Book Review: Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire by Nathan and Jennifer Winograd is the book no kill advocates have been waiting for. Although Redemption is the book I wish everyone interested in or skeptical of the movement would read, I think Friendly Fire is the book they actually will read.  I say this because the formatting of the pages in Friendly Fire caters to the way many of us are accustomed to receiving our news nowadays – in information-packed chunks combining text and graphics.

On the one hand, a reader can start at page 1 and read continuously through in the traditional manner. On the other hand, some readers – particularly skeptics – are less likely to make this kind of commitment at the outset. Those readers – and encouraging people outside the movement to learn more about it is always a good idea – might read just one or two pages to start off.  Just to take a look-see.  And this is where the book layout serves a dual function in not only being attractive and user-friendly but also offering even the most skeptical reader an opportunity to easily take a bite of the book and decide if he wants to sit down at the table. I’m betting most will because, even if the reader opens to a random page, he will find a gripping story which can be readily consumed in a short period of time.

This is one of my favorite graphics from the book, featured in a section which discusses the fabled “5 years to no kill” plan that municipal facilities seem fond of offering instead of simply ending the killing today:

Friendly Fire is not an angry rant against the wealthy animal welfare organizations and municipal shelters who repeatedly fail pets in this country although it unflinchingly takes these institutions to task.  The book contains personal stories which will instantly engage the reader.  A number of individual cats and dogs are profiled, many of whom regular readers of this blog will recognize right away.  In addition, the book offers not just an examination of problems but actionable solutions for pet advocates.  I think the section on how to respond to the standard excuses and attacks from killing apologists will be particularly useful for advocates and hopefully give pause to some shelter directors who recognize their own patterns of behavior.

Friendly Fire lives up to the expectations set by Nathan Winograd’s previous books, Redemption and Irreconcilable Differences.  No kill advocates will want to make a space on their bookshelves for this one.  And I hope Friendly Fire will find its way onto the bookshelves of many who are currently outside the movement as well.  This book could help to open some of the hearts, minds and doors currently closed to the no kill movement.

Full Disclosure: I received no financial compensation for this review. I did receive a copy of the book with a request – not an obligation – to review it, good or bad.

Book Raffle

I like to eat dirt.

At Christmas, I received a new copy of the book Food Pets Die For by Ann Martin.  Since I already have this book, I wanted to raffle it off to (hopefully) raise a few bucks to help cover costs on blog related expenses such as open records requests.  If you are interested in purchasing a raffle ticket for the book, please click here.  $1 per ticket or 5 tickets for $4.  The raffle will be open until midnight March 4.  I’ll ask Billy to draw a name from the hat on Saturday, March 5 and put up a new post announcing the name of the winner.  Winner will need to provide a U.S. mailing address via e-mail.

Book Excerpt and Giveaway – “The Lost Dogs”

Update, 9-18-10:  The winner of the book is Preston.  Thank you to everyone who entered.

You may well remember the December 2008 cover article of Sports Illustrated that featured the Vick dogs and was written by Jim Gorant.  The publisher of a new book by Mr. Gorant called The Lost Dogs – Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption is offering a free copy of the book to a reader.  If you’d like to enter your name for the drawing, simply leave a comment on this post between now and Friday, September 17 at 11:59 p.m.  I will draw one name at random and post the winner as an update to this post next weekend.  Winner will also be notified privately and will need to e-mail me a mailing address so I can send that to the publisher.

Below is Chapter 1 of the book, used with permission of the publisher:

A BROWN DOG SITS in a field. There’s a collar around her neck. It’s three inches thick and attached to a heavy chain, which clips onto a car axle that’s buried so one end sticks out of the ground. As the dog paces in the heat, the axle spins, ensuring that the rattling chain won’t become entangled.

The dog paces a lot, wearing a circle in the scrubby weeds and sandy soil around the perimeter of the axle. She paces because there’s little else to do. Sometimes a squirrel or a rabbit or a snake crosses nearby and she barks and chases it, or she lunges and leaps after the dragonflies and butterfliesthat zip and flutter past.

She flicks her tail at mosquitoes and buries her muzzle in her fur, chewing at the itchy crawly things that land on her. If she’s lucky she digs up a rock that she can bat around and chew on, but otherwise there are just the weeds and the bugs and the hot sun inching across the sky.

She is not alone. Other dogs are spread around this clearing in the trees. They can see one another, hear one another bark and whine and growl, but they can’t get to one another. They can’t run, they can’t play, they can’t anything. They can get close to their immediate neighbors, stand almost face-to-face, but they can never touch, a planned positioning meant to frustrate and enrage them. For some it does; for many it simply makes them sad.

