Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Stand by

Husband got a new job, me and the child moved in with my parents while we save up to buy a house in Portland, land of predatory landlords and housing bubbles. I have no access to internet except by phone, and the blogger app is buggy.

HOWEVER. If you like the comics and photos of this blog, check this space in late summer/autumn. I have a full camera memory card and sketch book.

See you soon!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My First Dog Rehome

Despite founding and running a non-profit animal rescue, this year is the first time I've had to rehome a dog of my own.

Sammy is a great dog, with a fun "origin story"; she literally had the needle of death-juice in her IV port when I said "stop, wait, I'll take that puppy".

Even at the time, I considered rehoming her as soon as she'd healed from surgery. I'm not actually sure why we didn't. She was cute, and sweet, and there was probably an element stubbornness, "if I'm paying $1,000 for a puppy, I'm keeping it." and at the time, I vaguely envisioned that I'd eventually take her to agility classes or something of the sort. But life intervened and I never did.

She's great, but she's a bit... quirky. She epitomizes the socially-inept "aggressively submissive" personality. In other words, she annoys the crap out of other dogs, and when they try to tell her that, she doubles down with annoying, in-your-face appeasement behavior. Zelda put up with this for a long time, but after a couple of years, she stopped even playing with Sammie and mostly just starting a daily routine of pinning her to the floor in frustration.

When an interested party showed interest, I jumped on it. Sammie now gets the things she didn't get here: individual attention every day. Her own toys to play with whenever she wants. A more proper amount of exercise and stimulation for that busy mind and body.

Zelda is loving it. Without an annoying, socially retarded little sister to constantly manage, she is more relaxed, she barks less, and when she does back, stops faster. She settles easier, and is spontaneously playful again. With Sammie in the house, she would guard her toys, but not play with them. Now she plays more again. Sammie is not the most body-aware dog, and was constantly knocking my toddler over, so that's another issue gone.

Yes, all of these things I could have managed myself instead of rehoming Sammy, but why? Between my part time job with a 30 minute commute, running a non-profit from my house, and having a toddler, it was hard enough to carve out time to exercise two dogs, let alone individual play and training times. Taking a toddler and TWO dogs to the park was nearly impossible and I spent the whole time stressing out, but a toddler and ONE dog who has a good down-stay, is actually fun. Cora gets a turn on the play equipment, then Zelda gets a turn to run and sniff in the grassy/creek area.

I miss her, but not as much as I'd thought. It really does feel like she was an extended foster rather than really "ours". I just wish we'd done it sooner.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cowdogs of Eastern Oregon

A little background: when I moved to Eastern Oregon from the west side of the state in 2010, I immediately noticed that there were border collies everywhere. Every flatbed seemed to have one, and when I worked at the mixed-practice vet clinic that served a lot of the ranches, I met even more of them. Border collies and crosses are the most popular stock dog in Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho. And I'm fairly certain that the majority of them are not registered with any pedigree registry.

This is a stark contrast to the image put forth by vocal online border collie groups who think of themselves as WORKING (in all caps) people. Their dogs are registered with some kind of working dog registry like ABCA or ISDS, and, even though these registries are technically "open", often the dogs are as inbred as the "show ring" dogs, and suffer from popular sire effects, among other problems. These people tend to idealize the trial sheep dog, while putting down dogs who work cattle, even though sheep is a dying industry and there are many more actual working cattle ranches in north America. These ranchers are sort of left in their own quiet niche, doing things the way they've been done for many years, including things like outcrossing, crossbreeding, keeping and selling pet dogs, breeding dogs that are "good enough", instead of only "best to the best"... and other "shocking" activities, virtually unacknowledged by the internet or by the registry folks.

I want to hear more from the local ranchers about their dogs. I'm starting by interviewing my friend and former coworker Jess Schiller because she has some neat dogs. Let me show you them:

(All photos copyright Jess Schiller and used with permission)


Me: Can you start by telling people a little about the ranch and your dogs?

Jess: My husband Pat's family homesteaded this area four generations ago. I'm not good on the details, but Antone Vey came over from Portugal and started raising sheep. Since then the ranch has converted to a cattle operation starting with Herefords. Pat took out his first loan for cows when he was 18 and bought 40 pair from the Spray area and now we are up to 140 mama cows mostly red angus cross. Keeping up with the red tradition in his family.

