Posts tagged ‘Montana’

Chuck’s day off

Yesterday was Meet Your Meat  day.

Chucky, Mark and I visited the farm where most of the meat we’ll eat next year is being raised. When your food is raised by close friends on a small farm, socializing with the creatures that will go into your freezer is considered proper etiquette.

The chickens were only vaguely interesting to the boys. Chuck runs loose with our little flock every day and after two years of living with chickens in his back yard my husband takes them for granted now too. Chuck did get a small chance to show off his chicken herding skills because it was time to move the tractor the rangers were in and considering the fact that these chickens had never seen a dog before, he did a pretty good job.

The pigs were a much more interesting experience. Chuck’s initial reaction to them was a very practical and deliberate cautiousness. The boy’s come a long way from the dog who went bug-eyed and pancaked himself into the ground every time he encountered something new. Because these Berkshire hogs are omnivores who are at least eight times his size, I thought that his reaction to them demonstrated an excellent degree of common sense.

Chuck at left, is sitting quietly and politely avoiding direct eye contact. The pig, on the other hand, was whoring for attention. (Pet me! Brush me! Feed me! MAKE MORE MUD FOR ME TO WALLOW IN!) And really, since there is a one in three chance that I will eat this specific pig, I kinda felt obliged to give it up for him.

After pigs and chickens we went on to meet the steers. Chip and Dale are British White cattle, a beautiful, docile, ancient breed that fattens up well on pasture. The boys stood calmly and politely as we walked up to greet them.

I kept Chuck on a leash at first, he’d never met any cattle and I wasn’t sure how the steers would react.

As you can see, the first meeting went well.

And so did the second. Still on leash, but with his handler at a distance. Note the relaxed, happy smile.

It wasn’t long ’till we progressed to dropping the leash and letting everybody hang out together.

From the cow pasture we moved on to the creek. Chuck’s never been swimming. He loves playing in a spray of water and he’s been very good about baths, but between his orthopedic problems and mine, I haven’t had a chance to take the boy to a swimming hole.

Deep water can be intimidating to a dog, but as it turned it, Chuck didn’t need much encouragement to go in. I walked across the creek and called him. After a bit of hesitation the boy launched himself across. And once he figured out that it was wonderfully wet and it wasn’t going to kill him — the boy absolutely adored being in the water.

Chuck’s first foray into the creek. Note the panicked leap and wild eyes.

Shortly after, a relaxed, happy boy calmly and repeatedly swims out to fetch sticks.  And then just swims around on his own for the hell of it.

He had an excellent day off.

July 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm 4 comments

Small Wonders

On Sunday a small group of people and dogs gathered at our place. This is not an unusual thing, many dozens of similar groups have met at our place in the five short years we’ve been here.

This may look like a typical group of happy dogs and dog owners –  but it’s not. All the dogs in this picture are alumni or current fosters with National English Shepherd Rescue and all but two of them are members of the infamous Montana English Shepherds.

Less than a year ago, these dogs were still be held as evidence in an animal cruelty case. Today they’re all living in homes in and around the Twin Cities area. And while most of them still have a few issues to work on (don’t we all!), these dogs and their owners have accomplished incredible things.

I had a marvelous time meeting and working with everyone, but the part of the experience that will stick with me will be Stanley (the handsome blond boy on the far left). Stanley crawled in flat on his belly and shaking like a leaf – but based, I’m sure, on months of patient loving help from his foster mom Nancy – he recovered and found the courage to not just to sit up tall and straight in a room full of strange people and dogs, but to smile for the camera.

We worked a bit. We talked a lot. We made new friends and we plan to do it again.

Of course I couldn’t resist the chance to fit in a bit of training. Here I am trying to get Louie to work for a treat:

Louie is being very polite, but (like nearly all the Montana dogs) he’s telling me he just simply can’t take treats from a stranger. That’s okay. There are a lot of tools in my training bag.

Here I am introducing Louie to the e-collar.  Note how even with my assistant’s nose up his butt, Louie’s more engaged with me in this picture. I’m using very soft pressure with the collar combined with subtle body language and verbal encouragement to communicate with Louie. I was able to show his owner how to accomplish this in just a matter of minutes.

