Yesterday and today are days where it’s my turn to do the neighborhood watch patrols. I left for the first patrol a little after 9am yesterday and when I was going up Livingston Drive there was a guy walking his Corgi. Now it’s the second time we have met and I stopped and let the sweet dog come up to my outstretched hand and sniff my fingers. John, not his real name, mentioned that he was slowly adapting to a life of love and affection in stark contrast to the beatings the dog received in his previous life. John was a real hero!
Here’s another example of goodness beyond description. Taken from The Dodo.
Dog Found On Side Of Road Immediately Snuggles Her Rescuer
Kris Lenker and her husband were driving home from work last week when they spotted something on the road ahead.
They assumed, being out in the country, that the small, tan animal was a baby deer — but as they got closer, they realized their mistake. “We slowed down and realized that it was a dog,” Lenker told The Dodo.
Lenker hopped out of the car and called to the dog, but the nervous pup took off down a pathway. Lenker followed close behind, tempted to turn around. “I couldn’t see her anymore and we almost left,” Lenker said. “I just had a feeling, though.”
Lenker found the dog hiding behind a fence, and after a few minutes of gentle pets, the nervous dog decided to take a chance. “She wrapped her front paws around my neck and let me carry her back to the car,” Lenker said. “She was absolutely terrified, but I could tell she trusted me … It just felt like we were brought together for a reason.”
Shortly after the dog entered the car, her demeanor changed. It was as if she knew she was finally safe. “I just pet her and told her I had her,” Lenker said. “That is when she just collapsed into a ball in my lap. It’s like relief just hit her. She rode the rest of the way home in my lap like that.”
While she decompresses and regains her strength, the dog, whom the couple has named Reba, is hanging out in a warm bathroom. When she’s up to it, she’ll get to meet her new dog siblings, who will show her the rules of the house.
And Reba is still just as affectionate as the first day they found her: “Belly rubs are her favorite, and she doesn’t hesitate to ask for them!” Lenker said. “She rolls on her back and paws at us until we give in.”
Reba was initially resistant to being rescued, but now she doesn’t want to leave — even to go outside for potty training. She demands that her mom carries her outside and back in every time.
“I think she is still afraid she will be left out there,” Lenker said.
It’s only been a few days, but already Reba has been putting on weight and learning what it means to have a real family. “Her energy level is so much better and she is the biggest love bug,” Lenker said. “All she wants to do is snuggle us and give us kisses. It’s her favorite thing to do.”
Lenker believes they were truly meant to have Reba as part of their family. “She wouldn’t let anyone get near her, but she let us take her,” Lenker said. “She trusts us so much and we have fallen in love.”
“She trusts us so much and we have fallen in love.” What a fabulous end result.
There are so many loving people out there that would do the same. It’s an honour to present this account.
But all dog owners know that the odds of anxiety or depression if you have a dog or two around one are greatly reduced.
I’m chairing a discussion on depression at our local Humanists and Freethinkers group in eighteen days time; on January 18th, 2020. The core of my talk is a TED Talk given journalist Johann Hari in July of 2019.
This is how the talk is introduced.
In a moving talk, journalist Johann Hari shares fresh insights on the causes of depression and anxiety from experts around the world — as well as some exciting emerging solutions. “If you’re depressed or anxious, you’re not weak and you’re not crazy — you’re a human being with unmet needs,” Hari says.
There are sufficient numbers of people who follow this blog that it is likely that this talk will really engage a few of you. It’s twenty minutes long and very interesting!
The holidays aren’t about what’s under the tree; it’s who you’re with that matters. And no one understands that better than Carter Licata and his dog, Piper.
The 2-year-old pug loves everyone in her family, but her bond with her brother is special. “It was love at first sight for the two of them,” April Licata, Carter’s mom, told The Dodo.
But the family’s holiday season was nearly destroyed when the unthinkable happened — Piper went missing.
Last month, Licata let Piper and her other dog outside to use the bathroom. But when she opened the door to let them back in, Piper was nowhere to be seen.
The family searched everywhere, posted on social media, and reached out to neighbors and community groups. They prayed for Piper’s safe return, but as days turned to weeks, they feared that they would never see their pug again.
“We were all sick,” Licata said. “The older kids wanted nothing to do with decorating the Christmas tree and it was a very somber Thanksgiving for them.”
Then, Licata received a Facebook message from the Genesee County Animal Shelter. A dog matching Piper’s description had been dropped off at the shelter by a person who wanted to remain anonymous. “My husband and I were going out to dinner and honestly, there was an outcry of joy in the truck,” Licata said. “We were shocked and elated!”
Carter was out of town when they learned about Piper, so they decided to keep it a secret and surprise him with a special reunion when he returned. Piper, meanwhile, wandered around the house looking for her brother, until finally, their reunion day arrived.
When Carter saw Piper in the front seat of the truck, decked out in bows, he immediately broke down in tears.
Piper’s tail went crazy at the sight of her brother and as soon as he stepped in the truck, she jumped in his arms, showering him with kisses.
