Save milkweeds, save monarchs. March 7, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: milkweed, milkweed for monarchs, monarch butterflies, Monsanto, save the monarch butterflies
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Another reason to hate Monsanto. Our friend Ben read an article on LiveScience this morning that said that monarch butterfly populations were being driven to extinction because of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (generic: glyphosate). Because Roundup is so widely used in this country, milkweeds are being killed countrywide. And because milkweeds are the only food of monarch butterfly larvae and the only plants on which monarch females will lay their eggs, the monarch population has declined drastically, from over 1 billion to 3.3 million in just ten years. Our yard used to be full of monarchs; last summer, we didn’t see one.
People sometimes ask me why I hate Monsanto. Is it because of their “Frankenfoods,” GMO (for “genetically modified organisms”) like corn and soybeans created out of things like mouse DNA to withstand massive applications of Roundup, with no thought to how these so-called foods might affect the animals and humans that eat them? No, not really. Is it because of the trick Monsanto pulled on farmers, forcing them to buy the GMO seeds, which they produce and sell, AND the Roundup in ever-increasing quantities every year to keep weeds at bay? No, not really. Surely farmers are smart enough to figure out this devil’s bargain for themselves.
What really frosts my flakes about Monsanto is its ruthless pursuit of world domination. When its horrible GMO pollen gets into the field of a small farmer who’s nurturing an heirloom strain passed down in his family for generations, instead of the farmer suing Monsanto for contaminating his crop, Monsanto sues him for “stealing” its seeds. And wins. Money talks, and Monsanto has ever so much of that. Every time a state wants to have GMO ingredients listed on food labels so its citizens can make an informed decision about whether to buy them or not, Monsanto throws big money around and buys so many votes that not one of the many GMO-labelling initiatives has passed.
Worst of all, Monsanto goes to Third World countries and persuades its small farmers, who have grown crops suited to their areas for thousands of years, to give them up in favor of Monsanto’s supercrops. And suddenly, they too find themselves paying for seed every year instead of saving their own, seed that isn’t suited to their climate or their diet. Or else.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are faced with Roundup residue in our food and water and soil and pet food, whether we want it or not. (Soon to be combined with 2,4-D, one of the herbicides used in Agent Orange, to give its waning efficacy a boost.) And we’re seeing the die-off of beautiful species like the monarch butterflies as a result, and wondering why our own cancer rate and our pets’ is shooting up.
I’d like to encourage everyone who loves monarch butterflies to stop using Roundup on your property and to plant milkweed. If you feel the need to fight weeds on your property and don’t want to pull them up, use one of the flamethrower weedkillers, sort of like a bigger version of a grill starter. (Except in the case of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac; you really need to keep after these while they’re small and pull them up wth latex gloves, then toss them and the gloves out in a plastic bag. Flame could blow the active ingredient, urushiol, on you, and give you a rash like you can’t imagine.)
We have encouraged the growth of our native milkweed (showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa) here at Hawk’s Haven, as well as planting the aptly named butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). Both are highly decorative; showy milkweed has dense heads of pink flowers, and you can now find butterfly weed in every shade from yellow through orange to red. Showy milkweed will form sturdy colonies if you let it, and butterfly weed is one of the perennial joys of summer. Please try to help the monarchs. And defeat Monsanto.
Sochi’s strays steal the spotlight. February 19, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: animal shelters, dogs, homeless dogs, mixed breeds, mutts, Olympic dogs, pet adoption, Sochi dogs, stray dogs
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have never understood why the Olympics, or any sports for that matter, exercise such a fascination for the general public. If you’re not playing, what’s the big deal? (Admittedly, we feel the same way about watching musicians sawing away for hours at a symphony performance; why not just listen to the CD, unless you play yourself and are trying to pick up technique?)
But we’ve been watching with bated breath ever since we learned of the 2,000 stray dogs in Sochi that were going to be killed before the Olympics to make everything nice and tidy. As dog lovers, we were horrified by their casual disposal—just another trash pickup—and were delighted to read of the international outrage once the news got out, and of the stray who joined the opening ceremony and became an immediate viral celebrity.
While not even Sochi’s strays could make us actually watch the Olympics, we’ve been following their plight closely: How the construction workers who spruced up the city for the Games fed them. How Olympians like Gus Kenworthy are trying to adopt them. How Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska funds and has expanded PovoDog, a Sochi pet shelter. How others are trying to import Sochi dogs to the U.S. to place in shelters here, believing that they’ll have a better chance at adoption.
