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New York State Program Enhances Awareness Of Invasive Species
The effort to expand awareness about the spread and prevention of invasive species is patterned on an effort that began in the Adirondacks. Invasive species … That's very important now in Lake Champlain with spiny water flea and other species that
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Alameda's Adoptable Pets: Flea season prevention beats cure every time
It's a lot easier to prevent flea infestation than to try to control it after it has occurred. But with so many products on the market, it is hard to know what flea control method is the best fit for you and your pet. To choose a product that will get
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Flea and Tick Prevention Essential in Summer Months, Says Acres Mill
CANTON, Ga., June 14, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Acres Mill Veterinary Clinic is reminding pet owners about the importance of flea and tick prevention for the summer months. The animal hospital carries both topical and oral flea and tick treatments.
Read more on GlobeNewswire (press release)

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“[I]n any pure bred…the greatest characteristic it can possess is its differences.”

lewis harcourt's retrievers

This is a clipping from the Illustrated Sporting News from March 28, 1908. It is about Lewis Harcourt’s golden retrievers and their talents compared to other strains that were bred for a more uniform type.

The text of the piece, for those who might have trouble reading the text, goes as follows:

When Mr. Harcourt’s yellow retrievers were exhibited at Cruft’s Show, the dog-show critics condemned them for want of uniformity. That was a display of ignorance, of educated ignorance, for in any pure bred, and necessarily inbred race, the greatest characteristic it can possess is its differences. In other words, the breed qualities condemnatory of the mongrel are the salvation of thorough-breds. For thirty, or more, years, Lord Tweedmouth has passed this breed of sandy-coloured retrievers. Ideal breeding cannot be found in breeding for colour, because it is reminiscent of the remark of the Suffolk sportsman, that “there is a toy in the kennel of every sportsman, from his honour to the rat-catcher.” But there has been no ideal retriever breeding for many years. It has been governed by show influences, or breeding for uniformity of error. Consequently, the colour fad is quite as likely to have done less harm than the breeding for uniformity [of type], particularly when we remember that the colour faddists have always been sportsmen and the uniformity faddists have not. Besides this, there is evidence of a public sort that there is working instinct left in this race. Mr. A. T. Williams’ crack field trial Don of Gerwn was by one of them, and no dog has distinguished himself more in public than this liver-coloured one. Now that a race of breeders of retrievers are arising who breed for nothing but work  and have a large field of choice, it will become harder to maintain a particular colour in small numbers at the high working standard that is sure to be set. On the other hand, it does not follow that crosses with best working black dogs will stamp out the golden colour (pg. 126).

This piece points out that this strain of flat-coated retriever, which became the basis for the modern golden retriever breed, were actually pretty influential in the main flat-coated retriever breed at the time. Don of Gerwn, mentioned in the piece, was the winning of the 1905 International Gun Dog League’s retriever trial in 1905, and his sire was one of Lord Tweedmouth’s yellow retrievers named Lucifer.

The author of this piece was obviously a practical sportsman, excoriating show breeders and pointing out that if you start breeding for type alone, you start producing lots of useless dogs. The author’s line about every kennel having a “toy” in it is probably always truism, no matter what sort of working dogs are being bred, but the implication is that retriever breeding up to that time had gone astray as wavy/flat-coated retrievers were being bred with a heavy emphasis on making them look more uniform in type.

The original wavy-coated or flat-coated retrievers were quite variable in type. Some showed a stronger St. John’s water dog or “Newfoundland” type, while others were very setter-like. Both really wavy coats and extreme straight coats were found in the breed, which is one reason why the breed had two different names.

The “golden retriever” strain had been closely held by only a few devoted sporting families, and they were used for sporting work, mostly picking up from grouse and pheasant shoots and tracking wounded deer. There was not a strong selection for uniformity in type, just for the yellow to red color.

The “golden retriever” strain retained a lot of variance in type that was being lost as the wavy-coated retriever began to develop along a much more narrowly defined creature.  Flat-coats were having the bone bred out of them, and in the drive to make them straight-coated, there was a selection away from the dense undercoat that protected their Newfoundland ancestors from the cold water and kept British land retrievers well-insulated from thorn pricks.

Today, the golden retriever’s diversity in type is something that ought to be celebrated. It is in the golden retriever breed that the old wavy-coated retriever’s diversity in conformation was preserved, and it is in part because of this diversity that the golden retriever wound up thriving as a breed while the flat-coated retriever has become quite rare (and almost became extinct).

