Category: consciousness

Jeannie’s PD journey

“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.”

So wrote the philosopher Democritus who was born in 460 BCE (although some claim his year of birth was 490 BCE). He acquired fame with his knowledge of the natural phenomena that existed in those times and history writes that he preferred a contemplative life to an active life, spending much of his life in solitude. The fact that he lived to beyond 100 suggests his philosophy didn’t do him any harm.

OK! Before I continue, please let me state, as before, that I write to you purely as Jean’s husband. I have no medical skills or knowledge at all and if you are at all affected by any of the following make an appointment to see your own doctor!

The crux of this post is Jean’s relationship with a naturopathic doctor at a practice in Seattle. The practice is Seattle Integrative Medicine (SIM) and a number of the doctors at SIM specialise in patients with PD. That’s how Jean was connected with Dr. Laurie Mischley. (Dr. M)

When one goes to the web page for Dr. M one reads:

Clinical Specialties – Parkinson’s Disease (PD)/Parkinsonism

Dr M conducted tests including testing her ear wax*, extensive blood analysis and an analysis of a sample of Jean’s hair.

* Dr. M has a dog that can reliably smell the presence of PD in human ear wax!

The favourite drug for those with PD is Levadopa.  Within 48 hours of Jean taking Levadopa she had a serious allergic response to that drug.

Back to Dr. M’s tests. All three tests were non-indicative of PD. A while later, in a subsequent telephone conversation, Dr. M wondered if Jean really did have PD. She recommended a referral to the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland. Specifically to their Department of Neurology and to Dr. John Nutt. His background may be viewed here.  From which one notes:

John Nutt, M.D.

Co-founder and Director Emeritus of the OHSU Parkinson Center and Movement Disorders Program

Professor of NeurologySchool of Medicine
Expertise

Neurology

Special focus on
Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders

Jean’s appointment was at 08:30 on Tuesday, 9th July. In terms of the timeline of all of us, Jean was diagnosed as suspected of having PD in December, 2015.

Dr. Nutt saw us promptly at 8:30 and immediately revealed a listening, caring attitude. He also quietly admitted that he had been a doctor specialising in neurology and movement disorders for 39 years! There was no question in my mind that we had landed in front of the ideal physician under these circumstances.

Over the next hour, Dr. Nutt examined Jean in a great number of ways. From her stretching her arms out, Dr. Nutt examining Jean’s arm joints, watching Jean walk along the corridor outside his examining room, and much more.

Eventually he paused and looked us both in the eyes. He then spoke quietly: “Jean is displaying a number of classic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. I have no doubt that Jean does have the disease.”

Of course it wasn’t long before I mentioned Laurie Mischley’s opinion that Jean might not have PD. But Dr. Nutt was very clear with his reply. Namely that PD cannot be determined from hair and blood tests alone and that the potential sufferer must be examined physically.

Dr. Nutt asked me if I had noticed that when Jean held her arms straight out in front of her at shoulder height the tremors in her right hand ceased yet when she was relaxed with her hands in her lap the tremor in her right hand was very noticeable? I had not spotted that.

“Paul, that is a classic Parkinson’s characteristic.”

Dr. Nutt went on to say that watching Jean walk gave him another indicator of PD. Because although Jean walks well she doesn’t swing her arms. Classic PD!

Without doubt, Dr. Nutt’s impression was Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.

But Dr. Nutt also said that Jean was doing incredibly well taking into account that she would have been suffering from the disease for at least 4 to 5 years and that her commitment to lots of exercise including her RockSteady class, that he was aware of, and her vegetarian diet was critically valuable.

It was now time to turn to medication for Jean. Dr. Nutt said that of all the drugs Levadopa was the ideal to combat the loss of dopamine in the brain. He was puzzled as to why Jean had had such a strong allergic reaction to the drug. He wondered if it was a reaction to the Carbidopa that in the USA was so often a component of the Levadopa medication. If so, that could be worked around. Dr. Nutt even mused that he had known of a patient who was allergic to the yellow dye that is sometimes in that medication.

His medication plan for Jean was for her to start on a 1/2 tablet of carbidopa-levadopa 25-100 mg tablets just once a day and if she has no bad reaction in a week then up that to two 1/2 tablets a day. If no adverse effects then increase by 1/2 tablet every week until taking 1 tablet three time a day.

So here we are, a week and a day after we returned from OHSU and, touch wood, Jean has had no adverse effects and is now on two 1/2 tablets a day.

But a postscript to that consultation with Dr. Nutt. At the very end I said that I had two questions. Dr. Nutt welcomed me to ask them.

“My first question is to do with the trend for PD. Is it getting worse?”

“Paul, here in the USA we are seeing a slow but definite decline in the incidence of Parkinson’s. What was your second question?”

“Dr. Nutt, my next question was whether or not science was pointing a finger at the cause of Parkinson’s disease?”

He replied without hesitating: “We are seeing a strong correlation between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease.”

Upon hearing that, Jeannie immediately spoke up recalling her times out in the Mexican fields when the crop-spraying aircraft flew right overhead. Adding that she had at times been drenched by the spray.

But, please, let us not forget: Association is not causation!

That’s enough for today. Because I was going on to include information about the importance of exercise. About managing one’s life really well. About the importance of diet and overall health. In a sense, not just for PD sufferers but for anyone the wrong side of 60 years old!!

That will be coming along soon!

I will close by thanking everyone at OHSU. The quality of care, attentiveness and experience of the staff backed by world-class resources was second-to-none!

To be in their system, so to speak, is a privilege.

Managing change

Following on from yesterday’s post.

I paused yesterday’s post by writing this:

In addition, Dr. Lee said to always THINK BIG! Big in voice, big in attitude, big in stature.

Finally, let me share with you what was posted on the Visible Procrastinations blog back in 2009. Reposted with the author’s permission.

Change.

Change is unavoidable for everyone one of us. Some changes are certainly wonderfully positive ones. Others not quite so. But the thing about change is that whatever the reason in one’s life for having to experience change it has a disruptive effect.

Today’s post leans heavily on that Visible Procrastinations (VP) post but the main theme is fully endorsed by yours truly!

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My Change Journey

Some notes from My Change Journey: This workshop is designed to help you understand your emotional and psychological needs during times of change and strategies you can use to take control of your own change journey. It also focuses on creating opportunities and seeing possibilities in the new world of work.

change – an event that occurs when something passes from one state or phase to another;

transition – the act of passing from one state or place to the next

Seeing the Big Picture

Many times we do not always see the bigger picture.

There are two examples of that; the first is this rather delightful 5-minute video that is just a bit of fun to watch. The second comes along shortly.

