Dogs live in the present – they just are! Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value. Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years. That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!
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!
Seeing parts of Spain that the tourists rarely see.
Again, I’ll keep my introduction really short. After all you came here to read of Tom and Chica’s walk along GR7.
Day 5: Castillo de Castellar (new town) to Castillo de Castellar (old town and castle) 14k
By Tom & Chica, 17th January, 2020
Written by Tom’s wife
After his adventure yesterday, Merlin was up early this morning bounding around shouting ” Me! Me! Me!” Chica opened one eye (she’s not good in the morning) and made it clear that she was happy for him to deputise for her today. She had a lie-in while Tom and Merlin headed back up to Castillar and as you can see, later she helped me deal with her social media fans!
Day 6 started as day 5 ended, by the road. This proved less hazardous than the next section which was on a track by the main road along which groups of lycra-clad cyclists flew in both directions. It was with relief that T & C were able to turn onto a lovely quiet road that wound through the oak forest towards the castillo (castle) high on a rocky outcrop ahead.
After a few kilometres, a very inviting track appeared to the right of the road and despite the marker not being for the GR7, Tom couldn’t resist, wanting to be off tarmac for a while. A bit further on, a post bearing the red and white stripes of the GR routes was a welcome sight and the path through the wood was cool and easy on the feet (all six).
The path eventually came back out onto the road and the castle could now be seen high above. As it started to climb, the road also started to wind so Tom thought he’d try and cut off the corners. But we all know that cutting corners rarely works and sure enough, he soon had to retrace his steps. Eventually, a cobbled path did appear but it proved a steep slog. Plucky little Merlin who’d been trotting along happily up until now started to flag. His tail had been vertical all the way but now began to droop a little. Both were very pleased to see the bar at the top.
It is beautiful spot with wonderful views and the history of the village goes back to the Bronze Age. The prehistoric presence is still evident in the many caves around the area, where enthusiasts can see the wonderful cave drawings. It played an important role in the wars between the Spanish and the Muslims. In such an advantageous strategic position, many cultures wanted to control this strong vantage point.
In the 1960s the new town, where we started today, was built 7 km away in a more convenient location next to the road and the train station. This new model Andalucian town was inaugurated in 1971.
Two years later the Rumasa Group acquired the old village and in 1983 the Spanish government expropriated Castellar and declared it an ‘Historical and Artistic Monument’. By this time, the place was in a state of neglect and the Town Hall invested the equivalent of around £100,000 to restore the old castle and village.
If you ever find yourself in this part of Spain, we strongly recommend a visit.
I can’t do any better than to repeat what I said after the last:
Keep it going, Tom. For the description of your walk is very engaging. To be honest, it is Tom’s wife, Gilliwolfe, who deserves as much credit. For without her then we would not be reveling in Tom’s walk.
I read this a few days ago and vowed to republish it in this place. Because I had assumed that supplements were safe to take. This copy of a recent article in The Conversation suggests otherwise.
Read it and then let me know your thoughts.
Natural supplements can be dangerously contaminated, or not even have the specified ingredients
February 14, 2020 5.23pm EST. Updated February 17, 2020 5.43pm EST
By Professor Michael White, Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, University of Connecticut
More than two-thirds of Americans take dietary supplements. The vast majority of consumers – 84% – are confident the products are safe and effective.
They should not be so trusting.
I’m a professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Connecticut. As described in my new article in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, consumers take real risks if they use diet supplements not independently verified by reputable outside labs.
What are the risks?
Heavy metals, which are known to cause cancer, dementia and brittle bones, contaminate many diet supplements. One study of 121 products revealed 5% of them surpassed the safe daily consumption limit for arsenic. Two percent had excess lead, cadmium and aluminum; and 1% had too much mercury. In June 2019, the Food and Drug Administration seized 300,000 dietary supplement bottles because their pills contained excessive lead levels.
Bacterial and fungal contamination in dietary supplements is not uncommon. In one assessment, researchers found bacteria in all 138 products they investigated. Toxic fungi were also in many of the supplements, and counts for numerous products exceeded the acceptable limits set by the United States Pharmacopeia. Fungal contamination of diet supplements has been linked to serious liver, intestinal and appendix damage.
From 2017-18, dozens were hospitalized with salmonella poisoning after ingesting kratom, a highly addictive natural opioid. Thirty-seven of the kratom products studied were contaminated.
Some dietary supplements contain drugs, yet the manufacturers don’t disclose that information to consumers. Frequently, the concealed drugs are experimental and, in some cases, removed from the market because they’re dangerous. Hundreds of weight-loss, sexual-dysfunction and muscle-building products are adulterated with inferior or harmful substances.