We raise calves for market and potential breeder replacements for our herd. What we are is range managers and we use our cows as the means to do so. The term "graze it don't blaze it" well that's what we try to do. We graze on private ground both on Buttercreek and in Starkey. Pat's grandmother's cows however are on private and jointly managed US Forest Service allotments.

We start calving around end of January/February and we raise the calves and maintain the mamas until we sell the calves around October. We "summer" (move to summer grazing in the mountains) May to October-ish in Starkey. Then we move them "home" to Buttercreek from October to May. The pack is used to help us gather and sort. We have at least 4000 acres here and usually it's just Pat and I so they save our horses a lot of miles here and up in the mountains.

The girls Zee and Tip, who you've met, were the best working pair we've had.

Zee is really good at going a long ways out and bringing cows up top. She was great at pushing until she got hurt. Now Pat is so scared of her getting hurt because she's his baby and bull-headed, so she  doesn't get to work much. Zee has raised five litters of great working pups so she's out of practice with all of it but I have her helping me teach her son Cap who ended up being way too timid for Pat but is great for me.


Then we have Gus. He's a heeler/border collie mix. His job is a brush dog. The cows get into thick stuff, he goes in and they WILL come out.

Zip is Pat's boy and daddy to two litters out of Zee. We got him from my uncle three years ago because he had quit his job and didn't want Zip to waste away in a yard in town. It took Pat less than an hour to bond and after that Zip actually tried biting my uncle's girlfriend. He went through a grumpy strange, but not so much any more. He is such an attention whore it's ridiculous. But he is Pat's A number 1 cow dog. I'll have to send you videos it's so awesome to watch him work. So quiet and picks on the cows but if you throw a stick he's the biggest goober ever.

We have seven dogs right now, and the rest are pets. Rhett was a rescue from my cousin who realized border collies need to work. He's great with [my toddler] but .. smart with cows. He's gonna get hurt with how he barrels in after cows and doesn't pay attention to what's going on. And Peter is my brother's dog. He's just special we can keep it at that.

First question(s): are any of your dogs, or any dogs in your extended family, registered with any breed registry? or have you ever entered any of your dogs in any kind of competition? (have you even heard of ABCA or ISDS?)

Negative to all. I did dog 4H once with my dad's cow dog... needless to say it didn't go well. He was getting pretty pissed with the baths for one and then the fact that I'm pretty sure he thought the show was the dumbest thing ever. Kinda like going for a pleasure ride with one of our ranch horses. They go out expecting to work.

Pat's family use to do sheep dog trials when his grandpa was alive. I'm pretty sure they had some spendy dogs from over seas. But those dogs have been gone for a long time.

Any of those trial dogs have decedents still around?

Not as far as I know. I'll ask Pat the next time I talk to him

After meeting all the different types of stock dogs around here, it seems to me that most ranchers don't care about  how "pure" their dogs' bloodlines are or bother with a working registry.

I think registered dogs in the ranching world are like papered horses. It's nice and really interesting to know their background but papers don't make the animal. And you can go out and spend a lot of money on a dog to find out the mutt you raised is better than that one.

So where did all your dogs come from? Obviously in the last few years you breed your own, but further back than that?

Let's see. Tip is Pat's red dog he got from Ryan Raymond a rancher out of Pilot Rock. We are pretty sure she has a little Carter in her. Which is actually a breed of stock dog that was developed in Long Creek. We sold Pat Carter one of our pups a few years ago.

Zee my lil girl came from a couple in Heppner that we've known for a long time. They have a long line of awesome girls and I think they are looking to start training for other people.

Zip, Pat's male that we got the last two litters out of, came from a rancher out of Arlington at the time him and his ex-wife raised dogs as well.

And Gus came from a neighbor. He is the heeler cross. Cap came out of him and Zee. He's the one I've been trying to spend a lot of time with because he is pretty timid and doesn't handle Pat's aggressive tone very well but he's coming along.

Cap guarding the hole while Jess fixed a gate the bulls knocked down

Would you say that your dogs are pretty typical of other ranchers in the area? You guys aren't an outlier in how you source/use/breed?

Nope pretty typical. It's all personal preference and you know border collies they are smart and you can teach them about anything and they are one-person dogs. Makes it pretty easy to like your dogs better than the neighbors'.

I know some people go out of area to get dogs. My girlfriend Jamie is trying out a new breed called an Idaho shag, I think it's an Airedale cross. She crosses that with a heeler you'll end up with about the dumbest block head. But those cows will move!

