I know I’m biased, but I think my dog is brilliant. I’ve been bringing home animals all my life — from parakeets to ducks, cats to horses. But of all my feathered and furry pets, it’s no contest: Dogs are by far the brainiest. They are quick learners and great communicators with an incredible ability to solve problems.
But a new paper in the journal Learning & Behavior finds dog intelligence is “not exceptional.”
Although animal smarts have long been the subject of scientific research, recently there’s been a lot of focus on canine cognition. And that’s what triggered Stephen Lea, professor emeritus at the University of Exeter, to take a closer look. He was editor of the journal Animal Behavior, where he saw so many papers dealing with the mental abilities of dogs.
“Through the process of working as an editor [and] seeing all this research, I definitely got a sense that we as a collective had gotten a bit overexcited about dog intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science.
History of studying dog smarts
Dogs and their brains have been studied for centuries (remember Pavlov and his bell?), but then were pushed aside for more popular studies with primates and other species. It wasn’t until the 1990s when dogs came back into focus. Lea wondered whether humans were giving dogs too much credit.
Lea and his coauthor, Britta Osthaus of Canterbury Christ Church University, studied more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals. They looked at research that covered three groups: carnivorans (another name for carnivores), social hunters and domesticated animals. Dogs fall into all three groups.
They discovered that when it comes to brainpower, dogs don’t particularly excel in any of the groups. There were species in each that were on par with or better than dogs in cognition comparisons. Raccoons, for example, seem to solve puzzles more easily, and hyenas seem to follow the cues of their pack more handily.
“Taking all three groups (domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans) into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional,” said Osthaus in a statement. “We are doing dogs no favor by expecting too much of them. Dogs are dogs, and we need to take their needs and true abilities into account when considering how we treat them.”
Dogs do, however, stand out from their smart counterparts because they perform well in all three categories.
“Every species has unique intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science. “Their intelligence is what you would expect of an animal that is … recently descended from social hunters … that are carnivores and that have [also] been domesticated …There’s no other animal that fits all three of those criteria.”
Sounds pretty brilliant to me.
It seems to me that science it taking far to narrow a look at our dogs.
For if one expands the range of qualities then one can include:
The last in this recent series on me examining my navel!
Dear Mr. Cosmos,
Clearly, I have no idea how many letters you receive from us funny inhabitants on Planet Earth. Can’t imagine you get floods of them but then neither can I imagine that this is the first one you have ever received.
Why can I not imagine this is to be your first? Simply, because us funny folk on this incredible planet of yours have been around for quite a while. I mean that over in that country we folk call Israel there has been found evidence of “control of fire by humans nearly 790,000 years ago.“
Just realised that me saying “quite a while” and writing of “790,000 years ago” will be utterly meaningless, in terms of scale, to how you describe your past. Just as it is utterly meaningless for me to contemplate that in cosmological terms the ‘Big Bang”, generally recognised as the start of your Universe, was, give or take, some 13.8 billion years ago.
I wish I could really get an idea of what a million years feels like, let alone a billion years. Ah well!
Let me stay with this notion of stuff being meaningless.
My dear, long-time friend Dan Gomez sent me a link to an item that had been published on the Science Alert website. It was about how the NASA Hubble space telescope had recently embarked on a new mission. Or in the words of that article:
Hubble Just Revealed Thousands of Hidden Galaxies in This Jaw-Dropping Photo
By Michelle Starr, September 13th, 2018
Hubble has embarked on a new observation mission: to study the farthest reaches of the Universe, using some of the most massive objects in the Universe – galaxy clusters.
And this newly released picture shows how.
At the centre is Abell 370, a cluster of a few hundred galaxies located around 4 billion light-years from Earth. And arrayed around it, never seen before, are thousands of galaxies, out even farther in the depths of space.
The reason we can see them now is because of Abell 370. All those hundreds of galaxies, clustered so close together, and the associated dark matter, create an immense field of gravity.
When the light behind that field passes through it, the gravitational force is so strong that it bends the path of the light. This creates a magnifying effect called gravitational lensing, allowing us to see objects we usually can’t.
Abell 370 is the first of these clusters.
Here is one of those photographs,
And an explanation of what we are looking at:
In the image, you can see the galaxies in Abell 370. The brightest yellowish white ones are huge, containing hundreds of billions of stars. The bluer ones are smaller, spiral galaxies, like the Milky Way, with younger populations of stars. And the dimmer, yellower galaxies are older, with ageing star populations.
The galaxies behind Abell 370 appear as smeared lines of light. The most spectacular, to the lower left of the centre, is nicknamed the Dragon (possibly for its resemblance to a Chinese dragon), with its head to the left. It’s made up of five images of the same spiral galaxy, magnified and stretched by the gravitational lens.
Mr. Cosmos, you know a little earlier I was remarking about how it is impossible to comprehend the age of the Universe. Well, dear Sir, it’s just as impossible to comprehend your distances.
Take Abell 370 out there some 4 billion light years from Planet Earth! I really wanted to have a go at understanding that distance.
First, I looked up the distance in miles that is represented by one light-year. Answer: one light year is a tad under six trillion miles.
Just one, let alone some 4 billion of them!
Next, I looked up the distance of our very familiar Big Dipper constellation. You must have heard of it? This one!
Turns out that even this very familiar sight in our night sky ranges from 78 to 123 light years away. Average that as 100 light years and, bingo, you are looking at this familiar cluster of stars that is 590 trillion miles away!
So, dear Mr. Cosmos, that puts your Abell 370 constellation about a distance that is 10 million times more distant than our Big Dipper!
I wrote above that “I really wanted to understand that distance.” In reference to how far that Abell 370 constellation truly was. My conclusion is that I will never, ever understand that distance.
