fill the reservoir I just pop the hose in, turn the water on and let it run until I see Chucky attack the spray of water discharging from the drain holes.

So far, so good. This is a bed I completed about three weeks ago. Radishes, turnips, beans, kale, chard and a bush-type summer squash (I’ll let it cascade over the side) are already up!

I’ve completed three beds and may put a fourth one in later on. They look pretty good and planting and weeding chores are much easier in these 24 inch tall beds than the ground level beds.

June 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm 8 comments

SLAPP my ass and call me Shirley

My good friend Shirley Thistlewaite who blogs over at YesBiscuit has put an enormous amount of work into covering conditions at Memphis Animal Shelter (MAS).

It’s heart-breaking work. Almost three-quarters of the animals taken in at MAS are killed and problems at the facility have been so severe and so well documented that two years ago the city caved to pressure and installed webcams so concerned animal lovers could check in on conditions.

Shirley has been blogging about conditions and writing letters to Memphis shelter staff and politicians in an effort to improve conditions for the animals there. As part of this effort she recently started raising funds to help pay for the care of some of the small number of lucky animals rescued from MAS. One dog has already been helped by Shirley’s fund.

Unfortunately, it seems that the folks in charge down in Memphis would rather kill pets than save them and, apparently, they feel very strongly about this because when Shirley contacted MAS director Matthew Pepper offering to donate funds to help two sick dogs,  Memphis City Attorney Herman Morris Jr. responded by finding a convenient but obscure bit of legislation to use as a hammer and then using said hammer to hit her with a lovely cease and desist letter.

Mr. Morris did not call her. He didn’t send her a letter. Or an email. Or comment on her blog. Or do any of the other things that a caring, ethical person would do if he wanted to communicate with someone about a potential problem.

Nosirree. As Shirley put it:

The city just wanted me to do the whole ZOMG I gots a letter from a berry skeery lawyerman freak out thing which, I’m sure they hoped, would lead to a I should just shut my pie hole about how they mistreat and needlessly kill pets at MAS unless I want to go directly to jail freak out.

Sadly for Mr. Morris, Ms. Thistlewaite is not so easily dissuaded. And neither are her friends. I would like to suggest that Mr. Morris review the text of the Tennessee Anti-SLAPP Act of 1997. Or perhaps Ms. Thistlewaite would like to discuss the Act with the Tennessee Attorney General’s office?

UPDATED 4:40 pm – Shirley hits back with a letter to the Tennessee Attorney General!

June 20, 2011 at 1:06 am 3 comments

Cesar’s Rules – a ‘must read’ review

My friend Alison Lever recently wrote a wonderfully detailed and perceptive review of Cesar Millan’s latest book, Cesar’s Rules over on infopet. Go, read the whole thing now.

Alison discusses Cesar’s philosophy on living with dogs, his evolution as a trainer and compares popular behaviorism with Cesar’s dog psychology. Her observations on life with dogs in a small Spanish village provide an insightful bridge between Millan’s rural Mexican roots and the experiences of American dog owners.

I was especially struck by her discussion on the importance of touch in our relationships with dogs. In my puppy and beginning classes I spend much of my time teaching people how to use touch and other aspects of body language effectively. This is something I feel that I’ve always known and I’m sure that (like Cesar) I picked these skills up during summers spent on my grandparent’s farm when I was a young child.

Dogs on that Iowa farm didn’t have much formal training, but they had good manners and they understood what was expected of them. Even though they rarely, if ever, came in the house, they existed as fully integrated – and fulfilled – members of the extended family, like many of the dogs in Alison’s village in Spain.

The current fashion of treating dogs like voters (independent agents whose behavior should only be manipulated by indirect methods) strikes me as insulting to dogs and to their human owners. So when Ian Dunbar is quoted as saying that “Most human hands cannot be trusted,” I can’t help but wonder if the man hides some kind of dark secret.

Dogs are brilliant social creatures not just capable of tolerating, but rather thriving on, a full range of social input. And, with only rare exceptions, people aren’t mindless violent brutes. We all make mistakes in handling dogs – but those mistakes are an unavoidable and valuable part of life.

I believe that the growing fashion of “hand’s off” philosophy is having a terrible effect on dogs in the US today. Some trainer friends and I have been commiserating about how difficult it is to get our clients to commit to going beyond very basic management and bribing to deal with problem dog behavior. As the idea that “human hands can’t be trusted” gains traction, our society is losing the ability to use our bodies effectively to communicate with dogs (and also with each other). These skills are most effective when we learn them intrinsically, as a part of our culture (see the writings of Edward Hall for more on this), and I am deeply concerned that if we continue down this road it will be difficult, if not impossible, to turn back.

Based on Alison’s review, even though I’m not one of Millan’s fans (or detractors) I’ve added this book to my ‘must read’ list.

May 23, 2011 at 12:11 pm 7 comments

Weedy

The first post in a new category: Words in pictures

weed·y  (wd); adjective

1.  Full of or consisting of weeds: like my yard

2. Resembling or characteristic of a weed: like many of the plants I tolerate or even encourage in the garden.

3.  Of a scrawny build, spindly or gawky: like my dog.

May 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm 10 comments

Happy Tax Day

via Savage Chickens

April 15, 2011 at 5:01 am 1 comment

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