Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dogs and Babies

Everyone in this house is full of skepticism.

I allow limited interaction, but always when it's dog --> baby, never baby --> dog. Both dogs dislike when even adults touch them while they're sleeping, so that's something I'm going to watch like a hawk as baby becomes mobile.

Zelda isn't terribly interested. It's Sammy who follows me and baby from room to room, laying down within three feet whenever we pause. If baby is within reach, she creeps towards her and if not corrected would snuffle and lick and nuzzle her endlessly.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rogue squashes

Several factors lead to rogue squashes on the lawn
1) No herbicide use
2) The person mowing the lawn doesn't give a shit about perfection and will often let curious-looking 'weeds' live to see what happens when they grow up
3) Dogs who raid the compost bin and poop out seeds all over the yard

The butternut and zucchini that I planted on purpose and mulched and fertilized and watered with care... are mostly dead from blight, but this random (acorn?) squash that is ignored is going wild.

Sunday, September 8, 2013



Area behind my back fence. I don't think there's a single native plant visible in this picture. Maybe in the far distance some of those trees are cottonwoods or aspen or something. (The trash-looking substance in the lower left part of this photo is cardboard I put down as temporarily mulch to keep the worst of the weeds at bay).

The vacant field behind my house is a veritable who's who of invasive non-native plants of Eastern Oregon. As someone who worked in an invasive weed eradication program, it makes me twitch every time I look at it.

Bull thistle - not too bad as far as non-natives go. Edible by quite a few different species of bugs and vertibrates. They can take over in areas, but often you see just a few at a time.

Yellow star thistle - Terrible. Has taken over huge swaths of prairie all thrughout the western US. Out competes native plants but doesn't provide forage. Not to mention, painful to hike through.

Puncturevine - Even more terrible for hiking, but not as bad overall. Creates "goat head" seeds which should be called "calthrop seeds". Punctures bike tires, dog paws, and go straight through sandals.

Downy brome aka cheat grass - "Cheats" other grasses by growing fastest and seeding out fastest, then dying and becoming a fire hazard all while not providing good graze for any animal, domestic or wild. This is a famous weed because it has caused so much damage. The seeds are, like other species of grass, "fox tails" that are barbed and once inside dog toes, ears, eyes, noses, throats, vaginas (yes), only move one way and often only possible to remove by minor surgery.

Goatgrass(?)- Interestingly, in this particular field, downy brome is not the dominant invasive grass. That dubious honor goes to this spikey grass which I'm having trouble identifying, but I think is a type of goatgrass. Confusingly, a lot of locals also call it cheat grass. It is taller than downy brome, with stiffer, spikier seedheads that, when dry, pop off the plant and can fly several feet (like directly down my dog's ear canal).

Medusahead rye - Another invasive grass that also has "fox tail" seed heads that like to get stuck in dog ears.

Diffuse knapweed - Same story, takes over, out-competes, steals moisture, not good to eat, fire hazard in later summer. (notice a pattern?)

Russian knapweed - Same story as above.

White top - Same story as above.

Skeleton weed - Not as bad as some others, but farmers hate it.

Russian thistle (aka Tumbleweed) - Made famous by every single western movie ever made. Although not quite as aggressive as some of the others listed here, it's hated by ranchers and business owners alike. It invades crops while alive, and piles up against fences and barns (and my back yard) when dead.

Kochia - A personal nemesis. Near my fence where there's water seepage from my sprinklers, it grows up to 8 feet tall and out-competes everything, including all other weeds. It also smells funny when you walk through it and bruise foliage.

There are a few others I haven't identified yet. That's the main list.

My goal for 2014 is to mulch the area directly behind my fence and plant some natives. Just off the top of my head, I'd like to see some sage, rabbit brush, lupine, some native grasses and misc. flowers. The area is about 24 x 18 yards, so it's large enough that the natives could become established and keep out the invasives with minimal management.

The city doesn't care if you do anything on the strip next to your fence as long as there's no fire hazard. Hence most of our neighbors dump garbage back there.

This is what it looked like when we moved in:



Standing on the dirt road/firebreak looking at all the lovely tall shrubby weeds.

This spring (before I got too pregnant to be useful for anything) we took two pickup loads to the dump. The spring before that I started removing the larger clumps of established shrubby weeds. This summer I've been laying down cardboard to start the mulching process. I now have a source of free wood chips, and may be getting the first delivery next week. (I really need to buy a wheel barrow). Slow and steady, right?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I Make Dog Food

"Make" in this case is almost over stating it. My fridge and freezer needed to be cleaned out, so the dogs got a mix of what wasn't completely bad. I try to make it a good mix of protien, carbs, veggies/fruits, but I don't obsess over precisely balancing anything, and I'm quite loose with portion sizes.  Most of the time the dogs get kibble (which I call 'astronaut food'). This batch fed two border collies for about 5 days.

