Monday, August 31, 2009

Associated Press, not one to bother with facts

Okay, last post of the evening on this story, but hey, I just have to point out what I wrote at 2:15 pm PST:

"The Associated Press (2 hours ago):
dog-sitting the 1-year-old pit bull for a friend" <--- will be interesting to see if this is the article most picked up by other news agencies."

And lo and behold - how many of the 222 articles are the AP article in which the age of the dog is incorrect by like eight months? One hundred and seventy five. That's a whopping 78% of the total number of articles which include the incorrect age. Sure, in other cases, the difference in age would be negligible, a tangent, unimportant - say the difference between a 2-yr-old and a 5-yr-old dog. In this case, it's a pretty glaring oversight. A 12 week old puppy is much different in size, physical and mental maturity than a 1-yr-old dog. At the very least, a 12-week old puppy is teething and more prone to chew on things than, say, a juvenile dog with an adult set of teeth.

The AP article is making its way through international papers, globetrotting at a moderate clip all with really inaccurate information.

And this isn't something you can just call up an author about and ask that a retraction on page 15 be issued - it's done, it's out there and by the end of the day, a story about a negligent parent who self-medicates instead of cares for her 4-mos old infant and who leave him alone with a teething puppy becomes a story about an adult pit bull eating a child. That is what people will remember.

Forgotten is the child. Forgotten is the idiot who decided to take drugs instead of be a responsible parent. Forgotten is human beings who are clearly unfit to be responsible parents at this point in their lives, let alone dog savvy enough to dog-sit for their felon friend. Most of all, forgotten is that puppy (magically transformed into a ravenous adult fiend of a dog) who did what puppies do and who is fast becoming, instead, a lighting rod for breedists everywhere.

Oh media, how fickle you are!

Let's follow the timeline of this story. Or, let's just follow how this dog transforms from a puppy to a fully grown dog in a matter of hours! Fascinating stuff, media reporting!

Initial reports (and thankfully most of the current reports):
"were taking care of the 12-week-old Pit Bull"

The Associated Press (2 hours ago):
dog-sitting the 1-year-old pit bull for a friend" <--- will be interesting to see if this is the article most picked up by other news agencies.

"when a pit bull bit the child's toes off his left foot." - no age of dog is mentioned.

In most of the articles, these are the consistent reports:
- dog is 12-weeks old
- puppy running loose throughout house
- mother and boyfriend asleep on sofa, medicated
- infant in same room as mother and boyfriend
- puppy owned by jerk
- felony child abuse charges issued

But this article reports some discrepancies, per a neighbor's account:
- mother actually locked puppy in bathroom
- one of the other children let puppy out
- boyfriend not on the couch but sleeping in another room
- puppy owned by jerk
- felony abuse charges issued

Which is all interesting stuff, of course. There's still a baby with a mangled foot and a dog who is probably going to be killed. There's still the issue of self medicating with sedatives when you have a 4-mos-old infant to look after. And if it's true the dog was loose, there's the elephant in the middle of the room wondering why on earth any sane parent would let a teething dog (any dog) be loose/alone with defenseless babies.

Parenting for the fail

Just give this story a couple hours, maybe a day, and it will be everywhere. *sigh* ETA: Boy did I call it:

Pit bull eats toes off infant

Jacksonville Daily News - Lindell Kay - ‎4 hours ago‎
Authorities say they expect to file child abuse charges against a Southwest area mother after a pit bull chewed off the toes of her infant son early Monday. ...
The lead line in every story is along the lines of "Infant had toes eaten by Pit Bull".

Nevermind the dog is actually a 12-week old puppy - you know, the kind that are teething and chew on everything in sight, especially soft, squishy things. Nevermind that the parents are the ones up for felony abuse charges, not the dog. And nevermind that the parents, asleep in the same room as the infant managed to remain unconscious during the entire biting incident because, and I quote, the mother "was taking medication and never heard the child cry". Apparently boyfriend was taking the same "medication". Magical.

Classy parenting skills right there.

I remember this story from last year, which was even more tragic. A puppy was left alone with a 2-mos-old infant and ended up killing the child. The dog, a 12-week-old Lab, had been starving when he tried to eat the infant. It was a pretty gruesome mauling and happened to occur when the teenage mother and her mother were "asleep" in another room.

The comments on the Lab puppy story are all along the lines of parental irresponsibility and gross negligence. There are 22 comments. Twenty-two. That's it. ETA: We're at 83 comments There are already 20 comments in the "puppy chews toes, doesn't eat infant" story and half are suggesting pit bull puppies should just be banned due to their toe-eating proclivities. It's frustrating - it's a red herring and misses the point entirely.

It is just common sense not to leave a vulnerable infant alone with a dog, of any age or size or type or breed. COMMON SENSE. This is not scaling Mt. Everest difficult. It isn't string theory mind-boggling shit. This is basic stuff.