Louie lives on a farm near us and his owner would like to be comfortable giving him more off leash freedom. I suspect that more e-collar training will be in his future.

Chuckie, who earned a reputation as a Horrid Little Dog in Montana shows he’s not so horrid any more. Chuckie *hearts* his e-collar.
Many thanks to Miare Connolly for the wonderful pictures. And thanks to every one (two- and four-legged) who joined us. We had a wonderful time!

May 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm 7 comments

Around the Web


Bayou Renaissance Man posted a fascinating story about a unique British war hero.  A homeless mutt called Rip was befriended by an Air Raid Precaution Warden.  Rip became the unit’s mascot and then – on his own –  developed a remarkable talent for locating people buried in bomb debris.  Rip was the British Civil Defence’s first sniffer dog.

According to the Daily Mail:

In 12 months between 1940 and 1941, the plucky mutt combined all the inherited skills of uncertain parentage to rescue more than 100 victims of the Blitz from the air-raid ruins of London.

Then he carried on the good work for another four years until the end of the war.

But what made this tale of a shaggy dog so remarkable was that Rip was never trained for search and rescue  –  he simply attached himself to a Civil Defence team after being bombed out of his home. Then he mucked in as a sniffer dog solely because he enjoyed it.

His astonishing success rate earned him the rare honour of a PDSA Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of a Victoria Cross. 

More here and here.

Speaking of British air raids – check out the Keep Calm And Carry On image generator!  One of my favorite posters (SRSLY – KCACO is a great motto for alldog owners) can now be customized to suit any occasion.  Here’s the Audie version:


In training-related news, I recently came across this excellent article on the Cardinal Points Farm blog on “Fool-Proof Humane Animal Training”.  Here’s a small bite – go read the rest:

Animal training is complicated. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ training approach. Did I say complicated? Add to this a good dose of moral confusion (thanks to the media and some special interest groups). In the context of animal training, few terms are as emotionally charged as ‘punishment’ and ‘abuse’; and few terms are as misapplied (intentionally or otherwise) as ‘humane’ and ‘cruel’.

Rumor has it Dale may have been saved from the nefarious plans of Audie’s Evil Gramma – but please make a donation to save the Montana English Shepherds… just in case

Last – but not least – from twitpic via YesBiscuitthe real source of swine flu!

April 29, 2009 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

Win $10,000!

A little caveat here, that $10K isn’t for you, it’s for the Montana English Shepherds

The folks at Bissel are running a Most Valuable Pet photo contest. The winner’s photo will be featured on a future Bissel product and $10,000 will be donated to the charity of his choice. With the help of his friends, one English Shepherd has already made it into the finals and his owner has pledged the potential prize money to NESR to help the Montana English shepherds.

There’s a new round of voting every week and the top three vote-getters go into the pool from which the Bissell people will choose three models for their vacuum-cleaner packaging.

We hope to get an English shepherd whose owner has pledged the potential prize money to NESR into the final round each week in the hope that that the fabulous cash prize can be used to help out the Montana dogs.

This week, we’re campaigning Heather Houlahan‘s Moe:


[sends irresistable hypnotic message via interwebs]
You MUST go straight to Moe’s voting page and VOTE NOW.

You’ll have to give Bissel you name and email address to register.  They swear they don’t spam you or put you on any lists.  You’re also limited to a single IP address and one vote per voting period.  So, since you can’t vote early and often — please spam all of your friends, relatives, co-workers and ask them to VOTE FOR MOE.  Be sure to send the direct link, because there’s more than one Moe in this voting period and it’s really important to vote for the right one.

If you have a blog or a webpage — ask your readers to VOTE FOR MOE.

The $10,000 grand prize could buy the lives of 30-50 of the Montana dogs — what are you waiting for?   VOTE FOR MOE!

March 3, 2009 at 3:17 pm Leave a comment

House of Horrors


Wm Blake's Cerberus at the Gates of Hell

The charges filed against Linda Kapsa by Yellowstone County were published in the Billings Gazette online Monday.  The information presented in the charges paints a horrific picture of neglect and mental illness. 