The family couldn’t be happier to have Piper back again — and just in time for Christmas.
“My son loves his dog so much, was sick while she was gone, and tonight she’s sleeping next to him again,” Licata wrote on Facebook. “What a Christmas miracle for our family.”
You can see the heart-warming video below.
I know that for the main part I just republish the work that others do. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not affected by the articles. This one in particular had me in tears.
Chilled-out canines experience a moment of utter calmness
Australian animal photographer Alex Cearns remembers the first Zen dog image she ever captured, a Shar-Pei named Suzi.
“During her photo session, I caught a shot of her with her eyes closed, and a big smile on her face. I called the image ‘Zen Dog,’ and when her owners saw it, they immediately fell in love with the vibe of the image and with Suzi’s relaxed and happy pose,” Cearns says.
“With such positive feedback, I became keen to capture the emotion and moment of being a Zen dog for other dogs who visited my studio.”
Cearns tries to take at least one Zen-like image for every dog photo session she conducts at her Houndstooth Studio, even if the process takes time. She has compiled 80 of these images of meditative canines in her new book “Zen Dogs.”
To get her canine subjects to relax, Cearns makes sure they are authentically calm and happy. Her studio is small, quiet and without many distractions.
“During my photo sessions, I realized that some types of dogs are more likely to close their eyes than others,” Cearns says. “Dogs who were fairly laid back, or who liked to lie about were easier to photograph in a Zen state, whereas dogs overly fixated on toys or treats wouldn’t close their eyes for a second, should the toy or treat disappear. They kept their eyes firmly on the prize.”
Although it might look like the dogs are zoned out or even sleeping, that’s not the case; Cearns has skillfully caught a restful moment with her camera.
“The images capture a split second blink of my dog subjects, freezing the moment in time,” she says. “Sitting only a foot away, I’m able to watch each dog subject carefully to pick up on their blinking pattern, and take a series of images just before I predict their blink.”
The book “Zen Dogs” includes photos of a wide range of breeds, interspersed with Zen-inspired quotes by Gandhi, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi and others with thoughtful, meditative words to share. There’s this one, for example, from “Unknown”:
If you’re always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in?
“As soon as a dog visits my studio, I aim to genuinely make friends with them and ensure they are comfortable and feel secure,” says Cearns. “I try to find out what they love most — a certain type of treat, or a particular toy — and then use that knowledge to win them over.”
It’s a wonderful reminder of what is important in our lives.
I have been interested in eating healthy for more than 35 years. Unfortunately, my actions haven’t always matched my aims. As Mae West said, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”
I drifted too, for a long time, but after writing posts for this blog for nearly 10 years, I have gotten good at it. I used the Lose It! App for a while (iPhone, iPad, Touch) a calorie counter that also breaks down nutrients and gives you a daily weight chart to demonstrate your progress. It’s not the only tool like this around, but it’s a good one. I think you are better off using a tool than not using one, especially if you are just embarking on a weight loss program.
Using that tool and practicing some self discipline I now have complete confidence in my ability to maintain a healthy body weight. I still need to work on the lean muscle mass thing, though. I love riding my bicycle and have no problem logging lots of miles and putting calories into the bank to free up my eating. I average around 100 miles a week. That covers a multitude of sins at the table. Biking is a wonderful cardio workout. Few people realize, however, it is also very stimulating for the brain. It’s a lot more fun than working with weights, but ya gotta do that, too. I write about the benefits of cardio exercise on the brain often in this blog as it is usually misunderstood and/or completely overlooked in most fitness writing. I had an aunt who died of Alzheimer’s, my mother who suffered from dementia in her final years, and my grandfather on my father’s side also had cognitive problems in his later years, so I am dead serious about protecting myself from mental decline. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – and exercise to read more about it.
I retired 19 years ago. I spent 20 years as a Reuters Correspondent and Editor after starting my career in men’s magazines. I taught journalism at Medill for a while and then wrote in the investment department of a major U.S. philanthropy where I spent my last few years managing $900 million in bond investments.
Now that I am retired, I have complete control over what I eat. My heart goes out to you folks who go to work every day. It is much harder to control your caloric intake. There are business lunches and dinners to attend, late days at the office, working through lunch as well as traveling. I think if I were still working I would seriously consider bringing lunch from home a day or two each week to keep a handle on my intake. With a fridge and microwave where you work, you are good to go.
When I started writing for this blog in March of 2010 I weighed 165 pounds, the lowest I had been in 15 years. I thought I had arrived at fitness and health. Now, in 2019, I weigh 155 pounds. That’s right, I have melted off a further 10 pounds from my best weight in years. My resting heart rate is under 50 beats per minute (bpm), a result of my cycling, but significantly under the ‘normal’ of 65 to 90 bpm for a guy in his upper 70’s. I have less than 16 percent body fat and a 31 inch waist (the first time since high school). I have reached this state of fitness and health following the ideas and techniques I write about in this blog. You can, too
When the blog started, I was talking the talk, over nine years later I am walking the walk. You can do the same. I am just a regular guy. If I can do it you can, too. Check out my page How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off for a start. Lots of excellent, practical principles there that I have learned and now apply to my daily life.
