Archive for the ‘Dog lessons’ Category
Moving on to happiness.
Whatever one’s view is about the significance of CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, this blog is about integrity. As the byline states, “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.” Regular readers (and thank you for being one) know that this blog ranges far and wide in pursuit of stories, essays and examples of integrity, all the more better when they involve a dog!
All dog owners know that one of the prime things we can learn from our dogs is the ability to remain in the present. No, more than that! To value and cherish the present. Dogs manage this in an effortless manner, in a way that humans can only dream of achieving.
This came to me as a result of a recent post on Damn the Matrix, Mike Stasse’s fascinating blog. The post was about what we humans regret at the end of our days, which I will come to in a moment.
Bronnie Ware is an inspiring and creative soul from Australia.
Through her work Bronnie weaves delightful tales of real life observations and experience. Using gentleness, honesty, and humour, Bronnie celebrates both the strength and vulnerability of human nature. Her message is a positive and inspiring one.
Bronnie is the author of the full-length memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, released worldwide, with translations in 27 languages. She also runs an online personal growth and songwriting course, has released two albums of original songs, and writes a well-loved blog called Inspiration and Chai.
A quick visit to that blog site reveals:
Every challenge brings its own gifts. Sometimes though it is not always easy to see those gifts at first. Suffering and wounds can blind us. We have all been there. It is at times like these that Inspiration and Chai is needed. Inspiration to soothe the heart. Chai to soothe the body.
Even during happier cruising chapters, being inspired is still a beautiful thing. It keeps us going. It reminds us of what we already know.
Inspiration and Chai is an ongoing journey. The aim of this site is to share inspirational stories and motivational thoughts and for it to reach more and more people in need, seekers on their path. It is a positive environment to revisit whenever you feel it calling. It is also somewhere for me to share my love of story telling and to share memories of life.
Jean is no stranger to the death of a dog. Over her many years of rescuing dogs Jean has seen far too many deaths. I have been living with Jean since 2008. In that short time five of our dogs have died.
Of course, we have no idea of what goes through a dog’s mind in those last stages of life. Dogs appear to embrace death in an uncomplicated way but we will never know for sure.
What about humans? On Bronnie’s blogsite there is a post under the title of Regrets of the dying. Whatever age you are, read what Bonnie wrote and ponder:
REGRETS OF THE DYING
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
I hesitated to write anything more because that last sentence should be the one that continues to resonate.
So just a reflection on how easy it is for a dog to wag its tail – dogs so easily choose happiness.
A personal journey
In some ways, it is surprising that I haven’t written about my own counselling experiences before. Perhaps it has never felt like the right moment.
But the guest post from Peter Bloch that I had the honour of publishing yesterday so strongly resonated with the ‘Fergus’ inside me that I was compelled to offer my own journey. So if you are not into bouts of personal introspection, look away and come back tomorrow!
The fickle finger of fate
I was born in Acton, North London, just 6 months before the end of World War II. Nothing remarkable about that. Just another one of the millions of soon-to-be post-war babies. My father was an architect; my mother a teacher. Indeed, at the age of 93 my mother is still teaching music!
In 1956 when my father was 55 years-old he developed lung cancer. I and my sister were blissfully unaware of our father’s terminal condition until the evening of December 19th, 1956. That evening Mum came into my bedroom and said that father was very ill and may not live for very much longer. To be honest, it didn’t really register and off I went to sleep. I was 12 and looking forward to Christmas in 5 days time.
My father died in the night hours of December 19th/20th. I had slept through not even wakening when his body was removed from the house. On the morning of the 20th he was just gone!
It was felt by the family doctor, who had been attending my father, that it would be too upsetting for me and my younger sister to attend the funeral. That funeral was a cremation and therefore no grave.
The good and the not so good.
The only obvious effect of the trauma of my father’s death was that I bombed out at school. I had passed my ’11+’ exams at my primary school and in September, 1956, become a pupil at Preston Manor County Grammar School near Preston Road, Wembley where we were living; Wembley Stadium could be seen from the back windows of the 2nd floor of our house.
I struggled with schooling, the victim of much bullying as I recall, sat 8 ‘O-level’ exams, passed 2, struggled to get another couple of ‘O-levels’ but it was clear that a University place was not going to be for me.
From then on, in stark contrast, I enjoyed a wonderfully varied life, working as a business salesman, freelance journalist and ending up starting my own company in Colchester in 1978 which became surprisingly successful.
But when it came to relationships, that wasn’t so successful. If I tell you that Jeannie is my 4th wife, you will get the message!
A little more background.
When running my own business back in the 1980s I had a network of overseas distributors. My US West Coast distributor was Cimarron, a company owned and run by Daniel Gomez out of Los Angeles. Dan and I became good friends and still are some 35 years later. I’ll come back to this highly relevant relationship with Dan.
I sold my business in 1986 and went overseas for 5 years, actually living on a boat based in Larnaca, Cyprus. (The boat was a Tradewind 33 named ‘Songbird of Kent‘.)
In the early 1990s upon returning to England I chose to live in the South Hams area of South Devon, ending up in the small village of Harberton, pop. 300, near Totnes. Once settled I took up business mentoring. In previous years, I had gained Chartered Membership of the Institute of Marketing. In addition, I became a youth mentor with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, a really fabulous organisation that does so much good for young people.