Warning – this post is NOT for the squamish…

When Yellowstone County Sheriff Deputies, Animal Control Officers and Veterinarian Robert Bruner arrived at the site on December 11, 2008 they were overwhelmed by the smell of urine and feces at the property.  The conditions inside the residence were horrific.  The floor “was covered in animal feces which were ground into the floor so that he [Officer Weston] could not distinguish the floor covering.”  Dr. Bruner reported that the stench of ammonia was so strong in the house that it burned his eyes and throat.  Trash was stacked to a height of up to five feet throughout the house leaving only a narrow path for one to squeeze from the back room to the kitchen.  As many as twenty-five live dogs and puppies — and at least two dead ones, were crowded into the house.  The only place they had to move — and eliminate, was that narrow pathway.

“Although it was December, there were flies throughout the kitchen”

Five of the puppies seized from the home were found to be suffering from Parvovirus.  Two of them later died.  The dead bodies of six other puppies were found in an empty dog food bad in another trash-filled trailer at the site.  The bodies of several dead dogs were also found in this trailer.  According to Dr. Bruner, some were nearly mummified.  One had been partially consumed.

Conditions were no better outdoors.  Sixty or more dogs were running at large.  Trash and dead animals were spread across the property and dogs were feeding on both.

“The ground inside the pens appeared to be covered in a black slop that ranged from a quarter of an inch deep to an inch deep and in one pen, approximately four inches deep.  Dr. Bruner noted that there was no mud on the ground in the areas outside of the pens and the slop did not appear to be normal “mud”, particularly the smell of it.”

It was a mass of urine and feces.  Dogs had matted, urine and feces encrusted coats and open sores on their bodies.  On a canine body conditioning scaleof one to nine (with one being emaciated and nine being morbidly obese), Dr. Bruner noted that all the dogs he saw were underweight, having body condition scores of 1 to 4.  Rat bait was laying out in a junk vehicle and one of the dogs seized on the 11th was suffering from the effects of having ingested it. 

Two kittens were found locked in a trash-filled barn with no water.  They had eye and ear infections that required veterinary treatment.

“In another set of pens on the Defendant’s property, the officers and Dr. Bruner observed a dog that appeared to be sleeping while standing up in two inches of  feces/urine slop.  His head was resting on the fence, his eyes were closed, and he appeared to be quivering.  He initially appeared to Dr. Brunerto be extremely ill and elderly.  When they inquired of the Defendant as to what was wrong with the dog and how old he was, she stated that he was harassed by the other dogs and was 8 months old.  This dog, Kapsa Dog #6, upon closer inspection by Dr. Brunerwas determined to be emaciated and his coat was extremely matted and clumped and a bath was necessary to get an overview of his skin and what wounds were present.”

Kapsa Dog #5 had an open, granulated leg wound that appeared to be over a month old.  The leg was swollen to four times its normal size… and the dog was found chewing on the exposed end of its broken leg.  Xrays indicated a severe, chronic bone infection and the leg was amputated.  “Dr. Bruner stated that his eight years of practice he had not seen a worse case of abuse and neglect than that of Kapsa Dog #5.”

Ten dogs and the  two kittens were seized on the 11th.  The bodies of 13 dead dogs were also removed from the property.

Deputies, animal control staff, veterinary personnel and special assistance officers returned on December 30th.  The pugs and several of the English Shepherds had been removed from the site.  The Defendant stated she had given the pugs to her daughter and the English Shepherds to ranchers.  This was a significant concern as several animals infected with Parvovirus had been removed from the site on the 11th.

Conditions at the property were as disgusting as they had been on the 11th.  Food and water bowls were filled with urine and feces —  none of them were contained food or water.  Staff conducting the seizure reported that the dogs appeared to be “ravenously hungry,” with several trying to eat bait food right through the cans.

The house was still filled with trash and feces.  The smells of urine, feces and rotting food were overwhelming.  Litters of puppies were found in a rotted hole in the floor and under the trailer.  A dead dog was lying by the bed.

The outdoor enclosures were filled with feces and urine and sharp wires were sticking out in many places.  Dogs were licking feces-covered snow to get water.  Their coats were matted and filled with feces.  Some were described as having “deadlocks.”  Many had sore, swollen pads because they had little or no protection from the cold, ice and filth.  Most of them were described as “feral.”

The bodies of several more dead dogs were removed from the site. Some had to be left behind – some were frozen to a manure pile and others were frozen to the ground under the trailers.