Bear meat, really sinewy. The most work I put into this 'recipe' was cooking it in a stew-like substance. Hence how soupy the end product turned out.
Strawberry pulp leftover from making ice cream earlier that day
A stray can of tomato juice left here from when my mother in law visited. No one else is gonna drink it, so into the pot it goes
Left over white rice
Old, hairy carrots
Frozen peas
Garden tomatoes that were getting a wee soft
Freezer burned turkey
Freezer burned ham chunks
Leftover ravioli
Fresh spinach that wasn't so 'fresh' anymore
Random packet of oyster crackers I spotted nearby

Add a bit of salt and mix it all together and voila: dog food.

This is how much they love this stew: normally I set their food bowls down about 10 feet apart in the kitchen. I stand nearby until they're done because otherwise Zelda will kick Sammy off her dish. If I stand nearby, no such shenanigans occur. When fed this delish home made food, they have to be fed at least 15 feet apart or in separate rooms, because they growl and snark at each other the entire time they eat.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Yet another neutral week for pit bulls

A dog I met a few years ago in a shelter in Corvallis, OR. Pretty unremarkable. Liked people. Liked to play fetch. She was adopted by a family. There would be no story here except for the fact she is a pit bull mix.

So, there's this post that came out awhile ago. Written by a smart guy who's knowledgeable about dogs, so, like, he has all these new insights about pit bulls and gonna skool us all.

Whatever. Same shit, different day.

And thus I break it down:

The title of the post is "Bad Week for Pit Bulls", but it should probably be titled, "I'm Just Really Mad at People Who Like Pit Bulls".

He starts by stating an intention to review a book, Unleashed: The phenomena of status dogs and weapon dogs, that Landauer hopes will be "tackling the dogs and their owners in terms of criminology and sociology instead of the suburban dog-mommy perspective on “saved” and “rescued” and “misunderstood” pit bulls that’s all too common in the dog blog sphere".

He hasn't read it, and yet: "...Reviews on Amazon suggest I’ll be disappointed and that the author reverts to the same old cliches about “only the mixed bred ones are bad” and “they’re nanny dogs!” nonsense."

He is so disappointed that this sciencey-sounding book doesn't seem to reinforce his stance on pit bulls! Apparently he doesn't read books to learn things, but only as reference for already-formed opinions.

He then takes another swipe at pit bull advocates and states "...topics most pibble-mommies don’t want to talk about: the image and use of these dogs as vicious killers by criminal thugs."

People who blog about their pet pit bulls don't want to talk about the use of pit bulls by criminals? Which blogs has he been reading? Because this type of blogger talks about this subject a lot... just not in a context that Landauer approves. They tend to focus on the positive or neutral aspects of pit bulls. When pit bull advocates focus on negatives, it's mostly about the criminals' actions, not specific acts of violence by the dogs themselves.

People who don't like pit bulls, on the other hand, really like to focus on individual acts of violence from the dogs. Something they have in common with dog-fighters, come to think of it. That's why they, like Landauer, prefer context-free news stories instead of the day-to-day details of a dog blog.

Everyone already knows that pit bulls are used for dog fighting and as guard dogs by criminals. What Landauer resents is not that people aren't aware that dogs are being used by criminals, but that they don't share his opinions about those dogs. The thing about all these dog blogs that he so despises isn't that all the observations of pit bulls aren't true, but that they aren't the ones he wants to focus on.

He has a small point in that, yeah, there are definitely pit bull advocates out there who exaggerate in the other direction, to the point of lying to themselves and others; some even claim that pit bulls are incapable of harming people/other dogs without some kind of extreme abuse/training/etc, which of course isn't true. Some dogs are perfectly good at being dangerous without training or abuse. Like so many arguments from pit bull haters, this is a red herring - most pit advocates are very reasonable about the risks of dogs and point out that ANY dog can seriously injure a person or another dog, and also point out that there are many, many pit bulls that make good family pets.This is verifiablly true from a million anecdotes, but, again, not the truth that he wants everyone focused on.

The main part of the blog is a series of three stories involivng pit bulls from around the internet. 
I think the title of the post, "Bad Week for Pit Bulls" is supposed to imply that these three situations indicate some kind of ongoing trend that was just especially bad this week, and also that they reflect on every single pit bull out there (a common trend with pit bull haters). It's unimpressive, as far as trends go: one news story about an owner who can't control her large, unneutered dog and let it kill a neighbor's pomeranian; one Reddit post (where we don't even know a pit bull was involved); and one Facebook kerfluffle where a dog-fighter in Mexico posted video of his dog(s) killing restrained cats.

"It’s important to remember that this is the reality of pit bull culture..."

That's the reality of SOME "pit bull culture". I can think of several different types of pit bull cultures and Landauer even mentions one in the same blog post; "pibble-mommies" are a distinct and recognizable cliche in the same manner of the dog-fighting-Mexican stereotype.

"This is happening in nice neighborhoods by all sorts of wayward youth who view the bully landrace as empowering, status symbols, and a source of entertainment."

So glad he took the time to point this out. NO ONE WAS AWARE OF THIS.

