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Archive for February, 2019

three boys on the run

A decade of experience in the “dog blogosphere” has taught me much. If you’re going to get a dog blog started, I thought the best thing to do was to be controversial. All the other successful dog blogs did this sort of thing.

If they weren’t trashing breeds they’d never own, they were going on and on with dog abuse porn.  I chose the  former route. I made a name for myself.

But I grew up. I had things happen to me that changed my perspective on certain issues, and I struggled with these issues over and over.

I’ve finally come to the point in my life where I can say that I am happy with where I am in dogs. It’s not the same place I started.

And in this, I have to accept that I am now a heretic. I don’t have to wallow in anger or post videos of poorly-bred and poorly-exhibited show dogs to stoke the fires of misery.

Too much misery already exists in the world. Dogs should not be an add-on to misery.  That is certainly not their purpose in the modern world.

I do like dog shows. Are they the most important thing in the world of dogs? Not by a long shot. But having lived with several show-bred dogs, I can tell you they have indeed undergone a selection for dead-solid, stable temperaments. Are all show dogs like this? No, but a lot of them are.

Are there problems with closed registries? Yes. Are there some welfare issues with conformation in some breed? Yes, but, most of these dogs are well-cared for, and their breeders are prepared for the issues that might arise.

I suppose at some point I lost my ability to be sanctimonious and full of shit. And that only happens when you are forced to be humble or when you get your ass kicked.

The dogs have humbled me more than any person ever could. And when you’re humbled, you have to check your ego and take stock. Otherwise, you’re never going to be happy. Or I’d be in my 50s and still writing pretentious twaddle about “real working dogs.”

And yes, I am now a sinner. But my sin is choosing to be happy.  I let the rest wallow in misery. And if you want to read that stuff, you know where to go.

And I’ll go on sinning, thank you.

 

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Streamer is turning into saluki

streamer posing

Six months old, and he’s getting feathering and a runner’s body.

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jan fyt wolf

The Revierjäger’s daughter wore a red hood when she went flower-picking in the forest. It kept the sun and rain off her freckled face.

And every day, she’d ask her father if she could walk to see Oma.

But Revierjäger knew there was danger about the forest. Two years ago, there had been a big peasant rising in the land, and when the king’s men crushed the rebellion, renegades hid out in the forest. They poached the deer and wild boar. Even after the rebels were starved out of their sylvan retreats, the game remained scarce.

The wolves of the forest found themselves without much to eat, so they slipped among the villages, lifting suckling pigs from the sows and running amok among the flocks.

The Revierjäger spent much of his time hunting down predatory wolves. He knew as well as anyone that wolves could hold back the recovery of the red stags that once roared in the rut in the green oak wood. But he also knew that wolves were a constant menace of the peasants, and their killings could spark another rising. Wolves take meat that could be sold or butchered, and bare peasant larders and coffers are the makings of revolution.

But what was worse was that a few wolves had taken to hunting people. No peasant legally owned a gun. Guns were instruments of the state only. Armed peasants could easily turn rebellious, and guns would be the perfect tools of poacher-fed revolt. They could off the margaves and the militiamen, then go deep in the beeches and drop a hind for a bit of supper.

So the wolves learned that peasants, especially young children and women, were easy prey. Every month or so, a story would spread through the villages about some child who disappeared while tending sheep or swine. Bandits or Roma were often branded as the culprits, but virtually every time, the child would disappear along a trail heavily marked by wolf tracks.

So the Revierjäger could not let his daughter go alone to see her Oma, but every sunny morning, the girl would ask her father. And every time, he turned her down. He could not risk his beautiful child’s life in a forest where wolves hunted people. Her mother had died at the hands of rebels, and their daughter was the only family he had left in this world.

Yet his guilt burned within him. Every other Sunday, he would take her to see Oma, and they would eat a fine feast of roast pork. They would visit a bit, but as the afternoon shadows grew longer, Revierjäger would summon the muster to tell the little girl that it was time to go, and they would cut back through the forest to his home cottage. Most times, she would cry piteously about the decision to leave. Great gushing tears would rush down her cheeks, which would flush as red as her hood from her anguish.

