Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bilbo, The Lifesaving Newfoundland Dog

(From the Cornish Guardian, 27 February 2008 (

"Bilbo - Britain's only canine lifeguard - is used to being a legend on his own beach in the Westcountry.
But now the 14-stone chocolate Newfoundland, who helps to patrol Sennen Cove in Cornwall, is getting ready to be immortalised in print.
Books featuring the lifesaving dog's own shaggy tale are about to hit the stands.
Children's author Janeta Hevizi, who lives in Sennen, put pen to paper after being inspired by the gentle giant's seemingly global popularity.
She said: 'He has fans all over the world. People write to him and send him presents.
I sometimes think he is the reason that so many people come back to Sennen Beach - the first thing they want to see is Bilbo. I had been meaning to write his story for a while, then I just woke up at 2am one morning and started writing.'
The True Story of Bilbo, the Surf Lifeguard Dog, was written by Ms Hevizi, with help from Bilbo's owner Steve Jameson.
It tells the story of how the once-fluffy puppy found his true calling saving lives at Sennen Beach.
Most importantly, said Ms Hevizi, it was a chance to get across Bilbo's message of being safe while on the beach and swimming in patrolled areas marked by flags.
'The story tells how Bilbo came to be allowed on to the beach, where dogs are normally banned, and how Steve realised that Bilbo could help people be safe. (Emphasis supplied.)
Bilbo has a great message for people, that they should be safe and just swim between the flags. When it comes from him, people seem to take notice.'
Mr Jameson, head lifeguard at Sennen, said he was 'adopted' by Bilbo when he was a puppy nearly five years ago.
'They say dogs decide who their owner is and I think that was the case with Bilbo. He used to belong to the beach manager, but we seemed to form a bond.'
By the time Bilbo was two, he had started going out with Mr Jameson to check on the buoyancy devices on coastal footpaths.
It was then that Mr Jameson realised Bilbo could really enhance the campaign to promote safe swimming - when he took the loveable dog to schools, children would sit up straight and pay attention.
'It was completely different. Before I took Bilbo, the kids would be fidgeting and whispering, but when I started taking Bilbo, they would really pay attention and when I went back the next time, they would remember everything.'
Bilbo, garbed in his specially made lifeguard uniform, was specially trained to help people in distress in the water. Despite their size, Newfoundlands around the world are used in rescue work.
Last summer, Bilbo hit the national headlines when he prevented a holidaymaker from going into dangerous waters.
The True Story of Bilbo, the Surf Lifeguard Dog, is published by Cornish Cove, £5.99. For a copy, contact 01736 871425."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Every year, at Ocean Beach alone, there are deaths from people caught in the riptide and undertow. Instead of embracing and using water rescue dogs, the GGNRA and National Park Service do not provide a single lifeguard at this beach. Their goal is to eliminate dogs altogether from the beaches. After a drowning occurs, they simply tell people not to swim there, even on days when they know people will be in the surf due to warm temperatures.
This is a sad commentary on the management of beaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is much these despots can learn from the story of Bilbo.

Satch & 'Drew

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gander, Newfoundland Hero of World War II

"Newfoundland dogs are renown for their friendliness, love of children and for their rescuing abilities. Since the breed was developed in Newfoundland over a hundred years ago, there have been many stories told of Newfoundlands saving passengers from sinking ships and rescuing children in trouble while playing in their favourite swimming holes. But there is one Newfoundland that showed bravery and loyalty beyond what is commonly credited to the breed. His name was Gander and he gave his life protecting Canadian and other Commonwealth soldiers on the beaches of Hong Kong Island during World War II.

"In 1940, Gander was the family pet of Rod Hayden, a resident of the town of Gander in Newfoundland. The dog's name at that time was Pal. He was well known in the town, but often mistaken as a bear by pilots landing at the airport. This gentle giant was loved by the neighbourhood children who used him to tow their sleds during winter. One day, while greeting a group of children, Pal's paw accidentally scratched the face of a six year old. Concerned that the dog might have to be 'put down', Mr. Hayden gave Pal to the 1 st Battalion of the Royal Rifles of Canada as a mascot. His new owners called him Gander, after the military base they were responsible for protecting during the war.

"Gander and the Royal Rifles were sent to Hong Kong Island in 1941 where they joined other Commonwealth troops to defend the island against attacks by the Japanese. During the Battle of the Lye Mun, Gander displayed great bravery protecting his 'newfound' friends. When the Japanese landed near the Canadian section of the beach, Gander greeted the enemy with threatening barks and attempts at biting their legs. On another occasion as Japanese troops were nearing a group of wounded Canadian soldiers, Gander surprised the enemy by charging them. For some reason, the Japanese were unwilling to shoot the dog. Instead, they changed their route and the lives of the wounded soldiers were saved.

"Gander showed his greatest and last act of bravery and loyalty during another Japanese attack. During the battle, an enemy grenade landed near a group of Canadian soldiers. Probably out of concern for his friends, Gander grabbed the grenade in his mouth and carried it to where it would do no harm. Unfortunately, the grenade exploded in Gander's mouth, killing him instantly. He had given his life saving the lives of the Canadian soldiers.