One of my personal mentees was Jon Lavin, the founder of The People Workshop. (Yes, and Jon is aware that his website is a tad out-of-date!)
Out of sight, but not out of mind.
In time I became married to wife number three. Seemingly happy living in a tranquil part of rural Devon, keeping busy, not thinking too much about life.
Pharaoh became an important part of my life in 2003. At the time, I had no idea how important!
On the evening of December 20th, 2006, 50 years to the day that my father died, my wife announced that she had met another man. The implications of this casually delivered bombshell were obvious and catastrophically painful.
I will spare you the details but, trust me, the next few weeks were tough!
High on my priorities were letting close friends know what was happening. Dan, in characteristic Daniel fashion, said over the phone, “Hey, Handover, you get your arse over to Southern California pronto! Like now!” I replied that it was much too difficult to do that now but maybe later on in 2007.
Realising that I might need some psychological support, I spoke with Jon Lavin. However, Jon made it clear that as we already had a working relationship with me as his mentor, he couldn’t now, in turn, be my psychotherapist. I pleaded with Jon. He said he would only work with me on the strict understanding that he would terminate the counselling relationship if our past workings interfered. Of course, I agreed. [See footnote.]
Finding one’s true self after 50 years!
Jon, quite naturally, started into understanding my past experiences. Right back to that fateful day in 1956 when my father died. And, guess what!
Unbeknownst to me, the lack of time to adjust to my father’s cancer, his sudden death, being unable to ‘say goodbye‘; all had been emotionally interpreted as acute and profound emotional rejection. Buried deep within me with both strong positive and negative emotional consequences. Negatively, making me very vulnerable to emotional rejection; positively, causing me to strive for outward success in so many ways. Those sessions with Jon brought it all to the surface bringing with it deep and peaceful calm.
Yet, the true implications of finding myself were still to come.
In the Summer of 2007, I took up Dan’s offer to ‘get my arse to Southern California!‘ I had a fabulous time with Dan and his dear wife, Cynthia. It also included a visit to Dan’s sister, Suzann, and her husband, Don, in their home in Los Osos, California. Su fussed over me restoring my sense of self-worth as Dan and Cynthia had been doing.
One morning over breakfast Suzann said, “Hey Paul, what are you doing for Christmas?“
I replied, “Oh, give me a break, Suzann, it’s the middle of June. Long time before I have to think about dealing with Christmas!“
Su then made the offer that was to change my life irrevocably. ”Don and I have a house down in San Carlos, Mexico where we shall be at Christmas. Why don’t you come and have Christmas with us in Mexico?“
And I did. And it was in San Carlos, Mexico that I met Jean. Suzann and Jean were great buddies. Jean had been living there since she and her late husband, Ben, had moved there many years ago. Ben, an American, and Jean had been married for 26 years with Ben, sadly, having died in 2005.
Jean and I spent hundreds of hours chatting and getting to know each other, including the fact that she and I had both been born Londoners within 23 miles of each other. Jean had been rescuing Mexican feral dogs for years and there were 14 dogs in her house in San Carlos. So many of those dogs loved me from the start. It seemed like the most beautiful Christmas I could have wished for. In such stark contrast to just a year ago.
In September, 2008 after selling the house in Devon, I moved out to San Carlos, Mexico. Just me and Pharaoh who had been such a devoted friend, companion and confidant over the previous months.
In 2010, we moved to Payson in Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix. On November 20th, 2010 Jean and I were married.
Releasing the Fergus in me and all of us.
What Peter Bloch wrote yesterday was so true. A dog can only be a happy, fulfilled dog, if allowed to be the true dog that is in him or her. Despite the fact that humans are primates and dogs are canids like wolves, coyotes, and foxes, it still holds as true for us humans as it did for Fergus.
We can only be happy, to put it in the words of Fergus, “happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way.” if we are given the freedom to be our self.
So if you find that you, like Fergus, suffer from digestive problems, possibly have skin disorders and sometimes behave a little strangely take note – you need to find your healer!
Back in 2008 when Jon Lavin was working with me, I would take Pharaoh and he would lay on the floor behind my seat. On one occasion Jon was talking about the findings of Dr. David Hawkins and his Scale of Consciousness; from falsehood to truthfulness. (See here and here for more details.)
Anyway that fateful day, Jon mentioned that Dr. Hawkins had measured dogs as being integrous animals. That notion stayed with me and later I registered the domain name learningfromdogs (dot) com leading to – yes, you guessed it – this blog. Funny old world.
I’m clearly not the only one to believe we really can learn from dogs!
Last Friday, I published a post under the title of The healing power of dogs. This is how that post opened:
How dogs offer us humans health and happiness.
Many months ago, I was contacted by a Peter Bloch offering to write a guest post on the subject of the healing power of dogs. Peter had read a post that I had published in July last year which prompted the email dialogue between us.
Not going to say much more at this stage except that today I am republishing that post from last July. On Monday, I will introduce Peter and his guest post. Then on Tuesday, I will speak of my own experiences both as entrepreneurial mentor and as a ‘customer’ of a wonderful psychotherapist back in Devon during 2007.
