Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Picture parade seventy-eight

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Winter wonderland two. (One was here.)




Now still remaining with the pictures sent in by Dordie but a change from deer and rabbit to deer and dog!










The third group of winter wonderland pictures in a week’s time. Enjoy!

Written by Paul Handover

January 11, 2015 at 00:00

The history of the wolf and dog

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A return to a theme previously presented in this place.

The primary motivation for today’s post was to continue the theme in my post last Wednesday: Canada – Ellesmere Island, that featured the most beautiful film from the BBC about the wolves on Ellesmere: Snow Wolf Family and Me.

Now it struck me that in writing a blog called Learning from Dogs there was a fair chance that the history of dogs had been featured before. I ran a quick search through previous posts using the search term ‘history of dogs’. There were a number of returns. Such as the republication of an article by Mark Derr: The Wolf Who Stayed last November. Then there was a post called Dogs and Wolves: Fascinating Research in February, 2014. Back in 2013, a post Dogs and Man: An eternity of a relationship.

Yet, all these and more didn’t quite offer what I am presenting today. (Well, that’s my story!)

First up was the chance finding of a blog called Bioventures. On the 11th September, 2013 there was a post published by D.K. Taylor under the title of: The Science of Dogs: Dogs Vs. Wolves.  Here’s how it started:

While watching The Science of Dogs, one portion of the documentary that interested me was the comparison of domestic dogs verses wolves. I knew beforehand that dogs and wolves behaved differently, but it was not until now that I knew much about these differences. Wolves depend upon their pack only, while dogs have been taught to rely on humans to meet many of their needs. The difference must be extreme for it to have been so obvious in the demonstration with the meat and rope from the documentary! (For anyone in the class that watched the other documentary: A piece of meat was tied to a rope, and a wolf kept pulling at it and trying to solve the problem for itself while the dog almost immediately looked to the nearby human for help.)

Then, and I forget how, I came upon a news blog, for want of a better description, called The Examiner. More precisely, I came across an article published on The Examiner back in January, 2013 called: How wolves became dogs explained in groundbreaking study.

A study by a team of American and Swedish researchers published on Jan. 23 in the Journal of Nature, shows that dogs have more genes involved in starch metabolism than wolves.

The finding suggests that this was a major factor in the evolution process of the wolf. No one knows exactly when or how our ancestors began to be so closely linked to dogs, but archaeological evidence indicates that it was thousands of years ago.

One theory suggests that modern behavior of the dogs came from the hunters that used wolves as guards or fellow hunters.

But another theory – that underpins the study – suggests that domestication began when the wolves began to approach the villages in search of food, stealing the remains left by people.

This practice became increasingly common and as a result, wolves began to live around humans. According to this second hypothesis, when we became sedentary and dependent on agriculture, waste dumps created around our settlements soon became the power source of many wolves, explains Erik Axelsson, of the University of Uppsala.

You will need to go here to read the full article, but I will offer this further piece:

Dr. Axelsson and colleagues examined the DNA of more than 50 modern breeds – from the Cocker Spaniel to the German Shepherd.

They then compared their genetic information with 12 wolves from around the world. They scanned DNA sequences of the two canids in areas with large differences. They assumed that these areas contained genes that could help explain the domestication of dogs. Axelsson’s team identified 36 regions, with more than one hundred genes.

The analysis detected the presence of two major functional categories – genes involved in brain development and starch metabolism.

The latter suggests that dogs have many more genes encoding enzymes needed to break down starch, a feature that could have been advantageous to the ancestors who rummaged among the wheat and corn of the farmers.

“The wolves also have these genes, but not used as efficiently as dogs,” said Dr. Axelsson.

“When we look at the wolf genome, we only see one copy of the gene [for the amylase enzyme] on each chromosome. When we look at the dog genome, we see a range from two to fifteen copies; and on average a dog carries seven copies more than the wolf.”

“That means the dog is a lot more efficient at making use of the nutrition in starch than the wolf.”

As for the genes related to brain development, these probably reflect some of the behavioral differences we now see in the two canids.

The dog is an animal that is much more docile, which is probably due to the past humans preferring to work with animals that were easier to tame.

“Previous experiments have indicated that when you select for a reduction in aggressiveness, you obviously get a tamer animal but you also get an animal that retains juvenile characteristics much longer during development, sometimes into adulthood,” said Dr. Axelsson.

