Author: Paul Handover

Out playing in the cold

Another fascinating article.

Indeed, this article from Mother Nature Network has no fewer than six YouTube videos of dogs out in the cold.

ooOOoo

Why dogs love the cold and playing in the snow

By Mary Jo DiLonardo , December 5, 2019

Snow turns your dog’s world into a brand new playground. (Photo: Ksenia Raykova/Shutterstock)

When temperatures drop or snow starts to fall, many of us hibernate inside under warm blankets — after stocking up on bread and milk, of course. But not our dogs.

Cold? They love the cold! They run around the yard with heads held high and tails streaming, bucking like frisky foals.

What is it about the cold and snow that makes our canine friends so absolutely bonkers?

“I think it’s just fun. It’s something new. Plus snow is like a brand new toy,” says certified dog trainer and behaviorist Susie Aga of Atlanta Dog Trainer. “They have fur coats on, and they’re warm all the time so they feel good when it’s cold.”
But it’s even more amazing when it snows. That baffling, stupendous, chilling white stuff is for catching, rolling around and racing in. Like this:

Dogs have fun in the snow for probably the same reason little kids have fun in the snow: It changes their usual playground.

“It’s really no different than us humans (particularly children), who find many different forms of entertainment in the winter,” says certified professional dog trainer Katelyn Schutz in Wisconsin Pet Care.

“We toss snowballs, build snow forts, and hurdle ourselves down snowy hills on sleds, skis, and snowboards. It’s no wonder our dogs follow our lead!”

This newness isn’t just what they see, of course, but it’s what they smell and what they feel when they’re outside romping in the snow.

“More than anything, I suspect that the very sensation of snow on the body is engaging for dogs,” Alexandra Horowitz, PhD, author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs, See, Smell, and Know,” tells Scientific American.

“Have you ever run through the shallow waves of the sea? Why does kicking up sand and seawater make us happy? I can’t say. But it is clear that it does.”

Not all dogs love the snow and cold, Aga points out. Hairless breeds shiver and get too cold when exposed to frigid temperatures. (Above all, just pay attention; your dog will let you know if he’s not enjoying the weather.) They might need doggie sweaters or jackets before heading outside to play.

But cold-weather breeds like Siberian huskies, Newfoundlands and great Pyrenees have dense coats and were bred to withstand winter’s wallop.

“For snow dogs, that’s when they come alive,” Aga says. “They become more energetic. It allows them to run and play without getting overheated. They just feel freer in it.”

When your dog is racing and bounding around in the snow yelling, “Wheeeee!” it’s obvious he’s having fun.

“Dogs will play with something that is interesting and moves in a different way — it feels interesting,” Dr. Peter Borchelt, a certified applied animal behaviorist, told the Dodo.

“It’s about novelty and creating different movements — they’re trying to learn what is this thing and what to do with it.”

Plus, snow is really fun to catch.

ooOOoo

That’s a really fun post and a delightful collection of videos.

It’s a truism I know but it still needs saying out loud: Dogs are amazing!

The science of understanding!

Science comes round to proving what many of us have suspected for years!

That is that dogs understand us a great deal better than was thought by the general population.

According to Statista there are a great many dog owners in the USA alone.

According to a pet owners survey, there were approximately 89.7 million dogs owned in the United States in 2017. This is an increase of over 20 million since the beginning of the survey period in 2000, when around 68 million dogs were owned in the United States.

Now not all of the owners will both adore their dogs and take an active interest in them.

But for those that do, the article that came out on Mother Nature Network was confirmation indeed.

ooOOoo

Your dog understands more than you think

By Mary Jo DiLonardo , December 4, 2019.

Researchers used to believe only humans could recognize the same vowel sounds spoken by different speakers. (Photo: ShotPrime Studio/Shutterstock)

When we make a road trip to visit my parents, Brodie always comes along for the ride. My mom and dad talk to my crazy border collie mix both in Italian and heavily accented English. “Sit” becomes “sitta” and they often ask him to “givva me your paw.”