Anyone able to help?
Tomorrow, Mr. Cosmos, the closing page two of my letter to you.
Your oceans of the world are truly breath-taking. The power you can display in the odd wave or million through to the tranquility you so often also display defy rational explanations.
I have had the profound experience of sailing upon your waters, dear Mr. Neptune, over a number of years sailing back and forth between Cyprus and Turkey. Not a long distance but still sufficient to experience being solo on a yacht day and night.
Then on my way sailing back to Plymouth, SW England, the magical, almost primeval, feeling of being alone on the Atlantic Ocean. Looking up at the night sky, feeling so insignificant, so infinitesimally minute with 500 miles of open ocean in all directions and those stars above my head.
No question, that practically everything about your oceans is beyond the understanding of us humans. Indeed, I had to look up online how much water there is on Earth to discover there is:
It’s roughly 326 million cubic miles (1.332 billion cubic kilometers), according to a recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey.
Because I simply didn’t have a clue.
And knowing there are approximately 326 million cubic miles of water doesn’t help because I am still left not having a clue as to what that means!
So, thank goodness, Mr. Neptune this is all a ‘walk in the park’ for you!
But I do have a question for you.
What do you make of this?
The image is cropped from the following:
The description of these figures is:
Figure. (upper) Change in global upper-level (0–2000 m) ocean heat content since 1958. Each bar shows the annual mean relative to a 1981–2010 baseline. (lower) Annual mean ocean heat content anomaly in 2017 relative to a 1981–2010 baseline.
Owing to its large heat capacity, the ocean accumulates the warming derived from human activities; indeed, more than 90% of Earth’s residual heat related to global warming is absorbed by the ocean (IPCC, Cheng et al. 2017). As such, the global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming and is impacted less by weather-related noise and climate variability such as El Niño and La Niña events (Cheng et al. 2018). On the other hand, ocean thermal expansion due to ocean temperature change contributes substantially (30%~50%) to the sea level change, which can considerably influence human populations in coastal and island regions and marine ecosystems. Therefore, monitoring the OHC changes and understanding its variation are crucial for climate change.
Is it possible, Mr. Neptune, that even you as the master of all our oceans is worried about the future?
The idea of writing a letter to the moon is not a new one and it came to me when listening to an item yesterday morning, Pacific Time, broadcast by the BBC on Radio 4. The item was the news that Elon Musk has announced that:
Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has unveiled the first private passenger it plans to fly around the Moon.
Japanese billionaire and online fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, 42, announced: “I choose to go to the Moon.”
The mission is planned for 2023, and would be the first lunar journey by humans since 1972.
On September 18, 1977, as it headed toward the outer solar system, Voyager 1 looked back and acquired a stunning image of our Earth and moon.
You will surely remember that first image taken of the Planet Earth and your good self in the same frame.
Now here we are some 41 years later and, my, how things have changed.
But something, dear Mr. Moon, has never changed for you. That is the sight of our most beautiful planet. Plus, I would go so far as to venture that what makes our planet such a beautiful sight, one that has captivated us humans when we have gone into space and looked back at home, is the magic of our atmosphere.
It is akin to the thinness of the skin of an onion.
In fact, Mr. Moon, that layer that we earthlings call the troposphere, the layer closest to Earth’s surface varies from just 4 miles to 12 miles (7 to 20 km) thick. It contains half of our planet’s atmosphere!
Everything that sustains the life of air-breathing creatures, human and otherwise, depends on the health of this narrow layer of atmosphere above our heads. Now the thickness of that layer varies depending on the season and the temperature of the air. But let’s use an average thickness of 8 miles (say, 13 km) because I want to explore in my letter to you some comparisons.
You will also have seen from your lofty vantage point the growth of both CO2 levels in the planet’s atmosphere and the average land-ocean temperature. Forgive me quoting something at you, but:
OBSERVABLE CHANGES IN THE EARTH
SINCE THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
While politicians have been busy debating the merits of climate science, the physical symptoms of climate change have become increasingly apparent: since the industrial revolution, sea level has grown by 0.9 inches, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen to unprecedented levels, average global temperatures have increased by about 1.0 degree Celsius and, to top it off, the global population has jumped by nearly 600 percent; 15 of the 16 hottest years on record occurred in the 21st century, and 2016 is likely to be the warmest year ever recorded.
Now the Industrial Revolution was all but over back in 1840 and the last 178 years have seen an explosion in the way we use energy, in all its forms. Plus we have to accept that back then the global population was around 1 billion persons. It is now over 7 billion.
Between 1900 and 2000, the increase in world population was three times greater than during the entire previous history of humanity—an increase from 1.5 to 6.1 billion in just 100 years.
So on to my comparisons.
The radius of our beautiful planet is about 3,959 miles (6,371 km). The average thickness of the troposphere is 8 miles (13 km).
Thus the ratio of thickness of our liveable atmosphere to the radius of the planet is 8 divided by 3,959. That is a figure of 0.002! Our atmosphere is 1/1000th of the size of the radius of our planet.
Hang on that figure for a moment.
In the last 178 years humanity has transformed our consumption of energy and especially carbon-based fuels. H. sapiens has been around for 315,000 years.
Thus the ratio of these present ‘modern’ times (the last 178 years) to the arrival of us back then (315,000 years ago) is 178 divided by 315,000. That is a (rounded) figure of 0.0006. Our modern times are just 1/10,000th of the time that so-called modern man has been on this planet.
So, dear Mr. Moon, you must despair that in so short a number of years, proportionally ten times smaller than the ratio of the troposphere to the radius of our planet, we funny creatures have done so much damage to what we all depend on to stay alive – clean air!
