Carli Davidson – Canine Photography

January 12, 2012

I’m no fan of “cute” canine photography, just as I am no fan of dogs in Halloween costumes. Alright, maybe something minimal like a jester collar with bells but anything more elaborate than that always convinces me that the dog in question is uncomfortable and embarrassed for its owner’s lack of taste. So you’ll never find links with images like that on this site. However, I do believe that dog portraiture can be all that human portraiture is; photographers like Amanda Jones provide ample proof of that, in my opinion.

Today, I’d like to call attention to Carli Davidson, a professional photographer whose work has appeared in Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and Rolling Stone. She’s also an amazing photographer of dogs. I’d like to draw attention to just two of her outstanding photo galleries: Shake with images of dogs (and one cat) shaking off water and Pets with Disabilities. Nothing cute here, just great photography that happens to be about dogs.



How the Dog Became the Dog – Mark Derr

January 12, 2012

For those of you who follow the ongoing debate about the evolutionary origin of dogs Mark Derr‘s new book, How the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best Friends is essential reading. The take-away is that the latest evidence casts doubt on the previously accepted dates for the emergence of the dog from the wolf. Derr makes the case that there was co-evolution of primitive man and wolf into modern man and domesticated dog. This is the track that Temple Grandin also posits in her recent book, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals.

The reasons for this are complex and Derr has a great ability to probe the archeological record and question the assumptions of previous researchers. Every modern book on dog evolution cites the work of Dmitry Belyaev with the Russian Silver Fox. In breeding for “tameness” over many generations for 40 years Belyaev reported physical changes in his foxes: body shapes altered in size and proportion, coats became piebald, tails became curled, ears floppy and increased cyclical rates of reproduction. Wild female foxes mate once a year, their cycle is cued by changes in daylight. Dogs can mate and bear young in any season, and more than once each year.

These results are said to make the case for primitive man selecting the tamest of wolves that followed their campsites and slowly transformed them into the domestic dog. Derr explains some of the problems with making this connection and challenges its explanatory power. In this he is making a counter-argument to the ground breaking work  of Raymond and Lorna Coppinger in their book, Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. I think Coppinger makes an excellent case for his view and also consider his book essential reading, without knowing truly who is right in this debate.

Both would agree, I think, that domestication of the wolf into the modern dog was not an event which occurred only once or in a single location. The facts suggest a more complex and less straightforward process. It may even be the case that we will never know precisely how this all played out after the last of the Ice Ages. But Derr makes a major contribution to the conversation with his new book.


Dog News Round Up III

December 8, 2011

Here we go again with another catch-up of links to compelling Dog News links. . .

• An art book of photography of chewed dog toys? Yes, it does exist. See this piece on Chewed in the New York Times.

• The UK Telegraph reports on a study from the  journal Learning & Behaviour that shows dogs can instinctively sense a friendly face here.

• The dwindling number of Americans who still have discretionary income are lavishing it on their pets, and not, say, donating to local human food banks, according to ‘For the Dogs’ Has a Whole New Meaning in the New York Times. Another example of how needlessly indulgent and narcissistic many pet owners are.

• Learn Five Surprising Facts about Dog Walking in The Week.

• The eugenics movement and the rise of a middle class the last quarter of the 19th century in England were strong contributing factors in the creation of fixed dog breed standards.  Ever since then, breed standards have been, at best, a mixed blessing for our dogs for the same reasons that we prohibit marrying our (human) first cousins.

A fixed or closed gene pool allows negative recessive traits to come to the fore. As an example, our pure bred Lab suffers from hip dysplasia at 9 years old. It’s my belief that we have done our dogs no favors when we breed them to extremes from tea cup Chihuahuas to Great Danes. An excellent piece in the New York Times explores this issue in Can the Bulldog Be Saved? by Benoit Denizet-Lewis.

• Progress on a Birth Control Pill for Dogs is explored in The Week.

• I recently learned that there’s a Patron Saint for Dogs, St. Roche. As an atheist I don’t know if my opinion counts for much, but I see a downside to this. St. Roche is also the patron saint of bachelors, diseased cattle, falsely accused people, invalids, Istanbul, surgeons, grave diggers, tile makers, second hand dealers, pilgrims and apothecaries. What a bizarre assortment to add dogs to; I mean, diseased cattle? Second-hand dealers?