I really hope this infant does not lose his foot, that he ends up in a permanent home and not stuck in the craptastic foster care system or, goodness forbid, back with his heavily medicated parental units. I hope the other kids end up somewhere better too. I will also hope the puppy is given a chance at being in a home where his owners don't end up in jail for gun-charges, you know, a nice, responsible home. Unlikely; I'm sure they'll kill the dog, but I can hope.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday afternoon, reading and snoozing dogs

I'm house-sitting for my parents while they're off in hazy, smoky southern California. Their neighbors recently adopted a dog, a 2-yr-old black lab named Riley. Mina and Celeste have taken it upon themselves to teach boundaries to Riley through what they call "better living through barking at the fence". Riley takes them up on the challenge and barks right back, which offends Mina immensely and leaves Celeste wondering why she was barking in the first place.

Anyway, their antics resulted in this picture. I needed a bookmark and I needed it fast. Thus, one of my mother's tomatoes made its debut as the first ever vine-grown bookmark. I would not suggest shutting the book, but it served its purpose. Of course, I took this photo AFTER telling the dogs they were scourges upon this great earth and they should just shut up. To which they responded with glares and huffs, Riley included.

Mina's response after any tiring encounter with another dog through the fence is to sleep. Because it is hard work defending the world from labrador retrievers and maltipoos, especially maltipoos who speak French. Unacceptable! I keep hoping that, at age 11, Mina will slow down a bit. She has, in some ways, but mostly she's the same spunky dog she was at age three. SLOW DOWN OLD LADY DOG! *snore* Which would appear like she's slowing down, except she has always slept 20 hours a day and played hard for the remaining four.

Celeste, as usual, is ready for ANYTHING (she turned an amazing TWO in May):

It's an improvement from yesterday.

Problems with newspaper dog bite accounts

And they don't just apply to pit bulls.

Read this story about a loose dog who attacked a small child. Sticking true to its sensationalist reporting the Daily News uses adjectives like "dimwit" and "crazed" and "hulking" (I liked that one) when describing the biting incident.

The dog isn't a pit bull but is labeled a husky. A 120 lb husky.

Now, unless this dog is on steroids (and thus probably went on a 'roid rage) this dog is not a husky, or at least not a purebred siberian husky. The higher weight range for a male husky is 60 lbs.

Or maybe the dog was really hairy, the Daily News IS sensationalist and the dog was really just a furry 60-lb husky transformed into a crazed, massively large canine on a rampage.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Celeste's failed modeling attempt

I don't understand it. Celeste is a perfectly attractive dog and by dog-god, she was an adorable puppy. As you can see in the photo to the right, Celeste was cute and had ridiculous ears and took a good photo. And then. I try to take pictures of her now, ones that show her sweet nature. Instead, all her photos turn out....odd. This is not to say Celeste is sane and normal, she IS actually strange. But her photos always show a crazed look, a strange tooth sticking out, ears that have yet to decide how they want to stand.

But Mina. I mean, where do I even begin. This is a dog who I have failed to photograph poorly. She just shows well. Even when she doesn't, she does. It's amazing, really. People always comment on how pretty she is, even folks who have an aversion to pit bulls coo lovingly when they see Mina. She's got that patchy eye, that pink nose, those PERFECT EFFING EARS, a white-tipped tail, socks and speckles on her belly.

Here is Celeste's most recent photo. It's the only one that turned out decent enough, where she doesn't look too insane. Maybe I'm going to have to pay someone to photograph her because clearly *this* photographer is on a big boat of fail when it comes to capturing Celeste. I swear, she's really not as crazy as she looks. Really. Except she sort of is, but still.

Yeah. I know.

And then Mina wanders past Celeste, I turn around and BAM! this photo:

She doesn't even have to try.

Egad, I love both these dogs so much it's ridiculous.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pennsylvania SPCA for the win

It was so heartening on many levels reading the articles on the Pennsylvania SPCA and their 2nd Chance dog program. Sure, they may claim it's coincidental that they had a little party the same evening a certain former dog fighter made his debut, but I'll roll with it. :)

Now, I try not to preach too much in this blog about another aspect of my life besides pit bulls that is integral to who I am - veganism. I won't go into it too much, either, except to say it was awesome reading that at the PSPCA's 2nd chance dog event they were serving veggie dogs. It sounds like maybe that was all they were serving and no animal products.

This makes me happy because so many dog and cat shelters, even those who rescue farmed animals, often serve animal products at their fundraising events. It's a bit contradictory to promote a message of respect and kindness while also serving the flesh of animals whose lives were cut far too short and often in a brutal manner. Even more ironic are organizations, like the Humane Society of Missouri who rescue farmed animals, including horses and then turn around and have a BBQ fundraising event with polo** as the main form of entertainment. Props to them for rescuing all those pit bulls from the fight busts, but a big thumbs-down for raising money for cows and horses by serving cow flesh at the event - creepy!

Big thumbs up to PSPCA for publicly noting their serving of vegetarian products at their sponsored event. I think it sends the right message, that organizations who promote kindness to animals don't profit off of the suffering and deaths of other animals. It's not saying you, as an individual, have to change your behavior, it's just saying that if an organization has a mission statement that includes "kindness/respect/welfare" towards animals, it should extend that to other animals who can feel pain, joy and the same types of emotions as dogs and cats.