Or maybe, my dear companion of the night sky, because you are celebrating your 4.1 billionth year of existence, what we humans are doing is all a bit of a yawn.
This old Brit living in Oregon.
My dear friends (and I’m now speaking to you dear reader, not the moon!) when you reflect on the fragility of our atmosphere, well the layer we depend on for life, you realise without doubt that each and every one of us must make this pledge.
“I promise to do everything possible to reduce my own personal CO2 output and to ensure that both to my near friends and my political representatives I make it clear that we must turn back – and turn back now!”
Or, as George Monbiot writes in closing a recent essay (that I am republishing tomorrow): “Defending the planet means changing the world.”
A collection of items has been crossing my ‘in-box’ in recent weeks and while many of the topics are, on the face it, not connected, for reasons I am not entirely sure about they seem to fall under the same umbrella; as in being of the same coherent theme.
Let me list some of these topics: the age of the universe; climate change; CO2 levels; the certainty of death; the history of the last half-million years; what our dogs teach us; and more!
Naturally, Jeannie and I have been kicking around these topics, aided and abetted by Dan Gomez, my Californian friend of some 40 years (and my ‘Best Man’ when Jean and I were married in 2010 and, more or less directly, the catalyst of me and Jean meeting in 2007!)
But I get the sense that many of you wonderful people that follow this place also scratch your head not infrequently and ponder on these ‘interesting’ times.
I don’t have any answers. But I do want to share how, over the last few weeks, I have been seeking some meaning, some peace, to the big issues that have the potential to make these times pretty uncomfortable if not a tad scary.
I shall not be extending this introspection each day but probably ( and I’m guessing) a couple of times a week I shall be dipping into the barrel!
Starting off with climate change, maybe tomorrow or Wednesday.
But what of today!
Today I am publishing another Dog Food Recall alert that came out late last week!
Performance Dog Pet Food Recall
September 12, 2018 — Bravo Packing, Inc. of Carneys Point, New Jersey, is recalling all Performance Dog products, a frozen raw pet food, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.
The following products are affected by the recall:
Package Size: 2-pound plastic sleeve
Mfg Date Code: 071418
Package Size: 5-pound plastic sleeve
Mfg Date Code: 071418
Performance Dog comes frozen in 2-pound and 5-pound plastic sleeves.
The recalled product has manufacture date code 071418.
The manufacture date codes are printed on the boxes that contain the plastic sleeves, but not on the individual plastic sleeves.
Therefore, if the cardboard box has been discarded, there are no unique identification numbers on the individual sleeves that allow customers to determine that they possess the recalled products.
If you purchased this product since July 14, 2018 and cannot determine whether it is affected by the recall, the FDA recommends that you exercise caution and throw the product away.
Salmonella can cause illness in animals eating the products, as well as people who handle contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products, infected animals or any surfaces exposed to these products.
Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.
Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis (an infection of the heart muscle), arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation and urinary tract symptoms.
People who have these symptoms after having contact with this product or an animal that has eaten this product should contact their healthcare providers.
Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.
Some pets will have decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.
Pets exposed to contaminated food can be infected without showing symptoms.
If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.
Infected animals can also shed Salmonella through their feces and saliva, spreading pathogens into the home environment and to humans and other animals in the household.
No human or animal illnesses have been reported to date.
What Caused the Recall?
Bravo Packing, Inc. is voluntarily recalling this product after a sample of Performance Dog, collected during an FDA inspection, tested positive for Salmonella.
Performance Dog generally works with the distributor Tefco, located in Brooklyn , New York, that fills orders to brick-and-mortar retail stores or to consumers directly.
What to Do?
Consumers with questions should contact Bravo Packing, Inc. at 856-299-1044 (Monday thru Friday, 6 AM to 2 PM, Saturday 4 AM to 9 AM ET) or through the company’s website at http://www.bravopacking.com.
Science confirms what we instinctively understand!
That the way a dog looks deep into our eyes is more than emotional froth!
Follower of this blog, Anita, left a comment to yesterday’s post. This is what she wrote (my emphasis):
This has been a wonderful compilation of awesome photos. You must do it again sometime. Dogs are so wonderful and such great companions. They do have eyes that see straight through our very souls and ready to love us at the drop of a hat.
One of our dogs here at home, Oliver, has those eyes. When he stares into my own eyes it feels as though at some mystical level Oliver and I are connected.
So imagine my surprise when reading yesterday the lead essay in The Smithsonian about the evolution of the domesticated dog and me coming across this:
The relationship has become so close that even our brains are in sync. Witness a study showing that dogs hijack the human brain’s maternal bonding system. When humans and dogs gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes, each of their brains secretes oxytocin, a hormone linked to maternal bonding and trust.
In other words, science confirms what I experience as being real!! (Undoubtedly shared by many of you!)
Long ago, before your four-legged best friend learned to fetch tennis balls or watch football from the couch, his ancestors were purely wild animals in competition—sometimes violent—with our own. So how did this relationship change? How did dogs go from being our bitter rivals to our snuggly, fluffy pooch pals?
The new drama Alpha answers that question with a Hollywood “tail” of the very first human/dog partnership.
Europe is a cold and dangerous place 20,000 years ago when the film’s hero, a young hunter named Keda, is injured and left for dead. Fighting to survive, he forgoes killing an injured wolf and instead befriends the animal, forging an unlikely partnership that—according to the film—launches our long and intimate bond with dogs.
Just how many nuggets of fact might be sprinkled throughout this prehistoric fiction?
We’ll never know the gritty details of how humans and dogs first began to come together. But beyond the theater the true story is slowly taking shape, as scientists explore the real origins of our oldest domestic relationship and learn how both species have changed along canines’ evolutionary journey from wolves to dogs.
