Freba Maulauizada story is amazing and appreciatab…

Freba Maulauizada story is amazing and appreciatable

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Have You Thrown Out Your Christmas Tree Yet?

You may need to watch this on full-screen to catch what’s happening. Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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My 6 Healthy (and Easy!) Lifestyle Changes for 2018

This post is in partnership with Crest, but all opinions are my own.

Before I begin this post, I want to come right out and say that I am not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions for myself. For years, I would feel immense pressure to come up with resolutions that were focused on changes that required big commitments (permanently give up all sugar, work out for an hour every single day, meditate for an hour daily, etc.), each of which fell apart quickly and left me feeling disappointed and guilty. I noticed a pattern with my resolutions – they were almost always health-based (which is great!) but they didn’t translate into sustainable lifestyle changes (which kind of defeats the purpose). Eventually, I let the concept of resolutions go all together, but this year, I wanted to revisit them in a different way. So on January 1st (my birthday), I wrote down attainable changes I wanted to make with a whole person lifestyle approach (body, mind, and spirit) in 2018. I then broke them down into small, concrete daily tasks that, together, could (hopefully!) make a profound difference. And today, I’m sharing them with you.

1. Eat an apple a day. This change is more metaphorical than anything else, but building on the old aphorism “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” I am eating one healthy fruit or vegetable every single day, no matter what. Obviously, the ultimate goal here is to eat lots of whole, nutritious foods everyday – but by focusing on eating one piece of fruit or a veggie, I can avoid excuses (“I don’t have time to make anything today” or “I’m on the go all day so I have to grab something fast/easy like a packaged bar”) and just make it happen.

2. Drink a (reusable, of course) bottle of water a day. I’m actually pretty good about drinking water, but I’m not consistent about it. I might go for weeks where I refill and consume my water bottle a dozen times a day, and then go for a week or two (especially in times when I’m busy like the holidays or our move into a new home last week) where I approach dehydration because I genuinely forget to drink anything all day. This year, I am committing to drink one bottle every day, no matter what. While I plan to drink much more than that, drinking one bottle is easy to remember no matter how frazzled I am.

3. Cook 3 dinners a week at home. I’ll admit it guys, I am a take-out queen. My years of city living pre-kids created a bad habit revolved around take-out menus, and I’ve never been able to let it go. I enjoy making creative snacks, but when it comes to meals, the time and effort involved often feels overwhelming. I’ve also never been good at shopping for staples or meal prepping, and therefore tend to spend more money on groceries to prepare meals than on just ordering out. That said, it isn’t a secret that cooking meals at home is the healthier way to go, so I am committing to making 3 dinners a week in my kitchen. Ultimately I’d love for that to progress to 6 dinners a week, but we’re focusing on small, easy changes here – so for now, 3 it is.

4. Take care of my mouth by taking care of my gums. I’ve always been good about brushing and flossing my teeth, but this year, I decided I wanted to take things further and focus on my gums as well – something that I feel is an important part of the whole body/person changes I’m making. As soon as I learned about the recent launch of new Crest® Gum Detoxify TM toothpaste, I grabbed some, and it was such an easy think to add to my daily routine for 2018. I really love how it is specially formulated with Activated Foam technology that reaches below the gum line (an area that even we champion brushers wouldn’t be able to reach!). Pretty great right? I’m personally loving the Deep Clean variety, but Crest® Gum DetoxifyTM toothpaste is also available in Extra Fresh, Gentle Whitening, Two-Step, and is available in drugstores, mass retailers and eCommerce sites nationwide, starting this month.

5. Practice 5 minutes of mindfulness a day. A little over a decade ago, I spent 3 years living and volunteering at a Tibetan Buddhist Center where meditation sessions were at my fingertips. I remember feeling an incredible sense of calm and peace, being able to walk next door and take part in them. These days, I live in a regular old house in the suburbs and have two young children, and my attempts at daily meditation have proven close to impossible. This is honestly one of the things I end up feeling guiltiest about not being able to complete, because I know what a difference it makes in my overall health and mental state. So in 2018, I am committing to 5 minutes of mindfulness every day, either first thing in the morning or before I go to bed. The concept of mindfulness is more realistic for me than actual meditation (although when I can make time for it, I absolutely do that as well), because it just involves being present and observing your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, environment, etc., and can be done almost anywhere. I have really been enjoying this, and even with my commitment to 5 minutes, am already feeling a positive change.

