Learning from Dogs

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

Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Seeing the bigger picture.

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Look beyond appearance and prejudice.

I had in mind to republish a recent George Monbiot essay but then saw this post from Alex Jones’ blog The Liberated Way.  It seemed a perfect follow-on to yesterday’s Picture parade ninety.  It is republished with Alex’s kind permission.

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Look beyond appearance and prejudice

Everything in nature is good says the philosopher Heraclitus. Humans love to divide everything into good and bad, thus missing the beauty of what nature offers in the blindness of their prejudices.

Everything in nature is good says the philosopher Heraclitus. Humans love to divide everything into good and bad, thus missing the beauty of what nature offers in the blindness of their prejudices.

A few years ago, I intervened to save a baby crow from traffic and school children, taking it to a veterinarian surgery, who had the contacts of people who could look after it. The receptionist annoyed me on seeing the bird describing it as “evil.”

In fact, if people can look beyond the superstitious nonsense surrounding these black feathered birds, there is an intelligent empathy lurking inside these beautiful corvids. If humans, dolphins and octopuses are in the top division of “intelligent” animals, the corvids, including magpies, jackdaws, ravens, crows, choughs and rooks, are in the same division. The corvids use tools, play, can problem-solve, express empathy and have a rudimentary sense of self based on experiments showing they recognise themselves in a mirror. The BBC recently reported how a child had developed a close relationship with crows she was feeding in the garden, birds that were leaving her gifts. A flood of feedback by readers revealed that gift-giving by corvids to those showing kindness to them was common around the world.

The symbol of my town port is the raven. My business carries the logo of the raven, a symbol for me of its intelligence. The stories of various archetypes such as Apollo, the Celtic Mercury and Odin had ravens as their messenger birds, who symbolised memory, thought, wisdom, intelligence, and the gathering or delivery of knowledge.

The sad situation is that most people blind themselves to the beauty of a living thing like a crow or raven, based on appearance and prejudice, so that they will do it harm, even though it might manifest the very qualities of intelligence and empathy that humans admire but often appear to lack.

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There was a recent TED Talk that fits very nicely with today’s theme. It’s just fifteen minutes long. Enjoy.

What do you call a veterinarian that can only take care of one species? A physician. In this short and fascinating talk, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz shares how a species-spanning approach to health can improve medical care of the human animal — particularly when it comes to mental health.

Tomorrow things on Learning from Dogs are going to change for a spell. More details in twenty-four hours!

Easter weekend reflection

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As read over on Find Your Middle Ground.

For Christians the world over the Easter weekend is the religious moment of the year.

For all of humanity, believers and non-believers alike, the following simple but powerful words ought to be a reminder of eternal values for every day of the year.

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Today’s Quote from Theresa

Beautiful words and image from Theresa at Soul Gatherings. Let it settle in.💛

Originally posted on Soul Gatherings:

purple-trees

In the end, only three things matter:
how much you loved,
how gently you lived,
and how gracefully you let go of things
not meant for you.

~ The Buddha ~

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Thanks Val for allowing me to republish this. (Val Boyco of Find Your Middle Ground.)

Written by Paul Handover

April 4, 2015 at 00:00

We are what we eat.

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Integrity and honesty should certainly apply to what we eat!

Published author Deborah Taylor-French has her own blog Dog Leader Mysteries. She and I follow each other’s blog and I’m very grateful for the connection, as indeed I am with so many other fellow bloggers.

Thus that was how I came to learn of a recent post from Deborah about how rabbit meat is being used for human consumption.  On the face of it, nothing wrong in eating rabbit but wait until you have read Deborah post, that is republished here with her kind permission.

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Tell Whole Foods: Do not sell bunnies

Tell Whole Foods, “Don’t sell bunny meat!”

Farm animals suffer greatly in the United States of America. Plus this suffering comes to us well documented. Before the U.S. Congress passes laws allowing Ag-Gag [see my footnote] states to make it illegal for people to photograph, video or report animal abuse inside or outside their meat plants.

The disturbing truth? Pet rabbits now sold for meat at Whole Foods Market come from being raised in U.S.A. Ag-gag states. What’s wrong with that? Everything.

Big farms doing business in Ag-gag states operate free from animal welfare laws.

In fact these huge meat farms have made laws against taking photographs, video recording or any reporting of animal abuse. What have they got to hide?

