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Dogs

Post  eddie on Sun Jul 24, 2011 4:58 pm

In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw – review

Our treatment of dogs is shaped by the view that they are basically wolves with nicer table manners. Biologist John Bradshaw offers a thought-provoking riposte to this idea

Bella Bathurst The Observer, Sunday 24 July 2011


Pampered pooch: a standard poodle gets a final primp at Crufts. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Should the proverbial extraterrestrial include earth on his intergalactic tourist pass this summer, then there are worse places he could look for guidance on native customs than the Natural History Museum in London. Shuffling past the rows of plasticky dinosaurs and petrified mammals, he probably wouldn't end up much wiser about the creatures we share this earth with. But he would find out a great deal about Homo sapiens: our needs and our blindness, our intellectual fashions, our lonely desire to taxonomise life and, by naming it, push it further away.


In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw

John Bradshaw's new book, In Defence of Dogs, unwittingly does the same thing. By giving the reader an overview of mankind's relationship with both dogs and wolves, he also shows us ourselves – our need for connection but our insistence that it be on our terms, our hellish good intentions.

None of this is intentional. As a biologist and founder of the anthrozoology department at the University of Bristol, Bradshaw's aim is to prove that the dog-training model of the past few decades is flawed, based as it is on the premise that dogs are basically wolves with nicer table manners. Since dogs share 99.96% of their DNA with the grey wolf, it's been a persuasive idea. Unfortunately, in order for it or any other training model to work, it depends on us having a complete 360-degree understanding of both dogs and wolves. As Bradshaw shows, we have neither.

Because we are human and change our minds, the way we think of animals changes too. Until very recently, wolves were our demons, the creatures of antique nightmare ready to rip the throat out of civilisation. Their packs were ruled by despotic alpha pairings who destroyed any sign of difference or dissent, and wolves were meant to spend their lives in an everlasting struggle for dominion over their environment and one another. And, since we saw them as properly, biblically bad, we granted ourselves full licence to kill them wherever possible. Which in turn meant we reduced the global gene pool to only the smartest, wildest wolves – the ones as wary of humans and as distinct from dogs as it was possible to get.

Wolves were our Hyde, so dogs were our Jekyll. Leaving aside the question of their genetic origins, it didn't take us long to realise that dogs had qualities we could use. The intelligent sorts could be used to herd sheep or guide the blind, the aggressive types could guard our families, and the affectionate ones could be both loyal companions and handy kitchen dustbins. But if every dog from meanest rottweiler to prissiest pomeranian was really a wolf beneath the skin, it naturally followed that they would try to dominate their owners at the first sign of relaxation. One glimpse of a warm sofa cushion and your chihuahua would start calling for fine wines and announcing itself head of the household.

Bradshaw's contention is that the dog-as-wolf idea doesn't work. In recent years, we've realised that wolves don't just re-enact an endless lupine version of Lord of the Flies, and that just because they like the occasional lamb cutlet doesn't mean they're all monsters. Meanwhile, all those thousands of years of domestication have made dogs uniquely capable of loving both people and other dogs, and uniquely tractable. As Eddie Izzard once pointed out, had Ivan Pavlov tried his famous experiment in classical conditioning on cats, he would have died penniless and insane.

Despite plenty of strong and contentious material, In Defence of Dogs isn't the easiest read. It's a biologist's book designed as part of an ongoing conversation between other academics, and though Bradshaw's style is supple and fluent, he has a tendency to err on the side of too much science and not enough story.

It also takes him until the last chapter to discuss the differences between breeds of dog. Until then, dogs are just dogs, as same-ish in habits and behaviour as goats or blackbirds. But, as even non-dog-owners could tell you, dogs, like people, are individuals. There might be particular traits shared by one or other breed, but there are stupid collies and clever setters, timid ridgebacks and solitary labradors. Some sheepdogs are scared of sheep; some guard dogs are only useful as speed bumps. As with humans, there might be a few overriding organisational principles – food, love, shelter, warmth – but one of the reasons that the bond between dogs and people has sealed so strongly is because they, like wolves and like us, have their own souls. To see most expressions of character in dogs as mere anthropomorphism is, once again, to have miscommunicated. It is precisely those differences in personality that the Inuit once harnessed among their sled dogs – intelligent leaders, excitable pullers, stolid team types – and which zoologists are also beginning to recognise within wolf-packs.