Experiencing Transitions

When change is implemented at any level in an organisation or personally, people typically respond by moving through a series of phases. People will spend different times in each phase. This is a crucial thing to understand and is at the heart of why change is always disruptive and frequently unsettling.

Take a few moments to reflect on the next item; this three-phase framework.

Bridges (1995)William Bridges (1995) Bridges’ three-phase transition framework: The first phase, the Ending phase, is about letting go of an old identity, an old reality or an old strategy. The Neutral Zone is akin to crossing the wilderness between the old way and the new. The final phase is making a new beginning and functioning effectively in a new way.

I am going to reinforce this message because it underpins everything to do with us understanding the business of change. Especially when we have to deal with unsettling events!

Ending – Letting go of what has been.

Neutral Zone or The Bridge – yes, it does feel like a ‘wilderness’ in some circumstances. Give it time!

Starting – Embracing the new way and making it work really well for you.

The key is to allow each phase plenty of time to take effect; frequently much longer than one senses!

The Process of Transition

John Fisher’s model of personal change – The Transition Curve – is an excellent analysis of how individuals deal with personal change.
J.M.Fisher’s ‘transition curve’

(More may be read here:  http://www.businessballs.com especially here: http://www.businessballs.com/personalchangeprocess.htm )

Influencing and exploring options

“You should only worry about things that are within your sphere of influence.”

This is such a key message. So take a long hard look at the things that make you anxious or worry you. Then clearly identify those things over which you have no or very little control. Then walk away from them!

There’s a great book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, from which is taken:

You should only worry about things in your “sphere of influence.” If you have no control over certain aspects of your life, why bother worrying about them?

circle of concern

Mental Models: our way of seeing the world

(NB. This includes the second example of seeing the bigger picture)

Mental models are usually tacit, existing below the level of awareness. Another way of thinking about them is as a paradigm. This is a big topic and I am going to return to it by way of a separate post, probably one day next week.

But this second example of not seeing the bigger picture is also stirring the deeper waters of one particular personal paradigm.

Take 1000
add 40 to it
Now add another 1000
Now add 30
Add another 1000
Now add 20
Now add another 1000
Now add 10
What is the total?
Did you get 5000? The correct answer is actually 4100.

P.S. The number of times I did this, adding it up in my head, and finding it came to 5000. Then I did it on a calculator and it came to 4100. Talk about the eyes looking but not seeing!!

But there’s an important message. If you, as me and Jeannie did first time around, made it 5000 then you are demonstrating that what your eyes see, interpreted by your brain, isn’t necessarily correct.

So if it’s important: Give it a coating or two of thought!

Moving on!

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Peter M. Senge

References

Amado, G., & Ambrose A. (Eds.) (2001) The Transitional Approach to Change. London: Karnac

Amado, G., & Vansina, L. (Eds.) (2004) The Transitional Approach in Action. London: Karnac

Bridges, W. (1998) Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change London: Nicholas Brealey.

Bridges, W. & Associates (online resources to articles and assessment tools for ‘Managing Transitions’) www.wmbridges.com

Bunker, K. (2008) Responses to Change: Helping People Make Transitions San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Covey, S.R. (1990) The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People Melbourne: The Business Library

Duck, J. (1993) Managing Change: the art of balancing Harvard Business Review, 71 (Nov/Dec): pp.109-118

Ethical work and life learning (Free online education for ethical work, business, career and life learning; training materials for entrepreneurs, organizations, seflf-development, business management, sales, marketing, project management, communications, leadership, time management, team building and motivation) www.businessballs.com

Fischer, P. (2008) The New Boss: How to Survive the First 100 Days. London: Kogan Page.

Johnson, S. (1999) Who Moved My Cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life London: Vermillion

O’Hara, S. & Sayers, E. Organizational change through individual learning. Career Development International, 1 (4): pp. 38-41

Rogers, C.R. & Roethlisberger, F.J (1991) Barriers and gateways to communication. Harvard Business Review (Nov-Dec): pp.105-111

Stuart, R (1995) Experiencing organizational change: triggers, processes and outcomes of change journeys Personnel Review, 24 (2): pp.3-88

Vansina, L. & Vansina-Cobbaert, J-M (2008) Psychodynamics for Consultants and Managers: From Understanding to Leading Meaningful Change. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons

Williams, D (1999, 2008 update) Transitions: Managing Personal and Organisational Change.

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Tomorrow I cover the specifics of what took Jeannie (and me) to OHSU in Portland and the consultation with Dr. John Nutt and what flowed from that!

I so hope you found in today’s post some nuggets of personal gold for you!

I will close with a quote from the BrainyQuote site:

Facing up to P.D.

Revisiting that personal journey.

I deliberately chose that sub-heading because Wednesday’s post is going into the details of a consultation that Jean had with Dr. John Nutt, MD, a neurologist at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, last Monday, 9th July.

Jean wants me to share the details with you because it is quite likely, nay, almost certainly, that some of you dear readers know of someone close to you that has Parkinson’s Disease (P.D.).

The balance of today’s post, to be continued tomorrow, is a reposting of something I published on February 24th, 2016.

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 Life is a one-way track.

Those of you who follow this place on a regular basis know that last Friday I published a post under the title of Friday Fondness. You will also know that later that same day I left this comment to that post:

Sue, and everyone else, we returned from seeing Dr. Lee, the neurologist, a little under two hours ago. Dr. Lee’s prognosis is that Jean is showing the very early signs of Parkinson’s disease, and Jean is comfortable with me mentioning this.

Everyone’s love and affection has meant more than you can imagine. I will write more about this next week once we have given the situation a few ‘coatings of thought’.

Jean sends her love to you all!

Thus, as heralded, I am going to write some more.

You would not be surprised to hear that the last few days have been an emotional roller-coaster, for both Jean and me. Including on Monday Jean hearing from our local doctor here in Grants Pass, OR, that a recent urine test has shown that Jean has levels of lead in her bones some three times greater than the recommended maximum. While our doctor is remaining open-minded it remains to be seen whether Jean is exhibiting symptoms of lead poisoning, whether the lead is a possible cause of the Parkinson’s disease (PD), see this paper, or whether it is a separate issue to be dealt with.

However, I want to offer some more from the consultation that Jean had with the neurologist Dr. Eric Lee last Friday. Shared with the full support of Jean who has read the whole of today’s post yesterday evening; as she does with every post published in this place.

But before so doing, please understand that while I was present throughout the complete examination of Jean, what you are about to read carries no more weight than that of any casual onlooker. If you are at all affected by any of the following make an appointment to see your own doctor!