Beyond the narrowness of discussion of golden retriever types, though, is the pernicious desire of the show ring culture to produce cookie cutter dogs.  Many breeds have excluded colors, like the pied in mastiffs, the white in German shepherds, and the yellow in modern flat-coated retrievers.  Others, like the Portuguese water dog, have a coat type that is excluded. These dogs with “improper coats” look a lot like flat-coated retrievers, but they have been deemed essential for the breed’s survival. Even though a genetic test now exist that determines whether a bearded dog carries the improper coat, the breed club urges breeders not to exclude those dogs.

Which is pretty forward-thinking for the modern dog fancy.

Diversity is seen as an aberration in the world of purebred dogs. In working dogs, people are more willing to allow for conformation or color differences because it means one can select more for working characteristics, but in a show dog, the looks really do matter to the point that it becomes much harder to select for working traits. It also becomes harder to select for health and genetic diversity.

The more one narrowly defines the “correct” criteria for breeding selection, the harder it becomes to breed for sustainable gene pools across the breed.

In this way, in a purebred dog the greatest characteristic it can possess is an acceptance of diversity. In golden retrievers and Labradors, there is already a very wide acceptance for diversity, but in breeds like mastiffs and pugs, there is very little tolerance for this essential diversity.

In 1908, golden retrievers were just a few years from becoming an actual breed, instead of a strictly working-bred strain of flat-coated retriever.  Ever since the two breeds have split, yellow flat-coats still pop up, and they are now usually sold with the understanding never to be used for breeding. However, they tell us very clearly that these two breeds didn’t arrive as separate specially created kinds that jumped off of Noah’s ark.

The two breeds are part and parcel of each other, so much so now that the flat-coated retriever that exists now is really but a sub-type of what we call a golden retriever– at least that’s what the DNA says. If you ever follow the pedigrees of golden retrievers, you’ll hit black flat- or wavy-coats soon enough.

Much more so than in 1908 does the modern flat-coat needing new blood. Plans to cross flat-coats with goldadors (golden retriever/Labrador crosses) from guide schools have been rumored. There was even a discussion about crossing them with Labradors in Britain a few years ago, but it never went anywhere.

The closed registry system no longer rewards innovators like Lord Tweedmouth or Lewis Harcourt.  Innovation, which we celebrate with our crossbred hogs and beef cattle, is now abhorrent in the world of dogs.

And has been for quite some time.

But it still stands that diversity is not the enemy of sound breed management.

So here’s to the yellow flat-coats, pied mastiffs, and parti-colored Gordon setters.

Someday, you’ll be appreciated for what you give to your breed, but it make take a lot more disease and suffering for us to recognize it.

Until then, let this article from 107 years ago tell us that truly knowledgeable dog people knew better than the modern fanciers. It was our fair warning.

To which too many didn’t heed.


Canis lupus hominis

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The calm before the storm

Oh my goodness. One week from tomorrow and it’s going to be one of the most important days of my life: right up there with graduating, getting married, having my kids.

I will be an official published author. Aieeee!

I dreamed of this long before I thought about going to veterinary school, back when I was seven and I pulled every book off my shelf and artfully arranged them around the house playing bookstore ( Or was it library?)

When I sat under the kitchen counter reading National Geographic.

When I perched at the bus stop reading Piers Anthony, hoping today was the day the other kids at the bus stop would forget to throw spitwads at me.

To me, writing is transcendent: a waystation to another place or time where your life ceases to be front and center, if only for a moment. If you are fortunate and have chosen your book well, you return slightly better than when you left. If you are seeking respite when your choices are limited, books are a way to travel, to find camaraderie, to escape. Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin.
ibm5150

When I started writing, it was almost a compulsion, banging away at my dad’s IBM 5150 about unicorns or Weird Al or whatever it is that interests 10 year olds. It might have even been a story about Weird Al riding a unicorn, I don’t know. I printed the stories out on the dot matrix printer and presented them proudly to no one but my mother, who always said they were excellent even when they weren’t.

dotmatric

I thought we were tres sophisticated, since we didn’t use typewriters. After that, we progressed to Macs, which were even more amazing save one little blip:

MacOs_Syserror

These were the computers I used in high school when I was editor of the school paper, a job which taught me two things:

  1. Writing can be tremendously powerful
  2. I enjoy poking the badger (still do)

As the years have passed, the computers have gotten better but two things never changed: my desire to write and my mom’s support.

Authors are my heroes, and to be allowed into even the peripheral orbit is an honor I can’t describe. Well, I could, I guess, but you know what I mean. When I got the very first draft of my book, bound in blue construction paper and full of typos, my mother was frothing to read it and I said no, you have to wait until July 14th like everyone else.

Fortunately, I changed my mind.

She read it in a day and called to tell me all the things she thought about it, which were beautiful and joyful and redeeming. I am so glad my first review was from her. She told me once a few years back that she always wanted to write a book.