6. Set aside 30 minutes a day of family time. The last 2+ months of 2017 really burned me out, and I barely saw my husband or kids. Because Robbie was mostly on break from the band’s tour schedule and could care for our little ones, I worked 60-80 hour weeks. I needed to do this to help support my family for the first few months of this year when Robbie would be gone often, but looking back, there could have been healthier ways to approach my schedule. I truly believe that spending quality time with loved ones is the most important thing you can do for your emotional well being, so in 2018, I am setting aside at least 30 minutes a day, every single day, to focus 100% on my family, in ways where we can just enjoy each other’s company without distractions.

It’s still early in the year, I know, but so far, these smaller lifestyle changes are working. My fingers are crossed that they continue to be successful throughout the year and beyond!

Are you a resolution person, or do small, simple daily changes work better for you? What changes are you working to make in 2018?


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Friday Funny: In Honor of California

From the excellent Bored Panda site. To those of you partaking of weed now that it’s legal in California: you might want to keep it out of reach of your pets! Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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John Guille Millais’s retriever named Jet



A few months ago, I wrote about how Sir Everett Millais created the modern basset hound when the inbred strains of Norman basset that were being bred in England were crossed with a bloodhound.

Sir Everett Millais was a dog show person. He was obsessed with developing the basset hound as we know it today, and as a judge, he was adamant about the newly developing English strains of dachshund take more after the hound component of their heritage than the “terrier” component.

Everett was the son of Sir John Everett Millais, a noted painter from a prominent Jersey family, and most “dog people” generally know only about his eldest son. The story of the cross between the Norman basset and the bloodhound well-documented breed lore, and much of our understanding of the dachshund in English-speaking countries comes from his work in founding that breed in England.

But of this particular Millais family, there was another son who had an interest in dogs. The youngest son of Sir John Everett Millais was John Guille Millais, an author, a painter, and naturalist of some note. I once wrote about his account of sheep-killing “Labrador dogs” in Newfoundland.

I paid almost no attention this author, other than I noted he was the younger brother of Sir Everett.  I searched around for more information about John Guille, but I got bored. I made a mental note of his name and then largely forgot about him.

A few years ago I came across a book written by John Guille.  It was called The Wildfowler in Scotland, which was published in 1901.  The book is ostensibly a how-to manual on shooting water and seabirds in Scotland, but it also includes accounts of his favorite retriever. Her name was Jet, and she was nothing like the celebrated show dogs of his brother:

“In my early days of shore shooting I was fortunate enough to procure a dog which eventually turned out to be (so far as my experience goes) the very best that ever stood on four legs. ‘Jet,’ for that was her name, was but a pup of ten months—a smooth-coated retriever of a most gentle and affectionate disposition, and quite unbroken—when I bought her of an innkeeper in Perth. She was the keenest and best nosed dog I have ever seen—too keen, as I found at first, and constantly running-in; but eventually she settled down and became almost human in her intelligence.

Every man becomes sentimental about something, and if I say too much here about dear old ‘Jet,’ who was my constant companion for sixteen years, the reader must forgive me. Many are the tales I could tell of her prowess; but I will confine myself to a few instances of her indomitable perseverance and pluck as a swimmer. One trick I mention as interesting, for she acquired it through her own cunning. Every shooter knows that while directing his eyes to the front or flank, as he naturally does while walking along the coast, birds often come up from behind, and before he can observe them, sheer off out of shot.  ‘Jet,’ however, was quite up to this.  As she trotted along behind me, she constantly glanced back over her shoulder, and if she saw anything coming, she would at once run in front of me, gazing alternatively at myself and the fowl in an inquiring manner,  thereby giving the chance of obtaining something desirable. There was no sea, however thunderous–even the great winter breakers of the North Atlantic– that she would not face, if I asked her to fetch some fallen treasure.

