If you have dogs on Long Island or Why Col. Sanders is like Hitler

March 29, 2008

Newsday has a nice piece on living on Long Island with your dog, complete with videos. For the compete article, go here.

Although I have to cringe at reporter Corris Little’s opening line, “For some, dogs are the new kids.” To conflate the roles of parenting human children with being the owner/guardian of a dog is an abuse of language and genetics.

Dogs are not substitute children; children are not replacements for dogs. Anyone who says that they would run into a burning building and rescue their dog first and leave their child behind to die an agonizing death, should be contacted by Child Protective Services immediately for a fitness evaluation.

Can you even imagine such a scenario?

Local TV news reporter: “Mr. Morrison, it looks like your house has been totally destroyed by this spectacular blaze. How do you feel right now?”

Homeowner: “Well, Cyndy, the important thing is I was able to rescue Margarite, our little Chow-Chow.”

Local TV news reporter: “But your wife and three children died horribly in the inferno.”

Homeowner: “Cyndy, a house can be rebuilt. I can always get married again and have more children. But how could I ever replace this sweet little snookums? Here, she wants to give you a kiss. Isn’t that sweet?”

Oh silly me, of course, that’s not what Corris meant at all. What Corris meant to say is that chickens are equal to human children; Col. Sander’s is their Hitler and KFC is their Auschwitz.

What I object to here is the sloppy thinking behind this very wide-spread notion. And I say this as someone who both loves his dogs and considers them a part of our family.

I think it devalues both children and dogs to consider them in the same class of beings. You have absolutely no genetic investment in your dogs, but all of your children carry half your genes. Which is why, genetically, it makes sense for a woman to rescue her children from a disaster and leave her husband behind.

Given how most of our history with canines is the story of utility and horrific abuse, I think it a terrible mistake to swing the pendulum the other way and elevate dogs into “fur kids.”

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

I knew a woman who considered herself a feminist and an intellectual and would substitute the word “Goddess” in place of “God.” When I tried to explain to her that replacing one gendered fantasy figure with another was hardly progress, she told me, “Of course, you can’t understand. You’re a man.” Here all along I had mistakenly thought my brain (and not my specific genitalia) was responsible for any thinking I was likely to do.

My point is simply that words and language do matter and we should be careful about how we label things. And if you don’t agree with me, my personal God, who is presently incarnated as the Duff Beer Man on The Simpsons, will make you chug-a-lug Duff Lite until you do.

OT: As far as feminism goes, I’d align myself more with Camille Paglia than Gloria Steinem. Steinem once compared Paglia to Hitler and her seminal work, Sexual Personae to Mein Kampf. Steinem is also against pornography, transsexualism and so-called ‘snuff films,’ a non-existent genre that allegedly features the torture and actual murder of women on screen.

The term first arose in connection with the Charles Manson ‘family’ murders and in the almost 40 years since not a single actual snuff film has ever been found. But it doesn’t have to exist for Gloria Steinem to oppose it, I guess. Just like the wide spread sexual abuse of children in day care centers and ritual Satanic abuse panics that Steinem was convinced were real in the mid-1980s to early 1990s.

I’ll let the transsexuals defend themselves, but as far as porn goes, Americans spend $2.6 billion to $3.9 billion a year on it, based on Forbes magazine’s 2001 estimate, so that’s a lot of voting with their pocket books going on. (When was the last time you saw a copy of Ms. magazine on a newsstand?).

I was always taught to judge people by what they do, not what they say. And you can’t go far wrong in any field if you simply follow the money.

I wonder if the porn industry is recession-proof in the way that economists traditionally say women’s make-up and children’s toys are? Let’s put those Freakonomics guys to work on that one.

Leather Leashes vs. All Others – Part 1

March 27, 2008

I’ve always found that a six foot leather leash — nothing fancy, but something well made with brass fixings and reinforced stitching — is my favorite, as many times as I’ve used other leashes.

I never thought I would be one of those dog owners with an extendo-leash, the kind that has a hard rubber or plastic shell with a hand grip and a tough woven fabric 16 foot leash like the Flexi Soft Grip Comfort 1 retractable Cord Leash.

I’d see other people using them, or misusing them, barely keeping their dogs under control, and I formed a prejudice against ’em. These people were not ‘managing their dogs.”

It’s a line that has been drilled into my head by my favorite dog trainer, “Manage your dog.” I’m responsible for my dog’s safety and well-being. I should teach her good, polite behaviors and enforce them whenever we are outside or when company arrives. Any failure, any slice of wanton household destruction, any breach of protocol that puts my dog in jeopardy IS MY FAULT because I’m not properly Managing my Dog.

We recently added a new pooch to our permanent pack, Luna, a black female American style Labrador. Huxley, our chocolate Lab will be 6 this year. Our best guess about Luna is that she’s somewhere between 18 months and 2 years. After several months it became clear that her presence was having some effects on Huxley.