Sometimes, the herb you think you’re buying contains little to no active ingredient. Occasionally, another herb is substituted.
The consequences for consumers are considerable. When manufacturers replaced the herb Stephania tetrandra with the herb Aristolochia fangchi in 2000, more than 100 patients developed severe kidney damage; 18 more got kidney or bladder cancer. Although the herb is now banned by the U.S., a 2014 investigation found Aristolochia fangchi in 20% of the Chinese herbal products sold on the internet.
In an assessment of CBD products, only 12.5% of vaporization liquids, 25% of tinctures and 45% of oils contained the promised amount of CBD. In most cases they held far less. A few CBD products had enough THC to put the user in legal jeopardy of marijuana possession.
Embarrassed by a New York Attorney General’s Office investigation suggesting widespread and fraudulent under-dosing of active ingredients in dietary supplements, CVS pharmacies analyzed 1,400 products that it previously sold in its stores. Seven percent, or about 100 products, failed, resulting in updates to the supplement facts panel or removal of the product from shelves.
What should consumers do?
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows manufacturers to sell dietary supplements without providing proof of their quality to the FDA. Instead, it’s up to the FDA to prove a product is unsafe and take it off the market. That’s an incredibly tall order, and woefully inadequate. But it’s unlikely to change.
In the meantime, I recommend that consumers should not purchase supplements without verification from one of three highly regarded independent laboratories: the aforementioned United States Pharmacopeia, NSF International and ConsumerLabs.com. The United States Pharmacopeia is an organization that sets reference and quality standards for prescription medication and food in the U.S.; the NSF International is an independent group that assesses safety and risk for food, water and consumer products; and ConsumerLabs.com is a company started to verify product quality for consumers that are paying members. These laboratories conduct an initial analysis and then perform periodic unannounced assessments of the products; those with the appropriate amount of active ingredient, and without contamination or adulteration, can put the United States Pharmacopeia, NSF and ConsumerLabs.com seals on their bottles. CVS announced that all products sold at its stores going forward will need to provide the company proof of quality. Other major retailers should follow suit.
Some manufacturers conduct quality testing and post certificates of analysis on their websites. But the autonomy of the laboratory, and its standards, are often not known. Sometimes, labs may select an inappropriate testing method, intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes they perform the test incorrectly, or simply make up results.
Because the FDA can’t fully protect you from quality issues in dietary supplements – at least not right now – you must protect yourself. Even if a celebrity or “health guru” recommends a product, that doesn’t mean it’s high-quality. Before you put any supplement into your body, demand proof.
I was about to close it there and then I saw another report, in the same vein, come up on the Harvard Health Blog. Now I can’t republish it in full but essentially it is a reprint of the above. But here’s a taster:
Harmful effects of supplements can send you to the emergency department
For many people, a healthy lifestyle means more than eating a good diet and getting enough exercise — vitamins, supplements, and complementary nutritional products are also part of the plan. But though there is much publicity about their potential benefits, there is less awareness of their possible harmful effects.
In fact, using these products can land you in the emergency department.
A study published today in The New England Journal of Medicine found that adverse effects of supplements were responsible for an average of about 23,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year. That’s a lot for something that is supposed to be good for you.
Now we too take a fair handful of supplements.
I’ve stopped all of them while I do more research.
Last Friday saw the thirtieth anniversary of Carl Sagan’s iconic photograph, or rather NASA’s photograph, of Planet Earth. Carl persuaded NASA to turn Voyager 1, as it left the Solar System, and take the photo. It became famous almost instantly and became known as the pale blue dot.
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space is a 1994 book by Carl Sagan. It is the sequel to Cosmos and was inspired by the famous 1990 Pale Blue Dot photograph, for which Sagan provides a poignant description. In this book, Sagan mixes philosophy about the human place in the universe with a description of the current knowledge about the Solar System. He also details a human vision for the future.
For the 30th anniversary of one of the most iconic views from the Voyager mission, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is publishing a new version of the image known as the “Pale Blue Dot.”
The updated image uses modern image-processing software and techniques while respecting the intent of those who planned the image. Like the original, the new color view shows Planet Earth as a single, bright blue pixel in the vastness of space. Rays of sunlight scattered within the camera optics stretch across the scene, one of which happens to have intersected dramatically with Earth.
The view was obtained on Feb. 14, 1990, just minutes before Voyager 1’s cameras were intentionally powered off to conserve power and because the probe — along with its sibling, Voyager 2 — would not make close flybys of any other objects during their lifetimes. Shutting down instruments and other systems on the two Voyager spacecraft has been a gradual and ongoing process that has helped enable their longevity.