When the seas were unusually heavy, she betrayed a most remarkable instinct in preserving herself from being dashed from the rocks.  Instead of plunging into the mass of water, as a breaker surged towards her, she would allow herself to be carried out on the wash of the receding rush in time to meet the next huge wave and top it just as about to fall with a force that would have knocked her senseless had it broken upon her. More than once in a heavy sea she was not quick enough in this exploit, and paid smartly for her daring.  An instance occurred one day in the winter when I was lying among rocks near the Black Craig, Orkney Isles,  during one of those big westerly gales when Arctic gulls and Eiders come along the shore.  I had been watching them for some days previously, and whilst this gale was it height, a male eider came by, at which I fired.  The bird was hard hit, and made it out to sea, but had not gone 50 yards when it fell dead among the breakers.  As the sea was wild in the extreme, and I knew the bird would soon be blown ashore, I never thought of sending my dog after it; but ‘Jet’ who was pottering about in the rocks at a short distance, unfortunately had her eye also on the eider, and seeing it fall, at once made for it, in spite of all my efforts to stop her, all my shouting drowned by the roar of the ocean.  I could only stand and admire her pluck as she fought through the first two breakers. Now those who have lived much by the sea have noticed that those heavy breakers always travel over the face of the ocean in threes.  The third did for ‘Jet’ as she was trying to raise herself and look about for the bird. It completely broke over her, and I felt a chill go to my heart as, the next moment, I saw her body floating helplessly admidst the rush of seething waters.” (pg 45-47).

Jet eventually washed up on the shore, alive but severely draggled. Millais carried her home two miles, and although modern retriever people would have her much more steady to shot, this tale is a story of her pluck and drive.

In the Tay Estuary,  Millais once shot a brent goose (“brant” goose for North Americans), but left the bird only slightly pinioned. Jet took off after the bird in the water, but the bird was a much faster swimmer than the dog.  The dog pursued the goose a great distance from the shore, and Millais estimated that he ran three miles trying to call her back in:

“I began to lose all hope of ever seeing my dear doggie again. However, by the merest chance, there happened that afternoon to be an old fellow collecting bait in a spot where never before or since have I seen a man so employed. We at once asked his help, but in vain. ‘Na, na,’ he said, ‘A ken fine yon spring tide; a few meenutes to get there and a’ day to get back.’ Bribery and persuasion having alike failed, I told the old chap that as I had no intention of seeing my dog drowned I should take his boat whether he liked it or not. That he did not like it was clear from his reply; but a glance at my beaming friend convinced him that resistance would be useless, so he sullenly assisted us to launch his coble.

It took about ten minutes to run out to ‘Jet’ and her quarry, and when the latter was promptly dispatched the staunch dog fetched it to the boat, obviously proud of her accomplishment. Poor old girl, she little knew how near death she had been! Without the help that only by good luck we were able to render, she would have gone on another mile or two; then, feeling tired, would have tried in vain to make headway back’ to the shore. It took us about four and a half hours to make the coast again in that angry sea.

At all sorts of shooting, whether grouse driving, covert shooting, or wildfowling, ‘Jet’ was equally reliable; and having constant practice throughout the shooting season, she became as good a retriever as the most exacting sportsman could desire. At flight shooting she was simply perfection, and seemed, like her master, to take special delight in sitting at twilight waiting for the black forms and whistling pinions of the approaching duck. On ‘coarse’ nights, when duck flying by are seen almost as soon as they are heard, a dog is seldom quicker than a man in catching sight of them; but on still, fine nights, when the moon rises early, and the birds can be heard approaching from a distance, a good dog will always see them before the shooter, and will indicate by his motions the precise direction from which they are coming. ‘Jet’ was very good at this, almost invariably rising from her sitting posture, stiffening herself in pointer fashion, and whining if she thought I was not paying sufficient attention to her suggestions. Frequently, too, in an evening, when the wind is not too strong, many trips of birds will come down wind, from behind the shooter, and on these occasions ‘Jet’s’ sharp ears have often helped me to a shot that I should otherwise have lost from lack of time to change my position.

And now good-bye, old ‘Jet,’ fondest and faithfullest of companions! Stone deaf, and stiff with rheumatism, she quietly lay down and died, in 1897, and I can hardly hope to ever see her like again (pg. 49-50).

Jet was a poorly trained animal by our standards today, but she had lots of drive and intelligence that could have been crafted into a fine working animal.  Her longevity is something that many retriever people would like to see again. In no breed of retriever do dogs routinely reach those great ages now.