"... I see too many people on crusades to clean up the bully breeds’ image and not clean up the culture itself or even be honest with what is going on"

OK, so lets talk about "thug culture" for a sec. We have to use scare quotes though, because "thug culture" isn't as easy to pin down as they want us to think. The dress style of thugs and ganstas is pervasive throughout the US, with white and colored folks alike, popular with youth who want to look tough or even just fit in at school. Wearing the trappings of "thug" and actually being dangerous are two different things.

Regardless of that, though: cleaning up the bully breeds' image is a way to clean up "the culture". A very small piece of a much larger and more complex social justice picture involving everyhting from poverty, exploitation, gangs, racism, and misogyny.

Landauer calls it "white washing", but all it is is pointing out that many pit bulls make good pets. The fact that that pit bull there was used in dog fighting doesn't change the fact that this pit bull over here was a great family pet for 15 years. Nowhere is it implicit that ALL pit bulls should be pets, but, again with the red herrings, bully advocates aren't saying that.

You know what is good at making these dogs more desirable for criminals? Media hype (and blog posts) about how scary and different they are from other dog breeds/types. So scary and different, they should be killed instead of risking them being family pets.

And as far as honesty goes: being honest that there's a connection between pit bulls and criminals and constantly focusing on the negative are two different things that Lanauer seems to have conflated.

"This breed doesn’t need a make-over.  Dog fighting  needs to go extinct and with it game dogs that are bred to fight."

A) As if he's the only one who REALLY wants dog fighting to go extinct, and B) flinging vitriol at rescue people while, C) not providing any real-world solutions of his own.

He says repeatedly that he does not support Breed Specific Legislation, so that leaves one to wonder how, exactly, he wants "game dogs" to go extinct. Mostly this post is about him being angry at people who promote pit bulls as pets and/or adopt them out as pets, so I guess the first thing he wants is for us rescue folks to stop adopting out pit bulls and start killing them instead.

In a comment Landauer states: "I do not consider death such an atrocious conclusion to an unwanted dog... Why should other breeds be displaced by filling homes with unwanted pit bulls... I don’t think it’s a moral, ethical, or practical problem to put down the surplus unwanted pit bulls ..."

I guess the bottom line is: what does Landauer want me to do with this dog?


She was a stray we fostered. Mellow, sweet, good with other dogs and cats. And he's ANGRY at ME because I dared boast about the fact she was adopted to a nice family? Why should I NOT adopt her to a family? Why the hell would I kill this dog?

What about this one?

Pit bull 4

One of the nicest dogs I've ever met. Family pet with kids and cats. How the hell am I an "apologist" for observing that this pit bull is nice and I wish there were more just like her?

...or this one?


She had stupid owners who let her run loose all the time and I ended up catching her multiple times before they gave up and left her at the shelter, but she was still a nice, friendly dog. How is it a "waste" to spend time and energy helping this dog find a home? How is she "surplus" in a manner somehow totally different than, say, a Labrador in the exact situation?

Type "pit bull terrier" into Petfinder, scroll through the list of nice, adoptable dogs that comes up, and tell me why each of those nice dogs should die because... they're taking up space for other nice dogs?

And tell me who's gonna wield the needle. I'm sure as hell not. I've got only so much time and energy to spend on animal rescue, and I'm not going to spend it killing nice dogs.

I've helped kill friendly, healthy dogs at work a handful of times, and it is soul-sucking. I've killed  lots of creatures, and the intimate act of hugging a happy, slobbery dog to your chest, as his tail is thumping and he's trying to lick your face while the doctor kills hims is terrible and different from any other type of killing: the old, sick, or aggressive, or animals meant to be food. It's different. Hence burnout rate of shelter veterinarians and techs at high-kill shelters. And if they don't burnout, they go numb or turn psycho.

"I do not appreciate that the public service of animal shelters which should be able to help me keep my dogs healthy and safe in the case that they go stray is burdened so much by abandoned pit bulls that my dogs might be killed on admission ...

How do you think your hypothetical stray border collie will fare in a shelter with a "kill all the pit bulls" policy? Staffed by people who, at best, are burned out and numb, and at worst, enjoy mistreating and killing dogs?

In the short term, it might be "practical" to kill every blocky-headed dog that comes in a shelter's doors. In the long term, that sort of policy hurts everything that shelters and rescues are trying to accomplish. You can't magically separate how bullys are treated and how all the dogs are treated. Moreover, shelters and rescues don't become popular by killing nice dogs. It's a good way to lose funding and support and volunteers.

When you actually get down on the ground (where I am, hi! *waves*), you end up having no ethical or practical choice but to treat all dogs as individuals. And, shit, the only reason there's any agenda at all for most of us "pit bull advocates" is because we got annoyed at the pushback when we try to place nice dogs in homes. That's how I personally got started on all these pit bull rants. And I still have a hard time understanding how it's so objectionable to place nice dogs in family homes, and then advertise that fact. That's really all us "apologists" are doing.