Thursday, January 31, 2008

food for thought

I heard something about this vaguely in the background this morning on NPR, but Gina Spadafori at PetConnection has a more thorough post here about the state of the meat industry in the U.S. These kinds of conditions are the reason I didn't eat meat for over 15years.

While living in Maine, I came to understand that there were artisanal farms committed to raising organic, cruelty-free meat -- and while we rarely kept in our house because my wife remains a vegetarian, we did have access to a couple of restaurants who remained committed to purchasing seasonal produce from local, small-scale farmers and fishermen.

If you find yourself in downeast Maine, we both heartily recommend Cleonice in Ellsworth and The Burning Tree in Otter Creek.

Folks might also consider checking out EatWild.com for information and resources regarding where to find grass-fed, pasture-based farms offering meat, eggs, and dairy.

For those concerned about what they're feeding their dogs, you can check out The Dog Food Project or DoberDogs for their dog food analysis. For the record, we feed the boys California Natural... a little more expensive, but good, clean stuff.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

how quickly they grow...



Rich sent me some recent pics of their Ella + Khumbu -- and yowza! I think they should maybe have called him Godzilla, or Son of Kong. Here's two pics: one from when we first met the 9week-old monster-to-be; the second of what the two of them look like now.

Rich seems to think that, seeing as his father was 63lbs, Khumbu might also break the 60lb barrier. I guess he just weighed in at 40.5lbs at 6mos old. You're going to need a bigger truck!

After talking to Rich this weekend, I called Hank Rozanek at Rozanek Kennels out in Nebraska. Rozanek is the home of Rebel Rouser Vizslas, one of the longer-established and most successful vizsla bloodlines. (Jozsi is about 80% Rebel Rouser, while Momo is about 50% Rebel Rouser.) Happily, Jozsi's father, Rebel Rouser Smokey is a modest 55lbs -- so he'll probably be bigger than Momo, but not too much.

In any case, here's a pic of our two taken while Jozsi was less than 3mos old.

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I have a new terror alert widjit on the Regal Vizsla, courtesy indirectly of Dave's Chaotic Soliloquy. Just trying to keep it real. Especially for as long as the Republican Party keeps selling fear and the Democractic Party keeps buying it (from our friends at Slate).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

canine geography

To take the tangent first: I would heartily recommend Donald McCaig's Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club. And endorse Pat the Terrierman's opinion that McCaig certainly seems to have written a more sympathetic book than the situation merited.

I was re-reading McCaig's Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men to find some of the phrases and sentences that made me realize that he really was a man who had spent a significant time with both words and the souls of dogs. As he says on the penultimate page: "When an eminent dog joins a dangerous man, they can create performance that is, by either standard -- dog's or man's -- beautiful. That's why the dogs do it: because it's beautiful. When a sheepdog meets a man able to help him create beauty, the dog will put up with almost anything." (p. 11)

"When Jack [Knox], or any other top dog trainer goes out with his dog, he becomes pure communication. The trainer's body and voice are the command. That this communication works for dog who never take their attention off their sheep, rarely look at the man and, over great distances, cannot possibly see him, extends the boundaries of communication or perhaps affirms the primacy of intention over fact." (p. 53)

Thinking about how man and dog communicate reminded me. in turn, of a very interesting post I'd seen a while back on the SmartDogs blog about how dogs communicate and experience their world around them.

As far as the olfactory world that dogs experience goes, I have found William Syrotuck's Scent and the Scenting Dog to be the most useful of the books I've read about scent work. It was originally published in 1972 and has not been updated (although is available in this modern re-print), but most of the newer books I've read rely heavily on it and felt as though they were written in such a way so's to mask how reliant they were. The book does detect significant portions to human tracking and detection, but it is a slim book scientific in content and tone, but relatively straightforward to read.

To take a final tangent, which is more of a coda: Steve Bodio has a nice discursive conversation with one of his regular readers on breeding, in-breeding, line-breeding, and the stakes involved in trying to preserve and solidify traits in a disparate genetic and geographical pool. (For those looking for a quick overview of these terms, try this.)