Jet was not purebred by any stretch. She was a “collie-and-smooth-coated-retriever mongrel.” From her photo in Wildfowler, she looked very much like a small flat-coated retriever, so the “smooth coat” in her breed description like refers to her being a cross between some form of collie and what became the flat-coated retriever. She had definite feathering, and if she had been a cross with a collie and the dogs that became the Labrador retriever, she would have been without feathering. The flash of white on her muzzle might point to her collie ancestry, but she would have been very typical of the retrievers that Millais and other sporting young men at the time would have had.

John Guille Millais recommended crosses between “the curly and the waving retrievers. As a general rule a curly coat denotes strength, intelligence, and a relish for the hard and coarse work of the water; whilst the wavy-coated dogs are more amenable to discipline, and gifted. with a softness of mouth and sweetness of disposition not to be found in any other of the canine species” (pg. 44).

John Guille was ultimately going against his brother’s aesthetic. His favorite dogs are retrievers bred for work:

“In selecting a pup for wildfowling work the shooter cannot be too careful in his inquiries as to the cleverness, mouth, taste for the water, and other characteristics of the mother. Where possible, he should ascertain this for himself, as the mental capacity and proclivities of the mother are generally transmitted to the pups. I think am correct in saying that a dog gets from her most of his abilities—good, bad, or indifferent; while his external form is due rather to his father. Good bench qualities will, of course, add to his value, as affording more pleasure to the eye, but otherwise, they are of no importance (pg 44).

John Guille Millais would eventually become a major force in conservation.  He was a co-founder of what became Fauna & Flora International, and his travels in North America, Europe, and Africa brought him into contact with many wild things. He wrote of his experiences in those regions, but he also wrote tomes of natural history, including books on magnolias and rhododendrons.  He wrote about deer species and deer hunting, and he often returned to the subject of wing-shooting and the natural history of game birds and waterfowl.

Like so many young men of his class, he came to natural history with the gun in his hand and a retriever at his heels. It was around the same time that Jet came into his life that John Guille and his father met the ornithologist John Gould.  That meeting laid the eggs of a passion that would drive the young man out onto the windswept coasts with his little black retriever. (It also became the inspiration for Sir John Everett Millais’s painting The Ruling Passion.)

John Guille Millais, at least when it came to dogs, was a bit of rebel compared to his brother. Everett Millais was a doyen among the dog show set. He was more interested in producing dogs that could be judged and discussed in lavish sitting rooms. John Guille was more interested in the wilder working dogs, the ones with rugged coats and lots of pluck and courage.

I am so glad that John Guille Millais was able to have this connection with Jet. She was a wonderful creature, the very sort of dog that burns your psyche deeply, the kind that visits you in dreams and leaves the memories waxing rheumy.



Natural History

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Greenhouse, Icehouse and Snowball…the history of ice

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Former Stray Cat Struts the Stage

Cat Sweet Be a looking into the mirror

Photo Credits:

When people think of animal performers, they often imagine pedigreed pets trained to perfection. However, one little cat in Washington, D.C. defied all those stereotypes and became a star actress on stage – even gaining her own fans and following!

About six or seven years ago, a shelter called Susan Galbraith a few days after she had helped a friend adopt a cat. As Susan relayed the story to us, the shelter told Susan, “We know you have a big heart — you helped your friend. We need you to help this cat.”

Susan initially refused because she wasn’t looking for another cat at that time. However, then the shelter replied, “Oh no, this cat, no one will take this cat. This cat has no fur, she was found in a drainpipe so she is nearly dead and we don’t think she is going to make it, but we would like you to just… give her a home.”

Susan, who has been rescuing animals since she was a kid, decided to see the cat. She revealed, “I went there and sure enough, there was this cat, and it was tiny, huge eyes. It looked like an owlet because it had no fur. I brought it home, sort of tucked in a little blanket. I showed it to my son and he said, ‘Mom, this is too much, that is the ugliest cat I have ever seen.’”

Well, Susan, told her son, “No, no, no…we are going to call her ‘Dante’s Beatrice,’ and [with] that beautiful name, she’s going to be a muse, and she will grow up to be a beautiful cat. And sure enough, when her hair finally grew out…she looks white, but she’s a Silver Point Persian.” The little hairless cat, nicknamed Sweet Bea, defied expectations and turned out to be beautiful, healthy, and loving.

When D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company began preparations to produce Harold Pinter’s play The Collection, they noticed that the script specifically mentions a white cat. As Susan said, “Michael Kahn [the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre] was not going to have anything but a live cat.” Michael is a revered director and known for putting on incredible shows.