Jean’s examination lasted for about an hour. It consisted of a great number of checks and tests on how her body responded to many different tests and stimulations. At the end of the examination Dr. Lee said that while he wasn’t 100% certain the balance of probability was that Jean was demonstrating the very early signs of PD. For example, showing such signs as walking and not swinging both arms in a normal, balanced manner. Or having a very slow blink rate. Then she was exhibiting some difficulty with rapid finger-to-thumb taps.

However, Dr. Lee did say that Jean was at the very early stages of PD and that we would have to wait another six months to see if the PD indicators were firming up. He also said that he had PD patients who had had the disease for twenty, even thirty years. Some of the general indicators that PD is progressing include a stooped gait, decreasing size of handwriting, and a quieter speaking tone. The NINDS website has more information on this. Here’s a little of what they explain about PD:

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four primary symptoms of PD are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. PD usually affects people over the age of 60.  Early symptoms of PD are subtle and occur gradually.  In some people the disease progresses more quickly than in others.  As the disease progresses, the shaking, or tremor, which affects the majority of people with PD may begin to interfere with daily activities.  Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions.  There are currently no blood or laboratory tests that have been proven to help in diagnosing sporadic PD.  Therefore the diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination.  The disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately.   Doctors may sometimes request brain scans or laboratory tests in order to rule out other diseases.

But here’s the good news regarding my darling wife – there are three things that Dr. Lee strongly recommends:

  1. Hang on to a positive mental attitude for the body actively produces dopamine when in a positive mental state.
  2. At least 30-minutes of good aerobic exercise three times a week,
  3. And physiotherapy.

In addition, Dr. Lee said to always THINK BIG! Big in voice, big in attitude, big in stature.

Finally, let me share with you what was posted on the Visible Procrastinations blog back in 2009. Reposted with the author’s permission.

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That article first seen on Visible Procrastinations will be republished tomorrow. Once more I must stress that I write to you purely as Jean’s husband. I have no medical skills or knowledge at all and if you are at all affected by any of the following make an appointment to see your own doctor!

Just say “No!”

We have to keep banging this drum on behalf of our wildlife!

OK! This new essay from George Monbiot applies specifically to the United Kingdom. But there’s no question in my mind that awareness of what is going in the U.K. will be important for readers in many other countries.

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Incompetence By Design

As state bodies are dismantled, corporations are freed to rip the living world apart

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 4th July 2018

It feels like the collapse of the administrative state – and this is before Brexit. One government agency after another is losing its budget, its power and its expertise. The result, for corporations and the very rich, is freedom from the restraint of law, freedom from the decencies they owe to other people, freedom from democracy. The public protections that constrain their behaviour are being dismantled.

An example is the cascading decline in the protection of wildlife and environmental quality. The bodies charged with defending the living world have been so enfeebled that they now scarcely exist as independent entities. Natural England, for example, has been reduced to a nodding dog in the government’s rear window.

Its collapse as an autonomous agency is illuminated by the case that will be heard next week in the High Court, where two ecologists, Tom Langton and Dominic Woodfield, are challenging its facilitation of the badger cull. That the cull is a senseless waste of life and money is well established, but this is only one of the issues being tested. Another is that Natural England, which is supposed to assess whether the shooting of badgers causes wider environmental harm, appears incapable of discharging its duties.

As badger killing spreads across England, it intrudes upon ever more wildlife sites, some of which protect animals that are highly sensitive to disturbance. Natural England is supposed to determine whether allowing hunters to move through these places at night and fire their guns has a detrimental effect on other wildlife, and what the impact of removing badgers from these ecosystems might be. The claimants allege that it has approved the shooting without meaningful assessments.

Some of its decisions, they maintain, are farcical. In Dorset, for example, Natural England assumed that overwintering hen harriers and merlins use only one out of all the sites that have been designated for their protection, and never stray from it. It makes the same assumption about the Bewick’s swans that winter around the Severn estuary. That birds fly, enabling them to move from one site to another, appears to have been overlooked.

Part of the problem, the claimants argue, is that staff with specialist knowledge have been prevented from making decisions. The location of the badger cull zones is such a closely guarded secret that Natural England’s local staff are not allowed to see the boundaries. As a result, they can make no meaningful assessment of what the impact might be. Instead, the decisions are made in distant offices by people who have not visited the sites.

I wanted to ask Natural England about this, but its external communications have been shut down by the government: any questions now have to be addressed to Michael Gove’s environment department, Defra. Defra told me “staff carrying out this work have all the necessary information. It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing legal matter.” How can Natural England be an independent body when the government it is supposed to monitor speaks on its behalf?

Another example of how far Natural England has fallen is the set of deals it has struck with grouse moor owners, allowing them to burn protected habitats, kill protected species and build roads across sites that are supposed to be set aside for wildlife. For several years, the redoubtable conservationist Mark Avery has been fighting these decisions. This May, Natural England conceded, in effect, that he was right. The agency that is meant to protect our wild places has been colluding in their destruction.

A correspondent from within Natural England tells me its staff are so demoralised that it has almost ceased to function. “Enforcement, for example, is close to non-existent … Gove seems to have somehow both raised the profile of environmental issues whilst simultaneously stripping the resources … it has never been as bad as this.”

In March, the House of Lords reported that Natural England’s budget has been cut by 44% since it was founded in 2006. The cuts have crippled both its independence and its ability to discharge its duties. It has failed to arrest the catastrophic decline in our wildlife, failed to resist the housebuilders trashing rare habitats and abandoned its regulatory powers in favour of useless voluntary agreements. As if in response, the government cut the agency’s budget by a further 14%.

Dominic Woodfield, one of the claimants in the court case next week, argues that Natural England has been “on death row” since it applied the law at Lodge Hill in Kent, where the Ministry of Defence was hoping to sell Britain’s best nightingale habitat to a housing developer. Natural England had no legal choice but to designate this land as a site of scientific interest, hampering the government’s plans. As the government slashed its budget and curtailed its independence, the agency’s disastrous response has been to try to save itself through appeasement. But all this has done is to alienate its defenders, reduce its relevance and hasten its decline. “There are still good people in Natural England. But they’re broken. They talk very slowly because they’re thinking very carefully about everything they say.”

If this is happening before we leave the European Union, I can only imagine where we will stand without the protection of European law. The environmental watchdog that, according to Michael Gove, will fill the role now played by the European Commission, will know, like Natural England, that its budget is provided by the government and can be cut at the government’s discretion. What is to prevent it from being nobbled as other agencies have been?

Already, the deliberate mutilating of the administrative state, delivering incompetence by design, has released landowners, housebuilders and assorted polluters from regulatory restraint. Only through European law have government agencies been forced to discharge their duties. Brexit strips away this defence. And if, as some propose, it paves the way for One Nation Under Gove, we should, the evidence so far suggests, be even more alarmed.