“About what?” I asked.

“Hobos,” she replied.

“Hobos?” I asked, completely confused.

hobos

 

“Yes, hobos, you know, the guys who rode the rails?” she asked.

“Any particular reason why?” I asked, since as far as I knew she had little experience with rail riding vagabonds from the Great Depression Era, though my Uncle Steve does come close.

“Nope,” she said.

And here I always thought I got my weirdness from Dad.

Nonetheless, it is her love of the word, the countless hours on her lap being read to and carted back and forth from the library, that comes to fruition next week. Obviously, I want the book to be successful because that’s the only way you get to write other books, and I already know what the titles will be because I am always dreaming and wishing and writing things in my head as I walk around.

I want it to do well, because I’m proud of it and I want others to enjoy it too. But even if that never happens, if this is as good as it gets on that front, I will never be prouder than I was the moment Mom teared up and told me how much she loved my book. And that, all by itself, is enough.

Pawcurious: With Veterinarian and Author Dr. V

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Balancing the scales in medicine

I am becoming increasingly convinced the communication gap between veterinarians and clients is the number one problem we’ve failed to solve. We’re just not on the same page a lot of the time, it seems, and it makes me sad. I can’t read a single article online without coming across “veterinarians are money grubbing pigs that suck” (true blog title) and someone else saying “if you can’t afford x/y/z/q you shouldn’t have gotten a pet, jerk.” I feel as though this is perhaps a bit extreme, but it’s what happens when we don’t work together to identify our goals.

Common Fallacies of Bad Client Interactions

rotten

(In just as many cases, the vet on the left is an associate up to his or her ears in student debt and just trying to make it through the day without getting yelled at one more time, and the client on the right is a stressed out single parent who just spent a grand fixing her car.)

Much of this angst comes from the pervasive assumption that in all cases we will do everything we can medically, no matter what, which was fine a while back when “everything” meant “antibiotics” but as veterinary medicine has advanced, has come to mean “MRI, spinal tap, radiation.”

This assumption, of course, carries over from human medicine: if you’ve got the insurance, you’re getting the treatment. Everyone’s happy, right? Right?

Not so much. Satisfaction with a medical course of action relies on multiple factors.

Sometimes getting to “Everyone Happy” (Square B) is impossible. D’s not so bad either, but A and C are no-fly zones.

Human Medicine Satisfaction

medchart1_edited-2

I would argue that satisfaction with outcomes is directly correlated to the balance between the amount of treatment pursued, and its benefit.

medchart1_edited-3

So really, the goal here isn’t to push everyone towards the far extremes of treatment; it’s about getting to that center line of balance. In human medicine this change is slowly creaking along with things like hospice care, which moves people from C to D in low treatment benefit situations, and increased access to insurance coverage, which moves you from A to B in high benefit situations. With Mom, we were squarely in the D category, and while we’re not HAPPY, it’s a hell of a lot better than if we had treated her to death.

Make sense?

So how does this apply to veterinary medicine? It’s similar, except we tend to find ourselves walking a line most strongly related to finances.

The Veterinary Experience

vetchart1_edited-1

There’s a whole lot of people in square C these days, who spent more than they really had on treatments they weren’t sure they wanted, because they felt like they had to, and when things go downhill as they often do with very ill pets, people can end up really, really disillusioned with the profession.

Now, since we have no ability to magically divine which people are up for specialty treatment and which people are not, we always offer all the options to clients- as we should. There are people who spend thousands, lose their pet, and are still ok with the outcome- but they were also very clear on the risks and made an informed decision. Many clients, it seems, feel as if they are not.

vetchart1_edited21

So what do we do to improve outcomes? In my experience, the best way to move the dial from A to B is pet insurance, at least for emergency situations. There are few situations more likely to prompt a Facebook mob than a pet who died a preventable death because the owner couldn’t afford treatment and the ER vet wouldn’t do the treatment for free- nor should they. Owners need to shoulder some of the responsibility here of financial preparation, and if they refuse to take even basic steps to be prepared, maybe they really are a crappy client.

And conversely, moving the dial from C to D involves good veterinary communication, and a willingness to understand that lots of factors go into the decision about whether or not to seek treatment. If a veterinarian talks a senior on a fixed income into a kidney transplant for a 15 year old cat in renal failure, after she expressed concern about paying her rent for the month and her own upcoming surgery- maybe they really are a money grubbing vet.

But I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Clients and vets both have work to do here. And I believe with all of my heart that the better we get about empowering clients to make informed decisions, the more that will carry over into human medicine- which is a wonderful thing.

I realize this is a vastly oversimplified explanation of some really complicated issues, but hey, we have to start somewhere. Whatever it is we’re doing now sure doesn’t seem to be working too well.

