Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Ball Drops

Happy 2016

Balancing popcorn while waiting for the New Year to begin.

Know Thyself: Poison, Place, and Recreation

I did a stint as a pastor.  I've yet to settle on a narrative to describe those years.  I was rolling down my path to atheism but it was still a good experience.  Unlike others, I didn't leave because I became disillusioned about people, I just woke up one day and realized I needed to accept that I'd stopped believing in the Judeo-Christian god.  Being a pastor was not a poison, but neither was it my place.

I do, however, enjoy telling a story.  I do enjoy the spoken word.  I don't miss my Christian faith but I do miss standing on a stage and talking, telling a story, making a point, hearing people laugh, drawing out a tear.  A few bad apples get off on controlling a room but I just loved having an opportunity to  practice the art of the spoken word.  It is the original radio.  It was podcasting thirty thousand years before the pod.

Among the highlights of those years as a preacher was the opportunity to get to know a professional dealer in the spoken and written word, Michael Perry, along with his wife, and children.

Michael Perry and friends.
He's huge up here and a genuinely good and decent guy.

If your local public radio station carries Tent Show Radio you should tune in and hear him host.  Whether it does or not, you can still binge on the podcast at that link too.

His books are well worth your time and should be available at your local library or you can help him feed his children and buy the set.

I think of the family regularly.  I miss them.  I hope they are well.

My oldest son shares my love for the spoken word.  This past Saturday he requested we turn on A Prairie Home Companion and you can be sure I gave permission.  I was glad I'd not yet mentioned the idea of watching Avengers: Age of Ultron to him.  He doesn't love the spoken word that much, at least not yet.

Big Top came on afterwards and, as the children were getting ready for bed, Mike started a song, one I'd not paid much attention to previously, when a line jumped out and grabbed my imagination.   "Motion is my morphine.  Let it roll."

Nietzsche expressed a similar sentiment, if in a slightly more negative way, when he wrote "Sitting still (is) the real sin against the Holy Spirit."

Motion, walking specifically, is my morphine.  Most of the time I use it responsibly but if I didn't have a job to keep or responsibilities to uphold, I could keep on using until I physically give out.  Maybe that makes me a functioning addict.  Maybe that just makes me a walking man.

There was another line from Mike that struck me that night.  Mike was paraphrasing from an interview with Sturgill Simpson.  I didn't write it down so I too will have to paraphrase his ad lib, so consider it doubly hacked, "life is mostly about finding your place and staying there."

Movement, always be changing and accepting of change.  Finding your place and staying there.  Together they are great metaphorical advice for the modern homo sapien.  Know thyself.  Know what is important and within your power and then refuse to budge from it.  Everything else? Experiment with something new, be changed, roll with it.

Walking's not my poison.  It is my place.  Writing or talking from a stage are great, but it didn't hurt much to give them up  More times than not the line between "addict" and "place in the universe" depends upon how you answer the question, "Does it help you be where you want to be, is it keeping you away from it, or is it just something you do to pass the time?"  Does it act as a medicine, a poison, or is it pure recreation?

Then there is that old saying, "the dose makes the poison."

Regardless, the words of Frank Sinatra are starting to resonate.

I think I can sum up my religious feelings in a couple of paragraphs. First: I believe in you and me. I’m like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life—in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don’t believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice. I’m not unmindful of man’s seeming need for faith; I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle. The witch doctor tries to convince us that we have to ask God for help, to spell out to him what we need, even to bribe him with prayer or cash on the line. Well, I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. It’s not necessary for us to make it to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can find Him anyplace. 

And when you do find "him," well, you've found your place and you should probably make an effort to stay there.  If you're getting poisoned, it is time to stop.  If you're just passing time, don't take it too seriously, eh?

So I guess I will keep on walking and I'll keep on working dogs.  Whenever I think I have a story to tell, I'll find an avenue to tell it.  My poisons, well I guess I'll address those too, not that I'll be writing about it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

American Working Terriers

If you're in to working your terriers, if you're just in to terriers and want to gain insight into the original purpose for their breeding, consider becoming a member of the American Working Terriers Association.  The quarterly magazine alone is well worth the $20 annual membership.

When you do, drop me a note if you live within a few hundred miles of Menomonie, WI.  I'll be looking for some people to go hunting with in the year to come.

I love a frosty night

I do not love repairing our mailbox twice in one day, but I guess it comes with the territory.

Watching the Demon Star

We are clever little apes and we've been looking at that night sky for a very long time.