And thus endeth my little side-soapbox message. :)

I leave you with a photo of Miss Mina with Owen, then a young piglet. Owen spent several weekends with me and Mina at our home. Young piglets must be fed every hour and it was getting to be a bit of a strain for the live-in animal care staff - so the rest of us all pitched in with piglet-sitting. MINA AND OWEN WERE IN LOVE. In the photo, Owen had to be isolated, so Mina couldn't have their long-lost reunion of play bows and wrestling, but they touched noses and that is that.

**Even more interesting is their word change. Their original page said "Polo Pony Sponsor FOUR VIP tickets with BBQ Buffet Dinner PLUS sponsorship of" which, when concerned HSMO supporters contacted them (among others) was changed to "Four VIP tickets with buffet dinner PLUS" No, they didn't change their menu, just their wording.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Denver safe from pit bulls?

As part of the organization I work for, I've had to draft letters to foundations for prospective educational programs. Within the draft, parameters of success are always included - foundations like to know how you, the organization, will identify the efficacy of the program. It's their money and they want to know it's going to an entity that will be fiscally responsible AND, more importantly, provide concrete evidence of success.

Yet time and time again, cities across the country enact laws without requiring the laws to be successful. For me, Denver is the most glaring example of a city that has enacted a law - banning pit bulls - and has yet to provide any concrete evidence that the law reduces pit bull bites or improves human safety. The money being spent is not foundation grants but taxpayer dollars.

For years, officials in Denver balked at the idea they needed to provide concrete evidence indicating the pit bull ban has been useful. In this recent article, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Health, when asked if the ban has been successful says:

“I don’t know that there’s one single answer to that,” she said recently. “I think it all depends on the way you look at it.”
I'm sorry, let me pick up my jaw from off the ground. This isn't rocket science, you are not being asked to elaborate on string theory or bioengineering. You are being asked - has this law worked for the reasons in which it was drafted? Have dog bites been reduced? Have pit bull dog bites changed significantly? Is the population of pit bulls smaller/larger in the shelter system? I don't need to look at it in any particularly strange way, I just want to know if the law has produced the desired results.

According to the director of animal control:
"We have not had a severe mauling or fatality involving a pit bull since the ordinance went into effect. But then again, we continue to get more pit bulls every depends on how you define success."
Well, it's not as if Denver had innumerable accounts of severe or fatal maulings before or during the ordinance. If you define the success of an ordinance based on an extraordinarily rare event not occurring (i.e. dog bite related fatality), then I might as well enact a law banning toothpicks and, when no one loses an eye from one, declare my law a winner.

Do these folks in Denver have any clue on what success is or how it is defined? I feel a bit on the edge of the Twilight Zone - it cannot be unfathomably difficult to say "look at my dog bite statistics - pit bull bites are down; look at my dog bite statistics - dog bites are down; look at my shelter intake reports - pit bulls are nowhere to be found" And my statistical analysis says hey, this is because of that there law enacted. I want a smidgen of correlation and causation (even though we know correlation isn't always linked to causation). If your law's premise is to a) reduce pit bull bites; b) reduce the number of pit bulls; c) reduce dog bites overall, then it isn't mind-boggling to track dog bites, track pit bull bites, track population dynamics. Really, it's not.

And when it is suggested by a council member that, maybe this law isn't doing what it's supposed to and we should rescind portions of it, another council member has this to say:
“I wish they would visit some of these victims lying in hospital beds trying to recover from pit bull attacks,” said Brown.
Logical fallacy for the lose! Appealing to emotion, Mr. Brown wants sane-minded folk to just disregard this whole "where's your evidence of success" and "LOOK AT THE POOR MAULED PEOPLE WASTING AWAY IN HOSPITALS". And if you don't, you are just a very bad person who doesn't care about pit bull attack victims. Thus we have completely diverted our attention from the glaring lack of supporting evidence!

I totally understand being miffed by California folks trying to change a law in Denver, I do. But that should not detract from the underwhelming evidence that Denver's pit bull ban is a roaring success. When your animal control director and your health and safety folks cannot provide viable, valid data to support a law that has cost millions and killed thousands, then it seems fair to re-evaluate the law and either re-work it or get rid of it and put that money elsewhere. And when your council members are saying stuff just to make people feel angry and sad and emotional, you know they have no logical, statistical information to back up their claims.

But to put it all in perspective, in Colorado - 1 in 350 dogs bite. In this survey, that's one third of one percentage of dogs. Inifintisemally small. So even if you have a really successful dog law, in the state of Colorado, all that serves to do is take an already small issue (that of dog bites) and reduce it further. Colorado, as a state, is safe - less than one percent of its dogs bites people. Denver's law is one that cannot even be emulated because that which makes it "successful" cannot even be defined. I mean, is that embarrassing or what?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is the cupcake that Mina really wanted

Vegan chocolate cupcakes

Today was my mom's birthday and I made her these cupcakes. I made her wait while I snapped about fifty shots of the cupcaks of which only two qualified as decent. That is how I roll. Mina was perplexed by all the maneuvering of these delicious smelling edible items, the ones she felt strongly belonged in her belly. She followed me from spot to spot as I found the right location for the cupcake shoot.