Ultimately, the fate of Sochi’s dogs remains unclear, and for most, as for most shelter dogs, not too bright. But their presence at the Winter Olympics has done more to showcase the plight of homeless animals, and the lovable nature and attractive appearance of mixed-breed dogs (“mutts”), than any campaign launched by the Humane Society, PETA, and all other animal-welfare organizations combined. Let’s hope more people start visiting their local shelters and really seeing the dogs instead of dismissing them if they’re not purebred. And let’s hope adoptions skyrocket.
This year’s Winter Olympics produced 2,000 stars.
Naming adopted pets. January 23, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: changing pet names, dog names, naming cats, naming dogs, naming pets, pet names
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood just saw an article about whether you should rename an adopted animal. We say, of course you should, assuming you don’t like your pet’s original name.
However, if your pet already has a name, we also don’t think you should stray too far from it when you give it its new name. Let’s say your dog’s name was Meatball. Changing it to Farley might seem like a good idea, but Meatball might not have a clue about what you’re calling him. Remember, it’s not his fault his previous owners were idiots; it’s just up to you to come up with a new name you can tolerate that sounds enough like Meatball for your new dog to recognize it.
Dogs, after all, aren’t stupid, unlike their owners who give them stupid names and then abandon them. They’ll quickly come to recognize their names if they sound vaguely familiar and respond to them.
We should know. We chose to adopt a delightful golden retriever whose owner had named her Banjo. We didn’t think a dog should be named for a thing. We’d planned on naming our dog Maggie, but Banjo and Maggie were too far apart. We decided on Annie instead, since it was closer to Banjo. Sure enough, Annie responded to her new name from the moment we took her home.
Meatball? Maybe if he’s a tough-looking guy, or you’re a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, you could call hime Eagle. Just a thought.
Whatever, don’t settle for a name you hate just because the dog or cat’s already been saddled with it. (Precious or Mister or Fella or Fluffy, anyone?) Just try to come up with something that sounds enough like the name for your pet to adjust. After all, they’re already grateful to you for taking them in. Making sure that the new name means them—always addressing them by that name, praising and petting them while using the name—will help them adjust quickly. Don’t settle for Cuddles or Puddles if you want Carruthers.
Mouse-proof your house. December 29, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: dealing with mice, hantavirus, keeping mice out, Lyme disease, mice, mice in the house, mouseborne diseases
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Silence Dogood here. Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share here in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, is surrounded by farm fields. Farm fields mean field mice. A plentiful deer population means white-footed deer mice. And when it gets cold outside and the food supply starts to dwindle, their thoughts turn to a warm, cozy cottage home.
Mice—especially white-footed mice—may look cute, but there are two very good reasons to keep them out of your house. One is the horrible mess they make if they do get into something—shredded cloth, ripped-up packages, spilled food, massive amounts of droppings and the stench of mouse urine. The other is disease. White-footed deer mice are the actual carriers of the ticks that spread debilitating Lyme disease. In the Southwest, mice carry the often-fatal hantavirus. It’s easy to blame rats for the resurgence of plague in the U.S., but who’s to know? Maybe plague-carrying fleas have made the short jump to mice.
Needless to say, when you grow up in rural, mouse-friendly houses, as OFB and I both did, you learn some standard anti-mouse procedures early on. And here at Hawk’s Haven, we’ve developed others.
Yes, of course you can smear something sticky, like peanut butter or Brie, on mousetraps and set them where mice can get them but you and your pets and kids are unlikely to get snapped. If you use mousetraps, I suggest you dump the poor little carcasses in the shrubbery so your overwintering wildlife can get some extra protein. For my part, people who use glue traps can rot in them themselves in a hell of agony, terror, and slow death.
If you don’t have kids or pets, you can set out poison bait, as my father always did. Unfortunately, this process involves a step they never advertise on the packaging: The mice don’t die right away. Instead, they inevitably crawl into the woodwork or somewhere else where you’ll never find them, then die and proceed to rot and stink for months on end. It’s just amazing how strong a tiny little mouse carcass can smell. Eeewwww!!! And don’t ever let anything, pet or wildlife, eat a poisoned carcass, unless you want to inflict more death.