Imagine a time long before electric lights and a priestly class with the time to sit out and star gaze every night.  Eventually some guy (he probably was a man) noticed a bright star in the constellation we call Perseus was a little less bright one night.  A few days later, he notices it again.  A few days after that, again.  He makes a prediction.  He tells a few priestly buddies.  Pretty soon it is common knowledge among the priests that Algol, the Demon Star, changes on a regular pattern.


The Ancient Egyptians wrote Calendars of Lucky and Unlucky Days that assigned astronomically influenced prognoses for each day of the year. The best preserved of these calendars is the Cairo Calendar (hereafter CC) dated to 1244–1163 B.C. We have presented evidence that the 2.85 days period in the lucky prognoses of CC is equal to that of the eclipsing binary Algol during this historical era. We wanted to find out the vocabulary that represents Algol in the mythological texts of CC. Here we show that Algol was represented as Horus and thus signified both divinity and kingship. The texts describing the actions of Horus are consistent with the course of events witnessed by any naked eye observer of Algol. These descriptions support our claim that CC is the oldest preserved historical document of the discovery of a variable star. 

Yep.  About 2600 years before the astronomical documentation of the observation, some astrologers in Egypt noticed the pattern.

We're more clever than we give ourselves credit for.  We'd do well to keep an eye on ourselves, just to make sure were not too clever for our own good.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reverence and a Monster Walleye

I know guys who weep when they kill a deer.  The moment means a lot to them.  They feel a connection to the prey animal whose blood they've spilled and whose flesh will nourish them and their families.  I'm not big on weeping myself.  I respect it as an act of reverence and we could use a bit more of this kind of reverence in our lives, but it is not my way of reverence.

Consider for a second, however, the average deer killed is about 18 months old.  Impressive for a squirrel; nigh impossible for a wild rabbit, but in the grand scheme of things, not that old.  Just a tad older than the average steer going to market.  Why does the harvest of Cervid species seem to corner the market on reverence?

I suspect the reverence arises from a confluence of circumstances.  A deer is often the largest animal
harvested by a hunter.  For some hunters it might be the only animal he kills and consumes in a year.  The emotional energy and time put into a hunt can be significant.  Deer also benefit from having long eyelashes and deep brown eyes.  It is easier to revere something that is lovely.  There is privilege in being pretty.

Reverence for the animals we consume grows from thankfulness and thankfulness from knowledge.  New knowledge can lead to new experiences of thankfulness, to epiphany. The distinction between the common and the holy is subjective.  One man's god is another's idol, one man's grape juice in another's host.

As sportsmen and women, but also farmers, we expand our opportunities to experience the holy every time we seek to understand our place in the ecosystem.We benefit, we become more mindful, more honest, more virtuous when we recognize any thing made dead for our benefit.  If I would choose any characteristic for particular reverence I'd choose, the older prey, the more elusive prey, the survivor prey.  That brings me to this news article.

From the LaCrosse Tribune:

BLACK RIVER FALLS — There’s a monster that lurks in the depths of Lake Wazee. And Daniel Hatleli has a photo that proves it. 
Hatleli, a fisheries biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, was netting fish Dec. 16 in Wazee when he noticed a large fish rolling around in the net. With the help of fish technician Brad Betthauser, Hatleli landed the walleye. 
How big was it? Using an uncertified spring scale the fish weighed 17½ pounds and was 32.3 inches long, Hatleli said. That’s only one-half pound less than the official state record walleye of 18 pounds, which was caught Sept. 16, 1933, in Vilas County. 
The fish was returned safely into the lake. It’s possible it may continue to grow and could be the new record by spring — if someone can catch it. 
That’s the challenge of Wazee, a 146-acre former iron pit mine which at 350 feet is the deepest manmade lake in the state. It also has different temperature layers and is devoid of most plant life. 
“Because of its uniqueness, a lot of your typical fishing techniques you would use in most lakes around here and in Wisconsin aren’t going to apply,” Hatleli said the DNR is working on a fish management plan for the lake. In 2011 about 250 ciscos — a forage fish common in northern Wisconsin — were transplanted in the lake. Hatleli said the fish were introduced for forage to support larger populations of game fish. 
It is not known if the whopper was male or female — since it’s not spawning time — but Hatleli suspects it was female. A scale and spine was taken from the big walleye to help determine its age, Hatleli said. It’s not a young fish, as the growth rate in a low-nutrient — or oligotrophic — lake like Wazee is very slow. A large fish like the walleye can live 10 to 13 years or longer. 
Now that we know there is at least one trophy fish in Lake Wazee, the challenge to catch it may lure more fishermen to try their hand.

The record for the largest Wisconsin state walleye has stood for nearly 85 years.