When and where were dogs domesticated?
Pugs and poodles may not look the part, but if you trace their lineages far enough back in time all dogs are descended from wolves. Gray wolves and dogs diverged from an extinct wolf species some 15,000 to 40,000 years ago. There’s general scientific agreement on that point, and also with evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare’s characterization of what happened next. ’The domestication of dogs was one of the most extraordinary events in human history,” Hare says.
But controversies abound concerning where a long-feared animal first became our closest domestic partner. Genetic studies have pinpointed everywhere from southern China to Mongolia to Europe.
Scientists cannot agree on the timing, either. Last summer, research reported in Nature Communications pushed likely dates for domestication further back into the past, suggesting that dogs were domesticated just once at least 20,000 but likely closer to 40,000 years ago. Evolutionary ecologist Krishna R. Veeramah, of Stony Brook University, and colleagues sampled DNA from two Neolithic German dog fossils, 7,000 and 4,700 years old respectively. Tracing genetic mutation rates in these genomes yielded the new date estimates.
“We found that our ancient dogs from the same time period were very similar to modern European dogs, including the majority of breed dogs people keep as pets,” explained Dr. Veeramah in a release accompanying the study. This suggests, he adds, “that there was likely only a single domestication event for the dogs observed in the fossil record from the Stone Age and that we also see and live with today.”
Comparing these genomes with many wolves and modern dog breeds suggested that dogs were domesticated in Asia, at least 14,000 years ago, and their lineages split some 14,000 to 6,400 years ago into East Asian and Western Eurasian dogs .
But because dog fossils apparently older than these dates have been found in Europe, the authors theorize that wolves may have been domesticated twice, though the European branch didn’t survive to contribute much to today’s dogs. Greger Larson, director of the Wellcome Trust Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network at Oxford University, suggests that the presence of older fossils in both Europe and Asia, and the lack of dogs older than 8,000 years in between those regions, supports such a scenario.
“Our ancient DNA evidence, combined with the archaeological record of early dogs, suggests that we need to reconsider the number of times dogs were domesticated independently. Maybe the reason there hasn’t yet been a consensus about where dogs were domesticated is because everyone has been a little bit right,′ Larson said in a statement accompanying the study.
Perhaps more intriguing than exactly when or where dogs became domesticated is the question of how. Was it really the result of a solitary hunter befriending an injured wolf? That theory hasn’t enjoyed much scientific support.
One similar theory argues that early humans somehow captured wolf pups, kept them as pets, and gradually domesticated them. This could have happened around the same time as the rise of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago. The oldest fossils generally agreed to be domestic dogs date to about 14,000 years, but several disputed fossils more than twice that age may also be dogs or at least their no longer entirely wolf ancestors.
Since more recent genetic studies suggest that the date of domestication occurred far earlier, a different theory has gained the support of many scientists. “Survival of the friendliest” suggests that wolves largely domesticated themselves among hunter-gatherer people.
“That the first domesticated animal was a large carnivore, who would have been a competitor for food—anyone who has spent time with wild wolves would see how unlikely it was that we somehow tamed them in a way that led to domestication,” says Brian Hare, director of the Duke University Canine Cognition Center.
But, Hare notes, the physical changes that appeared in dogs over time, including splotchy coats, curly tails, and floppy ears, follow a pattern of a process known as self-domestication. It’s what happens when the friendliest animals of a species somehow gain an advantage. Friendliness somehow drives these physical changes, which can begin to appear as visible byproducts of this selection in only a few generations.
“Evidence for this comes from another process of domestication, one involving the famous case of domesticated foxes in Russia. This experiment bred foxes who were comfortable getting close to humans, but researchers learned that these comfortable foxes were also good at picking up on human social cues,” explains Laurie Santos, director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University. The selection of social foxes also had the unintended consequence of making them look increasingly adorable—like dogs.
Hare adds that most wolves would have been fearful and aggressive towards humans—because that’s the way most wolves behave. But some would have been friendlier, which may have given them access to human hunter-gatherer foodstuffs..
“These wolves would have had an advantage over other wolves, and the strong selection pressure on friendliness had a whole lot of byproducts, like the physical differences we see in dogs,” he says. “This is self-domestication. We did not domesticate dogs. Dogs domesticated themselves.”
A study last year provided some possible genetic support for this theory. Evolutionary biologist Bridgette von Holdt, of Princeton University, and colleagues suggest that hypersocial behavior may have linked our two species and zero in on a few genes that may drive that behavior.
“Generally speaking, dogs display a higher level of motivation than wolves to seek out prolonged interactions with humans. This is the behavior I’m interested in,” she says.
Von Holdt’s research shows that the social dogs she tested have disruption to a genomic region that remains intact in more aloof wolves. Interestingly, in humans genetic variation in the same stretch of DNA causes Williams-Beuren syndrome, a condition characterized by exceptionally trusting and friendly behaviors. Mice also become more social if changes occur to these genes, previous studies have discovered.
The results suggest that random variations to these genes, with others yet unknown, may have played a role in causing some dogs to first cozy up with humans.
“We were able to identify one of the many molecular features that likely shape behavior,” she adds.
How have dogs changed since becoming our best friends?
Though the origins of the dog/human partnership remain unknown, it’s becoming increasingly clear that each species has changed during our long years together. The physical differences between a basset hound and wolf are obvious, but dogs have also changed in ways that are more than skin (or fur) deep.
But, Yale’s Laurie Santos says, dogs may have compensated in other interesting ways. They’ve learned to use humans to solve problems.