You can of course also try your hand with live traps, and good luck to you. Please check them often, or the mice will suffocate in terror. And please have a humane release plan that doesn’t involve dumping them on someone else’s land. Good luck with that!
I guess it’s obvious that we don’t use poison or traps here at Hawk’s Haven. We prefer a simple program of deterrence. Our first line of defence is our two indoor cats and beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh. It’s true that every now and again, one of the cats will catch a mouse. But far more often, their pursuit of the mice, launching themselves against the heating ducts or whatnot with Shiloh in hot and happy pursuit, is enough to make the mice rethink their strategy. Retreat suddenly looks like a great idea.
We’d recommend cats to anyone. But our longterm strategy is much simpler and more passive: exclusion. First, we try to make sure there are no openings, however small, into our home, such as a tiny space around a pipe. We’ve heard that mice can squeeze through an opening the size of a dime. Though this is hard to believe of our fat country mice, we take no chances, filling space where pipes and the like enter the house with steel wool, then duct-taping over it.
Next, we store mouse-friendly foods in mouse-proof containers. Cheeses, butter, produce and nuts live in our fridge until it’s time to eat them. Grains, pasta, beans, and cereals are in large glass or hard plastic click-top containers. Everything else that’s out is in cans, bottles, or glass jars. We keep our pet food in huge tins, and keep our black-oil sunflower seed and suet cakes for the outdoor birds in a tin as well. (Note: If, like us, you thought mice were vegetarians, you’ll be shocked to learn that they appear to love meat-rich cat-food pellets as much as any cat.)
We’re also mindful of things that wouldn’t strike us as edible, like soap and candles. Mice love ‘em, so we keep them in secure, mouse-proof storage. Ditto for all natural fabrics. Mice are especially fond of wool—knitters, guard your yarn!—but cotton is fair game, as is paper, cardboard, you name it. Don’t risk it! Store your goods in those big plastic staorage bins you can get at any pharmacy or discount store or office supply store when they’re not hung up in your closet. And check your dresser drawers weekly.
Finally, if you do have pets, please dose them monthly with Frontline, Advantix, or some other flea- and tick-repellent. This will help you do an end-run around mice that might be carriers of disease via fleas or ticks, and save your pets as well as you.
‘Til next time,
Our Christmas miracle. December 26, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: best Christmas, Christmas stories, Linus, Silence Dogood, the Christmas Eve cat
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Silence Dogood here. Every Christmas is special to me and our friend Ben. But this year, you might have thought we were really slacking off. I’d stocked up on balsam fir incense from Paine’s, a family tradition dating back to OFB’s childhood, and had ordered him his very own fruitcake from the monks of Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky in honor of his Kentucky-born Mama’s annual fruitcake-making ritual. (I’m happy to do it as long as OFB doesn’t try to make me eat any leaden, disgusting fruitcake, I HATE fruitcake, yuck.)
We’d bought a lovely fresh wreath from our local farmers’ market to hang on the outside of our cottage home, and I’d got a nostalgic bottlebrush-and-silver-ball wreath from the Vermont Country Store for the front door. But the rest of our decorating left a lot, for us, anyway, to be desired.
We put up the tree, with its endless tiny white lights. But for some reason, OFB simply wouldn’t bring down the 50 boxes of ornaments from the attic. I’m deathly afraid of heights, so climbing the attic stairs wasn’t an option. I did manage to eventually browbeat OFB into bringing down the wreath we hang over the mantel every Christmas. I put our red candles in all our candlesticks, on the mantel and on our kitchen table, and put out our red Christmas placemats and green cloth napkins. We bought red and white poinsettias and put them on our mantel and kitchen table, making a beautiful display with their gold, red, and green foil pot wrappers.
All this minimalist decorating, coupled with endless badgering by me, made OFB really look at our decorating, perhaps for the first time. He felt that he really loved this simple style, instead of the ornate, overladen tree, mantel, table and etc. that normally marks our Christmas season. I managed to persuade him to go to our local Big Lots for some simple red balls to add to the tree—no need for a trip to the attic!—and a red brocaded tablecloth to serve as a tree skirt, something we’d never had and that added the perfect finishing touch to our tree.