So, as promised, here is that guest post from Peter.
My dog Fergus is a philosopher, and the nature of health and happiness is his area of special expertise. When he learned about Paul’s blog he became very excited because he has always been convinced that dogs have so much to teach humans about life. As much as anything to have a little peace from his continual philosophical musings, I agreed to set out his theories here for the benefit of everyone who loves dogs.
Fergus would like it to be known that when he is free to pursue the activities to which his particular breed is most naturally attracted then, as a dog, he feels happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way. Fergus has also observed that when he is able to participate as a co-operating member of his ‘pack’, he feels safe and secure, is clear about how to proceed with his life, and at night he sleeps like a dog.
But Fergus says that when these conditions do not apply, he can be quite remarkably miserable. As a Greyhound, he loves to run very fast, and he is not at all interested in things like retrieving balls, or wallowing in water.
However once he was in the care of someone who Fergus thinks we should just call ‘Sarah’. Sarah has a Labrador and thinks that all dogs really ought to be like her dog, resulting in Fergus being put under considerable pressure to enjoy activities that he could not understand.
That lead to Sarah telling Fergus’ owners that he was a difficult dog when in fact he was just a misunderstood dog. He was amazed how, in just one day, he went from sleeping ‘like a dog‘ to ‘living in the doghouse‘!
Indeed, within a week he was suffering from digestive problems and skin disorders, despite an identical diet, and was found to be engaging in several bizarre neurotic behaviours. Fortunately, when more congenial conditions were restored, Fergus returned to feeling safe and secure.
Fergus often expresses surprise that people often do not understand that the freedom to be himself, the true dog that he is, including living in unifying solidarity with his pack, is a fundamental requirement for his health; in all meanings of the word.
For instance, Fergus noticed that Sarah has a son called Henry, who really wanted to be a designer. But his mother thought that it would be better for him to be a lawyer. In fact, Sarah was so certain that in the end Henry became a lawyer. Fergus observes that Henry is always suffering from digestive problems and skin disorders and sometimes behaves a little strangely. Doctors have not been able to find out what is wrong with him, despite all sorts of diets and medicines being tried.
But here’s the rub. When Henry goes out for a walk with Fergus, Fergus always runs as fast as he can and his resulting happiness always makes Henry feel so much better.
Henry is convinced that Fergus is a healer! Who could argue with that?
Trust me, when I’m feeling a little down the dogs all know. All of them allow me to come and bury my face in their fur, or rest my face alongside their face. Perhaps one of the most powerful gifts from our dogs is their wonderful, unconditional love for us funny humans.
I have no connection with Peter other than being delighted to have this guest post from him (or was it from Fergus??). Peter offered this brief summary of his work, which I am pleased to include:
Peter Bloch has developed a form of existential and person-centred psychotherapy through touch. In this therapeutic model, health is defined as the ability to be true to oneself and open to genuine relationships with others – qualities that he finds in abundance in his dog.
How dogs offer us humans health and happiness.
Many months ago, I was contacted by a Peter Bloch offering to write a guest post on the subject of the healing power of dogs. Peter had read a post that I had published in July last year which prompted the email dialogue between us.
Not going to say much more at this stage except that today I am republishing that post from last July. On Monday, I will introduce Peter and his guest post. Then on Tuesday, I will speak of my own experiences both as entrepreneurial mentor and as a ‘customer’ of a wonderful psychotherapist back in Devon during 2007. Hope that works for you.
So here’s that Learning from Dogs post.
The bond between dogs and humans
Such a beautiful and mutually-important relationship.
But then a flurry of other articles conspired to pass my desk.
In no particular order there was an article on the Big Think website, Do Dogs Speak Human? As the article opened,
What’s the Big Idea?
Perhaps the better question is, do humans speak dog? Either way, the debate over whether language is unique to humans, or a faculty also possessed by wild and domestic animals from dogs to apes to dolphins, is an interesting one. The answer depends on exactly how we define “language,” and who’s doing the talking, says David Bellos, the Booker prize-winning translator.
The article includes this three-minute video,
Broadly, a language is a mode of expression. ”The argument that only human language is language and that animal communication systems, however sophisticated they are — and some of them are quite sophisticated — are not languages because they consist of discrete signals is a circular argument,” he argues. “It’s a self-fulfilling thing. And I think we should be a little bit more interested in the complexity and the variability of animal communication systems and less rigid about this distinction between what is a language and what is not a language.”
For now, we’re happy with this:
The June 30th edition of The Economist had an article entitled, Can dogs really show empathy towards humans? (You may have to register (free) to view this.) That report ends, as follows,
As they report in Animal Cognition, “person-oriented behaviour” did sometimes take place when either the stranger or the owner hummed, but it was more than twice as likely to occur if someone was crying. This indicated that dogs were differentiating between odd behaviour and crying. And of the 15 dogs in the experiment that showed person-oriented responses when the stranger cried, all of them directed their attention towards the stranger rather than their owner.