This may help explain why it is said that dogs act like puppies throughout their lives.

The study of the origin of dogs is still, in many ways, a puzzle.

Fossil evidence suggests that some populations have been around for tens of thousands of years, long before the advent of agriculture. One reason why it is so difficult to determine the time of this change of behavior is that domestication may have occurred more than once.

Over on YouTube, there are many videos about the subject of ‘the science of dogs’, albeit many of them lengthy. But so what!

I have gone for a 2013 Documentary film that has found its way on to YouTube: Wolf and Human – The Creation of The Dog (Full Nature Documentary). It is 90-minutes long and, at the time of writing this post, Jean and I haven’t watched it.  We will this evening. But it comes highly rated and I very much hope it is a good film.  The title of the film is perfectly aligned with the theme of today’s post. (N.B. We had bandwidth issues last night and gave up the struggle after just eleven minutes.  Despite the poor resolution of the video, it still looked like an interesting video to watch in full.)

From Canada to Cute.

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“The best laid plans of mice and men.”

Following yesterday’s post about Ellesmere Island and the white wolves, I had plans to write more about the history of the wolf and the dog. (Oh, and thank you so much for the great way you all reacted to yesterday’s post.)

But events transpired to get in the way.

We were longer in Grants Pass in the morning than anticipated, then it was time for a quick lunch,  get the fire going again, go through a rather bulging inbox, and then I was in the mood to start the post. I stood up to stretch and noticed that the deer that we feed most days were waiting impatiently.

So outside to put down some feed for the deer, then hover around, just captivated by them, decide to grab the camera from indoors and take a picture,


then, while I was outside realised that I ought to bring some logs in for the fire, and …… you get the scene, I’m sure.

I sat down at my PC to start the post and knew that I was stressing about there not being enough time to do it justice.

Gave myself a talking to about writing a blog was not something to stress about and looked for a ‘fill-in’ for today.

Opened an email recently sent to me from long-time UK friend, Neil Kelly, and discovered Neil had included in the email the most wonderful, evocative, serenely beautiful photograph of a rambler from calmer, more peaceful times. It really had to be shared with you.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Paul Handover

January 8, 2015 at 00:00

Canada – Ellesmere Island

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One of the most remote places on this Planet.

The reason I am choosing to write about Ellesmere Island is because of a recent BBC film: Snow Wolf Family and Me.

This video offers a great insight into the film:

Published on Dec 29, 2014

A new BBC film, Snow Wolf Family and Me, explores the lives and habits of arctic wolves, revealing the family secrets of one of our most feared predators. Ellesmere Island is one of the most remote and beautiful places on Earth. This is the only place in the world where wolves are naive to man and have no fear. It allowed wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan and scientists an unparalleled opportunity to form bonds with a wild wolf family, revealing the remarkable story of their relationships and behaviour.

Here series producer Ted Oakes talks about some of the highlights and challenges of being accepted by a wild wolf pack.

Snow Wolf Family and Me will be broadcast on 29th and 30th December 2014 at 21:00 on BBC Two.
Music by Jean-Marc Petsas. Photofilm produced by Dualtagh Herr.

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Family members back in England who did watch both episodes of the film said it was breath-taking, especially the scenes in the second episode where the wolves were filmed coming right up close to Gordon.

Gordon Buchanan and White wolf.

Gordon Buchanan and White wolf.

What captivated me, seeing how quickly the wolves acclimatised to Gordon and his two colleagues, was imagining that this must have been what it was like when, thousands of years ago, wild wolves bonded with early man providing the start of the glorious and beautiful relationship between canines and humans.  A wonderful relationship experienced by millions of us around the world today.

The next short video illustrates that the ancient lineage, from wolf to dog, still resonates between both species.

Ellesmere Island Expedition 2008 – Howling Good Time

Will Steger Foundation

Uploaded on Feb 21, 2010

After a long day of pulling, the dogs serenade the team with a round of howling.

Couple more pictures to close today’s post.




Another incredible photograph from Tanj

Another incredible photograph from Tanja Askani

Picture parade seventy-seven.

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Winter wonderland One

(Over the next four Sunday’s I shall be sharing some gorgeous photographs that were forwarded to me by neighbour Dordie.)















These photographs were taken in Alberta, Canada.

Written by Paul Handover

January 4, 2015 at 00:00

A smile for New Year’s day.

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You are never too old …

Sent by our neighbour Dordie.