Celeste was even less subtle, drooling and tripping me up in her attempts at cupcake theft. She stared and panted and stared and panted, then body slammed Mina out of her way for a better view of the delectable goods.


Eating is always upsetting to Mina and Celeste, so sure are they that all the commotion in the kitchen, all that preparation, it is all for them, for their sustenance. And yet.

Which reminds me of when I first brought Mina home. She weighed 23 lbs and should have weighed 40. Concerned about her weight, I asked my veterinarian his thoughts on feeding amount and schedule. Oh, he said, just feed her however much she wants. That same evening, I came home to my sweet, cross-eyed, malnourished, patchy-eyed pit bull and said, tonight, you my dear pit bull, shall eat like the queen you are.

I gave her a cup. She scarfed it up. Two cups. Three. Four. Five. Six. No sign of Mina feeling satiated. Seven. A pudge started to appear along her waistline. Eight. A strange groaning sound coming from her innards. Nine. Nothing could stop her now, Mina was on top of the world, though it soon might be crushed beneath her widening belly. I stopped her then and she has never forgiven me for that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Caution should guide pit bull adoption debate

Or at least according to this author.
It is scientific fact that aspects of animal behavior are heritable, just like physical attributes such as coat color. A herding dog, for instance, is bred for its herding instinct. Similarly, a retriever is born with the instinct to carry things in its mouth, to retrieve. In the dog fighting world, breeders selectively breed the dogs with the most "fight," an ability to attack and kill other dogs.
There aren't really "scientific facts" so much as hypothesis and theories. It's fair enough to suggest that the expression of certain behaviors are/may be genetic, hardwired or under the influence of both alleles and environmental triggers. To claim, though, that a retriever is born with the instinct to carry things in its mouth is a bit of a red herring. Most dogs come well-equipped to place things in their mouths - ask any puppy guardian. :) It is not a trait unique to any particular breed. Certainly for hunters, an ideal dog is one with a soft mouth, a behavior some retrievers must be taught.

As to pit bulls being selectively bred for the most "fight", well I guess I would want to know what the author means by "fight" or by the "ability to attack and kill other dogs." In my own personal experience and certainly dog bite studies show this to be true, any dog with teeth can attack and kill other dogs. A lot of factors are at play: hormones, size of dog, intact status, circumstance of aggressive encounter, learning, previous experience, arousal level, bite threshold. Since we know aggression involves a lot more than just "being bred to fight", it seems ludicrous to argue that any breed of dog has been bred for this mysterious "fight" ability, as if there is a little loci floating around on a gene that whispers "fight, fight, fight" in the ears of pit bulls and pit bulls only. I'd like to think we've come far enough to appreciate the intricacies of canine behavior that we wouldn't reduce something as complex as "aggression" to something as simple and vague as "fight" ability.

The author continues on with how dog fighters may train their dogs:
Dog fight breeders or trainers may also "bait" their dogs by training them with small, largely defenseless breeds such as miniature poodles. Or they may use larger dogs whose muzzles have been taped shut so that they cannot inflict injury on the pit bulls in training.
This notion that you would encourage a dog's "fight ability" by pitting him against a 10lb dog is rather laughable. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm saying it isn't a great way to condition and prepare a dog for a fight with a dog of comparable size, musculature and stamina. These two sentences alone reflect a gross ignorance of how "professional" dog fighters tend to condition their dogs. It also ignores that the entire concept is cruel, the idea of pitting dogs together in a blood-match is and should be repulsive. But that has little to do with the temperament or solidness of a dog.

Next, the author tries to dispel this notion that pit bulls have been bred to be docile around people (a notion I don't support, but for different reasons):
To begin, these dogs are bred to fight other dogs but to be docile to humans.

This "hard wired" response can and often does go haywire, with dogs turning on their masters or attacking children. It can happen at any time in life: one of my Australian Shepherds, a breed not known for aggression, began turning on children and snapping at them while in Mexico. The Mexican children, accustomed to taunting and striking dogs, had conditioned my normally docile dog to act aggressively to defend himself.

If something is a "hard-wired" response, it is not going to magically go haywire. This is not how hard-wired, instinctive behaviors work. Certainly a dog can undergo physical trauma that damages the neurons responsible for whatever "hard-wired" response the author is talking about, but if a truly hard-wired behavior is modified so easily by an external stimulus, like taunting children, then I think it's best to suggest the behavior isn't so hard-wired after all.

Also, Australian Shepherds are known for their aggression. They do not nip at the heels of cattle because they are nice, non-aggressive dogs. That nipping and body-bumping is part of a chain of behaviors that would eventually involve the death of another creature; it's part of the predator-prey dance. Aggression isn't the end of the world. It's natural, all dogs exhibit in some way or another, and only in its extreme forms should it be considered dangerous to people. I must admit, if the whole mythical "fight ability" gene didn't make me question this guy's knowledge of dog behavior, claiming a breed known for their use of teeth on skin isn't aggressive does. Also, why on earth is he letting children taunt/strike his dog? (Of course, he MUST point out that they're Mexican b/c *rolls eyes* no white American kid would taunt and strike a dog.)