That the record has stood so long is probably a sign of the growing intensity of human use of the resource, big walleye have less opportunity to grow into monster walleye.

Less opportunity, however, is not the same as no opportunity.  Walleye can live for decades.  You just have to find that place where fish are contained to a spot where there is low fishing pressure or the techniques employed by the average Bozo (I myself am a below average Bozo) do not apply.

While I've driven within a few miles of Lake Wazee a hundred times, I never knew it was there. Reading the description, I doubt it is a big fishing draw.  It sounds more like a lover's lane or a place to go skinny dipping to me.  Not that I'd know anything about those activities.

At least it wasn't a big fishing draw.  It is a low nutrient lake and now that it is likely to be the focus of more attention, it won't be long before even the walleye just big enough to be kept are exhausted.

When that fish, and others like it, are taken, however, I hope they treated with the reverence those survivors deserve, if not immediately, then after the hoops and hollers have faded.  She may not have the large eyelashes of a whitetail, but it is just as much a living thing harvested for human use as that grain fed six pointer and it has the virtue of having survived predation, probably since the Reagan administration.  

Regent Pillsbury

John S. Pillsbury lived a pretty awesome American life.

He started numerous companies, the most famous of which gave us the Pillsbury dough boy and biscuits in a tube.
He was also a Republican governor of the state of Minnesota, a philanthropist who did  much help the University retire its nineteenth century debt, and a finally a regent of the University.   For these acts of service he is called "The Father of the University" and some students at least continue to honor him, as indicated by the effort put forth to cover his head in a stocking cap on this chilly December day.

The future approaches!  Let us prepare ourselves to meet it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Walking Dogs in the City: Dog Habits

Training in the farmer's market.
I was asked the other day if I was a dog trainer.

I am not quite sure what the term means.  I live with dogs so I habituate them to life with me in such a way that they can exist as reasonably self-actualized, while I remain sane, and my wife doesn't leave me.  If that makes me a dog trainer, than that is what I am, though I do it for love, not money.

I am, also, a walker and I have opinions about the canine habits of behavior necessary to keep walking enjoyable for canine, walker, and society at large.

It is a small distance between being just as excited as the dogs to go outside for a stroll and dreading it.  Weather is one factor, a factor outside our control.  The habits our dogs learn to exhibit while on a walk, however, are a more constant source of joy or dread and they are well within human influence.

Loose leash walking: the key to it all.

I mostly walk in the morning, frequently after I have worked the night shift.  I am over-tired and easily annoyed. I am walking one to three terriers, dogs whose instincts don't generally align with walking quietly in the heel position.  Yet the morning walks are, more often than not, enjoyable.  How is this possible?  Responsive dogs with a good loose leash walk.

A good loose leash walk does not need to be Crufts-perfect.  I'm not interested in competing in an obedience trial where the expectation is that the dog will prance around looking at me glowingly.  I don't care if the people who watch us walk are impressed or not.  I want to be able to walk comfortably.

I like my terriers to have a good strong prey drive. In other circumstances we hunt rats, other rodents, and rabbits.  It would be a little too much to ask for these high-prey drive dogs to turn off when on a leash and ignore every impudent squirrel that does not know its life is in danger.  If I am in a mood where I just can't handle the dog being distracted, I can always avoid those walking paths with an abundance of squirrels.

I.  Decide whether you want the dog to treat your right or left side as a default but so long as their behavior is not disruptive and and they are not pulling on the leash, consider letting the dog decide their comfortable space in relationship to you.  

I was taught to always keep the dog on my left and I have no reason to change but Moses did not bring this command down from Mt. Sinai.  What matters most is the dog knows which side of you it is expected to hang out on.  Whether that is on your left or right is a matter of personal preference.

Having a default location frees your dog from confusion of knowing where she is expected to be.  Untangling your feet from a leash is annoying and potentially dangerous.  Until your walking habits are well established, keep the dog on one side and occasionally throw in an unexpected figure 8 or turn at an unexpected time or place to ingrain the habit.  Teaching them to stay on one side of you is just good communication and if they are practiced at handling the unexpected, they will be more likely to respond as you expect when something happens to surprise you both.

Letting the dog wander in front or behind does not have to be a problem as long as the dog tends tp your preferred side and knows the limits, ahead or behind, which she must not cross.

II. Use the leash to communicate how far away from you the dog is allowed to venture.  

When I taught Musket to heel nearly ten years ago, I taught him to stay at my side at all times when on lead.  He is a rock star at it and I have no problem putting him on an off-leash heel anywhere it is legal.  I have more trust in his heel than any dog I have every owned but why is the off-lead heel important?