But really if someone is looking for a good rounded dog there is no reason to go too far. There isn't a lack of border collies around here that's for sure.

Can you talk a bit more about Tip? Is she the one I met who's red with a natural bob tail? she caught my eye right away because she doesn't have a "classic" border collie look. A lot of "registry snobs" would call her a mongrel. Would you call her a "border collie"?

Lol, they'd probably think our whole pack is mongrels. Tip's a great little dog. For the longest time we argued that she was a red border collie. Kinda like how with black angus every once in awhile they have a red one. But we are starting to think she has a little Carter in her. She was the only red bob tailed in her litter and I'm pretty sure both her parents were black and white but I'd have to confirm that with Pat. She's retired with benefits now since she fell out of a truck and broke her leg and hip. By the way, I dock the tails of all our pups and we prefer dock-tailed dogs. And I know some would argue that we've killed their balance but my dad's old Ed dog (the cow dog I tried showing in 4H) had a docked tail and he kept right up with those "sheep dogs" of West's (they use to run several bands of sheep on Rhea creek). When they loaded them the dogs would run across the sheeps' backs and Ed's lack of tail didn't seem to slow him down.

A rare photo of Tip, who hates cameras

I don't know much about the Carter, can you tell me a bit about that?

The Carter breed kinda died out. It's hard to find them any more. It was never wide-spread. But there were a few around. Pretty much one family started the breed. Short stalky curly breed. A few families around Heppner had some and I can't off the top of my head tell you where they came from. My father-in-law had one and he currently has a very old carter/Airedale cross. He is about one of the last ones I know of around here. Pat Carter had talked about maybe trying again. It'd be cool if he did. I have sold two pups down in the Long Creek area (90 miles south of Pendleton; Dirty rotten rough country. Hard on horses and dogs) and as far as I know they're doing great.

You may not realize this, but many of these "registry" folks I mentioned say it's not OK to crossbreed/outcross, or at least they're very afraid of it. It seems ridiculous to me. They act as if the only "good" working dogs are the ones with an inbred pedigree that goes back 40 generations.

OK my argument to's just like cattle. Your cross bred cattle the calves are gonna come out stronger healthier and gain better than the pure-breds due to being heterogenous. It's been scientifically proven that cross bred animals do better. Now it's not quite the same in dogs since don't eat them in this country. But if you continue to breed the brains out of these animals all your gonna end up with is an animal that can run a course. If I'm not mistaken sheep trial courses are usually pretty similar. So all your asking that animal to do is look amazing for one small task. I'm a sucker for a cleaned up long coated border collie mostly because I know mine will never look like that! They look great and they can successfully do the exact same thing you asked them to do last weekend. Just like barrel horses it's a pattern they've done repeatedly and that's what they are gonna do.

I'm not trashing sheep dogs they are amazing to watch, but when a stock dog puts a hundred pair through a gate without a wreck and you're a half mile away on another ridge...  well that's pretty amazing to watch, too.

Many anti-crossbreeding people say that they "need a dog that will do work" and they can't afford to cross (for example, like a 50/50 Airedale/border collie) because the first generation wouldn't be able to work and they'd have a whole litter of useless puppies. What do you personally do, and what do the other ranchers you know do, with dogs they breed who end up being bad workers?

I guess I've never heard that. It sounds like an old wives tale to me. I think you could end up with a whole batch of purebred that don't work, either. Honestly I have one that doesn't work very well. He is probably one of the "purest" ones I have. And I don't think it really has any thing to do with the dog. At the time I was building fence when I got him so he became more of a pack dog than a stock dog. And his personality to I don't think he has the attention span to pay attention long enough for him to actually asses the situation. Maybe if I had started him on cows first maybe it would be different. He has it. But he gets so excited he barrels in and causes a wreck and then doesn't pay attention and almost get ran over.

I think the ones that don't work it has more to do with the handlers. These people who get these dogs for pets they can't expect them to be a house dog for most of their lives and then go out and chase a cow. Yes they do have natural instinct but they still need to be taught. Pat spent a lot of time on Tip and in turn she taught Zee and now Zee is teaching Cap. Having a mature dog with pups helps soo much.

As far as what everyone else does with bad workers I'm sure you could guess what some do. But I don't think that's usually the case. I think if you spend the time with the animal and be patient you'll get a fine worker. Also border collies are famous for being timid. It took Zee three years to stop running back to the pickup when Pat was hollering at the cows. Now it just makes her go harder.

