Thursday 28 June 2007

Native American Indian Dog

Exactly 131 years ago in June 1876, Lt. Col. George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry were wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians in the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana. Sitting Bull’s force was 4000 strong and hundreds were killed on both sides. In incidents such as this, I also think of the dogs. The dogs are known as the Native American Indian dog. It is a very rare, almost extinct breed of dog that was used by the Native Americans to pull travois and pack loaded with the family’s possessions' across thousands of miles of the North American continent. These dogs were used for hunting everything from quail to rabbits, bear to beaver, elk to caribou to moose and were even taught how to fish by the Native Americans. They were used to baby-sit the elderly and very young and guard the village from intruders. They accompanied the women and children while they were gathering berries, roots, herbs and other food sources and protected them from man and wild beast alike. They played a very vital role in the lives of the original Americans and were their sole beast of burden until the horse was introduced by the Spaniards.

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Encore Byron

'Tis sweet to hear the watch dog's honest bark
Bay deep-mouthed welcome as we draw near home;
'tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark
Our coming and look brighter when we come.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Lord Byron again

I thought I would repeat this post ( January 2007 ) as I was reminded of this poem today.
Lord Byron (1788-1824) honoured his beloved Newfoundland with the following inscription on a monument in Newstead Abbey:
'Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains of one
Who possessed
Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning
If inscribed over human ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the memory of
Boatswain, a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland, May 1803
And died at Newstead, Nov.18th 1808."

Saturday 23 June 2007

Get this.

A dog has become a local celebrity in a Chinese village after she reportedly gave birth to a kitten. It was the third in the litter. “The first two puppies the dog produced were both normal, but when the third baby came, the whole family was very surprised to see a cat-like creature. It is a cat, not a dog at all,” said Hua, the dog’s owner. Local residents have been flocking to the man’s house to see the ‘kitten’ which local vets say is really a puppy which looks like a cat because of a gene mutation. It apparently yaps like a puppy.

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Don't let the bedbugs bite

Trained dogs can detect the scent of everything from bombs to humans, and now bedbugs may be added to list of things dogs can sniff out.
While termite-sniffing canines have been used since at least the 1990’s, a resurgence of bedbugs over the past few years prompted the additional training.
Dog handler Peruyero’s J&K Canine Academy in High Springs, Florida, has been teaching dogs like Nudie, a Chinese crested terrier mix, to find the elusive insects. Peruyero said many different breeds, including mixes, are up to the task, but "hound types tend to work better."
More than one trainer handles the dogs, which work every day, to get them used to dealing with different people. A food reward system — usually treats procured from a bag latched onto the handler’s waist — encourages the dogs to sniff and search for bedbugs. Repetitive training teaches the canines to associate bedbug odours with work, which, in turn, is associated with tasty treats.
Bedbugs are wingless, reddish brown, oval-shaped nocturnal parasites that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded hosts. Their name comes from their insidious habit of hiding in bedding before feeding on people at night.
A spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association, said that from 2000 to 2005, bedbug inquiries to pest control agencies went up 71 percent. While it is estimated that termites cause around $5 billion worth of damage each year in the United States, she explained that it hasn't been possible to assess their total monetary damage because there is a "stigma" that keeps hotel and building managers from reporting them.
No one is entirely sure why bedbugs have been on the rise, but entomologists have proposed that increased travel may play a role since the parasites may hitch a ride in luggage and clothing. Still others have suggested that the U.S. ban on the insecticide DDT, which is linked to health and environmental impacts, led to the bedbug increase.
Researcher indicate that the bedbug-sniffing dogs offer a more environmentally friendly, and perhaps an even more effective solution to the problem.

Sunday 17 June 2007

Howling dogs

Rokedi, the Briard I look after, howls when he hears the ice cream van. And only when it plays the Blue Danube. Now, not all species of the dog family howl. Foxes do not howl. Members of highly social species such as domestic dogs, dingoes, coyotes and wolves do.
The literature on wolf ecology suggests that they howl for two reasons: first to help assemble the pack before a hunt and second lone individuals either to seek contact with other pack members or to attract others during mating/breeding season.
Some wolves and dogs howl at the moon or the sky: no one knows why. And some howl in response to the sound of singing or the violin or the sound of the vacuum cleaner as if to imitate the sound they are hearing. But like lone wolves, domestic dogs most often howl when they are on their own, deprived of the company of humans or other dogs, especially if they are shut away. Often dogs also howl when their owners die. It is a way of expression grief and seeking companionship and comfort from the humans around them. This may stem from a long evolutionary ancestry because researchers into wolf behaviour in the face of death have observed that wolves howl in a particularly mournful way when a beloved companion has died.