But some of us are now mobilising to turn the great enthusiasm for wildlife and natural beauty in this country into political action, and to fight the dismantling of the laws that protect our precious wild places. Watch this space.

http://www.monbiot.com

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On George Monbiot’s blog home page is this quote:

“I love not man the less, but Nature more.”

We must all love Nature more!

We truly are what we eat!

That’s both us and our beloved dogs!

Today through to Wednesday is all about increasing awareness of the risk of not being ultra-careful as to what we put into the mouths of both ourselves and our beloved dogs.

Thus, on Wednesday I will be republishing a recent post from Colette about the power of eating a vegan diet. Tomorrow will be a post about curbing the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Today is a republication of an important article that appeared on the Healthy Pets website on June 25th. (Thank you Belinda for the ‘heads up’!)

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Dozens of Dog Deaths Now Linked to This Pentobarbital-Tainted Food

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, June 25th, 2018

Earlier this year I wrote about a second incident of the euthanasia drug pentobarbital discovered in dog food. The first incident was in 2017 and involved Evanger’s formulas. Then came the more recent recall of Gravy Train tainted with pentobarbital.

Background on Contaminated Gravy Train Dog Food

The Gravy Train situation was investigated by WJLA ABC 7 in Washington D.C. The station teamed up with Ellipse Analytics, a laboratory that specializes in testing food for contami­nants. They tested 62 samples of over 24 brands of wet (canned) dog food for pentobarbital.

“After months of tests and re-tests, one brand repeatedly came back positive for pentobarbital,” says WJLA. “In total, we tested 15 cans of Gravy Train. Nine cans — 60 percent of the sample — were positive for pentobarbital. And while the levels detected were not lethal, under federal law they are also not permitted at any concentration.”1

The WJLA investigation resulted in a class action lawsuit against J.M. Smucker/Big Heart Pet Brands filed on February 9 of this year in a U.S. District Court in California by a Missouri woman who believes Gravy Train may have contributed to the death of her Miniature Schnauzer.2

The lawsuit wants Smucker/Big Heart to “… disclose its pet food sold throughout the United States is adulterated and contains pentobarbital and to restore monies to the consumers and businesses who purchased the Contaminated Dog Foods ….”3

Later in February, Smucker/Big Heart voluntarily withdrew 10 varieties of Gravy Train dog food, along with certain shipments of Kibbles ‘N Bits, Ol’ Roy and Skippy.4 A complete list of the products pulled from store shelves — all of it canned dog food — can be found here. In early March, the FDA notified Smucker/Big Heart that its voluntary removal of products was now considered a recall, based on a test confirming the presence of pentobarbital in the tallow the company used in the recalled pet foods.

The Plot Thickens

My friend and pet food consumer advocate Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food recently wrote an update regarding the class action lawsuit, noting a Master Consolidated Complaint filed on May 1.5 The newly filed document names 11 additional plaintiffs (pet owners), and as Susan says, “… reveals some damning information against pet food manufacturer Smucker.”6

The updated filing asserts that “… Defendant [Smucker/Big Heart] knew the Contaminated Dog Foods contained pentobarbital.” The plaintiffs did not make this claim in the initial lawsuit, which means that between February 9 and May 1, their investigation revealed additional unfavorable details about Smucker’s business practices.

On February 16, 2018, the FDA issued an alert to consumers about the recalled Gravy Train dog foods, stating very clearly that pentobarbital should not be in pet food.

A week or so later, Smucker issued a press release stating it had identified the source of the pentobarbital and described it as “a single ingredient (beef fat).” According to the updated filing, Smucker was less than forthcoming about what they tested to arrive at their conclusion:

“Defendant did not identify what exactly was tested — whether it was cans of the food pulled from the shelves, cans shipped directly from the manufacturing plant, and/or isolated samples of beef fat from the supplier. Defendant did claim the tested beef fat was sourced from cattle from the United States. However, Defendant has offered no information about how it identified this particular ingredient or whether it tested any other ingredients included in the recalled pet foods.

Defendant also did not specify what animals they tested the Contaminated Dog Foods for beyond cattle. When doing DNA testing, it must be determined beforehand what species will be looked for (i.e. dog, cat, cattle, horse, etc.). Defendant has not disclosed whether its testing looked for dog, cat, or horse DNA.”

In early March, Smucker updated the above statement, claiming the animal fat was from “cow, pig and chicken and no other animal of the nine types tested.” Smucker still didn’t identify what types of animals were included in the testing, nor did it disclose the name of the manufacturing plant and/or supplier that is the suspected source of the tainted raw materials.

Later the same day, Smucker changed its statement yet again, now claiming the source of contamination was pig and chicken fat (no cow this time) and “no other animal of the nine types tested,” again neglecting to name the nine types of animals tested. From the updated filing:

“In the end, over ninety million cans of food manufactured and distributed by Defendant were recalled because of the inclusion of pentobarbital.

Moreover, the testing results showed alarmingly high levels of pentobarbital in the tallow. Specifically, the current supply tested showed levels ranging from 801 ppb to 852 ppb, and the retained sample from 2017 contained pentobarbital at the level of 529 ppb.

Despite this, Defendant has publicly represented that the testing showed ‘extremely low levels of pentobarbital do not pose a threat to pet safety’ but failed to disclose or acknowledge the testing results that showed the high levels of pentobarbital in the tallow.”

Smucker/Big Heart ‘Knew or Recklessly Chose to Ignore That the Contaminated Dog Foods Were Adulterated Pet Food’

Smucker ultimately named the source of the contaminated tallow as a single supplier, JBS USA Holdings, Inc. and its rendering facility. According to the plaintiffs, JBS “knowingly” works with meat byproduct recycling, including animal byproducts not suitable for human consumption.

And in addition, JBS “has been plagued by investigations, recalls, and other red flag situations.” This should have alerted Smucker that it needed to routinely confirm the safety and quality of products purchased from this supplier, especially since it claims to “regularly audit our suppliers and have assurances from them about the quality and specifications of the materials they supply us.” From the updated filing:

“Yet Defendant chose to utilize JBS as a supplier even though it maintains that it keeps rigorous quality and supplier standards from ‘start to finish’ and performs three-tier auditing that includes third party auditors, to ensure pure ingredients and fair labor are used in its products, including the Contaminated Dog Foods.

Given this rigorous auditing process, Defendant knew or recklessly chose to ignore that the Contaminated Dog Foods were adulterated pet food as it retained samples of the tallow that should have been tested based on the claimed practices and standards by Defendant.”

According to Susan Thixton, who’s been conducting her own investigation of Big Pet Feed business practices for years, these clearly shady dealings are commonplace.

