Posts tagged ‘working dogs’
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.
He had an excellent day off.
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:
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.
For instance there are sheep herding dogs and sheep, herding dogs. To whit:
“It takes all kinds of dogs to make a world.”
For your Monday morning pleasure – a bit of vintage Sesame Street goodness.
“All I know how to do is take a hundred cows and teach ’em some manners.”
I love that the dog never says what breed he is. He’s probably a border collie but he could be a long-tailed Australian shepherd or an English shepherd – or a purpose bred mutt. He does, however, make a point of saying that he’s sure he’s not a show dog.
Dogs have helped men search for prey for thousands of years. Today their marvelously sensitive noses help us search for an astonishingly wide variety of things. In traditional search and detection methods dogs sniff the environment directly to search for prey, escaped felons, lost persons, explosives, contraband and rare plant and animal species. But now filter-search odor detection methods, also referred to as Remote Explosive Scent Tracing or REST, bring minefields to dogs instead of taking dogs to minefields.
In REST air samples are collected from minefields using vacuum pumps equipped with special filters. After the air samples pass through them the filters are protected so that they retain odorant molecules while they’re transported to a secure location for testing. Samples are collected under strict quality assurance and quality control protocols similar to those used in environmental investigation and monitoring programs.
While sample collection can be tedious and time-consuming, REST methods provide a relatively fast way to identify areas that are free of mines and they allow dogs and handlers to work away from the danger of mines. Detailed mine location methods then only need to be used in areas where evidence of mines has been detected.
… there are times when it is not practical to use dogs on the ground, as the tarmac at border posts gets too hot for them during the day, or if there could be a danger to the animal.
Now researchers at the South African company Mechem are adapting their Explosive and Drug Detection System to the fight against poachers.
Inspector T.C.Oosthuizen, of the South African Police Service, said: “When we work at Komatipoort for instance, the tarmac is so hot, it starts melting so you can’t get a dog to work from 12 o’clock in the afternoon.
“And the smugglers, they know about it, so then they know you can’t bring a dog to the border posts because the dog of course will burn.
“With this machine you take the samples, and give it to the dog in a controlled environment, an air-conditioned facility. It’s cool for the dog so the dog can work longer and more.”
Hot pavement may not be as dangerous as a minefield but if authorities can provide dogs and handlers with a safe and comfortable work environment they can work more hours and, we hope, identify more contraband.
Detailed information on REST and other mine detection methods was published in the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining’s (GICHD) Mine Detection Dogs: Training, Operations and Odour Detection in June of 2003. GICHD states that REST isn’t used to locate mines directly. It’s used to identify areas that don’t contain traces of explosives or other target scents so that detailed searches for mines don’t need to be conducted there. They’re sometimes referred to as “reduction methods” because they reduce the size of the area where dangerous and time-consuming mine locating work must be done.
Composite air samples are systematically collected across the minefield. Each sample contains the molecules that remain in a filter after the air passed through it when the sample was collected. The area over which each sample was collected is carefully recorded and this allows the perimeter of areas where scent was and was not detected to be identified.
REST methods allow a relatively small number of searchers and dogs to screen large areas quickly. GHCID reports that in mine work as much as 95% of target areas can be declared safe (or mine free) after REST screening. If similar results are obtained when searching for rhino horn, this means that detailed searches for horn only need to be conducted in a small percentage of vehicles and cargo passing through checkpoint areas.
REST methods are most efficient when the target is a rare and unusual odorant because if it is common or widespread all the sample filters would contain odorant and no areas can be eliminated. Rhino horn is rare and unusual, so the method applies well to these searches.
Because dogs don’t perform scent work perfectly, when clearing mine fields two or more dogs are used to check each composite sample. The samples are transported to a central location where they’re attached to stands that make it easy for the dogs to sniff them. The dogs are trained to sniff each filter and indicate a positive find by sitting or lying down next to filters where they smell traces of the target odorant. Once a dog has sniffed all of the filters individually, they’re moved to different locations in the stands and the same dog sniffs each one again. After each sample has been sniffed twice by the same dog, one or more additional dogs repeat the process with the same filters (or duplicate filters). If a filter is examined by each dog twice without any positive indications the area it was collected from is identified as being clear of the target odorant.
This kind of detailed duplicate analysis is probably not as important when searching for contraband instead of explosives. Even if each sample is checked twice by a single dog, authorities should be able to clear traffic through checkpoints much more quickly than they can with direct detection methods. And, as CNN notes, dogs can also search traffic at times and in places where it would not otherwise be safe for them to do so.
Rhinos are critically endangered and poaching is dramatically on the rise because of demand from Asian markets where horn goes for as much as $30,000 a pound. Just this week LiveScience reported that:
“Within South Africa’s national parks — not counting private land there, where poaching was rare — there were 10 rhinos poached in 2007,” said Matthew Lewis, senior program officer for African species conservation for the World Wildlife Fund. “Thus far in 2010 alone, more than 200 rhinos were poached within South Africa, with a lot of those poached outside national parks, so that’s a more than 2,000 percent increase in just three years’ time.”
Because the market has become so lucrative, organized groups of poachers now use high-tech equipment like helicopters, night-vision scopes, silencers and chemical immobilization to avoid detection and arrest.
I hope that REST helps authorities arrest more poachers in this deadly, and rapidly escalating, cat and mouse game before it’s too late…
An unsentimental elegy to the American West, “Sweetgrass” follows the last modern-day cowboys to lead their flocks of sheep up into Montana’s breathtaking and often dangerous Absaroka-Beartooth mountains for summer pasture. This astonishingly beautiful yet unsparing film reveals a world in which nature and culture, animals and humans, vulnerability and violence are all intimately meshed.
Heart-breaking. Beautiful. Brilliant.
Updated with this link to an excellent video interview with the filmmakers on WNYC.