Just over 20 years ago my weight got out of control and I ballooned over 220 pounds. I took off 50 pounds in a year, but that only got me down to the mid-170’s. You can read How I lost 50 pounds in 52 weeks if you want chapter and verse.
I have about 40 games of backgammon going on the web. I was born January 26, 1940. I am an Aquarius and a senior citizen. At 79 years of age, I am healthier by far than I was over 20 years ago when I was in the work force and a relatively young man in my 50’s.
As a senior who presently is winning the war of the waistline, I am also grappling with the experience of aging. As part of this blog’s focus on good health I look seriously into aging and what can be done about it. I know there is no fountain of youth, but there are techniques for aging gracefully and, more importantly, retaining one’s mental powers. I promise to share with you everything I can find out about it.
The masthead photo is a shot of me taken 40 years ago by a girlfriend when we were bike riding by the lakefront in Chicago. I had a lot more hair then.
Now Tony recently published a post that I found so interesting.
It’s all about improving one’s vision.
Walking improves vision – Study.
By Tony, November 25th, 2019
As a big fan of walking I was thrilled to learn of this further benefit to the Cinderella of the exercise world. Walking leads to an increase of peripheral visual input, according to a study from the University of Wurzburg.
How do we perceive our environment? What is the influence of sensory stimuli on the peripheral nervous system and what on the brain? Science has an interest in this question for many reasons. In the long term, insights from this research could contribute to a better understanding of diseases such as ADHD and Parkinson’s disease.
Perception and the underlying neuronal activities are usually measured while subjects are sitting or lying, for example while doing magnetic resonance imaging. As a rule, the head is fixed and people are encouraged not to blink. The measurements therefore take place under well-controlled but rather unnatural conditions.
Shift of visual preference
When processing visual stimuli, however, it makes a difference whether the person is sitting or moving: When walking around, the peripheral part of the visual field shows enhanced processing compared to the central part. This can be proven both by the behaviorally measured perception of the test persons and by their brain response.
This shift in visual preference makes sense. “It is above all the peripheral visual input that provides information about the direction and speed of our movement and thus plays an important role for navigation,” says Dr. Barbara Händel. The neuroscientist from Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, and her colleague Dr. Liyu Cao have published their findings in PLOS Biology
“It was known from animals that increased body movements lead to an increased firing rate in visual areas of the brain,” says Dr. Händel. So far, there are only a few behavioural experiments available for humans that investigate the influence of movement on sensory brain areas. However, there is evidence that cognitive processes are linked to the behavioural state. “For example, some studies show that people learn better when they move,” says the JMU researcher. However, the underlying neuronal mechanisms have not yet been tested in detail.
Mobile EEG, sensors and video glasses
It is precisely such gaps in knowledge that Barbara Händel wants to close with her work. In order to explore the link between movement and perception, sophisticated technical equipment is necessary. While the test subjects walk around, they wear electrode caps and a small amplifier that records their brain waves. The EEG data are sent wirelessly to a laptop, which the subjects carry in a backpack. Motion sensors, video glasses, and a mobile device for recording eye movements complete the setting.
Quite an effort. “But we have to take this step if we want to understand human perceptual strategies during natural behavior,” says Dr. Händel. Research into perception during movement is still in its infancy. It is now up to science to ask clever questions and find out which of them can be answered with mobile technical equipment.
Many exciting research questions
Next, the JMU scientist wants to further investigate the effect of altered perception during movement. Does it only occur for visual input or possibly also in other sensory areas? Does it, in addition to navigation, perhaps also play a role in other cognitive processes such as memory and creativity?
All this is possible: experiments with rats have shown that these animals learn better, when they are in motion. And the idea that walking increases creativity has existed since ancient times. “For example, the Peripatetics, a philosophical school around Aristotle, usually were discussing while walking, from which their name derives,” says Barbara Händel.
There is also a connection between creativity and eye movements: “It is known that people blink more often the more creatively they solve a task. And we found that people also blink more often when they walk around compared to being at rest.” Obviously, there are many connections between the movements of the body, the eyes and the mental performance. Their research could reveal many more interesting aspects.
Affiliate Guest in Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Why is my awareness here, while yours is over there? Why is the universe split in two for each of us, into a subject and an infinity of objects? How is each of us our own center of experience, receiving information about the rest of the world out there? Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A gnat? A bacterium?
These questions are all aspects of the ancient “mind-body problem,” which asks, essentially: What is the relationship between mind and matter? It’s resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years.
Chalmers thought the mind-body problem should be called “hard” in comparison to what, with tongue in cheek, he called the “easy” problems of neuroscience: How do neurons and the brain work at the physical level? Of course they’re not actually easy at all. But his point was that they’re relatively easy compared to the truly difficult problem of explaining how consciousness relates to matter.