Every other Sunday was a great joy followed by a great sorrow, but he knew he had to let his daughter see her mother’s mother. She was the last remnant of his late wife’s side of the family, and he knew he must keep the family ties connected, even if he had to see his little girl cry.

So after one Sunday afternoon visit came to an end, the Revierjäger realized that he could no longer refuse his daughter her requests. As they rode home through the green wood, he knew that if the little girl asked him in the morning, he would grant her that wish to go see Oma.

He knew that there was risk involved, but he could no longer stand to see the little girl cry so much. He had to put her at risk just so that she could be happy.

Plus, no one had seen even a wolf track along that forest road to Oma’s house. It wasn’t that much of a risk, the Revierjäger reasoned to himself.

And so he made his decision. He slept little that night, but when his daughter asked that glorious Monday morning, he gave the answer that he knew he had to give. But he had some regulations:

2″You shall stay on the forest road. You must not wander from it. You will walk to Oma’s house and nowhere else. You will not speak to /strangers. And above all, if a wolf shows up, make yourself look big and tall. Lift up your red hood to make you look like a giant and shout at it. Do not run. The wolf will be on you in seconds if you do.”

The little girl stared up with her father. He expected fear to rise across her face, but instead, he saw hard resolve.

“Yes, father, I will stay on the road. I will not speak to strangers. I will go right to Oma’s house, and I will make myself look big if I see a wolf. I will be safe.”

“You must wear your hood. I feel a hint of rain in the air.”

He handed her a basket full of bread to carry on her way.

“If you get hungry, eat some this bread, but keep most of it for Oma. She will be thrilled to see you arrive with such a nice bit of food.”

In the basket, the Revierjäger placed a note to Oma. It was a note expressing his permission for the little girl to make such a journey and instructions on what to do with that bread in the basket.

And so the little girl headed down that forest road on the way Oma’s house. The Revierjäger fretted the whole time, and he was sorely tempted to follow the girl down the road. But something made him stand still, something that he could not explain.

But when he made the decision to follow her, a local blacksmith came rushing up to the cottage. The blacksmith said he’d found a poacher’s camp in the far end of the forest. and any Revierjäger worth his salt knew he had to check it out. And so the Revierjäger rode off in the opposite direction to inspect the poacher’s camp.

The daughter made her way down the road until she got to the point where the trees grow thick along both sides of the road. They shaded this whole bit of land, making the whole scene dark as if it were dusk even in the sunny days of July.

A raven croaked in the canopy of the trees. The wind was still, but the air was dank even for summer.

The little girl drew her hood in more tightly to keep out the chill, and as she proceeded down the road, the sounds of the forest seemed to dissipate. It was an eerie silence that now befell the forest road

She walked on and on. Her face showing strong resolve as she marched along the forest road.

But at that point, the leaves on the right side of the road began to rustle. She stopped and stared into the forest, but the growth was so thick she could see nothing. She told herself it was nothing and continued down the road.

At various points along the trail, shadows would move in the gloom, but she could not make out their shape. She told herself it was just her imagination.

She continued on and on until she came to where a massive boulder had rolled down to the edge of the road. As she came upon the boulder, a wolf leaped upon the boulder then bounded off it, landed in the middle of the forest road, and loped toward the girl. 

The wolf’s left ear was hanging down, an old injury from an errant boar tusk, and his face was all scarred from the fighting he did with his pack-mates over the last scraps of meat they could scavenge from forest.He.

He was a ghastly, demonic sort of wolf. And his amber eyes were fixed upon the girl. She was now his prey, and an easy kill at that.

But as the wolf approached with such menace in his eyes, the girl remembered her father’s words, and she lifted up the red hood off her shoulders. She made herself look tall and powerful, and she shouted at the wolf. She marched toward him with the swagger of a sailor, and the wolf was taken aback by such a display. He tucked his tail between his legs and scurried back into the thick brush.