Cap (left) and his dam, Zee

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sketch from yesterday

The scene would have been impossible to photograph, but I thought it worth a minute's-worth of sketching to remember: two coyotes by the side of the road, one recently killed, one standing at a distance, panting and looking around, seeming to be at a loss.

The outskirts of Pendleton, Oregon

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Quick Question

Why am I forced to call the one on the left a "pit bull mix", but the other I could call simply a "mixed breed"?

I like that animal shelters are starting to do away with breed identification of mixy mutts, calling them "All American" or something similar. Because there is no point to breed ID when the mix is too mixed.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

When Taxonomy Meets Dunning and Kruger

This started out as a short rant about how some people purposely misinterpreted a recent scientific paper because they have an agenda ... but who am I kidding? There's really only one fool who has "misinterpreted" the study, and if this person didn't have such a wide audience I wouldn't care. But for some reason, despite multiple abuses of science and historical facts over the years, Patrick Burns, aka Terrierman, continues to be considered some kind of expert. 

I normally let his posts slide on by without comment. But, like the festering sore he reminds me of, sometimes things just have to pop.

Here's just the latest example: Some scientists who are a whole lot smarter and more knowledgeable on the subject did some research on golden jackal DNA and decided that they'd found enough evidence to designate one of the populations as a new species, which will be called the African golden wolf instead of the African golden jackal. 

You've probably heard of it. It's the type of scientific finding that scientists publish widely and loudly because it's the kind of feel-good, easy-for-laymen-to-understand study about a recognizable charismatic megafauna. As they should, because it's interesting and we always need to do as much as we can to encourage the public's interest in science. Most scientists accepted it as another small building block in our understanding of the natural world, and then moved on.

Terrierman, using his typical "OMG LOOKIT ME I'M DIFFERENT AND SPECIAL method of discourse, dismisses the findings so quickly it left BURN marks on my screen[1][2]

"like, whatever"

Alrighty, then. Perhaps TM has some new insight that all the other experts missed? 

Yeah, not really. He has a scant few paragraphs full of condensation and non sequiturs. 
"If scientists have "discovered' anything in this instance, it is simply that Jackals are every bit as diverse as we have always known, and that a few populations may be a little farther along in the speciation process than what some other scientists have previously acknowledged. A little new information, but is a debate ender?  Not by a long shot."
Any biologist reading that paragraph would find it pure gobbly gook. Who called this a "debate ender" [3]? Even the NatGeo article he quoted points out that other biologists have some quibbles. What the heck is he even talking about when he says "speciation"? No scientist I've ever read has used the term speciation the way TM does

TM doesn't seem to understand how new species designations are assigned in modern times. There may not be a simple definition of what a species is, but there are many legitimate and accepted ways to designate a new one. As he himself points out, biology is messy, and what we see in our short lifetimes is a snapshot of evolution in constant motion. But just because there's gray area, doesn't mean the concept of a species is irrelevant or unobtainable.

The scientists who wrote the paper have solid, well-justified reasons to define this population as a new species, and they're laid out in detail in, y'know, the paper he's dismissing. He doesn't address a single one of their findings.

He's really hung up on how and when animals mate. It's a very odd obsession that he's seemed to have for years (see below), and he uses examples differently depending on how they can best serve his opinion. For example: it's well accepted science that animals will continue to hybridize long after it's useful to call them different species, as he has pointed out numerous times when it comes to the relationship between dogs and wolves! But he uses it to dismiss the African golden wolf designation because... "jackals have diversity".

Someone in the comments tried to gently correct him on his misconceptions, including his grim determination to call dingoes a separate species [4]. He responds with more handwaving that at times becomes incomprehensible. The comment section alone would need a separate post to explain all the gish galloping going on.

But here's the most telling comment from TM, at 5:01:
"The simple point is that your points all depend on ink from a library, while I am making a case based on real fur, feather, and fin.
You salute words, not fulling understand the fragility of those words historically or scientifically. How many genus and species have been created and merged, split and absorbed in the last 40 years? All ink and artifice as the animals themselves remain the same."

In the end, the only thing he has to fall back on is: "Enough of yer book learnin', you need STREET SMARTS...(like me)".

Yes. Let's all do science by instinct and gut feelings. Eliminate all the tedious counting and measuring.