In the meantime here are a couple of pics of our boys exploring the environment: Jozsi in the park near our house right after he came to live with us; the other of Momo warming up for his hunt test out on Cape Cod this past fall.

Team V. reunion

Sadly there were no dogs present for the occasion -- but, as hoped, I was able to meet up with Rich (and his uncle, Bob) at Thunder Mountain Skeet Range over in Ringwood, NJ. Rich was in the neighborhood for a wedding -- and while Adrian, being part of the bridal party, was obliged to attend a post-wedding breakfast, Rich took the opportunity to come over and get some shooting in.

Now, if you've never shot skeet, it can be pretty intimidating. But for a guy who hasn't shot a lot -- and not at all with his new shotgun -- Rich did pretty great. (Bob looked like a complete ringer after his first eight or so shots from High 1, but sadly faded.) I shot somewhere between Roy Orbison and a mole. Most importantly, though, we had nice weather and good conversation.

And Rich showed me some pics of their 'little guy'! Holy Christmas, Khumbu's going to be a tank. And a fine looking young fellow, too.

And yes, I am growing a beard again in the vain hope that it might stop my face from freezing in Mongolia.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

vizslas ahoy

This lovely young lady is Barben Sugar Magnolia, a.k.a. Maggie. Maggie lives with Kat + Rich in Louisiana. Kat was in the Peace Corps with my wife, Meg, in Kazakhstan -- as they say, before Peace Corps got all cushy out there in Central Asia.

From what I gather, Kat + Rich got Maggie after hearing how great Momo had been as a pup. And now they know just how awesome their old golden love-monster is.

From what I gather, Maggie has had some exposure to birds and has even done a hunt test. And, the funnier part is, she has even spent some time (unbeknownst to us until this point) with Bob at Cliffside. The Barben dogs sure are good-looking, and Maggie looks like the belle of the ball.

In related news: I hope to do some skeet shooting with Rich from the Team Vizsla -- Eastern MA chapter. He and Adrian are nearby for a wedding, but sadly Ella and Khumbu are at home being spoiled. We'll see how he does with that fancy new shotgun of his.

In unrelated news: if whoever the folks are who are visiting this site from what looks like Nunavut in northern Canada and from Talinn, Estonia, on my Feedjit map, please leave a comment. I hope there's something interesting here for you on the Regal Vizsla.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

beer + cycling + football + dogs

Beer: one good favor deserves... beer, every month! So I got home last night and found a heavy square box on my doorstep. I didn't recognize the sender's address and thought 'what the heck?'. I opened the box and there there was... beer!

I had offered some space in our garage to a friend to store their motorcycle and, instead of any payment, asked for beer. And now, I get selected microbrews every month! This all courtesy of our friend, Joey, and the Beer of the Month (BOTM)club. I'm blogging right now enjoying a Left Hand Brewing Sawtooth ESB. BOTM describes the Sawtooth as follows:

"Left Hand B.C.'s flagship beer presents notes of caramel, just-baked bread and citrusy hops on the nose. As it
warms, expect additional fruity notes to evolve. The flavor opens with caramel flavors and the subtlest bit of chocolate, followed by the herbal earthiness of hops... A great brew to pair with fish and chips, mild English cheeses like Lancashire, or grilled chicken, sweetly glazed."

Definitely got the just-baked bread yeastiness and the herbal earthiness... and I would drink this with some lovely fish and chips. Last night, I enjoyed a very nice Otter Creek Pale Ale last night. Not too hoppy, but with nice flavor and the lovely grapefruity highlights. Incidentally, while still its own distinct brewery, Otter Creek is now owned by the nice folks at Wolavers (who may some good organic beers, too).

If you like beer, you'll probably enjoy Eric's Brew Log. (Eric and Brad have a dream of opening a brewery and are just experimenting with home brewing. They're also doing some nice taste research.)