Our Christmas dinner was scaled way back as well. I made my famous endive boats as appetizers, so easy, so good, and so light on the stomach: Belgian endive leaves filled with crumbled blue or gorgonzola cheese, pecan pieces, a few dried cranberries, and fresh-cracked black pepper. Then I made my wonderful Christmas dressing, traditional corn pudding, roasted sweet potatoes, and green beans, and heated up some luscious, buttery dinner rolls. OFB had homemade cookies from our neighbors, famous handmade candies from me, and the Trappist fruitcake to choose from for dessert, but he was so full, he passed on all of them.
I won’t even go into all the dishes I didn’t make this Christmas, including the fabulous homemade eggnog (a family recipe for over 200 years) and the chocolate yummy-rummies that people have been known to fight over. Even without the additional decorations and dishes, you may be asking yourself what this could possibly have to do with a Christmas miracle.
Well, maybe we didn’t get to see all our beloved ornaments displayed this year, or eat all our favorite Christmas foods. Maybe we didn’t get every present we’d been hoping for. But what we did get was more than anything we could ever have hoped for in our wildest dreams.
You see, in August, OFB inadvertently held our back deck door open a little too wide, a little too long, while taking our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, outside for a bathroom break. And while the door was open, my favorite cat, Linus, shot out the door and escaped into the great outdoors.
This might not seem so awful to you, but you have to understand that we live in a part of the world where the gun-toting types that identify with “Duck Dynasty” are all around us. People shoot cats for fun or target practice. Cars race around the corner, hitting anything in their way. There are plenty of other types of viscious competing wildlife, from raccoons to coyotes and foxes. Every day, I looked for Linus and wept.
Four months later, Linus had miraculously survived and was making his presence felt. He was living under our studio and under our deck. He was eating the food we put out for him every day. He was following us around the yard when we took Shiloh out, coming to the deck door and even setting a paw or half of himself inside in the warmth and dryness, yelling his head off outside my office window if he wanted to see me, then rushing to the deck to continue the conversation in person. The one thing he wasn’t doing was coming back inside.
Then, this Christmas Eve, a miracle happened. Shiloh and our other cat, Linus’s half-sister Layla, were nowhere in sight. I heard Linus calling, so I went to the back deck door, cracked it open, turned on the deck light, and started talking to him. And there he was. He came part-way in, dashed back out, came back in, dashed back out, came back in—this time, far enough in for me to grab him and shut the door. Just in time for Christmas, Linus was back home!
He immediately jumped up on the counter where we have the cat-food and water bowls (out of Shiloh’s reach), then headed under our bed for a long winter’s rest. For the first night in four months, I actually slept through the night, with no nightmares of my beloved cat killed in the road or shot by some monster. At one point during the night, I woke to find the familiar furry body pressed tight against mine, purring his heart out.
I tell you, there has never been a better Christmas.
‘Til next time,
Threatening the dog. October 21, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: bad dogs, dog humor, dog owners, dogs, German shepherds, Shiloh
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have a big, bad, black German shepherd named Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special. (I wanted another golden retriever, but Silence found Shiloh online and informed me that she was going to be our next dog and her name was going to be Shiloh. Well, alrighty then. And when we found out that her grandfather’s name was actually Lucas von Shiloh Special, we just couldn’t resist adding it onto her name.)
But to get back to our by now very big, very bad dog. When she does something bad—deafening us with her barking, chasing the cats or putting them through the “catwash” (her tongue is as big as the rest of her), pulling on her leash, or just generally being annoying—we threaten her. Not, mind you, with physical harm. Being wordsmiths, we threaten her with a fast flight to Asia.
Silence once read a story about Koreans’ fondness for dog meat. The proprietor of Mr. Moon’s Dog Stew Emporium, which apparently was doing a booming business when the reporter visited, served up a delicious bowl of hot dog stew. His may have been the most celebrated, but was far from the only, dog stew emporium in the city.
After Silence read this, and of course shared it with our friend Ben with an appropriate amount of outraged commentary, we began threatening Shiloh at every instance of bad behavior with instantaneous exportation and being sold by the pound to Mr. Moon.
Since Shiloh weighs more than 90 pounds, we figured we could get a decent return on investment, especially if Mr. Moon was willing to pay shipping costs. Loud barking and destroying our rugs while rushing through the house brought pointed comments about how meaty Shiloh’s thighs were, and how succulent they would be in a stew.