A truly reliable attack dog or protection dog requires years of patient training and an extremely knowledgeable handler -- not just a desire to own a tough dog.
Well sure, duh. But I certainly did not adopt a pit bull because I wanted a tough dog. Nor did I really care if she was a fighter or breeder or owned by a gang-banging bike-riding, testosterone-laden poor dude in Colorado Springs. I cared that she was nice, cute, had a high bite threshold and tolerated people. My primary criteria - Does she give kisses. Yes? I'm sold.

I mean, look at her:

I mean, she's eating a plant, for crying out loud. She's not mauling that dude. She's not turning on me, the photographer, with her haywired instinct to eat me. She's trying to be a VEGETARIAN DOG. Shameful.

I'd have to say the saddest statement of all the author makes is:

Increasingly, pure bred dogs such as retrievers, poodles, border collies, and the like are found in purebreed rescues and kept in private homes until adopted, leaving pounds with mutts and pit bulls -- the shunned dregs of canine society.
As if the mutts and pit bulls, the "dregs of canine society" are so unimportant, so without merit and so undeserving of love and compassion that, well, we might as well just kill them without compunction. Obviously, this author has not spent much quality time with mutts or pit bulls. They are as varied in temperament and color and size and personality as any "purebred" dog. More than that, they are as worthy of our respect and deserve the same chance at adoption, at a loving home, as any dog.

Give your dogs a hug and kiss. Continue to adopt the "dregs of canine society" and show people, like this author, that they are perfectly nice, wonderful dogs, regardless of whether they were a stray or a fighter.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Throw another pit bull on the barbie

First, read the more recent article "Rudman's pit bull on a barbie column draws anger"

In it, the newspaper chooses to publish some hyperbolic tidbits from irate folks across the globe who were appalled that the author suggested the bludgeoning and cooking of a dog (who happened to be a pit bull) was just a-okay.

This is Rudman's response:

"If the abusive and threatening tirade from US pit bull owners is representative, then is it any wonder that their pets have learnt to be equally aggressive and life threatening?

"If they'd read past the headline they'd have realised my column wasn't specifically about pit bulls at all."

I decided to read the actual column, because hey, maybe he's right, readers didn't get past the headline and the article wasn't at all specifically about pit bulls.

So, let's go to the piece itself.

There's the title: "Throw another pit bull on the barbie" which I admittedly thought meant throw a pit bull at a plastic, arch-footed, blond-haired doll. So maybe that's what the author meant because, like he said, he's not talking about pit bulls specifically. Just vaguely, right?

The SPCA and the Minister of Agriculture, David Carter, are baying for the blood of Paea Taufa for bopping his pit bull on the head and recycling it in a backyard umu. They should be giving him a medal. If every pit bull owner in the land followed his lead, New Zealand would be a safer place to live.

Ooops, looks like Rudman didn't read past his own title! First sentence is a suggestion to reward a guy who got tired of his dog, whacked him over the head and cooked, then ate him. Which is neither here nor there - animal agribusiness gives out awards to slaughterhouses, so providing accolades to those who kill animals and eat them isn't anything particularly new. But then he goes on to say that, hey! this guy is on the right track, New Zealand would be a fabulously better place if all pit bull owners just did the same thing.

But surely Rudman isn't really talking about pit bulls at all; us readers are just incapable of reading.

he should have been encouraging Mr Taufa on to the pre-news cooking slot to persuade the pit bull fraternity their pets, once barbecued, were as delicious as crayfish or rare sirloin.

That's the second sentence. Okay, Mr. Rudman, when are you going to stop talking about pit bulls specifically and start getting to the heart of the matter.

Oh wait, you have to get down to the 7th paragraph to realize this isn't just about pit bulls, it's about the hypocrisy of people disliking dog slaughter but being okay with hunting ducks and slaughtering lambs.

Hey, I totally agree. It's strange to argue against one form of slaughter while partaking of the flesh of another butchered creature. If they're raised the same as other farmed animals, killed the same, etc. ad naseum, no one should feel compelled to say "don't eat x animal, even while I gnaw on the leg of y animal". That's a logical fallacy and I'm with Mr. Rudman on that (it's why I'm vegan, though apparently Rudman gets the cognitive dissonance and logic fail but doesn't see fit to change his own dietary behaviors, he's not vegetarian).

But if that is the real point of Rudman's article - that we are morally and behaviorally inconsistent with how we treat nonhuman animals - then that should have been the lead line. You know, the line everyone reads and remembers? All that stuff in the middle sorta gets lost when your opening line is a suggestion to commit canine homicide.