Cycling: the professional cycling season opened this week with the Tour Down Under. This is the first year the TDU has been part of the ProTour -- which is great recognition for the TDU seeing as it has earned a great reputation as a shorter week-long stage race. While most of the major teams are present, hardly any of the bigger names (Evans, Rebellin, Freire, Menchov) are there because it is so early in the season -- so it is a great showcase for lesser known riders, especially those looking to do well in the Spring Classics.

With the cycling season opening, so too has the Fantasy Cycling season. I have played in this league for the last four years. It's free and its only prizes are the occasional flash of glory and bragging rights over your friends. (I play with three other UM alumni, two of whom I used to play soccer with, one of whom I used to ride bikes with and who was kind enough to stand up at my wedding. That doesn't mean that I still don't enjoy beating Dan.)

Football: I got to congratulate Eli Manning on the street today. He was with his fiancee, Abby McGrew, and they were looking like they were off to do some shopping. It didn't look like anyone else had recognized him, and so having met him before, I quickly wished him congratulations and good luck. (But not too much, because I am still a Patriots fan.)

Dogs: training update! I made my weekly call to Bob at Cliffside to find out how the Mominator, in particular, was doing. Force-fetching a dog is stressful for everyone involved, even parents hearing about it at a distance and so while Bob doesn't want us to come visit yet, Momo is now apparently retrieving the stuffed duck on command now. Once that feels set, Bob is going to start him on actual birds, slowly taking him from restricted spaces (where Momo can really only go to the dummy and back to Bob) to the great outdoors. We are very proud of him.

Jozsi continues to romp, roam, and go in search of birds. This pic is of the Evil Genius running the tall grasses in search of quail down on Cape Cod.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

that's a good dog

In case anyone doesn't get my blog-voice, my comment about the AKC and vizslas should have been heard in a Norm McDonald SNL Weekend Update 'Germans love David Hasselhoff' voice. Shockingly, no-one has posted a YouTube clip of one of Norm's most famous one-liners.

The comments from my previous post prompted me to do some more research about what alternatives there are to the monolith that is the American Kennel Club. To back up slightly, I started this blog to document my travails as a new bird-dog owner, trainer, and hunter so that others can take what they can from my experiences and make their own decisions. Our breeder had already registered Momo's litter with the AKC when we picked him up -- and we took that as a certification that his breeders were legitimate, that they had an established history of breeding vizslas. And, as I mentioned before, their pups were only available on limited registrations -- which is to say that if we had faked out of our commitment to neuter Momo and had tried to breed him, neither he nor his offspring could have legitimately been recognized as 'vizslas'. As a strategy to deter backyard breeding, I have no problem with this.

And while we did register Momo (and Jozsi) with the AKC, we had no expectations that our connection to the AKC meant a whole lot more than that. It certainly said nothing about whether our dog was 'good' (in any dimension); certainly now, when I have questions and need a recommendation about anything concerning our dogs, my first source is our breeder. And if I have a single piece of advice for new dog owners, interview your breeder. If you can't communicate with them, if you don't like or respect them, then who cares how 'good' your puppy might be.

Nevertheless, when you have a single organization, with an established history, with a virtual monopoly on registering, testing, and certifying pure-bred dogs, there are bound to be issues. (The debate at/over the Wikipedia entry for the American Kennel Club is a good illustration.) Pat the Terrierman has more than a few comments (and God bless him for the fortitude to say what's on his mind and, as far as I can tell, for also putting his money where his mouth is). In his review of Donald McCaig's newest book, Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club, Pat discusses how the 'breed standard' for border collies was, from its outset, determined by how the dog looked rather than how it worked. And as that show standard became established and dogs bred to it, their working abilities suffered.

The only significant criticism I have is one I made in my comments on my previous post, that humans began determining what dogs should look like before entities like the AKC emerged. This is not to minimize the leverage that the AKC has put on breeders and breeds, but it is to say that the AKC was a catalyst that legitimized an existing streak of human manipulation over dogs. I think one of the difficulties navigating all of this, for me, is that the counter-argument to the AKC also implies that dogs that work well are somehow more genuine examples of their breed than dogs that merely show well. This, too, smacks of a kind of contrarian eugenics.

