George G. Vest & A Eulogy of A Dog | Full Cry: A Hound Blog

Bedtime Stories: George G. Vest | Full Cry: A Hound Blog.

Last week Full Cry made us aware of the story of the “Eulogy of the Dog.”

Full Cry, in more detail, tells the story of Missouri lawyer George G. Vest (who would later become US Senator George G. Vest, above) and how he came to represent a client named Charles Burden in his lawsuit regarding the death of his best foxhound, Old Drum.

Vest’s closing argument, delivered on Sept. 23, 1870,  on behalf of his client and his dog quickly became famous among dog lovers.  Here it is, in full:

“The best friend man has in the world may turn against him and become his worst enemy. His son, or his daughter, that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and good name may become traitors to their faith. The money a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our head.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground when the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only to be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince.

When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wing, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune dries his master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege that that of accompanying him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when that last scene comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there, by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful, and true, even in death.”

Well said.

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A Vet Planet Interview With Eric Goebelbecker of Dog Spelled Forward

Eric Goebelbecker is a dog trainer in Bergen County, NJ and the author of the popular blog Dog Spelled Forward.

Eric is also an instructor at St. Hubert’s Dog Training School, a member of the board of the International Association of Behavior Consultants and a regular blog contributor at Dog Star Daily.

VP:  You’re an advocate of a ‘Real Man’ paying an honest wage for honest work.  Why is this so important in successful training?  And why do you think that a stigma of a sort exists in some quarters about trainers using treats?

EG: If you want to train a dog it’s important to understand what a reward is and how it works. It’s also important to understand that training with rewards does not and should not always mean training with food.
One of the fundamental misunderstandings people on both sides of the food vs. no food argument is the difference between a reward and a bribe. A bribe is shown before the behavior and a reward comes after. That simple difference makes all the difference in the world: I can get just about any dog to something with food in front of her nose (unless she’s a resource guarder of course) but get the food out of sight and smell and it’s a whole different ball game, isn’t it?
I think this misunderstanding is one of the first barriers to accepting training with rewards. Some opponents seem unwilling or unable to learn how to do it right, while others have been shown how to do it wrong and resist it with good reason.
The other is the myth of the “Disney Dog” that Jean Donaldson debunks in “The Culture Clash.” So many people believe that once you declare yourself a dog’s owner she should then decide that you must be obeyed, and that any use of food is somehow a compromise. You can build a strong relationship with a dog, but it takes time and it helps to understand that one of the definitions of a relationship is a “history of reinforcement.” Think about the people (and dogs) you voluntarily spend your time with. There’s something reinforcing that keeps bringing you back, isn’t there?
VP: You’re also a big believer in the essential roles eye contact and attention play in successful training.  Can you explain their value?

EG: Eye contact is a way to use body language to communicate. Dogs find body postures much more meaningful than spoken language, and creating that simple way to say “I am paying attention to you” is critical to any success. In addition, if you can redirect a dog’s gaze you may be able to redirect her attention. This can avoid a lot of problems and is the first skill I was taught to teach dogs that are aggressive on leash.
If they are given a chance to learn how, dogs love play. It can be as reinforcing as food, sometimes even more. Go to a well run dog park or doggie day care. What are the dogs doing? They’re playing! In the very first week of my basic class I explain and demonstrate how to use play as an alternative for food.
Play also strengthens relationships. Marc Bekoff has written a lot about this, as has Stuart Brown, who popularized the famous “Polar Bear and Husky at Play” slideshow a few years ago.

VP: On Dog Spelled Forward, you talk about pet owners developing their own good leash skills in order to counter on-leash aggression.  What are some simple things that dog walkers can do to ease instances of aggression?

EG: Many aggression issues start on leash. Having a tether attached to your neck can be very frustrating, especially if it is associated with pain and/or not being able to get to what you want.
The first thing one can do is make walking on leash be about walking on leash and paying attention to you. Here’s where that eye contact comes in again! Another is to be proactive: pay attention to your environment and be ready to either redirect your dog’s attention or just change your direction of travel. Discretion is often the better part of valor.
Last, focus on what you want and reward it. Too many people focus on punishing the dog for pulling or straying off the path and instead of rewarding her when she walks nicely.
VP:  Cesar Milan and his approach to dog training occupy such a prominent platform at the moment.  I know that you don’t wholly endorse his approach.   Could you speak briefly to the reasons why the notions of ‘pack leaders’ and ‘alpha’ psychology are scientifically suspect?