Brodie looks at them intently and certainly appears to understand everything they say. It probably helps that they’re bribing him with homemade bread, but a new study finds that dogs understand human language better than we thought. Researchers found that dogs can understand when someone new is talking or when they hear a different word. The results were published in the journal Biology Letters.

For the study, researchers from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom filmed 70 dogs of different breeds while they sat next to their owners, according to Science. They played audio recordings of men and women who the dogs had never heard speak before, and they used words that sounded very similar such as “had,” “hid” and “who’d.”

The words were chosen because they didn’t sound anything like common commands that the dogs were likely to have heard at home or during normal training.

More than a human thing

After listening to the recordings just one time, 48 of the dogs reacted either when a different speaker said the same word or when the same speaker said a different word, New Scientist reports. The other dogs didn’t respond in a noticeable way or were distracted.

Researchers looked for reactions like the dog’s ears moving forward, changing eye contact or shifting toward the speaker whenever they heard a change in a word or a speaker, as shown in the video above. They also noted how long the dogs paid attention. When they kept hearing the same word repeated over and over, their attention dropped.

“Until now, the spontaneous ability to recognize vowel sounds when spoken by different people was considered to be uniquely human,” lead researcher Holly Root-Gutteridge told the Press Association. “This research shows that, despite previous assumptions, this spontaneous ability is not uniquely human and that dogs share this linguistic talent, suggesting that speech perception may not be as special to humans as we previously thought.”

Researchers think the ability might be due to domestication, as dogs who are the most attentive to humans are the ones most likely to be used for breeding.

“I was surprised by how well some of the dogs responded to unfamiliar voices,” Root-Gutteridge told New Scientist. “It might mean that they comprehend more than we give them credit for.”

ooOOoo

That paragraph towards the end really spells it out. It is not uniquely human to recognise vowel sounds because our dogs share this talent for speech perception.

Just another remarkable fact about our nearest and dearest of friends; our dogs!

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Seventeen

A republication of a Picture Parade from November, 2016

ooOOoo

Originally seen on Mother Nature Network where it was published by Mary Jo Dilonardo back on November 8th.

Take a moment of Zen with these dogs

Chilled-out canines experience a moment of utter calmness

fred-jpg-838x0_q80
Fred the Basset hound appears to have more Zen moments than most dogs. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

Australian animal photographer Alex Cearns remembers the first Zen dog image she ever captured, a Shar-Pei named Suzi.

“During her photo session, I caught a shot of her with her eyes closed, and a big smile on her face. I called the image ‘Zen Dog,’ and when her owners saw it, they immediately fell in love with the vibe of the image and with Suzi’s relaxed and happy pose,” Cearns says.

“With such positive feedback, I became keen to capture the emotion and moment of being a Zen dog for other dogs who visited my studio.”

Cearns tries to take at least one Zen-like image for every dog photo session she conducts at her Houndstooth Studio, even if the process takes time. She has compiled 80 of these images of meditative canines in her new book “Zen Dogs.”

Bailey is an Australian shepherd. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Bailey is an Australian shepherd. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

To get her canine subjects to relax, Cearns makes sure they are authentically calm and happy. Her studio is small, quiet and without many distractions.

“During my photo sessions, I realized that some types of dogs are more likely to close their eyes than others,” Cearns says. “Dogs who were fairly laid back, or who liked to lie about were easier to photograph in a Zen state, whereas dogs overly fixated on toys or treats wouldn’t close their eyes for a second, should the toy or treat disappear. They kept their eyes firmly on the prize.”

Lexie the Weimaraner looks stately. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Lexie the Weimaraner looks stately. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

Although it might look like the dogs are zoned out or even sleeping, that’s not the case; Cearns has skillfully caught a restful moment with her camera.