This celebrated Voyager 1 view was part of a series of 60 images designed to produce what the mission called the “Family Portrait of the Solar System.” This sequence of camera-pointing commands returned images of six of the solar system’s planets, as well as the Sun. The Pale Blue Dot view was created using the color images Voyager took of Earth.
The popular name of this view is traced to the title of the 1994 book by Voyager imaging scientist Carl Sagan, who originated the idea of using Voyager’s cameras to image the distant Earth and played a critical role in enabling the family portrait images to be taken.
Additional information about the Pale Blue Dot image is available at:
The Voyager spacecraft were built by JPL, which continues to operate both. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit:
Voyager 1 is now nearly 14 billion miles from Planet Earth and still going strong. It has a plutonium battery that will last for eighty years. A one-way radio signal from Earth takes about twenty hours to reach the probe.
And now for something different but still to do with space.
“Not sure who was more excited,” she captioned the video. “Glad she remembers me after a year!”
“We call her LBD, little brown dog, she’s from the Humane Society and she couldn’t be sweeter,” Koch told Insider on a phone call with reporters from the Johnson Space Centre.
“And yes, she was very excited, I was very excited, I’m not sure who was more excited! … You know it’s just a symbol of coming back to the people and places that you love, to see your favourite animal.”
In complete contrast to yesterday, this morning there was a clear blue sky – a truly glorious day. We all set off together for the first mile or two but when I turned to go, Merlin dug his paws in and and absolutely refused to come with me. So he carried on with Tom and Chica while Arthur and I returned to the car.
Mules are still used in Spain both as personal transport and as pack animals. Here in the forest, they haul wood and cork. These two look in good condition and don’t have any of the white patches or scarring that indicates poor loading or ill-fitting harness that is often seen. Happily, it is now illegal to hobble equines (ie chain the front feet together to severely restrict movement). This is a very recent change and six years ago when we first came to this area it was a common sight. To restrict the movement of a prey animal that naturally depends on flight for survival is very cruel, in my view, so it’s good to see it dying out.
Today’s route wound gently uphill past an army camp until, at the high point, there was a fantastic view across the top of Algeciras, the main port, to the rock of Gibraltar. After that it continued to through pasture and cork oaks until the enormous rubbish dump made its presence felt well before it was visible in what appeared to be a disused quarry.
Eventually, the path came out on the road, which though not very busy was less pleasant to walk on and all three members of the party were quite happy to be picked up after 15k in very warm weather.
Keep it going, Tom. For the description of your walk is very engaging. To be honest, it is Tom’s wife, Gilliwolfe, who deserves as much credit. For without her then we would not be reveling in Tom’s walk.
I made a mental note to republish this wonderful story more often than hitherto.
Certainly, if I am do the story justice, and I do want to do that, then a couple of republications a week is needed.
So we are at Day Three.
Day 3: Embalse de Almodovar to Los Barrios 20k
By Tom and Chica, 15th January, 2020
Written by Tom’s wife.
This was the first cold and cloudy morning we’ve had since we arrived in Tarifa – a bit of a shock! The lack of wind, which is a rarity here, meant that all the wind turbines were motionless – like silent sentinels guarding the the hills.
We reached the start point (What Three Words location: dashes.outlived. plums) at around 10.15. Frustratingly, the route is barred by an electronic gate and notices warn that vehicles are prohibited, although google maps shows it as a through route. This wasn’t a problem this morning but made for a long drive for the pick up later.
After yesterday’s day off both dog and man keen to get going and set a brisk pace to keep warm. The lizards referred to in the sign weren’t in evidence – it was definitely too cold. The same very stony track caused less problems for Tom today with medium rather than light weight boots. The route climbed steadily to a high open valley to Puerto de Ojen giving views of the Sierra del Nino to the north. There used to be a bar here offering refreshment to walkers but sadly only a rather angry little dog and a donkey there now but a brief lunch break was taken anyway.
This sign on the right (Ed. the last one above.) was a little further down the road. A brief translation tells us that, as a result of the Spanish civil war, prisons were overflowing so Franco decided to create disciplinary battalions, an organized group of political prisoners to perform forced labour. After the outbreak of WWII, he launched the Fortification Plan on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, with the aim of fortifying and defending the area from possible attacks from the coast. To do this, he built a network of roads in this coastal area of southern Spain from Conil to the Guadiaro River and the path of the prisoners is part of this network of roads built by disciplinary battalion number 22 that was located between Venta de Ojén and Cerro del Rayo from 1940 to 1943.