The girl knew she had done something powerful. She had made the wolf back down. She now marched down the forest road, confident that she had stood up to such a terrible beast.

She continued down the path to Oma’s house, but what she could not know is that the night before, a pair of wolves slipped into Oma’s bedroom. They were skilled man-eaters, and they made short work of her corpse. 

The two wolves were resting in the front room of Oma’s cottage. They growled when they heard the approaching footsteps, but their bellies were too full of meat to get them that excited. 

When the girl walked up to the house, the wolves stood and stared at her. She was shocked to see them standing there. She noticed that their muzzles were covered in blood, and they stared at her so hard and intently, that fear took over and she ran. Her decision to run was not wise, for it stimulated the wolves’ predatory instinct. They chased after her, and after only short run, they were on her. They easily tore the girl apart, but because they weren’t particularly hungry, they just rolled around a bit and moved into the shade of an oak tree that lay just beyond Oma’s cottage. 

As the pair of wolves rested beneath the oak,  a man’s form appeared along the edge of the wood.  It was Revierjäger. He had tried to track down the poachers’ camp, but he then began to worry about the fate of his daughter, he decided to walk over to make sure everything was okay. 

He saw wolf tracks in the dirt in the road. So he loaded his musket.  His years of forest experience had honed his instincts. He seemed to know that fresh wolf tracks could mean something bad had happened. He was ready for the worst.

As he came upon Oma’s cottage, he saw the mutilated form of his daughter in the lawn.  Tears shot down his face. He dropped to his knees and wept, but as he wept he saw movement below the oak at the far edge of the lawn.  There were two wolves. 

Feeling horrific rage, the Revierjäger fired his gun. One wolf fell, but the other ran before he could load again. 

The wolf fell dead and hard on the ground.  The Revierjäger had the last of his family to bury.  

But in a few days, every villager within miles would be out with every barking dog, beating the forest for wolves.

Revierjägers from all around would fill the wood with firing guns. The wolves fell hard on the ground.  Wolves were trapped with iron footholds and with pit traps.  Dogs tore them apart.

And after four months of revenge, scarcely a wolf existed in that wood.  The peasants could graze their sheep and allow their swine pannage once again.

But the Revierjäger had a life to put together again. And everyone knew about the horrors of wolves in the deep forest. They would tell their children, who would tell their children, and so the fear was known long after the last wolf howl rose from the oak wood in that region.

Some of their descendants would come to North America, and they would kill every wolf and coyote they saw, simply because they knew what happened when wolves were allowed to live upon the land. They never saw a wolf attack anyone, but they knew that they would, simply because that is what they were told. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cock of the Walk

cardinal audubon

Spring comes in softly at first. Then, it rushes in hard and warm, like water gushing from the faucet into a dirty sink.  The birds start their singing when it starts in softly. The cardinals are among the first to lift their voices high among the skeleton trees. The testosterone flows hot in their red-feathered forms, and they begin to set out their breeding territories for the year.

All winter, they have moseyed morosely with mixed flocks of hens and cocks. They have flitted at the feeders as comrades against the cold and the hunger, but now, the primal pursuits of carnality take over. And the cockbirds turn violent against those former friends, and by the time, the first warm days of April come slipping along, they have set up their fiefdoms. And all through the warm months, they will patrol their lands, ready to do battle against any interloper.

This year, a particular male cardinal, all resplendent red, chose a piece of territory near a fine home with nice English garden. It also had a well-built garage.  That garage possessed a large window and along the wall where the window was located was was well-manicured flower-bed.

The cardinal had done a good job driving out all the bachelors, poachers, and Lotharios from his land, but every time he inspected that part of the territory near the garage, the bright red form appeared in the window. And oh it would enrage the cock cardinal!

How dare that poaching lowlife appear on his land! How dare he!

And the cardinal would attack the red form in the window. He would think that his orange beak would lay a hard blow against his rival feathers, but each time he banged into the window.

