Our Sophie

February 27, 2009

In 1996 just outside of a small West African village my wife (though at the time we were just dating), Christie, recovered a tiny, wailing puppy in the Bush. The puppy was alone without littermates and with no bitch in sight. We later learned that when a bitch has an undesirable litter of puppies one way of getting rid of the problem was to have boys spread the puppies out into the bush as far apart as possible in hopes that they will die before the bitch finds them. In general this was a practice of people who considered the dogs to be a sort of large rat in the first place and never wanted the bitch hanging around in the first place. Among the Mandinka people with whom we lived in that particular corner of Africa, dogs are absolute pariahs who survive on the food waste and trash that is discarded over the compound wall.

Sophie from infant to adult

Sophie from infant to adult

The puppy was so tiny that her eyes were not yet open. It was much too young to have been weaned. We didn’t have anything like bottles or formula to nurse this dog. Christie bought a can of condensed milk at the little village store and dribbled it into the puppy’s mouth with her finger. I found out about the new little family member by bush letter, which is to say that Christie wrote me a letter and gave it to a passing car headed in my direction and which was eventually delivered to me. At the time I was working a couple of hundred miles away. When I read the letter I as completely stunned. I couldn’t imagine how we could possibly take care of a tiny puppy, but we did and I managed to overfeed her so that she was fat. When it was time for us to return to the USA we brought her with us.

Postscript
A friend asked me what was wrong with her tail because it looks like it is chopped off in the top photo and the other two photos don’t show it. The answer is nothing was wrong with it. She had a normal tail. The top picture is just framed awkwardly and the tail is hidden rather abruptly by a tree stump that is barely visible at the edge of the picture.

West African Working Bush Dog

February 26, 2009

These are photographs of photographs I took in 1997 in The Gambia. The dog is one of three that serve as guardians for a beautiful herd of Fulani cattle. The structural conformation is very much like an Azawakh but many of the “bush dogs” in that area tend to be quite rustic and unrefined. Specimens with one or both ears erect were not uncommon, tails tendto be thick-ish and the hair was usually somewhat longer than is typical of Azawakh. The temperament is the same as typical of Azawakh. I believe these dogs and Azawakh are very closely related.

It was common practice for male working dogs to have cropped ears. I’m not sure if the primary purpose was to proactively prevent torn ears or to identify the dog as owned by someone (and therefore not to be killed).

West African bush dog protecting his cows

West African bush dog protecting his cows

After thieves, the biggest risk to cattle might have been hyenas. The bush dogs that guard herds were expected to keep hyenas at bay.

West African Hyenas, the enemy of the bush dog

West African Hyenas, the enemy of the bush dog

The Warm Spot

February 5, 2009

Today it is 15 F outside and a wicked wind is blowing. Azelouan found himself a nice warm spot in the sun to warm his bones.

Azelouan in his warm, sunny spot

Azelouan in his warm, sunny spot

Today we have sunshine

February 2, 2009

It seems like forever since we have had anything but grey skies and below-normal temperatures. The dogs definitely noticed the improvement. Tawzalt came into my office to bask herself.

Tawzalt basking in the warm sunlight

Enjoying the sun, but still sassy.

Enjoying the sun, but still still watchful.

Azawakh in Djerma

January 29, 2009

The word “Azawakh” comes from the Djerma language, but it has nothing to do with dogs.

In Djerma azawa means north. Azawagh or azawad means land of to the north. The word the Djerma use for what we call the Azawakh dog is hansi or hanso (I’ve also seen it spelled hanshee and hanshii).

The really fascinating thing is that there are three gender forms. One for dog and two for bitch. The Djerma have a different conjugation of the word dog for a bitch who has given birth and one who has not.

  • hansi daŋ: dog (male)
  • hansi way: bitch [has not given birth]
  • hansi nya: bitch [has given birth]

A little bit of digging revealed that this is a feature of the Djerma language. For all livestock there are three gender forms: one for male, one for female-that-has-not-produced-offspring and one for female-that-has-produced-offspring.