These discoveries suggest that dogs do have the ability to express empathetic concern. But although the results are clear enough, Dr Custance argues that more work needs to be done to be sure that such behaviour is true empathy. It is possible, she points out, that the dogs were drawing on previous experiences in which they were rewarded for approaching distressed human companions. Dog-owners, however, are unlikely to need any more convincing.
It was then an easy follow-up to that Animal Cognition article which is available online here; here’s the abstract,
Empathy covers a range of phenomena from cognitive empathy involving metarepresentation to emotional contagion stemming from automatically triggered reflexes.
An experimental protocol first used with human infants was adapted to investigate empathy in domestic dogs. Dogs oriented toward their owner or a stranger more often when the person was pretending to cry than when they were talking or humming. Observers, unaware of experimental hypotheses and the condition under which dogs were responding, more often categorized dogs’ approaches as submissive as opposed to alert, playful or calm during the crying condition. When the stranger pretended to cry, rather than approaching their usual source of comfort, their owner, dogs sniffed, nuzzled and licked the stranger instead.
The dogs’ pattern of response was behaviorally consistent with an expression of empathic concern, but is most parsimoniously interpreted as emotional contagion coupled with a previous learning history in which they have been rewarded for approaching distressed human companions.
Yearnings for a new start!
You may wonder about the title of this post? Stay with me for a moment.
As has been written before on Learning from Dogs, when dogs were living in the wild just three animals had pack roles. The leader of the pack, always a female animal, was the alpha dog. Second in command was the beta dog, always a dominant male, and the third role was the omega or clown dog. The wild dog pack was thought to have consisted, typically, of about 50 animals.
As leader of her pack an alpha dog had two primary functions . One was having first choice as to the male dog she was going to mate with – thus demonstrating how women always choose!
Her second important duty was deciding that her pack’s home range was insufficient for the needs of her ‘family’. As wolves still do, wild dogs lived within small, well-defined territories when food was abundant. When food became less abundant then it was time to move to more fertile grounds. As an aside, research in South Africa as to the area requirements for a small pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) shows they require from 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) to 150 sq. km. (58 sq. mi.). (See footnote.)
Dogs, like all wild animals, instinctively live in harmony with nature. So the call from the alpha dog to find a new range didn’t mean they left their old one as a barren disaster area. You can see where this is heading!
Wild dogs were in contact with early man at least 50,000 years ago. (Just reflect for a moment on the length of that relationship between man and dog.) So each specie has had plenty of time to learn from the other.
Thus, as mankind is on the verge of discovering that our existing ‘territory’ is becoming unsustainable for the healthy life of the species, one fundamental learning point from dogs appears to have escaped us: Mankind doesn’t have a new range available to our species.
This preamble came to mind when I recently read a short but powerful essay on Alex Jones’ blog The Liberated Way. The essay was called A global leaky bucket. Alex has very kindly given me permission to republish it.
A global leaky bucket
Global weather extremes will force people to hard choices.
I write this in despair, it is snowing again here in Colchester UK. I admit envy for those of you who live in California or Hong Kong area, I see your photographs where the seasons always seem to be warm and sunny. The northern Jet Stream refuses to move, Greenland enjoys growing strawberries as the lambs die in the fields of Britain from the winter that refuses to let go.
The extremes of weather are noted in the South of the world as well as the North. Argentina has had the worst floods in decades last week. The cause is that the systems such as the Jet Stream are paralysed in one place, thus everyone suffers flood, drought or winter in excess. Nobody is sure why this paralysis is going on with systems like the Jet Stream, some say it is climate change, the point is that we are experiencing this, and it appears to be more than a temporary issue.
My opinion is that these weather extremes are here to stay for the long duration. One is then left with a harsh reality of does one seek to control the weather or adapt to the weather? How does one control the weather, a chaotic energy system where even a small change can have great consequences? Perhaps adaptation is the better option, but does one know how huge those adaptations will have to be where drought and flood could be lasting decades?
Lets say food, water and energy are all contained in a bucket. We take a jug and scoop out from the bucket what we need. There is a tap that is constantly running filling the bucket with the food, water and energy. We waste those resources so the bucket leaks. We disrupt or destroy the renewal systems in the ecosystems so the tap is no longer running as fast as it should. We are greedy consumers so we take more than we need from the bucket with our jug. How will the bucket look now? Is this a sustainable future to you?
If our global weather extremes continue as they are it will be like a storm rocking the bucket spilling its contents, will our bucket future look even less sustainable? Extreme weather destroys harvests, kills animals, sends already distressed ecosystems into the abyss. What happens when the bucket is so empty that people can no longer enjoy their lifestyle of wasteful excess, or worse that people grow cold, hungry and thirsty? Do they sit there and do nothing but die? Will they fight? Who will fight who? As the bucket contents get ever smaller, who will win in the fighting for what is left?
Copyright (c) Alex Jones 2011-2013.
Colchester has a place in my past as I started and ran a business there between the years of 1978 to 1986. More about that some other day.
Back to Alex’s essay. It strongly resonated with a recent item on Peter Sinclair’s excellent blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week which I will refer to tomorrow.
So I will leave you with this tragic, emotional thought – where, oh where, is our alpha dog?