And he would get angrier and angrier. He would spend hours fighting the phantom bird in the glass. He would sometimes tire and fly along the walk leading to the garage and mutter little cheeping sounds at its rival.

He was the cock of this walk. No one else will ever be!

The owners of the house would have thought this whole display rather charming. However, during all those hours of fighting his rival in the reflection, the male cardinal dropped copious white feces all along the walk.

The woman of the house hated cleaning up the bird poop and regularly let her husband know about her displeasure. She wanted something done and done soon.  A shotgun could solve all their problems.

But the man of the house was more circumspect. He liked living where cardinals could flit and sing all summer, and further, he was fully aware of a federal law protecting songbirds.

So he tried setting out scarecrows in the flowerbed and along the walk. And for a day, they kept the male cardinal from coming in to war and poop.

But those primal urges were that strong, and the male cardinal returned to give up a good fight.

He fed his mate and his growing chicks, but every day, he had to spend hours fighting his rival in the window. And the feces kept piling up.

One day, the man rose from the house. He cradled a 20-gauge rabbit gun in his right arm. He waited until the cardinal gave him a clean shot, and nothing was behind the bird. And then he raised his gun. And broke the federal law.

And the red bird fell hard and lifeless to the ground. The man picked up the cardinal and threw him in the trash.

No evidence of the crime was left. It was just over with a single shotgun blast. No one knew any the wiser.

Modern man likes to live near nature, but even in the most banal of conflicts, nature must yield to man’s desires.

No concession could be given to the cardinal. His chicks in the woodland starved. His mate found a new lover among the Lotharios, and the new mate was not as aggressive about pecking at his rival in the garage window.

And so the summer went on. The cardinals sang and caught grasshoppers and ate summer wheat and August corn.

And their lives went on in the wild, minus the cock of the walk that dared to fight his own reflection in the window.

 

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First ribbon

I took Poet the whippet to the puppy fun match in Austintown today. We won the hound group in his age division!

winner poet ii

winner poet

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The stills do not do this trot any justice. You have to see it in person to see how amazing it is. His inner hock is not touching the ground either.

flowing gait quest

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Ever see an AKC German shepherd engage in a double suspension gallop? Well, you  have now.

quest in flight

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Diva

diva

Erika is the top bitch in this house. Male puppies cannot bother her and certainly cannot hump her with impunity.

But she is a sweetheart who loves her people.

 

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A New Direction

Poet and Quest

I made name for myself on this site once. I was an angry young man, Bolshie as all hell, and my target was the purebred dog fancy.  I allied myself with all sorts of angry people, and people came here to read my latest tirade.

The truth of the matter is that anger is not strength. It is my weakness. Some bloggers can maintain an angry outraged voice for years and years at a time, but I am not among them.

The topic that used to make me see red was conformation dog shows. I would rail against extreme brachycephaly in bulldogs, pugs, and pekingese, and I would attack German shepherds for having too sloped a back, which I was sure was causing them to have spinal degeneration and hip dysplasia.

Many people came to read this stuff. From my current stats, I see that some of my pug posts are really getting attention even now.

I thought I was part of a movement that was going to reform purebred dogs for good. I now no longer think that this movement, such that it exists, is going to solve much of anything. Yes, some European kennel clubs are trying reforms, but the problem isn’t the going to be solved through shaming people.

The documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed was something I greatly celebrated. I am not so sure that I agree with it now.  I initially thought that it would be used to bring about real reform in the purebred dog culture. I thought this because I misunderstood human nature, and I also totally misunderstood the nature of the modern animal rights movement

These errors led me into nearly a decade of folly. Every attack I made on a particular breed’s conformation just meant that the top breeders would ignore me and the lower tier would spend hours making asses of themselves in the comments section of the blog. The latter part was pretty entertaining, and I’m sure I made quite a bit of money off bulldog fanciers coming to this blog to insult me.