Over the last decade, my colleague, University of California, Santa Barbara psychology professor Jonathan Schooler and I have developed what we call a “resonance theory of consciousness.” We suggest that resonance – another word for synchronized vibrations – is at the heart of not only human consciousness but also animal consciousness and of physical reality more generally. It sounds like something the hippies might have dreamed up – it’s all vibrations, man! – but stick with me.
All about the vibrations
All things in our universe are constantly in motion, vibrating. Even objects that appear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating, resonating, at various frequencies. Resonance is a type of motion, characterized by oscillation between two states. And ultimately all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields. As such, at every scale, all of nature vibrates.
Something interesting things happen when different vibrating things come together: They will often start, after a little while, to vibrate together at the same frequency. They “sync up,” sometimes in ways that can seem mysterious. This is described as the phenomenon of spontaneous self-organization.
When fireflies of certain species come together in large gatherings, they start flashing in sync, in ways that can still seem a little mystifying.
Lasers are produced when photons of the same power and frequency sync up.
The moon’s rotation is exactly synced with its orbit around the Earth such that we always see the same face.
Examining resonance leads to potentially deep insights about the nature of consciousness and about the universe more generally.
Sync inside your skull
Neuroscientists have identified sync in their research, too. Large-scale neuron firing occurs in human brains at measurable frequencies, with mammalian consciousness thought to be commonly associated with various kinds of neuronal sync.
Fries focuses on gamma, beta and theta waves. These labels refer to the speed of electrical oscillations in the brain, measured by electrodes placed on the outside of the skull. Groups of neurons produce these oscillations as they use electrochemical impulses to communicate with each other. It’s the speed and voltage of these signals that, when averaged, produce EEG waves that can be measured at signature cycles per second.
Gamma waves are associated with large-scale coordinated activities like perception, meditation or focused consciousness; beta with maximum brain activity or arousal; and theta with relaxation or daydreaming. These three wave types work together to produce, or at least facilitate, various types of human consciousness, according to Fries. But the exact relationship between electrical brain waves and consciousness is still very much up for debate.
Fries calls his concept “communication through coherence.” For him, it’s all about neuronal synchronization. Synchronization, in terms of shared electrical oscillation rates, allows for smooth communication between neurons and groups of neurons. Without this kind of synchronized coherence, inputs arrive at random phases of the neuron excitability cycle and are ineffective, or at least much less effective, in communication.
A resonance theory of consciousness
Our resonance theory builds upon the work of Fries and many others, with a broader approach that can help to explain not only human and mammalian consciousness, but also consciousness more broadly.
Based on the observed behavior of the entities that surround us, from electrons to atoms to molecules, to bacteria to mice, bats, rats, and on, we suggest that all things may be viewed as at least a little conscious. This sounds strange at first blush, but “panpsychism” – the view that all matter has some associated consciousness – is an increasingly accepted position with respect to the nature of consciousness.
The panpsychist argues that consciousness did not emerge at some point during evolution. Rather, it’s always associated with matter and vice versa – they’re two sides of the same coin. But the large majority of the mind associated with the various types of matter in our universe is extremely rudimentary. An electron or an atom, for example, enjoys just a tiny amount of consciousness. But as matter becomes more interconnected and rich, so does the mind, and vice versa, according to this way of thinking.
Biological organisms can quickly exchange information through various biophysical pathways, both electrical and electrochemical. Non-biological structures can only exchange information internally using heat/thermal pathways – much slower and far less rich in information in comparison. Living things leverage their speedier information flows into larger-scale consciousness than what would occur in similar-size things like boulders or piles of sand, for example. There’s much greater internal connection and thus far more “going on” in biological structures than in a boulder or a pile of sand.
Under our approach, boulders and piles of sand are “mere aggregates,” just collections of highly rudimentary conscious entities at the atomic or molecular level only. That’s in contrast to what happens in biological life forms where the combinations of these micro-conscious entities together create a higher level macro-conscious entity. For us, this combination process is the hallmark of biological life.
The central thesis of our approach is this: the particular linkages that allow for large-scale consciousness – like those humans and other mammals enjoy – result from a shared resonance among many smaller constituents. The speed of the resonant waves that are present is the limiting factor that determines the size of each conscious entity in each moment.
As a particular shared resonance expands to more and more constituents, the new conscious entity that results from this resonance and combination grows larger and more complex. So the shared resonance in a human brain that achieves gamma synchrony, for example, includes a far larger number of neurons and neuronal connections than is the case for beta or theta rhythms alone.
What about larger inter-organism resonance like the cloud of fireflies with their little lights flashing in sync? Researchers think their bioluminescent resonance arises due to internal biological oscillators that automatically result in each firefly syncing up with its neighbors.
Is this group of fireflies enjoying a higher level of group consciousness? Probably not, since we can explain the phenomenon without recourse to any intelligence or consciousness. But in biological structures with the right kind of information pathways and processing power, these tendencies toward self-organization can and often do produce larger-scale conscious entities.