A privilege, not a right.
 Beyond the three miles of road I live on between a state highway and a county highway, I don't go anywhere where a great off-lead heel is practical, necessary, or safe anyway.  I've seen off-lead dogs in the city but that is not only illegal but unnecessarily dangerous.

I don't need the younger terriers stay right beside me in order find a walk enjoyable.  I need them to not pull on the lead.  They can have some freedom to sniff, move, and take a position slightly ahead or behind without my appreciation of the day being impacted at all.

I teach the limits they are allowed to wander using the least restrictive method necessary.  It was difficult to find that threshold with Sparta.  She isn't bad.  She doesn't pull, but she was always at the exact farthest point that I would allow.  The problem could not have been more than two inches but keeping her two inches closer took longer than anything I've tried to teach her.

After numerous approaches using positive and negative re-enforcement without result I bought a Command Collar.

What I found annoying was not her location but the amount of pressure she would put on the leash so our training has focused on that variable. On our training walks I purposefully change up the length of the leash from two to six feet so she would learn to respond to the tension on the leash as opposed to seeking out the same relative location.  Whatever length the leash was at the moment I'd wait until immediately before she'd reach my annoyance threshold and I'd give a sharp tug on the leash along with the command "slow."

The tug had to be sharp enough to get her attention.  Stoic and Musket will respond to the smallest tug.  Initially Sparta required significantly more force to get her attention, but I am already able to tone that down.  Once we hit our stride in a walk the verbal command is sufficient to get her to lay off those couple of inches  By spring, I hope we can retire the command collar.

Stoic and Sparta on a loose leash walk.  Picking their own location without pulling.

III. Develop a strong "leave it" protects the dog, allows you to better enjoy the walk, and is just good manners.  

Good city walking etiquette requires a good strong "leave it" and I use it all the time.  It is basically a call to pay attention to me and our pace and ignore that thing distracting you.  It is the same command if Stoic is a little too interested in another dog, when Sparta wants to get attention from a child, or either one of them finds a doughnut on the ground.

The plain fact is we have more opportunity to take our dogs with us to more urban locations than any other time in history.  This is a privilege, not a right and a privilege can be revoked if we piss enough people off.  No one loves your dog as much as you do.  Few people want to understand when he shows anti-social behavior, whether that behavior be sticking his nose in someone's crotch or lunging at a child holding an ice cream cone.  When non-dog people worry about your dog's behavior in the park or are just annoyed by it, a case begins to be built to exclude dogs from the area.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.  We don't want to give people a reason to squeak against dogs in public places.

There are plenty of tools to help you teach your dog to respond to your "leave it" command.  Gentle Leader is one such product, I have already mentioned the command collar.  I am sure there are others.
If necessary, pick a less stimulating environment to train before moving on to more demanding.
Entertaining marathoners and spectators while we walk.

IV. Commands to move faster, slower, to the right, to the left make walking easier and safer. 

Commands to move to my left ("Scoot!" to move away from me) or to my right ("With!" follow me in this direction) are valuable in areas where there are joggers and cyclists using the same paths or trails, or when multiple turns must be made in quick succession, when moving through a hospital on the way to a therapy dog visit.

Most of the time the dogs can read my body language to know where we are going next but when there is a crowd to navigate or the environment can become too chaotic for ordinary measures, verbal commands clear up the confusion.

When I need dogs to pick up the pace (Stoic) I use the command "walk" and I already mentioned teaching Sparta to "slow."  The idea is to remind the dog to keep a proper distance relationship with me.  It is a reminder to pay attention to what we are doing.

I start to teach this on our very first walks when the paths are empty and the world appears ours alone and I teach it through mere repetition.  When moving left I say "scoot" and when I shift to the right "with."  The dogs pick up on it and once they've picked it up it stays in the toolbox.  Once they reliably respond to the commands they only need to be sporadically reinforced to remain fresh.

V. Watch the dog and only expose the dog to disruptive sights and sounds slowly, purposefully, and strategically.

Sometimes you get surprised.  This last week I was caught off guard by the number of garbage truck drivers speeding through the streets like Mario Andreti and poor Stoic was balanced near freak out mode for the good five minutes it took me to move him to a side street.  Generally, however, we can make choices to expose dogs gradually to new stimuli.

At the end of a good walk.
Bicycles, joggers, other dogs, garbage trucks, construction sounds, and a hundred other things you may not have ever noticed can distress your dog.  Watch them.  Learn from them and then respond.  You are the sapien.  You are responsible for choosing the timing and direction of the walk.

