Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's war!

We have declared war on fruit fly, that summer pest we get here in Queensland but from recent reports has moved south to Melbourne. Those of you who have been reading here for a long time will know that we had a problem with fruit fly in the peaches and nectarines last summer, well, they returned worse than ever. We tried exclusion bags and saved quite a bit of our last season fruit; this year

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hunting Flourishes While LACS Flounders

It's hard to keep up with everything, so apologies for late news. The consolation prize is that it is good news. From Horse and Hound:

The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) is relocating from central London to Godalming, Surrey, amid suggestions that the group has money problems and
plummeting membership.

Former LACS director-turned hunting supporter Jim Barrington says that in 1995 it had 18,000 members now LACS spokesman Barry Hugill says it has just 4,500.

"Membership is not as high as it was before the Hunting Act," Mr Hugill told H&H.

At an extraordinary general meeting on 26 April, LACS members agreed to amalgamate the LACS Ltd with its charity arm, The League Trust. Mr Hughill said this is in common with many other groups taking advantage of changes made under the Charities Act 2006.

LACS also made a number of staff cuts before Christmas, including head of legal and political affairs Mike Hobday, who had been very involved in campaigning for a
hunting ban.

It is selling St Nicholas' Priory, at its Baronsdown deer sanctuary on Exmoor and, in July, will be moving to Godalming, a move that the Countryside Alliance (CA) feels proves LACS is in trouble.

"We have twice as many members in Devon as it has in the whole country," said CA spokesman Tim Bonner. "If you look at its accounts it relies very heavily on legacies to keep it going and, if membership is dwindling, it follows that legacies will, too."

Accounts presented to LACS' annual meeting in July 2007 show a hole in the organisation's coffers of almost £1million.

LACS' charity arm, The League Trust, recorded income of £182,060, but outgoings of £616,776 and £538,830 owed to creditors. LACS Ltd recorded £237,679 profit.

But Mr Hughill, who is shortly to retire, denies LACS has money problems and says the move from Southwark is a positive one.

He said: "Our present offices can best be described as a charming Dickensian slum. We are in a position where we can buy new offices in Godalming."

But Mr Barrington believes LACS has become a victim of its perceived success.

He said: "LACS has been geared up to [securing] a hunting ban and, now the Hunting Act is here, people think 'job done' and move on."

Mr Barrington added that the LACS HQ — bought in 1980 for £80,000 — was mortgaged in 1997 to allow the group to support MP Michael Foster's failed Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill.

Our condolences to Mr. Hobday, but I suppose it says something that no one noticed he has been gone for the last six months!

And while the finance of LACS seem to be crashing hard, the membership of the mounted hunts are at record levels, and as many fox as before are being hunted, albeit now there are more being shot and snared (though in truth terrierwork does not seem to have suffered much).

What about convictions under the Hunting Act? In the first three years of the Act, just three hunts have been convicted of any offence at all — out of more than 300 hunts hunting over 50,000 days. I think there were more problems before the Act was passed!

As I have noted in the past,

"When the history of irony is written, surely a few paragraphs will be devoted to this: that nothing has benefitted fox more than fox hunting, while nothing has harmed ... dogs more that admiration by the Kennel Club."

Weekend reading

I often get emails asking what blogs I read, so here are some I would like to share with you:Free Money Finance - I found this blog through my agent and I now read it whenever I have the chance. I'm catching up on past posts too. Read today's post and this post, they both relate to living simply.Soule Mama has a Paper Princess giveaway today. There are also some gorgeous photos of baby

Never Too Small A Chest

In "The Real Jack Russell Terrier," Eddie Chapman writes:

"Don't think that a deep chested dog can get in just because he is narrow. Don't be taken in by the saying that 'a dog needs a good sized chest so that he has plenty of heart and lung room.' It is impossible to breed a working terrier with too small a chest. They will run as far and as long as any deep chested terrier, and will never suffer from a shortage of breath underground. In fact, quite the contrary, as they will have the advantage of having more room to manoeuver because of the smaller chest, so will be less restricted."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The reward

Strawberries picked in the backyard two days ago.I have no idea what I'm going to write about today. Generally, I have a vague notion because I've taken some photos, but today, nothing.I do hope all my American friends are enjoying Thanksgiving. As I write this it's 4.30 am here, 10.30am in San Francisco and 1.30pm in New York so I have visions of turkey and stuffing either being eaten or still

Thanksgiving Is as Close as Your Remote Control

Full clip here, but I fear you will think it takes too long to load ...

Coffee and Provocation


And the Award Goes To....

Pedigree Dogs Exposed has been shortlisted for Best Documentary for The 2009 Broadcast Awards.

Want to know why? Watch it and see.

Where Did It Go?

Guess in the comments.


Most and Least Inbred Dogs in the AKC

From Breeding Better Dogs:

Eggleston (2000) reported on the range of genetic diversity among the AKC breeds. She constructed a continuum for all of the breeds. At one extreme she placed the Bull Terriers which had the least amount of genetic diversity. This means that they tend to be line or inbred. At the other extreme were the Jack Russell Terriers who she found to have the most amount of genetic diversity. This means their pedigrees were for the most part the result of outcross breedings. This meant that the ancestors tended to be unrelated to each other. :: source

Not said about the Bull Terrier: the reason the Bull Terrier is the MOST inbred dog in the American Kennel Club today is that this breed started out as a "dog dealers dog" created in England wholecloth by one James Hinks. The initial pool of Bull Terriers admitted to the British Kennel Club was very small, and this gene pool was further reduced and bottlenecked by sire selection, and the splitting of the breed by coat color and size.