• Pet insurance has never seemed like a good investment to me. Last year I ran the numbers with VPI and found that I would spend more with their coverage than without, a position supported by an article in Consumer Reports. Now a dark side emerges, people abusing their dogs to collect on pet insurance policies. Read about it here in The Week. More proof, to my mind, of Mark Twain’s saying,  “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

• An infographic at the website Hunch explores the difference between Dog People and Cat People.

• I’m skeptical about stories of dogs keeping vigil at their owner’s graves. This is not to say that dogs cannot grieve the loss of their human companions, but going without food or water at a gravesite is clearly not normal canine behavior. Theses stories make us feel better but, like the case of Edinburgh’s famous Greyfriars Bobby, when investigated they often fall apart.

Learn about the real Greyfriars Bobby  in Jan Bondeson’s excellent Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities. It turns out that the story was an invention designed to boost tourism.

The Huffington Post has a story about a Loyal Dog in China refusing to leave his owner’s grave. But the HuffPo lives and breathes over-hyped and thinly sourced stories, it’s not really news, it’s Fark!  The Week has a better write up on The phenomenon of grieving dogs: The ultimate loyalty.

• Tracing Unscooped Dog Waste Back to the Culprit explains how DNA kits are bring used to bring undisciplined dog owners to heel (Sorry) in one apartment complex in Lebanon, N.H., from the New York Times.

• Can dogs used in combat suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome? Read about it here in The Week.



Dog News Round Up II

December 7, 2011

I’m still trying to get through a backlog of links to compelling articles about our canine pals, so here we go with Round 2:

DiscoveryNews reports on a piece in the  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology describing the health benefits of pet ownership. They include a link to an article about the role of pets in human evolution. For more on this topic, I highly recommend Temple Grandin’s Animals Make Us Human, available in paperback from Amazon for only 6 bucks.

The Dogs of War: Beloved Comrades in Afghanistan.“We consider the dog another Marine,” says Capt. Manuel Zepeda, the commander of Company F, Second Battalion, Sixth Marines. From the New York Times.

I Sniff, Therefore I Am. Are Dogs Self-Conscious? by Robert Krulwich at the NPR Science Blogs. Regardless of the position scientists take on this topic, I have my own opinion. One of my dogs has clearly entered into a pact with Satan and I’m assuming you need to be self-conscious to accomplish this.

A South Korean Dog Farmers’ Association festival to promote the tradition of eating dog meat was cancelled back in June due to protests by activists, as reported by Animal Planet.

Is it possible to make a case for eating dogs, given that millions are euthanized every year while people on Plant Earth go hungry? Read this piece from the Global Post to explore this admittedly difficult topic. On this subject the Global Post’s in-depth article Dog Meat Mafia is required, if unpleasant, reading.

The controversy over the number of required and recommended vaccinations for dogs is examined in Vaccines ‘are making our dogs sick as vets cash in’ from the UK Mail Online. I’m remain uncertain if the science is settled as far as blaming illnesses in dogs on over-vaccination.

The broader subject of human vaccinations is clearly muddled in the public mind these days as life-saving, disease preventing vaccinations for humans are under attack by ignorant celebrities and the anguished parents of autistic children. The lesson here is clearly, don’t take your medical advice from former Playboy playmates.

What’s the harm, you ask? Go to this site and learn: Jenny McCarthy Body Count.

For more facts, see also the books of Dr. Paul Offit, Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All and Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure.

Find out who are the Top Ten Dog of Science in Dogged Research from Scientific American.

Does your dog (or other pet) sleep in your bed? Learn about the potential risks in Warm Nights, Cold Noses from the New York Times.

And all these years I thought Cat Scratch Fever was just a dumb Ted Nugent song.

We should, I think, always remember that pro-gun and anti-drug activist Nugent claims he didn’t know the lyrics to “Journey to the Center of the Mind” – a hit from his first band The Amboy Dukes in 1968 – were about drugs. Sure, I believe that. A rock and roll band singing about drugs in 1968? What a ridiculous claim.


Dog News Round-Up

November 17, 2011

The most interesting articles that have lately accumulated in my saved bookmarks. . .