"The story of Gander's bravery, once well-known and told many times by residents of his home town, was almost forgotten. In a conversation between Mrs. Eileen Elms, who knew the dog as Pal and whose sister had been scratched by the dog, and local historian Mr. Frank Tibbo, Gander's act of bravery was mentioned. Through their efforts, Gander's story was revived and his act of bravery recognized.

"Gander, the Newfoundland dog, was posthumously awarded the prestigious Dickin Medal, equivalent to the Victoria Cross given to soldiers of the British Commonwealth for their acts of bravery. Gander was awarded the medal in August, 2000 at a Hong Kong Veterans of Canada reunion in Fredericton, New Brunswick."

Ryan, Mandy. "Gander, The Dog Gets His Due", Gander Beacon, August 21, 2000.
Tibbo, Frank, "Gander's Heroic Dog", Gander Beacon, August 14, 2000.)

(This page was researched and written by Jim Cornish, Gander, Newfoundland, Canada as part of the study of the symbols of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Skipper, Newfoundland Hero

The following story ran today in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Dog Tale A History Lesson For Children
Author Entrances Manassas Students With A Sea Story
Friday, Feb 22, 2008 - 12:08 AM Updated: 09:24 AM


"MANASSAS -- Miss Mouse, a black, 165-pound Newfoundland dog, lay quietly on the floor at Sinclair Elementary School while her owner, Hilary Hyland, told the story of a long-ago shipwreck and Newfoundland named Skipper.
In December 1919, the steamship Ethie, with 92 passengers and crew, hit a storm off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada. The crew and captain fought the storm all night, only to be forced ashore and onto some rocks the next morning after running out of coal.
In her historical fiction children's novel "The Wreck of the Ethie," Hyland recounts the story of a girl named Colleen and her father, who discovered the shipwreck. Colleen persuaded her father to send Skipper into the stormy ocean to retrieve rescue ropes tossed from the ship.
Skipper succeeded in bringing the rope to the rescuers on shore, and everyone on board was saved, including an 18-month-old girl who had to be relayed from the ship to the shore in a mail bag.
Hyland told the story in great detail Wednesday to students at Sinclair, and the children listened quietly while Hyland also told them about Newfoundlands.
Hyland said that for all they're worth as companions, Newfoundlands have their shortcomings.
"They love children and they love people," the Centreville author said. But their natural gregariousness makes them "terrible, terrible watchdogs."
Hyland told her audience of third-, fourthand fifth-graders that Skipper knew how to get the rope and bring it to shore because of his training as a fishing dog. Newfoundlands were often used to help fishermen haul in their nets, Hyland said.
The children asked her how she found out so much about the shipwreck. She told them that writing books was all about research.
She even went to Newfoundland to talk to the woman who was the baby that was rescued from the ship.
"If you can -- as an author -- I think it always helps to go to the source," Hyland said.
She pieced together much of the story from old newspaper articles, the captain's log, the passenger manifest and old weather maps.
"I love history, so I enjoy doing the research," Hyland said.
Dunia Reyes enjoyed the presentation and said she hopes Hyland keeps up the good work.
"I think she's pretty good at writing," 11-year-old Dunia said.
At the end of the presentation, Miss Mouse waited in the lobby and wagged her tail at all of the children as they returned to class."

Of course, it would be kinda hard for a Newfie to save someone if it were required to be on a leash!!!


Monday, February 18, 2008

Don't Be A "Plonker" ("Just A Dog" Reprise)

In response to not the last blog, but the one before that (whatever), we saw just how much Plonkers like "David" (probably Brent Plater in reality) dislike dogs.
Ya see, these extreme environmentalists are always going on about how much they love dogs while at the same time trying to take our off leash space away -- or resorting to nonsense about how it's harmful to dogs to be off leash. Yeah, we know, it's utterly stupid. So much so that we must include them in the long list of "Plonkers".
Of course, this begs the question, what is a "Plonker"? (We hear Mr. & Mrs. P and Aunt Heidi saying it but remain unsure of its meaning other than it just fits some people and organizations (today's judge, what a Plonker. And "David" and Plater and the GGNRA, if combined, would be the World Plonker Association).

Anyway, 'Drew and I went to Wikipedia (not quite Phyllypedia) to try to find a definition. It says, "'Plonker is a slang term of British or Australian origin whose meaning has evolved over time. Partridge in the third edition of his 'A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English' in 1949 recorded the term as 'low' slang for penis, 'since ca. 1917'. The term remains in recent use with that meaning.
By 1966, the term had also acquired the meaning of a stupid or inept person, and in the 1980s it gained very wide circulation through its frequent use in 'Only Fools and Horses', and has entered common usage. (Wordhunt appeal list Oxford English Dictionary, in association with the BBC etymological programme Balderdash & Piffle, July 2007.)"

So the point of today's blog is not to be a Plonker!!

We therefore feel it appropriate for a reprise of "Just A Dog" for all the Plonkers out there. Maybe this will assist you in getting Un-Plonkered.