Enough. All too many cruel animal farming practices already hurt farm animals, enough to make most of us sick. The Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Defense Fund continue working to legally raise farm animal welfare practices. Most Americans know that farm animals do not receive acceptable room for walking nor a humane standard of care. Before we let another category of animal become victims of Ag-gag farm cruelty, we need to improve farm animals welfare.

Adopted from Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.

Adopted from Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.

Rabbits die of fright.

They share the species lagomorph.

There are about eighty species of lagomorph include thirty species of pika, twenty species of rabbit and cottontail, and thirty species of hare family. Wikipedia

I learned about this issue of Whole Foods Market, selling a new category of animal for meat through a volunteer at my local shelter. Kathy, along with volunteers from Save a Bunny and a Southern California group, are working to raise awareness pet rabbits should not end up as mainstream Big Farm meat products. Why?

Whole Foods Market buys meat rabbits from Ag-gag states. If Whole Foods succeeds, farm animal suffering will fall on whole other category of animals, pet rabbits.

It comes as no secret in United States that farm animals end up being raised inhumanely. If you have ever read about the Ag-gag states and how they are able to prosecute anyone willing to go undercover and take photographs and videos to report the truth on this ongoing unnecessary torture of farm animals. What meat animals endure in the U.S.A. is nothing less than cruelty, it’s time we changed that, before adding anymore farm animals.

Nine facts hidden in Ag-gag pig farms

  1. Millions of meat pigs live, eliminate and sleep in cramped spaces.
  2. The environment these pigs endure smell rank. Their wastes drain into a central open sewer and their housing is so unclean many of them die.
  3. Meat pigs lack all exercise to the extreme point that their legs break.
  4. Pigs housed in huge warehouses with thousands of other pigs, hear others screaming day and night from pain.
  5. Female pigs, sows, live horrible lives in gestation crates.
  6. Gestation crates built for female pigs force them to stand up for 24-hours per day. Farmers do not allow pigs to walk or lie down. Gestation crates, notoriously painful for animals, need to be banned. Often the pigs’ legs break because their bones grow soft, due to not being allowed to walk.
  7. Big meat farms build bars underneath sows to brace broken legs.
  8. The meat pig lives in constant physical pain, terror, fear and unhappiness. When piglets die, often in these unsanitary conditions, their bodies get ground up and mixed into the food the sows eat. So mother pigs eat their own young.Pigs do not live as cannibals. Why should they be forced to eat their own young?
  9. What horrible animal welfare to make pigs eat their own young. It’s incomprehensible that animals must live like this so that people can eat pork barbecue, pork steak and pork ribs.

How can they call these farms? Not giving animals room to walk, sit or lie down? Meat farm animals get denied their normal and natural behaviors. They never see the light of the sun nor feel the earth nor wind.

What U.S.A. meat farms won’t let us see.

After four years of hesitation and never mentioning recordings of farm animals lack of good welfare, I break my silence.

Much of the time I avoid eating meat. From now on, I will be seeking out small sustainable and local farms. We have several nearby that do not inflict senseless cruelty on pigs, chickens and cows. After study of commercially farmed pork and chicken and beef, I have returned to my original vegetarian and fish eating ways.

My footnote. As a non-American I didn’t fully understand the phrase “Ag-gag”. Deborah kindly explained it as follows:

Several states have passed laws against anyone photographing, video recording or reporting on animal abuse inside massive meat farms. The Humane Society of the United States keeps working (under cover to film the truth of this unsanitary and cruel business) but now they can arrest anyone caught, send reporters to jail and sue anyone trying to inform the public.

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I know for a fact that Deborah would love that this item is shared and republished as far and wide as possible. Please help.

For spreading the word and being very careful about the meat that we eat are the only ways to put a stop to these unbelievably cruel practices, and the ‘Ag-gag’ laws.

Protecting the brain.

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The joys of growing ever more old!

Last Saturday, in a humorous post called Cognitive Ageing, I wrote:

Or put another way: I can remember everything except the things I forget.

