Kristi Sherling’s Passing

The Tibetan Mastiff Community around the world lost a great protector with the passing of KRISTINA ‘Kristi’ SHERLING in Oregon on August 31st after a battle against cancer. Kristina had such a passion for all animals but especially fought hard to maintain the integrity of the native Tibetan Mastiff . She would teach anyone who would listen, in any country, that breeding for correct structure and temperament not only kept a dog healthy but also made it able to do the job it was born to do. With her passing, her love for the Tibetan Mastiff will now live on in her puppies as they grow and have their puppies and for generations to come.

Photo of Kristina Sherling by Sanna Sanderkristi-sherling-photo

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Four Dog’s Sake (Mae December Mystery), by Lia Farrell

A review reposted from, 7 March 2016, by Don Messerschmidt

Publisher: Camel Press
Formats: Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

“‘This damn case,’ Wayne said aloud and hit his steering wheel with his open palm. He had never come across a case with such a dearth of actual evidence. They didn’t have a murder weapon. Since the murder had been committed with a needle and not a gun, and they had never found the syringe, there was no blood spatter to analyze or bullet to track back to a weapon. Without that syringe, there were no fingerprints that would point to the killer. They had no DNA, no trace evidence, and the only indication of assault on Chester’s body was the needle mark on his toe.”

In this cozy murder mystery, the plot revolves around the death of a young man, a diabetic named Chester Willis, age 41. The medical examiner lists it as a “probable suicide” from an overdose of insulin. But Dr. Lucy Ingram has her doubts. She had recently treated Chester for an unrelated accident, and having talked with him and observed him carefully, she feels that he was highly unlikely to commit suicide. “No matter what, Chester Willis wouldn’t kill himself,” she said aloud, shaking her head.

“Suspicion was growing deeper in her mind. If somebody had driven Chester Willis to suicide or murdered him, she had to know who… and why.”

With that commitment, the plot is off and running. After Dr. Ingram convinces the medical examiner to do a second autopsy, he finds an injection site on Chester’s toe, from which it is apparent that someone deliberately killed him.

Throughout the book’s 43 short chapters we follow four main characters trying to solve the homicide. Two characters are officially investigating the case – Sheriff Ben Bradley and Chief Detective Wayne Nichols. Dr. Ingram MD is also committed, having set the investigation in motion. There’s also Mae December, the Sheriff’s girlfriend. She boards, trains, and breeds dogs, and maintains an on and off presence in the background, along with her four canines: two Welsh corgis, a black pug, and the newest member of the canine menagerie, a basset hound puppy named Cupcake who was a birthday present for the sheriff’s young son, Matt.

Several other characters also figure in the story, including a newly appointed investigator named Dory and other members of the Sheriff’s staff.

On the other side of the plot is Willis Senior, Chester’s father, who dies of heart failure within days of Chester’s murder, and whose will and the allocation of his sizeable wealth, suggests a motive for Chester’s death. One of the prime suspects in the murder is Rick Willis, Chester’s older brother who, along with his girlfriend Meredith, has debts to pay and acts suspiciously. And, not least, there’s a financially struggling young massage therapist name Brooke to whom Willis Senior had recently decided to bequeath his deceased wife’s jewelry.

When Dory, the new investigator on the sheriff’s staff, tells Detective Wayne “I can’t see her [Brooke] killing anyone,” the chief detective responds that “Anyone can kill, given a sufficiently strong motivation.”

There are many threads to this mystery, many characters to keep track of (though the author does a good job of guiding us along), many clues and leads to follow, and many loose ends, all the way to an interesting conclusion. The end of the story is one that some clever and attentive readers may puzzle out well before the last page, but probably not.

Four Dog’s Sake is the fourth in the Mae December mystery series, after One Dogs Too Many, Two Dogs Lie Sleeping, and Three Dog Day. But the dogs in Four Dog’s Sake seem to be too deep in the background to be heralded in the book’s title, and some readers (looking for a good dog story) will come away disappointed. They simply play two small a role, though we have to laugh when the basset hound pup keeps stepping on his exceedingly long, floppy ears.

Despite the minor role that dogs play in the story, Four Dog’s Sake is a good, easy read, of an evening or two, while sitting with your own favorite dog by your feet.

P.S. The author, Lia Farrell is a mother-daughter team, consisting of Lyn Farquhar and Lisa Fitzsimmons, both of whom know how to write mystery novels, dogs and all.

