Welcome!

Beloved Pharaoh. Born: June 3rd., 2003 – Died: June 19th., 2017. A very special dog that will never be forgotten.

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!

Welcome to Learning from Dogs

The Dog Ageing Project.

Yes, you heard that correctly!

I was just idly browsing dog websites a couple of days ago and came across the Dog Aging Project. As their About page reports:

The goal of the Dog Aging Project is to understand how genes, lifestyle, and environment influence aging. We want to use that information to help pets and people increase healthspan, the period of life spent free from disease.

I have taken the liberty of sharing one of their blog posts with you (I can’t see that isn’t allowed!)

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Longer, healthier lives. Together.

Dog and Human Genetics: Similarity and Difference

July 26th, 2022

Your pup may be your “fur baby,” but how similar are you genetically? You may be surprised!

Did you know that dogs and people share over 17,000 special genes called orthologs? Each pair of orthologs is derived from the same common ancestor via vertical descent (speciation) and they tend to have similar functions. They are one of the main reasons why your pup is such an invaluable comparative animal model for studying human health. In fact, humans and dogs have numerous similarities even in those parts of the genome that aren’t genes (the noncoding part of the genome). When it comes to better understanding human health, your pup is our best friend!

Sometimes, the effects of a gene are identical between dogs and people. For example, the same version of EPAS1, a gene triggered by low-oxygen conditions, is shared by people living in the Tibetan Plateau and the dog lineages that developed there. Genetic changes in this gene have taken place to help kickstart the body’s responses to hypoxia, or low oxygen levels, at high altitudes.

In other cases, the effects of a gene may be similar but not identical. For instance, the gene SCN3A is important to brain function and affects the development of speech. In children, mutations in SCN3A have been reported to cause disorders like epilepsy. But in dogs, genetic changes near the canine ortholog of SCN3A are associated with the frequency of howling in dogs.[1] The functions of this gene seem distinct (speech versus howling) but related!

For other health conditions shared by dogs and people, the same genes may not be responsible, but that doesn’t mean that research on those conditions in dogs isn’t helpful for humans! By learning more about how a dog’s genes are connected with a shared health condition, we can investigate the biological mechanisms involved and potentially make links to human health.

For example, people long suggested that narcolepsy might be a disease of the immune system: an autoimmune attack that causes daytime drowsiness and sudden sleep. In human studies, it was difficult to confirm the immune system link. It wasn’t until 1999[2] that this connection was discovered in a lineage of Doberman pinscher dogs. The researchers discovered a gene that is involved in the interface between the nervous system and immune system.

Finally, you and your pup share more than just genetics. Your environments are also very similar! You sleep in the same house—maybe even the same bed!—go on walks together, and breathe the same air. Interactions between these environmental variables and your genetics (called gene by environment interactions) can have an important impact on health. For example, smoking is well known to increase risk of bladder cancer in humans[3], but it is still unknown how secondhand smoke affects risk of bladder cancer in dogs.[4]

Data from the Dog Aging Project should help us answer important questions like these!

1. Kathleen Morrill et al. 2022. Ancestry-inclusive dog genomics challenges popular breed stereotypes. Science 376: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abk0639

2. Ling Lin et al. 1999. The Sleep Disorder Canine Narcolepsy Is Caused by a Mutation in the Hypocretin (Orexin) Receptor 2 Gene. Cell 98 (3): 365-376. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0092-8674(00)81965-0

3. JD Figueroa et al. 2014. Genome-wide interaction study of smoking and bladder cancer risk. Carcinogenesis 35 (8):1737-44. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24662972/

4. Deborah Knapp. Canine Bladder Cancer. https://www.vet.purdue.edu/pcop/files/docs/CanineUrinaryBladderCancer.pdf (PDF)

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This is, in my opinion, an important project.

Many may want to nominate their own dog and there is a page where a number of FAQ’s are addressed. If you wish to proceed then go to this page.

As was said, this seems like an important project.

What a difference a week makes!

It all makes sense now.