There were two noticeable behaviors: he began drinking exclusively from ‘her’ water bowl. And when we made the trip from out side door to our back yard – essentially the width of our one-car garage — he began asserting his independence by wandering down the drive way to pee over by our over-sized Christmas tree.

Next he’d saunter over to our 90 year old neighbor’s house across the street, position himself in the middle of her front lawn, squat and take a huge dump for all the passersby to see. He loves our neighbor Peg and she loves him and he wanted the world to know he was leaving her a brown token of his affection. Worse yet was when he’d lope across Prospect Drive and obliviously put himself in the path of mini-vans & SUVs.

There could not be a more public demonstration of my failure to Manage My Dog. And Huxley, is, by general consensus, a well-trained, polite canine. My analysis: He knows his behavior is transgressive and he persists because I believe it is status-related. She has to go right into the back yard to do her business while I, being senior, have more freedom than her! This independence is a part of Huxley’s character, he’s not your velcro-dog type at all.

But when this recently led to Huxley nearly getting hit by a van, I was totally freaked out, heart pounding, breath coming in short hyperventilating bursts — and resolved to get back to leashing him AT ALL TIMES!

Fortunately, the circumstances were all in our favor that morning. It was broad daylight, I was a few feet behind Huxley with a leash and a treat, yelling his name. The driver clearly saw both of us and slowed to a stop as I rushed passed, yelled jumbled apologies and gratitude over my shoulder, and continued after Huxley.

I was clearly Not Managing My Dog. I was failing spectacularly to Manage My Dog, in fact. This was my well-trained, polite Labrador? The one who never before was adamant about refusing to take that short walk across our drive way in the back yard, the fenced and secure and happy back yard? This starts happening when it becomes clear that Luna is here to stay and not another one of our many foster dogs; clearly her presence must be the triggering factor? Robert Park, author of the terrific Voodoo Science would say my belief engine is going into over drive here.


Disclaimer: I cringe when people anthropomorphize their dogs, but find that it is an impossibility for me to to completely avoid. All such statements should be understood in this context. It helps me to parse my beast’s behavior in terms that I can understand.

This interpretation is my own invention and may or may not correspond with the internal analytics going on in my dog’s brain. That it’s useful for me does not equate with its accuracy for representing Huxley’s thinking. I do think Huxley is thinking. I’m convinced of it.

I’m equally convinced that our mental syntax is so different, canine to primate, that all my interpretations of his internal mental states should be offered only as heavily qualified guesses.


But we talking about leather leashes and extendo-leashes, weren’t we? We now own two extendo-leashes and I’ve learned how to operate them without slicing off my own (or anyone else’s) fingers and extremities or causing blindness to anyone. Yet. These are some of the actual cautions from the packaging. Seriously, you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end if your dog’s collar came loose and the ribbon and metal clasp were speeding rapidly back to you.

They do certainly give your dog more freedom to explore further away from you. But you have to pay attention and anticipate when you want to draw your dog nearer because she is always more than an arm’s length away. These extendo-leashes can be used properly, even if many people operate them at the far end of the safety spectrum.

But for control and all around functionality give me the dead animal skin every time.

More to Come

“Let me tell you something, kid. In the carny you don’t ask nothing. And you’ll get told no lies.”

March 22, 2008


Carny #1: How can a guy sink so low?
Carny #2: He reached too high. . .

If you’ve never read Nightmare Alley (1946) by William Lindsay Grisham or seen it’s screen adaptation (1947) with Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell you won’t understand the passion it inspires in its devotees. Many in my generation saw it as a kid on it’s infrequent TV appearances, were mentally scarred for life and sought out screenings for ever after.

I had a similar experience with the indie cult classic, Carnival of Souls. Saw it once on TV in the early sixties, burned into my brain for life. Both pictures had fallen out of distribution for a number of years only to be revived first at art houses then as VHS and DVD releases. Nightmare Alley never had an official VHS release, but was available in that format as a bootleg from eBay and others.


“I sometimes think that if I have any real talent it is not literary but a sheer talent for survival. I have survived three busted marriages, losing my boys, war, tuberculosis, Marxism, alcoholism, neurosis, and years of freelance writing. Just too mean and ornery to kill, I guess.” –William Lindsay Grisham


The novel is in print today in a collection called Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s. This omnibus treasure – which should be on every American’s bookshelf – includes The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain; They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy; Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson; The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing, I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich and Gresham’s Nightmare Alley.

If you haven’t got ’em, buy ’em today! I was right about the comet!

