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This question has been posited to me several times on Quora, and I’ve tried to answer it several times.  But I do think it’s best that I just post it here with simple video.

There was movie called Buffalo Rider in 1978 that had the main character as a sort folk hero who rode a bison around taking down evil doers all over the West. It is not the best -acted or best written movie (to say the least), and one thing you very quickly realize is how hard it would be to ride a bison.

I have a sense of humor, so I will post a Jomo and the Possum Posse video that makes fun of this film. You can see how hard it is to ride a tame bison!

So when I see this on Quora again. I’m just going to link to this.

And I should point out that when you go to tame wild bovines, you’re kind of putting your life in your own hands. Even domestic cattle are pretty dangerous animals, and I cannot imagine how brave one would have to have been to domesticate aurochs, which were larger and far more recalcitrant.

If you can live where you can just hunt them, you’re a lot better off.  You are not forced to live with them in intimate contact every single day.

So there was never good reason to tame bison in America until Europeans arrived, and there were plenty of good reasons to leave them as a natural resource that one could harvest in much the same way we harvest white-tailed deer.

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Happy fox

Clive enjoyed his morning run today. He’s very happy.

happy fox

Samaras

samara

The lawn maples drop their samaras now, when May is ratcheting up in its verdant splendor.  The fruit of the maple is a one-winged angel, and it falls in a great twirling as the wind catches it a bit as spins down to the lawn below.

Later on, the mower’s blades will chop the samaras asunder. No sapling will rise from the seeds.  The maples will cast their leaves out toward the summer sun and bask in the sweet feeding of summer photosynthesis.  Maybe a storm will cause one to fall and die, for these are old silver maples that have been growing here so stately as edifices upon the lawn.

And when they do die, they will die without issue. Thousands upon thousands of samaras they have drop into the May breezes, and not a single one has brought forth a sapling, much less a tree.

All lawns are a war against growing. The grass must be kept cropped short, especially after a week’s worth of raining. Shrubs must be pruned back.  Dandelions and crabgrass must be extirpated at all costs.

But the trees and the shrubs and the short grass grow nicely in our tolerance. We marvel at this beauty and maybe even lie to ourselves that it is natural and complete to have such things surrounding our homes.

Without humans, though, there would be no lawns. There would only be prairie and steppe and forest and desert. The plants would grow and die according the precepts of rain and sun and the munching maws of the herbivores.

We tolerate no such insolence from the flora and foliage. We cultivate it all, but we tolerate what we feel is aesthetically pleasing.

In this same way, we tolerate a grizzly bear loping lonesomely on the distant ranges of the Bitterroots or a wolf trotting with purpose across a frozen lake in Northern Minnesota.  Much of the Lower 48 is cultivated or paved or in some way civilized, but we allow these wild beings their place. Just as we let the maples grow tall upon the lawn, though, we don’t let the grizzly come sneaking back into Nebraska or want the wolf prowling outside of Cleveland.

Such is nature in the Anthropocene.  This era is the era in which man is not just the dominant species on the planet, but it is the era in which man is the driving force behind almost everything that happens here.

Yesterday, I read that the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere exceeded 415 parts per million.  That level has never been experienced so long as Homo sapiens has existed on as a species. It hasn’t been known in 3 million years.  That was during the Pliocene, when there were no wolves or brown bears.  So their species will have never experienced such a thing before either.

The excess carbon dioxide comes from humanity’s various enterprises, all of which are designed to make life possible for the 7.5 billion people who live or try to exist upon this heating, crowded orb.  In our current incarnation, we behave as extraterrestrials. We can live our whole lives without glimpsing anything wild, and we no longer know about the plants and animals that live near our homes.  We are strangers to much of it.

And yet we also live as if we are supernatural. We can clear a forest. We can dam up a river. We can irrigate the desert. We can make a species extinct if we want to, or we can save it. We play the games of an ignorant deity, not knowing or even attempting to consider the consequences of our actions.

But with all this power, we have allowed ourselves to become as sessile as barnacles. We are fixed to our homes. We are fixed to our cities and towns, to the property we own or rent.

And in our desire to export and trade, we have built great concrete habitats to ourselves, many of which lie cloistered hard up against the coast, so the ships can come and take a load or bring in some goods from a far distant shore.

But unlike barnacles marooned in low tide, we will not greet the rising saltwater as a life source. We will be inundated.  We will build up flood walls, but the warming world we’re about to encounter makes the sea levels rise too much for us to construct that many barriers against the coming floods.

AT that point, we will know we’ve messed with nature too much, and its tolerance for our picayune existence will be at an end.  We will be the samaras ground up in the mower blades.  We will be the maples standing tall upon the lawn, eventually crashing to the ground without any issue.

The hope is that we listen to those who know, who have studied, who have learned and deciphered and shun those who wish to deny what is coming.  In this era, which I have sometimes called “the electronic dark age,” denial and misinformation can float its way across the world before facts can even stand a chance at being known.

This is the era in which people cannot tell truth from fiction, and truth very often sounds like what you want to hear or makes you feel good.

I watch the samaras twirl down from the lawn maples, knowing fully well what their fate is. They lack brains to know what is coming. They fall upon the lawn in innocence and grace.

But humans can know. It’s just that too many of us don’t want to know, and too many wealthy interests want us not to know.

But the tides are rising as surely as the mower blades crop the grass and render away the maples’ fruit.

 

 

 

poet at lake milton

Photo by Jenna Coleman.