Not said about the Jack Russell Terrier: The reason the Jack Russell Terrier is the LEAST inbred dog is that the dog was only recently admitted to the Kennel Club, and almost all the dogs that entered the Kennel Club Registry were dogs whose pedigree originated in the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, which prohibits a Coefficient of Inbreeding higher than 16% and which also maintains a wider (true working) standard for the breed. The American Kennel Club now calls its dog the "Parson Russell Terrier," while the JRTCA (quite correctly) notes that their dog is "The Real Jack Russell" actually found in the field and at work.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The National Dog Show Salutes a Genetic Wreck

Tomorrow, on Thanksgiving Day, NBC will be featuring "The National Dog Show Presented by Purina" which will introduce the newest American Kennel Club-sanctioned breed, the Dogue de Bordeaux.

What will not be said: the dog is a complete genetic wreck and has been heavily inbred from a small gene pool in the U.S. following the rapid popularity of the dog after the Tom Hanks movie "Turner and Hooch" came out in 1989.

Some numbers from the UK Kennel Club (N = 76 dogs) gives a glimpse of the extent of the health problems associated with this newest dog to be ushered into the American Kennel Club's parade of defect, deformity and disease:

  • The average Dogue de Bordeaux is dead from disease or veterinary intervention at the age of 5.48 years.

  • The median age at diagnosis for all Dogue de Bordeaux disease occurrences was just 9 months.

  • Most Causes of death in the Dogue de Bordeaux:

    . . . . ** Cancer (28 percent)

    . . . . ** Cardiac (22 percent)

    . . . .** Kidney Disease (11 percent)

    . . . .** Epilepsy (4.4 percent)

    . . . .** Hepatic Disease (i.e. chronic liver failure)

    . . . . ** Skeletal Disease (i.e. OCD and dysplasia)

Is this this dog the American Kennel Club intends to showcase at Westminster?

Is this the dog the U.K. Kennel Club intends to showcase at Crufts?

If so, excellent, for it is a perfect case statement for everything that is wrong with the American Kennel Club and the British Kennel Club.

Once again the Kennel Clubs embrace and elevate a breed without any health considerations what-so-ever.

Once again they continue the tradition of ushering forward canine misery for the sake of human vanity and amusement.


The Less Toxic Home

Continuing on with the theme of getting harmful chemicals out of your home, I want to focus on airborne compounds today. They seem so innocent, don't they. Advertisements that tell us about the "natural" mist of lemon fragrance or to wake up to the smell of meadow. And because it seems so innocent, we fail to question their safety and we spray them, light them or plug them in believing that

In a Land Where Everyone is a Billionaire

Think that the U.S. economy is bad? Be thankful that you’re not in Zimbabwe (land of my birth), where a $100 billion note buys you … three eggs!

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Monday the crisis in Zimbabwe appears "much worse than anything we ever imagined" after the government there blocked his weekend humanitarian visit.

Carter, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and child advocate Graca Machel called for southern African leaders to halt the "deep suffering" in Zimbabwe, where the U.N. says more than 5 million people face imminent starvation. >> To read more

Late nights

It is 2am and I am still up doing this and that. Spent a good bit of today pricing and completing items for Doodlebug. Next week it is a full on blitz to make enough to fill up our booth. Kathy has finished some adorable woolen mittens and these snowmen in polka dot pots. We would love to see you Saturday the 6th in Boulder City. Tomorrow I will finish up getting Thanksgiving food stuffs at the market, and do some early vegetable chopping.

I still cannot grasp that it is almost December, and we are finishing up another year. That always brings to mind that Hannah will be off to college in less than a year and that sends me into nervous nellie mode and a wee bit of depression. sigh.

I am very thankful for so many things this year and I am grateful for such good friends. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who stop by here at oldgreymare, and special good thoughts to Lori.

Someone suggested I should mention that I also do decorating and organizing as well as the folk art. You cannot believe how quickly I can whip a closet, garage or room into shape. A couple of Gathering gals have used my services and can share their stories with you if you are interested.

That's about it until after Doodle. I hope to work on some special projects for my home over the Christmas Holiday. If I get anything completed I'll post a pic. If anyone is interested in another finish it night, let me know. So many projects, so little energy to get them done!


More Holiday

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Leon Whitney's Brood Stock of Cockers

Dr. George Whitney, son of the late dog author and eugenics proponent, Dr Leon Whitney of Orange, Connecticut, describes how his father came to own a supply of cocker spaniels:

“It was in the 30’s that at daybreak one morning 3 flatbed trucks drove up behind our home in Orange with me sleeping in a second floor bedroom. When the trucks stopped it must have been a signal for close to about 100 of OB Gilman’s dogs to all bark together. There were crates on crates of cockers. Along with the animals came a trunk of trophies, paintings and papers concerning cockers. All, a gift to my father.

"Mr Gilman had reached an age at which he had to dispose of his dogs and since my Dad had been helpful in suggesting diet and breeding advice over the years and since Dad was interested in coat color inheritance he agreed to take all these beautiful animals with the understanding that all past breeding age would be euthanized. Mr Gilman did not believe in killing his animals just because they were old. Each of those dogs had love and caring and each one it’s own personality with not one with a personality problem. In a few days the numbers had dwindled to about 50 as Dad must have eliminated the others. I was the kennel help in those days but Dad did not expose me to that unfortunate duty of euthanasia at my tender age of 12 years.”

George D. Whitney, like his father before him, was also a veterinarian and dog author, adding some to Leon Whitney's 1937 book on dog breeding, and authoring his own texts: This is the Beagle, published in 1955, and The Health and Happiness Of Your Old Dog published in 1975.