Be smart, start small, take your time, and don't expect your dog to know what you know.  I think there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting at a patio or in a bar with my dog and I hope everyone can share that joy, but you have to work up to it.

Next Monday: Walking dogs in the City: Sapien Habits

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Stoic the Pill Eater

About two weeks ago Stoic tested positive for exposure to Lyme's and Anaplasmosis.

Given his origin and providence were unknown, I should have done the test earlier, but we did get it done and the course of treatment is a rather long but inexpensive course of Doxacycline.

The first morning I tried to force the medication down as I've done with every other dog I've known for over thirty-years.  He coughed them up but instead of spitting them out, he chewed them up and swallowed.

Since then it became obvious, there was an easier way to get this dog to take his antibiotics.


Deer God

Friday, December 25, 2015

Xmas Prison Blues

From my house to the big house and everywhere in-between, Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Cutting Bait on Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve I try to take a walk into downtown Minneapolis.  We see the sites.  We try to make some homeless guys smile.

The wind was strong.  The dogs were acting special. I was overtired.  I needed a toilet.  Most of all it wasn't fun, and the dogs could tell.  I'd planned eight to twelve miles, but after four, we cut bait and went home.  We didn't spend time with any homeless guys.  We just exchanged a few words with passing joggers from the gentrified apartments nearby.

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned about training dogs: when to stop and call it a day.  When it is no longer a game, you're not doing anyone any good.  It is time to get a cinnamon roll and coffee, and set back for the car.  Go home. Drink a beer.  Write a blog post.

I did snap a few shots in front of the future home of the Minnesota Vikings and on our way home we came across another instance of "things (presumably) abandoned by a homeless guy."

Can you tell I was trying to eat a roll?

"Show me 'disinterested.'"

"Look at me."

"Think deep thoughts"

"Let me see 'furtive.'"

Apparently abandoned: bike, books, and a few clothes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Music for Christmas Eve

For your listening pleasure:

Dogs like chill Christmas music too.

Have yourself a trippy little Christmas:

Then there is this cover of Wham's "Last Christmas."

'Bout Time

It was suppose to rain today, but, in the end, it turned to snow.  With a projected high of 34 tomorrow, it might just turn into a white Christmas after all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Beam Work

I was going through my phone deleting pictures and videos when I came across this gem.

I do a lot of things to try to keep walking fun and engaging, both for myself and the dogs.  Some times we stop and talk to homeless men.  Other times we stop and do tricks in the park.  Still other times we do a little balance beam work.

This trick requires Sparta to jump up on to concrete barriers and then walk along them.  Some things to point out:

  • I only order her up there when there is no traffic on the same side of the road as we are walking and I order her down before any traffic appears.
  • I only do this when she is wearing a harness I can clip into.  That way if I need to grab her quickly or if she falls in the direction of traffic I do not have to worry about an injury to her neck.
  • We only attempt this after having mastered the commands "up," and "off," and have experienced walking on concrete beams in unoccupied work sites apart from any distractions.

Losses to Wolf Predation Move South

How many wolves is enough?

As many as people are willing to live with.  I expect we are approaching that number and the forces
that seek to keep the wolf on the endangered species list are the one's putting the wolf's long-term prospects into the most danger.

When the wolf is less a sound heard up north and more a threat to the family pet or next year's heifers, people will begin to turn against wolves.  When people turn against wolves, they won't wait for government approval to act.  That is why compensating farmers and animal owners for wolf losses are so important.

But those are country kid problems.  It is hard to get city kids to hear, let alone understand or acknowledge the perspective of those who actually have to live with wolves.  I've talked about that before.

But if it reaches a point where the government pay out is insufficient, the advice is age old.  I've heard it since I was lad.  If wildlife threatens your livelihood, if it threatens your child, if it is just too big a pain in the ass: there are always the three S's.

Shut up.

By the time you drive a person to commit a felony, I doubt you'll be able to turn them back into supporters for conserving the species.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture losses to wolves are moving south.  We have no winter snow to slow down deer, making them easier prey.  There are fewer deer the last few years.  It is no wonder lone wolves and packs are spreading out seeking prey.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has received wolf attack claims from farmers who have lost livestock in new southern locations in the state. 
"The most unique one recently was in Wabasha County—that's south of the cities of course. That is very usual to see a claim that far south," Geir Friisoe, director at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said. 
The Minnesota Legislature authorized the Department of Agriculture to reimburse livestock owners for loses caused by wolf attacks. 
"Historically it’s the north-central part of the state we have more of our claims," Friisoe said. 
In fiscal year 2016 (since July), there have been 72 claims to the state, totaling $142,074 by property owners who lost livestock during that time according to Department of Agriculture data provided to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. 
The department said 16 wolf claims, $42,487 from fiscal year 2015, were recently paid.State data shows, since 1993, the total number of wolf claims in Minnesota has averaged $78,398.35 per year.