Rudman should just be honest - he doesn't like pit bulls and, yeah, he wouldn't mind if they were all grilled to death. But that isn't a really thrilling springboard for a discussion on our current cultural perception and treatment of other nonhuman animals. All he managed to do was anger a lot of people for his suggestion to kill pit bulls (not to "kill dogs" but to kill pit bulls specifically). The other vital information which could have made for a useful debate was lost amidst Rudman's own hypocrisy and anger directed at dogs who look a certain way.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why video is helpful, dog tasered

The video depicts an animal control officer tasering a dog. Watch it. It's a bit disturbing.

In the video, we have an animal control officer talking on the phone while trying to taser a dog. Let me repeat, the guy is talking on his cell phone in the midst of a tense situation where accuracy is pretty important.

Maybe I'm sensitive to dog behavior and signals. But, to me, this dog is clearly saying "hey, I'm freaking scared, I'm just going to yell at you and back away every time you approach" and not saying "I WILL KILL YOU AND DRINK YOUR BLOOD MUHAHAH!!!" The dog is hunched over. His tail is between his legs, a confident dog isn't going to cover his privates. The dog continues to turn his back on the officer, swing around and bark in that high-pitched barking that you hear from fearful dogs. The dog backs away from the officer and never once exhibits any behavior that would indicate a charge or attempt at a bite. You can see the whites of his eyes. Every time the officer moves even an inch towards him, the dog backs up.

When the dog is inaccurately tasered in his rear leg, it appears both prongs fail to hit the dog. The dog starts to scream and bite at his leg. He does not charge. He just tries to run away on to the safety of the porch.

Yes, fearful dogs are dangerous. This dog, though, with a little bit of common sense could have been rounded up without tasering him. At the very least, the guy with the taser should have put down his phone (and not just down by his side) and handled the taser in an appropriate manner, respecting the fact that he's sending out a painful, potentially lethal pair of prongs into another living being. That seems like common sense.

And, by the poll results, it looks like most people agree that what they are seeing on video is the use of excessive force.

I have to wonder if all dog shootings and taserings were caught on video, would we start to see a trend in tougher rules regarding how officers deal with loose dogs? Every time I read stories, I'm getting two sides, often with two conflicting viewpoints. But certainly in at least two cases, because of video, this one and the one involving a boxer in Lakewood, OH, the public seems to find using a taser on a barking dog to be excessive and cruel.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kiss Kiss, Throw My Toy!

Mina and Celeste have a strong affinity for children. Celeste more so than Mina, but they both really like them.

Celeste becomes this strange wriggling creature trying to insert herself into the world of the child while Mina becomes this patient statue, tolerating all invasions of privacy.

A couple of days ago, I was out with the dogs letting them go potty. They are always on leash (and for my ease, they are on flexi leads, the only time I use them). My neighbor and her two young nieces happened to be out at the same time.

Celeste made a beeline even before I saw the kids. She melds herself into them, tail wagging low, submissive grin, tongue trying to insert itself into mouth (sweet canine speak, but gross nonetheless). Mina ignored the kids because she had a stuffed animal and a mission of peeing to complete.

But then the 3-yr-old noticed Mina and desperately wanted to say hi. She saw Mina had dropped her stuffed animal and toddled over to grab it. I was about to restrain Mina who was all "That is my toy, small human creature!" but I didn't have to. Mina ran over, sat in front of the girl and implored her with eager eyes and forward ears to THROW THAT TOY NOW, please. And the child did. Mina gleefully leaped upon the camel, promptly brought it back to the child and shoved it in her face. Which is rude, but in Mina-speak, it means "Hello, I like you enough to let your mouth/face touch MY toy. Be grateful." The girl was and pat Mina on the head with a silly smile on her face.

Celeste came over, interested in all the attention Mina was getting. Not to be outdone, Celeste maneuvered her way in front of the child, sat down and leaned very slightly back so the little girl could maybe scratch her back or hug her. After some really gentle stroking, the girl became VERY interested in the stopping mechanism on the flexi-lead.

For the next ten minutes, she proudly "stopped" Mina and Celeste. I was actually pressing the button and I only did it when Mina and Celeste were just standing nonchalantly. But the girl was quite pleased with herself. She became even more pleased when I allowed her to hold Celeste's flexi-lead and "walk" Celeste. I kept a hold of the leash portion so that Celeste couldn't pull the girl to the ground, but man it was worth it to see her face light up. When her mom arrived, the girl proudly announced "I walks the dog!" paused and then "I also stopped them too!" She told her mom all about Mina and Celeste, though she could only remember Mina's name.

I know not all dogs like kids. I've never done much to create a positive association with children for either Mina or Celeste. I never created a negative one, either. If anything, kids were a sort of neutral stimulus that I thought would inspire disinterest on the part of Mina and Celeste. And for Mina, they pretty much do. She could take them or leave them, but her tolerance levels prevents her from aggression (this I trust with Mina, though I would never set her up for failure).