But did it change anything? Well, it added fuel to the fire for modern animal rights movement. I had no real understanding of what the animal rights people wanted, but it seems the most extreme elements of that movement want to create a fundamental change in how we relate to animals, even to the point that we destroy the human-animal bond that has existed ever since some Pleistocene wolves hooked up with people.

This movement has a real problem with breeding dogs for a purpose.  If you breed German shorthairs for field trials, they are as angry with you as they are with pug breeders who breed for the show ring. They will attack pugs for their extreme brachycephaly with the same venom that they will attack tail-docking and dewclaw removal in GSPs.

If there were no animal rights extremist movement out there, then maybe there would be some merit into having a discussion about dog breeding practices. But because there is one,  all this discussion does is create division. Divide and conquer, and soon, you’ll have all sorts of laws passed that make hobby breeding as difficult as possible.

This is not an academic discussion. Every serious pug breeder loves his or her dogs.  They don’t really respond well to campaigns that portray them as dog abusers. And all you’re doing is creating drama that will change little.

And the animal rights movement will make things harder for breeders to fix things. I can see legislation passed that outlaws crossbreeding, which would make attempts like the LUA Dalmatians and the Retromops impossible.

Now, that is the theoretical framework of why I have decided to go a different direction, but in my own life, I’ve had experiences that have changed my perspective. In 2017, I attended a dog show in Florida, where I saw the German shepherds being judged. I didn’t see any of the ataxic gaits that I expected from years of feasting on propaganda.

Instead, I saw dogs with sound temperaments that moved a lot like paso fino horses.  Every single one of them had intelligent, deep eyes, and one puppy that was being handled by an older gentleman who could not make him move out just right had the perfect look of canine joie de vivre as he tried his best to put on a show.

In the spring of 2018, I found myself sitting on the floor of a breeder’s dog room. Little sable and black-and-tan German shepherds cavorted around me. One of the sable males was to be living with us. My girlfriend had just purchased him, and we were awaiting a well-known judge’s evaluation before we were to know which one we were getting.

These puppies were full of joy and happiness. The sable males often would form the three-point stack on their own volition as they played. But what amazed me was how interactive they were. They wanted to be in communion with humanity. The drive was there at six weeks old, and I knew at that moment that there was something special about these dogs.

Our puppy moved in with us. Quest started out as a floppy creature with massive paws, but over the months hes matured into an amazing dog. His temperament is dead solid. He loves other dogs, and he will play fetch for hours. My girlfriend can train him to do just about anything. His hocks do not touch the ground, but he has that beautiful floating gait that I personally find aesthetically appealing. Experts in the breed think he is special stuff, which tells me that no one in the breed wants to produce dogs that walk on their hocks or have ataxic gaits. They want that sound flowing movement and a gorgeous three-point stack.

And the people I’ve met in the breed are the best dog people I’ve ever encountered. They are mostly down-to-earth and welcoming. They let you ask questions. They want you to  learn. They love the dogs so much that they know the only future is to work together and bring in new people. As a breed, they have a good understanding of how to health test and use those results intelligently so that they don’t bottleneck the breed even more.

And the thing that really shortens the lifespan of GSD is not related to their conformation at all. It is related to a recessive allele that puts the dogs at risk for spinal cord degeneration. This condition, called degnerative myelopathy, is a problem for the breed,b but it exists in “straight-backed” working dogs, backyard-bred dogs, and show dogs. We recently fostered a GSD cross that was three quarters GSD and one quarter “supermutt,” and he was found to be homozygous to be at risk for DM.  This dog was as straight-backed as a beagle, but in 7-10 years time, he could be paralyzed, and this is a dog that supposedly has hybrid vigor because of his mixed breeding.

No one has produced a scintilla of evidence that American-bred German shepherds suffer because of their conformation, and because the breeders of these dogs have taken hip dysplasia quite seriously,  many dogs from these lines have OFA excellent and OFA good hips.  I can’t say that about the non-AKC English shepherd, a type of collie,  which is bred solely for work and has a semi-open registry. These dogs have real problems with hip dysplasia, but they have never received much scrutiny from the purebred dog reformists.