“The images capture a split second blink of my dog subjects, freezing the moment in time,” she says. “Sitting only a foot away, I’m able to watch each dog subject carefully to pick up on their blinking pattern, and take a series of images just before I predict their blink.”

Barney is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)
Barney is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)

The book “Zen Dogs” includes photos of a wide range of breeds, interspersed with Zen-inspired quotes by Gandhi, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi and others with thoughtful, meditative words to share. There’s this one, for example, from “Unknown”:

If you’re always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in?

Muska is a relaxed Hungarian vizsla. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Muska is a relaxed Hungarian vizsla. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

“As soon as a dog visits my studio, I aim to genuinely make friends with them and ensure they are comfortable and feel secure,” says Cearns. “I try to find out what they love most — a certain type of treat, or a particular toy — and then use that knowledge to win them over.”

Kono is a miniature poodle in a moment of Zen. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)
Kono is a miniature poodle in a moment of Zen. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)

ooOOoo

It’s a wonderful reminder of what is important in our lives.

Big hugs to you all.

Murmuration!

Alex and Lisa have put together a remarkable video

Yesterday, in came an email from my son, Alex, about an amazing starling murmuration at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Lisa took the video and together they uploaded it to YouTube.

Enjoy!

Having watched the amazing video I then did a little bit of research. I came quickly across the science of murmuration and have included it below.

Murmuration refers to the phenomenon that results when hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.

Maybe you’ve seen a murmuration video before. But this one is especially beautiful. It was shot earlier this month in Wales, at Cosmeston Lakes in the Vale of Glamorgan, and posted on Facebook by the BBC Cymru Wales. (It’s not included, Ed.)

It’s all about science. Just how do the starlings manage to fly in such an amazingly coordinated way?

A few years ago, George F. Young and his colleagues investigated starlings’ “remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” — a nice description of what goes on in a murmuration.

Going in, Young et al. already knew that starlings pay attention to a fixed number of their neighbors in the flock, regardless of flock density — seven, to be exact. Their new contribution was to figure out that “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”

Young et al. analyzed still shots from videos of starlings in flight (flock size ranging from 440 to 2,600), then used a highly mathematical approach and systems theory to reach their conclusion. Focusing on the birds’ ability to manage uncertainty while also maintaining consensus, they discovered that birds accomplish this (with the least effort) when each bird attends to seven neighbors.

Wonderful!

What a wonderful photograph.

The ultimate feat!

Margaret from Tasmania sent me the following remarkable photograph.

I just had to share it with you, indeed I share the whole article.

ooOOoo

Woman Manages To Get Her 17 Pets To Pose For Incredible Family Paw-Trait

By Jess Hardiman, 3rd December, 2019

A woman has achieved the ultimate feat for any pet owner, having managed to get not just one of her animals to pose nicely for a photo, but all 17 of them.

Kathy Smith, 30, is the proud owner of eight dogs and nine cats, who she somehow wrangled into an incredible family paw-trait.

Mind you, the accomplishment didn’t easy, as Kathy spent two weeks trying to get the perfect shot. That’s right, a FORTNIGHT I guess they do always tell you never to work with animals; now I can see why.

It turns out the dogs were up for the challenge and sat quietly for the camera, but it was getting the cats involved that proved to be more difficult. Like trying to herd… well, cats.

 

PIC FROM Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: KATHY SMITH, 30, WITH CAT SMOKEY ON HER SHOULDER) A pet owner managed to get her SEVENTEEN cats and dogs to pose perfectly still for the ultimate ‘family pawtrait’ – after spending days trying to get the perfect shot. The amazing photo shows eight solemn-faced pooches and nine felines lined up on and around the sofa, all gazing stoically into the camera. Dedicated Kathy Smith managed to set up and capture the heart-warming snap in five minutes two weeks ago after bribing them with a stash of treats. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY – 0161 697 4266

Numerous warm-up photos show the eight well-behaved pooches in place, with Kathy bribing Ruby, Ben, Max, Sheba, Teddy, Rio, Storm and Misha to ‘sit’ with a handful of treats.