Out in the field are mothers, fathers, off spring, littermates. The families are easy to spot. There’s a group of sand-colored dogs, some with pink noses, some with black snouts. There is a group of red dogs, some small black dogs, a few white ones, a few black-and-whites. A handful of other colors and shapes are mixed in.

All are pit bulls and many have that classic pit bull look, stocky and low to the ground, front shoulders higher than haunches and a wide muscular chest that dwarfs narrow hips, so that they look as if they’re waiting for their backsides to grow into their fronts. Their necks are thick and hold up rectangular heads. Some are bigger, as big as seventy pounds,while another group is more compact, reaching maybe twenty-five pounds. These smaller ones are actually Staff ordshire bull terriers, a close relative of the American pit bull terrier.

The brown dog has a soft face, with searching eyes and an expressive brow that furls into deep ridges and undulating rolls when she’s scared or nervous or trying to figure out whether she needs to be either. Her uncropped ears rise from the top of her head until they fold over, but one of them folds differently from the other, so that it hangs lower, making her look as if she’s eternally asking a question.

To help fight the heat, there’s water spread about in large tubs, sometimes a little dirty but drinkable. Once a day a man comes to put food in the bowls. At least it’s usually once a day. Sometimes two or three days go by before the sound of his all-terrain vehicle breaks the monotony. As he gets off the vehicle and makes his way across the clearing, all the dogs run to the end of their chains, barking and wagging their tails as if they’re excited to see him. But when the man actually gets close to them, they tuck their tails and skulk away. Only after he has moved on do they creep back over to their bowls and eat.

They can’t see anything beyond the perimeter of the clearing, but they are not alone. Another clearing lies through the trees where another fifteen or so dogs live on chains, and beyond that, at the edge of the woods, is a small compound with kennels, freestanding pens, and four sheds. The buildings are small and painted pitch black, including the windows. One is two stories tall, and the men who own these sheds, who live and work here, they call that one “the black hole.”

A breeze stirs the trees—scrub pines and sugar maples, a few pin oaks. The lilt of songbirds mixes with the whine of cicadas and the low, singular whoooo, whoooo of a mourning dove. The summer heat draws moisture off the Atlantic, thirty miles beyond, adding the weight of humidity to the air.

Within the perimeter of each axle there’s a doghouse. Rough-hewn plywood structures, they provide something else for the dogs to chew on and claw at to while away the hours. They also offer a break from the sun but not much relief from the heat—just as in winter they stop the wind but don’t do much to protect against temperatures that can drop into the thirties.

Curled up in their little houses the dogs look and listen and sniff the air. They are incredibly intuitive creatures. They learn by watching—trainers sometimes let young dogs watch experienced dogs in action so they see how to behave. They can detect odors 100 million times more faint than people can. They can hear sounds at a broader range of frequencies than humans, and they can hear them from four times as far away. People who train dogs for search and rescue contend that dogs can hear a heartbeat from a distance of five feet, which gives them insight into the mood and disposition of the people and animals they come in contact with.

As pack animals, they are keenly aware of the behavior of those around them. One dog can tell what another is thinking and intending simply by observing the way he acts. When two dogs meet, there is a detailed ritual of movements and gestures. The way they hold their ears, tail, head, their posture. Everything means something. Attitudes, feelings, intentions,  dominance, and submission can be established immediately. So can achallenge.

Dogs understand what’s expected of them. When people are around, dogs see what wins them rewards and praise and what leads to scorn. Something deep inside of them, woven into the very fabric of their being, a genetic impulse, compels them to please those around them. But sometimes, the things that men want from them cut against their natural inclinations, setting off an internal chain reaction of anxiety and uncertainty, triggering hormones and nervous system fluctuations. When they are extremely scared, dogs secrete a powerful musk that other dogs can smell from great distances.

The things they see and hear and smell have an impact on them, too. Studies have shown that if two mammals are placed side by side in boxes and the first one is given electric shocks, just by listening to the suffering the second one produces identical brain waves and nervous system activity; the trauma isn’t limited only to the animal that’s experiencing the pain.

Out in the field is the little brown dog with the floppy ear— none of the dogs know what’s happening around them, but they do know something isn’t right. They’ve seen things they are not supposed to see. They’ve heard terrifying sounds and they’ve smelled fear and pain drifting in the air. The brown dog lays her chin on the ground and exhales. Her brow folds into a furry question mark. The afternoon is fading and the heat has begun to fade too, but little else is certain.

Sometimes men come and take a few of the dogs away. Sometimes those dogs come back tired and panting from running and running. Sometimes the dogs come back scarred and limping. Sometimes they come back looking the same, but acting completely different. Sometimes they don’t come back at all, as if they’ve simply disappeared. As if they’ve vanished into a black hole.

Three Veterinary Views on Non-Meat Pet Diets

Since this subject has come up in the comments recently, and since I’m a food wonk (and a vegetarian, of sorts), I wanted to gather some info from my bookshelf on the subject of vegetarian and vegan diets for pets.