Footnote: The figures for the ranges of wild dogs were taken from a fascinating paper published by Lindsay, du Toit and Mills that may be read here.
Something else we really can learn from dogs.
I’m not sure that I should admit that my dearest Jeannie is my 4th wife! Long story that goes back to when I had just turned 12 years-old, back in 1956. I suffered an event that I interpreted as emotional rejection and promptly buried that deep into my subconscious where it stayed for over 50 years.
Then brought to the surface in 2007 (thanks Jon) after the failure of marriage number 3. I met Jean some 6 months later, in December 2007, and we were married in Payson, AZ in November, 2010. Being with Jean has been the happiest days of my life!
Inevitably, while being married to Jean seems such a natural relationship, one is curious about what makes for a happy, lifelong relationship. Let’s face it, divorce is not uncommon. In fact, the Divorce Rate website reveals that in 2012, the divorce rate was 3.4 couples per 1,000 population in the USA; the sixth highest in the world.
So it was fascinating to listen to a recent radio programme broadcast under the BBC’s Point of View series. Just 10 minutes long, this particular programme was a talk by Adam Gopnik: The secret of a happy marriage 29th March 2013. (Adam Gopnik is an American commentator and writes for The New Yorker.)
You should be able to listen to the programme by going here. Or you can download the programme by going here, and following the instructions. (Not sure how long the programme will be available to listen/download, so don’t delay.)
The programme was also featured on the BBC News Magazine Website. From which I quote:
A Point of View: Is there a secret to a happy marriage?
Nobody can explain the secret to a happy marriage, says Adam Gopnik, but it doesn’t stop people trying.
Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn’t have one. There’s a truth universally acknowledged, or one that ought to be anyway.
Just as the people who write books about good sex are never people you would want to sleep with, and the academics who write articles about the disappearance of civility always sound ferociously angry, the people who write about the way to sustain a good marriage are usually on their third.
Nonetheless (you knew there was a nonetheless on its way) although I don’t have rules, I do have an observation after many years of marriage (I’ve promised not to say exactly how many, though the name “Jimmy Carter” might hold a clue).
Later, Adam Gopnik speaks about Charles Darwin whose marriage to Emma he describes “as something close to an ideal marriage.“
So what is it we learn from dogs?
So, marriages are made of lust, laughter and loyalty – but the three have to be kept in constant passage, transitively, back and forth, so that as one subsides for a time, the others rise.
Now Adam writes about the special form of loyalty that dogs offer us:
Be lit by lust, enlightened by laughter, settle into loyalty, and if loyalty seems too mired, return to lust by way of laughter.
I have had this formula worked out – and repeated it, waggishly, to friends, producing for some reason an ever more one-sided smile on the face of my beautiful wife.
Until, not long ago, I realised that there was a flaw in this idea. And that was that I had underestimated the reason that loyalty had such magnetic power, drawing all else towards it.
For I had been describing loyalty in marriage as though it were a neutral passive state – a kind of rest state, a final, fixed state at the end of the road of life.
And then, against our better wishes, and our own inner version of our marriage vows, at our daughter’s insistence we got a dog. And this is what changed my view.
“The expense and anxiety of children” indeed. Our daughter’s small Havanese dog, Butterscotch, has instructed us on many things, but above all on the energy that being loyal really implies.
Dogs teach us many things – but above all they teach us how frisky a state loyalty can be.
Dogs, after all – particularly spayed city dogs that have been denied their lusts – have loyalty as an overriding emotion. Ours will wait for hours for one of its family, and then patiently sit right alongside while there is work to be done.
Loyalty is what a dog provides. The ancient joke-name for a dog, Fido, is in truth the most perfect of all dog names – I am faithful. I am loyal. I remain.
Dogs are there to remind us that loyalty is a jumpy, fizzy emotion. Loyalty leaps up at the door and barks with joy at your return – and then immediately goes to sleep at your side. Simple fidelity is the youngest emotion we possess.
The loyalty of a dog. No more to be said.
Repeat after me: We are of this planet! It’s really very simple!
There are times when I look back at my writings on Learning from Dogs, now well over 1,500 posts (1,633 as of today, to be anal about it!) and ponder if the fundamental message behind the name of the blog often gets overlooked. The Welcome page states:
As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer. Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming, thence the long journey to modern man. But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite. Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.
Dogs know better, much better! Time again for man to learn from dogs!
Elsewhere on the blog, I underpin that proposition by listing the attributes of dogs:
- are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
- don’t cheat or lie
- don’t have hidden agendas
- are loyal and faithful
- love unconditionally
- value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
- are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.
Now this is all fine and dandy but of what relevance is this to the mess that homo sapiens now finds itself in? Two parts to that answer come to mind.
The first part is that watching a dog out in the open countryside quickly brings home the fact that these animals are part of nature and, if push comes to shove, can live in the wild and fend for themselves. Not saying that a domestic dog would enjoy the experience but that their wild dog and grey wolf roots still rest somewhere in a dog’s consciousness.
The second part of the answer is that all animals instinctively live in harmony, in balance, with their surroundings; with their environment.
For the incredibly obvious reason that dogs, as with all other animal species, are an evolutionary consequence of the natural history of Planet Earth. That evolutionary journey from the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) part of the Canidae family, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago. That journey all the way to the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).