"From time to time, people tell me, 'lighten up, it's just a dog,' or, 'that's a lot of money for just a dog.' They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for 'just a dog.'
Some of my proudest moments have come about with 'just a dog.' Many hours have passed and my only company was 'just a dog,' but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by 'just a dog,' and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it's 'just a dog,' then you will probably understand phases like 'just a friend,' 'just a sunrise,' or 'just a promise.' 'Just a dog' brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. 'Just a dog' brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.
Because of 'just a dog' I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me, it's not 'just a dog' but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.
'Just a dog' brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.
I hope that someday they can understand that it's not 'just a dog' but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being 'just a human.'
So the next time you hear the phrase 'just a dog.' just smile, because they 'just don't understand.'"

(Richard A. Biby)

In other words, they are "just Plonkers". And really, if you see what I mean, that says it all.


Friday, February 15, 2008

The Noble Newfoundland

(These stories are for "David" in the hopes that he will endeavor to obtain the help he needs so severely as respects his disdain for dogs.)

"The dog known as the Newfoundland dog is one of the handsomest and best beloved of the dog family. He is distinct from the Labrador dog, which is more slender in make, has a sharper muzzle and is generally 'black in colour with a tawny nose and a rusty spot over each eye'. The Labrador dog and the Eskimo have been credited with the parentage of the Newfoundland species. At home the Newfoundland is made useful for the purpose of drawing loads, being harnessed to small carts and sleighs for carrying wood and other commodities. Abroad like the prophet who 'is not without honour save in his own country', he has been found capable and worthy of much more honourable service, and his fidelity and sagacity have won for him universal esteem. He is an expert swimmer, his feet being webbed and so peculiarly adapted for the exercise. He takes to the water as though it were his natural element, and has so often carried the line to sinking ships, and rescued persons about to drown that such incidents have become quite common. The tribute paid to him by Sir Edwin Landseer, when he named his famous picture of him 'a distinguished member of the humane society', was no more poetical than just. Volumes might be filled with stories of his intelligence and prowess, and it is difficult within present limits to select a due variety of characteristic anecdotes.

The Newfoundland's Generosity
"One of the most marked characteristics of the Newfoundland dog is his generosity to a fallen foe. His temper is said to be uncertain, though this has been questioned by some who have had large experience of him under varying circumstances. Be this as it may, there are many stories told to his honour of his generosity to his enemies in the moment of victory. A Newfoundland dog, who had for some time treated with becoming dignity the impudence of some mongrels who were amusing themselves by snapping and snarling at his heels, suddenly turned and sent the crowd of persecutors flying in all directions, except the ringleader, who fell sprawling in the middle of the street, where he was about to receive the punishment he deserved when a cable car came dashing down the hill, right upon the dogs. The big dog saw the danger at once and sprang aside, but his enemy remained upon his back, too terrified to notice anything. The Newfoundland took in the situation, in a moment sprang back in front of the car, seized the cur in his teeth, and snatched him, still whining and begging for mercy, out of the very jaws of death. Laying him in the gutter, he gave a good-natured wag or two of his tail and went his way. Another Newfoundland much bothered by a small cur who was for ever barking at his heels, but who treated his assailant with sublime indifference, was on one occasion aroused to adopt drastic measures by receiving a bite on his leg. Seizing the cur by the loose skin of his back he carried him down to the quay of Cork and after letting him dangle over the water for a little while, dropped him into it. After watching the animal struggle with the water until nearly exhausted, the Newfoundland plunged in and rescued him. Mr. Jesse gives a fine illustration of this canine chivalry, witnessed at Donaghadee. 'The one dog in this case was also a Newfoundland, and the other was a mastiff. They were both powerful dogs; and though each was good-natured when alone, they were very much in the habit of fighting when they met. One day they had a fierce and prolonged battle on the pier, from the point of which they both fell into the sea; and as the pier was long and steep, they had no means of escape but by swimming a con siderable distance. Throwing water upon fighting dogs is an approved means of putting an end to their hostilities; and it is natural to suppose that two combatants of the same species tumbling themselves into the sea would have the same effect. It had; and each began to make for the land as best he could. The Newfoundland being an excellent swimmer, very speedily gained the pier, on which he stood shaking himself; but at the same time watching the motions of his late antagonist, which, being no swimmer, was struggling exhausted in the water, and just about to sink. In dashed the Newfoundland dog, took the other gently by the collar, kept his head above water, and brought him safely on shore. There was a peculiar kind of recognition between the two animals. they never fought again; they were always together: and when the Newfoundland dog had been accidentally killed by the passage of a stone waggon on the railway over him, the other languished and evidently lamented for a long time.'

"The quickness with which the Newfoundland will realise the danger of a situation and the of promptitude with which he will devise a remedy, make him in some cases a more valuable friend in need than a man could be. Human aid would have probably been too slow in the following case related by Mr. Jesse. 'In the city of Worchester, one of the principal streets leads by a gentle declivity to the river Severn. One day a child, in crossing the street, fell down in the middle of it and a horse and cart, which was descending the hill, would have passed over it, had not a Newfoundland dog rushed to the rescue of the child, caught it up in his mouth, and conveyed it in safety to the foot pavement.'

