Jack

Naples: beautiful dog and beautiful owner.  This is Mara and her puppy, Jack – he’s an Alaskan Malamute/Siberian Husky mix.
RIVIERA DOGS

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Zoe

This is Zoe, a totally adorable Old English Bulldog – she’s two years old and lives in Naples and I met her in front of the Duomo where the Feast Day of San Gennaro was taking place.
RIVIERA DOGS

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Hopeful

Hopeful … in Naples, Italy.
RIVIERA DOGS

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Fido + Fluffy’s Freebie Friday Plans Some Day Trips

We’ve been making a list of day trips we’re eager to enjoy with Irie and Tiki this fall…as soon as the weather dips below 90. I thought we might be there this week but we’re…



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DogTipper

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Noticeable Results: Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA – Jake’s Story

Jake from Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA

The Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA (AAWL & SPCA) is the largest and oldest no-kill shelter in Arizona. Its mission is to create a world where there are no homeless dogs and cats and to be the community’s leading source for pet adoptions, veterinary services, volunteer opportunities, humane education and expertise in animal welfare.

Halo is proud to partner with Freekibble.com and GreaterGood.org to feed all the AAWL & SPCA pets year around.

Here’s what AAWL & SPCA had to say about a recent Halo Pets donation:

Meet Jake. Jake initially came to AAWL in July 2011. Over the last 4 years Jake has been adopted and returned 4 times. The last return was Feb 2015 and Jake was with AAWL until he was adopted again on 9/16/2015.

Jake is nearly 5 years old, has hip problems that make it tough for him to get enough exercise so weight had been a problem for him. During the 7 months he was with AAWL in 2015 the high quality diet he received helped stabilize his weight, allowing him more walks without pain and time in the therapy pool to improve his strength.

His adoption in September followed a slumber party – a nationally recognized program of AAWL’s that allows families to bring a tougher to adopt animal home and see how he fits in with the family. During the 3 – 7 day slumber party, AAWL provides kennel, bedding, leash & collar as well as food to continue the appropriate diet and any medications that an animal may be taking. As you can see, Jake’s potential family became his forever family and keeps up his own personal Facebook page sharing his happy life.

Thank you AAWL & SPCA for making a noticeable difference for pets in your community.

When you choose Halo pet food, made from natural, whole food ingredients, your pet won’t be the only one with a radiant coat, clear eyes and renewed energy. Halo feeds it forward, donating over 1.5 million meals annually. As always, Halo will donate a bowl to a shelter every time YOU buy.

Halo Pets

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Happy Birthday Grandmother Songs

Grandmother is the most loving, caring and beautiful person to a grandchild. Their presence is always peaceful and the wisdom they impart is important for the child. Wish your Grandma on their birthday with these messages. Share these lovely birthday wishes with everyone.   Dear Granny. Thank you for always picking my side when I […]



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Sunflower Faith

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you'll hear about a raid or bust then want to …

you'll hear about a raid or bust then want to find out more but all you get is a paragraph or so…recently there was a bust and the aspca handled it but all they posted was a paragraph and no details whatsoever.
BAD RAP Blog

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Harry Potter never had it this good

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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The black fox of Bassingbourn

bassingbourn black fox

The animal above was an anomalous black fox that was photographed near the village of Bassingbourn in South Cambridgeshire.  The photographer, John Moore, spotted the fox running in the fields near his home and snapped some photos.  It was late March in 2012, and it was a true rare find.

Foxes that are any color other than the typical red are extremely uncommon in the UK, so when these photos were published, speculation about where it came from were rampant. One theory was that it was one of the Belyaev “domesticated” foxes, which were then being sold as pets. Another suggestion was that it was a fur farm escapee. The problem with that theory is that fur farms had been banned in England and Wales since the year 2000, and those last remaining fur farms were mink producers, not fox producers.

Just a few days after John Moore took the photos, the black fox was found dead on the highway. Its body was sent to Anglia Ruskin University for genetic testing to determine why this particular fox was black.

Genetic testing revealed something quite unusual about it.  The vixen was found to have two genetic mutations related to fur color that were similar to those found in raccoon dogs.