The other variant of this argument, that AKC pedigrees and titles mean little or nothing when one is looking for a 'good grouse dog,' for example, is that the only way a new prospective owner can get a dog of decent quality is by talking to an 'expert', someone who really knows what a good grouse dog looks like and can see through the smoke-and-mirrors of AKC-style fluff -- and who presumably has dogs for sale, himself. (And I am paraphrasing a conversation I myself had with such an 'expert'.) Again, while it might have some element of truth to it, and the fellow I was speaking to has chased more grouse with dogs than I may likely ever do, this is merely a different kind of monopoly -- and arguably a more insidious one.

After all my conversations with various folks about this dilemma, there is some consensus that if you are looking for a working dog, then the best predictor for how a pup may turn out is to watch both its prospective parents work. Pedigree and titles will merely reinforce how prominent their performance ability may be. If you don't have the luxury of this option (like us), then once more the prospective owner is obliged to interview breeders and try to decipher pedigree charts.

As ever, my favorite touchstone is Pat Burns. In a more recent review of an article in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Medicine asking for reforms in the AKC, Pat makes the following summation:

"The purpose of cynological associations is to give out ribbons. Dogs are simply a mechanism for the humans to get the ribbons.

Take away the ribbons and awards, and no one would go to a dog show at all. To do what? To pay money to stand around all day, to have your dog looked at for 5 seconds by someone who does not own or work the breed? Forget it.

In fact, it's entirely possible to be in the "sport" of dog showing without even showing up at a dog
show at all! Unbelievably, it's done all the time."

Now, while Pat is primarily railing against show dogs and their owners, he could easily have extended his argument to AKC-sponsored hunt tests and field trials. And I don't mind saying that I am proud of Momo's hunt test performance -- and know that the ribbons mean nothing to him. I hope he knows that I love him just as much when he points pheasants and woodcock and chukar and grouse and quail and birds..... birds, birds, birds. Sorry. Got a little excited.

I know several breeders who, for example, express concern that the AKC can pronounce a working dog a champion without the dog ever having to prove it can work OR that the Junior Hunter category exists largely for show dogs to get some kind of working certification. I think the first part of that makes a lot of sense to me, the second less so. If you have a standard and a dog meets it, it may not meet it well, but it meets it and so be it. Again, I have no illusions about what JH means after Momo's name and frankly got more satisfaction from what his judges said to me about his performance after the test was over than from his ribbons.

The question to me remains: if Pat is right (and I think he is) that the AKC is unlikely to engage in the reforms suggested in the CJVM, what are the alternatives? How does a relatively new owner determine which litter to get a pup from with some kind of level of assurance about its likely performance if that prospective owner can't actually see both parents work? What kinds of worth do all those letters surrounding a dog's registered name really have?

The largest alternative breed-registry for hunting dogs is The American Field Field Dog Stud Book. Their emphasis is clearly on performance, but performance through the field-trial format. My gut feeling is that I don't really care if my dogs are better than someone else's dogs, but whether or not they can find birds. But, if as Pat suggests, a lot of dog ownership is about projecting one's feelings and aspirations onto one's dogs, then maybe I will go check out one or two to dispel my own prejudices and insecurities and see if I still feel the same way.

The National Vizsla Association exists under The American Field umbrella. The pictures in this post are borrowed from Bill Gibbons's Magma Kennels site. Bill is well regarded as a dog trainer of a variety of breeds and was a founding member of the NVA. Now again, as all these pictures from Bill's site illustrate, the NVA has its own ways of recognizing a particular dog's achievement -- so the prospective owner still has to wade through their codebook. My own feeling is this: a dog with a bunch of letters before and after its name has at least done something -- and even if the owner's motivations were selfish or financially motivated, the dog has been kept active, engaged, and has proven itself in front of a critical audience. However, that still won't guarantee that your pup is worth a hoot, or at the very least, worth a hoot in your hands.