I will probably never hunt a wolf.  I lack the patience and the drive.  I do enjoy hearing them on a clear winter night.  I hope to hear that sound from my front deck for the rest of my life.

To get there we need to bring back a limited number of tags to keep the numbers low.  It might even be worthwhile to consider a southern limit for wolf expansion, a line below which there is a year-round open season on wolves.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Let's Go (man) Tracking

I started Sparta's training on man-tracks.  It was fairly easy to transition her to follow blood trails this past fall.  If it did create some a problem, she had a more generalized sense of tracking than a dog who was only trained to track wounded game.  If the hunter was mistaken on the location of the hit or the course of the trail, she'd follow the closest trail available and not necessarily look for the wounded deer.

It could have been why we had trouble staying on the wounded deer, but it is a problem I think we are overcoming.

While the bow season continues until year's end, we haven't had a tracking call since the week before Thanksgiving.  I needed to get out of the house.  She needed to get out of the house.  So I laid a short (~160 yard) man track with two turns and let it age thirty minutes.  I didn't know how well she'd do so I kept her on a shorter leash.  I thought I might need to keep her on a tight track.  My concern was unfounded.

She never had this kind of energy in tracking before.  I will have to see if get her to work a little slower if we try to pass a tracking test, that and she will have to re-learn how to indicate she has found an object.

She learned that she gets a great reward at the end of a track, (a piece of deer hide/meat/bone).  It wasn't particularly practical to have her show me an indication when we were tracking dying deer.

Note the yellow flags at each turn.

Hide your Young Men

Meanwhile, in Alberta,

A Leash fit for Walking

A cheap farm store leash, two carabiners and a figure 8 loop knot
A second 'biner attaches the leash to my belt or backpack.
With a few simple modifications a cheap leash can become an adaptable tool.  While a well-trained dog is more fun to walk than an untrained or poorly trained one, good tools make the experience more joyful regardless of the team's skill level.

Needs can change many times in the course of a walk, especially in the city.  Maybe I encounter an unexpected crowd leaving a concert.  Maybe we come across some unexpected work site.  Sometimes, I just want to carry a cup of coffee and eat a cinnamon roll was we navigate the city streets.  Cribbing off of the Kurgo "Quantum," and the European Six Way my current go to set up is a farm store leash  modified in a manner that allows me to quickly adapt to circumstances.

With nearly any leash the first thing I do is saw
Two leashes, two dogs, two fingers.
off the clip on the dog end and replace it with a carabiner.  There are two problems with the typical bolt snap fastener found on most dog leashes.  The first is that they start to fail in relatively short order.  Secondly, they fail a little bit at a time and it is easy to ignore it as it comes loose.  More than once I have had a dog pop off the lead unexpectedly.  Luckily each time the dog remained under my verbal control until I could refasten it.  If the circumstances or the dog had been different, the result could have been a lost dog.

Taking a hacksaw to the metal cut the fastener while being careful to avoid damaging the leash.  When removed a carabiner will slip into the loop already sewn into the leash to hold the earlier fastener.

If you don't replace the fastener immediately, I highly recommend replacing the clip at the first sign of deterioration. 

I prefer carabiners are superior because when they start to fail, the failure is obvious and the can be quickly switched out.  Even a cheap farm store 'biner will last me six months or more of heavy

use.  I've yet to have to replace one designed to be weight bearing.  They are also easier to use when wearing gloves in cold weather.  Just make sure it will fit the loop on your dog's collar before buying.

A second carabiner is attached to the loop end of the leash so it can easily lashed to your backpack or belt, allowing maximum freedom to you and your dog.  Personally I keep a large locking carabiner on my belt (yes, carabiners are among my favorite tools) which allows for quick attachment/release of the leash.  This is especially valuable when walking more than one dog when one leash can be quickly released, the leashes can be untangled, and then quickly re-attached.

I can haz roll too?
 When walking one dog, the leash can hang loose attached to the belt while you drink coffee or a roll.  If walking more than one dog the easier dog can be walked attached to the belt while the other leash is kept in the hand.

Most the time I keep the leashes in my hand but attached to my belt so I can drop them when there is a need.

Finally, I tie a Figure Eight Loop knot into the leash about 2/3 up from the collar end of the leash to the handle.  This is the key to the leash's flexibility in use.