What the heck would he make of all the other interesting puzzles of taxonomy, I wonder?

I'd like to introduce PB to the concept of "cryptic species". I know he's stuck in pre-1980's biology, but the wonder of DNA is it allows us to uncover all kinds of interesting things, like different species hiding in plain sight. Like African butterfly fish, where two species look identical despite 50 million years of separation

Or zebras, where the battle over names and subspecies designations has raged since the 1900's, and continues today, except better and smarter because of all the new knowledge we keep accumulating. The plains zebra alone has 50 possible names, and currently 6 relatively accepted subspecies. Every time a new study comes out, we add to and revise our understanding of the evolutionary relationships within Equus, just as we do with Canis. Using TM's logic, we should throw up our hands and ignore DNA, stop studying family tree relationships at all because it's complicated and there's gray area.

Or African elephants. When TM complains that "taxonomic debate these days is about humans looking to publish papers, get grants, name new species, and secure habitat protection"[9], the relatively recent designation of the African forest elephant as distinct from the savannah is exactly the type of thing he's whining about. Would he care that it was based on multiple robust studies of morphology, DNA, and behavior? What is enough evidence for assigning a new species for him?

These examples do not weaken the idea of "species" as a useful scientific and colloquial term; they're just part of the reality of cladistics. Anyone who knows what they're talking about has no problem rolling with fuzzy areas because discovering and defining the differences and similarities between closely related species is a rich mine for scientists. 

Whereas TM on the other hand, seems not only confused, but bored by any evolutionary relationship that a) was discovered after about the 1970's and b) is not very clear cut. He instead simply waves away complications by saying species isn't a useful concept (well, unless he says it is). How can he be against assigning species status based on autosomal DNA, but OK with assigning it based on geography and "culture"? He offers no reasons, just keeps repeating (and has since 2005 at least, see below), "just ask the animals, they know where the species boundary is." This is weird on several levels.

How does he know that they know? Is he telepathic? Does he mean it literally? Because I asked my dog and she didn't answer. And if he doesn't mean quite literally, does he mean "study the animals"... because... uh, that's exactly what the authors of this paper (and all the other papers he's dismissed over the years) did!

He just got done telling us that "species" isn't a useful term, anyway. Which is it? Do the animals "know" what species they are, or is there no such thing as a species?

Wolves and coyotes, and wolves and dogs, apparently don't "know", because they exchange genes a lot more often than he's implying. Notice that though he's forced to admit that canids mate, he very carefully never provides citations and always says "but it's not very often". He's relying on purposefully vague language. This allows him to dismiss any published data about gene transfer as irrelevant because "it's still a rare occurrence". There's no way for him to be proved wrong!

As many people have tried to point out to TM, it's a simple fact that dogs are a subspecies of wolf, whether you like it (or understand it) or not. [8]

Related: Desperately needing dogs and wolves to be different species despite the overwhelming data is a purely emotional response, and can only be due to his opinions and philosophies about dog ownership. What he repeatedly misses is the fact that, whether they are or aren't from a scientific perspective is moot when it comes to how we handle, train, and live with dogs and wolves. And no one argues otherwise except his very own strawmen.

This isn't an isolated case, either; Patrick Burns has a history of cherry picking data that fits his favorite theories, and applying purposely vague anti-science rhetoric when it doesn't.

Example 2: He thinks there are red wolves in West Virginia

"That's no coyote, it's a space station red wolf!"

From a scientific perspective, "red wolves" are at best barely recognized as a distinct species. We got more data and realized they're wolf/coyote hybrids, and that there is no real reason to classify red wolves simply by morphology, but it's still contentious, people get very emotional on the subject. It is a great example of a movement successfully using anti-science to muddle the waters to the point a layman would not be able to find accurate information on the subject. So perhaps PB could be forgiven for thinking that red wolves are still a thing, but.... even if red wolf was a species... there's no reason to think they're in WV [5]. Identifying a species from a single blurry photograph, in a place it shouldn't be, when it looks identical to another species that does live in the area... occam's razer, anyone?

Example 3: In a blog post he titled "Canis Soupus" 10/1/2010, he says some weird things. So many weird things, it almost deserves its own response in a separate post, but I'll keep it short and skip over most of the "WTF-ery".