I chose this picture of Mason (Upwind Kismet Rapid Fire) because he's out of Lisa DeForest's Upwind Farms kennel in NH. (Sadly Lisa doesn't have a website.) Jozsi's mother, Gem, was co-owned by Lisa and Chris & Wendy at Widdershins. Because Lisa arranged the breeding for Jozsi's litter, he could have been just an Upwind dog, but we wanted to recognize Chris & Wendy's love and care as well: hence he is registered as Widdershins Upwind Jozsi. I love all three of these pictures: holy heck, that's three vizslas just jacked for birds!

At least from a superficial glance, one organization that appears to restore the balance of good-looking and well-working dogs by breeding "through performance to standard" is the Verein Deutsch Drahthaar. It's well worth checking out the US chapter of the VDD's website, as much as anything to help understand why a Drahthaar isn't a German Wirehaired Pointer.

So, in short, before you get your new bird-dog, be aware of the limitations of paper information, watch our for scheisters and experts, and be sure you want a 'Ferrari' before you get one. And go watch some dogs. If hunt tests do have a purpose, spending a day in the gallery will let you see how different dogs do their job.

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Incidentally, while writing this I discovered that the word 'cynology' (the study of dogs) shares the same root as 'cynic'. It seems strangely appropriate that while we question various organizations' commitment to dogs that it might make us a little cynical.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

AKC confirms vizslas are popular

The AKC has issued its annual registration report which indicates that people like vizslas. Less than Labradors, but more than Swedish Vallhunds. Which is a shame because I've never met a Vallhund I didn't like. But then again, I've never met a Swedish Vallhund.

As for the most popular dogs in New York City, these are apparently:

1. Labrador Retriever
2. Yorkshire Terrier
3. Dachshund
4. Havanese
5. Poodle
6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
7. French Bulldog
8. Golden Retriever
9. Bulldog
10. Pug

I haven't scrolled through all 50 of the US's largest cities to find out if vizslas make any of their respective top-10s, but I feel almost happier that our golden boys and girls are coming in under the radar. The folks at SmartDogs have a nice post on breeds and brand names and why dogs aren't a handbag or a hammer. And here's a good post essay posted at Widdershins on why you should think two or three times about getting a Vizsla.

Update from training camp:
Jozsi continues to romp around and get psyched about looking for birds. He really is living the life of Riley -- although, largely unbeknownst to him I suspect, he is playing a very reassuring role for Momo. As folks are probably aware, Momo is at Cliffside to learn the force-retrieve. While his first week was low-pressure, he has moved into the first 'force' phase of the retrieve, where he learns to take a stuffed soft-toy duck in his mouth because he's told to, not because he wants to. And, as Bob has now learned, Momo for all his softy, sensitive boy side is also a strong-willed son-of-a-gun. But the breakthrough apparently came today, when Momo reached for the stuffed duck on command instead of being obliged to take it in his mouth.

In honor of his achievement, here are a couple of his puppy pics. The upper one is of Momo at roughly 13weeks old; the lower one is of him at almost six months.

Monday, January 14, 2008

dogglers

Christie Keith has an excellent post on Petconnection summarising the AVMA's release of its most recent report on spaying and neutering for cats and dogs. The AVMA remains committed to the spaying and neutering of shelter animals and the report embodies that commitment, however its assessment of behavioral and medical risks and benefits for 'owned' animals seems fairly balanced. Christie's post does have some interesting comments which are well worth scrolling through, too.

The issue is an interesting one for us for several reasons. Our breeders, Chris + Wendy at Widdershins, normally only sell puppies on limited registrations, meaning that the pup can only be registered with the AKC once proof of spaying or neutering has been given. Momo was neutered according to the conventional wisdom right around 6mos old. Knowing the genetic potential that Jozsi should embody and knowing a little more about what a great bird-dog can be, we negotiated to keep Jozsi intact while we evaluate whether he might be a boy-genius after all. So, for now, we're looking into getting his hips and eyes evaluated once we have them back at home in March.