While walking down the street with the leash attached to my belt (allowing both the dog and me a maximum amount of freedom) I can quickly reach down and use the knot to gain tighter control when a cat crosses our path or when a cyclists comes unexpectedly around a corner.

At other times I can slip the loop onto the 'biner on my waist, making the leash shorter and keeping the dog closer while continuing to keep my hands free.

Conversely, removing the leash from my waist, I use the leash's second carabiner to attach to the loop in the leash.  This can be used to secure the dog to post when I need to use a porti-potty, enjoying a beer on a patio, or running into a bakery for a second serving of cinnamon roll and coffee or to just create a larger loop for ease of use.

The most important ingredient in keeping walking fun is a dog that shares your expectations but proper tools can help you educate your dog on those expectations but also make the difference when those expectations are upturned.  The proper tools do not have to be expensive tools.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dancin' Circles around the Sun

Someone has been reading the Discourses.

Disregard what don't concern you, don't let disappointment turn you
Avoid adopting other people's views 
Know what you can and can't control, don't let envy take a toll
It's nothing more than weather passing through 
When your back's against the wall, when you're headed for a fall
The tables set to make a run Dancin' Circles Round The Sun 
Through action wisdom is revealed and too much talk is like a shield
In silence lies the keys to how we grow 
When focused on the truth at hand, the critics try to make you bland
But they don't understand what they don't know 
Make your own cracks in the sky, grit your teeth and learn to fly
And when the right thing has been done, you'll be Dancin' Circles Round The Sun 
Forgive the ones who meant to harm you, don't let superstition charm you
Conform your wishes only to what's real 
Your reputation doesn't matter, let idle gossip chirp and chatter
No one else can tell you how you feel 
In between the masks you wear, wash your face and comb your hair
You're not hurting anyone Dancin' Circles Round the Sun 
Your mind cries out to God alone, please send me someone I can own
Your soul says son you're walking on thin ice 
Possession in the broadest sense, compounded by coincidence
When all it takes is one roll of the dice 
In between the good and bad, think of all the fun you had
It's the same for everyone Dancin' Circles Round The Sun 
Evolution comes in fits, it stops and starts, it coughs and spits
Picasso and Mile Davis come to mind 
True artists, bold unbridled passion, no concern for fad or fashion
Sexy beasts in love with woman kind 
Bend the rules until it breaks, stand your ground until it shakes
That's the way to get things done Dancin' Circles Round The Sun
Hey, sod convention let's have fun Dancin' Circles Round the Sun


I took a little nap and when I wake up, there are twenty-five new pictures on my phone.

But how did they know my pass code?

Fire, Dog, a Boy and his Legos

Thursday, December 17, 2015

There is no why.

Nose Work

I think it is safe to say that new squeaky toys have a distinctive smell.

Snoopy and the Red Baron: Virtue, Respect, and Nostalgia

I am told their is a new Peanuts movie out.  I guess at some point I will get around to watching it but I hadn't really paid that much attention.  It's not that I am not without nostalgia, it is just that I am not willing to pay for it.

Then I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal.  The Red Baron is remembered in America but after the legacy of World War II, which rendered the idea of a "war hero" oxymoronic, forgotten in Germany.

Dog lovers can visit Red Baron Beagles, a Danish kennel. And in the town where Von Richthofen grew up, now on Polish soil, there is a Red Baron Foundation, a Richthofen Museum and a Hotel Red Baron. 
Manfred von Richthofen was the most lethal airman in the Great War, with 80 confirmed downings over 20 months. America’s top ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, posted 26 aerial victories in nine months. 
The Baron
Von Richthofen and his Fighter Squadron 1 were so dominant in air combat that they brazenly painted their planes in yellow, purple and blue, largely for easy identification in combat. They became known as the Flying Circus. 
One of several planes Von Richthofen flew was a bright red Fokker DR.1 triplane that was highly maneuverable in dogfights. The aircraft and its hue became forever linked with the pilot, who wasn’t actually a baron. His German title, Freiherr, has no exact English translation.Von Richthofen’s skill and his decision on at least one occasion not to shoot an adversary whose gun had jammed earned him comparisons to chivalrous warriors of a bygone era and burnished his image. 
He “is very like an English public school boy of good family,” reads the introduction to the British translation of his autobiography, published shortly before he was shot down and killed in April 1918. British pilots, the foreword suggests, “would be quite pleased after the war to sit at a table with him and compare notes over cigarettes and liquors.” 
In 1965, cartoonist Charles Schulz brought the late ace back to life as Snoopy’s nemesis, immortalized by the phrase, “Curse you, Red Baron.”