The first important point is to make distinctions between the two as some people use them interchangeably when they are actually two different diet plans.  That said, I’m giving my own simplified definitions here (with a Wiki link!) based on my understanding of the most widely accepted terms.

A vegetarian pet diet would include plants and foods derived from plants (e.g. rice, tofu) as well as some foods from animals (e.g. eggs, yogurt).  It would specifically exclude foods derived from slaughtered animals such as meat and bones.

A vegan pet diet would be plants only – all foods derived from animals would be excluded.

I’m using 3 pet diet books written by veterinarians for this post:

Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets by Donald R. Strombeck, DVM, PhD

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD & Susan Hubble Pitcairn

The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, DVM

Dr. Strombeck

Page 133:

Dogs and cats are not anatomically and physiologically designed to be vegetarians.  Cereals are also not nutritionally adequate because they do not satisfy some essential amino acid requirements.  Thus, dogs and cats are not designed to consume vegetable or cereal products as the most significant parts of their diets.

I’m guessing here that Dr. Strombeck is possibly against vegan pet diets even though he used the word vegetarian.  The reason I make this guess is because he does provide a number of vegetarian recipes for pets in the book and in fact states on page 90:

Completely balanced vegetarian diets can be fed to dogs without fear of causing any nutritional deficiency.

He goes on to note that vitamin B12 is found only in foods from animal sources and must be added weekly to a vegetarian dog diet.  I did not find any references specifically to a vegan pet diet in the book.

Regarding cats, page 112:

[Cats] have some unique nutritional needs that a strictly vegetarian diet cannot satisfy.  […]  If a cat is fed a vegetarian diet appropriate for human beings, it is likely that signs of a nutrient deficiency will eventually develop.

Dr. Pitcairn

In summary, Dr. Pitcairn is a no on vegan dog diets and a NO on vegan cat diets.

Page 76:

My observation is that problems arise mostly when owners exclude all animal foods, including milk products and eggs, from their pets’ diets.

Regarding vegetarian dog diets, he is a yes – while cautioning that you must be careful with the nutrients – but no for vegetarian cat diets.  He does encourage reducing the meat in pet diets as a generally good thing to do.  Besides the global, ethical and environmental considerations about feeding pets diets that are high in meat, he adds on page 71:

Our primary health concern about feeding meat […] is that meat is now the most polluted food source on the market.

Dr. Goldstein

Dr. Goldstein states on page 59 that he is a vegetarian himself but believes that dogs and cats need meat in their diets:

Specifically, they need more protein and calcium than a vegetarian diet can provide – which is also to say more protein and calcium than humans need.

He goes on to relate the story of a dog on a vegan diet who came to him in very ill health.  He tested her blood and found that her immune system was draining protein from her muscles.  She died very shortly after her visit.

This post is intended merely to share 3 individual opinions on meatless pet diets.  It is not presented as the final word on the subject by any means.  If you have an opinion on, or experience with, feeding a meatless (or even reduced meat) pet diet, please share in the comments.

I am hoping one day to keep some egg laying chickens as pets.  I’d like to rely on them to supply a significant (but not exclusive) protein source for my dogs.  I like the idea of knowing for certain that the eggs I’m feeding came from well cared for hens and that they are fresh.

What was Under Your Tree Today?

Apparently I was very good this year (who knew, right?) and Santa brought me some great pressies from my wishlist:

1. Redemption by Nathan Winograd

2. The Pit Bull Placebo by Karen Delise

Note: If you are wanting to pick up either/both of these books with some of that Xmas cash you got in your stocking, you can go to Caveat’s site and find them on the left hand side. If you click thru to Amazon via Caveat, a portion of the sales go to the Banned Aid Coalition which is like getting a gift for yourself and giving a gift to a good cause at the same time.

3. A 14 oz. tub of dried liver treats which I’m going to pulverize in the food processor for use in dog treat recipes.

4. Two cookie sheets to make all those treats on (you don’t want to know all the makeshift things I’ve been using to bake treats on – cookie sheets, your time has come!)

5. Pedipaws. (Nail grinder thingy you’ve prolly seen the commercials for on TV.) Now see, this is how much Billy hates nail clipping cos actually, he doesn’t even do the clipping, I do. He helps hold a few of the dogs who require assistance (Emily requires “assistance” from a secure muzzle in addition to a steadier so she doesn’t devour my face in Chihuahua sized bites while getting her nails trimmed). Anyway, he got us the Pedipaws so we’ll be acclimating the dogs to it in the coming weeks (soon as we get the required batteries – doh!) and see how it goes. If I get any startling results, I’ll post about it again. Congratulations Pedipaws on successfully marketing to Billy!

Please share your Xmas loot in the comments if you like.