Notice that this post is from five years ago, yet it's the exact same thing, almost word for word, that he keeps repeating when this subject comes up. Compare his comments over the years, and see if he's learned anything new: 

2005: "The simple truth is that dogs know they are not wolves, just as wolves know they are not dogs, and humans know they are not apes." 3/11/2005 "The Wolf Within"

2010: "And while wolves, dogs, coyotes dingos (sic), and golden jackals CAN interbreed amd (sic) produce fecund young, they rarely do, and the reason for this is that the REAL EXPERTS on species, the animals themselvs (sic), know they are very, very different." 10/1/2010

2015: "The real experts in these matters are not scientists, or even humans, of course, but the animals themselves. Jackals, dog, wolves, and coyotes seem to recognize major differences between themselves and give a hat tip to those differences 99.999 percent of the time." 7/31/2015 

This is also funny because he still treats dingoes like they're a different species[3] even as the graphic he uses doesn't even show dingoes because all scientists by 2010 group them with "dogs".

He pulled a quote from a NYT article. Unsurprisingly, he took the quote out of context. Ironically, the writer of that particular quote is Carol Kaesuk Yoon. She actually studied evolutionary biology, and in fact wrote an entire book on the subject of naming and differentiating species. A book I've actually read and highly recommend. You can read an excerpt, or listen to her talk about it, or read one of her essays on the same subject at the link above. 

She is an actual expert in the very area that TM is pretending to be an expert. Compare TM's rants to even a casual glance through her book, or even the freaking publisher's summary:
"In fact, scientists are starting to come to terms with an important idea, which is that a lot of animals are in the process of speciating ... and that the notion of species is a human idea that still needs a lot of work..."
Book summary:
 "...[this book] is a rich journey from Linnaeus, whose system turned classification from a hobby to a science, and Darwin, who ended the idea of rigid species definitions..."

Yes, that's right, TM is trying to pass off the well established, century-old concept that species have fuzzy edges as "new". What's worse, he's doing it to try to make scientists look like confused idiots too wrapped up in their book learnin', and himself look like a wise paradigm-shifter.

I wonder what Yoon would think of her own words being used as anti-science rhetoric? Well, I have a guess. Here is another quote of hers, taken from another NYT essay

"...the ordering and naming of life is no esoteric science. .. sorting and naming the natural world is a universal, deep-seated and fundamental human activity, one we cannot afford to lose because it is essential to understanding the living world, and our place in it."

Example 3.5: In 2006, in a blog post titled "The Wolf Within", 12/11/2006, which is mostly a repost from 3/11/2005 [6]. He says Darren Naish is awesome, which, like quoting Yoon, is ironic, because Darren Naish now heartily disagrees with him about canid taxonomy, and since 2006 has drastically revised his position on the origin of domestic dogs based on new data. He would also, I suspect, disagree with TM about how scientists nowadays are tedious, attention-seekers who don't know how to make "real discoveries" anymore.[7]

TM's post from June 2015 titled "A Dog is Not A wolf" is nothing but a rehash of all his previous posts on the subject. Nothing new, and he suddenly doesn't seem to want to cite Naish anymore... hmm...

Example 4: He denies that black wolves got their melanistic gene from dogs. ("And White Wolves Come from Mars" 2/6/2009)

Look how he uses the same language and dismissive tone as he does every time he talks about science he doesn't like. He uses a few simple, accurate statements ("melanism is common", "dogs and wolves are related") then adds in his unjustified opinion ("therefore, the scientists can't prove the gene is from dogs"). It's like the definition of a non secitur. He seems to think that one can be correct simply if one is forceful and confident, but that's nothing but the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Notice how he also doesn't link to or critique the study itself, just the newspaper article about it, of which the most damning fact he can come up with is the author doesn't speak in absolutes.  

Example 5: He thinks DDT didn't affect raptors ("Bald Is Beautiful" September 5, 2008)

... and was called out on it here

The best that can be said about TM is that he wrote a few good blog posts about dog breeding and working animals. Unfortunately, he thinks that gives him authority to post many, many bad blog posts on subjects he's clearly not well versed. What's worse, he does so with the most condescending, uncompromising, unearned superiority complex I've seen outside of a politician.

No one ever told him, in the case of science writing, "fake it 'til you make it" is not the best motto to follow.

He uses anti-intellectualism when it suits him, and as an insult for people who disagree with him when it doesn't. He cherry picks data in the worst way. He holds on to outdated theories with an iron grip, violently denying all evidence against them. His blog is mostly a long list of non sequiturs he uses to boost his opinions, and he does nothing but add to the white noise of the anti-science movement. This is all the more insidious because he cloaks himself in the trappings of "science-ness" - and is believed by a depressing number of people.