“Several researchers have presented dogs and wolves with an impossible problem (e.g., a puzzle box that can’t be opened or a pulling tool that stops working) and have asked how these different species react,” Santos explains. “Researchers have found that wolves try lots of different trial and error tactics to solve the problem— they get at it physically. But at the first sign of trouble, dogs do something different. They look back to their human companion for help. This work hints that dogs may have lost some of their physical problem-solving abilities in favor of more social strategies, ones that rely on the unique sort of cooperation domesticated dogs have with humans. This also matches the work showing that dogs are especially good at using human social cues.”
The relationship has become so close that even our brains are in sync. Witness a study showing that dogs hijack the human brain’s maternal bonding system. When humans and dogs gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes, each of their brains secretes oxytocin, a hormone linked to maternal bonding and trust. Other mammal relationships, including those between mom and child, or between mates, feature oxytocin bonding, but the human/dog example is the only case in which it has been observed at work between two different species.
The intimacy of this relationship means that, by studying dogs, we may also learn much about human cognition.
We may never know the exact story of how the first dogs and humans joined forces, but dogs have undoubtedly helped us in countless ways over the years. Still, only now may we be realizing that by studying them, they can help us to better understand ourselves.
I can do no better than to repeat those last two sentences of the essay by Brian Handwerk:
We may never know the exact story of how the first dogs and humans joined forces, but dogs have undoubtedly helped us in countless ways over the years. Still, only now may we be realizing that by studying them, they can help us to better understand ourselves.
For, boy of boy, do we humans need help when it comes to better understanding ourselves!
Those poor souls who keep on calling in to this place will most likely be aware of my very long-term friend Dan Gomez.
For all of the nearly forty years that I have know Dan he has always had a dog in his life.
Just a few days ago, Dan sent me an email with some pictures of Lexi, a young dog that he has had since she was a puppy.
Or in Dan’s words:
Lexi has been a magnificent example of an adventurous Flat-Coated Retriever.
She’s a wonderful hiker, swimmer, hunter and a great greeter on the trail. She’s happiest when she has her leash clenched in her teeth, parading around from person to person before continuing on her way.
What a great breed these dogs are!
Lexi came from the Brazilian breeder Keli: “Keli is the breeder, a fantastic Brazilian living in a wonderful estate in the hills of San Jose.“; to use Dan’s words.
Apparently, Keli plans for pups that year were taken out of her hands. For the reason that Lexi’s parents, Schmee and Party, decided to creep off into the bushes one day, and:
Schmee and Party are the popular names for the sire and dam and they were free from the kennel one day when Keli was off on a trip and they mated. So, the pups were “accidents”. But, most assuredly, great accidents!
While this repeat of our G litter was not planned … We welcomed these ten pups with open arms after seeing the success of the 3 intact G puppies and the stories from owners of other G pups who just adore their dogs. Not surprising at all, based on Schmee and Party being complete mushballs who just want to hold on to you, be with you and be loved by you. This litter has surprised and delighted us already with three pointed puppies … Juice, Callie & Popper in their first year of showing. I cannot wait to see what 2017 holds for them.
She will be three in October and her health and performance has been great. She had Rattlesnake aversion training last year in Palm Springs and did very well. She ran a gauntlet of four snakes to learn sound, site and smell.
She’s had two rattler encounters. On one hike, she encountered a rattler, approached it but stopped on a dime when it rattled loudly. I was someway behind, heard the rattle and whistled to her and she backed away, came immediately to me.
Nature vs. training worked perfectly.
We are still hiking two times daily between 3 and 7 miles total all over the West. Addicted.
Schmee and Party were a great “accident”!
Again and again, our lives are so incredibly enriched by having a dog (or six) in our lives!
It was the fickle finger of fate that led me to the arms, metaphorically speaking, of a core process psychotherapist back in Devon in the first half of 2007. That counselling relationship that revealed a deeply hidden aspect of my consciousness: a fear of rejection that I had had since December, 1956. That finger of fate that took me to Mexico for Christmas 2007 and me meeting Jean and all her dogs. That finger of fate that pointed me to the happiest years of my life and a love between Jeannie and me that I could previously never ever have imagined.
Here’s the full account. (But this is quite a long post and has the potential to cause some pain. Of course, I don’t intend that. But it’s best to mention that now.)
First we need to go back to that evening of December 19th, 1956. I had turned 12 on November, 8th and had just completed my first term at a nearby Grammar School. Then the family, as in Mum, Dad, me and my younger sister Elizabeth, were living comfortably in a detached house in Toley Avenue, a road off the main street that comprises Preston Road.
Preston Road is one of the outer suburbs of London to the North-West, sandwiched between Wembley, closer in to London, and Harrow, a little further out.
Anyway, on that evening of the 19th my mother came into my bedroom, located at the front of the house and next to Mum and Dad’s bedroom, at the usual time to say ‘Good night’ to me.
But while it was the usual time for Mum to be saying goodnight to me, clearly something was different this particular evening.
Mum sat down on the edge of my bed, just where my knees were, looked at me, and said, with pain in her voice: “Paul, you do know your father isn’t very well. He may not live for much longer.”
To be honest, all these many years later, I have no recollection as to whether or not I was aware that my father wasn’t very well.
Mum then leaned over to me, gave me my goodnight kiss, got up, and went out of my bedroom switching off the room light as she closed the door. As she always did and no different to any other evening.
Likewise, as with any other evening, I went off to sleep within a few minutes.
However, when I awoke the following morning, the morning of December 20th, it was clear that something terrible had happened during the night. Let me explain that my father had had two daughters with his first wife, prior to meeting Mum, and I loved them both and saw them as elder sisters. The eldest was Rhona and she was a registered nurse (SRN). (My other ‘sister’ was Corinne.) Of course, Rhona was helping Mum care for Dad.