Then came the moggies, a process that saw shop assistant Kathy dashing back and forth with her camera on standby, hauling the cats back into place several times.

Kathy eventually got them all into position and captured a split-second snap of the 17-strong pack before they scattered to return to their pressing everyday lives.

PIC FROM Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED [from back left – front right]: KATHY’S PETS DINKY, JAKIE, OPAL, PADDY, SOCKS, SAFI, CINDERS, DUSTY, MAX, SHEBA, SMOKEY, STORM, RUBY, BEN, TEDDY, RIO, MISHKA) A pet owner managed to get her SEVENTEEN cats and dogs to pose perfectly still for the ultimate ‘family pawtrait’ – after spending days trying to get the perfect shot. The amazing photo shows eight solemn-faced pooches and nine felines lined up on and around the sofa, all gazing stoically into the camera. Dedicated Kathy Smith managed to set up and capture the heart-warming snap in five minutes two weeks ago after bribing them with a stash of treats. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY – 0161 697 4266

Kathy, from Corwen, Wales, said: “I was so thrilled when I I’d captured this shot – it’s like a little family photo.

“I love all of my pets so much so I was really happy when I managed to get them all posing together – despite it not being easy to do.

“I kept trying to get photos of the cats and dogs all together but some of them were always out of frame.

“The dogs will all sit for treats so that was easy enough, but the cats were another matter.

PIC FROM Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: KATHY SMITH’S PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS AT PICTURES WHEN CATS REFUSED TO POSE) A pet owner managed to get her SEVENTEEN cats and dogs to pose perfectly still for the ultimate ‘family pawtrait’ – after spending days trying to get the perfect shot. The amazing photo shows eight solemn-faced pooches and nine felines lined up on and around the sofa, all gazing stoically into the camera. Dedicated Kathy Smith managed to set up and capture the heart-warming snap in five minutes two weeks ago after bribing them with a stash of treats. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY – 0161 697 4266

“I now know the real meaning behind herding cats – I had to just keep picking them up and putting them back until they stayed.
“It took about three attempts but in the I managed to keep them there for a couple of seconds and get the photo before they were off again.

“We live in quite a chaotic but you get used to it.”

Kathy, who rescues and cares for pets and other wildlife in need, said people are often surprised to see her giant four-legged family when they come to visit her in her three-bedroom semi-detached home.

She has three German Shepherds (Mishka, Storm and Max), three border collies (Sheba, Ben and Rio), a mongrel called Ruby and a Yorkshire Terrier Maltese cross named Teddy.

PIC FROM Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: KATHY SMITH, 30, FROM COLWYN BAY, WALES, WITH FRIEND’S DOG LOLA) A pet owner managed to get her SEVENTEEN cats and dogs to pose perfectly still for the ultimate ‘family pawtrait’ – after spending days trying to get the perfect shot. The amazing photo shows eight solemn-faced pooches and nine felines lined up on and around the sofa, all gazing stoically into the camera. Dedicated Kathy Smith managed to set up and capture the heart-warming snap in five minutes two weeks ago after bribing them with a stash of treats. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY – 0161 697 4266

Along with the nine cats, she also has four budgies, several fish and even a baby hedgehog in her care.

Kathy “People are usually shocked when they come over and realise how many pets we have, the house is but we’re used to it.

“They all run and you don’t there’s a lot of them until they’re in one room.”
Featured Image Credit: Kennedy News

ooOOoo

One can easily get Jess’s background for it is on the same page:

Jess is a journalist at LADbible who graduated from Manchester University with a degree in Film Studies, English Language and Linguistics – indecisiveness at its finest, right there. She also works for FOODbible and its sister page Seitanists, which are both a safe haven for her to channel a love for homemade pasta, fennel and everything else in between. You can contact Jess at editorial@ladbible.com.

