Tag Archives: dog

Baboon Dog Syndrome

Deformed+wolf.+A+wolf+taken+down+by+hunters+in+Russia_7e8c75_4766173Having been raised by wolves, I was naturally quite interested to find the photo at right wandering around the internet.  What was this curious little beastie?  Photoshop was the word that sprang immediately to mind, but the reality is that this poor critter is (likely) real, and exhibits a spinal deformity common enough to have a name: baboon dog syndrome.

The name appears to have originated in South Africa, where enough animals were found exhibiting this condition that the locals had a name for it.  It’s not endemic to wolves, of course: according to the references below, the South Africans saw the issue in dogs, and apparently it’s also been seen in foxes and other wild canids.  Baboon dog syndrome is differentiated from achondroplasia/dwarfism in that the latter (usually/often) produces animals with shortened limbs and a normal-length spine (resembling a Corgi) while baboon dog syndrome produces animals with what appear to be normal limbs under a half-length or apparently “missing” spine, and often a “bob” tail.

Here are the best references I was able to find online:

  • This forum thread contains references to Genetics for Dog Breeders, by Frederick  Bruce Hutt, which notes an inherited abnormality in dogs which results in an extreme shortening of the entire spinal structure; an illustration of an image by David Klocker Ehrenstrahl of a “fox-dog cross” (unlikely due to differences in chromosomal number) with the condition (Google does not reveal this painting); and a reference to How to Breed Dogs, by Leon Whitney, which supposedly contains a photo of the skeleton of a baboon dog.
  • This thread references a book called Animal Genetics, also by Frederick Bruce Hutt.  Google Books indicates this book mentions “the baboon dogs of de Boom”, described by Dr. H P A de Boom of the Veterinary Laboratory at Ondestepoort in South Africa, and contains photos of such dogs, showing the “typical humped back, short tail, and apparent lack of any neck”.  The dogs are also mentioned in Comparative aspects of reproductive failure, a paper presented at a conference at Dartmouth Medical School in 1966.
  • This imgur thread has some photos of modern-day dogs with the disorder, including this one, as well as a fox and the above wolf photo.
  • animatedgifofPigThis reddit thread contains photos of a dog named Pig who appears to have the syndrome.  A link sends you to the Do Day Day Dog Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, where Pig appeared with her owner Kim Dillenbeck.  A news article on Pig, with video, and some more details about her, is available here.  Pig is visible in the animated GIF above right.
  • This thread contains photos of a horse with the same condition.
  • This page has a passing reference to a similar-appearing condition being caused, in mice, by an overabundance of vitamin A during gestation, which affects expression of the HOX gene.
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Sometimes I Know Too Much

Today, on my Facebook feed, amongst the photos of kittens with yarn and puppies adorably chewing their own feet, this photo of a pile of euthanized dogs wandered past:

source unknown

source unknown

It was accompanied by a bland but well-meaning glurge poem in which a dog wonders why it had to die despite solvable behavior problems.  Now, I completely agree that solvable behavior problems are no reason to drop your dog off at the shelter (I believe firmly in Not Shooting The Dog), but the poem, alas, misses the point: the horror of this photo does not lie solely in that there are dead dogs in it.  It lies at least partly in how they died: these poor things are in a gas chamber, and have just been gassed to death, likely with CO2.  This is the view the shelter technician saw upon opening the door afterwards.  (When this image is fed into Google image search, it turns up dozens of articles on gas chambers, and how horrible they are.)

That animals are euthanized at all, because people still view them as property, as a commodity, as something to be “dumped” when they become obnoxious or ill or old or inconvenient, is a terrible thing.  That animals are still “euthanized” by CO2 is an even more terrible thing.  The people spreading this photo are missing a huge opportunity to note that not only did these dogs die because people are occasionally irresponsible morons, they died in a terrible, awful, unbelievably frightening and ugly way.  (Click on that link, which contains video, at your peril.)  They were twice the victims of human carelessness: the first time by the actions of those who landed them in the shelter, and the second by the actions of those who thought “lowest cost” was the primary requirement when choosing a method of humane euthanasia.

This is one of those sad points where I have to give up and flail helplessly at the screen.  The words all mush together into one big AUGH.  I applaud the people trying to spread the word about what we are doing to our companion animals, and can’t fault them for their choice of photo.  I wish that the Machine wasn’t so huge that thinking about one part of it (“convenience dumping” of “excess” animals) didn’t lead to the discovery of another, equally awful part (“euthanasia” of dogs by CO2).  I think what is scaring me the most, right now, though, is that I know enough about the world to glance at this photo and immediately recognize it as a gas chamber rather than a freezer.  I’m glad I know about it — I’d rather know than not — but sometimes I miss the quiet-in-the-head of not knowing this is happening.  It was rather peaceful.

Shelter Stories II

“It’s time to give her up for adoption,” says Mom.  The dog is a smiling, amazingly obese Basset, drooping, bemused, her tail gently wagging.

“She just doesn’t like my grandchild.  She’s snapped at him a few times.  And he just wants to hug her and love on her — we just can’t take the chance that something will happen.”  Mom finds tears in her eyes, fishes for a tissue.  “We have two other dogs — they’re fine.  It’s just her.  She’s just not good with small kids — he’s two.  And he’s staying with us now, there’s nothing we can do.

“She’s my baby — but he’s my baby.  I don’t want to give her up…”

Wag, wag, wag.  The dog’s nails are long and untrimmed, and she is wider than she is tall, but she is smiling, smiling.  Dad hands the leash to a shelter volunteer.  Out the door they go, one last glance back, and as the departing car goes past the front door the dog pushes her face against the glass, puzzled.

A mother with two small children and another imminent comes in, reluctantly giving up a kitten for which she simply has no time.  The kids, aged around four and five, spot the recently surrendered dog and come wiggling over.  They sit in front of her, pelt her face with their hands, giggle and squeal, marvel at her shortness and wideness.  The volunteer holding the dog’s leash keeps a wary eye on her face, watching for the slightest sign of tension, the merest inclination to snap.

Wag, wag, wag.

The dog stands patiently, gives and accepts kisses, and her smiling expression never changes, although her eyes stray to the door.

Dog Joins the Monkeysphere

This is just another instance wherein an animal which comes to community attention as an individual (rather than as an anonymous member of a group) suddenly joins the Monkeysphere and becomes worthy of a social bond.

Nobody wanted to adopt an anonymous beagle when he was one of hundreds of unwanted dogs and cats at a shelter in Alabama.  “Hundreds of unwanted dogs and cats” is a huge, vague concept, and it’s hard to form a social bond with, or feel one is personally able to help, “hundreds of unwanted dogs and cats”.  However, once he was brought to national consciousness as an individual dog with a name, people fought over the right to adopt him and a home was almost immediately found.

This is, by the way, why savvy shelters post individual web pages for each animal, with a little story about each, and a name for everybody.  It’s hard to open your heart to “181406M”, but it’s easy to find a soft spot for “Daniel”.

(Daniel, by the way, now has his own blog, and is working to abolish the use of gas chambers for euthanasia of pets in Pennsylvania via Daniel’s Law.  See what you can do when you have a name?)