Archive for January 21, 2010

Media Treats

Slate Magazine has an interesting article on the National Obedience Invitational. Writer Martin Kihn compares competitive obedience to neoclassical ballet. I see it as closer to team figure skating, but along with Kihn, I don’t understand why conformation shows continue to eclipse obedience trials in popularity, or why so many people think competitive obedience is dull.

Yet devotees will tell you that obedience is one of the most exciting spectator sports anywhere and that the absence of big paydays only adds to its spiritual purity. The best teams appear to perform a kind of interspecies voodoo as they glide through intricately choreographed rituals, attached by nothing more than mental moonbeams. The beams connecting Ford and Tyler are among the strongest in the obedience solar system. As a consequence, the dog-trainer duo is staging a quiet revolution on the circuit.

Be sure to check out the video clip of Ford and Tyler’s performance.

A study published this week in The American Naturalist compares the shapes of domestic dogs’ skulls with those of several different carnivore species. The data indicate that variation between dogs’ skulls was as great as that between all other species. According to Science Daily:

This means, for instance, that a Collie has a skull shape that is more different from that of a Pekingese than the skull shape of the cat is from that of a walrus.

Dr Drake explains: “We usually think of evolution as a slow and gradual process, but the incredible amount of diversity in domestic dogs has originated through selective breeding in just the last few hundred years, and particularly after the modern purebred dog breeds were established in the last 150 years.”

In just 150 years of selective breeding we have created a species that now has a range of skull shapes found nowhere else among carnivores.

Dr Klingenberg adds: “Domestic dogs are boldly going where no self respecting carnivore ever has gone before.

“Domestic dogs don’t live in the wild so they don’t have to run after things and kill them — their food comes out of a tin and the toughest thing they’ll ever have to chew is their owner’s slippers. So they can get away with a lot of variation that would affect functions such as breathing and chewing and would therefore lead to their extinction.

If you ask me, dogs aren’t “getting away with” anything – but – dog breeders in search of ribbons and unique consumer products are.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports that David Wroblewski, author of “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” is working on a couple of new book projects.

One is a nonfiction anthology, he says, based on material he studied during his research for “Sawtelle”: “All these fabulous papers on animal cognition and animal behavior that I think are really interesting and, if they are tied together correctly, would be really interesting for a general readership. But the big thing is the next novel.” Which is still in its formative stages.

I look forward to reading both of them.

Hat tip to the very excellent Sarah Wilson for the link that led to the trailer for the movie Mine:

The Seattle Times reports:

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the levees broke, many who were forced to leave without their pets endured long searches to find animals that had been ferried to safety without them. You’d think that finding that their pets were alive and well after the storm would be pure joy, but for some, it was more complicated.

The documentary “Mine,” opening Friday at SIFF Cinema in Seattle, tells the stories of people who found their pets in new homes, with rescuers or adopters who didn’t want to give them back.

Our pets occupy a unique niche in our legal system. Dogs and cats aren’t persons under the law and they don’t fit neatly under the aegis of traditional property law. We own them, but we see them as members of our families so we end up with a unique category of living and much beloved property whose legal status is confusing to many of us. It should be interesting to see how the film maker approaches the problem.

The documentary is available for pre-order on Amazon.

January 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm 4 comments

Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste


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January 2010