Brilliant! To be honest I don’t really know how Jess pulled it off!

A Dog Food Recall summary

Just read and check on your own circumstances.

This latest email from the Important Dog Recall Update is just that: an update!

ooOOoo

Dear Fellow Dog Lover

I’m pleased to report there have been no new recalls announced since our last email on November 19.

However, some recalled products may still be on store shelves… or even in your own home. So, if you’ve missed any of the 11 recalls we’ve sent since July… be sure to visit our Dog Food Recalls page for full details.

8 Best Dog Food Lists
Recently Updated

Over the last 60 days, The Dog Food Advisor has updated the following best dog food pages:

  • Best Dry Dog Food
  • Best Puppy Food
  • Best Affordable Dog Food
  • Best Dog Food for Allergies
  • Best Grain-Free Dog Food
  • Best Dog Food Made with Grain
  • Best Senior Dog Food
  • Best Dog Food for Weight Loss

Click here to see our Best Dog Foods for December 2019

Please be sure to share this report with other pet owners.
Mike Sagman, Editor
The Dog Food Advisor
Saving Good Dogs From Bad Dog Food

ooOOoo

Mike Sagman does a brilliant job!

Another example of the way that dogs look after us!

This is a story from the BBC from back in April.

Despite the fact that this was some months ago, it is another example of the unconditional love that canines or dogs have for us humans.

It’s a very powerful story.

ooOOoo

Leyland runner ‘saved by dogs’ after hill fall

10th April, 2019

Buddy and Merlyn behaved like a “tag team”, Pita Oates said

A runner who broke her leg on remote moorland was rescued after her dogs raised the alarm.

Pita Oates, 48, was left unable to stand after she fell on a three-mile run in Lancashire with her blue collies Buddy and Merlyn.

One of the dogs stayed with her as she inched down the hill, while the other ran around barking for help.

This attracted the attention of another dog walker who contacted emergency services.

Ms Oates, from Leyland, said: “They were like a tag team, Buddy never left me while Merlyn went for help.

“I would have died without a doubt, I wouldn’t have lasted the night.”

When help arrived Ms Oates, who had left her mobile phone in her camper van, was drifting in and out of consciousness and starting to suffer the effects of hypothermia.

She said: “It was the tail-end of Storm Gareth, it was freezing and I was soaking wet. The winds were horrendous.”

Ms Oates said she could have died on the moors without her dogs’ help

Ms Oates broke the femur behind her left knee and tore her anterior and cruciate ligaments on the run on Great Hill near Chorley on 12 March.

“I couldn’t stand up, I was having to bum-shuffle all the way down,” she said.

“Every time my leg touched the ground I was in pain so I rigged up a sling using the dog’s lead to keep my leg up.”

It took her 90 minutes to get down the hill by which time it had gone dark.

“Buddy never left me and Merlyn kept barking back at him – when this man came with his dog he knew something wasn’t right,” she said.

Paramedics and members of the Bowland Mountain Rescue Team, as well as two from Bolton Mountain Rescue, arrived to help rescue Ms Oates.

She spent eight days in hospital and had a titanium plate fitted but still needs another operation.

Pita Oates was on a three-mile run when she was injured

ooOOoo

Part of me is not surprised at the behaviour of Ms Oates’ dogs. Dogs show their care and attention in so many ways. But then again I was surprised because these two dogs knew exactly what to do. One to stay and one to seek help. Which is what they did.

It was a close-run thing (pardon the pun) as Pita was starting to fade away when help arrived.

Brilliant!

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Sixteen

Just four fabulous photographs for you this week.

Continuing the republication of the Mother Nature Network photographs originally presented here.

The first set was a week ago.

ooOOoo

These prize-winning images of dogs will steal your heart

10th annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition drew entries from photographers in 90 countries.

Jaymi Heimbuch June 30, 2016.

Winner of the ‘I Love Dogs Because…’ category (Photo: Jade Hudson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition.