Natural cleaning

When I started simplifying, natural cleaning was one of the first things I went to. I used up all the chemical cleaners I had in the house and used bicarb, white vinegar, salt, washing soda, water and elbow grease instead. I'd forgotten how easy if was to clean without harsh chemicals but the thing that amazed me was that I'd been hoodwinked into thinking I needed a different cleaner for a

The Boston Terrier: Defective by Design

The above picture, from the web site of the Boston Terrier Club of America's "breed standard" page, shows that even a short nose is not wanted on this dog. A profound brachycephalic condition is demanded.

The Boston Terrier is breed that can best be described as a genetic wreck, both by design and due to serious inbreeding caused by a small initial gene pool.

The Boston terrier's history is brief and ugly. This was a "dog dealer's creation" from the beginning; a mixture of French bulldog (cast-off bulldogs sent to France by the British), and the short-lived "English White" terrier which was nothing more than a mixture of an apple-headed toy dog with a smooth white foxing terrier. That cross-breed had such a high rate of deafness that it was allowed to slip into extinction.

The Boston Terrier lived on, however, for a simple reason; in the terrier-besotted world of the early Kennel Club, the Americans wanted a breed to call their own. In 1893, they got it, making the Boston Terrier America's first canine native son.

Today's Boston Terrier is a dog with so many serious and painful health problems it should probably be allowed to go extinct.

One such problem is a defining part of the breed standard: Brachycephalic Syndrome.

A brachycephalic dog is one with a very pushed in or flat face. The skull structure is shortened to the extent that the dog tends to have an elongated soft palate and a crowded nasal passage and pharynx.

To put a point on it, brachycephalic dogs have a very tough time breathing, and may collapse dead if excercised in hot weather, a function of simple airway obstruction. >> To read more

Boston terriers also have a tendency to be "hemivertebrae," which means that the spinal column, which should look more-or-less square in cross-section, actually has a wedge-shaped appearance.

The hemivertebrae condition is commonly found in short-muzzled (brachycephalic) breeds that have screw tails, such as the British Bulldog. As a result of the spine's structure, dogs with a hemivertebrae condition can have a form of spina bifida or a dorsal curvature (kyphosis) or a lateral curvature (scoliosis). Compressed amd deformed discs are common, often leading to dogs living in pain or being put down. >> To read more

Boston terriers are prone to serious eye problems, as are many brachycephalic breeds due to the absence of any real snout to serve as a "bumper" when running into brush, tall grass or objects. Physical damage to the cornea can manifest itself in the form of corneal ulcers which, in the cast of the Boston Terrier, can be expected to effect one in ten dogs over the course of their lives.

Along with corneal ulcers Boston Terriers also have a very high incidence (20 percent) of Juvenile Cataracts which can cause total blindness in very young dogs.

Boston terriers also suffer from late-onset cataracts (9% of Boston Terriers), Cherry Eye (6% of Boston Terriers), as well as several other very serious eye problems. >> To read more.

Other common problems with Boston Terriers include cleft lip and palate (15 percent of all puppies), allergic dermatitis (10 percent of dogs), patellar luxation (5 to 6 percent), deafness (4-5 percent), and hyperthyroidism (2 to 3% of dogs).

Cardiac problems are the cause of death for 19 percent of Boston Terriers, with cancer listed at 16 percent, and "respiratory failure" at 12 percent. Neurological causes were associated with 9.5 % of Boston Terrier deaths.

In the U.K., the median age at death for a Boston Terrier was 10 years and 11 months.

Wolf Skull

Airedale Terrier Skull

Boston Terrier Skull

The top skull is that of a wolf -- a kind of "natural" dog.

The second skull is that of a large man-made terrier with a skull that is almost identical to a wolfs, despite its different coat and temperament. Those who know terriers know that an Airedale looks almost exactly like a Welsh terrier, albeit, three or four times larger.

The third skull is a Boston Terrier, whose skull is so deformed that it is not clear, on first inspection, that it is even a dog. To be honest, if I had found this skull in a pile of bones at the back of a museum cabinet, my first instinct would be to say it was the skull of a monkey.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is This Statutory Rape?

Or just a Moose-demeanor?


The organic backyard

I'm not sure what causes it to happen, but every so often we get an influx of new readers. Now is one of those times so I welcome all the new comers, I hope you find information here you can use in your life.We had a really busy day at the Centre yesterday. I was tired just driving home so when I got here I took a walk through the garden to sharpen myself up. Hanno was still outside pouring

Quick Quiz on Working Terriers

A Quick Quiz on Working Terriers and Terrierwork can be found here.

There are only 10 questions, but it covers quite a bit of waterfront in a small space. What does it means when the Deben box is on the fritz? What do you do when your dog disappears underground in an undiggable earth? What is the most essential characteristic of a working terrier? What is the true chest span of a red fox? What is the average height of an American fox-working terrier? What's the world's foremost authority on red fox say about foxes and fox hunting? >> To take the quiz

The purpose of this thing is introduce a bit of inter-active education. If you wonder why I chose a particular answer, do not hesitate to email me at siriusdogma @, and I will answer.

If you don't know the difference between fox feces and dog dirt, you can also take another fun test on that topic at the main web site. This interactive test will see if you can tell the difference between raccoon poop and goose dung. Amaze your friends and confirm the worst fears of your enemies. >> To take the scat test.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend work

It always seems fresh and new to me here. Like every morning when I get up to a brand new day there are possibilities and treasures just waiting to be uncovered. Hanno and I spent the weekend behind a closed gate again - no one here but he and me.Most of my work was done indoors, writing taking most of my time, with some baking and cleaning to keep me on my toes, and knitting to reward me. My

Coffee and Provocation

Here's your Sunday Morning Bag O'links. Enjoy!

  • Underground burrow are under-studied. I have written about groundhog and fox dens before, but here's a video on what an African ant colony looks like underground. Terrific visuals. Check it out!