"The promptitude with which he will leap into the water to save the drowning, without waiting for any word of command, is another illustration of this faculty. Another case related by Mr. Jesse may be quoted. ' In the year 1841, as a labourer, named Rake, in the parish of Botley, near Southampton, was at work in a gravel-pit, the top stratum gave way, and he was buried up to his neck by the great quantity of gravel which fell upon him. He was at the same time so much hurt, two of his ribs being broken, that he found it impossible to make any attempt to extricate himself from his perilous situation. Indeed, nothing could be more fearful than the prospect before him. No one was within hearing of his cries, nor was any one likely to come near the spot. He must almost inevitably have perished, had it not been for a Newfoundland dog belonging to his employer. This animal had been watching the man at his work for some days, as if he had been aware that his assistance would be required; for no particular attachment to each other had been exhibited on either side. As soon, however, as the accident occurred, the dog jumped into the pit, and commenced removing the gravel with his paws; and this he did in so vigorous and expeditious a manner, that the poor man was at length able to liberate himself, though with extreme difficulty. What an example of kindness, sensibility, and I may add reason, does this instance afford us!'

"Mr. Youatt gives a remarkable illustration, also quoted by Mr. Jesse, of a Newfoundland's apparent perception of danger of quite another sort. Finding it inconvenient to keep this animal Mr. Youatt had given it to a friend, and four years passed before the dog saw his late owner again, when they met quite by chance, the two masters and the dog, on a lonely road between Wandsworth and Kingston. The dog showed every sign of pleasure at meeting his old master, but when they parted faithfully followed the new. Mr. Youatt had not proceeded far, however, when he discovered that the dog had rejoined him and was walking at his side, growling and showing every sign of anger. Looking ahead he discovered two men approaching him stealthily from behind the bushes that skirted the road. 'I can scarcely say,' says Mr. Youatt, 'what I felt; for presently one of the scoundrels emerged from the bushes, not twenty yards from me; but he no sooner saw my companion, and heard his growling, the loudness and depth of which were fearfully increasing, than he retreated, and I saw no more of him or of his associate. My gallant defender accompanied me to the direction-post at the bottom of the hill, and there, with many a mutual and honest greeting, we parted, and he bounded away to overtake his rightful owner. We never met again; but I need not say that I often thought of him with admiration and gratitude.'

"A number of well authenticated stories, seem to indicate a certain sense of right and wrong as characteristic of the more intelligent dogs; of course the idea of right and wrong being in the case of animals as in the case of men, largely a matter of education. The Newfoundland dog belonging to the Rev. J. Simpson of Potterow Church, Edinburgh, already referred to, on one occasion detained a party of friends which had been entertained by the servants during their master's absence at church, by stationing himself in front of the hall door and preventing their egress until the rev. gentleman's return. Another Newfoundland dog who belonged to a grocer, and who had seen a porter hide money behind a heap of rubbish in a stable, money which he had surreptitiously abstracted from the till, followed an apprentice into the stable on the first opportunity, and scratching away the rubbish exposed the money to view, thus leading to the detection of the thief. It is of course easy to claim too much for actions apparently so intelligent and in estimating them coincidence has to be allowed for; but they are far too numerous to be ignored in estimating canine character. An instance is recorded of a quiet docile dog who refused to allow a visitor to leave a stable, when it was discovered that the man had secreted a bridle in his pocket.

"Many illustrations might be given of the fidelity which the Newfoundland shows in common with other dogs, but one or two must suffice. A story is told of a dog who picked up a coin which his master had dropped from his purse, and which he kept in his mouth all day, refusing food until his master's return in the evening, when he laid it at his feet, and then attacked his dinner voraciously; another of a dog who on being sent home by his master with a key which he had inadvertently taken with him, was attacked by a dog belonging to a butcher, but who declined the combat until he had delivered the key, but immediately returned and attacking the butcher's dog killed him. In the first case the dog suffered the natural pangs of hunger rather than hazard his master's property, and in the second he postponed the gratification of his natural feeling of revenge until after the execution of his duty.