Our resonance theory of consciousness attempts to provide a unified framework that includes neuroscience, as well as more fundamental questions of neurobiology and biophysics, and also the philosophy of mind. It gets to the heart of the differences that matter when it comes to consciousness and the evolution of physical systems.
It is all about vibrations, but it’s also about the type of vibrations and, most importantly, about shared vibrations.
This may require more than one read. Because, if you are interested in the subject I’m sure you will wish to read it again.
But the underlying premise is that, as was said earlier,: “all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields.”
I have re-read this post and have choked up. For Pharaoh was the supreme dog for me to have as a companion during this stage in my life. I suspect you will read that clearly in the post that follows.
The concluding part-two of meeting Pharaoh
In yesterday’s first part of my recollection of having Pharaoh in my life for over ten years, I focussed on the early days. Today, I want to take a more philosophical view of the relationship, right up to the present day.
The biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend goes back a few years. Back to my Devon days and the time when Jon Lavin and I used to spend hours talking together. Pharaoh always contentedly asleep in the same room as the two of us. It was Jon who introduced me to Dr. David Hawkins and his Map of Consciousness. It was Jon one day who looking down at the sleeping Pharaoh pointed out that Dr. Hawkins offered evidence that dogs are integrous creatures with a ‘score’ on that Map of between 205 and 210. (Background story is here.)
So this blog, Learning from Dogs, and my attempt to write a book of the same name flow from that awareness of what dogs mean to human consciousness and what Pharaoh means to me. No, more than that! From that mix of Jon, Dr. David Hawkins, experiencing the power of unconditional love from an animal living with me day-in, day-out, came a journey into my self. Came the self-awareness that allowed me to like who I was, be openly loved by this dog of mine, and be able to love in return. As is said: “You cannot love another until you love yourself.”
Trying to pick out a single example of the bond that he and I have is practically impossible. I have to rely on photographs to remind me of the thousands of times that a simple look or touch between Pharaoh and me ‘speaks’ to me in ways that words fail. Here’s an extract from my celebration of Pharaoh’s tenth birthday last June 3rd; written the following day. It comes pretty close to illustrating the friendship bond.
For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon. The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151. (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogsback in August 2009.)
Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit. So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in. Absolutely no problem with that!
My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft. First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted. He was perfectly behaved.
Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight. In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh. So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight. The chances are that it would have been fine. But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.
So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval. The date was July 2006.
Moving on again. This time to another flying experience. To the day when Pharaoh and I flew out of London bound for Los Angeles and a new life with Jeannie and all her dogs (16 at that time) down in San Carlos, Sonora County, Mexico. The date: September 15th, 2008. Just ten months after I had met Jean in Mexico and realised that this was the woman that I was destined to love! (Now you will understand why I described earlier the Jon Lavin, Dr. Hawkins, Pharaoh mix as the biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend!)
There followed wonderful happy days for me and Pharaoh. Gorgeous to see how Pharaoh became so much more a dog, if that makes sense, from having his own mini-pack around him. Those happy days taking us all forwards to Payson, AZ, where Jean and I were married, and then on to Merlin, Oregon arriving here in October, 2012.
I could go on! Hopefully, you get a sense, a very strong sense, of the magical journey that both Pharaoh and I have experienced since I first clasped him in my arms back in September, 2003.
Both Pharaoh and I are in the Autumn of our lives, he is 11 in June; I am 70 in November, and we both creak a little. But so what! Pharaoh has been my greatest inspiration of the power of unconditional love; of the need to smell the flowers in this short life of ours.
Thank you, my dear, dear friend!
Yes, thank you, and thanks to all the dogs that love us and to whom we offer love in return.
Today, as in the 20th November, 2019, just happens to be our anniversary, nine years ago we were married. We met just before Christmas, 2007.
I am at the stage in my book where I am having to check certain dates. Luckily I was already writing Learning from Dogs and could use the blog to check dates.
In so doing I came across an earlier post about Pharaoh and thought that was so, so good that it just has to be republished. Part One today and Part Two tomorrow.
‘Meeting’ this dog deserves two posts!
Almost two months ago, January 30th to be exact, the first of this ‘Meet the dogs‘ series was published. It came out of an idea from Jean and that January 30th post introduced Paloma to you, dear reader. Since then we have told you about Lilly, Dhalia, Ruby, Casey, Hazel, Sweeny, and Cleo.
So today’s post is the last of the Meet the dogs stories; it is about Pharaoh. I’m going to indulge myself and tell you the story of this most wonderful of dogs over today and tomorrow.
This is Sandra Tucker, owner of Jutone Kennels in Devon, England, where Pharaoh was born on June 3rd, 2003. Here’s something written elsewhere that conveys my feelings that first day that I met this puppy.
In no time at all I was turning into the farm driveway, noticing the painted sign for Jutone & Felsental German Shepherds alongside the open, wooden gate.