“Audits of pet food ingredient suppliers, [and] testing of ingredients for safety and quality are mostly to support a paper trail,” she writes. “Little to no true quality control testing is ever performed.

Truck drivers delivering ingredients to pet food facilities have been instructed to carry in the truck cab ‘clean’ samples provided for testing; not a sample of what is actually delivered to the plant. Drivers have also shared that when a load of pet food ingredients is actually tested and fails, lot numbers are changed and the delivery is then accepted without question.

It has been shared multiple times from multiple individuals — the main goal is to keep the pet food plant in production … not the quality of ingredients.”

At an AAFCO meeting Susan attended a few years ago, pet food company employees shared that manufacturers keep a supply of clean samples on hand in the event regulatory authorities or auditors ask to test ingredients. “Rarely, if ever, are the actual ingredients used in a pet food tested by regulatory or auditors,”she writes.

Naming the Dead

Sadly, the victims of Big Pet Food’s unconscionable business practices and lack of regulatory oversight by the FDA and individual State Departments of Agriculture are innocent pets and their unsuspecting owners. From the Master Consolidated Complaint:

“In August 2017, Plaintiff Sebastiano’s dog became weak and confused, began vomiting, had blood in his stool, lost weight, no longer wanted to eat, and had trouble standing and walking. At only [7] and a half years old, Samson died, on December 4, 2017.

Plaintiff Johnson … fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to his thirteen border collie and Australian shepherd mixes he used as herding dogs for his cattle. Plaintiff Johnson had seven males and six female dogs that ranged from [10] months to approximately [7] years old. … Devastatingly, Plaintiff Johnson lost all thirteen dogs, including one pregnant female, on January 14 and 15, 2018.

At that time, all of his dogs were showing symptoms of kidney failure so the veterinarian recommended that all thirteen be put down. All of the dogs were fed the Contaminated Dog Foods at the same time and all were sick within hours after eating the Contaminated Dog Foods. They subsequently all died within two days of eating the Contaminated Dog Foods.

Plaintiff Williamson purchased certain lines of the Contaminated Dog Foods … and fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to her two Great Danes, Nova and Sadie. Sadie passed away on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, and Nova passed away on Sunday, January 22, 2017.

Plaintiff Todd purchased certain lines of the Contaminated Dog … and fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to his American pit bull, Tito. Tito passed away on November 18, 2017.” Plaintiff Brown purchased certain lines of the Contaminated Dog Foods … She rescues stray dogs and has fed all of them the Contaminated Dog Foods.

Several of her dogs have died over the course of the class period, including: Speedy, a [2]-year-old Chihuahua mix who died in December 2016; Humpty, an [8]– or [9]-year-old lab-chow mix who died in November 2017; Elly Mae, a [10]-year-old lab-chow mix who died in December 2017; Sara, an [8]-year-old lab who died in October 2017; Red, an [8]-year-old lab who died November 2017; Mary, a [9]-year-old lab-chow mix who died in August 2017; Duke, a [7]-year-old Great Pyrenees who died in August 2017.

Plaintiff Mayo purchased the Contaminated Dog Foods … and fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to her dogs, including Cocheese (a lab mix), Glory B (a chocolate lab mix), and Blade (an Alaskan husky mix). Most recently, Glory B passed away on or around February 2, 2018, two days after she consumed a can of Gravy Train with Chicken Chunks on or around January 31, 2018. On February 5, 2018, Plaintiff Mayo’s cat, Midnight, also passed away after having accidentally ingested some of the Contaminated Dog Food fed to Glory B on January 31st.”

Plaintiff Collins purchased the Contaminated Dog Foods … and fed the Contaminated Dog Foods to his miniature poodle, Duffy. Duffy passed away in February 2018, soon after consuming a can of Gravy Train.”

As Susan Thixton points out, had it not been for intrepid reporters at WJLA ABC 7 in D.C., specifically Lisa Fletcher, the deaths of these precious pets and probably many more would have gone unnoticed by the FDA and others.

“Nobody cared … until they got caught,” writes Susan. “That is the real crime of pet food — nobody cares if ingredients contain pentobarbital, violate law, or pets die … until they get caught.”

Protecting Furry Family Members From Poisoned Pet Food

Between low-grade ingredients, too-frequent recalls, and an exploding population of pets with chronic digestive issues, allergies and degenerative disease, it’s no wonder so many pet parents are exploring homemade diets, fresh food diets made by smaller, transparent pet food producers, raw diets, and other alternatives to the dead, rendered, dubious, processed stuff.

My advice? Search this website for more information on choosing the best diet for your pet. There are dozens of videos and articles here that can help you become more knowledgeable about pet nutrition so that you can make the best diet choices for your own dog or cat.

If you want to help change the deceptive practices occurring in the pet food industry, I recommend becoming a member of the Association for Truth in Pet Food, which is the only organization out there committed to holding the regulatory agencies and AAFCO accountable.

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Dr. Becker opens up her important article with a summary of the situation.

I have chosen to close the post with that summary.

Story at-a-glance

  • Dog food contaminated with pentobarbital triggered a class action lawsuit that has been recently updated to reveal several additional plaintiffs and jaw-dropping allegations of pet food manufacturer misconduct
  • Over 90 million cans of Gravy Train were recalled due to alarmingly high levels of pentobarbital in tallow (animal fat)
  • Smucker/Big Heart Brands, manufacturer of Gravy Train products, has not been forthcoming with information about the company’s business practices or testing methods as requested by plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit
  • It seems likely Smucker knew it was selling dog food contaminated with pentobarbital
  • The Master Consolidated Complaint lawsuit update filed on May 1 reveals that tragically, many dogs fed pentobarbital-tainted Gravy Train diedGravy 

Gentle souls

This was the post that I had planned for the 20th.

But a power failure across quite a large area of Oregon rather stopped things in their tracks. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful post and I ‘borrowed’ the photograph to close Colette’s story last Monday. Here’s a repeat of that close:

Colette’s story didn’t come with a photograph. So I thought I would do a quick web search and find a picture that fitted Colette’s story well.

In fact, the article that included this photograph may be republished and I will be doing that tomorrow!

The article was seen here and I trust may be republished in this place!

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Everyone Else Walked Past This Homeless Guy And His Dog, But One Guy Didn’t. This Is Heartbreaking.

In my city (Paris, France) there is a homeless man…

Every day he is begging, always at the same place. Despite ‘his situation,’ he is always smiling and says “hello” or “have a good day” even to people who don’t donate to him.

This man has a dog who is as gentle as he is. It never barks or shows its teeth. Many people say this man is dumb, having a dog when he can barely feed himself. Despite being summer in France, mornings are often cold.