Like many others of my age, the short-term memory is not as sharp as it used to be (not that I can remember when that was! ;-) )

Today’s post is to pass on a recommendation for a programme called Lumosity. It was recommended to me by my local doctor and I signed up in February of this year. Clearly, it is impossible to know, in a scientific way, how much good it has done me but instinctively I feel it has made a strong, positive difference.  Let me quote from their website:

The Science Behind Lumosity

neuroplasticity-banner-77f6a688022811b36d894b9288bd49f3

Neuroplasticity: how the brain is capable of change

Scientists have historically believed that once a person reaches adulthood, their cognitive abilities are immutable. But beginning in the early twentieth century, that theory has been contested by evidence suggesting that the brain’s abilities are in fact malleable and plastic. According to this principle of neuroplasticity, the brain is constantly changing in response to various experiences. New behaviors, new learnings, and even environmental changes or physical injuries may all stimulate the brain to create new neural pathways or reorganize existing ones, fundamentally altering how information is processed.

One of the most dramatic examples of neuroplasticity at work comes from a 2000 brain scan study on London taxi drivers (Maguire et al., 2000). In order to earn a license, London taxi drivers typically spend about two years learning to navigate the city’s serpentine streets. What mark, the study’s researchers wondered, did this long, rigorous period of training leave on taxi drivers’ brains? Under the scrutiny of fMRI scans, 16 male taxi drivers in this study were revealed to have larger hippocampuses than a control group of 50 healthy males of similar ages. And the longer the time spent as a taxi driver, the larger the hippocampus tended to be. As a brain area involved in memory and navigation, the hippocampus likely changed in response to the taxi drivers’ experiences.

Most instances of neuroplasticity-based changes in the brain are much more subtle. But in recent decades, it’s cases like that of the London taxi drivers that have inspired certain members of the scientific community to pursue the next logical step in research: rather than passively waiting to see how the brain might respond to circumstances, is it possible to direct that capacity for change, targeting improvements in specific key abilities?

The science of cognitive training seeks to answer this question. In 2013 alone, 30 cognitive training studies were registered on the government database ClinicalTrials.gov. Lumosity scientists, with the help of outside collaborators, contribute to this research effort: so far, 7 peer reviewed studies have been published using Lumosity as a cognitive training tool for diverse populations, including healthy adults, cancer survivors, elderly people, and children with a genetic disorder.

Maguire, E. A., Gadian, D. G., Johnsrude, I. S., Good, C. D., Ashburner, J., Frackowiak, R. S. J., & Frith, C. D. (2000). Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97(8), 4398-4403.

Clearly, without trying it out yourself, it’s difficult for me to convey the nature of the ‘games’ that are provided.

What I can do is to republish a review that appeared on the website MD-Health.

Does Lumosity Work?

Lumosity was designed by several leading neuroscientists, which adds an air of credibility to this popular site, and combines the perks of social networking with brain training technology that supposedly makes your brain function at a higher level. But do these brain training games really work? There is plenty of evidence to support and contract the claims made by this popular gaming website, so it is important to look at the facts before making this determination.

What is Lumosity?

Lumosity is a webpage that features several different brain training games. Players are encouraged to create a profile that allows them to track their progress and play certain games that target mental flexibility, memory, problem solving, speed and attention. The idea is that performing these tasks regularly will help “train” your brain to function more effectively.

How Does Lumosity Work?

The web page explains that Lumosity is based on neuroplasticity, which treats the brain like a muscle that needs to adapt when it is presented with new challenges. The idea here is that if you present your brain with harder challenges, the portion of your brain meant to help solve them will grow larger and more functional. Previously it was believed that neuroplasticity was only available in children with brains that were still developing, but recent science leads researchers to believe that this skill is also available for adults.

Lumosity depends on two basic elements when users create their training program. First, users need to use the program regularly. This is similar to creating a daily routine at your local gym to work and tone your muscles. Your routine will not be as effective if you do not stick with it. The second part of this training program depends on users using many different types of games. There are 35 different games available on Lumosity in addition to many different skill levels within these games. Players should use a variety of different games and increase the difficulty level over time to help ensure that they are continuing to challenge the mind. Creating your initial profile gives the player an opportunity to see what weaknesses they have so they can create a routine that is ideal for their situation.

Is Lumosity Effective?

There are several scientific studies that lead scientists to believe that the brain training activities at Lumosity do have an effect on the brain. A study at the University of Michigan found that adults that used brain training games for a regular amount of time saw an improvement in test scores for dual attention asks and memory games in multiple tests. A similar study at Brown University also saw adults exceeding expectations in brain performance after using brain training games to aid in their work. These programs were found to boost the working memory which helps users keep track of tasks they are currently performing.

