Outside of a Dog

This could get complicated, seeing as how I have not spoken in public places about “the dog situation” in some months. I was forbidden to, so fraught with potential guilt in giving the dog-in-question back to Angels of Assisi should we fail, or otherwise not succeeding in the training to make him fit in, to bond with us and behave anything like the dogs that have been our companions, back to our first in 1981. 

I have good news, for those who might have been in on the story: Scout is still with us, and he belongs here and knows it. It has been a steep uphill battle, finally won. Mostly.

The story of that behavior mod remains for another time, perhaps. It is the discovery of Scout’s genetic roots I want to share briefly here this morning. 

The mug shot on the animal adoption website showed a pale-colored medium-sized 13 month old dog named Coco, and described him as “yellow lab / golden retriever mix.” Three of the four A-team dogs we’ve had under our roof over the last 35 years have been labs, Gandy the Ridgeback-Shepherd mix being the exception.

So we took the risk and brought him home—the first older-than-eight-week puppy in our pets lineup, and odd to think of it: He is likely the last dog we will ever have in our lives. Strange to think the dog is likely to outlive us, but there comes a time.

Regarding pedigree, I was convinced there was other blood involved. Scout (our new name for him) does not have the docile-tractable lab state of mind exactly. He shows a much more independent streak, with less drive to please and cooperate. But maybe that just has to do with his first home, about which we know nothing—only that he came to us knowing nothing. Sit. Stay. Come. Not so much. 

But the strangest physical trait was the tail hooked over the back. So I thought maybe husky; or Spitz. But Scout’s tail is fish-hook curved when he is intent on something out the window or in the field, then droops to horizontal when he is calm. What’s up with that?

Scout’s tendencies outdoors are not lab-like. Every lab we’ve ever grown to know has been an ardent and skilled MOLE extractor. I have pictures of Tsuga in the snow, tossing a mole high in the air, and catching it in his mouth. Our yard has always been pockmarked with mole diggings. Not anymore. 

Scout could care less about moles, but he is a champion mouser. He digs out a big tuft of shredded grass from the pasture a half-dozen times every time we take our walk there. More often than not, there is a protein snack inside.

And lastly in the list of pedigree puzzlers, in the garden (which has become Scout’s alfresco recreation space) he doesn’t help with the moles there like I wish he would. But he digs “snout pits” for no apparent reason. I think I have a picture somewhere of the results.

So here’s where the story takes a turn: Because it was new and I wanted to test it, I used Google Lens to take a picture of Scout, who was sitting there next to me when I had the notion to use this new tool. It came back with an identification of the object in the image.

And that is where the story picks up in the next blog post! 

BONUS FEATURE (or additional punishment, depending…)

Who originally made this quip:

Outside of a Dog, a Book is Man’s Best Friend. Inside of a Dog, It’s Too Dark to Read

I thought it was Groucho Marx. Maybe. Maybe not.

New Book: Fifth Risk

We are lurching forward into an unknown and unchartable future where there are no rules or precedents in the halls of government. Where might we end up when uninformed democracy breaks down and unconstrained capitalism drives us to the brink?

“Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge.

Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview. If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system—those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.”

Read more about and from the book…

The Future We Want

Blue Ridge Mountains from the air

The future we want begins when we find and pursue the greater good for each other, other living things, and future generations in place, in the small pockets of belonging, in the rural and urban places of America. My place is Floyd County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This essay was part of SustainFloyd’s annual report for 2017, and it seems fitting to offer it more widely at a time when we need hope and vision.

Read more at Medium.com

Field To Fork: Food Choices and the Future

From BBC Science https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46384067

Near Coles Knob in eastern Floyd County, many acres of former mature forest are being cut (down to what’s left of the topsoil) to create pasture to grow beef cattle. (Wood chips likely now on a freighter ship to Europe.)

The carbon footprint of those cattle that will graze on land where carbon-storing oaks and hickories stood until this summer, would fall near the “high impact” range in this chart, especially if they are shipped to a feedlot for finishing and sold to consumers hundreds of miles from here.

“Low impact” pork would be my meat of choice. The half-a-pig we purchased a few years back from our neighbor a mile up the road was probably the lowest-impact non-avian meat we’ve ever enjoyed (except maybe redfish caught off Ann’s homeplace in Biloxi back when.) Home-raised eggs served us (and the carbon load) well for a dozen years.

I am considering a pledge (which doesn’t have to wait until Jan 1 to become a “resolution”) to eat no more beef. It won’t be that hard, frankly, since we don’t eat steaks and rarely grill hamburgers at home. I would have to forgo my quarterly Mushroom Burger at Parkway Grille, alas. But I guess I should put my money where my mouth is.

There are a number of places in Floyd County where you can purchase locally-grown grass-fed beef. The PRICE is higher than stockyard chain-grocery beef, but the field-to-fork COST is much lower if we consider all environmental inputs and outputs–and we must.

If we could all shift our diet as far as possible towards the low impact version of our protein of choice–but especially do this for beef for those who are not already Vegans–it would have a measurable and important impact on CO2 entering rather than leaving the air.

We (all 10 billion of us soon) will have to eat far lower on the food web than we have, if profound suffering is to be prevented, and hopefully not at the cost of further fouling our nest. Change is coming. We should start making individual decisions about diet very soon. Towards that end, I saw the relevant quote below recently, from an article about which I will have more to say soon:

One hectare of land yields one metric ton of soy protein, a common livestock feed, a year. The same amount of land can produce 150 tons of insect protein.

 

Leaf-Peepers Are Readers

Every autumn, I tend to get a little bump in book sales.

This autumn, I’m pleased to let visiting leaf-peepers know that my books can be found in an additional location: the new Maggie Gallery at the corner of Route 8 (Locust Street) and Oxford Street, across from the bank parking lot.

Ron’s artwork and crafts are familiar to and appreciated by many in Floyd County. And now he and wife Lenny are hosting the work and crafts of others in a fine old home right in the middle of Floyd.

The folks whose work is displayed in the gallery have their own little web nook. Here is mine: Fred First at Maggie Gallery.

If you’re visiting Floyd, the gallery is a short walk from The Light, and well worth your time. Here’s a little more about the history behind the building, the builders and the idea of the gallery.

Maggie Gallery Open House | NRVNews

Another reason to visit Maggie Gallery soon: You get a bonus when you buy one of my books: a copy of the pen and ink drawing of our barn by Ron Campbell (while supplies last)–an image that he graciously allowed me to use for the front pages of my second book, What We Hold in Our Hands. This is really a very generous compliment to me from the owners, and a high-value bonus to you, the patrons of the gallery!