EG: First and foremost, dogs are not wolves. Over the past decade we have seen more and more studies showing us how the process of domestication has given dogs unique skills for living and communicating  with us. They follow a pointed finger, which other primates can’t do, they follow our gaze (something they don’t do with each other) and they read human faces the way humans do (again; differently than they do each other’s.)
“Pack theory” and Millan have us pretending to be dogs or wolves. Pinning them to the ground (which they don’t do to each other anyway,) pretending to bite necks with our hands, eating first, and even, amazingly, spitting in food. (Not Millan, but some other trainers that espouse pack theory.) If dogs are so well suited to communicate with humans, why spend so much time trying to be something else?
Second, wolf packs don’t work the way “pack theory” describes anyway. There is no constant struggle for dominance. Wolf packs more closely resemble family units, and if a wolf doesn’t like the management he leaves and forms his own pack. David Mech, the researcher who coined the phrase “alpha wolf,” has all but recanted on Youtube.

VP: One of the myths you’ve dispelled on DSF is the idea that you shouldn’t introduce a puppy to other dogs & people too soon because she might get sick.  I had actually believed that this was a sound precaution with puppies.  But it turns out they need that social experience.  Are there some other major myths you run into frequently?

EG: I think the biggest myth I see is that placing a metal “choker,” or more properly a “training collar,”  on a dog will magically make her stop pulling on leash. The most amazing part is that many of the people that believe this myth will be pulled down the street by their dogs this evening.
Another is a variation on pack theory: that in a multi-dog household one dog must be alpha and that the people in the household must support him or her by feeding first, letting her through doors first, have toys first, etc. Two or more dogs may establish a pecking order, but it tends to be fluid and can often adapt to the situation. People tend to mess up doggy politics and are better off insisting on polite behavior from all of the dogs, and not picking favorites.
VP:  You talk of an ‘aha’ moment you had when you were first introduced to modern dog training with you puppy Caffeine.  You had petted Caffeine and the trainer abruptly told you that maybe this wasn’t the thing to do.  Why was this an eye-opening moment for you?

EG: This was my object lesson in “the dog decides what is reinforcing.” When Caffeine is working or playing (she doesn’t really see the difference) she does not want to be touched; she wants the ball, the tug, or the treat. Being shown that “in situ” had a tremendous impact on me.
I could offer you a piece of the finest chocolate in the world, but it you just finished a half pound steak with vegetables, potatoes, and gravy, you might not be hungry. It wouldn’t matter how good the candy was or how much my feelings were hurt; you’re not hungry.
VP:  And finally, any thoughts on the Packers beating the Eagles?

I was never much of a football fan, and Vick pretty much eliminated any enjoyment I could get from the game. I think if I spoke my mind it would make a lot of football fans very upset.
I think next year will be the year for the Devils though.
VP: Thanks for talking with us.

(Interviews with Vet Planet do not imply any endorsement of AVT or its products.)

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African Wild Dogs with 10 Puppies | Dancing Dog Blog

The Dancing Dog Blog has a great post about some new residents at the Brookfield Zoo — ten new, incredibly cute african wild dog puppies (check out the video below).  As usual, the Dancing Dog shines a bright light in interesting places!

The Dancing Dog inspired us to read a bit more about African Wild Dogs.  Did you know that no two African Wild Dogs have the same markings? The pattern on each coat is a distinguishing characteristic for each individual!  You can learn more about African Wild dogs, the existential crisis facing this species & how to get involved at the African Wildlife Foundation site.

And if you want to see  a great clip of these animals in the wild, check out this clip from Planet Earth:

Dog Might Provide Clues on How Language Is Acquired –

An article in the NY Times today tells the story of Chaser (above), a border Collie in Spartanburg, SC that knows 1,022 nouns.  She was taught the words by a retired psychology professor, John W. Pilley,  who worked with her up to five hours a day.  When he got tired of teaching nouns, they moved on to grammar!

What is perhaps most interesting about this story is that the journal Behavioural Processes has accepted Prof. Pilley’s article on his experimentation with Chaser, believing that the work was not tainted by a Clever Hans effect.   If you don’t know the story of this famous horse (below, being clever), check it out here–it’s definitely worth the read.


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VP Interviews Douglas C. Jack of VetBlawg™

Douglas C. Jack has been practicing veterinary law since 1986.  In 2001, he started his own firm dedicated to the veterinary practice.

He is a charter and founding member and past president of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association.  He is a guest lecturer at several universities, author of two books on veterinary practice management and regularly lectures at veterinary conferences.

He also maintains the veterinary law blog, VetBlawg™.  (

Vet Planet:  You will be co-ordinating the program at the 2011 VHMA Legal Symposium in Chicago this April.   One of the topics you will be addressing is “Negotiating the Employment Agreement.”  What are some of the key considerations for veterinarians and practice managers in this area?

DJ: The principle purpose of any Employment Agreement is to ensure that both parties, the employer and the employee, have the highest degree of “certainty” in the relationship.  To this end, it is preferable that such a contract be as comprehensive as possible ensuring that you deal with fundamental issues such as compensation models, bonus provisions, job descriptions and any benefits that the employ can participate in such as continuing education allowances and any medical/dental plans.  Depending on the jurisdiction in which the practice is, employers might consider the introduction of a reasonable non-competition covenant.  Don’t forget to include provisions relating to confidentiality.