That ancient journey where the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus – painted dog) came together with early man. No one knows when but the African wild dog was certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago!
Two vastly different natural species, dog and man, evolving compatibly with each other for so many thousands of years.
Back to the attributes of dogs, in particular a dog’s ability to cherish the present. Earlier this week I was chatting with Kevin Dick, friend from Payson, AZ days, about the ‘interesting’ times we are living in. Kevin thought there was a significant difference between the generations born in the 1940′s and 1950′s and those born in later times. Most people over the age of, say 55, were brought up to save for ‘a rainy day’ and, possibly, be able to leave a legacy to their offspring. Kevin then went on to reflect that more recent generations exhibit a ‘buy today, don’t delay’ mentality.
A by-product of this materialistic instant gratification approach is that the whole damn consumer machine has created a total disconnect with the fact that we humans are of this planet.
“The earth is the mother of all people..“
(Chief Joseph 1840 – 1904, leader of the Wallowa band, a Native American tribe
indigenous to the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon)
Humans today fail to comprehend this fundamental fact: Our ability to harm the planet and think that it won’t affect our species is complete madness! If only we could learn how to cherish the present in the way that our dogs do!
I’m now going to offer an essay from John Hurlburt. I knew John had written this essay but didn’t get round to reading it properly until I had finished the introduction above. I’m blown away by the resonance between the two but, as always, John’s words are so much more eloquent.
Climate change, religion, economics, government, politics and social issues are topics which create strong personal opinions and cultural divisions. We have difficulty accepting ideas which may conflict with our personal understandings. As usual, it’s an ego thing. The arrogance of our species is inclusive. We all suffer the consequences.
To counter our ego, we know that everything fits together. We exist in a unified cosmos with fluctuations and diversities that emerge around and through us.
Our present transformative state is as a biological form of energy and matter which possesses a conscious awareness of the natural order. We choose to ignore or deny the essential nature of our being at our own peril. Do we live only for the moment or do we live to insure our species future? That’s our fundamental choice.
“Seek the truth and identify the common good.” Zoroaster [also known as Zarathustra, Ed.]
We are a consciously aware component of a living world in an isolated corner of a remote galaxy. Everything within and on the earth has an extraterrestrial origin. We live on an incubator we call the earth. We rarely truly communicate with or fully understand the energy of nature in our lives. Our critical thinking ability has become enveloped by an electronic cloud.
We generally agree that the actions of many religions and most politics are based upon short term human interests rather than upon the long term well being of our planet and its disappearing life forms. The fact is that we only began to emerge as a species about 100,000 years ago. Hubble telescope observations have dated our universal origin to roughly 13,002,000,000 years ago.
Could it be that we only imagine ourselves as independent beings? Could it be that beyond the mind games we play there is a vast reality greater that we can understand with our limited sensory apparatus and our finite minds?
Life is a transformative experience. All species, tribes, races and genders are united by the nature of life. We pass through a period of being selfish and ambitious during our journey. Many of us choose to move into these familiar ruts and furnish them. We do not always walk the way we talk.
Nature favors species which adapt to constant change in an emerging universe.
If we agree that our intelligence is judged by choices we make, there is some question about intelligent human life on earth. A recent Harvard University study of species in relation to change estimates that the life span of the human species is approximately 100,000 years. Sound familiar?
The wisdom of our brief human history tells us that we are on a careless and needless path to self destruction. All that’s necessary to verify this assertion is to turn on the news of the day. The systemic paradigm that has been imprinted on our psyches is in constant flux. As we live and learn, we realize that our purpose is to leave life better than we found it.
A delicate balance is necessary to maintain an even strain of faith in the natural process rather than dwelling upon our self centered fears of losing something we imagine we own or not attaining something we believe we want. The earth heals itself from the inside out. We can do the same as a species. Today is the tomorrow we dreamed of yesterday. What have we done to fulfill the true purpose of our lives?
an old lamplighter
So, yes, we have much to learn from dogs.
I will close as I started. We are of this planet! It’s really very simple!
New world order goes to ramming speed!
We spent some enjoyable time with neighbours Dordie and Bill yesterday afternoon from where my sub-heading quote comes. Perhaps, a tad tongue-in-cheek, but only a tad!
Yesterday, the bulk of my post The new tomorrows consisted of a powerful essay from William deBuys ‘Phoenix in the Climate Crosshairs‘, courtesy of TomDispatch. It painted in very stark terms the impact of climate change on the metropolitan city of Phoenix in Arizona; a city of over 4 million people, indeed home to more than two-thirds of Arizona’s population.
So, today, I wanted to wander through some other aspects of this new world order.
Here’s a recent item on Climate Crocks examining the changes in March’s weather, 2013 vs 2012. From which I quote:
Much Different March. Same Reason?
Dittohead reasoning: “So when it’s warm, you blame it on climate change. When its cold, you blame it on climate change. It can’t be both.”
Well, yeah, it can, kinda.
Meteo people weigh in.