Photo by Salmen Bejaoui

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” “Believe you can and you’re halfway there. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”

This famous quotation by Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919), the 26th President of the USA, seems apt for today’s post.

Exactly one week ago I published a post called Musings from a 77 year old! I wrote that the future was uncertain. Summed up at one point by me writing: “I have no idea of the global changes that are afoot and how they will affect us in Merlin. Indeed, I have no idea how long I have to live.

Margaret (from Tasmania) was one of the many people who responded. She included a video interview of Meg Wheatley by Michael Shaw. It is an hour long. Last Friday afternoon Jean and I watched it in full and it was incredibly interesting. Thank you very much, dear Margaret.

But before I present Meg’s video again I want to show you another video. It is a talk by Richard Grannon about the collapse of our civilisation. Now Richard Grannon is an author, YouTuber and life coach so one needs to remain impartial to his views, certainly before one does further research. But in the 46-minute talk I think there is much sense in what he says. See for yourself:

Moving on! The interview of Meg Wheatley is very good indeed. It’s a broad look at the issues and problems governing society but done in such a way that the people who watch her will also take away a number of tools for avoiding depression and anxiety. Meg places great store on the Hopi Native American Indians: “The Hopi maintain a complex religious and mythological tradition stretching back over centuries.

Meg quotes one of the more famous Hopi prophecies, that is reproduced below:

This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ’struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Photo by Lucas Ludwig 

Here is that Meg Wheatley interview. (It is an hour long but very interesting; please watch it!)

I want to pick up the topic that was at the end of her interview; that of societal collapse. How would one define it? I chose Wikipedia for a reference.

Societal collapse (also known as civilizational collapse) is the fall of a complex human society characterized by the loss of cultural identity and of socioeconomic complexity, the downfall of government, and the rise of violence.[1]Possible causes of a societal collapse include natural catastrophe, war, pestilence, famine,  economic collapse,  population decline, and mass migration. A collapsed society may revert to a more primitive state, be absorbed into a stronger society, or completely disappear.

Virtually all civilizations have suffered such a fate, regardless of their size or complexity, but some of them later revived and transformed, such as China, India, and Egypt. However, others never recovered, such as the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, the Maya civilization, and the Easter Island civilization.[1] Societal collapse is generally quick[1] but rarely abrupt.[2] However, some cases involve not a collapse but only a gradual fading away, such as the British Empire since 1918.[3]

Anthropologists, (quantitative) historians, and sociologists have proposed a variety of explanations for the collapse of civilizations involving causative factors such as environmental change, depletion of resources, unsustainable complexity, invasion, disease, decay of social cohesion, rising inequality, secular decline of cognitive abilities, loss of creativity, and misfortune.[1][4] However, complete extinction of a culture is not inevitable, and in some cases, the new societies that arise from the ashes of the old one are evidently its offspring, despite a dramatic reduction in sophistication.[4] Moreover, the influence of a collapsed society, such as the Western Roman Empire, may linger on long after its death.[5]

The study of societal collapse, collapsology, is a topic for specialists of historyanthropologysociology, and political science. More recently, they are joined by experts in cliodynamics and study of complex systems.[6][4]

The article is much more extensive than I have quoted above and for anyone deeply interested then I do recommend you going to the article and reading it extensively.

Now Meg is of the opinion that it is too late to turn back but next Tuesday I want to talk to you about Sir David Attenborough’s film A Life on our Planet. That he believes there is a chance to undo the harm we are causing to the planet; through rewilding.

Until then!

Volunteering at animal shelters.

Another great post from Penny Martin.

Once again I am delighted to publish another post from Penny. This is a relatively short post but nevertheless of supreme importance.

With no more ado from me, here it is:

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Protecting Our Pets: Resources for Volunteering at Animal Shelters

By Penny Martin

August 10th, 2022

If animal welfare is close to your heart, you might want to consider helping out at a pet shelter for abandoned or unwanted animals. There are always a number of charities in the USA and beyond looking for eager volunteers. 