Arguably, the most controversial comment that the report's author makes is the following: "Trainability of working dogs is not altered by gonadectomy and does not vary with age of the dog at the time of gonadectomy." (p.1666) Christie is all over it, and expresses some truly legitimate concerns about the author's source of information and therefore Dr. Kustritz's ability to make such a broad statement.

Interestingly, our trainer said he hadn't noticed any significant differences in trainability or hunting drive between boys and girls, or between neutered boys and intact boys. He also doesn't believe in neutering boy dogs before 2yrs old to ensure that they have fully grown -- even if a neutered dog will generally be longer-limbed (but no more susceptible to long-bone fractures, but potentially more susceptible to hip dysplasia). Jozsi is going to be a big boy anyways, so we're not worried about limb-length and if keeping him intact should also reduce his chances of hip dysplasia, then we're happy about that, too.

We'll keep everyone posted. And in the meantime, enjoy this pic of the Dream Team.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

powered by enchilada sauce

I haven't figured out the best way to edit the video scenes I've shot, so while I have some gnarlier creek crossing footage and a great, extended segment of Steve hauling himself up a long, gradual climb, there's more than folks need to see.

So I settled for a short creek segment that will let you all know just how close to the ground you are on an arm-bike and maybe some sense of the additional friction that plowing through water also adds.

video

Here's a tip for all you backcountry bikers: if you wash your lube off doing creek crossings, you can always use high SPF sunscreen to avoid squeaking chain syndrome. The sunscreen needs to be nice and greasy to work well -- and I'm guessing that the higher the SPF rating, the more likely it is to be heavier and greasier. Steve improvised with a nice SPF 70 shortly after this little segment.

And for those of you wondering what kind of rock crawling you can do on an arm-bike, check this pic out. It took a couple of different runs to find the line, but it was impressive to watch Steve vault the orange beast over these boulders. I would have humiliated myself at this point, for sure.

One of the other great things about Flag is the food -- and I had a single request for Denise and Steve... Martan's... it's my equivalent of 'the forbidden donut'. Imagine 'chilaquiles' with a Homer Simpson accent.

While Meg and Denise went x-country skiing this afternoon, I retired to the Pay-N-Take for that fabulous combination of espresso, a gourmet beer selection to take-out, wireless internet, and NFL playoff football.

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On a different note, Jim at The Unholy Rouleur went dumpster-diving and found some funny, funny vintage photos. And added a few captions. And I laughed a lot.

And in case anyone else is worried about the state of vodka production in Mongolia after an especially poisonous New Year, Annie has the low-down. Just glad I got my Bolor before they started adding the methyl alchohol... although for some reason, it still won't freeze.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

red dirt vacation

So we're out in Flagstaff, AZ, having a weekend's respite from the Big Apple with Denise + Steve (and Cody, Sally, Susie and Gus, their dogs and cats). And it's been awesome to be out in the clean air and big, bold horizons of the Southwest.

We got in Friday evening and drove up to Flag from Phoenix. Today was spent down in Sedona hiking while Steve arm-biked. (The recent snowstorms in Flag, as documented on Denise's blog, while great for skiing, essentially keep Steve at home or in his shop building custom bike-frames.) It was really great to see Steve get himself up and around on his crutches and leg-brace; I will admit I had gotten used to having him at waist-height in his chair -- and so to be able to talk to him standing up was just a great reminder of how far he has brought himself. This was the first time Meg and I had seen Steve in action on his arm-bike and, holy crap, was he impressive.

I have no qualms about admitting that while I will walk all day behind our dogs chasing birds, city life has made me an aerobic sloth. And if you put me on a mountain bike now, I'd be falling off stuff left, right, and center. Steve does have a pretty sweet handbike, but it has to weigh 40lbs. As you can see from the pics, his bike may have a shorter wheelbase than a regular bike, but it's now wider than his shoulders. And while he has some pretty awesome gearing on there, too, he's still relying on his shoulders and arms (which on most folks are nowhere near as powerful as the big leg muscles).