  • Dog Catching in America is a new book by "Prairie Mary" Scrivner and it's on the list to get. Order yours here now.

  • Can deer kill bears with nothing but their teeth? They can, and they did on one huge Canadian island. Read the whole story!

  • Want a free download of the 1968 Johnny Cash/Bob Dylan Sessions? Aquarium Drunkard has that and more!

  • Want to see a nice small ass? Check it out! And if you like that, I also have a picture of Paris Hilton screwing by the pool.

  • Afrigadget is a showcase of the native genius of Africans. With no money, no education, dodgy electricity, and no economy, they have to innovate to get things done. Check it out. Love the Togolese bottle opener!

  • Turkey head salt and pepper shakers. The seasonings come out their nostrils. A little gross, but very cool at the same time.

  • Neil Young, is a total motor head (who knew?), and he is pushing the Electric Lincoln Continental. Not just a big car; a 1959 Dinosaur. If Neil Young did not exist, we would have to invent him.

  • Born to Track News is a blog for blood-tracking dachshunds. Check it out as it's deer season!

  • "Lonesome George," the last of his breed of giant Galapagos Tortoise, is finally getting his mojo on at age 90. There is still some question as to whether he's shooting blanks, but he's doing his best. Fingers crossed!

  • Scientists have rediscovering another "extinct" species. This one is the incredibly cute pygmy tarsier. Over a two-month period, scientists working in Lore Lindu National Park on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi caught and released three, so they are out there ... at least until the next Indonesian logging contract is signed.

  • Hitler really did have only one testicle. Or at least that's the latest breaking news. Still no conformation to the rumor that his left nut was bitten off by a stolen Jack Russell terrier during World War I. What? You didn't know that? No reason you should. I just made it up.

  • The most disturbing pictures in the world are these of female bodybuilders. Is this vanity, self-loathing, or something else?

  • Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama have both said that U.S. immigration laws are to be obeyed. And with the appointment of Janet Napolitano, it does not look like that sentiment is being lost in the wash. Nothing wrong with immigrants (wonderful people, and often better than the native born), but we cannot take all of the world's displeased and dispossesed, and it's time (long past time) to get order at the border.

  • A flying car that is street-legal. I want one.

  • Is the cure for global warming an easier-to-digest form of grass? Maybe. Cattle are responsible for 20 percent of U.S. emissions of methane, which traps heat in the atmosphere 20 times more effectively than carbon dioxide, but if you strip lignin from grass, the cows fart less. Of course, we could just have fewer children and have a decent immigration policy , or just eat more chicken, but why do that when we can bio-engineer the world instead? What could go wrong? Nothing!

  • Is that beagle legal? If you have questions about breeding and sales contracts, fence laws, noise laws, veterinarians, landlords, and dog bites, there's an an entire book on U.S. dog law from the good folks at Nolo Press.

  • I think Moultrie needs to make an automatic dog feeder. A deer feeder could probably be used and "repositioned," if you know what I mean. Instead of spinning and dumping the food, it would just dump it into a funnel attached to a bit of PVC pipe going into a dog bowl. Good for a weekend get-away.

  • Duct tape bandage. If I had have thought of this I would be a millionaire by now. Doh!

  • Russians shoot pig from cannon, and the pig survives. Apparently there are some things a monkey will not do. Plus, if it does not work out, the barbecue coals are just about right and we have a nice rub already prepared . . .

  • Tens of thousands of overseas companies are exporting human food, dog food, medicines, and chemicals to the U.S. every year, but last year only 95 of these companies were actually inspected. Disaster in the making? Count on it! There are worse things than toxic dog food, and they are probably on their way.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Australians Gearing Up for Kennel Club Change

The Australians are the latest English-speaking country to catch-a-fire over the issue of selection for defect and inbreeding in Kennel Club dogs.

In October the Australian National Kennel Club announced that they would be adopting the newly revised UK Kennel Club standard for the Pekingese, and that breed standards in Australia would be reviewed to reflect a new policy prioritizing the health and welfare of all dogs.

Excellent! Now about the inbreeding ...

Only time will tell when ABC News or CNN, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times will get wind of this story and begin to do their own standup pieces in front of the American Kennel Club's Madison Avenue digs. Just think of the defective dog footage to be had at the Westminster dog show! Delicious!

In the interim here's the word from the Land of Oz:

WANT to know what it feels like to be a Pekingese? Pinch your nostrils gently between finger and thumb till the sides almost touch. Then breathe — or try to — through your narrowed airway.

Vets call such semi-collapsed nostrils "stenotic nares", and they are common in dogs such as pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers and Pekingese, which have been bred to have flat faces. They may look the way that breeders want them to, but their distinctive appearance comes at a high cost: some will suffocate when the constant effort to suck in air collapses their larynxes. These are the kind of pedigree dogs that, according to a growing number of animal welfare advocates, (including the RSPCA here and in the UK), should not be bred despite their popularity. . . . (shortening the text for blogging purposes )

. . . . Dogs — from chihuahuas to Irish wolfhounds — are the most varied animal, and breed standards are what ensure that they look so distinctive. Yet within that extraordinary variety lies a paradox: each single breed represents a shrunken gene pool that is sometimes as lacking in diversity as a threatened wild species: the average British pug has less genetic diversity than a giant panda. Left to breed randomly, dogs tend to evolve into a generalised doggy shape that looks a bit like a dingo. The only way to keep a breed looking distinct is to keep breeding relatives together. Health problems surface when inbreeding causes hidden genetic defects to emerge.

More than a century ago, when the first pug breed standard was written, it described the nose as "short". Pugs looked very different in those days: their noses were indeed quite short, but had proper functioning airways. Now, after a century of determined breeding, a pug's nose looks more like a hole in its face.