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My Dog Is Better Than Your Dog (Crimebiters! #1) by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by Adam Stower

A review reposted here from, April 22, 2016, by Don Messerschmidt

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | iBooks

In this book for 8- to 12-year-old kids, Jimmy lives in a world where his mom is away at work every day, his father is always off job-hunting, his bossy older sister gives him fits, and at least one of the baby-sitters he has to cope with is a bit weird. What Jimmy wants is a dog to befriend, to keep him company, and to relate to. For a long while, it’s not on. Then, one afternoon, his father tell him it is time, and Jimmy (who narrates the whole story) tells us how he got a strange little dog called Abby – how it all started, that is.

“When I walked in to the Northport Animal Rescue Foundation (otherwise known as Northport ARF!), dogs and cats of all shapes and sizes tried to get my attention. It was like a kickball game and I was the captain, and they were all yelling, ‘Pick Me! Pick Me!” But it wasn’t a kickball game. It was real life, and they all wanted me to take them home so they could feel safe and warm and loved.”

Back in a corner cage they found “a scruffy little dog” who looked like “a combination of a thousand different breeds” with spots and stripes, and different colored eyes and different shaped ears and “a big black streak of fur right down his back, almost like a cape” wearing the “cutest, saddest face I’d ever seen.”

“In other words,” Jimmy concludes, “he was awesome.”

It was love at first sight, and when they left the animal shelter they took that awesome critter home, and named him Abby. And it is soon clear that Abby is not only scruffy and awesome, but over-the-top bright.

And so it begins, a kid’s dog story that gradually works its way up into a rollicking good mystery. And along the way, somewhere vaguely in the background (at least in Jimmy’s mind), there’s a vampire. Kids’ books these days seem, all seem to have a vampire. (Personally, this reviewer couldn’t find a vampire in this story, but that’s alright. Jimmy knows where it is… somewhere; maybe it’s Abby!)

What’s really good about this book is how the boy and the dog bond, and what they teach each other about life, and how the overly smart mutt solves a seriously strange mystery.

Along the way, various facts of wisdom and common sense for growing are embedded in the story. For example, after they had visited the animal shelter ‒ FACT: If you consider yourself not that popular of a person, go to an animal shelter. You will feel really popular, really fast.

And, after having eaten something vile that a concerned baby-sitter fixed for Jimmy ‒ FACT: Nothing good for you tastes good. Everybody knows that. Whatever she served him tasted vile, and no matter how hard Jimmy tried to get the taste of it out of his mouth ‒ FACT: Toothpaste is no match for garlic and kelp.

This is the sort of book, written for pre-teens, that is recommended for the boy who shows little interest in reading. Once he gets into this story, he’ll likely be hooked on books for life. It’s a good read.

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From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us about Life, Death, and Being Human by B.J. Hollars

Reviewed by Don Messerschmidt at, February 4, 2016

FDrom the Mouths of Dogs_COVER

This book is for animal lovers, particularly dog lovers. It is best described as a combination of ethnographic memoir and sincere revelation of what dogs can do for us and what dogs and humans can learn from each other. B.J. Hollars is a creative writer who has a deep and abiding love for ‘man’s best friend,’ and an innate skill for conducting empathetic research seeking lessons to learn and to live by. In fact, the book’s 10 chapters are divided evenly into those two parts: I‒Lessons Learned, with chapter titles like ‘Sniffing for Trouble,’ ‘Old Dogs, New Shticks,’ and ‘I Left My Heart in Hartsdale’; and II‒Lessons Lived, with titles like ‘Bingo Was Her Name,’ ‘The Bionic Dog,’ and ‘Travels with Sandy.’

The book’s frontispiece is a photo of Hollars as a small boy with Sandy, his beloved dog. Several times in the book, he refers back to his affection for Sandy, who passed on years ago. But, it took him many years and the writing of this book before Hollars finally put the ashes of his childhood companion to rest, at the end of the story.

In the prologue, the author describes himself “not as a scientist, sociologist, or animal behaviorist, but as a humble writer and avid dog walker” who wonders what lessons can be gleaned from the dog at the end of the leash. And, he writes, “while this book may masquerade as a narrative on the human-animal bond, make no mistake, my primary interest remains with the humans. What can pets teach us? Or, to put it differently: what can we learn when we listen?”

Along the way he’s attentive to both dog and human behavior of all kinds, and how they interact. He pulls no punches and tells it like it is, about the lives and times of dogs and of their human caretakers (or is it the other way around?).