I think we’ve passed the point of tolerance with these ceaseless storms. Gone are the days when viewers would flood our inboxes with pretty pictures of their pets and kids frolicing in the snow. Constant cleanup has made us snippy and short – even a few plow guys have hoisted the white flag. The holidays are long past, the winter is stale, and the people just want spring…
…and accountability. Instead of pictures, I get questions in my inbox. “Why are we getting so much snow? Why did it turn on a dime? And when will it stop?”
Those are fair questions. But with the limits of the long range (10-14 day) forecasts, I’m not ready to answer the last question. We may sail out of this in April, but so far the first week of the month isn’t looking much different from the first week in March. The ultimate question is why.
The jetstream has taken on an odd path. [my emphasis]
Now just look at this:
Later on that article says:
Recent research suggests that rapid Arctic climate change, namely the loss of sea ice cover, may be contributing to blocking patterns like we’re seeing right now. That rapid decline in Arctic sea ice since the beginning of the satellite record in 1979 may be altering weather patterns both in the Far North and across the U.S.. Some studies have shown that sea ice loss favors atmospheric blocking patterns such as the pattern currently in place, while others have not shown statistically significant changes in blocking patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, at least not yet. Arctic sea ice extent declined to a record low during the 2012 melt season.
The last Winter in North-West Europe has been ‘interesting’, to say the least! A follow-up to that Climate Crock’s essay reports:
A study published in 2012 showed that by changing the temperature balance between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, rapid Arctic warming is altering the course of the jet stream, which steers weather systems from west to east around the northern hemisphere. The Arctic has been warming about twice as fast as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, due to a combination of human emissions of greenhouse gases and unique feedbacks built into the Arctic climate system. The jet stream, the study said, is becoming “wavier,” with steeper troughs and higher ridges.
A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters shows that reduced sea ice cover can favor colder and stormier winters in the northern midlatitudes
Did you fully take in that paragraph? The one about “The Arctic has been warming about twice as fast as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere …“?
The other great ‘river’ in the North Atlantic is the thermohaline circulation or to put it in more familiar terms: The Gulf Stream. Has that been changing? You bet! In more ways than one might expect.
Here’s a snippet from an item from last October’s issue of Nature journal:
Recent changes to the Gulf Stream causing widespread gas hydrate destabilization
The Gulf Stream is an ocean current that modulates climate in the Northern Hemisphere by transporting warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico into the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. A changing Gulf Stream has the potential to thaw and convert hundreds of gigatonnes of frozen methane hydrate trapped below the sea floor into methane gas, increasing the risk of slope failure and methane release.
How the Gulf Stream changes with time and what effect these changes have on methane hydrate stability is unclear. Here, using seismic data combined with thermal models, we show that recent changes in intermediate-depth ocean temperature associated with the Gulf Stream are rapidly destabilizing methane hydrate along a broad swathe of the North American margin.
As the diagram below shows all too clearly, the cold waters from above the Arctic circle directly affect the Gulf Stream.
From the website of the National Snow & Ice Data Center:
Average sea ice extent for February 2013 was 14.66 million square kilometers (5.66 million square miles). This is 980,000 square kilometers (378,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average for the month, and is the seventh-lowest February extent in the satellite record.
Less ice means more cold water. QED!
OK, moving on.
We met recently with Wayne over at Rogue Valley Firewood here in Merlin. Not to buy more firewood but because Wayne has started into hugelkultur. Jean and I hadn’t heard of the term before. Come back to that in a moment.
In musing with Wayne about how rapidly life is changing for us all, he spoke of the consequence of rising fuel prices and the rising costs of putting petrol (OK, he used the word ‘gas’!) in one’s car. Wayne pointed out the obvious. That the inevitable effect of those rising costs would be to steadily reduce one’s range for ‘affordable’ car journeys. Many people will no longer be able to afford to drive longer distances.
In other words, local will increasingly become more relevant to daily life. Or to use a better word than local, community will return to the centre stage of our world. And of all the things important to a community, none is more so than access to food.
Back to Hugelkultur. Watch this video:
Wayne is committed to seeing just what can be grown for the local community of Merlin using this form of raised garden bed. You can read more here.
Is this just a piece of fun? Most definitely not!
Here’s a recent item from Grist.
This sobering map shows you all of America’s food deserts
By Sarah Laskow
The USDA’s new Food Access Research Atlas is a map of all the places in the country where people live in food deserts — places where it’s difficult to access fresh food.
More details here.
The message that hits me from that map is the consequence for millions of people, especially those in rural areas or unable to afford a car, when it comes to getting hold of fresh food. Another reason why community food programs are going to be a feature of the new tomorrows.
Finally, take a look at a recent item on Paul Gilding’s blogsite.
Paul is an independent writer, advisor and advocate for action on climate change and sustainability. He recently published Victory at Hand for the Climate Movement? From which I offer:
There are signs the climate movement could be on the verge of a remarkable and surprising victory. If we read the current context correctly, and if the movement can adjust its strategy to capture the opportunity presented, it could usher in the fastest and most dramatic economic transformation in history. This would include the removal of the oil, coal and gas industries from the economy in just a few decades and their replacement with new industries and, for the most part, entirely new companies. It would be the greatest transfer of wealth and power between industries and countries the world has ever seen.