One morning, I was walking and I saw him with his dog. He was hugging him tightly. They were very cold.

It was so cold, seeing those two felt like a knife to the heart. I thought about them all day, even though I don’t have a lot of money, I decided to do something.

The next morning I told my boss I was taking the morning off. I took one of my blankets, bought a whole box of food for the dog, and as much food for the man as I could carry.

I bought two coffees and asked if I could sit and talk with him for a few minutes. He agreed.

I asked him why he was there and he asked me why I was speaking to him.

So I told him “Every day I walk to work. And every day everyone around me seems so sad except for you. You are always smiling. You always seem so happy despite your living conditions and every day you warm my heart. Every day I tell myself that even if it’s a bad day and I am not as happy as I want to be, here’s this man living on the street who seems happier than I am despite that he has nothing.”

He stopped me and said “I have something, something that you can’t value. It’s this little boy in my arms (the dog).”

I asked him how he found this dog and he told me:

“One day I asked myself why I was still living if I was just going to be begging for my survival. I had no one to think about, and no one who would miss me if I died. So it was two years ago when I was on the bridge when I was about to commit suicide and then this little guy came, barking at me and even biting my cloths, preventing me from jumping. So I gave him the last cookie I had in my pocket. He was so happy that I cried and decided not to jump. Since that moment, he’s all I have and he is like my child. Sometimes he goes off for a walk and returns with something for both of us to eat (piece of cake, half eaten sandwich, etc…). He always wants to sleep next to me.”

I asked him if he had ever found a place at a homeless shelter and he told me something that brought me to tears. “8 months ago, I was offered a place to sleep, something to eat and a warm place to stay. Thing is, dogs were not allowed. So I declined the offer. This guy is all I have left and I would rather die than abandon him. When I thought that I had nothing, this little boy taught me love and gave me something to live for. I can never thank him enough for that. When people give me money, I always buy food for him. I only buy human food when I have everything he needs. I sometimes hear people telling me that I am dumb for having him, and I say to them ‘maybe he’s an animal, but he’s given me more love than any human I have ever met and for that, I will never let him go hungry.’”

Hearing that, I gave him the blanket and the food. He thanked me like no one ever has. He said that thanks to me, Bobby (the dog) would eat well and never be cold again.

And then for reasons I still can’t explain, I gave him a piece of paper, wrote my address on it, tied it to the dog’s collar and said “you don’t have to worry anymore. If someday something bad happens to you, I will take care of Bobby. He will never be alone.”

Then he cried. That day I saw the happiest man in my life and I wish you could have seen the same.

Story originally sourced here.

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I’m speechless!

(But will only underline how much we can learn from our dogs!)

Never jump to a quick (and incorrect) conclusion

Delighted to welcome another guest post from Colette Bytes.

Back on June 5th, I published the first of three parts of a guest post from Colette. It was called Spot and Me and was a gorgeous (true) account of how Colette trained little Spot when she was dog-sitting for a week. If you missed it then go no further than dropping across to the first part of Colette’s story.

It was beautifully written as well as offering real, solid advice as to how to train a dog that is being a tad challenging. You all loved it!

Well, speaking of beautifully written stories from Colette, here’s another one!

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Always Think Twice

by Colette Bytes, June 15th, 2018.

We all have the ability to make snap ‘first impressions.’
For instance, we say things like, ‘ I knew right from the moment I met him/her…

But are we correct?

Experience often makes us callous and judgemental. Let’s face it, we all have a tendency to think negatively in certain conditions.

Such is the case with Spain’s numerous beggars. They camp out where they are likely to encounter the most foot-traffic, so one can expect two or three of them outside most supermarket entrances. They are not allowed to harass people but they do often intimidate store visitors with looks, gestures, and often cardboard signs in English (to capture the attention and guilty consciences of tourists).

If I gave to every beggar that I see, (and I have occasionally been accosted physically in car-parking lots), I would feel duped by professionals run by the Mafia. There are such people. But once in a while, I do a double-take and think again.

Such was the case one morning. The beggar was an elderly gentleman, unshaved, unkempt and sitting with a young Italian Greyhound tied with a rope. Dogs are often present with beggars, some misused for the purpose.

As my husband and I drew level, the unkempt man said: “Good morning to you!” in a very eloquent manner, and in perfect English. I smiled and thanked him. My husband whispered as we went through the door, “Don’t encourage them!” But I felt different about the man and wanted to do something.

While my husband went in search of the items he wanted, I went to the pet aisle and chose a ring-pull opening tin of dog food and a packet of dental sticks. It amounted to about five euros. I put them in my husband’s shopping basket so he could pay for them as I had no money on me. “What are those for?” He said, (frowning because he already knew). “I’m going to give them to the man outside.” My hubby was angry, but didn’t argue, he knows that it was useless to try and intimidate me. “You are too soft,” he muttered to the air.

I took the doggy stuff out while my hubby packed up our groceries. I handed them over to the grateful man, who thanked me kindly. He opened up a bag next to him to put my gifts into it. The bag held a bowl (for the dog), a big bottle of water and other foodstuffs for them both as well as a towel. He closed it again saying, “I just fed her, so she can have these later!”

The dog sat quietly. I held out my hand and asked her name. She was still a puppy and bounced up to my hand, licking it and dancing around, tangling herself up in the rope the man was using to restrain her. “I have named her Bella. She’s still young; ’bout six months I think. I found her a few days ago on a building site – stray, like most of them. Very hungry.”

The dog was thin, thinner than even her breed dictated. She had the most gorgeous eyes. “She’s still learning how to behave with people, sorry!” His apology wasn’t necessary.

“How long have you been in Spain? ” I asked. “Forty years,” came his reply.
“Goodness, how did you end up here?” I was a bit shocked!

As he fussed the little dog, the man proceeded to tell me a sorry tale. He had lived here with his wife in a nice (if illegally built) house with a thriving business moving residents belongings between Spain and the UK. His business was doing so well that he took on a partner to manage the financial side, and travel and storage arrangements.

Unbeknownst to him, the partner funnelled all the assets to an offshore account, and then suddenly disappeared after a couple of months. The next thing he knew, debt collectors started pounding on his door, often with nasty threats. He lost everything, including his home. His wife borrowed money from her family to return to the UK. He was left here, relying on the kindness of friends to help him along.

“I volunteer a bit at a local dog shelter in return for food, and a bit of company from the other volunteers,” he said. He went on to say that he befriends stray dogs, keeps them for a little while so as to socialise them and then gives them to the dog shelter so that they can be adopted out to good homes.

“Gives me a bit of company, and well, we (he pats Bella on her head) can commiserate on our similar circumstances.” He winked.

