Monday, July 20, 2009


"Speargrass" is a term generally applied to several types of bromes or grasses (also called needlegrass, hayneedle, and foxtail) that produce awns that will create serious problems if ingested or lodged in ears, between the toes, or in the 'armpit' of a dogs. They have very hard, sharp points and barbs that cause them to travel through tissue and migrate through a dog's body. In the areas that I commonly hunt chukars, cheat grass produces awns of this type. 

Many trainers on the prairies of North America have encountered speargrass during early season training when the awns are still attached to the head of the grasses - about 12 to 18 inches above the ground - exactly where a running dog is likely to get them in its mouth or nose. They can be breathed into the lungs or washed into the stomach from the mouth when a thirsty dog is drinking. Once ingested, they will cause serous illness and slow death. Speargrass has killed a lot of dogs whose problem was not readily diagnosed by veterinarians, except as an unqualified 'infection' or 'foreign body'.  A nightmare ailment.

In his book, Bird Dogs and Field Trials,  Jack Harper devoted an entire chapter to the dangers of speargrass when running dogs on the prairie. Here are a couple excerpts...

"...Knowing that he must have ingested spears, I decided to autopsy him just to see what spears do when they enter a dog's stomach. I found 22 spears which had already penetrated the stomach wall with only their tails left inside. Although the dog died of stroke, it was more merciful than the painful and lingering death in store for him from the spears."

"A grass needle is an innocent looking thing, but it is one of the most dangerous things in nature for a running dog. The head of the spear is about an inch long with a flexible tail. The point is as hard as steel and as sharp as a sewing needle. From the body are dozens of tiny barbs that slowly and surely work the point forward until it strikes bone.

So sharp is this needle that I have taken one,  just to demonstrate to a new helper how sharp they are, and pushed it through the gristle at the edge of a thumbnail. It slides through as though the gristle was soft clay."

Fortunately, forewarned is forearmed, and avoiding speargrass that is still on the heads of the plants is the best (and often ONLY) remedy. In late Summer, after the awns fall from the heads of the plants to the ground, they pose less of a danger to dogs. The timing of their fall to from the plants varies according to moisture and temperature.  Better to wait until they are down before running a dog where there is speargrass. Still, you should check your dog's mouth, ears, nose, armpits and between the toes after running. And if he is shaking his head constantly or hacking from a throat obstruction, get him to a vet.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

SB250 beaten back for now...

The California Assembly Appropriation Committee met today to consider SB 250 (the Mandatory Spay and Neyter bill). Charlie Hjerpe was there, and offers this report...

I just got back from the Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing on SB 250. After about an hour of testimony and voting on several other bills, it was announced that Senator Dean Florez had withdrawn SB 250 and placed it in the "suspense " file. No supporters of the bill were present, as they must have been tipped off before hand. Two opposition spokespersons were allowed to speak, but only very briefly. An AKC representative spoke effectively about the adverse fiscal impact that would result from cancellation of all of the bench shows held in California. I can't remember what the NAIA representative had to say. Following that, the Committee Chairman, Kevin De Leon, asked if there were any supporters of SB 250 present (there were none) and then asked those who were opposed to SB 250 to stand. Nearly everyone present in the room then stood. However, none of us were allowed to announce our affiliations or to speak. I could not see how many were seated in the balcony, but there were about 100 to 150 people present in the room below the balcony where I was sitting. Nothing even close to the thousands present for the Senate Local Government hearing on AB 1634, in July of 2007!

Then, several DEMOCRATIC Assemblymembers rose to express opposition to the bill. One of them stated that he hoped that the people bringing these kinds of bills before the State Legislature would stop doing so. He also noted that these MSN options are available at the city and county level, and that it was inappropriate to deal with these issues at the statewide level.

I have to believe that the tide was turned against this bill by two events: (1) the June 9 story in the SF Chronicle about SB 250 having it's greatest impact on low income people, and (2) the release of the 2008 California Department of Public Health county animal shelter statistics, which showed that the increases in impounds and euthanasias were 11x higher in LA County than in all of the rest of the state put together.

This bill was very bad news for California dog owners. We hope that after this the bill will die, as did AB 1634 last year, and the subject of statewide mandatory spay and neuter will not arise again.

Shame on Senator Dean Florez for authoring and sponsoring this ill-informed, ignorant piece of legislation. The HSUS worked on this bill, and I believe may have actually authored or had substantial influence on it's creation. It certainly takes a page directly from their political playbook. 

US Complete NW Regional Championship

The US Complete Shooting Dog Association NW Region has announced that the Regional Championship will be held November 6, 7, and 8 on the grounds of the Keistler K-Arrow Ranch near Jamestown, CA. This is an open walking shooting dog championship, sanctioned by US Complete and American Field. Details available on the website linked above.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I think we've got a hatch this year in California

I was in the south Sierras over the weekend and saw three young coveys, one about a week old and the other two perhaps two weeks old. Very encouraging - last year we had basically zero reproduction due to lack of rain. I also spent Sunday morning shooting clays with a new friend who is a DFG biologist and he reported that the reproduction in the coastal ranges looks good - liekly double clutches. This could be a good season in California. I keep hoping anyway.