I could probably have done the ride on a regular bike without humiliating myself horribly, but... So, in short, watching Steve slog, bully, and finesse him and his bike over all kinds of steps, shelves, boulders and loose red shale was pretty amazing.

I'll try and post some more pics and video tomorrow.

My other highlight was stalking a Gambel's quail through the brush for a few hundred yards. I haven't seen one before, and having just read Joe Augustine's book with all his adventures chasing the western quails, I was psyched to see one out here and recognize it from its distinctive top-knot.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

potpourri

Not having the dogs around has given me a little more time to read -- which is always nice.

Ingredient #1: I just finished Joe Augustine's Feathered Tales -- this is Joe's first book and replays his quest for the North American gamebird 'grand slam'. This wouldn't be half as fun a read if Joe hadn't been committed to taking all 20 species over his own dogs, his two English setters, Jacy and Ranger. As of right now, the book seems only to be available through his publisher, Bonasa Press.

Ingredient #2: While I quoted a passage from this book in a much earlier post about the 'ballet' between man and dog, I finally read Donald McCaig's Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men. I'll put up some quotes as time goes by, but it's a wondeful book about McCaig's trip to Scotland to look for a new Border Collie pup.

Ingredient #3: Had an interview with a very nice DEC Enforcement Officer last night about my application to become a volunter hunter safety instructor in New York. My feeling is that hunting has given me a far greater appreciation for the natural environment and the pressures so much game habitat faces due to increasing human development -- and that, by hopefully doing my part to educate subsequent generations of hunters, I may be able to have some kind of positive impact on habitat conservation and safe, responsible firearm use.

Ingredient #4: In a word, hops!! Here's a recent NYT article about 'extreme' beer . Dogfish 90Minute IPA came out their favorite, although I am not that extreme and actually prefer the 60Minute IPA. I will be looking out for the Oskar Blues Gordon and the Lagunitas Maximus having tasted and liked their other, less-extreme beers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

vermin supreme?

I was just browsing the New Hampshire Public Radio website to see how things were going in the NH primary and while scanning down the list of Republican candidates happened to notice someone called Vermin Supreme who as of 9:47pm had received 16 votes.

I couldn't find anything on the NHPR site about Vermin 'Love' Supreme, but here's a great site with a few quotes. And here's another story from one of the ABC locals about the lesser-known candidates in the primary. God bless democracy. And with all due respect to Mr. Supreme, I'm also glad he's not going to win.

**************

Nice job, Les!


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Incidentally, we broke down and called Cliffside to see how our boys were doing. They're doing well, in fact they're probably happier than we are... because we miss them. It's too quiet here.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

loyal service

I was fiddling around on the internet during a lull at work and came across this slightly surprising piece of news -- that Dustin Lee's family had finally been approved to adopt their son's USMC dog, Lex. In short, Dusty was killed by an RPG in Fallujah last March while looking for explosives with Lex; while injured himself, Lex stood over his mortally wounded handler and needed to be pulled away so medics could work on him.

The picture is of Dusty and Lex in Iraq -- I borrowed it from the
Marine Corps Times article that documents some of the initial frustration that Lee's family were experiencing trying to adopt Lex from the Corps. This is the intial AP story announcing the USMC's decision to retire Lex early and let him go to the Lee's home. (Strangely, the AP story is dated before the Times article, but I guess that has more to do with publication deadlines.) Most importantly, though, here is the blog that Dusty Lee's family put together to drum up support for their request to adopt Lex.