I turned off the engine and was about to swing my legs out of the open driver’s door when I saw a woman coming towards me.
“Hi, you must be Paul, I’m Sandra. Did you have any trouble finding us?”
I shook hands with her.
“Not at all. I did as you recommended when we spoke on the phone and went in to the local store and got final directions.”
Sandra smiled, her glasses almost slipping off the end of her nose.
“Dear Beth. She’s been running that local store since God was a boy.”
She continued with a chortle in her voice, “Some say that Beth was at the store before our local pub, The Palk Arms, opened for business. And the pub’s been in the village for well over four-hundred years.” Sandra’s laugh was infectious and I caught myself already taking a liking to her. The sense of a strong, confident person struck me immediately. Indeed, a working woman evidenced by her brown slacks, revealing plenty of dog hairs, topped off with a blue T-shirt under an unbuttoned cotton blouse.
“Anyway, enough of me, Paul, you’ve come to get yourself a German Shepherd puppy.”
She turned towards a collection of grey, galvanised-sheeted barns and continued chatting as I fell into step alongside her.
“After we discussed your circumstances over the phone; where you live down there in Harberton, why you specifically wanted a German Shepherd dog, I thought about the last set of puppies that were born, just a few weeks ago.”
Sandra paused and turned towards me.
“While, of course, you can select whatever puppy you feel drawn to, my advice is to go for a male. Listening to your experiences of befriending a male German Shepherd when you were a young boy, I have no doubt that a male dog would result in you and the dog building a very strong bond. Indeed, I have a young male puppy that I want to bring out to you. Is that OK?”
Sandra turned and walked out of sight around the corner of the first barn leaving me standing there, my response presumably being taken for granted.
Something in her words struck me in a manner that I hadn’t anticipated; not in the slightest. That was her use of the word bond. I was suddenly aware of the tiniest emotional wobble inside me from Sandra’s use of that word. Somewhere deep inside me was the hint that my decision to have a dog in my life was being driven by deeper and more ancient feelings.
My introspection came to an immediate halt as Sandra re-appeared. She came up to me, a beige-black puppy cradled under her left arm, her left hand holding the pup across its mid-riff behind his front legs, her right arm across her waist supporting the rear of the tiny animal.
I stood very still, just aware of feelings that I couldn’t voice, could hardly even sense, as I looked down at this tiny black, furry face, outsized beige ears flopping down either side of his small head.
It was unusually warm this August day and I had previously unbuttoned my cuffs and folded the shirt sleeves of my blue-white, checked cotton shirt back above both elbows leaving my forearms bare.
Sandra offered me the young, fragile creature. As tenderly as I could, I took the pup into my arms and cradled the gorgeous animal against my chest. The pup’s warm body seemed to glow through its soft fur and as my bare arms embraced the flanks of this quiet, little dog I realised the magic, the pure magic, of the moment. Something was registering in me in ways utterly beyond words but, nonetheless, as real as a rainbow might be across the green, Devon hills.
“How old is he, Sandra?”
“This little lad was born on June 3rd. So what are we today? August 12th. So he is ten weeks old as of today.”
June 3rd, 2003. I knew that this date had now entered my life in just the same way as had the birth-dates of my son and daughter; Alex and Maija.
The power of this first meeting was beyond anything I had expected, or even imagined. I thought that it was going to be a fairly pleasant but, nonetheless, unsurprising process of choosing a puppy. How wrong could I have been! What was captivating me was the pure and simple bodily contact between this young dog and me. No more than that. I was sensing in some unspoken manner that this was equally as captivating for this precious puppy-dog. For even at the tender age of ten weeks, the tiny dog appeared to understand that me holding him so longingly was bridging a divide of many, many years.
Sandra motioned with her arm, pointing out a bench-seat a few yards away alongside a green, well-manicured, lawn.
I very carefully sat down on the wooden-slatted bench and rested the beautiful animal in my lap. The puppy was adorable. Those large, over-sized ears flopping across the top of his golden black-brown furry head. His golden-brown fur morphing into black fur across his shoulders and then on down to the predominantly beige-cream colour of his soft, gangling, front legs. That creamy fur continuing along the little creature’s underbelly.
The puppy seemed almost to purr with contentment, its deep brown eyes gazing so very intently into mine. I was entranced. I was spellbound.
Never before had I felt so close to an animal. In a life-time of nearly sixty years including having cats at home when I was a young boy growing up in North-West London, and much later the family owning a pet cat when Alex and Maija were youngsters, I had never, ever sensed the stirrings of such a loving bond as I was sensing now. As this young puppy was clearly sensing as well. This was to be my dog. Of that I was in no doubt.
Let me leave you with a couple of other photographs taken from his early days.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that in the year 2014, I would be writing about Pharaoh from a home-office desk in Southern Oregon sharing a happy life with a wonderful London lady, Jean, and more gorgeous animals than one could throw a stick at.
More on that shared journey with Pharaoh tomorrow!
Back to today.