"The tricks to which dogs can be trained, though often amusing enough, have not the interest which attaches to the natural display of their faculties, and yet of course there is plenty of scope for the trained dog to supplement his culture by the exercise of his natural gifts, and this he often does. Perhaps one of the most remarkable of trained Newfoundland dogs, was the one possessed by Mr. McIntyre of Regent Bridge, Edinburgh. This dog was trained to perform all kinds of tricks. He would pick his master's hat out from a number of others of the same kind, or indeed almost any article of his master's from a group of similar articles. He would ring the bell to summon the servants, and if there was no bell rope in the room, find and use the hand bell with equal facility. A comb was hidden on the top of a mantel-piece in the room, and the dog required to bring it, which he almost immediately did, although in the search he found a number of articles also belonging to his master, purposely strewed around, all of which he passed over, and brought the identical comb which he was required to find, fully proving that he was not guided by the sense of smell, but that he perfectly understood what was spoken to him. One evening some gentlemen being in company, one of them accidentally dropped a shilling on the floor, which, after the most careful search, could not be found. Mr. M. seeing his dog sitting in a corner, and looking as if quite unconscious of what was passing, said to him, 'Dandie, find us the shilling and you shall have a biscuit.' The dog immediately jumped upon the table and laid down the shilling, which he had previously picked up without having been perceived. Mr. M. having one evening supped with a friend, on his return home could not find his bootjack in the place where it usually lay. He then said to his dog, 'Dandie, I cannot find my boot-jack, search for it.' The faithful animal, quite sensible of what had been said to him, scratched at the room-door, which his master opened. Dandie proceeded to a very distant part of the house, and returned carrying in his mouth the boot-jack, which Mr. M. then recollected to have left that morning under a sofa. A number of gentlemen, well acquainted with Dandie, were daily in the habit of giving him a penny which he took to a baker's shop and purchased bread for himself. One of these gentlemen, who lived in James' Square, when passing was accosted by Dandie, in expectation of his usual present. Mr. T. said to him, 'I have not a penny with me today, but I have one at home.' Having returned to his house some time after, he heard a noise at the door, which was opened by the servant, when in sprang Dandie to receive his penny. In a frolic Mr. T, gave him a bad one, which he, as usual, carried to the baker, who refused to take the bad coin. He immediately returned to Mr. Vs, scratched at the door, and when the servant opened it, laid the penny down at her feet, and walked off, seemingly with the greatest contempt. Although Dandie, in general, made an immediate purchase of bread with the money which he received, the following circumstance clearly demonstrates that he possessed more prudent foresight than many who are reckoned rational beings. One Sunday, when it was very unlikely that he could have received a present of money, Dandie was observed to bring home a loaf. Mr. M. being somewhat surprised at this, desired the servant to search the room to see if any money could be found. While she was engaged in this task, the dog seemed quite unconcerned till she approached the bed, when he ran to her, and gently drew her back from it. Mr. M. then secured the dog, which kept struggling and growling while the servant went under the bed, where she found seven pence halfpenny under a bit of cloth. From that time he never could endure the girl, and was frequently observed to hide his money in a corner of a saw-pit, under the dust. When Mr. M, had company, if he desired the dog to see any one of the gentlemen home, he would walk with him till he reached his home, and then return to his master, how great soever the distance might be. Many other stories are told about Dandie but these must suffice. Of their authenticity there seems little doubt; they were recorded by Captain Brown during the lifetime of Dandie and his master."

* * * * * * * *

Perhaps one day "David" (or his ilk) will find himself adrift at sea, pleading to God for mercy upon his vile soul. Perhaps then, in an instant, the Noble Newfoundland will appear and save him from the depths of hell. Or, perhaps not.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Truth About Dogs and Snowy Plovers

The GGNRA, aided and abetted by such utterly crazed organizations like the Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Native Nazi Societies (something like that), and Coleman Advocates for Screwed Up Children, have illegally closed off 2.2 miles of Ocean Beach and the westerly section of Crissy Field only to dogs, not humans or children or anything else. Their notion (because the science isn't there) is that despite the fact that the areas are non-critical habitat for the Western Snowy Plover ("WSP"), dogs present an "emergency" to the Plover.

Now, just how did this purported emergency come about? Let's see. The Plover was listed as "threatened" in 1993, and dogs have been allowed off leash in these areas since well before that time. So initially, you have to wonder why Plovers would ever frequent a beach where dogs are off leash if dogs actually prey upon them? Later, in 1996, when Lyin Brian O'Neill (Chief Despot of the GGNRA) wanted capital improvements through private funding at Crissy Field, he agreed that in consideration of the funding, he would not close off the westerly portion of the beach. Why wasn't there an emergency when O'Neill needed funding? Moving forward, in June, 2005, at the hearing on appeal regarding the legality of the 1979 Pet Policy, the Court plainly asked the government whether they were claiming an emergency. The answer? "No, You Honor."

So where is the emergency? Putting aside the controversy as to whether the WSP is threatened with extinction or not, the USF&WS Draft Recovery Plan for the WSP answers this question. The Recovery Plan states that the WSP does not nest or breed at the Crissy Field or Ocean Beach locations. The Draft Recovery Plan also indicates that despite implementation of best management practices, these locations hold no promise for the plover to nest or breed there in the future. According to Gary Page of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (a central contributor to the USFWS Draft Recovery Plan), this conclusion was drawn primarily because the level of human activity is too high on some California beaches to ever support a breeding population of the plover. This is consistent with the conclusions of a U.K. study which states, “Sites that are highly disturbed are not used by breeding birds, and therefore any increase in disturbance levels on these sites will not alter population size”. Thus, the state of the evidence is that the survival/extinction of the WSP population will not be impacted by the management of Ocean Beach and Crissy Field. Indeed, the GGNRA is well aware that the number of plovers on Ocean Beach is not directly related to the number of people or dogs present on the beach. The first 1996 GGNRA Report regarding the WSP and dogs at Ocean Beach concluded: “Factors other than number of people or dogs, possibly beach slope and width, appear to exert greater influence over Snowy Plover numbers on Ocean Beach.” (1996 GGNRA Report, p. 10.) Further, the GGNRA's 1996 study documented that from the time the off-leash policy was officially sanctioned in 1979, there has been an increase of more than 100 percent in the number of snowy plovers frequenting Ocean Beach. Even dog “rush hours” don’t seem to faze the plovers—at least, GGNRA observers and analysts couldn’t find any negative relationship between the number of dogs on the beach at any given time and the number of plovers on the beach at the same time.
Faced with this evidence, GGNRA officials twice acknowledged, at a December 16, 1996 “informational meeting” for San Francisco beach-goers, that banning off-leash recreation at Ocean Beach would have no effect on the number of plovers on Ocean Beach. Despite this finding, the 1996 GGNRA report still recommended the restriction of off-leash recreation at Ocean Beach and Crissy Field. How can this be anything other than an anti-dog policy?