I got up and went downstairs. There was Rhona in the kitchen. Rhona came up to me and held me very tightly and then quietly told me that our father had died during the night. Rhona went on to add that Mum had thought it best not to wake me and Elizabeth and somehow arranged not only for the doctor to come in to certify Dad’s death but also for our father’s body to be removed from the home. Elizabeth and I had slept through it all!
I don’t recall having any emotional reaction to Rhona’s news; not even crying. It was if it was all just too unreal to take in.
A few days later, Mum, very clearly in her own mind doing her best to protect me and Elizabeth from pain, subsequently thought it wise that we didn’t go to our father’s funeral and cremation.
Now I have not the slightest doubt that many, if not all, of you will have cringed on reading the above.
Once back at school for the first term of 1957, I soon became aware of being the target of a degree of bullying, presumably because I was showing my grief through my behaviour and attitude, that my academic performance rapidly fell apart leading on to me leaving school before I went on to the Sixth Form.
The other thing that I was aware of in 1957, and for every December 20th thereafter, that this day was always a tough one. A day when I remembered with a degree of sadness and emotional pain that fateful night and morning in 1956.
Nevertheless, my adult life really was (is!) a wonderful journey for me. It included a period working as a freelance journalist out in Australia in the late 1960s, becoming an Office Products salesman for IBM UK after returning from Australia to England and then in 1978 starting my own company, Dataview Ltd., in the early days of the personal computer revolution. Then after eight whirlwind years with Dataview growing in leaps and bounds each year, being approached in 1986 by a group of investors who wished to buy me out: I said “Yes”. That resulted in me going to live on a yacht, Songbird of Kent, a Tradewind 33, out in Cyprus (Larnaca Marina).
While in Cyprus I got to know really well the wonderful, inspiring Les Powells, a three-times solo circumnavigator on his yacht Solitaire, and that thanks directly to Les offering me some very good advice, me experiencing the beauty, and the fear, of solo sailing out in The Atlantic and returning to Plymouth, in Devon, England, via Horta in The Azores, on the 16th June, 1994.
But! But! But!
But there was another part of my adult life that wasn’t such a wonderful journey. My relationships with the opposite sex! Culminating in my third wife, Julie, announcing on the day of the 50th anniversary of my father’s death, as in December 20th, 2006, that she was leaving me. (The reality of what she did to me was not pretty but I will spare you the details.)
Let me explain a little more.
After I had returned to England, sailing into Plymouth, in 1994, I subsequently sold Songbird of Kent and purchased a small house in the little village of Harberton, just a few miles out of Totnes, in South Devon. An easy decision to stay in South Devon because both Rhona and Corinne had their family homes close to Totnes.
I quickly became involved in the local business community undertaking a variety of coaching roles under the umbrella of Sales and Marketing; I was then a Chartered Member of the Institute of Marketing. In turn, Julie and I met each other and we became married.
In the Autumn of 2006, a Core Process Psychotherapist came to me seeking some business advice. ‘J’ had had many years of coaching individuals one-to-one but had the idea, the good idea to my mind, of coaching the directors of companies in the whole process of listening to their employees and offering advice and guidance whenever there was the potential of conflict. If the employees worked more effectively together then ‘J’ believed the company as a whole would be more effective in reaching their goals.
‘J’ had no idea how companies worked, for want of a better term, and my role was teach ‘J’ the fundamentals of operating the sort of company that was common to South Devon.
That’s what I was doing up to that fateful day of December 20th, 2006.
Because upon hearing the news that my then wife was leaving me, I simply blew apart emotionally. In the most terrible manner that I had never experienced before.
Very early on in January, 2007 I felt that I was descending into some bottomless pit of despair. In desperation I rang ‘J’ and explained what had happened on the 20th. ‘J’ listened and then said, quite properly, that he couldn’t see me as his client because we already had a working relationship. I pleaded and pleaded with ‘J’ to allow me to be his psychotherapy client. Finally, ‘J’ agreed but on the very strict condition that if he thought the counselling relationship wasn’t working then we would terminate it. He asked, and received, my understanding and agreement to that condition.
It wasn’t long thereafter before ‘J’ was asking me a little of my early experiences and I recounted that night of December 19th-20th and how I had not been able to say ‘Goodbye’ to my father.
‘J’ was quiet for a few minutes and then said:
“Paul, you have a son don’t you?”
I silently nodded.
“How do you think Alex would react if your death was handled for him in the same manner as your mother handled it for you?”
I gasped, conscious of how much I loved Alex, and Maija my daughter, and could hardly get the words out of my mouth: “He, he, … he would think he had been emotionally rejected ….”, continuing, “Oh my goodness! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh, my sainted aunt! That’s it! I interpreted what happened back then when father died as rejection. That I wasn’t important to my father. So that’s what I have been experiencing all my adult life – a fear of rejection! But until now that fear has been completely submerged in my subconscious! Wow!”
That is the reason why, not to sound too immodest, I have been successful in all matters to do with my working life: I did everything to be accepted by my customers, my managers, my associates, and so on.
But it was also the reason why I had been so unsuccessful in my many, many relationships with women. Why I was unfaithful to my first wife. Why I could never say “No” to an emotional relationship with a woman, whether or not that woman had the potential to be a good long-term companion. Because I behaved in ways that minimised the chances of that woman rejecting me. That was why my last wife, Julie, before I met Jean, so gravely affected me when she chose, quite deliberately, to tell me she was leaving me on the 50th anniversary of my father’s death.
So that’s how ‘J’ held my hand, metaphorically speaking, and walked me into the light of how the past had affected me.