Admittedly, these comments appeared to be completely lost on Shiloh, but they sure made us feel better about her outrageous behavior. Recently, though, we’ve had a change of tone in our threats. Silence read that the Vietnamese, who also love dog meat and believe that eating it brings good luck, have apparently recently begun to also embrace dogs as pets. Or, at least, high-end dogs; the rest are still consigned to the pot, and apparently the devoted pet-dog owners enjoy their lucky dog-meat dishes as much as everybody else.
Silence, a devout vegetarian, practically beat our friend Ben over the head with the offending article while ranting on (and on, and on) about how perverse people could be when deciding which animals could be sacrificed for meat and which were considered cherished family members. But she didn’t show me the article because of that, but rather, because it said that a pet German shepherd could bring as much as $40,000 (U.S. dollars) in Vietnam.
Okay, we’re not Einsteins, but we don’t think we could get that much from Mr. Moon, no matter how hefty Shiloh is or how much he’s paying per pound. So we’ve changed our threat to benefit our bottom line. Now, when Shiloh misbehaves, we inform her that we’re buying her a one-way ticket to Vietnam, and that we hope she’ll appreciate the contribution she’ll be making to our bank account.
Mind you, she pays no more attention to the latest threat than she did to our promises to sell her to Mr. Moon. But we don’t care. Every time we mention her future fate, we can sit back, relax, and imagine what we’d do with $40,000. And, once we feel totally cheered up, we can rub Shiloh’s belly and smooth her ears and enjoy the company of the best bad dog that ever was without having to shell out another cent. That would be the loving, happy dog with the huge smile and lolling tongue and bright eyes and waggily tail.
Not that she wouldn’t sell us in a heartbeat for $40,000 or even $40 worth of dog treats, or pizza and white Zinfandel for that matter. But that’s another story. (Don’t even think about giving her tequila; she’d sell you to Mr. Moon ASAP and claim you were a massive Bassett hound or something. One taste of spilled tequila on the floor, and the hilarious, horrifed expression and wrinkled muzzle, put Margaritaville forever on the back burner as far as Shiloh was concerned.)
Anyway, we encourage you to threaten your dog in the most inventive ways you can come up with. Even if the dog is oblivious, we promise, you’ll feel much better.
Shiloh to the rescue! October 13, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: dog tales, German shepherds, guard dogs, pitbulls, Shiloh
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Shiloh, our friend Ben’s and Silence Dogood’s gigantic black German shepherd, is a wuss. Yes, her size and deep-chested barking do tend to unnerve FedEx and UPS men, not to mention the postman and water delivery guy.
But that’s just because, seeing a huge black dog racing between the front window and door, barking enthusiastically, they don’t notice the huge, happy smile and lolling tongue, the furiously wagging tail, and the excited tone of the bark: “Look, we have visitors!!!” People who actually come into the house immediately realize there’s nothing to fear except an enthusiastic licking.
Shiloh proved her lack of guard-dog chops once and for all when we were sleeping soundly and, at 2 a.m., there was a loud knocking on our (very isolated rural) door. Silence, half-asleep, was completely terrified, since in her groggy state it didn’t dawn on her that a murderer was unlikely to knock, however loudly, on the door. “BEN! What are you doing?!!” “I’m answering the door.” “NOOOO!!! Here! Take this pepper spray! Get the baseball bat! Do you want ME to take the pepper spray?!!”
It turned out to be the fire police, informing everyone on our street that a garbage truck had crashed into a telephone pole down the road, breaking it and pulling over a connected pole across the street. (Mercifully, no one was hurt.) They wanted us to turn off our power so the repair crew could get to work safely.
So where was our fierce watch beast, normally up and barking loudly (if cheerfully) at every passerby—and every passing dog—during all this? Well, there was Silence cowering in terror on the bed. And there was Shiloh, having picked this up from Silence, cowering very quietly in the pitch-dark on her bed at the foot of our bed, doubtless thinking that no one would notice her way down there, blending into the darkness.
Let us stress again that Shiloh loves dogs. Shiloh loves all dogs. She lives to play with dogs (and try to steal their food and toys, but that’s another matter). Keep this in mind as you read what recently happened.
So, last weekend, a friend of ours came over. His job is to go into people’s houses and advise them on how they can weatherproof their houses. And he told us that we’d be amazed to know how many of these homeowners had pitbulls, especially in urban areas. He said that many of the pitbulls were perfectly friendly, but many were not, to the point where the owners had to cage the pitbulls while our friend did his evaluations.