Celeste LOVES them, which is odd because it was an 8-yr-old boy and 12-yr-old girl who first abused her in Mexico - they were kicking her, dragging her by her leash and generally being abusive....even though they were bringing her to get spayed. That Mexican puppy died in surgery and was "reborn" as Celeste. True to her gentle nature, Celeste has moved on and the first time she saw a little 2-yr-old running up to her, her whole body said "YES! MY PEOPLE!" and it was true love from then on. I always keep a special eye on kids with Celeste; her threshold for pain is much lower than Mina and she's very sensitive about her ears (from a long fight against severe and painful ear infections. So while I trust Celeste to be friendly and gentle, I also trust her to be sensitive and a bit insecure about certain parts of her body and certain handling. My instinct is she would tolerate a lot more from a child than she would from an adult, but I've never put that to the test nor do I want to. I monitor how the kids touch Celeste and make sure every experience she has with children is a positive one, a pain-free one. It's the responsible thing to do. :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Emergency Plans for your animals

I have a friend up in Ben Lomond who has been on edge with the current massive 3,000 acre fire nearing their property. They have several animals, including some goats and pigs, and because they live in a fire zone up in the Santa Cruz mountains, they always have a plan for their animals.

But not everybody does. Certainly Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath proved as much. While I don't want to say anything "positive" came from that tragedy, it is because of that awful event that authorities now realize how important it is for people to remain with their pets or have access to places for their pets/livestock to be housed.

So, here's my gentle reminder: Have a plan, think about that plan and even if you think it's silly, execute that plan every now and then.

For smaller animals:
- Call your local animal shelter and find out who you need to talk to about the rules regarding dogs/cats during emergencies. If the shelters don't take pets, compile a list of local motels/hotels that do as well as possible boarding facilities. Know where you can safely go before a disaster strikes.
- Create a phone tree/networking tree with neighbors, friends and family. Find out who can house your companion animals during an emergency (and hopefully you too!)
- Make sure you have enough food and water for 3-5 days. Keep an emergency kit of food in an airtight container (refresh, when appropriate) and bottled water. Make sure you have easy access to your pets' medication. Include a spare leash and halter/collar. Even if you don't normally have your dog wear an id collar (and you should), make sure your spare collar has a clear cell phone number on it.
- Never leave your animal inside your home or apartment. Take your animal with you. At the very least, drop your animals off at a boarding facility or safe animal shelter. Your animal has a slim chance at survival if a fire or flood comes through.
- Have a sticker on your door or on a visible window that describes the types and number of animals you have located in your home.
- Practice how your egress will look, act it out just like you did those duck and cover drills in school (but probably don't practice duck and cover for fires and floods).

For larger animals:
- Know where your local fair grounds is located. This is the most likely housing site for large animals, like cattle, pigs, horses and goats. If you aren't sure of where animals go during an emergency, call animal control and ask. Even better, have a backup housing site with one of your friends or acquaintances.
- Have the necessary equipment to load up and transport your hoofstock. In addition to the obvious livestock hauler or trailer, make sure you have leads and halters to help properly restrain your animals.
- Practice! I know it sounds silly, but even if you do it twice a year, practice loading up your animals for an emergency transport. If you have a lot of animals, this isn't feasible, but if you have a small group, learn what works and what doesn't. The last thing you want it so practice when there's a fire a half-mile away or the flood waters are lapping at your door.
- If you can't transport, don't leave your animals in barns or small pastures. Open up the stall doors and gates, let the animals have an opportunity for escape. Yeah, it will suck rounding them up after the disaster passes, but it's a lot better than having to scoop up their charred remains.
- Network, network, network. Ask neighbors, friends, other ranchers (who, while I generally disagree with them on many things, will often be out there ready to help your animals) what they do for emergencies and if they'd be willing to help you and yours during one. A phone tree is helpful.
- If time permits, grab a few bales of hay and straw to transport with your animals. Make sure any medications that are necessary are also included.

With a little bit of plan and management, you can dramatically increase the chance you and your animals have at survival. With few exceptions, there isn't any reason why you cannot bring your companion animals with you - remember, they are part of your family and deserve as much of a chance at survival as us.

FEMA: and

Monday, August 10, 2009

Being a dog is hard work

You may not know this, but being a dog is strenuous, tough work. At least according to my dogs, it is.

This was most apparent today when the Dynamic Duo sought to stop an invasion of epic proportions. I cannot tell you for sure the exact details of the invasion or who/what exactly Celeste and Mina were fighting against, but it was big news.

It started out pleasantly enough. I was reading inside, curled up in a nice big armchair. Celeste took issue with something outdoors and proceeded to slip out the Mina-made doggie door* to investigate. Mina thought about following, considered Celeste's penchant for staring at walls intently and decided against it.

A moment of blessed silence passed. It really was peaceful and nice and calm. Stuff I like when I'm reading. Then the call. BARK!WOOF!THEWORLDISENDING!BACKUPNEEDED! Celeste rarely barks but when she does, it's embarrassing. She sounds like a miniature poodle on helium. She's a 45lb dog, she should at least sound like one.