Dr Matthew Retchford, president of the Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association, says that if an operation is done early, such dogs can survive and breathe more normally. But he says the problems often don't stop there. "You'll examine a pug puppy whose owners have brought it in for routine vaccinations and a check-up and you'll see that that little dog has problems from its nose right down to its tail."

Those can include inability to whelp without help; pugs and bulldogs have big heads, narrow pelvises and usually need caesareans. Dr Paul McGreevy, associate professor in the veterinary science faculty at Sydney University, is pessimistic about the fate of such breeds: "Such animals fail the basic test of fitness for life, which is 'can you be born?' "

He argues that when breed standards were set they had little or no scientific basis and still don't.

Read the whole thing!

Pug tongues are always hanging out for a reason: there is almost no room in the skull for a tongue, and the dog overheats by simply walking across the living room.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Inside of All of Us, There is a Little of This


Let's Talk Turkey, Sarah

Folks who know me personally might remember me going Super Nova (just a little bit) over the incredible ineptitude of the McCain-Palin Advance Team.

The Advance Team for McCain-Palin put John McCain against a green screen (making him look like cottage cheese on lettuce), and they put up pictures of tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery behind Mitt Romney while he endorsed John McCain and spoke about our impending "victory in Iraq" during the Republican National Convention.

My personal favorite moment was when John McCain was speaking at the Republican National Convention and they put up a picture of what appeared to be a huge mansion behind him.

What? Is that one of his four, five, seven houses? I certainly did not recognize the building. And how could I have? It turned out to be Walter Reed Junior High School in Beverly Hills, California -- not Walter Reed Army Hospital here in Washington, D.C.

Hey, when advancing a show to be seen by 50 million people, just throw anything up on the screen. Who cares?! Details are for ... Democrats.

So you will forgive me if I thought I had seen it all with team McCain-Palin.

Silly me!

The video, below, comes from a recent Sarah Palin interview.

Watch what is happening in the background. Now that's good Advance Work, eh?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Is There a Kennel Club Road to Reform?

The Kennel Club has scrambled to come up with a proper response to the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

Their first move was to trot out in-house public relations apologist, Caroline Kisko, who ran through the standard play book for what a company does when caught in scandal.

Ms. Kisko first claimed it was all a hatchet job, and that the Kennel Club had not been given an opportunity to respond.

  • Never mind that top officials in the Kennel Club who were interviewed and were part of the documentary.

  • Never mind the Kennel Club's own breed health reports, which showed jaw dropping levels of admitted pathology in breed after breed.

  • Never mind researchers from Imperial College, London, which used the Kennel Club's own pedigree data (the paper was co-authored by a Kennel Club official) to show distressing levels of inbreeding in Kennel Club dogs.

  • Never mind the Crufts dog show winner that could not breathe, the German Shepherds that could not walk in the ring without a wobble, or the dogs with routine epileptic seizures.

  • Never mind the 50 years of people politely pointing out all the problems and the Kennel Club summarily ignoring them.

"What are you going to do,"
Ms. Kisko seemed to be saying, "believe your lying eyes, or believe my nonsensical talking points?"

To say this public relations campaign went over like a lead balloon is an understatement.

Rather than mitigate the Kennel Club's public relations problems, it exacerbated it.

Here was proof positive that what the critics were saying was right. Clearly the core problem was not just the Kennel Club's embrace of failed 19th Century eugenics theories, but a kind of Inbred Thinking that pervaded the Club's hierarchy itself.

Case made!

For two months nothing changed. Then, about a month ago, came word that the Kennel Club was writing to all the Pekingese breed clubs to say they were going to force a change in the breed standard of that dog so the poor animal could get a bit of nose and perhaps be able to actually breathe.

The Kennel Club has since said that it will be looking at ALL the breed standards with the idea of eliminating scripted deformities and obvious exaggerations which lead to predictable misery and pathology.

This is certainly the right idea, but let's be blunt: It will be very hard to do.

What is the Kennel Club to do about dogs with merle and spotted coats, such as Dalmatians and harlequin Great Danes, where the core "look" of the dog is associated with a known pathology, such as deafness?

What is the Kennel Club to do about Ridgeback dogs which are defined by a cowlick stripe of hair along the spine of their back which is an indication of a mild form of spina bifida which results in about 10 percent of the dogs having a dermoid sinus? Will the Kennel Club say a Ridgeback is still a conforming Ridgeback, even without that stripe, provided it's an otherwise healthy animal?

Will a minimum weight and size be mandated for toy dogs so that fewer of them will suffer from skull deformities leading to convulsions and mental defect?

Will achondroplasia be listed as a disqualifying characteristic of bassett hounds and dachshunds and bulldogs which suffer from both skeletal and heart defects due to this inherited form of dwarfism?

Time will tell, but doing the right thing will not be easy, and the smart money is that the Kennel Club will do what it has always done: say quite a lot while doing very little.

Which is not to say that the pressure is not on.

The RSPCA has pulled out of the Crufts dog show, as has Dogs Trust.

Pedigree dog foods has cancelled its sponsorship of Crufts (worth more that $2.2 million to the Club), and the BBC has said that though it is contractually bound for at least one more year to film the show, they too are looking to slip out of the deal.

The British Veterinary Association has called for an independent review of the breeding of dogs, and the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) is forming a working group on the welfare of pedigree dogs.

So will the Kennel Club cowboy up for change?

Right now the smart money says "no." More likely, say the cynics, is that the Kennel Club will try to dissipate any push for real reform into an endless round-robin of "study committees" and health-related research.

The goal here would be to pantomime change without ever actually doing it.