‘Pet Industry Booming, With Sales of Gourmet Treats’ from The New York Times

‘A Birth Control Pill for Dogs?’ from The Week

A nicely designed infographic from Hunch, Woof vs. Meow, What Our Furry Friends Reveal About Us

Owney the Postal Dog, one of several dogs that traveled on mail trains in the US and England during the great steam engine days, was honored by a ‘forever’ stamp this year. Owney is considered an unofficial Railway Mail Service Mascot. From the Times-Union

‘Dogs can instinctively sense a friendly face’ from The Telegraph

A fine art photobook of chewed dog toys has been published, Chewed by Arne Svenson and Ron Warren. It contains 140 exquisite color photos of “lovingly destoyed canine playthings.” From The New York Times

‘5 Surprising Facts about Dog Walking’ from The Week 

Canine DNA is being used to trace owners who don’t pick up after their pets in ‘Tracing Unscooped Dog Waste Back to the Culprit’ from The New York Times

‘The Phenomenon of Grieving Dogs’  An article that demonstrates the truth of Mark Twain’s saying, “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” From the The Week


Can Dogs Grieve for Lost Owners?

September 3, 2011

Leao, a dog in Brazil, sits vigil at her owner’s gravesite
after the fatal landslides in January 2011.

There’s some controversy among those who seriously study dogs over the phenomenon of grieving dogs. Certainly there are stories from the past like the famous Greyfriars Bobbythat recent research shows to be almost certainly a Victorian-era publicity stunt crafted to increase the tourist trade in Edinburgh.

But this article in The WeekThe Phenomenon of Grieving Dogs – the Ultimate Loyalty gives moving examples of dogs displaying “courageous acts of loyalty.” One commentator on the YouTube video of the two dogs in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake in March 2011 said what most dog owners earnestly believe: “That dog is a better person than most humans.”

My own view is similar to Mark Twain’s (although I don’t think there’s any reason to believe in an afterlife): “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

PETNet Will Track Contaminated Dog Food

August 24, 2011

The Week, a print and online news aggregator that I especially like, has a great article on PETNet, a new system set in place to share information about pet food contamination, a response to the 2007 pet food recall.

PETNet has more than 200 members — federal, state, and territorial government officials from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. They are charged with monitoring pet food safety and animal health, and, if they discover potential contamination or product defects within their jurisdictions, they can post information to the network, immediately alerting other members to potential problems. That sort of speedy, easy communication could prevent future pet food contamination problems from becoming out-of-control epidemics.

For the complete article, go here.


Cancer Sniffing Dogs – New Research

August 24, 2011

It’s been known for some time that dog’s amazingly sophisticated sense of smell can detect established cases of various cancers including melanomas, ovarian, colon, breast and lung cancers. Now Discover magazine has published research that shows that a dog can be trained to alert to the smell of lung cancer on your breath even if you’ve just had lunch or smoked a cigarette! Go here to read the entire article.

PETA: By The Numbers

July 27, 2011

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has a more extreme agenda than most casual observers probably realize. Their goal is for no human use of animals of any kind: not for food, not for clothing (leather and wool), not for medical testing or studies, not for entertainment (zoos, circuses, Sea World, etc.), not even as pets.

You have to admire the consistency of their world view, even if you disagree with them. The relationship between man and animal on this planet is largely the story of slaughter and exploitation. They’re certainly correct about that. But coming from a culture of omnivores in a country founded on the extinction of a native people, I wonder if PETA’s approach is viable. We don’t have the best track record for treating human beings, let alone animals and pets.

How many of their 2 million members would give up their own pets for the cause? How many would convert to veganism? Would it even be possible to end all animal farming and still feed the growing global population? Does owning a Labrador and enjoying a steak make one a hypocrite?

The following infographic makes the case against PETA. The controversy will continue, without doubt.

Click on image for larger size.


Dogs vs. Cats by the Numbers: What they Reveal About Us

July 27, 2011 is a site that “provides personalized recommendations from people you follow and makes customized predictions based on your interests” according to their home page.

I’m not certain I understand this mash-up of social, information and commerce but the following infographic is said to be based on over 80 million aggregated and anonymized responses to Hunch questions from 700,000 of its users. So that is a lot of data points, anyway. Just don’t take it too seriously.

Click on image for larger size.

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