As we travel with B.J. Hollars around America’s upper Midwest and the East, he introduces us to a range of provocative issues, including dog rescue and contemporary pet care, animal cruelty, prosthetic devices for disabled pets, the pet industry in contemporary society and the economy, pet population statistics, how dogs impact human well-being and health, pet cemeteries, and the inspiration that our pets – especially dogs – give us.

Under how pets affect our general well being, he writes that owning a pet “appears to benefit virtually all people in some manner,” particularly seniors. Having a dog around, he says can “provide far more than a boost in morale; scientifically speaking, they boost the immune system as well. Recent studies have linked petting a dog with a drop in blood pressure, and owning one has the potential to fortify the heart, lower cholesterol, even help fight depression.”

On the flip side of the coin, meet Bruiser, a seriously impaired dog needing physical, emotional and moral support from his human companions. Bruiser suffers from bilateral elbow dysplasia; in short, he can’t walk. Under normal circumstances Bruiser would probably have been put down as a helpless cripple. But he wasn’t. Instead, he’s a cherished pet of proud owners.

So, how does he get around? – on the ‘Bruiser Cruiser,’ a device with wheels on which he has learned to scoot about.

His owners tell the book’s author some of the great lessons that Bruiser has taught them. One is “that you can’t believe in can’t… You have to be willing to try. Bruiser has more spunk and more spirit and more drive than most dogs.” And when people meet Bruiser they see a dog who can and does, and who silently tells us: “See me for what I am and not for what I have.”

The lesson learned by Bruiser’s story is No.3 in the book: ‘Don’t Believe in Can’t.” Some other lessons highlighted by the stories in this book are ‘Live Your Life with Hope,’ ‘Be Positive,’ and ‘Help Others Any Way You Can.’

This inspiring study is recommended for animal lovers, and for lovers of life in general.

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks



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Embracing the Wild in Your Dog by Bryan Bailey


Embracing the Wild in Your Dog by Bryan Bailey

by Laura Novak on December 23, 2015
Publisher: Taming the Wild, LLC
Formats: Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The book Embracing the Wild in Your Dog, by Bryan Bailey, discusses how dogs relate more to wolves than to our anthropomorphic notions of dogs. It explains and gives examples of how dogs behave in, react to, and experience the world through the eyes of their wolf ancestors. The book presents many common-sense scenarios on the behaviors that many dogs perform which owners struggle with today. The author ties in how these same types of behaviors can be explained away by looking at wolves, and how they actually play a vital role in wolves’ survival in the wild. The author presents plenty of evidence to support his case that dogs behave like wolves despite many decades of selective breeding.

Written in first-person narrative the book is informative and well written. Grammar and editing is correct with few errors, if any. The author presents his information clearly and professionally, but does sometimes become repetitive about a specific subject and starts to ramble, making his chapters slightly long. He makes up for it, though, by keeping the reader intrigued with small stories of his personal experiences. His writing, while coherent, does not follow a linear progression, and sometimes the timeline is hard to follow if the reader is not paying close attention. The author enthralls his readers by relaying many stories of his experiences along the way, giving a more personal insight of his individual involvement with his clients. This also helps the readers relate to specific situations in the book and causes the reader to become invested emotionally. Selected quotes from other sources headline each chapter and give a poetic introduction to the subject matter about to be discussed.

Overall the book is captivating, well written, and very informative. It allows people to come to a better understanding of dog behavior, dogs’ wolf ancestry, and why they continue to display many of the same survival mannerisms today. It also points out how our mistaken perception of our pets as small, furry human beings is completely incorrect.

Interview with Bryan Bailey

Q. Why do you think it is so important for potential dog owners to understand dog behaviors relating to wolves?

A. All dog behaviors find their roots in wolf behaviors. Selective pressures created by thousands of years of domestication have caused some behaviors in dogs not to activate as readily as they would have with a wolf, but nevertheless, the behaviors are still there. Therefore, if you ever strive to modify your dog’s behavior to conform to your human existence, you will need to understand and address the natural mechanisms given to the wolf by nature to enable it to survive in a non-human existence. This is necessary because the wolf passed these same mechanisms to our dogs who continue to use them even though they live with humans. Dog owners who are not aware of these natural mechanisms will approach their dog’s training from a humanistic standpoint and try to train it like they would a human. Unfortunately, successful methodologies used in modifying human behavior fail to modify wolf and dog behavior.