Before You Apply

Animal welfare work can be challenging for an individual, even if you’re just volunteering. It’s important to take precautions before you commit to your decision.

  • Read about the experience of working at a shelter to better understand the challenges and obstacles you might encounter.
  • Often, volunteers need to undergo training, orientation, and background checks before they’re allowed to contribute.
  • Connect with your local shelters on social media to see the kind of work they do and whether there are opportunities to volunteer.

Organizations

Shelters for abandoned and neglected pets are frequently found throughout the country. If you want to do your part, the logical first step is to locate one close to you.

  • Institutions like Guide Star have been established to hold animal rescue services accountable and ensure they are being maintained properly.
  • Take some time to learn about the listed charities in your area.
  • If you find an abandoned pet and you’re not aware of shelters in your area, try reaching out to American Humane.

Ways to Help

If you’re unable to volunteer in person, there are still plenty of ways to get involved and do your part.

  • There’s good work to be done online via social media and you can help out by engaging in discussion and sharing posts about missing or unwanted pets.
  • If you have any spare supplies that you’re willing to donate, these can make a profound impact on the lives of animals. 
  • If you’re purchasing supplies to donate, read expert reviews to choose the highest-quality products.
  • If the existing organizations don’t meet your concerns, you could try forming your own nonprofit.
  • You can create Facebook ads for free to secure donations and get the word out about your nonprofit. 

Unfortunately, across the USA and beyond, there are a great many pets in need of our help but even small acts of kindness can take us a significant way towards eradicating the problem altogether. Reach out to your local shelter and see how you can help.

Read the Learning from Dogs book for a reminder of the unconditional love dogs give us every day. 

Image by Pexels

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Once again, a big thank you to Penny and also my thanks for the link to Learning from Dogs.

For those of you that are considering helping out then Penny’s post might offer the advice you require.

Musings from a 77 year old!

Where did it all go? That is: Life! Or more accurately my life.

I was born in Acton, London before the end of WWII. I am in my 77th year. Life these days seems to be more or less a paradox.

There are so many challenges at the moment. Not just in the USA nor in the UK but globally. We love where we live here in rural Merlin but we are already in the third year of below normal rainfall.

A view of the sunrise from taken from our property.

The contradictions in terms of our life locally and the global scene are huge. This is all leading to me quoting extracts from a recent George Monbiot article. The article starts by saying: “On both sides of the Atlantic, powerful interests seem determined to trigger the collapse of life on Earth. Why?

Sexton Mountain last winter. Again photo taken from our property.

A little later on in Geo. Monbiot’s article, he writes: “When I began work as an environmental journalist in 1985, I knew I would struggle against people with a financial interest in destructive practices. But I never imagined that we would one day confront what appears to be an ideological commitment to destroying life on Earth. The UK government and the US supreme court look as if they are willing the destruction of our life support systems.

Because it does seem as though the political leaders are not taking the future of the planet seriously. As Patrice Ayme concluded recently in a remark to that post: “Biden ought to declare a climate emergency.” But it won’t happen!

(Well I may stand corrected. Yesterday it was widely reported, and I chose Renewable Energy: “The clean energy industry celebrated a moment on August 7 that would have seemed impossible just a few weeks earlier: The Senate passed a budget measure that includes the largest investments in clean energy and climate change in U.S. history.“)

Every morning when I go down to feed our two ex-rescue horses I also feed the wild deer. I have been doing it for many years. Long enough that a young buck has turned into an adult and comes within a few feet of me.

It never ceases to delight.

The contradiction between me going every morning down to the stable area and feeding the horses and the wild deer, and the outcome for the planet is beyond words. In a very real way it is incomprehensible.

Again, Geo. Monbiot writes: “All this might seem incomprehensible. Why would anyone want to trash the living world? Surely even billionaires want a habitable and beautiful planet? Don’t they like snorkelling on coral reefs, salmon fishing in pristine rivers, skiing on snowy mountains? We suffer from a deep incomprehension of why such people act as they do. We fail to distinguish preferences from interests, and interests from power. It is hard for those of us who have no desire for power over others to understand people who do. So we are baffled by the decisions they make, and attribute them to other, improbable causes. Because we do not understand them, we are the more easily manipulated.”