The end game would be to consume time in the hope that "the controversy" would blow over and blow out.

But, of course, the waiting game may not work.

I believe the BBC has already commissioned a new follow up show, and there's certainly no shortage of genetic wrecks to film or people interested in moving forward. Pick a breed, any breed, and you will find cancer, heart defects, dysplasia, epilepsy, cataracts, liver disease -- and people willing to stand up and say it's time we did something different.

On the up side, Kennel Club Chairman Ronnie Irving has stood up to say the Kennel Club must end "exaggerations" within breeds, and the Kennel Club has agreed to review breed standards to root those out (time will tell what that really means).

What remains unaddressed, even on paper, is taking action to reduce rising levels of inbreeding caused by a closed registry system and the overuse of show-winning sires which leads to massive genetic loads and phenomenal levels of defect and disease within breed after breed.

Without a fundamental change in the way the Kennel Club does business on this end, a major root of the problem remains unaddressed

Repairing the damage done to dogs by 130 years of breeding within a closed registry system will not happen overnight, of course. No one should expect an "instant-rice" miracle.

That said, a program for recovery does not have to be complex or difficult to imagine or implement.

Step One, I would suggest, would be for the Kennel Club to change the registration rules for ALL dogs so that at a future date certain no puppies would be registered if they had a Coefficient of Inbreeding greater than 16 percent.

Step Two would be for the Kennel Club to publish a list of breeds "at health risk." A breed would be deemed to be at risk if any defined medical pathology exceeded a set percentage, or if the breed's median lifespan fell below a certain number of years. The Kennel Club would commit itself to running breed-wide health surveys (with veterinary overview), and breeds would automatically come on and off the list as their health degraded or improved. For each breed deemed to be at health risk, progressive five-year benchmarks for reducing serious breed pathologies would be established by each breed club.

Step Three would be to implement a "breed health recovery" program for each at-risk breed in order to achieve the benchmark health goals defined by the breed club. Breed health recovery programs would be built around genetic testing (where possible and useful), and delayed registration so that only healthy adult dogs age three or older would be registered following veterinary inspection and a clean bill of health. Puppies born to younger dogs would not be registerable, ever, and adult dogs would have to be reinspected every two years and given a clean bill of health to be shown or bred.

For some deeply impacted breeds, approved and controlled outcrosses to related or similar breeds would be allowed in order to reduce the genetic load on the breed as a whole. Breed clubs would not decide this matter (though they would have input). This decision would be made by a committee skewed not to show dog people, but to geneticists.

Taken as a whole, this seems to me to be a pretty simple plan of action, and it is in line with (and certainly is not in opposition) to the KC's "Approved Breeders Scheme."

What would be the result of the Kennel Club simultaneously publishing a list of breeds at risk AND mandating a program of health recovery for those breeds?

I think a surprising number of people would come forward to be part of an organized and scientific effort to "rescue" a breed.

Could there be a more noble calling in the world of dogs? Owners working with breeds at risk would be seen as more than ego-besotted ribbon-chasers; they would be true "stewards" of a breed who were members of a large, science-based community engaged in truly good work being done in an organized and regimented fashion.

Perhaps more importantly, breeders working within the auspices of a breed recovery program (a very specific and regimented type of "Approved Breeders Scheme") would be able to price their dogs at a premium as compared to those who remained outside of the Kennel Club breed recovery plan. After all, breeders who were not breeding within the confines of the recovery plan would (presumably) have "unreformed" dogs named as being "at health risk" and NOT on the road to a sounder genetic footing.

Am I mad to think such a simple system could work? Have I fallen off the rail? Is there a fatal defect or flaw or weakness in logic or economics?

Perhaps. I certainly do not claim to be a Brain Trust of One!

That said, here's a simple plan, however flawed. Adapt it, adopt it, add to it, take it away, replace it, change it, or redefine it. Just do something.

Any plan that works to eliminate intentional deformity is good, as is any plan that eliminates defective dogs from the breed stock while also reducing the Coefficients of Inbreeding we see in Kennel Club dog populations.

One thing is sure: If the Kennel Club keeps on doing what it has always done, it will keep on getting what it has right now; dogs that are deformed, defective and diseased.

Surely the dogs deserve better than that? Surely the people who buy Kennel Club dogs deserve better than that?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More Genius From the Usual Suspects

I include this here as I am guilty of stealing a Monty Python clip for the recent "Norwegian Parrot" story. Plus this is just a brilliant ad. Brilliant.


Back to my 'normal' self

Those readers who have been visiting me here for a while will know that my aunty Joy died in early September. Joy was a big part of my life, she was my god-mother, as well as a much loved aunt and my mum's only sister. Sadly, Joy's son Stephen died yesterday. He'd been ill for a long time. RIP Stephen.It was after I drove back from Joy's funeral that my knee got sore, and after that, two

What Is It?

This is one of those great American inventions that works like new money. If you need to do this paticular job, this is the type to use.

What is the job, and what does it do? Post your answers to the comments section!

Caroline Kisko May Not Be a Liar ...

I may have to apologize to Caroline Kisko at the Kennel Club.

In the past I have suggested that she is little more than a paid apologist and knowing liar.

I may wrong about that. She may simply be an idiot.

How else to take her comments to Dog World which reports:

THE ASSOCIATE Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) is forming a working group ‘on the welfare of pedigree dogs’.

The group which, APGAW said, has been set up in the wake of the documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed, will aim to establish what health and welfare implications are on ‘pedigree dogs bred to certain Standards’.

So what is Ms. Kiscso's deep thinking on the matter? She says:

We are aware that APGAW is intending to carry out a review of dog breeding.