To understand this incredible potential we first have to step back and understand the unique structure of this social change movement, which may rank among the most influential in history. It is simplistic to characterise it as an alliance of grass roots organisations and activists pitched against a rich and well connected adversary. While that is part of the story, it is more accurately understood as an idea whose tentacles reach into every tier of government, the world’s largest companies and financial institutions, and throughout the academic and science communities.
Because of this, it is winning the battle from within: Its core arguments and ideas are clearly right; being endorsed by the world’s top science bodies and any significant organisation that has examined them.
Read the full article here.
Strikes me that in one very important way, we will be reverting to how our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors lived. I mean reverting to living our lives as relatively small interdependent communities almost exclusively at the local level.
Guess what! Yet another aspect of learning from dogs. In the wild, dogs live in groups of about 50 animals with clear boundaries to their territory. Just like the ancestors of the domesticated dog and the wild dog: The grey wolf Canis Lupus.
See you all tomorrow!
Forgive the shortness of today’s post.
I’m writing this at 3pm on the Tuesday, i.e. yesterday afternoon.
In under an hour’s time we have to leave to travel to Grants Pass to see the vet and have poor Lupe euthenised. She has been suffering from dementia since before Christmas and has got to the point where she has little or no quality of life left. Jeannie has been a saint in patiently administering to Lupe’s needs; feeding her, cleaning her up, and more. All for many weeks now. It was about 2 hours ago that Jean knew the time had come.
A few pictures from better times.
From Mexico days back in 2008. Lupe is second from the left.
Lupe leading Lilly, taken in February of 2012 at our home in Payson, AZ.
Picture of Lupe taken just 8 weeks ago, showing clearly the effects of the dementia in terms of her posture.
Lupe was always a challenge having been terribly treated as a feral dog in Mexico. In fact, it was 6 months before Jean could fondle her after she had been rescued by Jean. But slowly she learnt to trust Jean and then to offer Jean lots of doggie love. I, too, have fond memories of being cheek-to-cheek with Lupe; her love and trust overcoming all fears.
Yet again, so much to learn from dogs.
Sweet, dear Lupe.
Yet another learning message from our animal kingdom.
As I wrote in Monday’s post, this week I was going to “Enjoy the beauty of the world around me and offer a few essays on the meaning of life.“
We hear so much that is unsettling that it is easy to lose sight of the core qualities of a sustainable society. And one of the most fundamental requirements is that of trust.
A loving dog owner will most likely take their dog’s trust for granted.
However, think of the incredible differences, at so many levels, between man and dog. Then reflect on how a dog learns to trust a human.
This picture is of Dhalia taken less than a couple of months ago. She was found by Jean in 2005 running wild in the Mexican desert with a companion dog. As Jean explains,
With friend, Suzann, I was driving out to a fishing village to medicate and feed the many starving dogs. The two dogs were in a very desolate part of the desert prowling the roadside for road-kill. We stopped to feed them and give them water. One of the dogs ran off but as I put down food, I saw the smaller brown dog walking slowly towards me.
She was emaciated and full of mange. She looked up at me, ignoring the food. I reached out with my hand and she gently nudged it with her nose.
The food was irrelevant to her at this moment. She just seemed to know that I was there to help. I scooped her up and took her home, curled up in my arms as we drove away.
No better example of a dog instinctively trusting a human, almost immediately.
OK, from dogs to elephants.
I recently became aware of Lawrence Anthony. Here’s a brief extract from WikiPedia:
Lawrence Anthony (17 September 1950 – 7 March 2012) was an international conservationist, environmentalist, explorer, and bestselling author.
He was the long-standing head of conservation at the Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, South Africa and the Founder of The Earth Organization, a privately registered, independent, international conservation and environmental group with a strong scientific orientation. He was an international member of the esteemed Explorers Club of New York and a member of the National Council of the Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science, South Africa’s oldest scientific association.
Anthony had a reputation for bold conservation initiatives, including the rescue of the Baghdad zoo at the height of the US lead Coalition 2003 invasion of Iraq, and negotiations with the infamous Lord’s Resistance rebel army in Southern Sudan, to raise awareness of the environment and protect endangered species, including the last of the Northern White Rhinoceros.
Lawrence Anthony died of a heart attack at the young age of 62. In just a short time that will be a year ago.
In doing research for today’s post, I quickly came across this story.
Lawrence Anthony, a legend in South Africa and author of 3 books including the bestseller The Elephant Whisperer, bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during the US invasion in 2003.
On March 7, 2012 Lawrence Anthony died. He is remembered and missed by his wife, 2 sons, 2 grandsons and numerous elephants.
Two days after his passing, a remarkable thing happened! The wild elephants showed up at his home led by two large matriarchs. Separate wild herds arrived in droves to say ”goodbye” to their beloved man-friend. A total of 20 elephants had patiently walked over 12 miles to get to his South African house. [my emphasis.]
Was this true? A quick web search came across this video, (overlook the last few seconds!)
Françoise Malby-Anthony, wife of the late Lawrence Anthony, talks about the entire herd of elephants returning to the main house to pay their respects to their rescuer and friend ‘The Elephant Whisperer’.
We humans have so much to learn from our animals.