Pete Krumbein: Throughout the ages, man has sought to look behind the veil that hides him from tomorrow. And through the ages, certain men have looked into the polished crystal… and seen. Is it some quality of the crystal itself, or does the gazer merely use it to turn his gaze inward? Who knows? But visions come. Slowly shifting their forms… visions come. Wait. The shifting shapes begin to clear. I see fields of grass. . .rolling hills. . .and a boy. A boy is running barefoot through the hills. A dog is with him. A. . .DOG. . .is. . .with. . .him.

Stanton Carlisle: Yes. . .go on. . .his name was Jib. Go on!

Pete Krumbein: [Choked laughter] Humph. See how easy it is to *hook* ’em!

More to Come on William Lindsay Grisham. . .



Dogs in China: Pets and Cuisine or “To Animals, all People are Nazis.”

March 18, 2008

Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer put his own feelings into one of his characters when he wrote: “In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis. For [them], it is an eternal Treblinka.”

The International Herald Tribune has an article on dogs in China, as pets and cuisine, here.

Once considered decadent and restricted by the Communist Party leadership, pet ownership in China is now expanding along with its huge middle class. Dog ownership used to be seen as ‘Western,’ politicly incorrect and license fees remain extremely expensive. To have a pet dog in China today is to make a statement: “I have enough abundance that I can conspicuously waste some on a pet (see Veblen below the fold, text beginning “The dog has advantages in the way of uselessness. . .”).

To Western eyes this throws into greater relief the distinction the Chinese see between canines as pets and canines as food. Large, mixed breed dogs are preferred for the kitchen, while small dogs are the current companion animal of choice. About 120 restaurants in Beijing offer dog on their menus.

–Associated Press Photo

“In Beijing, there’s a huge market with pitiful dogs waiting in cages to be sold as meat, and literally a few yards away standard poodles dyed in all colors of the rainbow,” said Jill Robinson, chief executive of Animals Asia Foundation, an animal welfare charity based in Hong Kong.

If we are shocked by this Chinese double standard, consider how we American’s treat the domestic pig. Viet Namese pot-bellied pigs are highly intelligent, some claim even smarter than dogs. They are said to be impeccably clean by nature, personable, curious, and playful. These pigs can be trained to the equivalent of basic dog training: house trained, leash trained, even learning a few tricks.

Yet almost no Americans have pigs as pets because we love to eat crispy fried bacon, Virginia ham and pulled-pork sandwiches. So instead of sharing our homes with them, we raise them in factory farms under horrifying conditions.

The thought of raising dogs in such conditions makes me ill; it’s the stuff of nightmares. It would be worse than any puppy mill in existence, and those are pretty bad places. But only because I’m conditioned by my culture to accept the agony of pigs. So how I can I pass judgement on the Chinese for eating what to their eyes are ugly, unwanted, yet tasty dogs? Around 300,000 a year are raised, killed, cooked and served; generally roasted, or in a stew or casserole.

The traditional Chinese belief system has many negative associations with dogs; they are synonymous with the dregs of society, or seen as pawns, boot lickers, and bound servants. There is no Chinese Lassie.

There is one positive folk belief concerning eating dog: that it has medicinal benefits. Such as improving blood circulation to allegedly keep you warmer in winter (a nice conflation of magical thinking and the warmth of a ‘three dog night’).

Despite all the attention being paid to the worldwide growth of Muslim fundamentalism, the meat with the largest growing demand from global consumers is pork. The reality is that to meet this demand the factory farming of pigs will have to increase exponentially. Hundreds of millions have been killed and hundreds of millions more will die instead of being personable, curious, and playful.

Is it unfair to call this an animal holocaust? It would certainly qualify for me, if it was dogs instead of pigs.

Overheard in NYC: Bite Forfeits Frozen Dessert, is Asserted

March 16, 2008

“If you bite her, you won’t get your ice cream.”

– overheard in an Emack & Bolio’s store on Amsterdam between 78th and 79th Streets

Michael Vick, PETA and the Canine Victims: Rehab or Destroy?

March 12, 2008

The New York Times has a piece today that highlights the difference between groups that define themselves as animal rights activists and animal welfare groups, “Vick Case Exposes Rift Among Animal-Rights Advocates.”

PETA’s position is that the pit bulls that were trained to fight by the Bad Newz Kennels financed by Michael Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons star quarterback should be killed. As the Times says, “The folks at Best Friends Animal Society argued that the fighting dogs had been forced to lead brutal lives and should not receive death sentences.”

PETA says Best Friends is “an expensive Camelot.” Could they be more wrong? I don’t think so.

“These dogs have been through very traumatic experiences. These dogs have been abused by humans, yet they still love us, they still look to us for guidance. They still want us to be a part of their lives and they’re happy to see us every single day,” said John Garcia, Assistant Manager of Dog Care at Best Friends Animal Society.