Isn’t that a perfect memory of an outstanding dog. Indeed, more than that. An outstanding memory of a grand, magnificent, intelligent dog who was with me during the worst and best of my life!
When Shauna Darcy first brought Ruby home, the plan was to have Ruby act as a service dog to help her with anxiety, depression and agoraphobia. Ruby was an incredible service dog and companion from the very beginning — and quickly showed Darcy just how far she would go to help her.
“While she was training to be a service dog I noticed that she started picking up on changes in my heart rate and would act funny — for example, paw at me, try to get my attention, get on top of me, etc.,” Darcy told The Dodo.
Picking up on Ruby’s cues, Darcy went to the doctor and discovered she had health issues she hadn’t known about, including a rare heart condition called vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Ruby had known something was wrong even before Darcy did, and her main focus as a service dog quickly switched to Darcy’s cardiac issues.
Every day, Ruby helps her mom with things like monitoring her heart rate and blood pressure, helping her during panic attacks and retrieving emergency medications. She also carries groceries, picks up dropped items and gets things her mom can’t reach, and is trained in deep pressure therapy.
“When I pass out she gets on top of me and applies all her pressure on me and licks my hands and face until I come around,” Darcy said.
Ruby is there for her mom every single day — even when she doesn’t realize she needs her.
Last week, when Ruby started alerting her mom that something was wrong, she had no idea why. At that point, Darcy was feeling fine, but decided to trust Ruby and call an ambulance anyway, just in case.
“It turns out my heart was going into atrial fibrillation,” Darcy said. “By the time the paramedics came, I was in pain and barely conscious.”
As the paramedics rushed Darcy to the hospital, she realized that Ruby had saved her life that day.
While Darcy was in the hospital and the doctors worked to get her stable again, Ruby refused to leave her mom’s side. Even while Darcy was unconscious, Ruby lay in her hospital bed, pressed up against her, hoping her mom could sense she was there and that her presence would make her feel safe.
During their stay at the hospital, so many people stopped by to meet Ruby. She’s always very popular whenever she and her mom are at the hospital and loves saying hi to everyone — but also makes sure that she’s never too far away from her mom. She loves her so much, and her mom loves her just as much right back.
Without Ruby, Darcy’s life would be very different. Ruby helps her mom stay healthy and safe every single day, and her mom is so grateful for everything she’s done for her.
“I wouldn’t be alive without her,” Darcy said.
“I wouldn’t be alive without her,”
I’m emboldening that last statement.
This is a wonderful story.
For Darcy has articulated what millions of other dog lovers know in their hearts. That the relationship between a dog and a human is extra special!
RIO DE JANEIRO — High above this Brazilian city, in a jungle blanketing a mountain, the turtles were out, and the scene was hopeful.
Scientists were reintroducing 15 mud-caked tortoises to this urban forest where they had once been plentiful. Children were running around. People were oohing and aahing. A stern-looking security guard appeared to briefly smile.
But not government biologist Katyucha Silva. She was thinking about dogs.
What would they do to these turtles? What were they doing to Brazil?
It’s a question more researchers are beginning to ask in a country where there are more dogs than children — and where dogs are quickly becoming the most destructive predator. They’re invading nature preserves and national parks. They’re forming packs, some 15 dogs strong, and are hunting wild prey. They’ve muscled out native predators such as foxes and big cats in nature preserves, outnumbering pumas 25 to 1 and ocelots 85 to 1.
Every year, they become still more plentiful, spreading diseases, disrupting natural environments, goosing scientists who set up elaborate camera systems to photograph wild animals, only to come away with pictures of curious canines.
“It’s a difficult thing for people to hear,” said Isadora Lessa, a Rio de Janeiro biologist who wrote her doctoral dissertation on domestic dogs causing environmental mayhem. “They love dogs too much.”
How the dog became one of the world’s most harmful invasive mammalian predators is as much a global story as a Brazilian one. Over the last century, as the human population exploded, so did the dog population, growing to an estimated 1 billion.
That has been great for people — and even better for dogs — but less so for nature, according to a growing body of academic research implicating canines, particularly the free-roaming ones, in environmental destruction.
“The global impacts of domestic dogs on wildlife are grossly underestimated,” researchers concluded in a 2017 study published in the journal Biological Conservation. The researchers, based in Australia, convicted dogs in the extinction of 11 species and declared them the third-most-damaging mammal, behind only cats and rodents.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature maintains a list of animals whose numbers dogs are culling. There are 191, and more than half are classified as either endangered or vulnerable. They range from lowly iguanas to the famed Tasmanian devil, from doves to monkeys, a diversity of animals with nothing in common beyond the fact that dogs enjoy killing them. In New Zealand, the organization reported, a single German shepherd once did in as many as 500 kiwis — and that was the conservative estimate.
“Unfortunately, we have a big problem,” said Piero Genovesi, chair of the agency’s invasive species unit. “There is a growing number of dogs.”
People all over the world are — begrudgingly — beginning to take note.