I wanted to post this to not only recognize Dusty's sacrifice and Lex's loyalty and dedication to his task and to his handler, but because I was frankly a little shocked by the whole scenario. I knew the Marine Corps especially had taken dogs into combat in the Pacific during WW2 -- but I had no idea that the military dogs were treated like so much equipment. As an example, and to quote the Marine Corps Times article: "During the Vietnam War, thousands of dogs were abandoned or euthanized when U.S. troops withdrew. Virtually none came home." That mortifies me. This feels right up there with Nathan Winograd's assessment of animal shelter management -- that it would be cheaper and easier just to kill a dog than try to honor its service and find a suitable home for it.

Bill Clinton was the first US President to draw up legislation to protect retired military working dogs in November 2000; George W. Bush then added an Defense Appropriations Bill amendment in December 2005 to allow early retirement for military dogs and subsequent adoption by their handlers. And this is the website for a non-profit dedicated to protecting retired military working dogs. (This picture is from the Wikipedia entry on war dogs.)

I am grateful to Dusty and Lex that our dogs will never have to give that kind of sacrifice.

Nevertheless, in honor of our two and while our own house is quieter than usual, I offer Momo and Jozsi this:

Staunch on point --
no need for a metaphor --
one proud father.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

year in review

First of all, though, we need to mention that we just got back from dropping our two majesties off with Bob Seelye at Cliffside Bird Dogs for the next nine weeks or so. The picture is from the hotel this morning. Such snuggle monsters.

We would never have thought about giving our dogs to a trainer, but (and to cut a slightly long story shorter) we will be out the country visiting the great Annie-bagsh in Mongolia in the back half of February and decided that we'd like the boys to do more, to be engaged more, than if they were just at a boarding kennel. Momo is hopefully going to learn a retrieve to round out his skill-set and Jozsi is going to get polished.

And as good as Momo is, Bob watched Jozsi work one his backfields and saw the streak of (evil) genius that we love in him, too. We'll need to start thinking about the spring hunt test season!

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But having broken the news that I actually love music, I thought I would offer a few musical highlights from 2007.

Newies and Oldies

1) Vieux Farka Touré, Vieux Farka Touré -- this is the son of famed Malian guitar player, Ali Farka Touré (and the recording features a few tracks he was able to record with his father before he died).
2) Gaudi and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Dub Qawwali -- this was a collaboration I thought I'd think was cool, a little weird, but would ultimately gather dust. I was wrong. Gaudi is an Italian DJ and producer who was given access to several original recording masters by the late, great qawwali singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
3) Slayer, Christ Illusion -- the original line-up of Slayer featuring, most importantly, Dave Lombardo on drums. This is their new album. I still can't quite tell if Tom Araya is really great as a vocalist or not, but he is as much a part of the Slayer sound as Dave Lombardo's incredible double-bass drumming. If Jozsi had an album, it might be this.
4) If Momo had an album it might be this one -- Black Water by Kris Drever. We were sent this as a present by my uncle and aunt who saw Kris in concert back home in Scotland. The highlight of this album is his version of the Scottish ballad, 'Sir Patrick Spence.' For some reason, we always seemed to play it in the car when Momo and I would go hunt.
5) Ojos de Brujo, Téchari -- 'jip jop flamenkillo'. Makes me wish I could dance... like Helio Castroneves.


Music highlights:

I got to see Gilberto Gil play a solo concert at Carnegie Hall back in March. His acoustic album, Acoustic, is one of my all-time, favorite albums and, at least in my mind, is one the best live albums ever recorded. Gil is unusual in that, as a young man in the 1960s, he was one of the originators of Tropicalismo, a counterculture movement that conjoined an interest in reviving native Brazilian music and stirring avant-garde politics (and for his part in this Gil was arrested and then fled to Britain). He is now the Brazilian Minister of Culture.

Meg and I also got to see Jordi Savall play a solo show at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie on Halloween. This is a great little venue with maybe 180 seats. Jordi is best known for his performance on the soundtrack for the wonderful film, Tous Les Matins du Monde. Arguably, he is the preeminent performer on the viola da gamba -- and his performance at Weil was incredible. You can actually find most of the program on Les Voix Humanes.