We are concerned with the statement which gives the impression that this review is to be aimed at the breeding of pedigree dogs only. It is critical that the breeding of all dogs should be reviewed – not just that of pedigree dogs, since both crossbreeds and mongrels can suffer health problems.

Now the reason I think Ms Kisko may simply be an idiot is that she does not seem to understand the difference between a certain small level of inherent defect, deformity and disease in a large population of any animal, and and the intentional creation of defect and deformity, and a predictable rise in disease, in a small and deeply inbred population.

To make the analogy to humans, there will always be a certain number of people born every year who are dwarfs, who have adolescent rheumatoid arthritis, who have heart murmurs, or who have defective eyes of some sort.

Human populations, like wild animal populations, are essentially random-bred animals with some natural selection and with frequent new gene infusions due to long-distance migrations.

That said, there is a law against Ms. Kisko having sex with her father! Ditto, as the producers of Pedigree Dogs Exposed pointed out to Kennel Club Chairman Ronnie Irving, there is a law prohibiting people from having sex with their daughters. Why does this law exist, and why is it older than the Bible?

The answer, of course, is that even the most primitive of pastoral people know that deeply inbred populations of animals (and humans are nothing if not animals) will result in an increase in known, predictable defect.

Since society will bear the burden of caring for the sick, the broken, the lame, and the retarded, the most early laws of man have centered around the taboo of incest and the mating of close family members.

But Ms. Kisko's Kennel Club does not merely turn a blind eye to the taboo of incest and the mating of close family members; they positively require it in some breeds, where a small initial genetic pool has been choked down and bottle-necked to the point that 50 percent of all dogs in that breed can be predicted to have a named serious (i.e. fatal) genetic defect!

And then there is the little matter of intentionally mating circus dwarves and side show freaks for profit.

No, no, it is not done with humans. But it is done with dogs in the Kennel Club, where entire breeds exist for no other reason than to make humans laugh because the dog can barely walk, can barely breathe, is so small it can fit in a tea cup, is so large it can be ridden like a pony, etc.

"Step right up," the carnival barker screams, "and see the teacup dog whose brains are spilling out of its too small skull! Watch it have seizure after seizure! See the Pop-eyed Pug, whose face is so flat it has no room for its eyes or its tongue! Look at the English Bulldog, whose very existence speaks of the collapse of Empire."

Of course, the laugh-riot here is that the Kennel Club not only wants to "review" the breeding of all dogs, including random-bred and "mongrel" dogs, but they want to ban anything but pure breeds sold and licensed by members of their own Club!

Don't believe it? Believe it, and read all about it here.

So what to make of it?

Is Caroline Kisko little more than a paid public relations liar-for-hire, or is she a genuine idiot and/or ignorant?

Are her actions due to limited brain capacity brought about (perhaps) by close-inbreeding between family members, or is she simply a mongrel without a trust fund who is saying what she thinks she has to in order to hold on to the paying job she desperately needs to survive?

I hope it is the latter!

You see ignorance can be cured, ethics can be improved, and liars can tell the truth, but real inbred brain-damage is forever.

Just ask the dogs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Don't Worry, I Can Get You a Job as a Groomer"

The stock market is down more than 45 percent year to date.

Shame About the Dogs. But What About the Cats?

Why are cats largely free of inherited disease, deformity and defect?

Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, says the answer is that they are not as inbred, and that most domestic cats are almost identical, in every aspect, to their wild cousins in the deserts of Libya.

A Professor Jone notes in an editorial in today's Telegraph:

The domestic cat's spirited good health turns on what Darwin called its "nocturnal rambling habits"; its interest in controlling its own sex life rather than following instructions.

At night, all cats are – to other cats – more or less grey; they mate with whom they choose and their owners can but try to sleep through it. The animals retain much of their personality, and their wellbeing, as a result.

Jonathan Ross has a dog, a pug called Mr Pickle. As I pointed out in this column in September, that breed is so inbred that the 10,000 such creatures in Britain descend from only around 50 recent ancestors.

Their flat faces lead to respiratory problems, and to scratched eyeballs when they bump into things (sometimes, those bulging orbs actually fall out). The pug, like many other breeds, needs to get out more and to find a partner outside the incestuous world in which it lives.

Veterinarians, Hippies & The Dying Art of Outrage

"I apologize for not speaking up sooner on your behalf."

I occasionally come across someone who is smart and bold and who writes wonderfully, even if I disagree on some points.

Such is the occasion today in a piece forwarded to me from The Veterinary Times in the U.K. (subscribe here)

The piece is authored under the "pen name" of Chanticleer ("singing from the rooftops"), and is so good that I feel not the slightest compunction about ripping and stripping the whole thing into thig blog, no matter if it does violate the finer parts of the "Fair Use" doctrine, and no matter that I disagree with some bits.

What? There are things I disagree with in this article?!

Yes, there are.

For one, I do not think Pedigree Dogs Exposed was the slightest bit sensationalistic, unless you think it is somehow "sensationalistic" to present the evil which an institution does without also noting all of the good work the same institution also does.

I do not think it sensationlistic, for example, for a TV station to show pictures of concentration camps and human ovens while not noting that the Nazis also made the trains run on time, worked very hard to stabilize the German currency, and made marvelous machinery including the V2 rocket, the Volkswagen beetle, and the Krups coffee grinder.

Call me a bigot if you want, but I like true horror presented clearly.

On another point: I do not support the ban on tail docking which is applauded here and I strenuosly object to anyone who would muddy the waters by mixing that sillyness into a serious debate about the longterm health of dogs.

As I have noted before, the tail docking issue is one of those absurd European debates.