In addition, Susan revealed that Michael is “quite a cat lover, himself” and even has a cat of his own. However, Michael’s three-legged cat did not fit the script’s description, according to Susan, “so his cat was not going to be able to do the honors on stage.” Instead, the Shakespeare Theatre Company held “pawditions,” as they called them, to find the perfect white cat for their production. Sweet Bea was the lucky cat who won the role. During rehearsals, according to Susan “Michael Kahn… was terribly sweet to” Sweet Bea. He often “rolled over on his little chair and gave her some attention which she obviously loved.”

Photo Credits:

Susan, who is a playwright, actor, and director herself, was thrilled when Sweet Bea won the part. She noted that, “A stage life for a cat isn’t always recommended.” However, Sweet Bea, “did very well, she sat and she looked out, and she did what she was supposed to do.” To help keep Sweet Bea happy, Susan shared that, “When she got off stage she would always get a little treat backstage. She seemed to then do very well with that.”

Susan told us that she and Sweet Bea “would go back and forth to the theatre on the Metro,” D.C.’s subway system. Soon, people began to recognize Sweet Bea and “she had a following!” Susan said that Sweet Bea enjoyed the attention, adding, “she likes people.”

And people like Sweet Bea. Susan revealed that “all the men in the company [of actors]… would come backstage and they would touch Sweet Bea. I always thought it gave them comfort.” Susan also said that it wasn’t just the actors who had a soft spot for Sweet Bea, “All the tech people…they were so kind to Sweet Bea, every single person.” She shared that they “had lots of fun taking little picture of Sweet Bea” around the theatre and with her new friends.

Sweet Bea did well in the show, although, as Susan put it, Sweet Bea “did her own choreography” and it didn’t always match with what the actors expected! Susan said that, “One day she decided to take a walk on the back of the sofa and then hopped off, wandered around the stage, and wandered offstage. It sort of worked for the play, but I think the actors were pretty taken aback!”

Susan got to see the production from backstage and said, “it was an amazing production. Susan thought that the show had particular relevance for “this day and age” because it brought “to light this sense of mystery, but also of multiple truths” and that “is what Pinter is all about.” She continued, “I think ‘cat’ was the inner monologue” of the show. Discussing Pinter and cats, Susan suggested that Pinter possibly saw women as similar to cats – both containing an air of mystery.

Susan reviews shows for During rehearsals, Susan used her writing skills to blog about Sweet Bea’s experiences from Sweet Bea’s point of view. Covering her audition and first rehearsal through opening night, the posts are a great behind-the-scenes look into a complicated production. Writing about the rehearsal of a scene where an actress was holding Sweet Bea, the blog says, “I dug my nails in, oh, just a little, to support her truth of being in distress.” In another post, Sweet Bea shared, “I believe I can inspire others. Hang in, and believe.” We have to agree that Sweet Bea is definitely inspirational.

Now that the show is over Susan told us that Sweet Bea is “very happy to return to her space and her routine.” However, the experience has brought out a bit of the diva in Sweet Bea. Susan shared, laughing, that “now she comes downstairs later than the other cats and kind of looks around, ‘Okay, do I get special food?’” When asked if she thought that she and Sweet Bea would ever act together, Susan joked “that would be dangerous, two divas on the stage!” Sweet Bea lives with one dog and two other cats, but they all get along as a happy family. All the pets are rescue pets and the family even lives down the street from City Dogs, one of Susan’s favorite animal rescue groups.

Sweet Bea proves that it doesn’t matter where an animal comes from, they can still accomplish great things. We asked Susan for her advice for anyone who thinks their pet might be a good fit for the stage. “Negotiate for a private dressing room,” was her biggest piece of advice. The private space can help an animal feel more secure and calm, especially in the otherwise bustling atmosphere of a theatre. Susan continued, “It would have been a lot easier if the cat had been trained,” but that the director had particularly wanted Sweet Bea, an untrained cat. However, despite not having any prior stage experience or particular training, Sweet Bea was perfect for the part.

Sweat Bea backstage

Photo Credits:

However, although Susan is open to Sweet Bea acting again in the future, that’s not why she loves her cat and believes so strongly in adopting animals in need. She said, “first of all rescues are so grateful…I think you don’t choose a rescue, I think a rescue chooses you” and that “they fill an empty spot you didn’t even know was there.”