In one house he recently visited, the pitbull was so vicious that it dragged its huge crate across the floor after our friend, growling, snarling and barking as it tried to rip him apart. Our friend was so concerned that he recorded the dog’s behavior on his smartphone, in case he or his survivors needed it for legal purposes. “See? Just look at this,” he said, playing the clip of the snarling, growling, leaping dog. It was certainly an unnerving performance.
But what was truly remarkable was the transformation it produced in Shiloh. Our normally upbeat, happy-go-lucky dog heard those threatening sounds and recognized them, and what they meant, immediately. She didn’t know where they were coming from, and assumed they must be outside, since there was obviously no other dog in the house.
Rushing to the deck door, she let loose with such a ferocious, deafening, menacing round of barking as we’d never heard in our lives. Her meaning was perfectly clear: “Try to hurt my people and I’ll tear you end to end.”
Our friend hastily ended his clip, and the second the noise stopped, Shiloh stopped barking and went back to being her loving, friendly, “Want to play with this squeaky toy, and if not, how about a treat?” self. But now there was no doubt in our minds: If we were truly under threat, from a dog, at any rate, Shiloh would protect us with everything she has.
Our friend Ben guesses that, ultimately, it’s just poetic justice. I wouldn’t (under threat of my life) dare to call Silence cowardly, but as the incident related earlier in this post might suggest, she’s not exactly fearless. However, the mere thought of someone laying a harmful hand on Shiloh turns this timid lamb into a raging lion. “If I ever found someone trying to hurt her, I would pound them into pulp! They might not live to regret the day they ever laid a hand on her!!!”
Gee. If only I could get her to feel that way about me…
Dogs you shouldn’t own. October 2, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in pets.
Tags: choosing a dog breed, disease-prone dog breeds, dog breeds, dog breeds most likely to end up in shelters, dog breeds to avoid, Dr. Marty Becker, vetstreet
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When you think of dogs you shouldn’t own, some breeds naturally spring to mind. Breeds like pit bulls, whose powerful jaws can deliver a bite that can break bone. Or Border collies, who were bred to herd sheep over long distances all day, every day, and are great for an active family or as working dogs but become destructive if left alone and bored.
Maybe a breed like the chow springs to mind, fiercely protective of his family but often just plain fierce towards others, or the Akita, bred to hunt bears and strong-willed, a great dog for a seasoned dog owner who is willing to put the time into training, a disaster-in-waiting for an inexperienced or timid owner. Then there are the breeds that have been overbred, typically the mini-minis whose bones are so fragile they break spontaneously or who’ve become known for anxiety disorders.
So when I saw an article on Yahoo’s home page called “5 Worrisome Dog Breeds,” I clicked on it at once. Which five would turn up on the list?
The answer proved to be heartbreaking. The article, which appeared on the VetStreet website and was written by renowned veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, was about three dog breeds that have become most notorious in the veterinary profession for terrible diseases and disorders, plus two whose popularity landed many of them in animal shelters, where their days were numbered.
Of the latter two, one was the pit bull—not exactly a surprise. I’ve been seeing pit bulls dominating shelter populations for years. The poor dogs apparently are discarded because someone wants to look tough, then finds that his dog is “too much dog” for him, or because the person really is tough, and the “scary” pit bull he ended up with turns out to be a mild-mannered sweetheart. As Dr. Becker notes, people are afraid to adopt pit bulls, so once they reach the shelter it’s usually their last stop, despite the ongoing efforts of animal rescue organizations and no-kill shelters to save them.
The other dog on the shelter list was a complete surprise: the chihuahua. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a chihuahua at a shelter, but then, I live in a rural area where I haven’t seen that many chihuahuas out and about, period. Apparently, in more urban areas, the Taco Bell/Paris Hilton phenomenon resulted in a wave of chihuahua breeding and buying, which then resulted in a wave of dumped chihuahuas clogging shelters.
This is confusing to me. I’m not a small-dog person, so I’ve never understood why anyone would want a chihuahua in the first place, but if you did want one, I can’t imagine why you’d want to give it up. Dr. Becker says they’re a generally healthy breed with larger-than-life personalities. Certainly, they don’t take up a lot of space and they’re not terrifying. I just don’t get it.