A 7 minute film about 85-year-old widower Horace ‘Horrie’ Bedwell’s quest to find a much younger woman, a beautiful blonde.

This film won 2nd prize at the 2013 Tropfest Australia short film festival. Deservedly so!


Written by Paul Handover

January 1, 2015 at 00:00

Ignorance is Bliss: Alan Parsons

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Forgive the introspection of this old fart, this day after Christmas

Jean is a great lover of music and, without fail, has music playing in the kitchen, especially when she is preparing the evening meal. Thus it was that last Tuesday, I was sitting alongside the kitchen in our living room and heard some tracks that took me back many years; in the way that music can do.

The tracks were songs from Alan Parsons. I was taken back to early 1971 when, freshly back from Australia, I was living in a flat in Harpenden with my then wife: Britta. At the start of 1971, I had joined the Guided Weapons Division of the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) as a Commercial Apprentice. My office was in Six Hills Way, Stevenage; fewer than 15 miles from Harpenden.

Living in the flat above us were a couple, whose names escape me after all these years, and they were newly into listening to Alan Parsons. That is how I came to learn of the Alan Parsons Project as the group were known and have loved the music ever since.

Now, coming up to forty-four years later, I can share one of my favourite tracks from the album The Time Machine; “… the third solo album produced and engineered by Alan Parsons following the split of The Alan Parsons Project.” (Wikipedia)

That track is called Ignorance is Bliss.

I have included the wonderful words written by the person who uploaded that video.

Published on Feb 23, 2013
Every once in a while in your life, a song will speak to you because it’s happening right then and there. There was a time in my own life where I had tears streaming down my face and this song played on repeat. It was a time of turmoil, where all I could imagine was the peace that only ignorance of my own situation could bring.

A good song writer will set up a situation where it could be applicable in a variety of ways to hit the broadest audience. The trouble is, how do you make a broadly interpretive song that isn’t too broad as to be intangible?

This song walks the line, but the line IS defined if you listen closely. The ‘paradise’ the writer finds is in ignorance. It’s a dreamworld of course, none of us can fully forget our own existence or return to the womb, but it’s a beautiful thought sometimes – particularly when the wind changes, ‘shakes the ground on which you stand’, and ‘blows away your wonderland’.

Anyone who’s lost a loved one, been diagnosed with a terminal illness, gone through a divorce, or had a life-changing experience will understand ‘sand castle’ demolition. The author postulates that maybe we don’t find true peace until we are willing to give up those things we are so concerned about (our sand castles). After all, how long can you protect a sand castle against the inevitable tide?

And when those things that we cared so much about are gone, there’s nothing more to worry about. Perhaps you’ll find peace at last…

However, I have still not grasped the wisdom that the author is in the assumption that the elimination of the things I care most about will bring eventual peace. I’ve known people who NEVER got over a tragedy. Is it that they won’t let go, or that they CAN’T let go? Still though, it’s a nice thought and a pretty song.

In a more mellow and beautiful tone is “Ignorance Is Bliss.” This song shares traits with music by Dan Fogelberg. This mellow song has the honor of being the longest on this CD (The Time Machine) , as well as being one of the most beautiful. The lead vocal on this song is by Alan Parson’s veteran Colin Blunstone, who provided the vocals for the excellent Alan Parson’s Project song “Old and Wise.” There is a lovely orchestral arrangement in the extended bridge of this song, which I consider a must listen for Alan Parson’s fans.

Here are the lyrics:

Ignorance Is Bliss

I find this Paradise and rest beside a river
No need to walk another mile
It seems like everyone has everything that wishes could provide
But no one seems to smile

You won’t believe me when I tell you this is fantasy
Don’t ask how long all this can last
The same old sun will rise and make tomorrow just like yesterday
And so your time will pass

A shelter from the storm
A room without a view
A place where you belong
And like a mother’s kiss
That carries you to sleep
The ignorance is bliss

One day the wind may change and blow at your defences
And shake the ground on which you stand
One day the tide may turn and wash away your castles in the sand
And silence rule the land

A shelter from the storm
A room without a view
A place where you belong
And like a mother’s kiss
That carries you to sleep
The ignorance is bliss

One day the wind will change and blow away your wonderland
Blue skies will soon be overcast
One day the tide will turn and wash away your castles in the sand
And you’ll find peace… at last

May we all find peace.


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