Susan continued, “They give you so much more, always. I’ve never had an animal where I wasn’t totally surprised [and] delighted… and usually animals will get to know when you need them the most.” Despite Sweet Bea’s fame, Susan said, “when I’m down or when I’m lonely or when I’m sick, she’s there on my pillow.” Rescue animals, she believes, are “there to make us more whole.” Susan concluded that, to her, rescue animals, “…they’re stars, whether they’re on stage or not. The world is their stage.” We’ll give a standing ovation to that.

Halo Pets

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Snow Day

Anyone else planning on staying in their jammies all day, watching the snow come down? Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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Joe. Maisie. And The Cheese.

When dogs are on the kitchen counter

This is a little story about how dogs learn, and especially how we can communicate to them certain behaviors, which displease us. Most importantly, it’s a story about how/when/if to reprimand a dog for having engaged in one of those behaviors.

This story is especially useful for new dog owners, or those whose ideas about dog training hark back to the days when people mistakenly believed that smacking a dog with a rolled up newspaper when he had soiled in the house would “teach” him not to do that again (when what it actually taught him was to avoid people coming at him with a rolled up newspaper, hours after he made a piddle in the kitchen!)

There’s a new man in my life, Joe. Which is great news for me, and also for my girls, Maisie and Wanda Weimaraner, who have taken to him like ducklings, imprinting. They follow him everywhere and gaze adoringly at him. He touches them lovingly and talks to them while looking them earnestly in the eyes (just as Weims seems to like) and has won their hearts. Maisie, in particular, brings him an ever-changing array of mangled toys to play tug with her (which he obliges) and it’s remarkable that Joe has actually never been around dogs before – he’s had cats, He’s certainly never lived around the clock with ever-present canines. Yet now he finds himself in a house where two extremely large and intrusive female Weimaraners are never more than an arm’s length away, although they do have lovely manners: they move out of our space when asked and curl up by the wood stoves and behave like perfectly behaved ladies.

Until I went out to play tennis one day. Joe was left at home and took out a piece of cheese which he left on the big kitchen island while going into the living room to put wood in one of the aforementioned stoves. Only to return and find no trace of his cheese.

He proudly told me that he’d given Maisie a firm talking-to about the disappearance of the cheese (since she’s the only one who ever jumps up on the counter) and told her in no uncertain terms what a naughty girl she was.

The only thing he didn’t know was that it meant absolutely nothing to her (or maybe just a different sort of attention from this man whose attention she craved!) I explained to Joe that unless you catch a dog right in the act of doing something you don’t want (like relieving themselves in the house, gnawing on a piece of furniture, playing in the potted plants, etc) your opinions and comments are irrelevant and fall on deaf ears, no matter how abashed a dog may appear to be.

Even if you catch the dog in the moment of snatching the cheese, all you can do is tell her “Off” the counter and remove the piece of cheese from her mouth (creating a second-order problem of what you can possibly do with the cheese now, one wonders?!)

The only solution to the problem is to never leave a nice piece of cheese or anything else delicious on an accessible surface!

Marcy Burke, one of the Avidog International trainer/breeders who are my co-hosts on my dog training show GOOD DOGS! told the story of the stick of butter her husband once left on their kitchen island. Their lovely well-manner Golden Retriever who swallowed it down has been checking out that counter ever since, hoping for years for another windfall.

The only solution to the Cheese Problem is to avoid temptation in the first place.

Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

Halo Pets

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The Great West Virginia Deer Cull

buck white antler

The second Thursday in November has just passed. In most of the country, thoughts will be about the big feast that comes exactly seven days later, but not in my part of the world.

This coming week does include American Thanksgiving. Big family meals will be held that day, and swarms of people will go charging out to shopping malls on Friday.

But in West Virginia, another holiday takes precedence: “buck gun season.”  This coming Monday, the woods be filled with more loud booms than the Fourth of July.  Organic protein and “horns” will be the prize, and a few more forest destroying cervids will be removed from the population before the coming winter turns them into twig chomping fiends.

When I was a child, all sort of people came into the rural districts, often people who had grown up in the area but had gone into the industrial parts of Ohio for work. Ohio’s deer season, “shotgun only,” came later in the year, but West Virginia’s came the week of Thanksgiving. If one wanted to visit the family for the holiday, why not come a few days early and drop a buck for the freezer?