What does the recent, unbiased evidence show?

A University of California at Berkeley Environmental Sciences study presented by Megan Warren on May 7, 2007 concludes that in the GGNRA, the feeding of the WSP is not negatively affected by human and pet recreation. This is highly significant. Because the WSP does not breed at Ocean Beach or Crissy Field, its primary essential activity is foraging and feeding. If human and pet recreation does not negatively affect those activities, there is no need to restrict recreation in these areas. The abstract states:
Recreation Disturbance Does Not Change Feeding Behavior of the Western Snowy Plover Abstract The Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) is a small shorebird that has many scattered wintering populations along the Pacific Coast of the United States, including several in the Bay Area. This species has been listed as threatened since 1993 under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. For this study I measured disturbance rates, types, plover responses and feeding time in three different sites in the San Francisco Bay Area to explore the link between recreation disturbance and feeding behavior. I predicted that as frequency of disturbance increased, the birds would spend less time actively foraging and more time alert. However, data showed no significant relationship between feeding behavior and direct disturbance by human recreators. Instead, I now predict that recreation has a more indirect effect on the western snowy plover feeding behavior. Future research should focus on indirect effects of recreation, such as habitat disturbance and food source quality."

A second example is a study entitled “Predicting the Population Consequences of Human Disturbance for Ringed Plovers Charadrius Hiaticula: A Game Theory Approach” by Durwyn Liley and William J. Sutherland. This study originates from the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ, UK. This study clarifies the following three pertinent facts:
*Sites that are highly disturbed are not used by breeding birds, and therefore any increase in disturbance levels on these sites will not alter population size
*No published study of a breeding bird quantifies the population consequences of disturbance. This is despite the fact that disturbance has been implied as a factor causing population decline for a wide range of species.
*We think of individuals [birds] as deciding not to breed rather than being prevented from doing so. Such individuals ‘queue’ for good quality territories rather than adopting a poor quality territory (such as Ocean Beach)"

The third study originates from the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ, UK., and was authored by Jennifer A. Gill, published in Ibis (2007) 149 (Suppl. 1), 9-14. It is entitled, “Approaches to Measuring the Effects of Human Disturbance on Birds”.
This study clarifies a concept that helps to explain the apparent inconsistency of WSP behavior at Ocean Beach and Crissy Field. On one hand, Ocean Beach is a highly disturbed, poor quality beach area (in large part due to erosion). Crissy Field is another highly disturbed beach environment at which the plover does not feed or breed (per the first study listed here). The GGNRA maintains that the WSP is highly susceptible to disturbance by humans and off-leash dogs. This is why the emergency rule has been promulgated. However, one must ask the question: if the WSP is highly disturbed by human and canine off-leash recreation, and the WSP does not feed at Crissy Field, why are any plovers there at all? Likewise, although the food source may be a bit better at Ocean Beach, why would the plover choose to roost there and endure the disturbance? This study concludes: “The principal way in which human presence can impact upon wildlife is by altering the ability of animals to exploit important resources. This can operate either through directly restricting access to resources such as food supplies, nesting sites or roosting sites, or by altering the actual or perceived quality of these sites. Direct restriction of access to resources can occur through animals avoiding areas where humans are
present. Changes in the quality of sites as a result of human presence could occur, for example, if predators were attracted to areas with humans, or if the presence of humans reduced the presence of prey species."

For the plovers observed roosting at Ocean Beach and Crissy Field, humans and off-leash dogs are not restricting their access to resources because the plovers are indeed there. The second alternative is that humans and off-leash dogs are altering the actual or perceived quality of these sites. The most logical conclusion is the presence of humans and their off-leash dogs reduces the presence and/or activity of prey species. This theory has been brought up by others such as the SF SPCA (Objections to the Federal Government’s Ban on Off-leash Dogs at Ocean Beach- January 9, 1997, p. 4), but was summarily dismissed by the GGNRA wildlife biologists.
It is disturbing that the subsequent 2006 GGNRA study at Ocean Beach intentionally ignores gulls, ravens and crows entirely, so there is no data available that might confirm the presence of off-leash dogs may protect the plover from birds of prey.
However, the statistics in the GGNRA's own 1996 study support this theory. During the period prior to this study, the number of plovers at Ocean Beach was increasing, even though there was no requirement for dogs to be on-leash. The maximum Snowy Plover counts for the 1979 to 1985 period ranged from 4 to 16, compared to maximum counts (since 1988) of from 38 to 85 birds (1996 GGNRA Report, p. 8). The U.K. study also evaluates the methodology of studies like the 2006 GGNRA study, which attempt to assess the distribution or behaviour of animals in the presence or absence of disturbance. “A limitation of these types of approaches is that the numbers of animals that would use these sites in the absence of disturbance is generally not known. For example, if the sites with higher levels of disturbance also have lower levels of resource availability (e.g. food or nest-sites) or higher risk of predation, then removing the source of disturbance may have no effect on the numbers of animals in the area.”