Q. How do you feel your background experience has helped you to see and understand that dogs behaved as wolves and how does that knowledge tie in with how you interact with teaching dog owners?

A. My ability to observe wolves in the wild, that had yet to become fearful of humans, coupled with the many insights passed to me by my mentor regarding their behavior, was truly a blessing and became the cornerstone of my future studies and teachings. For over thirty years, my clients have benefited from my knowledge because I have taught them how to view the world through the eyes of a domestic wolf and not a little person in a fur coat. By doing so, they were able to adjust their dog’s behavior in a way that their dog easily and readily understood, resulting in a more reliable response to their commands and with more spirit.

Q. In your book you tend to portray owning dogs as a much more difficult task and some would say that after reading this book, owning a dog breed with the potential of behavior issues would be the last thing they’d want to contend with. What would you say to this?

A. Owning a dog is not difficult at all. Owning a well-behaved dog that conforms peacefully, cooperatively, and safely with you and your family is what is difficult if you are today’s average American dog owner. I explain why I believe this in the chapter titled, “Will.” As for the second part of the question, contending with dog breeds with the potential of deadly aggression should be more of a concern than contending with those that have the potential of behavior issues in general. For example, all dogs have the potential to bite, as five million Americans per year can attest to, but it’s worth noting that some breeds, like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, have actually caused hundreds of fatalities in the U.S. Therefore, if you are an inexperienced dog owner, or you have young children, you may wish to contend with a dog breed that has proven to have a lesser potential to harm you or your children.

Q. In the book you state that this book is not a dog obedience book, but rather a book about developing a deeper understanding of what drives your dogs behaviors. How valuable do you feel this information is when wanting to begin obedience training for your dog?

A. Before one embarks on repairing or modifying a watch, is it not important that one knows first how the watch works? If you wish to successfully train your dog not to jump on you or your guests, would it not be beneficial to understand why your dog wishes to jump on you in the first place? If you wish to train your dog to fetch a ball, would it not be beneficial to you and your dog (so you don’t get mad when he/she doesn’t fetch) to understand why your dog does not naturally fetch? Why your dog NATURALLY does every behavior it does is the first step in adjusting those very behaviors.

Q. This book doesn’t go over obsessive behaviors like barking, chewing, or digging. Is this something you are thinking of addressing in the future, possibly in another book?

A. Indeed. I am currently writing my second book titled, The Hammer – Understanding, Treating and Preventing Canine Aggression, which will be published mid-summer 2016. Afterward, I will write my third book titled, Taming the Wild in Your Dog. Whereas my first book creates an understanding of dog behavior, this book will teach readers how to use their new found understanding to train their dogs.

Q. What overall message concerning dogs do you most wish readers to take away from this book?

A. “From the wild wolf who is perfectly suited for its world, she created a wolf that is perfectly suited for ours. But, like a wonderful gift that has been left unopened, our imaginations have fabricated something inside nature’s gift that we humans desire and not what was given. If we would only find the will to open the box, we would discover something far greater. Staring up out of the box would be a domestic wolf born of a rich heritage and carved from the wild. With its behavior wrapped in the trappings of steadfast predictability, this creature would provide us with trustworthy companionship and the tranquility that comes from understanding and accepting it for what it is and not for what we wish it to be. In a paradoxical way, we would actually get what we really desire.”

Excerpt From: “Embracing the Wild in Your Dog.” Understand and accept the dog for what it is and not what you wish it to be. Embrace this gift from nature.

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More on the Mongolian Bhankar Dog & Dog Origins in General

The Mongolian Bankhar Project, from the Institute of Canine Biology

Mongolian Bankhar Project

Coordinator: Bruce Elfstrom MS (Nomadic Guardian’s Foundation), Douglas Lally (Scientific Field Coordinator),
Scientific Team: 
Carol Beuchat PhD (Institute of Canine Biology, and UC Berkeley), Sundev Gombobaatar PhD (Univ of Mongolia), Pieter Oliehoek PhD (Institute of Canine Biology), Adam Boyko PhD (Cornell Univ), Bridgett VonHoldt PhD (Princeton Univ). (launched January 2014)

Picture© Bruce Elfstrom


For hundreds of years, Mongolia’s nomadic herders have relied on a native dog, the Bankhar, to protect their livestock from predation by the Mongolian gray wolf and snow leopard.  This ancient and effective way of guarding livestock was lost during the Soviet occupation.  Since then, the nomads have turned by necessity to shooting and poisoning potential predators, which are now threatened by diminishing numbers.