It was such a big event that the school was out all week, not just Thursday and Friday. We received a truncated Christmas vacation, but school attendance during that week would have been terrible. So the district let us all out.

And the tradition continues. I don’t know of a single school district in West Virginia that stays open the week of Thanksgiving.

In fact, virtually every college or university in West Virginia has a week-long holiday this coming week. It is that big a deal.

And it’s not like the deer are massive trophies. The state has antler restrictions in only a few public hunting lands, and in most of the state, there will be many young bucks taken. Because the “antlerless” firearms season occurs at the same time, button bucks will be taken as well. When that many younger bucks are removed from the population, the number of mature deer with nice racks becomes much lower.

But this is a state that allows the hunter to take six deer a year.  If you have a family who owns land and have two hunters who have resident rights to it, you’re talking potentially twelve deer killed a year, which could feed a family of four fairly well.

I come from a family of deer hunters, but they were not venison eaters. When I was a kid, every deer that got shot was given to a relative or someone who couldn’t hunt. My grandpa, who loved to hunt everything and would have us eat cooked squirrel brains, wouldn’t even field dress a deer. That was my dad’s job, and for whatever reason, if my dad or my grandpa even smelled venison cooking, it would make their stomachs weak.

I never had this problem, and in the last few years, I’ve learned how to cook venison properly. I much prefer the meat to beef, especially when we’re talking leaving certain steak cuts rare.  These deer have been living well on acorns, and their flesh has that oaky, rich taste, which some call gamey. I call it delicious.

I’ll be in the woods early Monday morning. I don’t know if I’ll get anything.  The odds are usually against my killing anything that first week.  I don’t have access to the best deer bedding grounds, and the hunting pressure means they won’t be moving into the area where I hunt.

My favorite time to go is Thursday evening, when more than half the local hunters are at home watching football games and digesting turkey. I would rather go through waterboarding than watch a football game, so it’s not big loss for me.

I am a naturalist hunter on the quest for meat. My ancestors in Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain hunted the red deer and the roe thousands of years. They got their meat from the forest.

I am doing the same.

And if you really wanted to know what I think of deer, I’d have to say that I love them. They are fascinating animals.  This particular species has been roaming North America virtually unchanged for 3 million years. This animal watched the mammoths rise and fall. It was coursed by Armbruster’s wolf and the American cheetahs.  It saw the elk come down from Beringia– and the bison too. It ran the back country with primitive horses and several species of pronghorn. It quivered and blew out at jaguars and American lions that stalked in the bush, and it dodged the Clovis points of the Siberian hunters who first colonized this land.

The white-tailed deer thrives so well, but this coming week is the beginning of the great cull. Fewer deer mean less pressure on the limited winter forage, which means healthier deer in the early spring. Better winter and spring condition means that does have had a chance to carry fawns to term, and mature does usually have twins if the conditions are good.  Healthier bucks get a better chance to grow nice antlers for the coming year.

A public resource is being managed. Organic meat raised without hormones or antibiotics is easily procured, and stories and yarns are being compiled for exposition that rivals any trophy mount on the wall.

I know deer stories, including ones about the people I barely knew and are no longer with us.

For example:

My Grandpa Westfall once went on a deer drive for my great grandpa, who was getting older.  He valued his clean shot placement, as many of those old time hunters did, and he would not shoot a deer on the run.

But as he grew older, deer hunting became harder for him, so my grandpa decided to jump one out to him.

My grandpa went rustling through the brush to drive one into my great grandpa’s ran, and he happened to bump a nice little buck and a few does that went running in his direction.

Expecting to hear rifle shots, my grandpa was a bit surprised to hear nothing. So when he approached the deer stand, he saw my great grandpa sitting there.

“Did you see those deer?”

“What deer?”

“I ran three out to you. A buck and two does. Why didn’t you shoot?”

“I didn’t see or hear any deer.”

“Well, you should have at least heard them.”

“Well, if there were that many deer coming my way, they must’ve had their sneakers on.”

He didn’t want to tell my grandpa that he appreciated the effort, but that deer drives were against his ethics. He shot deer cleanly, or he didn’t shoot them at all.

These old men will be with me when I’m out on Monday.  I go in their memory, participating in the Great West Virginia Deer Cull.





Natural History

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