Hugo the puppy is the subject of this winning image by 16-year-old Jade Hudson.

Winner of the Oldies category (Photo: Kevin Smith/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

The gray faces of old dogs speak to all the love and friendship they’ve provided over the years as Lizzie, a 12-year-old mixed breed dog, shows us. Curling up with a cracking fire and your four-legged BFF is one of life’s great joys.

Winner of the Dog Portrait category (Photo: Jamie Morgan/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This portrait of two Afghan hounds named Ozzie and Elvis took first place for the Dog Portrait category. The setting is the idyllic Ashdown Forest in Sussex.

Winner of the Puppy category (Photo: Linda Storm/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

And finally, the winner of the Puppy category is little rescue puppy Buddy enjoying a bowl of milk. The photo was taken by Colorado-based photographer Linda Storm.

“The entries for this year’s Dog Photographer of the Year competition were some of the best we have ever seen,” says Rosemary Smart, Kennel Club chief executive. “Choosing the winners was an incredibly challenging task and we commend every photographer who entered. Each of the winning photographers beautifully captured the essence of their canine subjects on camera, demonstrating how important dogs are to us in every walk of life.”

If you’re a photographer who loves dogs as your subject, keep an eye on the opening date for next year’s competition!

ooOOoo

I should say so! These photographs are the very best of pictures taken by very talented photographers.

 

Being ever so grateful for one’s lot.

There’s a science background to being healthy and happy.

Especially as one gets older.

It’s Jean’s birthday today and we are grateful for our lot. I’m 75 now and Jean is a few years younger. But more importantly we are so grateful to have met and, subsequently, fallen in love.

As well as Jean’s love in return we have our gorgeous dogs as well (not to count in addition the two horses, the two parakeets and the cat) and they reinforce the feelings of happiness that surround us.

All of which is an introduction to an article on The Conversation that caught my eye yesterday.

I’m afraid it doesn’t mention dogs but then again we dog owners know for sure how they benefit us humans.

ooOOoo

Are you as grateful as you deserve to be?

November 26, 2019
By
Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University

Gratitude is not only a great feeling but a healthy one. Aaron Amat/Shutterstock.com

As a physician, I have helped to care for many patients and families whose lives have been turned upside down by serious illnesses and injuries. In the throes of such catastrophes, it can be difficult to find cause for anything but lament. Yet Thanksgiving presents us with an opportunity to develop one of the healthiest, most life-affirming and convivial of all habits – that of counting and rejoicing in our blessings.

Gratitude’s benefits

Research shows that grateful people tend to be healthy and happy. They exhibit lower levels of stress and depression, cope better with adversity and sleep better. They tend to be happier and more satisfied with life. Even their partners tend to be more content with their relationships.

Perhaps when we are more focused on the good things we enjoy in life, we have more to live for and tend to take better care of ourselves and each other.

When researchers asked people to reflect on the past week and write about things that either irritated them or about which they felt grateful, those tasked with recalling good things were more optimistic, felt better about their lives and actually visited their physicians less.

It is no surprise that receiving thanks makes people happier, but so does expressing gratitude. An experiment that asked participants to write and deliver thank-you notes found large increases in reported levels of happiness, a benefit that lasted for an entire month.

Philosophical roots

Giving thanks is important for our psyches and our souls. Love You Stock/Shutterstock.com

One of the greatest minds in Western history, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, argued that we become what we habitually do. By changing our habits, we can become more thankful human beings.

If we spend our days ruminating on all that has gone poorly and how dark the prospects for the future appear, we can think ourselves into misery and resentment.

But we can also mold ourselves into the kind of people who seek out, recognize and celebrate all that we have to be grateful for.

This is not to say that anyone should become a Pollyanna, ceaselessly reciting the mantra from Voltaire’s “Candide,” “All is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.” There are injustices to be righted and wounds to be healed, and ignoring them would represent a lapse of moral responsibility.