Under our apple tree!

It really is a paradox! And who knows the outcome. All I can say is that, despite me being the age I am, I would not want to be any younger and aware that soon one would be facing the global changes full on.

Stacked cumulus clouds to the North-East.

More words from Geo. Monbiot: “Since 1985, I’ve been told we don’t have time to change the system: we should concentrate only on single issues. But we’ve never had time not to change the system. In fact, because of the way in which social attitudes can suddenly tip, system change can happen much faster than incrementalism. Until we change our political systems, making it impossible for the rich to buy the decisions they want, we will lose not only individual cases. We will lose everything.”

I have no idea of the global changes that are afoot and how they will affect us in Merlin. Indeed, I have no idea how long I have to live.

Jean and I met in December, 2007. We met in Mexico but Jean was also born in London, just a few years after me. How’s that for chance!

Jean’s American husband had died in 2005. She was rescuing dogs off the streets, sorting them out, and finding homes for them, mainly in Arizona.

Jean and me in San Carlos, Mexico.

I went out to Mexico with Pharaoh in 2008. With a one-way ticket!

Pharaoh digging in the sand in Mexico.

However of one thing I am sure. Since that meeting in December, 2007 life has been as good as it comes. I have never been happier.

What a contradiction!

This is one quick-thinking man!

He saves the life of a dog.

This is a story from Peru. But world-wide our fondness and love for dogs is beyond measure.

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Quick-Thinking Man Saves Life Of Dog Falling From Building

“She didn’t stop wagging her tail out of happiness.”

By Stephen Messenger

Published on the 7th July, 2022

The other day, after a two-week-long stint working in the field, John Alexander Palomino Bendives was looking forward to finally relaxing in the apartment he shares with his mother and four dogs in Peru.

But, before he could even get inside the building, Bendives was called into action once more — to save the life of his beloved dog Mina.

When Bendives, along with his girlfriend, got to the front of his apartment building, their arrival didn’t go unnoticed. High above, in his family’s fourth-story rooftop apartment, Mina and the other pups were peering down over the railing, excited to see him home.

Bendives would be up to greet them in a few seconds. But that was apparently just a bit too long to wait for Mina.

Having either lost her balance and slipped or misjudged the distance and leapt, Mina began falling to the street below. Thankfully, quick-thinking Bendives took notice — and was able to catch her in his arms.

Bendives was able to save Mina from what may have been certain death — to his great relief. And to hers.

“She was OK, unharmed,” Bendives told The Dodo. “Mina was happy and grateful. She didn’t stop wagging her tail out of happiness.”

All his pups were thrilled that Bendives was finally home. Mina, clearly, just a bit too much so.

Bendives said this scary incident has the family planning to make some changes: “We are looking at putting up a mesh [barrier] on the roof so that they can continue to sit up there, but without the risk of falling again.”

Now that the unthinkable happened — and disaster narrowly avoided — it’s the least they could do.

“I love my pets very much,” Bendives said. “They always receive me with a lot of love and emotion. The time I spend at home, I try to spend as much time as possible with them.”

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(Both photographs by John Bendives.)

Another wonderful story of a life-saving act on behalf of Bendives and his saving of his dog, Mina. Four stories high is no laughing matter and Snr. Bendives certainly saved Mina from serious injury and probably death.

Literally hundreds of times every day, with the vast majority of the stories unreported, we humans save the lives of dogs!

Just wonderful!

Another happy dog!

Dogs are so perfect in their expressions!

Dogs are not always happy as we know with the loss of our Sheena. Because the other dogs felt the loss inexplicably. But in the main they are happy, happy animals. Unlike us humans who have lots of things to contend with. I say this because in the last twenty-four hours we have had the sudden explosion of fire down in Northern California, the McKinney blaze, which has grown very rapidly.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency over the fire, which began on Friday afternoon before rapidly exploding in size due to a combination of dry fuel after a drought, strong winds and lightning strikes.