Bruce has seen firsthand the devastation to the lives of a Nomadic family should a wolf or leopard take some of their stock.  “…I was amazed, one evening a family lost 7 colt horses…”.  In 2004, with his partners in Mongolia, Bruce launched The Nomadic Guardian’s Foundation with the goal of returning the Bankhar dog to its traditional role as protector of the livestock for the nomads, saving both the dogs and the wolves from extinction in an ecologically sound way.  This is a Mongolian solution to a Mongolian problem based on ancient Mongolian tradition.

Bruce’s team will be making a trip to Ulaanbaatar in February 2014 with the following goals:

  • locating Bankhar that are still being used as working dogs;
  • gathering blood samples for molecular genetics;
  • inspecting kennels at Hustai National Park for possible use;
  • establishing breeding pairs in residence with sheep under the guidance of Dr Sundev Gombobaatar (Univ. of Mongolia).

From his trips to Mongolia over the years leading overland expeditions with his company, Overland Experts, Bruce has established relationships with many people and organizations that are coming together to help with the project.  Bruce is committed to learning as much about the history and genetics of this rare breed as possible and is partnering with the Institute of Canine Biology to facilitate those efforts.

If you’ve never seen one of these dogs – or even if you have – check these out –

  • Some wonderful photos
  • Great video (check out the whelping box!)
  • More vintage video 
  • Bankhar at a Mongolian dog show
  • Stunning photography of Mongolia
  • More gorgeous photography from one of project leader Bruce Elfstrom’s trips to Mongolia


Posted in Canine Cousins: Wolves, Canine History | Leave a comment

The Big Bankhar Livestock Guardian Dogs of Mongolia

The Himalayan Times (Kathmandu), December 20, 2015

Mongolian dog tradition revived to protect sheep, leopards

In this photo taken Nov. 13, 2015, Chulunjav Bayarsaikhan poses for photos with Hassar, a shaggy, 11-month-old bankhar puppy, in Tuv Province, Mongolia. As years of overgrazing increasingly push Mongolian nomads into the territory of their oldest foes - snow leopards and wolves - a group of researchers and herders are trying to reinstate the bankhar, a close relative of the Tibetan mastiff, to its historic place beside their masters. The dog is native to Mongolia but nearly disappeared over the course of mass urbanization drives during the Soviet era. (AP Photo/Grace Brown)

In this photo taken Nov. 13, 2015, Chulunjav Bayarsaikhan poses for photos with Hassar, a shaggy, 11-month-old bankhar puppy, in Tuv Province, Mongolia. As years of overgrazing increasingly push Mongolian nomads into the territory of their oldest foes – snow leopards and wolves – a group of researchers and herders are trying to reinstate the bankhar, a close relative of the Tibetan mastiff, to its historic place beside their masters. The dog is native to Mongolia but nearly disappeared over the course of mass urbanization drives during the Soviet era. (AP Photo/Grace Brown)

TUV AIMAG: Through three decades of marriage, they have wandered together across the rolling hills of Mongolia’s northern Tuv Province, accompanied by their herd of sheep and stalked by the wolves and snow leopards that threaten their livelihood.
Five months ago, Chulunjav Bayarsaikhan and Tumurbaatar Davaasuren were joined by a new partner, Hasar, a shaggy, 11-month-old bankhar dog that a hundred years ago would have been a far more common sight outside the country’s tent homes known as gers.
“Now, nothing comes near our herd at night,” Tumurbaatar said. “If anything does, she barks in an alarming way, so we come out before it can attack. She learned to patrol all night and is protecting them well.”
As years of overgrazing increasingly push Mongolian nomads into the territory of their oldest foes — snow leopards and wolves — a group of researchers and herders are trying to reinstate the bankhar, a close relative of the Tibetan mastiff, to its historic place beside their masters. The dog is native to Mongolia but nearly disappeared over the course of mass urbanization drives during the Soviet era.
DNA analysis conducted by Cornell researchers and released this year points to Mongolia as the location where domesticated dogs first appeared some 15,000 years ago. That makes the bankhar even more of a Mongolian icon.
For thousands of years, the giant dogs roamed the Mongolian steppes with their nomadic masters, so much a part of the landscape that they featured in Chinese Qing Dynasty paintings of Mongolia and the 13th century travelogues of Marco Polo.

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