Dear, dear reader of Learning from Dogs, I do hope this makes sense and possibly in some small way this post holds out a hand to you.
I will close with this. Heard on a film that Jean and I recently watched.
Unless you understand yourself, can you be truthful to yourself?
The journey inwards is the most important and rewarding journey we can take!
The journey inwards is the most challenging and yet the most rewarding of all!
This post is essentially a reposting of an item that I published nearly three years ago. It came to me as a result of some delightful exchanges following my post last Thursday: How well our dogs read us!
Tomorrow I will go into more details of that fateful event in my past: December 20th, 1956.
Further musings on dogs, women and men.
Published on Learning from Dogs, August 6th, 2015
A few weeks ago, I read a book entitled The Republican Brain written by Chris Mooney and to quote WikiPedia:
The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality is a book by the journalist Chris Mooney that is about the psychological basis for many Republicans’ rejection of mainstream scientific theories, as well as theories of economics and history.
On page 83, Chris Mooney writes (my emphasis):
Here also arises a chief liberal weakness, in Lakoff’s view (*), and one that is probably amplified by academic training. Call it the Condorcet handicap, or the Enlightenment syndrome. Either way, it will sound very familiar: Constantly trying to use factual and reasoned arguments to make the world better and being amazed to find even though these arguments are sound, well-researched, and supported, they are disregarded, or even actively attacked by conservatives.
When glimpsed from a bird’s eye view, all the morality research that we’re surveying is broadly consistent. It once again reinforces the idea that there are deep differences between liberals and conservatives – differences that are operating, in many cases, beneath the level of conscious awareness, and that ultimately must be rooted in the brain.
(*) George Lakoff, Berkeley Cognitive Linguist and author of the book Moral Politics.
What Chris Mooney is proposing is that the difference between liberals and conservatives could be genetically rooted, at least in part.
That underlines in my mind how each of us, before even considering our gender differences, is truly a complex mix of ‘nature and nurture’ with countless numbers of permutations resulting.
That there are deep differences, apart from the obvious ones, between man and woman goes without saying. In earlier times, these differences were essential in us humans achieving so much and leading to, in the words of Yuval Noah Harari from yesterday’s post., ” … few would disagree that humans dominate planet Earth; we’ve spread to every continent, and our actions determine the fate of other animals (and possibly Earth itself).”
Speaking of earlier times, let me turn to dogs, for it is pertinent to my post, and I would like to quote an extract from what Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine, Jim Goodbrod, writes in the foreword of my forthcoming book:
But what exactly is this human-dog bond and why do we feel such an affinity for this species above all others? My feeling is that it may be associated with our deep but subconscious longing for that age of simple innocence and innate human goodness that we supposedly possessed before we became truly “human”: that child-like innocence or what Rousseau referred to as the “noble savage”, before being corrupted by civilization, before we were booted out of the Garden of Eden. We humans, for better or worse, somewhere along that evolutionary road acquired consciousness or so-called human nature and with it we lost that innocence. What we gained were those marvelous qualities that make us uniquely human: a sense of self-awareness, an innate moral and ethical code, the ability to contemplate our own existence and mortality, and our place in the universe. We gained the ability to think abstract thoughts and the intellectual power to unravel many of the mysteries of the universe. Because of that acquired consciousness and humans’ creative and imaginative mind we have produced the likes of Shakespeare, Mozart, and Einstein. We have peered deep into outer space, deciphered the genetic code, eradicated deadly diseases, probed the bizarre inner world of the atom, and accomplished thousands of other intellectual feats that hitherto would not have been possible without the evolution of our incredible brain and the consciousness with which it is equipped.
No other living species on this planet before or since has developed this massive intellectual power. But this consciousness was attained at what cost? Despite all the amazing accomplishments of the human race, we are the only species that repeatedly commits genocide and wages war against ourselves over political ideology, geographic boundaries, or religious superstition. We are capable of justifying the suffering and death of fellow human beings over rights to a shiny gold metal or a black oily liquid that powers our cars. We are the only species that has the capability to destroy our own planet, our only home in this vast universe, by either nuclear warfare, or more insidiously by environmental contamination on a global scale. Was it worth it? No matter what your or my opinion may be, Pandora’s Box has been opened and we cannot put the lid back on.
What can we do now to reverse this trend and help improve the quality of life for humanity and ensure the well-being of our planet? I think, if we recognize the problem and look very critically at ourselves as a unique species with awesome powers to do both good and bad, and put our collective minds to the task, it may be possible to retrieve some of the qualities of that innocence lost, without losing all that we have gained.
Dogs represent to me that innocence lost. Their emotions are pure. They live in the present. They do not suffer existential angst over who or what they are. They do not covet material wealth. They offer us unconditional love and devotion. Although they certainly have not reached the great heights of intellectual achievement of us humans (I know for a fact that this is true after having lived with a Labrador retriever for several years), at the same time they have not sunk to the depths of depravity to which we are susceptible. It could be argued that I am being overly anthropomorphic, or that dogs are simply mentally incapable of these thoughts. But nevertheless, metaphorically or otherwise, I believe that dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life from which we all could benefit. I think the crux of Paul’s thesis is that, within the confines and limitations of our human consciousness, we can (and should) metaphorically view the integrity of the dog as a template for human behavior.
“Dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life …”
I closed yesterday’s post with these words, “It is my contention that humankind’s evolution, our ability to “cooperate flexibly in large numbers”, is rooted in the gender differences between man and woman.”
The premise behind that proposition is that until, say one hundred years ago, give or take, that co-operation between large numbers of humans was critically important in so many areas: health; science; medicine; physics; exploration; outer space and more. (And whether one likes it or not: wars.) My proposition is that it is predominantly men who have been the ‘shakers and movers’ in these areas. Of course not exclusively, far from it, just saying that so many advances in society are more likely to have been led by men.