Injuries in the dogs that were removed included:

  • A litter of puppies with raw, infected umbilical regions
  • A matted, dirt-covered dog with a nose laceration
  • An emaciated dog (body condition  one) covered in bite wounds
  • A vomiting, feces-covered dog
  • A dehydrated, emaciated 10-week old puppy
  • An 8-week old puppy that was infested with lice and had it’s eyes matted shut
  • An emaciated dog with multiple head wounds
  • A dog with diarrhea, a fever and what appeared to be multiple fight wounds
  • A dog with a wounded carpal joint who was missing part of his upper lip

Two bitches with litters and at least ten pregnant bitches were also among the seized dogs.  Only 10 bags of food were found at the property.  The 150 dogs currently being housed at Metra Park are eating over 200 pounds of food a day. 

This is one of the most disturbing and disgusting cases of neglect and hoarding I’ve heard of.  Conditions at the site were like something out of third circle of hell in the Divine Comedy:

With pity for the kindred shades, whence grief
O’ercame me wholly, straight around I see
New torments, new tormented souls, which way
Soe’er I move, or turn, or bend my sight
In the third circle I arrive, of show’rs
Ceaseless, accursed, heavy and cold, unchang’d
For ever, in both kind and in degree
Large hail, discouler’d water, sleety flaw
Through the dun midnight air stream’d down amain:
Stank all the land whereupon that tempst fell.

Our friend — trainer and NESR representative Heather Houlahan, is working full time with the seized dogs.  Check out her blog for updates.  Excellent reporting on the case is also coming from the Billings Gazette.

January 17, 2009 at 12:32 am 4 comments

Montana Update With Video

From the Billings Gazette:

A representative from the National English Shepherd Rescue said Tuesday that officials and volunteers working with dogs seized from a Ballantine woman by Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office in December are doing a good job but that much work remains.

Heather Houlahan, the NESR’s behavior and training coordinator, arrived Monday in Billings to assist in the rehabilitation, training and care of the nearly 200 dogs taken from Linda Kapsa’s Shady Lane Kennels.


Houlahan, who works as a dog trainer in Pennsylvania, said another NESR member crunched some numbers and determined that the dogs seized in the raids may represent as much as 5 percent of the world population of English shepherds.

She said the largest operation the NESR had seen previously was a similar situation in the early 2000s, in which about 15 dogs were seized. The group has “been aware of Ms. Kapsa for a long time,” she said, and has been communicating with the county since the December raids, but even it was surprised at the number of dogs on the property.

“We thought 30 to 40 would be the worst-case scenario,” Houlahan said. “The numbers just floored us. There’s never been this many (English shepherds) in one place, ever.”


Officials said Tuesday that a few dogs may still be on Kapsa’s property.

“We knew the day of the seizure that we had a 10-hour warrant,” said Catherine Schaeffer, manager of the temporary shelter. “We knew there were still dogs running free.”

John Flemming, animal control officer for the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, said about three dogs weren’t collected but that there may have been a few more hiding on the property. The remaining dogs could not be corralled within the warrant’s time allocation.

CLICK HERE for accompanying video clip.

January 15, 2009 at 4:28 am Leave a comment

Kapsa Pleads Not Guilty


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A 59-year-old Ballatine woman has pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty and other charges stemming from raids of her kennel that led to the seizure of nearly 200 dogs.

Linda Kapsa also pleaded not guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor counts of having a dog at large and two misdemeanor counts of failing to provide rabies information.

District Judge Gregory Todd allowed Kapsa to remain free without bail, pending trial.

The dogs, mostly English shepherds, were seized in December and remain under the care of Yellowstone County.

Court records say many of the dogs were living in overcrowded conditions or outside with little or no protection from subzero temperatures. Others needed care for wounds, broken bones and other injuries. Authorities removed two dozen dead dogs from the property.

CBS Montana reported today that:

Court documents filed Monday afternoon describe the conditions on Kapsa’s property as “horrendous”.

Back on January 3, they reported that:

The Billings veterinarian overseeing the dogs taken from a Ballantine kennel operation says they face a number of serious medical issues.

The most severe case ended in the amputation of one of the dog’s legs. Dr. Rob Bruner of Big Sky Pets is caring for 47 animals that were seized in Tuesday’s raid at the Shady Lane Kennels in Ballantine.