The thing to remember when analyzing these results is that they came from laboratory conditions. These adults used Lumosity games for hours every day for several months. Users that do not work on a similar schedule will not see these types of results. There is a great deal of evidence that supports the idea that brain training games can help grow and develop the mind, but not necessarily any evidence that Lumosity and the brain training games available here are more effective than other training games that are on the market elsewhere. In general, keeping the mind active and challenging your mind to learn more advanced tasks and ways of thinking are healthy and can help you perform tasks more effectively, and if Lumosity helps you accomplish this, then it can be seen as a positive asset.

There was a review published in The Guardian newspaper back in April, 2013 from which this extract is offered:

According to the website for Lumosity, which devised these games and is one of the best-known internet providers of brain training, setting aside a few minutes each day to complete the above tasks can make you feel “smarter, sharper, and brighter”. By factoring in a mental workout in the same way that we might go to the gym to exercise, we get cleverer and our IQ rockets.

That, at least, is the idea. And there are lots of people who buy it. In recent years, brain training has become a multimillion-pound business with companies such as Jungle Memory, Nintendo and CogniFit developing a wide range of user-friendly neuroscientific puzzles for the average punter. Lumosity itself has grown by 150% year-on-year since its launch in 2005 and now reaches more than 35 million people worldwide. In January alone, the company’s mobile app was downloaded nearly 50,000 times a day and its revenue hit $24m (£16m).

Co-founded by Michael Scanlon after he abandoned his neuroscience PhD at Stanford University, California, the business also has an extensive research programme that studies the effects of computerised cognitive training as well as conducting experiments over the web.

I can also republish another article from the Lumosity website:

The Science Behind Lumosity

study-results-banner-b03eee32c4b930e36629ef65d0eba902

 

The scientific roots of the Lumosity program

Research has found that certain types of activities may impact the brain more than others (Mechelli et al., 2004; Gaser and Schlaug, 2003; Draganski et al., 2006). It’s believed that as an activity is repeated, the brain tends to fall back on the same set of existing neural pathways. To continue changing, the brain must be exposed to novel, adaptive experiences that challenge it to work in new ways.

Drawing on this idea, Lumosity is designed to give each person a set of exercises that challenge their cognitive abilities.

Lumosity “games” are based on a combination of common neuropsychological and cognitive tasks, many of which have been used in research for decades, and new tasks designed by an in-house science team. Working with experienced game designers, Lumosity neuroscientists have transformed these tasks into over 40 challenging, adaptive games.

Lumosity’s game-based training program is designed to expose your brain to gradually increasing levels of challenges, adapting game difficulty to your individual ability level. As your scores increase, you may encounter new or more difficult games. Modelled from the concept of a physical personal trainer, Lumosity pushes you to operate at the limits of your abilities and stay challenged.

Gaser, C. & Schlaug, G. (2003). Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians. Journal of Neuroscience, 23(27), 9240-9245.

Draganski, B., Gaser, C., Kempermann, G., Kuhn, H. G., Winkler, J., Büchel, C., & May, A (2006). Temporal and spatial dynamics of brain structure changes during extensive learning. Journal of Neuroscience, 26(23), 6314-6317.

Mechelli, A., Crinion, J. T., Noppeney, U., O’Doherty, J., Ashburner, J., Frackowiak, R. S., & Price, C.J. (2004). Neurolinguistics: Structural plasticity in the bilingual brain. Nature, 431, 757.

Lumosity is not expensive and while it is impossible to be objective about the positive difference it is giving me I wouldn’t give up on it.

Now where did I leave my car keys???

Call of the wild.

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A Monday morning reminder of our beautiful planet.

American Wilderness: The John Moulton Barn on Mormon Row at the base of the Tetons. Photo: Jon Sullivan

American Wilderness: The John Moulton Barn on Mormon Row at the base of the Tetons. Photo: Jon Sullivan

Just a random picture found by doing a web search. (Actually found on what looks like a great blog: I am Wilderness.)

This morning’s post was prompted by listening to one of my favourite music groups: The Alan Parsons Band. Listening to this particular track: Call of the Wild. From his third solo album The Time Machine released in September, 1999.

Lyrics written by Ian Bairnson

Well I’ve talked to the wind and I’ve listened to rain,
I have climbed to the clouds and I’ve cried out with pain,
This life is for living so come to my side,
And open your heart to the call of the wild.