In actuality, because it is acknowledged by the GGNRA that removal of off-leash dogs will not increase the number of plovers at Ocean Beach, the question becomes, will the restriction of off-leash dogs decrease the number of plovers at Ocean Beach? There is evidence to confirm this is probable, as a similar scenario has already occurred in the GGNRA -- in an area directly adjacent to Ocean Beach, i.e., Fort Funston. Beginning in 1991, the GGNRA/NPS began destroying the Fort Funston ecosystem with the premise being protection of the California state-threatened Bank Swallow. The GGNRA/NPS maintained that the off-leash recreational activity and “exotic” plants were having a profound negative impact on the Bank Swallow. For decades, the Bank Swallow population had been thriving at Fort Funston, with their population increasing steadily even as off-leash dog walking was legally permitted and visitor use increased. In 1982, there were 229 burrows, 417 in 1987, and 550 in 1989 -- providing anecdotal evidence that dogs and Bank Swallows co-exist and thrive. After four years of closures of areas adjacent to the Bank Swallow burrows to off-leash recreation and vegetation revision, in 1995 the number of Bank Swallow burrows plummeted from 924 to 713. The only GGNRA/NPS study to evaluate the dramatic drop in numbers of the Bank Swallow concluded that increased predation, not recreational activity, was negatively affecting the birds. (Chow, N., “1994-95 Bank Swallow Annual Report”, US04906-32.) In 1996, the GGNRA/NPS failed to document the colony size, and claims to have lost all data for 1997. In 1998, the number of burrows had dropped to 140, and the GGNRA/NPS closed off the entire slope of coastal bluffs below the hang gliders. In 1998, the Bank Swallow colony fled the “Bank Swallow Protection Area,” to the “exotic” ecology and recreational activity along the south cliffs of Fort Funston.

A fourth study was peer-reviewed and accepted on November 12, 1999, and published in Biological Conservation 97 (2001) 265-268. The authors are Jennifer A. Gill, Ken Norris and William J. Sutherland. The study is entitled “Why Behavioural Responses May Not Reflect the Population Consequences of Human Disturbance”.
The authors contend, “The effect of human disturbance on animals is frequently measured in terms of changes in behaviour response to human presence. The magnitude of these changes in behavior is then often used as a measure of the relative susceptibility of species to disturbance; for example, species that show strong avoidance of human presence are often considered to be in greater need of protection from disturbance than those which do not…By contrast, species which do not avoid disturbed areas are often considered as requiring little or no protection from disturbance…From a conservation perspective, human disturbance of wildlife is important only if it affects survival or fecundity and hence causes a population to decline.”

What becomes clear after reading this study is that the GGNRA is defining avoidance behavior and what constitutes a “disturbance” in a very different manner than do other researchers. According to this study, avoidance behavior or moving constitutes an activity where the plover actually leaves the site. The 5, 10 or 20 foot flight that the GGNRA utilizes as its most severe evidence of disturbance may be relevant in breeding/nesting areas, where movement of that scale can take a plover away from its nest and eggs. In the circumstance where plovers are roosting in an area, this is not classified by other researchers as a “disturbance”. From the perspective of these authors, the plovers roosting at Ocean Beach and Crissy Field require little or no protection from disturbance because they stay at these sites.

Normally, when you don't have the facts you argue the law, and when you don't have the law you argue the facts. Here, the GGNRA has neither. Plainly and simply, this is not an environmental issue but a value issue and, as Lyin Brian O'Neill has said, "I will not have dogs running loose in my Park." Sounds a bit dictatorial, eh?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The GGNRA - Fascism At Work

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the National Park Service for failing to provide adequate facilities for the disabled. The lawsuit was filed in federal court and claims the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the National Park Service are discriminating against people with disabilities by denying them access to parks and trails. The class action claims the parks systematically excludes people with disabilities by failing to provide proper access, accommodations, signage and other services.

The recreation area is the nation's largest national park in an urban area, hosting more than 13 million visitors a year. The park area stretches over more than 75,000 acres from San Mateo County to Marin and encompasses 18 parks and landmarks, including Muir Woods and the Marin Headlands.