These situations are unfortunate in the extreme, but it’s the final three that I find most heartbreaking. The first dog on Dr. Becker’s list is the bulldog, to which he adds pugs and French bulldogs—you know, those poor animals that have been bred to have hideous smashed-in faces. How anyone could do that to a dog is beyond my wildest imagining (or to a cat, for that matter—think Persians). How horrifically cruel to the poor animal who can no longer even breathe and is prone to collapse if given exercise in hot weather.
Dr. Becker says many of them must have their nostrils surgically enlarged and/or their soft palates shortened to permit them to draw in the breath of life. How could anyone justify breeding an animal that can’t even breathe?!
The last two on the list really broke my heart, since they’re our favorite breeds: German shepherds and golden retrievers. The beautiful, lovable goldens made the list because they’re so terribly prone to cancer; in fact, Dr. Becker says that among vets, they’re known as “the cancer retriever.”
No one knows why goldens are so prone to cancer, but our own dreadful experience certainly bears it out: We lost our beloved Annie to cancer at just 1 1/2, and our adored Molly at age 10. When our neighbor’s golden recently got the Big-C diagnosis, his vet congratulated him, saying that any golden who made it past ten without succumbing to cancer was a rare sight indeed.
As for German shepherds, Dr. Becker presented a regular laundry list of potential health problems: “epilepsy, vision problems, bleeding disorders and digestive problems, as well as bad hips and degenerative myelopathy, an incurable condition that causes progressive paralysis.” Oh, joy! That’s something to look forward to with our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh.
So be warned. After enduring the agony and heartbreak of Annie’s and Molly’s decline, suffering and death from cancer and cancer treatments, we’ve decided that, much as we would love another golden, we won’t get one unless fate literally drops one of these incredible creatures in our laps. Our neighbor, also a big-time golden guy, says he thinks he’ll risk it after his beloved Jackson is gone.
Think carefully before adopting a dog who’s notoriously disease-prone, a dog deliberately bred to be miserable, or a dog that’s not suited to your personality and your lifestyle. Nobody wants their dog to suffer. And if I never saw another sad, bewildered, abandoned dog in a shelter, it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.
Dogs (and cats and all pets) are not disposables, they’re living, loving beings like us. So do your research, talk to owners, breeders, rescue organizations and vets about the personalities, traits, and needs of various breeds before you buy or adopt. Spend some time at shelters getting to know the individual dogs (or cats) there. This is one time to truly look before you leap.
Our cherry tomato is doomed. August 1, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, pets.
Tags: cherry tomatoes, chipmunks and cherry tomatoes, container tomatoes, container water gardens, tomato hornworms
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood adore cherry tomatoes. Every year, we plant ‘Sungold’, ‘Yellow Pear’, ‘Yellow Plum’, ‘Sweet 100′, and ‘Pink Quartz’ cherry tomatoes in our raised beds. Yum!!!
But this year, in addition to the plants in our beds, a good friend offered us a container-grown plant of our all-time favorite, the orange ‘Sungold’. Why not, we thought, we’ll put it on our deck and be able to harvest cherry tomatoes from our kitchen door! We were excited. The tomato plant looked lush and was furiously flowering and setting fruit.
Then disaster struck. This past weekend, I noticed that all the new foliage had been consumed. Sure enough, there were two young tomato hornworms, green caterpillars that bear an uncanny resemblance to tomato stems, on the plant. In our garden beds, if I find hornworms on our tomatoes, I always leave them. That’s because, inevitably, they’ve been colonized by parasitic wasps (you can tell because of the white pupal “egg” cases running down their backs). This is organic pest control at its best.
Unfortunately, these two young hornworms hadn’t been discovered by braconid wasps. Figuring that they’d still make a succulent meal for birds, I tossed them into the backyard to fend for themselves as best they could.
But then there was today. This morning, I saw that half the ripe orange cherry tomatoes I’d been looking forward to enjoying in our salad were gone! I was tempted to ask Silence if she’d eaten them, but hey, this is Silence Dogood we’re talking about. Frankly, I didn’t dare.
This afternoon, the mystery was solved. I saw our cat Layla stationed by the deck door, staring out with total concentration. So I came over and stared out myself. Sure enough, there was, of all things, a chipmunk in the tomato container, and every last ripe tomato was gone!