We are all of one nation, all of one creed,
We are all out of nature, all of one seed,
We are in this together, man, woman and child,
So open your heart to the call of the wild.

We talk the same language in different tongues,
We’re somebody’s daughters and somebody’s sons,
But those who believe we are head of the chain,
May wake up to find we are all that remain.

There is no need to fear what we don’t understand,
For we breathe the same air and we walk the same land,
The strong and the anxious, the meek and the mild,
All dance to the drum that’s the call of the wild.

Impossible to listen to this beautiful track and not reflect on how badly we are treating Mother Earth.

Written by Paul Handover

March 30, 2015 at 00:00

Picture parade eighty-nine.

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Some family memories.

I can’t believe that it is four weeks tomorrow since Alex, my son, left us to return to England.  I wanted to share some photographs with you.

Bummer Creek that runs across our property is reputed to hold gold.

Bummer Creek that runs across our property is reputed to hold gold.

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None found - but not for the lack of trying.

None found – but not for the lack of trying.

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Pharaoh, instinctively, thought that a dog's nose would raise the odds of a find.

Pharaoh, instinctively, thought that a dog’s nose would raise the odds of a find.

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Alex, I think I see the glint of something!

Alex, I think I see the glint of something!

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Gold! Did someone mention GOLD!

Gold! Did someone mention GOLD!

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OK! Oliver's got involved. I'll just stand here and watch the goings-on!

OK! Oliver’s got involved. I’ll just stand here and watch the goings-on!

Let me bring today’s picture parade to a close by including three fabulous photographs taken by Alex.

Little Sweeny.

Little Sweeny.

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Very sultry picture of Cleo.

Very sultry picture of Cleo.

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Gorgeous Sweeny!

Gorgeous Sweeny!

Trust all of you dear readers will forgive the personal indulgence!

Written by Paul Handover

March 29, 2015 at 00:00

Cognitive ageing!

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Or put another way: I can remember everything except the things I forget.

Like many others of my age, the short-term memory is not as sharp as it used to be (not that I can remember when that was! ;-) )

So with that in mind, and only for my dear readers who understand where I am coming from, here’s a lovely item that was sent to neighbour Dordie who then passed it on to me.

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Your Yearly Dementia Test

(only 4 questions)

Yep, it’s that time of year again for us to take our annual senior citizen test.

Exercise of the brain is as important as exercise of the muscles. As we grow older, it’s important to keep mentally alert. If you don’t use it, you lose it!

Here is a very private way to gauge how your memory compares to your last test.

Some may think it is too easy, but the ones with memory problems may have difficulty. So take this test to determine if you’re losing it or not.

The spaces below are so you don’t see the answers until you’ve made your answer.

OK, relax, clear your mind and begin.

Question One: What do you put in a toaster?

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Answer: Bread.

If you said ‘toast’, just give up now and go do something else. And, try not to hurt yourself.

If you said Bread, go to Question #2.

Question Two: Say ‘silk’ five times. Now spell ‘silk.’ What do cows drink?

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Answer: Cows drink water.

If you said ‘milk,’ don’t attempt the next question. Your brain is already over-stressed and may even overheat. Content yourself with reading more appropriate literature such as Women’s Weekly or Auto World. However, if you did say ‘water’, proceed to Question Three.

Question Three: If a red house is made from red bricks and a blue house is made from blue bricks and a pink house is made from pink bricks and a black house is made from black bricks, what is a green house made from?

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Answer: Greenhouses are made from glass.

If you said ‘green bricks’, why are you still reading this??? PLEASE, go lie down! But, if you said ‘glass,’ go on to Question #4.

Question Four: (Do not use a calculator for this):

You are driving a bus from New York City to Philadelphia.

In Staten Island, 17 people got on the bus.
In New Brunswick, 6 people get off the bus and 9 people get on.
In Windsor, 2 people get off and 4 get on.
In Trenton, 11 people get off and 16 people get on.
In Bristol, 3 people get off and 5 people get on.
And, in Camden, 6 people get off and 3 get on.

You then arrive at Philadelphia Station.

Without going back to review, how old is the bus driver?

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Answer: Oh, for crying out loud! Don’t you remember your own age?!?! It was YOU driving the bus!

If you pass this along to your friends, pray they do better than you.

But don’t be too hard on yourself: 95% of people fail most of the questions!

Written by Paul Handover

March 28, 2015 at 00:00

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