As we talked, a few people offered food donations, with sincere thanks from the man that I now knew as ‘Nick.’

One woman approached and gave Nick a reproachful look. Ignoring him (and me) she held out her hand to Bella, who got up from her seated position. The hand opened and held a small pile of dry cat food. Bella sniffed it and then without further interaction, returned to her corner of safety looking wary. Nick explained. “Thank you, but she isn’t hungry. She had her breakfast only half an hour ago.” The woman scowled and dropped the pile of unappetising bits on the ground. Without a word, she walked off!

I smiled at Nick. ” Takes all sorts.” Nick shook his head. “Get a lot of that…” His voice trailed off.

“I’m sorry I don’t have any money to help, my husband has it all,” I said, a bit helplessly.
” Your donation is more than generous,” he said kindly. I always take the excess donations to the dog shelter…they give me some food in return. And little ladies like this one, get a new chance at life!”
I smiled.

“Your husband is waiting for you, I think.” Nick pointed behind me, where my husband was drumming the steering wheel of our car, rather impatiently.
“I better go, it was lovely chatting with you. I hope things work out!”
Nick smiled back and wished me a lovely day.

As I walked away, Nick was smiling, and saying a pleasant “Good Morning,” to a couple walking through the store entrance. They ignored him.

I waved goodbye as we drove away and Nick waved back, smiling!

I told my husband all about Nick, and his attitude changed a bit. But that judgemental side of him still took over… “He probably did everything illegally and that’s why he’s in a mess now.”

Whether Nick brought his circumstances on himself or not, is not really relevant. He was kind to me, and kind to Bella. And kindness always attracts kindness!

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Colette’s story didn’t come with a photograph. So I thought I would do a quick web search and find a picture that fitted Colette’s story well.

In fact, the article that included this photograph may be republished and I will be doing that tomorrow!

All dressed up!

And I am not referring to that wedding!

But on behalf of Jean and me and all you wonderful followers, we would like to wish Prince Harry and Megan Markle many congratulations on their marriage this day in Windsor and a long happy and healthy life together.

No, I was referring to shelter pups all dressed up, as read recently on Mother Nature News.

(And please read my closing remarks about a change in the frequency of my blog posts!)

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These shelter pup moms are all dressed up, waiting for that special visitor

Puppies are quick to get adopted, but the moms are often left behind.

by CHRISTIAN COTRONEOMay 11, 2018.

Duchess, left, and Buttercup, haven’t let losing their families dampen their spirits. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

Every mother has her day. And if that old saying holds true, so too does every dog. But it seems a couple of dogs at a shelter in Atlanta have waited a long time for their day to come.

So long, in fact, that both dogs — Duchess and Buttercup — became mothers before finding a family to adopt them.
Although for Buttercup, that distinction was tragically fleeting.

Buttercup has bounced back from the heartbreak of losing her babies. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

She was already pregnant when she arrived at Fulton County Animal Services. But in her weak condition, none of her puppies survived.

And Duchess? She experienced a different kind of heartbreak, having arrived at a shelter with five healthy and rambunctious babies in tow. One by one, they were adopted by families — leaving just mom behind.

When it comes to finding a family, puppies are typically the first out the shelter door, even though there are so many reasons why older dogs often make the most meaningful impact on a family.

Duchess nursed her puppies — until they were big and strong enough to be adopted. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

The thing is, as we’ve seen time and time again, a shelter dog’s heart isn’t easily shattered.

In fact, both Buttercup and Duchess aren’t exactly sulking at the Atlanta chapter of Best Friends Animal Society. In the hands of their heart-healing keepers, they’ve blossomed in every way.

Buttercup is available for adoption at the Best Friends shelter in Atlanta. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

Duchess still likes to prance around on her daily walks, and, as the shelter notes in a press release, “demonstrate her good manners with both people and other dogs.”

Buttercup, the release adds, has “healed and made lots of human and canine friends alike.”

But shelter staff know all too well that shelter life can wear a dog down. This weekend, Best Friends is hoping that some families, in the spirit of that special day, will give these mothers the best gift of all — a home where they can truly spread their roots.

Think you can help?

If you happen to be in Atlanta, you can pay these moms a visit at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center any day between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m., or email atladoptions@bestfriends.org.

Duchess’ manners appear to extend to the dinner table. (Photo: Christie Lynn/Best Friends Animal Society)

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If only there wasn’t a single dog in need of adoption in the world!

Postscript!

Dear people,

I’m struggling to stay on top of stuff in and around the house. So, please forgive me if there are days when a post doesn’t appear!

Thank you!

Do animals have broken hearts?

Just too beautiful for words!

Not that the sub-heading is going to stop me republishing a most beautiful article that appeared on Mother Nature Network on May, 3rd.

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Heartbroken goose misses his bulldog pal

Neighbors join search to reunite these unlikely animal friends.
by MARY JO DILONARDO, May 3, 2018.

Several people stopped after spotting the unlikely pair along a busy highway. (Photo: Amanda Georgewill)

Sadie and Sal are the unlikeliest of friends. Sadie is a brindle bulldog who lives in Harnett County, North Carolina. Sal — who also goes by Gary — is a goose, and Sadie’s biggest fan and protector.
According to neighbors who posted online, Sal initially kept four ducks and a chicken in line, but his fowl brigade eventually disappeared, likely because of foxes that roam the area.

So Sal set his sights on Sadie and the pair became inseparable. Although Sadie has an owner, the two wandered around the area together, pretty much adopted by the neighbors who liked to feed the friendly pup when she stopped by.

“That goose,” neighbor Wanda Holder told the News & Observer, “takes his long, long neck and rubs on that dog.”

One day in late April, the pair wandered a little farther away from home than usual. They strolled along Highway 27, and the sight of the unlikely adventurers caused people to pull over and try to help.

“We stopped to help the Canadian goose keep the bulldog out of the road … and the goose got (angry),” wrote David Zapata in a Facebook post. “Started chasing everyone around and trying to bite anybody that got near the dog. You can’t make this (stuff) up.”

According to witnesses, a woman slipped a collar and leash on Sadie and managed to get the bulldog into her car. The goose chased the car for a while, honking angrily, and then he gave up.

“It sorta broke my heart to see the two separated, it really did,” Zapata wrote. “You could tell they were pals.”

Sadie and Sal stroll a little too far from home. (Photo: David Zapata/Facebook)

Searching for Sadie

Sal found his way back home, but no one knows what happened to Sadie.

Amanda Georgewill happened to be driving by before Sadie was scooped up. She posted the image of the dog and goose on several North Carolina lost dog pages, hoping the woman who took Sadie would realize the pup had a home.