The trick, as Bradshaw points out, is to allow dogs to be dogs. In his view, that probably means preventing them from breeding with their own choice of mate and moving away from working types towards the more amenable companion types. That way, he believes we might have a chance to compensate for the tens of thousands of dogs put down every year, and, equally urgently, for the incestuous cruelties of pedigree breeding.

Again, it's all about what we do to the dog – how we rear them, how we think they ought to be. But communication is supposed to be a two-way process, and one of the most enriching things about owning a dog is finding that they train you back. You may think it's all about throwing sticks and fortifying walks, but you very quickly realise that what you're receiving is an education in a whole new sensory world, in a life not dominated by the mind, and in the ordinary astonishment of what's going on right now.

Somewhere between Bradshaw's Resource Holding Potentials and Thorndike's Puzzle Boxes is the tale of two species groping towards a common language. In his plea for a broader and more generous understanding of dogs are concealed all our centuries of hope, science, love and revisionism, and what he gives us is not so much a defence of dogs, but a portrait – flaws and all – of ourselves. In the end, it's sometimes difficult not to wonder which we've treated worse: our oldest enemy, or our best friends.


Bella Bathurst's most recent book is The Bicycle Book (HarperPress)

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:44 am

Man mauled to death by 188-stone pet hippo
By Gaby Leslie

Yahoo! News


A man who prided in his close friendship with a hippopotamus was killed when the 188-stone (1200kg) animal savagely attacked him.

South African farmer Marius Els, 41, believed pet hippo Humphrey – who he had raised for six years - was tame, but on Saturday Mr Els’ severed body was found submerged in the Vaal River by his farm in the North West Province.

Jeffrey Wicks, a spokesman of South Africa’s Netcare 911 said that paramedics had responded to the scene to find that the man had been bitten several times by the animal.

His body had also been immersed in the river for an unknown length of time.

Before his death, Els had told of his friendship with the animal whom he had rescued from a flood.

He had once claimed: “Humphrey's like a son to me, he's just like a human. I trust him with my heart that he will not do harm to anybody.

“There's a relationship between me and Humphrey and that's what some people don't understand.

“They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and domestic animals. But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa.”

Online videos show Els and Humphrey bonding together, such as Els riding on Humphrey’s back, feeding him and even brushing his teeth.

However, Mr Els’ wife is reported as saying that the animal had caused trouble before including causing a terrified man and grandson to flee from their canoe and find sanctuary in a tree after they were chased by Humphrey.

Hippos are considered one of the world’s most dangerous animals and are known to attack humans without being provoked.

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:50 am

^

QUOTE: "Mr Els’ severed body"

Severed from what? scratch

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Re: Dogs

Post  Dick Fitzwell on Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:23 am

My dog was put down on Saturday.

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Re: Dogs

Post  Constance on Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:40 am

Paladin, I'm very sorry to hear that. I have a dog and I know how loveable they are.

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:16 pm


Leonardo's drawing of a dog's paw.

This drawing makes the paw of a dog hypnotically real and solid. The dogs were probably part of the hunting pack which Leonardo's employer, the ruler of Milan, kept, perhaps curled up by a great fireplace in the Sforza castle, whose echoing halls at the centre of Milan still feel as if they should be haunted by sharpnosed hounds. Yet for Leonardo, this is a microcosm of the structures of all living things – including ourselves.

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 07, 2012 10:32 pm


In 1974, Bowie asked Belgium artist Guy Peellaert to create a half-man/half-dog Dr Moreau type album cover image. Peellaert’s work generally involved heavily airbrushed, manipulated images. Photograph: Terry O'Neill/Getty Images

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:37 am

THE LUCKIEST DOG IN THE WORLD...