If you feel you should be included in this pending class action, please contact Julia Pinover of the [Disability Rights Advocates of Berkeley]

There is no question that the GGNRA hates both dogs and the disabled. They have been found by federal judges to have acted illegally in attempting to declare their own off-leash policy to be illegal. They have been found by federal judges to have acted illegally in closing off portions of Fort Funston to dogs and people, including the disabled. They have ruined the disabled trail at Fort Funston.
Despite the fact that the GGNRA is a unique, recreation-first national park, the GGNRA continues its PR campaign to attempt to convince members of the public who are unfamiliar with the enabling legislation that the Park is conservation-first. When confronted with their lies, they have no response. Worse, there is no accountability when the feds run a local Park. You can try all you like with the Department of the Interior but they could not care less. And the weasly San Francisco politicians do not wish to touch the issue because they don't want to have to manage these lands, despite the fact that they could provide necessary income for the City and jobs for the many who need them. Politicians -- about as bad as Michael Vick!

If you have any doubt about the GGNRA's anti-recreation philosophy under the reign of Lyin Brian O'Neill, here is a quote from the GGNRA's Chief of Natural Resources, Daphne Hatch: "Ocean Beach without the people is an incredible habitat. But people think of it as a sandbox or their backyard."
(San Francisco Chronicle, September 7,2005)

The GGNRA's response to this latest lawsuit (though Christine Mini-Me Powell -- O'Neill's prodigy liar) is that they have been attempting to work with disabled groups to make the Park compliant with federal law. Well the laws have been on the books for over 20 years so really, just what kind of effort has the GGNRA made? None. It's time we took back our land from these federal despots.
They don't even pass the sniff test!!

If you believe the GGNRA is sincere in complying with federal laws requring handicap access to the Park, consider the language of the Court from the off-leash litigation: "In sum, for more than twenty years, the GGNRA officially designated at least seven sites for off-leash use. This was not accidental. It was a carefully articulated, often studied, promulgation. The responsible GGNRA officials in 1978 and thereafter presumably believed they were acting lawfully. Even now, the government concedes that the GGNRA had full authority at all times to relax the general leash rule at the GGNRA but argues it could have done so, at least after 1983, only via a 'special regulation.' In other words, the agency allegedly used the "wrong" procedure back in 1978 (and thereafter) even though a 'right' procedure to reach the desired result was available and could have been used. The government has not revealed its internal justification for following the 'wrong' process. Whatever it was, the justification was abandoned in 2002 with the two-word explanation that it had been 'in error.' With this ipse dixit, the NPS wiped away two decades of policy, practice, promulgations, and promises to the public." (United States v. Barley, 405 F.Supp.2d 1121, 1124 (N.D. Cal. 2005).)

And remember, if you are not "native" to the NPS, you will be killed. Sounds alarming but true. As we speak, the NPS has "contract killers" shooting "non-native" white deer at Point Reyes. Well, the deer have been there since the 1940's, and who is the NPS or anyone else (hello Native Plant Society and Audobon Society) to say what is and is not native and to kill the latter? Sounds a bit fascist, eh? Well, what else happened before and during the 1940's? The "nativism" movement began under the Nazis, with the likes of Himmler ordering German people to only have "German" plants in their backyards. Now we have these neo-Nazis in our own backyard.

As Michael Pollin wrote in the New York Times ("Against Nativism" - May 15, 1984): "I had always assumed that the apotheosis of the native plant was a new phenomenon, a byproduct of our deepening environmental awareness. But it turns out that there have been outbreaks of native-plant mania before, most notably in Germany early in this century. According to a recent series of journal articles by German garden historians Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn and Gert Groening, pre-World War II Germany saw the rise of a natural-gardening movement 'founded on nationalistic and racist ideas' that were often cloaked in scientific jargon. Inspired by the study of 'plant sociology,' a group of landscape designers set out -- as one of their number put it in 1939 -- 'to give the German people its characteristic garden and to help guard it from unwholesome alien influences,' including foreign plants and landscape formality, which they condemned as both anthropocentric and apt to weaken the 'Nordic races.' This 'blood-and-soil-rooted' garden, as it was sometimes called, was comprised of native species and designed to look like untended German landscapes. Wolschke-Bulmahn and Groening have documented how, under National Socialism, the mania for natural gardening and native plants became government policy. A team working under Heinrich Himmler set forth 'Rules of the Design of the Landscape,' which stipulated a 'close-to-nature' style and the exclusive use of native plants. Specific alien species were marked for elimination. In 1942, a team of Saxon botanists working for the Central Office of Vegetative Mapping embarked on 'a war of extermination' against Impatiens parviflora, a small woodland flower regarded as an alien."

Now such policies are the official mandate of the National Park Service. It might as well be called the "National Socialist Park Service".

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monday, February 4, 2008

For Jack

Not a day passes when we are not thinking of you.
Not a minute passes when we are not missing you.
Not a moment passes when when we are not resting in the comfort
that you are looking over us.

A Newfound Prayer
(Patti Smith)

"Child with heart so raven wild
I have known you well
I have guarded you in sleep
and with the morning bell
we would tramp the blessed field
ramble through the pine
all my loyalty was yours
all your joys were mine

We would camp upon the bank
to watch the sails that sped
I would offer you my back
to rest your dreaming head
all of our adventures
in existence but a sigh
moccasins as silent
as arrows in the sky

In nature is a song
that from the spirit flows
from the wild I came
to the wild I will go
and grant I meet you there
when time will turn to air
to shepherd you in heaven
this is my newfound prayer."