I am not a fan or a supporter of PETA and believe they throw more heat than light on any issue they engage. I do admire the consistency of their view as ‘animal rights’ activists “. . .animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other purpose. . .”

However, I believe that their’s is an extremist position that, if it were more widely understood, would not be supported by most Americans.

There was a great exposé on PETA done by Penn & Teller in their Showtime series, Bullshit and I recommend seeking it out if you’d like a primer on the arguments against PETA.

Taken to it’s logical conclusion, the world population would have to turn vegan, (a diet that bans meat, fish, milk, & eggs); no one would be allowed any sort of animal pet; all hunting and fishing would be banned; the use of wool, silk and leather for clothing would be banned (in addition to their well-known condemnation of wearing fur) and most medical research would have to be stopped to satisfy the constraints desired by PETA.

PETA founder and co-director Ingrid Newkirk believes that pet ownership is equivalent to slavery. I find this comparison incredibly offensive in a world where actual human slavery and trafficking still exist. My two Labs, Huxley and Luna also take issue with this definition.

She also thinks the production of both milk and honey involves the ‘exploitation’ of cows and bees. And, of course, she’s right, but I think most people would reject her use of the loaded term exploitation to describe the process. As far as developing drugs to battle Alzheimer’s Disease or the production of insulin for diabetics is concerned, her anti-science bias is crystal clear:

“If abandoning animal research means that there are some things we cannot learn, then so be it. . .We have no basic right…not to be harmed by those natural diseases we are heir to.”

One can agree that there are horrific abuses of animals world wide without accepting PETA’s simplistic black and white, good or evil model. Just as one can be a supporter of going ‘green’ without endorsing the eco-terrorism of groups like the Earth Liberation Front or support animal rights without endorsing the Animal Liberation Front.

Just to be clear, the ELF has been designated a terrorist organization by the FBI and has received direct financial support from PETA. They gave $1,500 to the ELF in 2001 and $45,200 to the Rodney Coronado Support Committee. Rodney Coronado was convicted of arson in federal court for the 1992 firebombing of a Michigan State University research lab.

Remember that as a non-profit organization your tax dollars help support PETA whether you donate directly to them or not. Should an organization that supports violence have their tax-exempt status yanked? I think so. But then again, I’m a ‘slave’ owner. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’ve got to go feed my ‘slaves’ their kibble.

The Pet Psychic: $300 an hour for a phone consultation? Sadly, Yes.

March 11, 2008

Robert Todd Carroll, author of the excellent The Skeptic’s Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions and the Skepdic.com website, recently posted an expansion of his article on “Animal Quackers” that’s must reading for all dog owners.

Carroll defines an animal quacker as someone “who applies quackery to animals, such as holistic massage therapy for dogs and horses; reiki and therapeutic touch for pets; and acupuncture, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy for animals of all sorts, and either the ability to communicate psychically with pets or to do scientific tests that prove the psychic ability of dogs.”

Read about Sonya Fitzpatrick’s incisive, revealing consultation for the Cleveland Plain Dealers‘ Dog Lady columnist, Monica Collins, plus a good collection of links to the explore the topic further.

Fitzpatrick, a former model with no credentials in animal behavior or nutrition, uses her psychic readings to push her line of pet food, Sonya Fitzpatrick’s Omega Natural and HealthGUARD Dog vitamins, was once visited by St. Francis of Assissi, assures you that via reincarnation your beloved pets can return to you, and can do a psychic reading of your dog from a photograph.

That last part I completely agree with: Sonya’s “reading” whether from an in-person, or in-pet interview, or from a blurry snap shot will have precisely the same accuracy and value. (I’m thinking of a round number here, are you psychic enough to read my mind? Why, yes, you’re absolutely correct: Zero!).

For extra credit, send an email to the Pet Parent’s Network and request the clinical trials that support their claims. Two that I found especially amusing were “Encourages Eye Development” and “Promotes Alertness and Brain Function.” How exactly were these results measured? Oh, and of course, their supplements will boost your dog’s immune system, though I defy you to find a single “nutraceutical” supplement that doesn’t make this specious claim.

” . . .the whole notion of ‘immune-boosting’ is seriously flawed: your immune system isn’t a muscle that you can strengthen by exercise or diet. The only remotely plausible step you can take to strengthen immunity is to get vaccinated.”  

This is from Steven Salzberg’s blog entry, Boost your immune system?Why should you take his word over Sonya Fitzpatrick’s?

Well, Salzberg is a Professor at the University of Maryland studying bioinformatics, genomics, and evolution. He’s also the Director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. His Ph.D. is from Harvard University and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from Yale University.

Then again, although a handsome guy, Steve was never a model, so Sonya’s one up on him there.

Product Shoots

March 10, 2008

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Photo Gallery – Outside

March 9, 2008

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Coney Island Mermaid Parade

March 9, 2008

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