Apparently in Europe it's OK for folks to lecture others about tail docking even as humans are running out to get themselves lifted and tucked, injected and dyed, tattoo'd and ringed, pierced and capped. Somehow it's OK for women to get their nipples and clitoris' ringed, and for men to get their penis's circumcised and barbeled, but it's "cruel" to snip two inches off the end of a terrier's whip tail at the age of two days when the pup itself barely lets out a yowl?

Give me a break!

That said, I allow folks to have differences of opinion on such matters.

Which brings me back to the main point of the piece, appended below, which is that too often we are "standing down" to avoid controversy rather than standing up for what is right.

I have thought a lot about this in recent years.

It seems to me that there was a time in which most of my colleagues were ready to storm the barricades or at least stand in the cold and rain and wave a few signs in order to turn a spotlight on bad things.

Once we were willing to suit up, show up, speak up, and even rise up for change.

But now too many of us have mortgages and marriages, investment portfolios, and career paths.

Everyone wants to be entirely blue-chip and proper. We are told to "color between the lines" to avoid a black mark on our resumes.

And then, there is the Internet.

Once you could kick someone's the ass in the street if they really needed it, or ask a question, or raise a protest sign in anger.

Now, however, not only may you go to jail for such activity, but the Internet means your actions may live forever, and perhaps be presented without any context at all. Just ask Bill Ayers or Joe the Plumber.

I swear to God, sometimes I think the only good Americans left are gay folks living in California who at least know how to raise a sign and push a boycott!

OK enough.

Back to the article which is appended below and which, small caveats not withstanding, is very well said.

Read the whole thing:

Veterinarians Can No Longer Ignore the Pedigree Dog Issue

THERE are certain topics that observers of human behaviour are meant to avoid.

There is no available authors’ rulebook, but, osmotically, one is expected to understand these constraints and avoid such topics unless writing specifically about them. One such topic is religion and another is politics. However, I cannot see how one can broach the topic of breeding without mentioning Christianity as, surely, one of the basic tenets of following the principles of Christianity is to treat all the creatures with which we share this planet with dignity and respect.

Let’s not get into the details and the nuances of how faiths might differ, but – at the very least – civilised human behaviour accepts that human kind doesn’t have the right to treat other creatures cruelly. This is slightly tricky, because we have many different views on what is acceptable and what is cruel. For all of us, however, there should be a point where certain activities are unacceptable in practice.

Call it morality, if you wish, but even in our self-indulgent, hedonistic world, some things should simply not be countenanced – yet we routinely accept them in a form of passive endorsement. This action is, in itself, counter to the basic tenets of Christianity, if I can recall accurately what I was taught in Sunday school half a century ago.

The trouble is, by walking past it, by not speaking out and by accepting the activities without condemning them, I am as guilty as those who practise cruelty to other creatures.

Intolerable practices

Today is my coming out; my belated decision to stand up against intolerable practices. But instead of feeling good about it, I just feel guilty.

What is this ubiquitous wrong?

Nothing more or less than the vanity of mankind manifest in the injudicious breeding of pet cats and dogs.

“Oh that,” you might say. “That’s nothing new; we know all about that.”

Of course we do, but – for once – there’s a spark of momentum behind the opportunity to effect a change for the better with the furore about a BBC television programme that took the lid off the pedigree dog breeding business and the current indecision, on the part of the BBC, whether to screen Crufts in future.

Typically, the style of coverage by the programme (Pedigree Dogs Exposed) was sensationalist, veering from the delights of verbal entrapment of a breeder and winning cavalier King Charles spaniel exhibitor to a crash course in eugenics and Hitler’s Aryan dream. The end result, however, was a nation of television viewers that now knows some of what the veterinary profession knows and abhors.

Knows and abhors and passively tolerates.

Responsible breeding

Of course, we need to breed responsibly – the profession understands this and knows what should be done to widen the gene pool to arrest the rapid slide towards the destruction of a number of breeds in cats and dogs.

Everyone understands the frustration that stems from the practitioner’s inability to act alone; to make a difference and to persuade individual breeders of the scientific folly of certain practices.

Yet, what is to stop the profession from acting collectively; from uniting behind the BVA [British Veterinary Association] in condemning the worst excesses and from putting pressure on their governing body to require breeders to change?

What is the point of new animal welfare legislation if we continue to turn a blind eye to the worst of these breeding practices?

Our preferred option of a watching brief is unacceptable. After years of dithering, the majority of the profession finally stood up against tail docking and can do so again to support a drive towards responsible breeding with a checklist of unacceptable practices that it believes should be outlawed.

There is an argument – there always is – that by doing nothing we won’t drive these practices underground, but isn’t that like saying that we’ve been right to turn a blind eye towards president Mugabe’s madness because we didn’t want to upset him?

There, I’ve done it again – I’ve mentioned another of the unmentionable topics I should have avoided. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lifetime trying not to mention the unmentionable and it hasn’t really achieved anything other than to make me feel uncomfortable in my impotence. I don’t want to be uncomfortable any more and I don’t want to see another decade of boxers that are the oncologist’s nightmare or Maine coons whose hips are so bad they cannot climb the stairs.

Resolute BVA

What I do want to see is the profession standing behind a vibrant and resolute BVA, because this issue really does matter.

It provides us with one of those rare opportunities in which we can be seen to be making a difference and to be seen to care enough to do something about it. If we believe that “first, do no harm” is the correct moral position for our profession then surely we should feel strongly enough to require those who set the standards for breeders to embrace the same moral imperative.

Alternatively, we can all go back to work with a sigh and enjoy the tiny frisson of intellectual superiority that flares briefly with the next encounter with flawed genetic manipulation of pet species.

If, however, the difference between man and the rest of creation is that we have a conscience and understand the concept of morality, should we not take the lead in broadcasting the concept of “first, do no harm”?

A full PDF of the article is available here