They are working dogs, and they get a much more vaunted status in that community. Blame Donald McCaig for creating that illusion that has created this exculpation. He thought that working dogs were just exempt from that scrutiny.

So yes, living with these dogs and becoming part of this community has changed me. And yes, it is profound.

And at the same time, I am as troubled by the hypocrisy of the reformers, who turn a blind eye to extreme behavioral conformation and even health issues in working strains and breeds. It doesn’t matter that real working-bred German shepherds are dogs with so much drive that the average person has no business having one. And yes, I do love working German shepherds. They are great dogs, but if you don’t want a dog that is about as smart as a border collie and about as active that also may engage in protective behavior, you really don’t want one. You’re better off with a more chill show dog.

Every single breed and every single strain of dog has its problems. Breeders can fix those problems, or they can ignore them because they like other traits. Accepting that this is a reality is quite hard for some people, but accepting this reality is the first step towards understanding. Yes, there are problems. And yes, people really do care.

I am now of the mind that I want to support hobby breeders. I want to support a movement that gives them power to produce dogs that are wonderful in their eyes.  I want to be able to have a saluki that is half desert-bred and half Kazakh, even if the official kennel clubs will never recognize him as a saluki. I want to be able to breed AKC German shepherds that have sound flowing movement, sound temperament, and high intelligence.  And I want other dog lovers to have that freedom. I don’t oppose crossbreeders. I don’t oppose show breeders. I support dogs and dog people.

That’s why I am leaving this older movement that has empowered animal rights fanatics too much. It is bittersweet that I am stepping away. I am sure that I’ve lost a few readers since I’ve changed my mind on German shepherds. I will probably lose more after this post. But this post had to be written. I couldn’t live with myself any longer.

What drove me to this movement was a deep sorrow. I missed a working-type golden retriever that I had known in my youth. This dog haunts my psyche. She haunts my prose.

But in some way, I was being held hostage to the past.  I no longer am.  Golden retrievers will never be my breed in the same way again. I will love those old dogs. I will still celebrate their history, but I’ve given up the fight to keep them lithe and wiry and smart and dark. That was an uphill battle that was lost long ago. My prose kept that hope alive only in my mournful delusions.

So I’ve gone a new direction. I am different now. Someday, I’ll show you my litter of German shepherds that I’ve bred from titled, tested parents, and they will only exist because I was willing to admit that I wrong.

The dogs changed my narrow mind.

 

 

 

 

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black coyote

For most of my life, scientists believed that the present era was still the Holocene.  Glaciers retreated with a global warming trend around 11, 650. Man went from being the apex predator over much of the world and became the apex consumer. Agriculture allowed our populations to expand, and we started to give up our wandering ways and became “civilized.”

It was generally believed that the past few centuries are but a continuation of this age, but now a growing number of scientists believe we have left the Holocene and entered into the Anthropocene. Several scholars have issues with this new distinction, but I think it is quite useful. In this era, human activity is the main factor affecting climate and ecology, which is why the age is named for the Greek word for human (anthropos).

The best argument I’ve seen for when this era began is 1610.  In this scenario, the era is dated to when European disease and conquest killed off enough Native Americans and enslaved and enough African had been enslaved to allow forests to grow back in former agrarian fields.  This process started in 1492, but by 1610, enough of those trees had grown to remove enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to push the planet into the Little Ice Age.

Darcy Morey and Rujana Jeger have a great model for understanding dog domestication as a change in trophic strategies.  In the Pleistocene ecosystems, most wolves were mesopredators, playing second fiddle to an ecosystem full of cave lions, machairodonts, large bears, and cave hyenas. When these wolves hooked up with people, though, they hitched their wagon to the species that often behaved as the apex predators in the ecosystems.  When humans switched to agrarian lifestyles during the Holocene, humans became apex consumers, and dogs joined us as beneficiaries of being allied to that apex consumer species.  During the Holocene, many wolves became apex predators, as the cave lions and other large predators became extinct.