But reasons to make the world a better place should never blind us to the many good things it already affords. How can we be compassionate and generous if we are fixated on deficiency? This explains why the great Roman statesman Cicero called gratitude not only the greatest of virtues but the “parent” of them all.

Religious roots

Gratitude is deeply embedded in many religious traditions. In Judaism, the first words of the morning prayer could be translated, “I thank you.” Another saying addresses the question, “Who is rich?” with this answer: “Those who rejoice in what they have.”

From a Christian perspective, too, gratitude and thanksgiving are vital. Before Jesus shares his last meal with his disciples, he gives thanks. So vital a part of Christian life is gratitude that author and critic G.K. Chesterton calls it “the highest form of thought.”

Gratitude also plays an essential role in Islam. The 55th chapter of the Quran enumerates all the things human beings have to be grateful for – the Sun, Moon, clouds, rain, air, grass, animals, plants, rivers and oceans – and then asks, “How can a sensible person be anything but thankful to God?”

Other traditions also stress the importance of thankfulness. Hindu festivals celebrate blessings and offer thanks for them. In Buddhism, gratitude develops patience and serves as an antidote to greed, the corrosive sense that we never have enough.

Roots even in suffering

In his 1994 book, “A Whole New Life,” the Duke University English professor Reynolds Price describes how his battle with a spinal cord tumor that left him partially paralyzed also taught him a great deal about what it means to really live.

After surgery, Price describes “a kind of stunned beatitude.” With time, though diminished in many ways by his tumor and its treatment, he learns to pay closer attention to the world around him and those who populate it.

Reflecting on the change in his writing, Price notes that his books differ in many ways from those he penned as a younger man. Even his handwriting, he says, “looks very little like that of the man he was at the time of his diagnosis.”

“Cranky as it is, it’s taller, more legible, and with more air and stride. And it comes down the arm of a grateful man.”

A brush with death can open our eyes. Some of us emerge with a deepened appreciation for the preciousness of each day, a clearer sense of our real priorities and a renewed commitment to celebrating life. In short, we can become more grateful, and more alive, than ever.

Practicing gratitude

Good conversation, good friends and connections – not material possessions – bring great joy. Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to practicing gratitude, one trap to avoid is locating happiness in things that make us feel better off – or simply better – than others. In my view, such thinking can foster envy and jealousy.

There are marvelous respects in which we are equally blessed – the same Sun shines down upon each of us, we all begin each day with the same 24 hours, and each of us enjoys the free use of one of the most complex and powerful resources in the universe, the human brain.

Much in our culture seems aimed to cultivate an attitude of deficiency – for example, most ads aim to make us think that to find happiness we must buy something. Yet most of the best things in life – the beauty of nature, conversation and love – are free.

There are many ways to cultivate a disposition of thankfulness. One is to make a habit of giving thanks regularly – at the beginning of the day, at meals and the like, and at day’s end.

Likewise, holidays, weeks, seasons and years can be punctuated with thanks – grateful prayer or meditation, writing thank-you notes, keeping a gratitude journal and consciously seeking out the blessings in situations as they arise.

Gratitude can become a way of life, and by developing the simple habit of counting our blessings, we can enhance the degree to which we are truly blessed.

[ Thanks for reading! We can send you The Conversation’s stories every day in an informative email. Sign up today. ]

ooOOoo

That reference to Reynolds Price and his challenges make one think. I have been fortunate that nothing really dreadful has happened to me; apart from my father’s death when I had just turned 12. I’m getting a little hazy in terms of certain memories but that’s an old age thing rather than an illness. But to go through what he did; I just don’t know the person that I am, in terms of how I wold react to that.

But to the general tone of the article, I would hope that I can get better and better.

For it’s splendid to cultivate that disposition.

One is to make a habit of giving thanks regularly – at the beginning of the day, at meals and the like, and at day’s end.

Perfect!