I’m not looking forward to sharing this discovery with Silence. But at least there’s some good news to offset the bad. I was sitting out on the deck with our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, this evening when I heard a loud “Bleep!” coming from the direction of our half-barrel water garden. Trying to be as casual as possible, I turned my head and thought I might see some eyes sticking up out of the water.
I took Shiloh back inside, then sidled up toward the water garden. Sure enough, there was a pickerel frog in our deck’s water garden! This is the first time an amphibian has chosen to grace our water garden with its presence. Silence and I love frogs and toads. Perhaps she’ll be willing to accept the loss of our container cherry tomatoes in exchange for a new friend.
Checking in on Shiloh. July 15, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in pets.
Tags: choosing a dog, dogs, German shepherd dogs, Pioneer German shepherds, Shiloh
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I have been blessed to have our beloved black German shepherd, Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special (that’s just Shiloh to you), for four years now. Shiloh’s name is “von Shiloh Special” because she’s the granddaughter of Lucas von Shiloh Special, so who could resist? But she is very special to us: beautiful, funny, smart, loving, big, bad (in a comical way), and above all, happy. Seeing her huge smile and lolling tongue is enough to bring someone back from the dead.
Our friend Ben and I had lost two beloved golden retrievers to cancer when I started the search for Shiloh. Just this morning, I read that one in three goldens now loses their life to cancer, and the numbers are expected to rise. OFB has been hoping that one day, we’ll have another of these beautiful, laid-back, joyful dogs. But having seen our two beloved friends suffer, I told him that there’s no way we’re getting another golden unless researchers can break the cancer conundrum; I can’t face that heartbreak again.
Of course, we got Shiloh four years previous to this morning’s revelation. OFB wanted another golden retriever pup then, too. But I was on a mission from God. I loved my goldens, but I’d always wanted a German shepherd. I’d tried to rescue one from a shelter as my first on-my-own dog, but the shelter refused to give her to me because I was single and worked. Better to euthanize the dog than send her to a home where she’d be cherished, apparently! I was and remain incensed about this, but I never forgot my dream of owning a German shepherd.
After our beloved golden Mollycule (that would be the gigantic Hawk’s Haven Molly, aka “the little Mollycule”) died, I went online and searched “German shepherds PA.” I knew the time had come for a female German shepherd; I knew her name would be Shiloh. The question was, where was she?
A few clicks later, I found her. Pioneer German Shepherds, a small family operation near Gettysburg, offered large, calm, family dogs. “Calm” was, of course, a necessary trait, and “family” implied that they would get along with everybody, including our cats and birds. But “large” was also important to me. I like big dogs and, despite their fearsome reputation, most German shepherds are medium-sized dogs. They were originally bred to herd sheep, not cattle, after all. They’re bigger than spaniels, but most are way smaller than rottweilers, sort of the size of Lassie.
Not so for Pioneer’s shepherds. Shiloh’s father weighed in at 135 pounds and looked like a lion; her mother was a respectable 90-something. (And in both cases, this was size, not fat. These are big dogs.) As it happened, Pioneer had two pups left from their latest litter, and had posted photos. I saw the photo of the adorable little black female pup and was lost. I knew she was my Shiloh.
But there was a problem: We couldn’t go down to get her right away, and another couple was coming to look at the two pups first. What if they chose my Shiloh over the other pup? Fortunately, they took the other pup. Shiloh was ours.
I still remember how quiet and calm she was in her carrier all the way back from the Gettysburg area to the Lehigh Valley, a two-hour trip. Her breeder called her a “thinking” pup, enjoying life while discovering everything she could about it. She instantly took to us, to the cats, to the birds, to her toys, to everything. She has given us four years of unmitigated joy.
Shiloh is the greatest. But so are her breeders. Just this morning, Shiloh’s breeders e-mailed to ask how she was. They remembered everything about her while she was with them, the way she loved to swing on the puppy gate, how smart she was. They asked if we could send an update and some photos. And this is four years after we brought her home! How often do you think that happens?!
I’d have said never, and I’d have been wrong. Dog lovers, if you choose a breeder rather than adoption, please choose responsibly. Do your research, trust your instincts, and don’t patronize puppy mills. How wonderful to find a breeder who loves—and continues to love—your dog as much as you do.
‘Til next time,