But (and you sensed a ‘but’ coming up, perhaps) these present times call for a different type of man. A man who is less the rational thinker, wanting to set the pace, and more a man capable of expressing his fears, exploring his feelings, defining his fear of failure, and more. I don’t know about you but when I read Raúl Ilargi Meijer words from yesterday, “And if and when we resort to only rational terms to define ourselves, as well as our world and the societies we create in that world, we can only fail.”, it was the male of our species that was in my mind. As in, “And if and when we [males] resort to only rational terms to define ourselves …”.
Staying with Raúl Meijer’s words from yesterday (my emphasis), “And those should never be defined by economists or lawyers or politicians, but by the people themselves. A social contract needs to be set up by everyone involved, and with everyone’s consent.”
Dogs demonstrate a simple and uncorrupted approach to life but that doesn’t extend to them making social contracts. Women do understand social contracts, they are predominantly caring, social humans. Less so for men. But for that social contract to be successfully set up by everyone it must, of course, include men. And that requires men, speaking generally you realise, to find safe ways to get in touch with their feelings, to tap into their emotional intelligence, using positive psychology to listen to their feelings and know the truth of what they and their loved ones need to guarantee a better future. What they need in terms of emotional and behavioural change. And, if I may say, sensing when they might need the support of subject experts to embed and sustain those behavioural changes.
It was the fickle finger of fate that led me to the arms, metaphorically speaking, of a core process psychotherapist back in Devon in the first half of 2007. That counselling relationship that revealed a deeply hidden aspect of my consciousness: a fear of rejection that I had had since December, 1956. That finger of fate that took me to Mexico for Christmas 2007 and me meeting Jean and all her dogs. That finger of fate that pointed me to the happiest years of my life and a love between Jeannie and me that I could hitherto never ever have imagined.
However, as much as I love and trust Jean, wholeheartedly, it comes back to dogs.
For when I curl up and wrap myself around a dog and sense that pure unconditional love coming back to me, I have access to my inner feelings, my inner joys and fears, in a way unmatched by anything else.
Where learning from dogs is a gateway to learning from me.
I will never be able to look at those eyes of Pharaoh, looking into my eyes, without feeling terrible pangs of loss. For he was the most amazing, the most wise, the most deep-thinking dog that I have ever known. Correction: that Jean and I have ever known!
TIME magazine published a double-issue in February of this year How To Live Longer Better!
The article, on Page 47, opens:
Old age demands to be taken very seriously – and it usually gets its way!
Then later on in that same article one reads:
Exactly how much – or how little – exercise it takes to begin paying dividends has been one of the happy surprises of longevity research. A 2016 study found that elderly people who exercised for just 15 minutes a day, at an intensity level of a brisk walk, had a 22% lower risk of early death compared to people who did not exercise.
Then two sentences later:
Researchers from McMaster University in Canada even found that breaking a sweat for just 60 seconds may be long enough to improve health and fitness (as long as it’s a tough workout).
As part of Jean’s commitment to slowing down the progression of her Parkinson’s Disease (PD) she attends every Monday and Wednesday a special class at our local Club Northwest in Grants Pass. The class runs for 90 minutes and is a boxing class! The instructor, Mark Whiting, is a boxing coach and the class, called the Rock Steady class, is specifically for PD sufferers. One of the exercises involves rapid punching of a punch bag.
Dr. Laurie Mischley of SIM had a telephone consultation with Jean a few days ago. It was Dr. M following up Jean’s consultation with Dr. Nutt in Portland on the 10th that I wrote about in my post Jeannie’s PD Journey. Dr. M commented as to how well Jean was doing.
Possibly, vigorous exercise seems to be offering something that many in their elder years may not have cottoned on to.
Readers may recall Patrice Ayme leaving a comment in my recent Facing up to PD post:
The one and only countermeasure we have is violent neurological activity. As in powerlifting. This has been indicated by research published in 2018… But it was long obvious. So the way to “comfort” is the discomfort of maximum motor-neurological… hmmm… violence. Too much local gentleness doesn’t optimize overall comfort and gentleness… I guess that’s one of my overall philosophical messages… Not one popular with the PC crowd…
Now I’m still trying to get to bottom of this link between vigorous exercise and long-term health and have reached out to McMaster University in Canada seeking academic backing for the link.
More from me as I learn more.
Turning to diet.
In that same TIME magazine, on page 53, there is a single page listing five places around the world known as Blue Zones.
Global life expectancy averages out to 71.4 years. That means. of course, that some parts of the world see much shorter spans, while others enjoy far greater longevity.
Five places, in particular, fall into the latter category. They’re know as Blue Zones – named for the blue circles researchers drew to identify the first one on a map – and they’re home to some of the oldest and healthiest people in the world. Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones and The Blue Zones Solution, told TIME why residents of these places live so long – and how you can steal their habits
Those five places are listed below with me republishing just a small extract regarding diet from four of those five place descriptions.
Sardinia, Italy – “A largely plant-based diet ….”
Okinawa, Japan – No mention of diet.
Nicoya, Costa Rica – “The Costa Rican people traditionally get the majority of their caloric intake from beans, squash and corn, plus tropical fruits. This plant-forward, nutrient-dense diet ……”
Loma Linda, Calif., USA – “Adventists live 10 years longer than their fellow Americans. Many avoid meat and eat plenty of plants, whole grains and nuts.”
Ikaria, Greece – ” …. and a strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet – eating lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, potatoes and olive oil – propels 1 in 3 ikarians to live into their 90s, often free of dementia and chronic disease.”`