Pawcurious: With Veterinarian and Author Dr. V

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Before and After – Part 1

I sat down and had a portfolio review done the other day by a local photographer.  It’s hard to find someone that can give you honest (and knowledgable reviews).  I’m hoping to get a more in-depth one done with a well known pet photographer soon but I couldn’t seem to find the time to wrap my head around all the information I needed to provide to make it worthwhile and it was easier to just gather 30 photos together and get some quick and dirty feedback.

It was good. I learned a lot – mainly about what I should be doing better in editing but a little bit about what I could be doing differently while shooting too. Going into this process, I didn’t feel like I needed to agree with every comment he said, but for the most part, I found I understood his point and agreed with him.

I thought I would re-edit the images based on the review and then post some before and afters. Mainly so I can remember and refer back to it, but also in case some of you want to learn from my mistakes.  :)

I tended to make the same “errors” over and over again.  The biggest one is putting my subject in the centre of the frame.  There are times when it’s the best option, but often it isn’t.  I know this.  I’ve heard this before, yet I can’t seem to stop myself.   I don’t tend to centre my subject in the middle of the entire picture – but often they are in the middle from side to side or from top to bottom.

In this situation I took quite a few pictures of her under the tree so I just chose one with a crop I could work better with to include the feedback – which was essentially to put her on the right edge and to include more of the tree on the left.

Another common criticism (although I didn’t specifically write it down for this one) was to darken the background elements and increase my contrast so I did that too.

Before:

After:

Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey

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95 percent a man

He’s almost done growing in his adult breeding plumage:

010

011

012

And he has discovered his purpose in life, nailing two pekin hens within five minutes:

018

019


Canis lupus hominis

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Increased rainfall brings higher risk of fleas for pets

Increased rainfall brings higher risk of fleas for pets
Vets and pet store employees alike are recommending newer flea medications, such as seresto collars, to avoid the pests building tolerance. Posted: Monday, July 20, 2015 12:00 am. Increased rainfall brings higher risk of fleas for pets by Brittany
Read more on The Exponent Telegram (press release) (registration)

Scratch fleas
Suck it up: Vacuum frequently — daily to every third day — to remove flea eggs, larvae and their food. Vacuum thoroughly where pets hang out and sleep, as well as along walls and under furniture, cushions, beds and throw rugs. Immediately toss the
Read more on San Antonio Express-News (subscription)

Thom Yorke, Patti Smith, Flea Unite for Climate Change Concert
Thom Yorke, Patti Smith, Flea, Dhani Harrison and more will perform at Paris' Le Trianon theater on December 4th as part of Pathway to Paris, a concert designed to raise awareness about the urgency of climate action. The event will coincide with the UN …
Read more on RollingStone.com

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Before and After – Part 2

This one also just needed some minor adjustments.  Take a little off the top (so he isn’t quite so entered in the image!), remove the flower in front – too distracting, take the blade of grass on the left side of his face out and blur the areas of grass that are in focus on the sides of the image.  I’m not sure if I agree with the crop (I find it feels squishy if the dog’s head doesn’t have breathing room) but I definitely agree with everything else!

Before:

After:

Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey

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DR. DONNA SPECTOR AND HALO PET FOOD

Dr. Donna Spector answers the question what she thinks is the best food for pets. In this video she gives her recommendation and tells us what is in Halo pet food and also importantly what is not in Halo pet food.

The holistic approach to pet health is focused on treating the “whole animal,” recognizing that good nutrition is an essential element of overall well-being.

Just like us, pets need love, quality nutrition, sound sleep, clean air, fresh water, exercise, sunshine and positive surroundings. A holistic approach to wellness encompasses all these elements. And we believe that good nutrition is the single most important factor.

Halo

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Latest Pet Itch News

Saratoga community raises funds for Jordan Klapp's robotic arm
Sometimes his parents have to wake up at night to scratch areas that itch. But the incurable muscle wasting disorder hasn't stopped the teenager from reaching an important milestone. On Thursday morning, guided by his service dog, Patriot, Klapp will
Read more on Albany Times Union

Health Tip: Treating Poison Ivy
Use lukewarm soapy water to wash anything that may have touched the plant, including gardening tools, golf clubs, pet fur or pet leashes. Don't scratch the area, since doing so could lead to a skin infection. Don't rub or remove peeling skin. Soothe
Read more on U.S. News & World Report

Exercising with your pooch can be fun — if you play it safe
METRO DETROIT — You know that itch you've had to get outside and burn off some of that extra energy? Well, guess what? Your pooch feels the same way. Plenty of people have gotten into the habit of not just … Giving your pet some one-on-one time
Read more on C&G Newspapers

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