Chicken

  • goroŋgari (rooster)
  • goroŋo way (hen)
  • goroŋo nya (hen)

Camel

  • yo mali (camel bull)
  • yo way (camel cow)
  • yo nya (camel cow)

This must be a culture with a deep tradition of animal breeding.

reference: http://www.djerma.nl/

Snuggle

January 21, 2009

Cassandra in jams snuggles Tawzalt

Cassandra in jams snuggles Tawzalt


My wife insisted that Tawzalt needed an inaugural bath. If I say that Tawzalt detests being bathed it is not true only because detest is not a sufficiently negative verb. She does quite enjoy being snuggled and comforted by my daughters afteward, though.

BARF Mythology

January 20, 2009

I came accross an interesting article by Steven E. Crane that argues against Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) feeding for dogs. This article takes fundamental issue with the logic of BARF because the premise that wolves are dogs and that BARF is a natural wolfe diet appropriate for all dogs is wrong on several levels.

Crane’s anti-BARF argument, in a nutshell, is that dogs are not wolves any more than people are chimpanzees. Even if dogs were wolves; wolves, unlike cats, are not obligate carnivores. The order Carnivora is defined by dentition, not dietary habits. (The giant panda, for instance, is a member of the order Carnivora but subsists on a largely herbivorous diet.) Wolves are omnivores with a penchant for meat and, in any case, wild wolves live lives that are, to use the words of Thomas Hobbes, nasty, brutish and short.

A very small segment of pet owners have accepted the opinions of a vocal fringe minority of individuals who are currently proponents of feeding raw foods. The diet is commonly called the BARF diet, (Bones And Raw Food). Individuals within this group often make unsubstantiated claims that sound plausible but are typically unsupported in fact. The barf diet is extolled based primarily upon several myths claimed to justify the feeding of this diet.  

Myth 1 – Claimed similarities between modern wild canids and the domestic dog, and thus modern domestic dogs therefore have identical genetic development and nutritional needs as wild canids.

Myth 2 – Claims of increased disease levels and shortened life spans in pet dogs versus claimed lack of disease and increased life spans in wild ancestral canids like wolves and coyotes.

Myth 3 – Claimed reduced levels of parasites.

Myth 4 – Claimed reduced levels of food intolerance, adverse reactions to foods, and or “allergies”.

Myth 5 – Claims that feeding “raw meaty bones” are good for domestic dogs.

Myth 6 – Claimed increased value of uncooked foods versus cooked foods and subsequent loss of trace micro-nutrients by the cooking process.

Popular discussion of BARF in the US is based to a large degree on myths promoted by superficial and hyperbolic promoters of one product or another, or those selling the latest version of video tapes, books, supplements, foods and other materials. Barfers’ typically denigrate any information that is derived from solid scientific studies as having been “tainted” by some supposed conspiracy of involvement between commercial pet food companies, veterinary teaching universities, the FDA, USDA, CDC, WHO, and any other evidence knowledge based organization. At the same time Barfers accept at face value opinions promoted by purveyors of Barf products and scaremongering media. No level of competence or proof is demanded of those who state facts in favor of Barf feeding; while multiple, peer reviewed published university research studies are often denigrated by Barfers’.

This paper seeks to examine some of these myths. As a confirmed Barfer once noted, the decision to feed BARF is an emotional one, not a science based decision. As we shall see, making decisions based on emotions can lead one astray.

continue reading…

Christmas

December 27, 2008

Also available as a slideshow.

Pencil!

Pencil!

Stickers!

Stickers!

Play-Doh!

Play-Doh!

Team Unwrapping

Team Unwrapping

Slightly concerned.

Slightly concerned.

Is it for me?

Is it for me?

Jaw wrestling Azawakh.

Jaw wrestling Azawakh.

Dressing Dolly

Dressing Dolly

All curled up.

All curled up.

Cassandra raids the fridge.

Cassandra raids the fridge.

Sunlight snooze

Sunlight snooze

Hard Life

December 22, 2008

It’s a hard life being a city dog, sometimes.

Azelouan melted into the bed.

Azelouan melted into the bed.

Lazy Morning

December 14, 2008

Good Morning, Tawzalt

Good Morning, Tawzalt

Gnaw on Azelouan

Gnaw on Azelouan

Nuzzle Azelouan

Nuzzle Azelouan