Anyway, Mina is now in Terrier Mode, which involves ignoring silly things like tables, sofas, doors, and stairs. I'm surprised she made it out to the backyard in one piece. For a nearly 11-yr-old dog, she is pretty agile. Mina runs full force in the direction of Celeste's whiny call. She looks glorious, the brief glimpse I catch of her racing across the yard. All taut muscles, happy grin and full of purpose. My smile lasts the same amount of time it takes Mina to race to Celeste's position and begin a round of deep-chested barking.

Sighing heavily, I drag myself out into the backyard and towards the commotion. I call for Celeste who appears around the corner with a very concerned look on her face. Mom, she says, there is Something Very Worrisome over here, please help! Mina soon follows with that stupid smile on her face. Minion! Celeste is a total loser who barks at nothing, but I have barked at something, so rest assured, the perimeter is secured. She trots past me without another glance, certain she has achieved a major victory in the War on Something. I follow Celeste to the scene and find, well, nothing. No neighbors hauling garbage bins, no rats trying to steal tomatoes, no pretty gopher snakes looking for rats trying to steal tomatoes, no mutant squirrels bent on world destruction or feral cats, just dirt and a fence. But with me by her side, Celeste is confident, comfortable and pretty sure the world is a much safer place with her, Mina and me in it, patrolling the territory.

I hear a snort and snuffle and there is Mina again, wondering why we persist in investigating a Mina-Inspected zone. She looks at us, at the dirt, back at us, sniffs the fence, glares at us, sighs in that special way, and waits. I can't help but love Mina and Celeste in this moment, these two canine beings with their canine senses so different than my own. They live in a world of myriad scents and different sounds. Their language is so different. Yet they find a way to talk to me, to communicate. I probably screw up the message, but thankfully, dogs are pretty good at forgiving.

We head back in, our strange little pack. I give them water and praise (that they hopefully do not associate with barking), scratch behind soft ears and make sure they know that, even if they are Very Bad Dogs, I love them very much. I go back to reading my book. This time with the glass door closed.

*A long time ago, Mina ran full force into my parents' screen door, carving out a Mina-sized hole in the corner. It has remained since.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I think I'm wanted by the Po Po for dog park crimes

Not me personally. Neither of my dogs go to the dog park.

This author's opinion piece is a good reason why they don't.

We have a woman with a dog, a Border Collie with a proclivity to grab onto the necks of other dogs. The author claims this is absolutely normal and is how Border Collies work sheep. I've only seen a half dozen BC's herd - they were all professionals out on the range working sheep. None of them thought grabbing the jugular was a good way to move sheep. Or maybe they did, but they kept that thought to themselves and just moved the sheep with their eyes and body.

Okay, so maybe this BC is exhibiting totally normal herding behavior. He's not, however, exhibiting appropriate dog park etiquette....and neither is his owner.

Everything is going fine until BC decides to latch onto the throat of a ZOMG! pit bull. The male owner flung the BC off his dog while the female approached the BC's owner explaining/yelling the situation.

Now, if my dog ever bit/nipped/aggressed another dog, I'd be very apologetic. I certainly wouldn't respond with:

“Listen, woman,” I said. “You have a giant pit bull, probably one you adopted from Michael Vick's people, and you think MY dog is going to do a number on yours?”

I'm sorry, what? Here is a woman with a dog-aggressive dog who bites the throats of other dogs and her response is to gripe about the other dog's breed? The dog who didn't "do a number" on her dog? The one who had owners keeping an eye on their dog well enough to be present for the actual "incident"?

It gets better, of course. The author's parting shot is as such:

“I'll be reading about your dog in the papers,” I said. “I'm sure he's got some mauling in him with you as the owner.”

Funny, all things considered. I mean, anyone with half a brain reading this story would probably be a bit hesitant introducing this lady's throat-biter to their own dog. Since the pit bull did not eat her dog or anyone in the park, it seems a bit more likely we'll read about a future dog park incident involving a BC and his throat fetish.

She ends her piece on the high note of her dog ripping off the collar of a Boxer because the dog doesn't like Boxers (seeing a trend, yes?). It seems her dog shares the same prejudices as his owner. Why you would bring this dog to a dog park is beyond me.

PS: For those of you who saw and commented on my now deleted post, thank you. I deleted it because, after some consideration, I did not wish to publicly "feed the troll", so to speak.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tasered dog must leave city

On Friday, I blogged a bit about the Boxer who was tasered in Lakewood, a city that recently banned pit bulls. The dog was not tasered once but twice, the second time while already noosed with a catch pole.

Today, Otis the Boxer is free. But he and his owner are no longer welcome in Lakewood. Guess where Otis is going for a few weeks until his owner picks up his things and leaves the crappy city that is Lakewood? Lighthouse Boxer Rescue. You know, the dog rescue that saves Boxers. Authorities in Lakewood still seem to be implying that Otis is a pit bull when everyone with half a brain can see the dog is not.

This is another prime example of why breed bans are silly little laws that do nothing to improve public safety or reduce dog bites. This will be the second person who has been run out of Lakewood because they refused to give up their dogs and authorities refused to admit they were wrong. And in both cases, neither dog is a Pit Bull (APBT). How is that considered a success?