One thing I’ve noticed as I have worked with a large variety of dogs over the past year is that I’ve lost my desire or need to fight with people on the internet about them.

I’ve worked with everything from Yorkshire terriers to Pit bulls, and I can tell you that I’ve learned a lot.  And I feel more confident than ever working with dogs of various types.

Am I the Dog Master? LOL. Of course not.

But I have come to the conclusion that most people who want to fight about dogs on the internet are suffering from profound insecurities. The internet is a great place to spray around your demons like hot deer urine in a Windex bottle.

I know, because I did that very thing. You probably came to read me because I was artful at my virtue signaling neuroses that I really knew it all.

I didn’t. I knew a lot. But I don’t know as much as I do now, and I still don’t know enough.

So when you see someone trying to make a career out of writing toxic pieces about dogs or people who do something with dogs, keep in mined that you’re often looking at a very insecure person, one who feels a great need to tear others down to make themselves look good.

I’m really not interested in that game anymore. I just want to do my thing, learn more, and enjoy the animals. And help others, too.

I feel an inner peace now that I would have given my right hand to have experienced a decade ago, and I wish those who still feel that need could somehow find it.

But because that sort of blogging and internet writing is what gets the attention, my guess is that many of these people will never find it. It simply pays too well to be an asshole.

Sad but true.

 

 

Posted on The Atlantic’s Youtube channel, this week:

He’s one of my heroes. I won’t lie about it.

ungava brown bear

The brown bear of North America is usually called a grizzly bear, but it is part of a species that once ranged across the Northern Hemisphere from Ireland to Kentucky.  Yes, at the end of the Pleistocene, this species expanded its range through a broad swathe of North America. This eastern population apparently did not exist into historic times, for the first accounts of these bears are all from early explorers entering the West or the Great Plains.

But there was a population of brown bears that lived on in the East until historic times. This population was not documented fully, though, until it was extirpated.

In Northern Quebec and Labrador, there were always accounts of anomalous bears that went on into the twentieth century.  Farley Mowat documented much of this evidence in Sea of Slaughter, and the most compelling evidence in Mowat’s text is an off-line by George Cartwright in which he describes a bear with a white ring around its neck. This is an accurate description of a brown bear cub.

However, Mowat was aware of a discovery of a female brown bear skull on Okaka Island by anthropologist Steven Cox.  The find was buried in an Inuit midden, and from this discovery,  it has become accepted that brown bears lived in Northern Quebec and Labrador until the twentieth century. This form of brown bear is sometimes called “the Ungava brown bear,” but no one has attempted to give it a scientific name, simply because it was probably an Eastern extension of the grizzly bear population.

This bear was probably killed off for its hide and because it caused great conflicts with people.

This brown bear, though, was the last brown bear of Eastern North America. It has never been clear to me why the brown bears of Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky became extinct. It usually said that brown bears prefer more open habitat than black bears do, but brown bear live very nicely in forests on the West Coasts and in Europe.

We do know that Native America populations in the East were fairly dense, and if these late Pleistocene-early Holocene bears were as much a problem to live with as grizzly bears can be, it would make sense that humans would have extirpated them from their settlements.

But the truth is we really don’t know why the brown bear became extinct from its eastern range. It did, however, hold on in the far reaches of Quebec and Labrador until about a century or so ago.

 

 

streamer

I’ve been working with Streamer, the tazi-saluki, and I must say that much of what people believe about these dogs is false.

Dog trainers often say you cannot train these dogs, but the truth of the matter is he’s quite soft.  His softness does not manifest itself in cowering before me when he does something to make me cross. His softness manifests itself in attempting to avoid me.

The trick is to have a rapport with this dog before you start making demands of any kind. He is not afraid of people, but he is quite aloof. For him to trust me, we have had to become friends.

When he first arrived at the airport, he glared at me and snarl-barked at me. I’ve never seen an eight-week-old puppy act so primal and so primitive.

He and I never really interacted. He was not supposed to be my dog, but one day in February, he decided that he wanted to be mine, and I’ve been working with him ever since.

I cannot say that everyone should have a dog of this type. This type of dog requires an understanding of what it’s like to have a sensitive and soft dog that is combined with a general primitive dog’s tendency to be independence. Independence combined with softenss is not something that the major schools of dog training are really equipped to understand, and that’s why so many dog trainers think of these breeds as quite incorrigible.

But he’s not really. Because he’s so well-socialized to people and other dogs, he’s actually quite stable. He won’t run over and lick your hand like a golden retriever would, but he’s not nervy or jumpy at all.

As he has matured, he has become more and more less socially open, but his reserved nature is not like the old school chow chow’s.  He just has a small circle of people he trusts.

Working with a dog with this fundamental nature is teaching me many things about other dogs. I am reminded of what falconers require their apprentices to work with first.  They very rarely tell their apprentices to get Harris’s hawks, because Harris’s hawks are cooperative hunters. The usually tell them to get a kestrel or a red-tailed hawk, because they are more independent.

I’m learning what it’s like to have a dog that is not derived from that Western dog concept of an obedient servant.  I’m picking up ideas of that will make it easier to work with other breeds that might be easier to work with.

So I have a leash-broken saluki that walks at a perfect heel.  He sits at the curb when I cross the street. He is a beautiful creature. His feathering is starting to grow in, and he will be a magnificent manly dog when he matures.

I look like a real dog man when I walk this dog. He stares up at me with adoration at a heel, and I start to believe the illusion.

Though I probably shouldn’t.

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