Raccoon dogs are very closely related to foxes, and in Russia, they are commonly bred in fur farms that also contain (silver) red foxes and (blue) arctic foxes. Because of the similarity between this fox’s fur color genes and those of a raccoon dog, it was given as evidence that this animal was a Belyaev fox that had been turned loose.

It would make some sense. After all, this vixen was estimated to have been 18 months old, and she was apparently so unwise around roads that she soon met her demise on the highway. Further, her coat was much thicker than a typical English red fox. Maybe someone with more money than sense had ordered up one of these famed “domesticated” foxes, and soon realized they aren’t that awesome to have as pets.

And the poor thing got turned loose to live with the wild English foxes, which is about as a humane thing to do as turning out a cocker spaniel into Alaska to go live with the wolves.

So this logic is easy enough to follow.

The issue that seems to be ignored in all of the discussion about what this fox was is whether it is actually possible for a raccoon dog to hybridize with a red fox.

Ignore what you’ve read in various texts about raccoon dogs. They are actually quite close related to the true foxes. Genome-wide analyses have revealed that they are close enough to the other Vulpini to be classified with them.

They are quite unusual as wild dogs go. They can “hibernate,” which means they just sort of go to sleep during the worst of the winter (but it’s not really “true hibernation.”) They also have masks, and rather superficially resemble actual raccoons. It was not unusual for taxonomists to classify them as a sort of Old World raccoon species. We now know they are actual dogs, but the idea of them being sort of dog-like procyonids certainly captured more than a few imaginations.

So the notion that these animals could hybridize with red foxes would seem far-fetched.

But maybe they have.

The Soviet Union was really interested in fur. Historically, Russia has been a nation of fur-wearers. Furs drove them east and north into new territories, and when fur farms became a possibility, improving fur stains became an important goal. This goal went on in earnest during the Stalin years, and Belyaev, a Mendelian, was driven from his initial research post to accommodate Lysenkoist methodologies. He went to a research facility in Novosibirsk,  where he conducted his experiments on silver foxes.

The Soviet ideology believed that nature could be bent to serve mankind. Socialism in one country meant quite a bit of scarcity, even in the largest country in the world, and it was hoped that the new Soviet science could use native flora and fauna to produce abundance. This abundance would soon provision their citizens, and the Marxist ideal of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” would be possible. Then this ideal would spread to other countries of the world, leading us to a new socialist future and then full-on communism.

It never really worked out, and we all know of the ecological catastrophes that happened as a result of these plans, including the introduction of raccoon dogs to Eastern Europe.

But they made some sense with in the logic of that system.

And if some enterprising Soviet fur farmer wanted to try something different, he might try crossing his silver foxes with raccoon dogs. Maybe he did in the years following the war, when scarcity was the rule, and getting new blood for foxes and raccoon dogs would have been an ordeal.

But this still doesn’t answer the question.

The fact that someone might try crossing the two species is interesting enough, but the question is whether one can produce viable offspring. And the next question whether any of the offspring would be fertile.

I have yet to find the answer to those questions, except that I am aware that red and arctic fox hybrids are sterile.

And those two species are much more closely related to each other than raccoon dogs are to red foxes.

So maybe the black fox of Bassingbourn really wasn’t a hybrid or of distant hybrid ancestry. The similarities in her genotype could have simply been the result of the fact that both red foxes and raccoon dogs share a common ancestor. This fox simply retained a few genes that she held in common with the raccoon dog.

I think that this is a bit better explanation, but the British press took the suggestion that she might have been a hybrid a bit too far. Virtually every mention of this fox online or in print says that she was a hybrid.

I wish, though, that more research had been performed this fox. If she really were the result of a hybridization on a Russian fur farm, it would be possible to detect this hybridization with more analysis of her genome.

The fact that she had just been killed when her body was donated to science meant that lots of different tests could have been performed.

If she really had been derived from hybridization between these two species, this would have been a major discovery.

I don’t think anyone would have expected it.

But Occam’s razor tells me that she wasn’t derived from hybrids.

As much as I’d like her to be, my educated guess is she wasn’t.

And the British press had a lot of fun with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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No one ever said criminals were smart…

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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