Please, if you're a regular reader of TM, don't allow him to get away with this any longer. Start looking at his words more critically. Post skeptical comments and see how he responds. Don't share his posts without double checking his facts first. 


[2] see terriermandotcom (dot) blogspot (dot) com (yes, that really is the address he chose for his blog), 7/31/2015 "First New Canine in 150 Years?"
[3] Aside from his strawmen, of course. Oh, Patty looooves his imaginary strawmen opponents
[4] Back in olden times, before DNA was used in biology, it was logical to argue that dingoes were a separate species based on morphology and geography. Now, with new data, we know better. Dingoes are just dogs. You can call them a breed, or a population, or type, or regional variant, or whatever, but the science is pretty clear: they're dogs, closely related to other native breeds from east Asia.
[5] except to get attention for his blog
[6] He quotes himself almost as often as he quotes newspaper headlines.
[7] I can only assume that he finds all new species discoveries that don't involve Englishmen in tweed stomping through jungles as boring. Finding the new olinguito? Just some bookworms digging through a library, how boring!
[8]  Savolainen et al. 2002, Lindblad-Toh et al. 2005, Pang et al. 2009, vonHoldt et al. 2010, Larson et al. 2012Freedman et al. 2014...
[9] as if any of those things are automatically bad, or not useful, or not interesting, or even new (from his 7/31/2015 post "First New Canine in 150 Years?")

NOTE: I did not provide links because I don't want to encourage traffic to his site, which gets more than enough undeserved attention as it is. If you want to read his posts, my citations should be adequate to find them. If you can't, ask and I will provide a link via email. Or the screencaps in case some editing or "disappearing" occurs.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Baby Mantis

Found yesterday in the garden. About half a centimeter long. Probably a non-native Chinese mantis but I don't really know so back to the garden she went.



Sunday, May 10, 2015

Help a Naturalist Stuff His Weasel

Scottie Westfall, the writer of the Retriever, Dog, and Wildlife blog, needs help stuffing a weasel.

Not just any weasel; a white long-tailed weasel collected in West Virginia. There shouldn't be any white weasels in that part of the state. HOW INTERESTING you say. Sadly, it's been languishing in a freezer for over a decade. It's an interesting specimen that deserves to be professionally mounted.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Small Triumphs

This is a photo, taken today, of the first time this dog allowed me to touch him.

He's been at the shelter where I work for over a month. He has bitten nearly every staffer and several volunteers.

Today he came up and put his paws on me. I put his sweater on and a leash and took him outside. Things so minor that would have been impossible a week ago.

I'm not claiming any credit for this, except for one thing: which is I gave him his space. Except for necessary things like cleaning his kennel, and vaccinations when he first arrived, no one's done any actual "work" with him (and those who tried were the ones who pushed him too far and got bit). Slowly, through routine alone I suppose, he's come out of his snarly, terrified shell and is now going to an adoptive home.

Score for modern sheltering.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

NPR innocently asks, "does being vegan REALLY help animals?"

"Well OF COURSE it does!" (Says vegetarian who only talked to vegans.)

This article by Barbara J. King on the NPR website should have been titled "Why veganism is awesome: a vegan's perspective".

There are so many good, articulate writers and thinkers out there who are thoughtful meat eaters; the fact that this NPR writer didn't find ONE of them to talk to makes me mad. NPR is supposed to be better than this. Instead, we get yet another cookie-cutter, shallow, biased piece almost copy-pasted from the vegan movement's talking points. Although it's presented as an opinion piece, that doesn't excuse NPR for hosting such tripe.

My response, in bulleted list format because I'm lazy (also I've written about this before):

-I have friends who are vegan. They are good, earnest people who care deeply about animals, and I can dig that. Unfortunately, one of the many problems with the vegan "movement" is it is headed by radical animal rights activists just like the ones interviewed for this article. Anyone from PETA or  HSUS is not "reasonable", and are complicit in the deaths of thousands of dogs and cats annually through unnecessary euthanasia. They may care for animals too, but their goal is to force their values on everyone without listening to facts or reason. They should be the last ones to use as examples if you're really trying to have a balanced discussion or convince anyone to change their lifestyle. (Also, kindly remember that us thoughtful meat-eaters care deeply for animals, too)

-Veganism (or vegitarianism, or reducing use of animal products) is not the only way, or even a good way, to go about reducing the suffering of animals by human hands.