...must be Tottenham Hotspur FC manager Harry Rednapp's bulldog Rosie who has had £189,000 credited to her tax-free offshore account by her doting master.

That buys an awful lot of Pedigree Chum, a heck of a lot of Bonios. Shocked

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Fri Feb 03, 2012 6:40 am

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean – review

He had the world at his paws, and earned $1,000 a week

John Banville

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 February 2012 09.00 GMT


Rin Tin Tin … from a bombed-out kennel in France to Hollywood stardom. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Features

The creature at the centre of this remarkable book is an enigma. We never really know what he is thinking, and in fact he may not think at all, in the ratiocinatory sense. Susan Orlean presents to us a being who is driven by instinct, operating by a set of large, simple affects – love, honour, bravery and above all loyalty. He remains faithful throughout his life to the companion with whom at an early age he found himself paired, and while he acknowledges and even shows affection towards others, in truth he loves only his best friend. "He had become," Orlean writes, "as familiar to me as a family member, and, as is often case with a family member, he also remained a mystery. He was at once ingenuous and impenetrable …"


Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend
by Susan Orlean

And then there is the dog.

Lee Duncan, the owner and, it might be said, the inventor of Rin Tin Tin, was born in 1893. When he was five, Lee's father abandoned his young wife and family and disappeared, and shortly thereafter the boy was put into the Fred Finch Children's Home in the East Bay Hills in California. The institution, Orlean writes, "operated as a peculiar sort of pawn shop", since if their fortunes improved parents who had deposited their children there could redeem them, unless they had been adopted in the meantime. And indeed, in 1901, Elizabeth reclaimed Lee and took him to live on her parents' farm. There he had a pet dog named Jack which he dearly loved, but soon his restless mother was on the move again, and Jack had to be left behind.

The first world war had been grinding on for three years when Duncan enlisted in the army at the age of 17, hoping to become a flyer, although he only got to fly once, and was wounded on his first sortie. He endured the military life with an orphan's stoicism, and his later account of his fighting days was, Orlean tells us, "soldierly and understated". Everything changed for him, however, on 15 September 1918, when in the village of Fluiry, near Verdun, he stumbled on a dog kennel that had been abandoned by retreating German forces.

One of the countless fascinating matters discussed in this fascinating book is the extent to which animals were deployed in the wars of the 20th century – 16 million in the first world war alone, including horses, mules, pigeons, oxen and dogs. The German army regarded dogs as "important auxiliaries", and in particular favoured German shepherds. It was a family of this breed that Duncan found in the bombed-out kennel in Fluiry that September morning, a mother and her five pups, the only survivors of a pack of 20. He brought the dogs back to base and made a shelter for them in an empty oil barrel. "And then," he wrote in his diary, "the little family started light housekeeping."

He ended up keeping two of the puppies, whom he named Rin Tin Tin and Nanette, after a pair of fingerling dolls that French soldiers kept as good-luck charms. After the armistice, through persistence and the odd stroke of good fortune he managed to get the dogs back to America, and began to train them. Orlean writes: "His plan for Rin Tin Tin was quite modest: he wanted to breed him and Nanette, sell a few puppies, and maybe make a name for himself and Rin Tin Tin at dog shows." Instead, he created one of the most extraordinary and enduring of Hollywood mythical figures.

By the middle of the 1920s, Orlean tells us – another amazing fact – almost 100m movie tickets were sold each week to a population of 115 million. Warner Brothers, the studio where Rin Tin Tin began his career, was worth $16m in 1928, $200m two years later. Much of this success was thanks to Rin Tin Tin. The adventure films in which he starred were an immediate and immense success, and Rinty became a national icon.

… Rin Tin Tin's name and phone number were listed in the Los Angeles phone book, and … he had an open invitation to the Warner Bros commissary and was welcomed there like a star. He got his own salary, separate from Lee's salary as his trainer, and he earned more than most of his costars; in Lighthouse by the Sea, for instance, he was paid $1,000 per week, while the lead human actor, William Collier Jr, was paid only $150.