Around 650 firefighters are battling to contain the fire, officials say, but with little success. Sheriffs said on Sunday evening that it was “0% contained”.

As a result, more than 2,000 inhabitants of the area around the Klamath National Forest are being forced to evacuate their homes. Rescue teams have been aiding hikers who had been on the national park’s trails.

The China 2 fire, that is part of the group of California fires, is about 55 miles due south of home. Far enough not to panic but not far enough not to get us to check our evacuation preparations.

We hope that we are not evacuated in the next few weeks because of fire!

Here is a delightful dog article courtesy of The Dodo.

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Dog Dances In The Rain After 175 Days Stuck In Shelter 

“The absolute joy in his eyes and the feeling of freedom was wonderful to watch.”

By Maeve Dunigan

Published on the 1st July, 2022

When staff members from Forgotten Dogs Rescue pulled Rambo from a shelter and placed him with a foster family, they had no idea how much the pittie mix would love the feeling of freedom.

It was raining outside, but that wasn’t going to stop him. After 175 days, Rambo was finally out of the shelter, and he was so happy that he started running and dancing in the rain.

“I cried happy tears when his foster mom sent me the video,” Julie Saraceno, a shelter volunteer, told The Dodo. “That was his second day in his foster home, and the absolute joy in his eyes and the feeling of freedom was wonderful to watch.”

When Rambo went from a small concrete kennel to a large grass-covered yard, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

The young dog with beautiful, big eyes has an exuberance that shows. He loves other dogs and cats, and while he’s certainly high energy, he’s also always willing to snuggle on the couch.

“He is the sweetest guy to the people he considers his crew,” Saraceno said.

Rambo, who was originally found roaming the streets of Kennewick, Washington, as a stray, is working every day to become more confident and less fearful. Through his work with a trainer, he has learned obedience, how to meet strangers and lots of other skills that have made him a good boy.

Once Rambo finishes his training, he’ll be ready to meet potential fits for his forever home, ideally one where there’s space for him to exercise all his energy.

Pretty soon, Rambo won’t have to jump at every opportunity to get outside. He’ll have a yard — and a family — all his own.

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(The first photograph was taken by Julie Saraceno and the last two were taken by Billie Wensveen.)

Six months in a shelter! That must have been a real joy for Rambo when he was let out. Correction: It was a real joy because that was how Rambo expressed himself.

As I called this post: Another Happy Dog.

Picture Parade Four Hundred and Forty-Five

The second selection of my son’s photographs.

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Well I for one just loved all these photographs from today and last Sunday. They were taken on the Isle of Mull.

A very special treat! And for those that either haven’t seen the first set of photographs or want to be reminded of what Alex said, here are his words again.

Was very lucky to spot this Otter Family whilst on a guiding trip with Brian Boyes and Lisa Williams on the Isle of Mull, the Mum fed the young pups three fish, we watched from the road and then later using Brian’s advice, quietly settled into the rocks and watched the Mum come right past us, a fantastic encounter and these are only a few of the photos I got.

Then we were four!

Or what a difference a day makes.

There I was celebrating Donald’s exquisite photograph, published on Friday, and today we are bemoaning the loss of Sheena. As in:

Sheena has a one-way journey to Lincoln Road vet.

Jean had been putting it off because she knew the likelihood of the outcome. But yesterday with Sheena heavily breathing, but not in pain, Jean decided it was time to take our girl to Lincoln Road Vet.

Later in the morning Dr. Carolyn called us; Sheena was not at all well, she had fluid inside her, she had a growth in her lungs, and more. Jean decided while Sheena was not in pain it was best to have her put down. Dr. Carolyn said that if Sheena was her dog then that is what she would do. Simply because when Sheena goes downhill she will deteriorate very quickly.

Here are the photos I presented when we took her in back in June, 2020.

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All things comes to pass but that doesn’t stop the deep sadness that is felt in the Handover household!

As I said at the outset, what a difference a day makes!