Bruner is caring for two pregnant dogs, three moms with litters, three cats, and 10 cockatiels.

He believes that after witnessing the living conditions, and inspecting their health, the animals had neglected. The health issues range from parasites, fleas to severe infections.

Today The Missoulian reported:

Following the Dec. 30 raid, authorities asked for the public’s help in tracking down several dozen dogs that disappeared following the initial raid on the kennel. It now appears, based on court documents, that those dogs were given to Kapsa’s daughter, a veterinarian from North Carolina, and will be adopted out to new homes.

I’m glad to hear that the missing pugs are in good care, and that they’ll find homes. Regarding the nearly 200 English Shepherds currently being held in custodial care, CBS Montana reports:

The bills are brewing when it comes to sheltering and caring for the dogs following the December 30th raid as the county has already been billed $9,400. Yellowstone County Undersheriff Jay Bell says that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Some 50 dogs are being cared for at the Big Sky Pet Center, at a cost of $10 per day, per dog.

“We have some that are over there for medical reasons. We also have mothers with litters that the puppies were too little, we didn’t want to bring them out here with the weather the way it is” explained coordinator Catherine Schaeffer. “And then we have pregnant females that we think are due anytime.”

Some $3,600 in donations has been raised so far to help with the cost of caring for the dogs.

Once again cash donations for the dogs’ care are being accepted at the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office (406) 256-2929.

January 14, 2009 at 12:21 am 1 comment

Montana Update

Back on December 15 we reported ona few dozen dead and dying dogs seized from a home in Montana. Over 300 dogs were reportedly still present at Linda Kapsa’s Shady Lane Kennels located in Yellowstone County. According to the Billings Gazette:

The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office executed a second search warrant at Shady Lane Kennels in Ballantine this morning and is in the process of seizing almost 300 dogs and other animals owned by Linda Kapsa.

Officials with the Sheriff’s Office and the Humane Society suspect that the animals were not receiving proper care.

A veterinarian assisting in the seizure said he saw dogs without food, water or adequate shelter. A team of veterinarians is examining the dogs at a temporary clinic at MetraPark, where the dogs will be housed.


One of the dogs confiscated. CLICK HERE to see the Billings Gazette photo gallery

CBS News Montana reports:

Over the past three weeks, investigators have been looking at evidence gathered from Kapsa’s property which led to the animals being removed Tuesday morning.

All of the seized animals have been taken to Metra-Park where they will be housed until the investigation is done or they are turned over to the county.

Dogs were hauled to Metra-Park by the truck load, in a relocation effort the county is calling, “Operation New Beginnings.”

Over 200 dogs were brought to the Metra, most of them English Shepherds. Investigators were unable to find 50 pugs at the Ballantine property.

Volunteers from different animal hospitals and organizations took the scared dogs in and after they were able to calm them down, gave them a physical examination, rabies and micro chipped them. They also checked for parvo and found several cases.

The situation is absolutely heart-breaking. But one bit of light shines – remember yesterday’s post where we bemoaned the fact that Missouri State Representative Jim Viebrock’s proposal to for a bill requiring that a veterinarian to inspect animals suspected of being abused before they are impounded by authorities is being viewed as controversial? Apparently the folks in the beautiful Yellowstone area have a healthier respect for civil rights than their neighbors down south do. Veterinarians were present during today’s seizure act ivies and we hear that all of these dogs will have their health and temperament evaluated. They aren’t being hauled away and killed. They won’t even be adopted out or put into foster care until authorities have finished their investigations.

We *heart* Montana.

According to CBS Montana: “The dogs won’t be available for adoption until the investigation is over, but if or when that happens, there will be a big need for homes.  Operation New Beginnings is going to need a lot of volunteers to help exercise and socialize the dogs, as well as feed and clean them. You can contact Last Chance Cat Sanctuary at 248-2388 and leave a message to donate food or time.”  (… or money, your friendly neighborhood blogger suggests)

If the dogs are released for adoption, National English Shepherd Rescue will also assist as needed. Regular updates on the situation will be posted here on their website. There’s a link to donate via PayPal on the site as well.

December 31, 2008 at 2:58 am 2 comments

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


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