I’ve always liked the framework that Morey and Jeger derived in this paper, but now that we’re entering into a new geological age, maybe we need to look at the change in trophic strategies of wolves in this new age.

Morey and Jeger don’t have a good framework for what happened to wolves in the Anthropocene, but across Eurasia and North America, wolves were gone from many human-dominated landscapes by the first decades of the twentieth century.  They existed only in isolated areas in Western Europe, and in the  lower 48 states of the US, they lived only in Minnesota and in an isolated region in East Texas and Louisiana, where the taxonomically controversially red wolves were located.

Large pack-hunting wolves were really in quite a bit of trouble.  In the United States, the coyote population began to expand out of its Western core range into the Great Lakes States. They eventually made to New England and the Maritimes of Canada, and they hybridized with relict wolves and the expanding population of domestic dogs.  Coyotes eventually colonized all the Eastern states, and as they did so, they largely became the apex predators in many parts of their range.

But in the 1960s, attitudes about wolves began to change. Many nations protected wolves, and there were often introduction plans in the works.  By the early decades of the twenty-first century, wolves were making significant comebacks in Germany and Italy. The wolves in Italy were often living very much like stray domestic dogs, living large at garbage dumps. Wolves live near large cities in Germany, and how these wolves are going to adapt to living in such human dominated environments is going to be a major question for researchers.

And in throughout Eurasia, we began to see that domestic dogs were mating with wolves.  Indeed, it is now estimated that a majority of wolves in Eurasia have relatively recent dog ancestry. 

Similarly, as coyotes expanded in North America, their genes began to work their way into the wolf population.  Yes, coyotes in a large part of the US have wolf ancestry, but we also have discovered that wolves across North America have coyote ancestry. Indeed, one interesting thing about these genome comparisons is that coyotes and wolves are much more closely related than we initially gleaned form mitochondrial DNA analysis. The calculation is that the gray wolf and the coyote last shared a common ancestor around 50,000 years ago.  This recent common ancestry has a taxonomic implication, which is that coyotes are themselves a divergent form of gray wolf in much the same way domestic dogs are.

In the Anthropocene, the wolves that have done the best have been the domestic dog and the coyote. The domestic dog’s ability to ingratiate itself into human society or live very nicely as an opportunistic scavenger/hunter on the periphery of humanity is a great gift.  The coyote can live as an opportunistic scavenger/hunter as well, and it also can live very nicely as a mousing fox or pack up and hunt deer.

Gene flow among wolves, coyotes, and dogs has made these entities much more fuzzy than we once thought they were. Dog genes are working their way into both the coyote and wolf population.  Strange pelt colors are popping up in the wild animals. The black coloration in domestic dogs was conferred onto the North American wolf population during the Holocene, but this same mutation for melanism has entered the coyote and Italian wolf population in very recent years. Dogs have introduced dewclaws on the hindlegs to some wolf populations, and I have seen photos of Eastern coyotes that have those hind dewclaws as well, which likely were introduced through breeding with domestic dogs.

Coyotes in the East are evolving larger size to become better predators of deer, but becoming larger and more effective ungulate hunters will have a trade-off. As carnivorous mammals grow larger, they become more and more dependent upon large prey to survive.  Very large wolf-like coyotes will lose their ability to live well on small prey and garbage.

So in the Anthropocene, dogs remain allied to the apex consumers. Some coyotes operate as apex predators, and some wolves live as opportunistic scavengers.

And as these creatures adjust their trophic strategies in a much more predator tolerant world, the pseudo species barriers that exist among wolves, coyotes, and dogs can break down. Hybridization among these creatures is likely to be a major feature of their continued evolution, a definite feature and not a bug.

These canids  thus make the leap with us into this human dominated age, an age that is experiencing a mass extinction of amphibians and great retrenchment of large sharks and big cats.

Yet they are still there. Evolving as the winds change. Winds that we ourselves are changing and are only now starting to understand.

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