“I pulled over to help and snapped the picture first just in case,” Georgewill tells MNN. “I just want those two to be reunited.”

The photo has sparked hundreds of shares and dozens of comments as people have likened the unusual pair to the stars of a Disney movie or the perfect characters for a children’s book.

But they’ve mostly pleaded for the woman who picked up Sadie to return her.

Online, there are plenty of theories about what happened to the neighborhood’s favorite bulldog. Did the woman take the dog because she thought it was in danger, being mistreated, or did she just want to keep it for herself?

Neighbors say Sal has been moping. He goes to the main highway where Sadie disappeared and squawks for a few minutes before returning home. One neighbor posted that within the last few months, the dog and goose had also accepted a kitten into their pack, so Sal is taking care of his feline friend while he waits for his pup to return.

“I thought it was really cool how the goose and dog paired up as friends to travel around,” Zapata tells MNN. “Definitely a rarity.”

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Both in our human world and in the world of animals friendship, especially across different species of animal, is so, so beautiful!

Please join me and Jean in hoping that Sadie returns to be with Sal.

To England and France, Part Three

Refreshing dear connections from the past!

So on Friday the 13th of April daughter Maija ran Jean and me to the railway station at Haywards Heath to catch a train into London, specifically to Victoria Station.

Then we boarded the London Underground to get ourselves from Victoria Station to Bounds Green tube station on the Picadilly Line. It was a bit of a culture shock for both Jean and me; to say the least. But we managed it somehow and once at Bounds Green there was my sister Eleanor to greet us. Eleanor lives in Johannesburg in South Africa (long story) but needed to come to England and made arrangements that meant she could meet with us for this one afternoon and evening. For Eleanor had pre-booked a bed and breakfast in Coniston Road, London N10.

Eleanor is twelve years my younger sister and it was only later on in life that both of us realised what a precious age gap that was. For as Eleanor was growing up in her early years I was at the age of wanting to be the big brother to her and it became, and still is, a very close bond.

Eleanor holding her arms around Jean and me!

Immediately upon meeting we found a nearby cafe to grab some lunch and do a bit of catching up!

The afternoon and evening went by far too quickly and fairly smartly on the Saturday morning, the 14th, we said our ‘goodbyes’ and Jean and I struggled for the second time in twenty-four hours with the Underground! This time making our way from Bounds Green to Paddington Station, the main line station that serves Bristol and places in between, as in the Great Western Railway, as well as down to the South-West including Exeter and then on to Plymouth and into Cornwall.

Our train journey was from Paddington to Swindon Station to be met by Richard and Julie.

Richard is my longest, closest and dearest male friend.

He and I go back very many years, for we met not long after I had left IBM in 1978, where I had been an Office Products salesman, and then started my own company. Richard had, in turn, recently left Olivetti where he, too, had been an Office Products salesman.

We hit it off immediately and over the intervening years, as in the thick end of 40 years, there’s not a lot that we haven’t shared in terms of fun and frolics, and especially a great many flying exploits in my group-owned Piper Super Cub!

Piper Cub R151

When Jean and I got together in 2008 as you might imagine she quickly became close friends with Richard and Jules, as Richard calls Julie.

Plus Jean and Richard share a rather ironic, if that’s the right term, event. For both of them were diagnosed in December, 2015 with the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease!

As with seeing Eleanor, the time with Richard and Jules was far too short but, nonetheless, very

Murphy being cuddled by Jules

precious. Plus, dear Murphy gave Jean and me a much-needed dog fix!

Thus on the morning of the 15th, Richard and Jules ran us across to Bristol which is where my son, Alex, is living with Lisa, his partner.

The plan was to spend from Sunday, the 15th, through to Wednesday, the 18th, with Alex and Lisa. Alex had booked time off work for those days but Lisa unfortunately was working during the weekdays.

Yet another meeting of dear friends, as in Richard and Jules catching up with Alex.

Alex had arranged for Jean and me to go down to South Devon on Monday, 16th, to meet with John Joiner, my dear brother-in-law.

Let me explain some family background. My father had had two daughters with a previous wife to my mother. Their names were Rhona and Corinne and when they were alive they both lived in South Devon. In the years that followed my father’s death in December, 1956, both Rhona and Corinne, and their respective husbands, Reider and John, made me feel very special and very deeply loved by both of them. (Indeed, it was because of wanting to be close to Rhona and Corinne’s families that I settled in South Devon when I returned from Cyprus in 1991.)

Corinne died in June, 2013. John, who is now well into his 80s, lives in a small apartment in the village of South Brent just a few miles from Totnes in South Devon. I make a point of calling him from Oregon at least once a week but to be able to see John again after so many years was another big highlight of the vacation.

Inevitably, along came another lunch and in the photograph above you can see John on the right-hand side and sitting next to him, as in the left of the photo, is Greta, my cousin as in Rhona’s daughter, who spends a great deal of her spare time looking after John. Dear Greta!

After the pub lunch we returned to John’s apartment for tea and carried on sharing many special memories.

Indeed, one of those special memories was Benji the wonderful dog that Corinne and John had for many years. On one of John’s walls was this wonderful painting of Benji.

The other fact about John is his incredible use of the English language. Both in terms of his vocabulary and his diction. John’s legacy to me is, and will be for the rest of my days, the value of speaking well.

Another wonderful connection with past times.

The truth is that the odds are that I may never see John again. That made this day with John so incredibly special. Huge thanks to Alex and Greta. What a fabulous day!

The next day, Tuesday, the 17th, was Lisa’s birthday and yet another wonderful evening out.

Then came the 18th and the last few hours of being with Alex. At 12:50 that day we were due to fly from Bristol down to Nice in Southern France to spend six nights with Reggie, Jean’s brother.

Those beautiful days will be the topic of tomorrow’s post. See you then!

But before I turn away from today’s description of our days in England, let me address a question that John Zande raised yesterday. Namely: “Have to ask, do you miss the English village life? It’s so beautiful.

Here’s my answer:

John, yes there was no question that there were stirrings of great familiarity when down with John near Totnes. In my mind’s eye, I could still walk up Totnes High Street and name many of the stores that I used to visit on an almost weekly basis when living in Harberton.

But at the same time I was shocked and disappointed by the huge growth in new housing, someone said an additional 500 homes built in the area in the last 5 years, and all the traffic and crowded lanes that go with that expansion. Many of the lanes were so crowded with parked cars that they were effectively single-lane carriageways.

The relatively sparse housing in the part of Oregon where we now live, the way that the natural world seems untouched by us humans here on Hugo Road, felt very beautiful in comparison. We looked forward to being back in Merlin.

Upper Barn, Harberton, where I used to live before meeting my Jeannie!