All I had to do was see the headline and, while I had not heard the song since I last played the LP something like thirty-years ago, I could still sing every word and every note right up until the last half of the last verse.

Jesus called us to "love our enemies."  I am not sure that is possible.  I'd question whether or not it is good or a true virtue to love all enemies or at all times.  It is possible to respect them.  It is incumbent to treat them as human beings, fellow travelers, sisters and brothers imbued with the same spark of rationality and frailty.  Moreover, it is within our power to be the kind of a human being, marked by virtue and excellence, who is respected by other men and women striving for virtue, even by those who curse our success, even as Snoopy cursed the Red Baron.

I think my Grandma Nadine bought that Irish Rovers LP for me.  I wonder if my Mom still has it stored somewhere?  That would be some nostalgia that could hold my attention.

Coors Light

Or I really was that desperate to stave of the DT's.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And a Side of Lard for the Canine Athlete

I may be bias but I think Sparta qualifies as a canine athlete and Stoic may eventually get to the point of being a weekend warrior.

Last year the New York Times Blog "Well" ran a great Q&A regarding the nutritional needs of the active dog.

The short and the long of it is that they are not Sapiens.  They're not even apes.  Just because you need it, just because you do it to prepare for or finish a race, doesn't mean it is good for the dog.  In fact, it can be harmful.

Yes, we're both mammals, but down to the cellular level, their muscles work differently and, as such, have different needs.  Again, read the whole thing, but if you read nothing else,

So should an athletic dog’s diet contain lots of fat?
That’s a good question. For dogs jogging along with you for 20 minutes a few times a week, a normal commercial dog food containing about 15 or 16 percent fat should be fine. But if you and your dog run five or 10 miles a day, that dog likely needs a slightly higher-fat diet.
There are special high-performance dog foods now that contain as much as 20 percent fat. Or you can just add a teaspoon of olive oil to your dog’s kibble. That increases fat intake by 1 or 2 percent, which can be plenty. On the other hand, fat is somewhat indigestible and can lead to greater fecal mass. So if you increase your dog’s fat intake, be prepared to carry an extra plastic bag or two when you go running.
What about protein? How important is it?
Vital. Athletic dogs need protein to build and maintain muscle. In general, their diet should consist of at least 25 percent protein, preferably from meat. In one study, dogs fed plant-based soy protein experienced far more musculoskeletal injuries than dogs consuming meat protein.

I've taken that advice to heart.  After walks between 6-12 miles, I just round up a little when I scoop out their next meal.  If we walk over six miles I just add a little melted bear lard to that same amount of kibble.  

Of course if they spend extra time outside and eat the random chipmunk or rabbit, so much the better.

Can we eat it yet boss?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bring It

So far it has been an amazingly warm winter.  That doesn't rule out the possibility that the second half of the year could be great for snow.

We usually have several months where it is too cold for large snowstorms.  I am hopeful that the next couple of months will remain warmer than average, increasing the opportunities for warm moist air to interact with below freezing temps.  If that happens we salvage a season of snow sports.

I don't care for skis and snowmobiles never held any allure.  I do like walks in the woods and snowshoeing is a natural extension.

A few years back I got my first pair.  Military surplus was the only place my desire for quality and price met a product that would bear my weight.

The shoes themselves were fine, but the binding were terrible.  Sometimes I could get a good walk without much work but more times than naught I was readjusting and tightening them every hundred yards or so.
Enter Marc's Snowshoe bindings.   They attached easier than advertised and feel great on the feet.  I'm looking forward to the chance to try them out in the field.

Someday soon the weatherman will say "a big storm is on the way."  I'll only have one response, "Bring it!"


If looks could kill,

Someone disagreed with my decision to scrub our morning walk on account of wind and rain.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Northeast Minneapolis

Saturday provided a great day to explore an area of Minneapolis that I'd yet to been exposed.  It was a good time and I got an opportunity to scope out some areas for later exploration.  

Sheridan Memorial Park does a great job expressing the costs of war.  Including the youngest and unheralded victims.

"War is the beast that makes every mother cry."
Each of the nation's wars and those conflicts which had the most local impact receive its own post and its own death mask.

Natural Dangers at the boat ramp.
Minneapolis Parks and Rec office.


Isn't it iconic?  Don't you think?
Good Guys at Graco, or "when lawyers are order takers not order givers."

"Minneapolis is dam nice."

Finding shoes or other items I would presume the homeless would value, is relatively common on my walks.  This is by far the nicest pair of boots I have ever found.

Nice boots.  I hope the owner gets them back.  I'd like to know the story. Yes, I did check the river for 30 yards up and downstream.