And in Brazil, atop a mountain outside of Rio de Janeiro, 15 tortoises were nestling into the forest floor, oblivious to the danger of the forest’s leading predator.
‘A complex problem’
And in Brazil, atop a mountain outside of Rio de Janeiro, 15 tortoises were nestling into the forest floor, oblivious to the danger of the forest’s leading predator.
Brazil is home to an estimated 52 million dogs, according to the most recent government statistics — more than anywhere in Latin America — but their lives vary widely. In a nation defined by inequality, where the rich fly in helicopters over the poor in the favelas below, the dog has become one more way of understanding the divide.
In wealthy cities, the dog is everywhere, strolling through fancy shopping malls, sitting in the laps of restaurant patrons, even riding paddle boards out on the surf. Some people wheel their dogs around in little strollers.
“The dog brings to Brazilians some things that Brazilians appreciate in themselves,” said Alexandre Rossi, a television personality more commonly known as Dr. Pet. “To be friendly, to want to socialize with everyone . . . and be there and be close to your family. These are perceived as very good Brazilian qualities.”
On the streets of trendy Ipanema one recent afternoon, few people could believe that a dog — or at least their dog — could be much of predator.
“The dog is a friend!” sputtered Philipe Soares, the furball Bobby at his feet. “No, I’ve never thought of him that way.”
“Difficult to imagine,” said Carlos Alberto Vicente, peering down at his own pooch.
“In her case,” said Flavio Vilela, a shirtless man striding through a park with a small mutt named Nicoli, “they’d hunt her.”
The problem, researchers say, isn’t these dogs, who lead the coddled lives of European or American pets.
The problem is the dogs in poorer and more rural communities, where the life of the dog is more frequently the life of hunger. They prowl the streets day and night with neither a collar nor an owner, looking for food wherever it can be found — in trash heaps, alongside roads, and in forests and fields, where they form packs to hunt and kill.
“It’s a very complex problem,” said Silva, the government biologist.
A stunning discovery
Ana Maria Paschoal, a researcher at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, remembers when she first started thinking about the dog differently. She was out in the Atlantic Forest in Southeast Brazil around a decade ago when she noticed there were an awful lot of them.
She wondered: How many dogs are using the protected areas? Are these feral or domestic dogs? Is their presence changing the occurrence of wild species?
So she set up cameras across 2,400 acres of forest to find out. What she discovered, published in 2012 in the scientific journal Mammalia, stunned her.
“The presence of the domestic dog is a threat,” Paschoal and her co-authors concluded.
The research, subsequently confirmed in a larger survey, laid the groundwork for a growing field of study here. One researcher linked Brazil’s dogs to the spread of diseases. Another accused the dogs in the National Park of Brasilia, where they hunted in massive packs, of scaring off natural predators. It was found that the closer humans lived to a nature preserve, the more likely dogs had penetrated it.
But perhaps most striking? The dogs were neither feral nor domestic — but somewhere in between.
“All the dogs we detected had an ‘owner’ or a person that the animal has a bond with,” Paschoal said. “The species population increases following human populations, exacerbating their potential impact on wildlife.”
It was something Fernando Fernandez, an ecology professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, learned the hard way. For the last decade, he has been reintroducing native animals to the Tijuca forest, one of the world’s largest urban woodlands, which spills across Rio de Janeiro’s mountains.
First came the agouti, a squirrel-like rodent. Then followed a problem: “Dogs.”
They started killing the agouti, and not for food. It was just for fun.
Fernandez and Silva wanted to learn more. They set up cameras and discovered dozens of dogs in the forest. They estimated more than 100 dogs were in the park — not residents, it turned out, so much as frequent visitors, tracking in from nearby favelas.
“These are people who are very poor,” said Silva, who has six dogs at home. “They don’t have money to build walls. . . . When the owners leave for work, the dog leaves, too, and only returns when the owner comes back to the house from work.”
The owners often have no idea what their dogs are up to. Even if they were told, Rob Young said, they almost certainly wouldn’t believe it.
Young, chairman of wildlife conservation at the University of Salford in Britain, witnessed the psychology at work after seeing dogs kill flightless birds in the state of Minas Gerais.
“We’d do interviews with the farmers: ‘Have you seen these dogs?’
“And they’d say, ‘Yeah, but my dogs aren’t the problem; it’s my neighbor’s dogs.’
“Every farmer would say the same thing.”
These factors — inability to see aggression in dogs, intractable inequality, the rapid expansion of humanity — left Silva feeling apprehensive as she watched the tortoises being reintroduced into the Tijuca forest.
In the long term, she didn’t know how the problem of dogs laying waste to the world’s environments would realistically improve.
And in the short term: Could dogs kill these tortoises, just as they’d dispatched a few agouti?
“Yes,” she said. “They could.”
It’s a tough read and there doesn’t appear to be a solution, not in the short-term at least.
As was reported in the article it is as much a global problem with something of the order of a billion dogs roaming the planet.