Monday 11 June 2007

From Russia with love

The inhumane and horrific sport of dog fighting is illegal in Europe and in the US. Not so in Russia and in other countries of the former Soviet Union. Not only is it legal but flourishing. Illegal dog fights are being held in Europe and the US and these fights are inherently different. First, the type of dog used is different. In American and European fights medium-sized pit bull type dogs weighing about 30 kgs are used whereas in Russia large breed dogs weighing over 50 kgs are used. These dogs are Central Asian Shepherd Dogs and Caucasian Ovcharkas. These dogs are collectively referred to as Volkodavs, which means “wolf killer”. They were originally bred to protect livestock herds from wolves and other predators. Secondly, all fighting dogs are registered with the All Russian Association of Russian Volkodavs which has over 2000 members. Not only does it organize national fighting championships but it sponsors dog fights. This association claims that because of the rules of fight, dogs are rarely seriously injured or killed as they never contest to death. Serious injury and death are common occurrences in illegal US and European fights.
The Russian Association points out that their fights are not as brutal because in the American and European version dogs continue fighting even if they are no longer fit to do so with the inevitable outcome that dogs will be severely injured or die in fight or shortly afterwards. Pit bulls are very resilient and those used in fight have been specially bred. They will fight until the bitter end. The Russian President of the Association says: “Only people who have not seen it and do not understand it, dislike it” and of course defends this sport by pointing out that it is legal and not brutal. But to me they both accomplish the same fundamental goal ie: matching dogs against each other to determine which dog is the strongest. It remains inhumane, deplorable and barbaric. Those poor “wolf killers” are bred to be loyal guard dogs to protect the livelihood of people who live in the more remote places of our planet. It is a shameful way to treat a hard-working and faithful companion. And of course, although I found no mention of prize money in the articles I read, I am sure huge amounts of money are involved.

Friday 8 June 2007

Once a dog, always a dog

Americans spend billions of dollars on their pets and Europeans are not far behind. What does this industry entail? Well, if you look on the internet, you will find things you have never even dreamed about. I mentioned yoga for dogs a few posts ago but there is more, much more. Pooper-scooper Service is a flourishing growth business for anybody who can carry a shovel. Every year billions are spent on dog food, dog souvenirs, therapeutic diets for dogs, dog clothing and accessories, sweaters, rain jackets, doggie hats, designer goggles, booties, shirts, scarves and even Halloween and Father Christmas costumes. Money is spent on pet toys, pet treats. Breeding dogs is big business. Big business opportunities lie in dog behaviour analysis. Training classes are available anywhere. Also in dog walking, dog sitting, dog day care centres. Dog whispering is fashionable. So is "dog listening". Dog shrinks are a must in Hollywood. Anything you can think of really.
But what does all this mean? It means we are losing touch with what having a dog is all about. I accept this is different from one person to the next but let’s keep things into perspective. A dog is a dog and is not a furry human on 4 legs. A dog does not think and a dog does not learn. He does not behave like a human and does not have human reactions. A dog should not be treated like a human. A dog is conditioned. We teach him how to behave. I hear things like: “ You will get a biscuit if you are a good doggy” or “Come to Mummy for a cuddle” or “Why don’t you come back when I call you, you stupid dog”. The dog does not understand these words. He will get something out of the intonations of your voice or your body language. But how does he interpret these words? We must remain consistent in the way we deal with our dog. More about this some other time.

Monday 4 June 2007

What's love got to do with it?

This is a picture of Léda and this is her story. She only had a few more years to live when she was adopted by Mme Buttercup. Since birth Léda had been subjected to animal experimentation. After 4 years she was not longer useful to science and was dumped in an animal shelter.
Mme Buttercup wanted to adopt another collie because hers, called Dame Peluche, was lonely and was in desperate need of company. She saw Léda and this is what Mme Buttercup felt when she saw her: « C’est la tristesse de ton regard qui m’a accrochée aussitôt que je t’ai vue, recroquevillée au fond de ta cage de refuge ; tu ne réagissais à rien, un mot gentil, un bonbon, une caresse, tu étais indifférente et semblais appeler la mort comme une délivrance ». She took her home. Léda was petrified of Mme Buttercup and of all humans and other animals but took to Dame Peluche and to the cats in the household straightaway. The vet was asked to come and look at her. He said she had scabies and was alcoholic – alcohol had been forced down here. He did not think that was serious at all. What worried him more was that she was depressed and that she had lost every interest in life, that she had given up and that she would not have long to live. Three to four years maximum, he thought.
Léda would not let Mme Buttercup come anywhere near her but she would follow Dame Peluche in the garden where she would hide under the bushes. She would start playing with Dame Peluche. One day Léda came to Mme Buttercup’s bedroom and sniffed her hand but as soon as she made a move Léda fled. Her bowl had to be put out of sight; she would not eat if Mme Buttercup or anybody else was around. She fled when friends came to the house. She got stronger and stronger and with renewed confidence she decided to go and explore. After Mme Buttercup had left for work in the mornings, she would jump over the fence and gallivant in the village. She always timed it so that she got back before Mme Buttercup returned. Ten years later she started welcoming guests when they came to visit. She started to accept treats that Mme Buttercup would give her. She was finally after so many years getting better until Dame Peluche suddenly died. She would not eat, she would howl all day and all night long. So Mme Buttercup visited the shelter again and found Wotan, a young 13 month collie male.
Léda came back to life. She provoked and teased him and he got into trouble. He thought her some good tricks which she was happy to perform and he still got into trouble. So Mme Buttercup decided Wotan needed to go to training classes. That’s where I met Mme Buttercup. Then another rescue dog, Duduche, a long haired Alsatian, joined the household. It was love at first sight and it was between Duduche’s paws that Léda expired on 30th April aged 18.