Vet Planet:  Are there some common mistakes that can be avoided?

DJ: Generally speaking, the failure of any agreements often rests in attempting to be unduly complicated in compensation models – sticking to a strict salary or hourly wage is generally preferable.  Remuneration provisions based upon production (billings) need to be carefully and precisely drafted in order to avoid interpretation disputes in the future.

Vet Planet:  One of your New Year’s resolution suggestions on your blog, VetBlawg™, is for veterinarians to demonstrate a sense of compassion when they encounter an unexpected adverse result.  Why is this so important?

DJ: In my experience, many client complaints can be avoided by having the practitioner merely acknowledge the sense of loss that an animal owner feels when an unexpected outcome arises in the clinic.  By demonstrating a sincere sense of empathy the practitioner can avoid disputes which sometimes lead to legal actions or complaints to the regulatory authorities.

Vet Planet:  And do veterinarians need to fear that an apology is a legal admission of culpability?

DJ: There is no authority for the assumption that an apology amounts to an admission of liability; in fact, some jurisdictions in both the United States and Canada have passed specific legislation confirming this notion and also dictating that an apology cannot be introduced as evidence of culpability.  On the contrary, I strongly advocate that an apology should be offered by the clinician as a demonstration of genuine compassion for the client.

Vet Planet:  Email communication and social networking are becoming increasingly prevalent and effective marketing tools for veterinary practices.  Are there any unique legal issues that arise in this type of promotion that practices ought to be aware of?

DJ: The increase in the use of social media is exciting and an innovative means of communicating with clients in the manner that many clients actually prefer; the obvious legal concerns relate to the ethical and legal obligation for client communications to be confidential.  As there is no universally accepted mode of encryption, there is always the risk that a message sent through “cyberspace” may be misdirected.  In this regard, the risk of an errant message should be raised with the client with a view to having the client specifically acknowledge the risk and confirm the instructions to proceed with the use  of the new media.

Vet Planet:  You addressed the American Association of Veterinary State Boards in September and spoke from your perspective as counsel to licensees dealing with disciplinary matters.  You spoke of the confusion that can sometimes arise around these regulatory bodies when they present themselves as advocates for the profession.  Why is clear veterinary legislation so important?

DJ: In my experience there is confusion among practitioners as to the role the licensing board plays – in virtually every jurisdiction in North America the primary role is to protect the public interest.  To this end, when a licensing board investigation is underway the prudent practitioner will exercise some caution in providing responses in that all such responses could potentially be used against the interests of the practitioner.

Vet Planet:  You have been practicing veterinary law for twenty five years.  The law offices of Douglas C. Jack have been dedicated solely to veterinary practice for a decade.  How has the practice of counseling veterinary practices changed during your career?

DJ: My sense is that the most significant change has been in the attitude of animal owners towards their professional veterinary advisors.  In the early years veterinarians, like other professionals, enjoyed a sense of respect by the public that seems to have eroded in more recent years.  As such, animal owners now have a higher level of contempt and aggression when things go wrong and have a heightened litigious  approach.

Vet Planet:  Have the nature of the cases evolved?

DJ:  In terms of defending veterinarians in malpractice cases, I would say that there are now more cases based upon alleged ethical breaches than in the past.

Vet Planet:  And when you look forward to the next decade of advising veterinary clients, what are some of the large issues or changes you see on the horizon?

DJ: Given the impact of the human/animal bond, my expectation is that we will see an increase in litigation from animal owners who feel a deep sense of emotional loss.  The courts have yet to establish a clear trend in awarding damages for the loss of companionship – as such I think there is likely to be some substantial evolution to take place.

Vet Planet:  Finally, on a bit of a lighter note: over the years you must have run into some odd and funny cases.  Are there any that you can share that some of our veterinarian readers might appreciate?

DJ: While not particularly funny, I’m always amazed at the lack of good judgement exercised by some veterinarians and their laystaff in terms of proceeding without the consent of the owner.  In one case a veterinarian presented with a dog for dental work, decided to, without the consent of the owner, proceed to spay the dog.  In a more recent case a veterinary technician elected to euthanize a companion animal that was presented to the clinic by a person who was not the animal’s owner and without advising the veterinarian (who was not even in the clinic at the time) that she was going to proceed.  Surely such actions go far, far beyond the scope of any reasonable judgment with potentially very serious legal consequences for the clinic owner.

Vet Planet: Thanks for talking with us Doug.

DJ: You’re entirely welcome.

(Interviews on Vet Planet do not imply endorsement of AVT or its products.)