Further along they came cross this old bread oven that is currently being restored. Tom is a builder specialising in stone work so was able to determine that it was a good example of modern stonework. He was unable to fully translate the sign but it said that bread was a very important part of the diet and this was oven was a vital resource used by many people.
All in all, an interesting and reasonably easy route. The weather had improved as the day went on and it reached 18 deg but after 20k both Tom and Chica were quite happy to see the car, I think.
I am so grateful for being given permission by Tom’s wife to republish this amazing journey along the GR7 path.
I took Lili (my faithful photo dog buddy) for her usual evening walk up in the back of my house by the golf course. Fortunately, that is where the eagles hang out.
They have been pretty boring, albeit, beautiful.
Tonight they had a very large bass that they were sharing.
I took a bunch of pictures and we went for our walk.
They don’t pay much attention to Lili and I any more which is cool. On our way back to the car, we had to pass under the tree they were now in.
I took a few more pictures, and as we passed under the tree, they dropped the fish and it landed about 3ft from our feet.
Lili is off leash.
I told her to stay and lie down, she did and we both stood still.
The big female flew down and walked over to get it. Looked at us, and took it back up into the tree and continued eating. It was soooooo exciting!!!
Val included some photographs.
I sent Val a private message asking if I could republish her story. Val said ‘Yes’. But even better than that Val included a short video and some additional news. In that Lili was found by a dumpster four years ago. Then Lili was just 5 weeks old. Since then “I have been taking her everywhere with me since.”
Val went on to say:
As soon as it gets dusky, I keep Lili on a leash too for the same reasons.
She is pretty big, 80# but I don’t trust the eagles.
Who knows what they would/can do?
Here are those photographs.
And one of Lili!
And there’s a short video but I don’t have time today to turn it into a YouTube.
It is now ten days since I last reported on Tom and Chica’s great walk; so much for my couple of postings a week!
But they continue to walk the GR7 path in Spain and I will continue to republish their posts of this great trip.
So now, so far as republishing goes, we are up to Day Two.
Day 2: La Pena to Embalse de Almodovar 16k
By Tom and Chica, 13th January, 2020
Written by Tom’s wife.
All walking days will start with the full monty for Tom. He is a very practiced breakfast chef so I leave him to it. It did seems to take a while this morning so I think we may have to start getting up a bit earlier. For this week, at least, I will be dropping him off and picking him up so he doesn’t have to carry the full pack with the tent etc, giving him time to get some fitness back first after the flu virus.
So it was 10am before we got to the start at La Pena (What Three Words location: crafted.indecisive.barbecued.) and already a really glorious day; full sun and a gentle breeze. The route wound up into the hills giving wonderful views back down to the sea and across to the Moroccan coast. The path continued on a variety of surfaces, some tarmac, some sand and some stony tracks. The latter proved a bit uncomfortable and Tom now thinks that his more sturdy boots might be better, despite being a bit heavier. He has metal rods in both his feet, the result of a climbing accident about twenty years ago. So it’s extra important that his feet are well supported.
The landscape was quite rocky with olive and other hardy shrubs and trees, and lots of cacti too. Not much wildlife spotted but plenty of goats with their melodic bells. The route ended at a large lake on a inaccessible track so they walked back to the road where we met, conveniently close to a bar for a much appreciated cold beer (for Tom)and long drink of water (for Chica).
Meanwhile, back at the campsite, there was a minor crisis as a neighbour discovered a number of processionary caterpillars. These are nasty critters with highly irritant hairs that can cause a painful rash in humans but are even more dangerous for dogs. As the name suggests, the caterpillars form a chain when they move and, of course, most dogs want to investigate but if they ingest the hairs it can cause real problems. The nests can easily be spotted as dense webs on the tips of pine branches. The site maintenance staff were very prompt in coming along to remove the nests but we will remain vigilant. It was probably a bit daft to choose a plot under the pines and it’s a lesson learned for the future. One of many to come, no doubt.
This is such an amazing trip. Words hardly express my admiration for what Tom.
One of the lovely things about writing a blog about dogs is that frequently people ‘pop up’ and offer a guest post. So it was with Eliza, or Eliza Gilbert to give to her her full name. This is a brief background that she sent me.
NB: It’s the morning of Tuesday, the 11th February, 2020 and I have had to do something for the very first time. That is delete a guest post.
It turned out that Eliza was pushing me to include a link for her client and it was far from being a guest post, more like a commercial arrangement between Eliza and her client. I hope everyone understands.