-Just because you're not eating them, doesn't mean animals didn't die for you. Soy harvest alone kills or displaces countless birds and small mammals. Sorry to wreck your warm-and-fuzzies, but that "95" number is completely made up by someone with an agenda.

-Growing plants is not automatically better for the environment than growing animals.

-All the proven health benefits of a vegan diet have as much to do with simply being more thoughtful about diet in general than in actually being vegan.

-No, it really isn't simple or cheap to live on a vegan diet. Especially if you have children. Stop the hand-waving. Maybe we can have a discussion about how to improve public school lunches? Or reduce urban food deserts? Or incentivize community gardens? Or, you know, ANYTHING besides  scolding or guilt-tripping because "I can do it, so can you"?

-While we're at it, let's acknowledge a couple things: 1) most vegans are white, middle to upper class, while most of the farmworkers who harvest the crops that make a vegan lifestyle possible are poor people of color; 2) some people really, truly can't survive on a vegan diet for health reasons; 3) food is very important to many cultures and insulting cultural dishes because they dare to contain meat is bigotry

-The word I'm looking for is 'ethnocentric'. (And also, if you're comparing yourself to Saint Paul simply because of your diet, that should be a clue that your ego is too big for you to be having a grown-up conversation, especially on freaking NPR)

-They try to imply that government or military misallocation of resources - like grains seized in Ethiopia during the height of famine- was because of factory farming? That's insane. I can't even.

-Can we PLEASE have a discussion that goes beyond "red meat"? Corn-fattened beef from feed lots is not the only animal product out there. Vegans love to hang their debate on it because it's pretty clear cut: yes, reducing this type of meat consumption is healthier; yes, feed lots are bad for the environment; yes, it's wasteful to feed them corn. We know this already. Can we talk about range cattle? Or farmed tilapia? Or backyard chickens? Or livestock fed off of marginal land unsuitable for crops? Or sustainable hunting? As someone who cares about this stuff, I hate seeing yet another black and white debate from vegans. "Beef or no meat at all" are our only choices? Really? Even the pesco-vegetarian author barely touched on how important fish is as a protein, yet dedicated many paragraphs to full-on anti-meat propaganda.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Agate Hunting

This cliff is about a quarter mile from the river, so I'm sure these are river rocks are from the old river bed. It's a good spot. I can always find at least a double handful of semi-translucent agates within half an hour.

And every now and then, a really nice one:

This is what they look like after going through the rock tumbler:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bighorn Sheep of Interstate 84

Bighorn sheep went extinct in Oregon in the 1940's but are making a slow steady comeback. There are now an estimated 3700 in the state. Less than a hundred hunting tags are issued each year, and it's a "once in a lifetime" tag - even if you don't fill it, you never get the chance again.

It's a special treat to see one in the wild. And if you want to see one, I can tell you exactly where to go where you're almost guaranteed to see at least a few. I've personally seen a group as large as twenty. You don't need to hike, you just need to look out your car window while driving between mileposts 128 and 115 on I-84 in Oregon.

(Mile post 122 July 2013)

This is the habitat:

(area circled has about a dozen bighorns in it, you just can't tell in this horrible blurry photo, taken December 2014)

At the top of the cliffs the land flattens out a bit and is private farm land, and beyond that is the John Day River. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been re-introducing bighorns in several places along the John Day river, but much farther south. This tiny strip of land is shown as "bighorn sheep occupied habitat" on their map, but it looks like the closest reintroduction location is many miles to the south (see below) (plus, I can't imagine ODFW thinking that land that close to a freeway would be prime habitat for reintroduction).

I'm guessing the sheep traveled to this location themselves, following the river north to the Columbia from the Cotton Canyon area. They found this small but nice piece of real-state and decided to stay, and I can see why: the steep cliffs they like to keep them safe from coyotes, plenty of water and browse, and, though they have to deal with the constant sound of traffic, they're almost guaranteed to never be harassed by hikers, hunters, dogs, or domestic livestock.

(area in red is our bighorns, area is green shows next closest population)

FYI: there aren't really any safe places on this stretch of road to pull over for photos. I've seen some people do it, though I haven't worked up the courage to risk death-by-semi to get some shots of the wildlife with my nice lens.

I call this series "dog forced to sit next to trees"