The effect on Rinty's owner of this lavish success is impossible to judge. In fact, it is hard to know anything much of Duncan's deepest feelings. He was not exactly garrulous. In his memoirs he hardly mentioned his first wife, a wealthy socialite, and Carolyn, his daughter by a second marriage, asked by Orlean if she felt sibling rivalry towards her father's dogs, laughed and said: "No, there was never any rivalry. The dogs came first."

The emotional strand that runs unbroken through Duncan's life is his obsession with the figures of the emblematic lonely boy and his faithful dog. One of his most cherished ambitions was to see a film made of his own story – of the story, that is, of Rin Tin Tin and all that he was and meant to America, and of Duncan's secondary role in the fable. When the original Rinty died – there were many successors, for how could a myth die? – Duncan wrote a poem to him, ending: "A real selfish [sic] love like yours old pal / Is something I shall never know again / And I must always be a better man / Because you loved me greatly, Rin Tin Tin."

Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, another tale of mystery and obsession, has here written a wonderfully entertaining account of one of the strangest partnerships in a very strange milieu. Hollywood eccentrics abound in these pages. There is the silent-movie director Laurence Trimble, who bought a pack of wolves and lived with them, sleeping in a hole in their enclosure and eating off the ground; "Unsurprisingly," Orlean writes, "his personal life was unsettled." One of Trimble's associates, the journalist and film producer J Allen Boone, cousin to the more famous Daniel, made friends with a housefly he named Freddie, whom he talked to "not," as he said, "in a condemning way but as a fellow human being." And there is more – much, much more.

Orlean tells of going through Lee Duncan's papers and finding there "the details and the ordinariness, the asides and incidentals, and even the misfires and failures that might otherwise have gone unnoticed", which is a fair description of what she in turn offers us in her book. The story of Lee and Rinty is at the public level a Hollywood fairy tale, yet fundamentally it is no more, and no less, than the tale of a boy and his dog.

• John Banville's The Infinities is published by Picador.

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:02 pm

Underwater dogs – in pictures

Photographer Seth Casteel spent hours underwater in Los Angeles taking pictures of dogs chasing balls. Twelve dogs took part in the shoot, including labradors, a border collie, a dachshund, a bulldog, a Belgian tervuren and a King Charles spaniel. A book, Ruff Water, is planned

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 February 2012 10.22 GMT

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:03 pm


A diving dachshund pursues a tennis ball. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:05 pm


A yellow labrador retriever fetches a ball. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:08 pm


A border collie and a yellow labrador retriever. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:10 pm


A Belgian tervuren. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:13 pm


A rottweiler swims around. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:16 pm


A labrador retriever pursues a ball. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:18 pm


A black labrador retriever underwater. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:21 pm


A border collie. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:23 pm


A bulldog explores underwater. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:26 pm


A cavalier King Charles spaniel. Photograph: Seth Casteel/Tandem

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Re: Dogs

Post  Constance on Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:41 pm

Great pictures.

People walk their dogs by the lake and the labs are always dripping wet from taking a swim, even in this cold weather. The water must be freezing. In the summer Ginseng will go in and get wet up to her knees. She's not that interested in the water; neither does she play with toys but she will bury tennis balls so we have to keep them away from her.

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Re: Dogs

Post  Constance on Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:45 pm

Black and to a lesser extent yellow labs are by far the most popular dog around here. Years ago before we had Ginseng the lady next door owned a black lab. I was home more than the owner was and the dog would come and sit on my porch and I would go out and sit with her. A nice dog. She used to drop tennis balls at my feet and then make herself skinny and hide behind a tree then burst out of hiding when I threw the ball.

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:21 pm


Modern Toss

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Re: Dogs

Post  Constance on Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:45 pm

True story: I was driving in the village one day years ago with my poodle Ginseng in the passenger seat. A few days later I bumped into a friend who said, "I saw you the other day. Was that your mother?"

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Re: Dogs

Post  eddie on Sun Mar 04, 2012 12:02 am

^
Very Happy

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Re: Dogs

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