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Tag: mountains

Pawprint in the mud leads to discovery that New Guinea highland wild dogs still exist

hihgland2

After nearly half a century of fearing that the New Guinea highland wild dog had gone extinct in its remote and inhospitable habitat, high in the mountains of New Guinea, a pawprint in the mud has led researchers to confirm the existence of at least 15 of them.

Photographs taken with camera traps and DNA analyses of biological samples confirm the dogs — considered the most ancient breed on earth — are living along New Guinea’s remote central mountain spine.

“The discovery and confirmation of the highland wild dog for the first time in over half a century is not only exciting, but an incredible opportunity for science,” says the group behind the discovery, the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation (NGHWDF).

hihgland1An expedition by the foundation last year led to the discovery of the population — after a member of the group noticed a pawprint in the mud.

New Guinea highland wild dogs were only known from two unconfirmed photographs in recent years — one taken in 2005, and the other in 2012.

They had not been documented with certainty in their native range in over half a century, and experts feared that what was left of the ancient dogs had dwindled to extinction.

Last year, a NGHWDF expedition led by zoologist James K. McIntyre, was joined by local researchers from the University of Papua, who were also seeking the the elusive dogs.

A muddy paw print spotted in September 2016 finally gave them what they were looking for — recent signs that the wild canids still wandered the dense forests of the New Guinea highlands.

The footprint was one McIntyre had left, with his bare feet, while going up the mountain. On the group’s way down the mountain, he noticed it had been joined by a paw print.

Bait was laid. Camera traps were set. And the cameras captured more than 140 images of Highland Wild Dog.

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DNA analysis of fecal fecal samples confirmed that the breed is related to Australian dingos and New Guinea singing dogs – the captive-bred variants of the New Guinea highland wild dog.

The species established itself on the island at least 6,000 years ago, either arriving with human migrants or migrating independently of humans.

The dogs most commonly have a golden coat, but can also be black, tan or cream colors. Their tails curl up over their backsides and their ears sit erect on their heads.

According to the NGHWDF, there are roughly 300 New Guinea singing dogs remaining in the world, living in zoos and private homes. They are known for their high-pitched howls, often carried out in chorus with one another.

A scientific paper on the discovery is expected to be released in the coming months.

(Photos: NGHWDF)

Seven things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe

There’s one thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe, and that’s dogs.

They are everywhere — tall dogs, short dogs, big dogs, small dogs, black, white, brown, red, yellow and brindle dogs.

There are smelly hippy, just-passin’-thru dogs (and I’m not saying from where the odor is emanating — human, or canine, or perhaps the sweatstained, refrigerator-sized backpack).

There are gigantic purebred poodles, as regal-looking as their owners.

And there are a whole lot of Labs, shepherds, terriers, hounds and who-knows-whats in between.

Santa Fe calls itself “the city different,” for numerous reasons, but perhaps nowhere is its diversity more noticeable than in its dogs.

Some I’ve seen, like Shadow (below), who all but blends in with the dirt paths of the dog park, look like they might even have a little coyote in the mix.

You see dogs on street corners. You see them in Santa Fe Plaza, the town’s main gathering place. You see them in outdoor restaurants, poking their heads out of passing cars and, by the dozens, at Frank S. Ortiz Dog Park — an expansive swath of high desert, dotted with cholla and juniper (provided by nature), and dog bowls, plastic chairs and poop bags (provided by its users).

Despite its lack of frills, Frank S. Ortiz Dog Park — it’s named after a one-time mayor —  has arroyos and hills, miles of paths, and commanding views of the town. (By virtue of its size alone, it appears destined to make our top 10 dog park list.) Yes, dogs are one thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe.

Dogs and art.

Art, too, is everywhere — street corner stands,murals, ritzy galleries, rustic studios. The only thing there may be more of than dogs in Santa Fe is artists, many of whom draw their inspiration from the scenic beauty around them.

So, actually there are three things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe — dogs, art and nature’s beauty. It — along with a climate sent from heaven — make it a highly liveable, and visitable, city. Beauty can be found in nearly every direction you look, from the Jemez Mountains to the west to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, rising high to the southeast.

Speaking of rising high, there are actually four things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe — dogs, art, nature’s beauty and high prices. There’s no escaping high prices. Sooner or later, they will get you — or perhaps even stress you out.

If so, you can always visit a spa, because actually there are five things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe — dogs, art, nature’s beauty, high prices and spas. In town, on the edges of town, up in the mountains, there is an abundance of places to get wrapped, scrubbed, rubbed, boiled and oiled. I’m not sure who goes to all the spas, probably the same people that buy all the art and eat the high priced restaurant meals — namely tourists.

Which — in addition to dogs, art, nature’s beauty, high prices, and spas — are another thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe.

So that makes six things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe, if you count the tourists, who stay in hotels that, like all other structures in town, are made of adobe, which is the seventh thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe — adobe. I’ve yet to see a house exterior of wood, brick or — heaven forbid — vinyl siding.

On top of those seven things, there are plenty of other things that can be found in abundance in Santa Fe– sunsets, rainbows, good food, opera, legends, history, crafts, and, my personal favorite, clouds.

Here’s my theory on the clouds, and why cooling afternoon showers are fairly common here. Clouds come in from the mountains, usually —  like tourists — in a group. The clouds look down and like what they see — harmony, art, spirituality, pleasing terrain, disposable income, seekers, healers and art appreciators. And, being an art form themselves, the clouds decide to stay around a while — so that they may both appreciate and be appreciated.

In my five days here, I’ve noticed that, unlike clouds in most places, neither the big fluffy ones or the wispy flat ones — to use the scientific terms — seem to be moving, and, if they are, it’s imperceptibly slow. Instead, they seem to be lingering, hanging out, enjoying the view. Meantime, new clouds come in, and they decide to linger, too. And so on and so on, until there are so many clouds, elbowing each other for space in the formerly big blue sky, that they become entangled, much like the traffic downtown.

As a result of all that brushing up against each other, and moving into each others’ space, meteorological things begin to take place, and — not to get too technical — rain and wind result.

Sometimes, after that, you get rainbows. Sometimes, you don’t. That’s life, in Santa Fe.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” the continuing story of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America, click here.)

Fun with geologic formations

Let me apologize for this one in advance.

Normally, we try to avoid being sophomoric, but I’ve spent nearly a week in Texas, home of George Bush, and after meeting so many good old boys and traveling so many miles through its parched flatness, the mind plays tricks on a man. One can get inordinately excited by the slightest change in terrain

That said, here’s a butte:

And here’s a beaut:

Meeting the mini-Ace

 Peanut

 On a trip this week to do some book research, I stopped for a visit at the Avery County Humane Society, up in the mountains of western North Carolina, and came across a pup who looked like a miniature version of my dog, Ace.

Ace, as you regulars know, is 130 pounds, a chow-Rottweiler mix (according to a DNA test) who’s so tall I can rest my hand on his back when we go for a walk.

Peanut, one of about 40 dogs at the shelter, was a mini-Ace — same face, same coat, same coloring, same floppy ears, same soulful eyes — but on bassett hound legs.

Seven months old, he was brought into the shelter because his owners lost their home to foreclosure, and had to move in with the in-laws.

The staff at the shelter was kind enough to let me play with him, and snap a few pictures.

The shelter was the cleanest I’ve ever seen — as pristine as the mountains in which it is nestled, and while the director wasn’t there, the youthful staff (none appeared to be over 21) seemed to have things well in hand.

Tempted I was to bring Ace home a little brother, reason won out (we’ve still got that newly arrived cat, after all) and I left Peanut behind, knowing he’s in good hands and hoping he’ll find a good home.